I checked the humidity before I headed into the garden at 6:45 and saw it was 88 percent. Ugh.
Motivating to do physical work when it feels like this is near impossible.
It’s just too hot and sticky. If you must do some chore, keep yourself hydrated, keep it simple and keep it short. I lasted 22 minutes, managed to rake one small area of mulch smooth and felt like a winner.
Now, I’m inside, drinking an iced coffee and looking at the photos I took yesterday at the Moreau Community Garden where we are growing pumpkins, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, carrots, dill, rosemary, basil, tarragon, green beans, snap beans, rhubarb, zucchini, summer squash and more.
Moreau Community Garden
The area I am responsible for is approximately 20 plots that are part of the Family Gardening Program, an initiative funded by a $2.1 million dollar Carol M. White PEP Grant that was awarded to the South Glens Falls school district to promote fitness and nutritional programs over a three-year period. The Family Gardening Program is part of this grant and designed to teach nutrition and a healthy style of living to children and their parents by growing food organically.
As the Garden Coach, I’m doing that and more because I’ve opened the garden lectures to all Moreau gardeners interested in learning to vegetable garden successfully. All community members are welcome to come, ask questions, bring samples of their garden problems – in a sealed plastic bag please – to be identified and remedies discussed. And each week, community gardeners have attended and asked questions about their plots in the community garden and their home gardens.
Learning how to garden builds confidence, teaches cooperation, caregiving and discipline and gets you outside in the fresh air, bending, stretching, lifting, digging, raking, weeding . . . in other words exercising as part of an activity you enjoy. This is the best kind of exercise because when you enjoy what you do, you will do it again and again.
It’s not work if you love it, right?
As part of the experience we do:
Math – For example: we divided our garden plots into equal squares and within each square evenly spaced a predetermined number of seeds depending on the future size of the plant.
Estimating – For instance: We will have a contest this week to see who can guess the correct number of seeds on the average strawberry.
Science – We are continuously identifying insects and what they do, their lifestyle and whether they are good for the garden or not. We do the same for weeds and had a wildly successful weed scavenger hunt. These gardeners know their weeds from common crabgrass to red-root pigweed and the edibles: purslane, lambsquarters and dandelion leaves.
Language skills – Example, we review labels and learned how to read a seed packet for the information we need about disease resistance, days to harvest, plant requirements, etc.
We are going to need a recipe for Bok Choy soon!
Food, Fun and Friendships
Our garden is social. When we need a break, the picnic tables under the trees offer a place to sit in the shade, share stories and sometimes food from the garden. We’ve had lip-puckering rhubarb lemonade, Fran’s home-made salsa, and as the vegetables mature we will have a tomato taste test of the different varieties we are growing, pasta sauce, a salsa making demonstration, and at least four more variations of lemonade using the herbs we are growing, including mint, rosemary and basil. This week, because strawberries are at their peak, we will sample strawberry lemonade and I will read aloud a Native American legend about the first strawberries.
(I can tell you the strawberry lemonade is very good, having made it yesterday. But I can’t tell you the average number of seeds on a strawberry until after Tuesday. Wink.)
Every week we begin with a garden talk led by yours truly. I show people the insects currently in the garden, the damage they do, and how to get rid of them without the use of harsh chemicals. We have had sessions on knowing when and how much to water and setting a fertilizer schedule using organic products such as fish emulsion. Everything we do is organic.
There’s an “Acceptable Garden Products” information sheet posted here on this blog and also in the garden on the bulletin board showing what can be used in this organic community garden.
I teach how important observation is in the garden. When you look closely and know your plants, you spot things before they become big issues. If I had to say what one thing makes one garden successful over another, that would be it. Look, really look, and you will notice small things like holes chewed in a leaf when it’s just one bug doing damage and not an entire army of bugs.
Bulletin Board and the Blog
The goal is sharing information. In the garden, attached to the Recreation building, is a bulletin board and under it is a wicker window box. On the bulletin board are sheets updated weekly with information on insects, diseases and weeds to help the gardeners. There is also a plastic container in the window box where gardeners can trap insects they can’t identify. When I come to the garden I identify the pest, print out a mug-shot and what needs to be done to remedy the problem if anything. There are good bugs, too. And we welcome those.
The blog’s goal is to reach all the gardeners and review what is happening in our plots. My goal is simple: I want everyone to build their gardening skills, have a successful experience growing nutritious, healthy food and enjoy the many different ways vegetables and herbs can enhance a meal.
Gertrude Jekyll once said: “The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”
I believe that.
I hope to meet you in the garden, Natalie Walsh, Master Gardener