Girl Scouts Grow Food for Franklin Community Center Pantry

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.55.38 AM.pngBrownie troop 3031 has a plot in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens and recently donated green beans to the Franklin Community Center’s food pantry.

Troop leader Jen Kirchhnerr has found that recycled plastic containers are a great way to deliver the beans and other vegetables to the pantry.

These are the sort of container that strawberries, blueberries and the like are typically sold in at the supermarket.

Kirchhnerr cleans and washes the containers and reuses them when harvesting for the food pantry.

“They are a convenient size for handing out to a family,” she said.

It’s a good tip. If any gardeners have containers like these and would like to share them, you can leave the cleaned containers in the garden shed. We will use them when harvesting and sharing.

Thanks Jen for your tip!Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 10.55.19 AM

Saratoga Bridges Plants a Bed

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 11.48.36 AMSaratoga Bridges, an organization that enables people with disabilities to live enriching lives, came to the Pitney  Meadows Community Gardens this morning and planted seeds for green beans, mache* and Peppermint Swiss chard.

Working with Garden Director Natalie Walsh, each person planted according to the seed packets instructions, patted the planted seeds for good soil contact and watered well. In the weeks to come, different groups from the organization will care for the plants in their raised bed.

*Mache is a dark salad green, rich in Vitamin C, that grows close to the ground in rosette-shaped bunches that have elongated leaves.  It is a favorite salad green in Europe.

 

 

 

Plan B

This morning I went to the farm thinking I was going to mark out the 8×12 beds so the gardeners of these large plots could start planting today.

To my dismay, the area was flooded. Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 8.40.37 AM.png

Our farmer, Bill Pitney didn’t think this was an issue we could resolve quickly.

So we are moving to Plan B.

We will create the 8×12 in-ground plots in the northwest corner (the area I’ve been calling the berry patch). The area is higher, has water (controlled from a faucet) and will provide gardeners the opportunity to get plants in the ground swiftly.

Gus, Heather and Margie are in the garden staking these plots now. Give a hand if you can.

I will be in the garden Tuesday morning starting at 8 a.m.

Sorry to the gardeners of the larger plots for the delay.

We are truly very close now.

Natalie

Another Row in Place

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 5.03.17 PM.png

Four of the 24-inch high beds and two of the 4×8 raised beds were set in place today thanks to the hard work of Jim G., Bill, Kim, Jesse, George, Rich, Heather and yours truly.

Then just after four p.m, participants in the “Grow the Tallest Sunflower Contest” arrived and planted Mammoth Sunflower seeds.  Pictured below are Isabella and Kaitlin.

There’s still time to enter the contest.  The seeds, which are free, can be planted tomorrow between 3 and 5 p.m. Prizes for the tallest sunflower will be awarded in September.  Can you grow the tallest one?  Try and find out!

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 5.04.13 PM.png

SunflowerContest.jpg

First Beds Filled with Soil!

Inch by inch, the garden is coming together. Six beds were filled with soil and are ready to be planted.  These first beds are assigned to: Andrew Shaw, Kemp and Nancy Hicks, Anne Curtin, Mark Suprunowicz, Richard and Cynthia Hart,  and Heather von Allen. You can begin to plant!

What else did we do today?

  • We built more raised beds. There are now 31 ready to go into the garden. And tomorrow, with the help of volunteers, more will be filled with soil. Tomorrow evening, I will connect with their new caretakers so they can get plants in the earth.
  • We planted another row of sunflowers.
  • We prepared the area where participants in the “Grow the Tallest Sunflower Contest” can plant Mammoth sunflower seeds starting tomorrow.
  • We laid fabric down then gravel and stone dust in the first pathways.
  • We weeded.
  • We dug a trench for a waterline on the west side of the shed to wash tools, vegetables and ourselves after a day in the soil.

Pretty impressive. Thank you Heather, Kay, three different Jims, Rich and Rich T.,  John, Cynthia, George, Cathy, Judy, Gracie, Brad, Paul, Bill, Jeanmarie, Murray, Arliss, Robert C., Kemp and Nancy, Jesse. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out.

