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.

 

 

 

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Volunteers Make it Happen!

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It’s only noon, but in the last three hours so much has happened.

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The area was graded so it won’t flood. Gravel was leveled and stone dust put in place.

The Navy volunteers came, nine strong helpful people, and they put down gravel and stone dust for us, dug a trench for a water line, and removed stake fencing and plastic.

And it only took them a couple of hours!

These were heavy, hot jobs. They made it look effortless. Teamwork is a wonderful thing. Thank you all. And thank you to Leading Petty Officer Richard Keitz for sending them our way.

Also sincere appreciation to those volunteers who provided drinks, snacks and lunch. It was hot and humid out and having refreshments was very helpful indeed.

Saratoga Bridges

This morning Saratoga Bridges visited the garden. They are regular visitors and entered the “Grow the tallest Sunflower” contest. Today, they watered their entries and we walked around the garden. Some were willing to taste Ruby lettuce that was ready to be harvested even though they weren’t sure they would like “salad.” Some did.

Charming Mini Farm

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The fences are made from clothespins and popsicles stick. How creative!

Garden volunteer Judy Brunner made this dollhouse barn to the delight of everyone. You have to look at this.

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Judy setting up her mini-farm for all to enjoy.

Judy, a retired Saratoga Springs teacher and artist, designed a mini farm with little animals, outbuildings and pasture. She remodeled a dollhouse into a barn and created silos. It is a work of art.

Parts that she couldn’t find, she made out of clay.  Little ducks sit on a pond, a flock of chickens wander a little pasture, there are horses, pigs, sheep and cows. And even a green tractor like the one on the farm.

Look at the fences. Recognize what they are made from? Clothespins and popsicles sticks. This is a wonderful addition to the garden for children to play with. And it wasn’t set up for more than 30 minutes before it was field tested by a boy, who said he liked it very much. And began to play.

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The first visitor trying out the new mini-farm play area.

I will next be in the garden on Saturday morning from 9 to 11. Come talk to me if you have a question.

If you are in the garden and I’m not there, please water the newly planted sunflower area. And the troughs, the cosmos in the back and the pumpkin patch all need lots of water. It’s been hot and dry this week and everything (and everybody) appreciates a tall, cool drink on a day like this.

Thank you all, Natalie

Tomorrow is a big day in the Community Gardens

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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.