Tomorrow,  there are tasks for volunteers. If you can, please come help.  We need painters to paint the second coat on the barn siding, helpers setting the beds and troughs in place, people to rake the soil in the beds and the gravel in the pathways, and planters to plant another row of sunflowers.

Our plan is to begin at 9 a.m. and work until it rains. Right now, the forecast calls for rain around noon.

I am truly grateful for any time you can give.

Like the song says: “row by row gonna make this garden grow.”

 

 

 

 

We need Volunteers Today!

 

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 8.03.42 AMSix raised beds are in place and we need helpers to staple landscape fabric around the base as shown in the photo below.  Even if you can only give us an hour, it will help.  Please come and volunteer. We will be in the garden from 1 p.m. to at least 5 p.m.
This step moves us closer to getting the pathways down and the soil in the beds.  As of this morning, we have 25 raised beds built. Rich Torkelson will be there this afternoon moving us forward.  Yay!

Bring gloves and a staple gun if you have one. Hat and sunscreen, too.

Thank you.   Our volunteers have been incredible and we appreciate each and every one of you.

Great Plants

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 11.52.02 AMRobert Curry has grown tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers and eggplants that he is selling to the gardeners for $1. each.  The plants are beautiful, robust and healthy. This is a very generous offer.

Right now, the plants are near the silo.  You can pay Robert directly or add your money to the Robert C. honor jar near the plants.

Tomorrow is a big day in the Community Gardens

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 5.37.23 AM

The watering troughs will be the taller raised beds. To prepare them for use, volunteers drilled holes in the base. Next steps, fill base with gravel for drainage, add landscape fabric, soil, and plant!

We have a list of “things to do” tomorrow for the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens that includes building of the raised beds, prepping the troughs that will be taller raised beds, painting the interior of the shed, clear coating the picnic tables, staking the 8×12 beds and more.

We plan to get started around 9 a.m.

If you can help, please come.  Lots of hands will make the day go faster and it is always  more fun when a group works together. 🙂

See you in the garden, Natalie

 

Accessible Raised Beds Can Make Every Gardener’s Life Easier

There are many reasons to want tall, 24 inch high raised beds in the vegetable garden.

• They keep rabbits, moles and voles out.

• You can manage weeds more easily.

• You don’t walk in them so you avoid soil compaction.

• You can control water input and drainage.

Raised beds also warm up faster in the Spring and stay warmer longer in the Fall making for a longer growing season.

Having the plants at a height where you can sit to tend them is more than a convenience for some. It can be a necessity.

I recently spoke with Carol Whitelaw, a horticultural therapist with Cornell Cooperative Extension at the Unlimited Garden in Ballston Spa.

She has worked with handicapped and special needs gardeners for more than two decades. Her suggestions came from her experiences making gardening possible for everyone.

What should be included in a garden designed for handicapped accessibility?  What height was best for someone in a wheelchair, what pavement surfaces worked well, what tips did she have?

But our conversation got me thinking about the needs of all gardeners as we age. Friends of mine have arthritis in their hands, painful joints, back aches or trouble getting up and down because of a bad knee. Whitelaw noted older gardeners are a driving force behind the availability of tools, raised beds and specialty items designed to help gardeners keep on gardening. She said the baby boomer generation has made popular garden catalogs consider what older gardeners may find useful, especially if they are planning to age in place and continue enjoying their hobby.

Garden Priorities 

Whitelaw’s suggestions can be applied to any garden.

To begin, she said, firm and stable pathways are essential. This can be accomplished with pavers, concrete or compacted stone dust.  Having an edging to keep the stone dust from drifting outside the path makes for a neater, tidier look.

For a handicap garden, she recommended 8 to 12 foot wide pathways. A wheelchair user needs five feet of space to turn around.  Two people walking side by side need about six feet. Of course, the space you are working with will dictate width, at least to some extent.

These concrete drain pipes make excellent planters. Note the space for toes at the base. For people with balance concerns, this is important because you “can get right up to the planter and lean against it for support,” said Horticultural Therapist Carol Whitelaw.

Whitelaw noted that many people are sensitive to the “coffin look” of raised beds especially in winter and she included concrete pipe planters and triangular beds at the Unlimited Garden to break up the rows of  rectangles. There’s nothing to say that raised beds need to be rectangular.

I have been thinking of using livestock watering troughs as vegetable containers and after talking with her, I started thinking creatively about their placement. With the right space, you could arrange oval troughs in a circular pattern to create a daisy petals and use a round concrete pipe as the center.

In this concept, the orange “petals” are 24 inch tall livestock watering troughs and the yellow center is a concrete pipe.

The ideal height for raised beds is between 24 and 30 inches. One problem Whitelaw has found in our cold climate is the damage done by poor drainage in early Spring when the ground is still frozen, but the soil within the wooden beds has thawed. The retention of water within the bed causes rot and pushes the sides outward.

“Most of our wooden raised beds have needed repairs because of the thawing,” she said. They’ve also needed sanding to keep them splinter free over the years.

Her suggestion was to incorporate a perforated PVC pipe drainage system into the design of tall wooden beds. In the case of the standard 24 inch tall metal troughs, if you drilled holes in the base and placed the trough on concrete pavers to elevated them a little more, you get a bit better height and better drainage, which may mean longer lasting troughs.

Whatever raised beds you choose, fill the base with a layer of gravel, then sand and then a soil/compost mix.

One other take away from my visit to the garden, was to make a cart  24 inches tall with big wheels that could be set up right next to the gardener, eliminating the need to bend over. The cart acts like a wagon and becomes a shelf for plants, an easy to reach place for tools and an easy way to transport both. I can imagine many uses for a cart like this in and out of the garden. Garden party server, for example.

Who hasn’t misplaced a tool in the garden? Whitelaw said lightweight, brightly colored tools work well as does a pegboard organization system. Note how the tool shapes are outlined on the board.

Whitelaw also noted that tools can make gardening easier for everyone. There are petite trowels and narrow rakes with long handles or ergonomic designs.

Other suggestions: Replace those round wheel faucet handles that can be hard to turn with levers that are easier to use. Lift up the different watering wands while shopping and look for very  lightweight wands with squeeze lever controls about 30 inches in length. Dramm makes one and they are available at hardware stores, Amazon and big box stores.

“Children’s tools are the perfect size and brightly colored plastic tools can make gardening easier for the visually impaired,” she said. Another idea, go for a 1 gallon watering can instead of a large watering can.  “Water is heavy.” she noted.

By the time I drove away my head was sprouting idea after idea. These ideas will be put into action. There’s nothing like getting tips from a professional passionate about keeping gardeners growing.

If you have other tips that make gardening life easier, let me know.

Livestock Troughs as Planters

Anyone have experience with using galvanized steel livestock troughs as raised garden beds?

I’ve been pricing materials for raised beds and searching online for what other gardeners have used: the costs and designs. One idea that caught my eye was using livestock troughs as planters.

Online, I’ve seen 20 gauge galvanized steel livestock watering troughs measuring 3 feet by 10 feet, 24 inches tall for about $240.

Advantages: Less expensive than using some long lasting wood boards, ready to use, taller beds make gardening easier for all. The height of the bed should discourage rabbits and the bottom should keep voles and moles out. Lifespan: 5 to 20 years.

Disadvantages: Some websites posted concerns about zinc leaching into the soil. So I did what journalists do, I researched.

Source One

Alana Hochstein, a corrosion Engineer with the American Galvanizers Association noted in an emailThe Food and Drug Association (FDA) has approved the use of galvanized steel for food preparation and conveyance for all applications with the exception of foods that have a high acid content, such as tomatoes, oranges, limes, and other fruits. For more information, see our website:

https://www.galvanizeit.org/hot-dip-galvanizing/how-long-does-hdg-last/contact-with-food

Source Two

The National Gardening Association (https://garden.org/about/intro/president)

I emailed NGA President David Whitinger about whether zinc was a concern. He wrote: “Plenty of people use galvanized containers for gardening and I’ve never heard of anything to suggest that it’s not safe.”

I also noted online that community gardens and restaurants are using galvanized steel as beds. Still, I needed more information.

Third Source

I looked for data from Cornell University. Cornell soil extension agent Robert R. Schindelbeck emailed: “The zinc can leach from the metal object into the soil. Generally this is OK as zinc is relatively “safe.” He referred me to this link titled Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities:

http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/Metals_Urban_Garden_Soils.pd

Excerpts follow.

“What levels of metals are acceptable in garden soils?

“There are no standards protective of public health specifically for metals in garden soils in NYS, but there are guidance values developed for other purposes that gardeners can consider.”

Zinc is naturally occurring. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYS Department of Health developed guidance values. The guidance values for zinc are 2200 parts per million (PPM). Levels found in NYS soils in rural areas were 10-140 ppm and in urban areas 64-380 ppm.

“Human health: Small amounts of zinc in the diet are essential for good health.

“Plant health: Zinc is an essential micronutrient for plants, but it can be toxic to plants at higher soil levels, even below those that are a concern for human health.”

That begs the question: What are the zinc levels for soil in a galvanized trough? This question gets answered by the fourth source: Rodale’s Organic Life article written by Deb Martin, November 13, 2014

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/when-sheet-metal-meets-soil

Is it safe to use galvanized sheet metal to build raised garden beds? —Susan Taylor, Monticello, Utah

Over time, compounds used in the galvanizing process will leach from galvanized metal into surrounding soil. Climate and soil conditions such as moisture and salinity affect the rate and the amount of leaching. While the by-products of corrosion are unlikely to occur in amounts that pose any risk to human or plant health, gardeners who are considering growing in galvanized containers or metal-framed beds should be aware of the potential for zinc and other materials to transfer into the soil.

Zinc, the main ingredient in the galvanizing “bath” used to prolong the life of steel, is an essential micronutrient that occurs naturally in North American soils at an average background level of 0.07 milligrams of zinc per gram of soil. For the sake of comparison, the Daily Value (an approximation of our dietary need) for zinc established by the FDA for adults is 8 to 11 milligrams.

While studies of zinc levels in the soil next to galvanized structures have found increased amounts of the element, those levels often are comparable to background levels and within EPA guidelines, says Dan Barlow, a corrosion engineer with the American Galvanizers Association.

Zinc does not migrate readily through soil, so elevated zinc levels tend to be found only in the immediate area of a galvanized container or structure. Soil pH, organic matter content, and other soil characteristics affect zinc’s ability to be taken up by plant roots. As much as 90 percent of zinc in soil may be unavailable for uptake by plants.

Due to zinc’s limited bioavailability in soil, there is little chance of ingesting too much zinc through plants grown in proximity to galvanized metal, says Eric Van Genderen, Ph.D., manager of environment and sustainability for the International Zinc Association. “You will likely never get even your recommended daily allowance from your produce, much less too much,” he says.

Because galvanized metal corrodes faster as pH decreases, Van Genderen says it’s probably not the best container material for plants that require acidic conditions.

Other corrosion by-products may show up in the surrounding soil, Van Genderen says. He notes that levels of other metals found in galvanized surfaces, such as nickel and bismuth, typically would be “so low that you’d probably never see a difference in the amount coming from the galvanized metal versus the background levels.”

The health of beneficial soil microorganisms that are exposed to galvanized metal is another consideration. “There is no question zinc can kill some of the soil’s microbes and that others love it,” says Jeff Lowenfels, author of Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Timber Press, 2010), and Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition (Timber Press, 2013). “I am willing to let the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi take up excess zinc, feed the plants what they need, and hold the rest,” Lowenfels says. His research has convinced him that “any damage done to the soil food web [by excess zinc] is quickly corrected by it if the soil food web is a healthy one.”

Troughs in the Garden

Want to see more? 

If you search Google, you’ll find dozens of examples of troughs that have been painted and made pretty.

The nicest I’ve seen is at http://www.nwedible.com/the-most-attractive-veggie-garden-ever/. Check it out.

Tips on Painting a trough: https://www.gardenista.com/posts/steal-this-look-water-troughs-as-raised-garden-beds/

Tips on making a trough self-watering.

http://www.insideurbangreen.org/2011/07/galvanized-horse-or-cattle-troughs-make-cool-looking-planters-but-ive-never-seen-them-converted-for-sub-irrigation-aka-erro.html