Archive for March, 2010

The People Behind the Gardens: Meet Our Office Manager Bernadine Herlihy

There are numerous people who work behind the scenes at the GROWINGGARDENS office to make our work possible.  We wanted to give you an opportunity to get to know one of our amazing staff members.  Keep your eye out for more staff bios in the upcoming weeks!

Bernadine Herlihy has been with GROWINGGARDENS since July 2008.  She has an MBA from Portland State University and is also a part-time business instructor.  In her spare time, Bernadine loves to read and spend time in the yard.  Sometimes Bernadine’s border collie lets her take a break from throwing Frisbee to work in the garden beds.  Her favorite fruit/veggie is the tomato and it is the primary crop in her home garden.  Bernadine also grows a few other things, like lettuce, hot peppers, cucumbers and kale.  She got the gardening bug from her father, who always had a garden planted, even when they lived in city apartments.

In response to a question about her favorite part of working at GROWINGGARDENS, Bernadine says: “I love that GROWINGGARDENS helps urban families experience the benefits of growing their own food.”

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Spring Gardening Tip #1: Building Garden Beds

This past week, GROWING GARDENS began our first round of spring Home Garden installations.  Last Thursday, our Home Garden Program collaborated with our Youth Grow program and Vernon K-8 in planning a service day for a class of 7th graders.  The Vernon 7th graders helped install 4 garden beds for the Vernon families that signed up for the Home Garden program (stay tuned for a blog post in the coming weeks about our 7th grade Vernon Garden installation day!).

As more people become interested in turning part of their lawn or yard into a garden space, we thought this would be a good time to talk about building in-ground garden beds.

GROWINGGARDENS uses a combination of double-digging and sheet-mulching to install gardens for people enrolled in our Home Gardens Program. We find that a combination of these methods work best for us, but you can use whatever works best for you, your space, and your strong (or not so strong) back and arms.

To start, we need to gather some materials:

Materials

For Double-Digging:

  1. Shovel(s)
  2. Forked spade (or another tool for loosening soil)
  3. Compost and/or Composted Manure (1 bag per 4×8 ft bed)
  4. Agricultural lime (1½ lbs per 4×8 ft bed or 5 lbs/100 sq ft)

For Sheet-Mulching:

  1. Cardboard or Newspaper
  2. Compost and/or Composted Manure (2 bags per 4×8 ft bed)
  3. Straw
  4. Any other organic matter you can find (leaves, grass clippings, etc.)
  5. Water

Now we can get started….

DOUBLE DIGGING

The purpose of this method is to loosen the soil deep down, without disturbing the soil structure and the many little creatures that make the soil healthy and productive. This method is strongly advocated for by John Jeavons, author of “How to Grow More Vegetables.”

  1. Begin by outlining your garden bed. Beds should not be more than 4 feet wide, so the middle is reachable.
  2. Remove sod (grass and its roots). Put it in a pile – you will use it later.
  3. Spread a bag of compost over the area.
  4. Remove a trench of soil one shovel-length deep and one shovel width wide. Put this soil aside. If the soil is very compacted, you might not be able to dig an entire foot deep. In that case, just go as deep as you can.
  5. Once you have a trench approximately one foot deep, use a forked spade to loosen the soil an additional foot deep.
  6. Dig a second trench of soil, moving this soil onto the first trench that you just dug.
  7. Once you have a trench about one foot deep, use a forked spade to loosen the soil an additional foot deep.
  8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 until the entire bed has been dug and loosened.
  9. Fill the last trench with the soil from the first trench.
  10. Sprinkle lime evenly over the area.
  11. Replace the sod, with the grass facing down and roots facing up.

Whew! You’re done. Now it’s time for sheet-mulching . . .

SHEET MULCHING (AKA LASAGNA GARDENING)

This is a great way to add nutrients and organic matter to the bed, creating very healthy and productive soil! Sheet mulching is a great thing to do in the fall to prepare your garden for the winter. It protects your garden from the cold, rain, and weeds! After removing your old summer plants, lay sheet mulching over the soil, and leave it there until spring. All of the layers will break down into rich garden soil.  You can also use sheet mulching in the spring, to help reduce the number of weeds in your garden bed, as well as build up organic matter throughout the spring and summer.  If you do sheet mulch in the spring, you should focus on planting plant starts (rather than seeds) during the first planting season.

  1. Cover the garden area with cardboard to prevent weeds from growing up.
  2. Water the cardboard thoroughly.
  3. Cover the cardboard with a layer of compost or composted manure.
  4. Water thoroughly.
  5. If you have any other organic matter (leaves, grass clippings, etc), add a layer, then water thoroughly.
  6. Add a layer of straw.
  7. Water thoroughly.
  8. Add 1 to 3 more alternating layers of compost, organic matter, and straw. Make sure to water between each layer. Straw should be the top layer of the bed.

And now, we can start planting!

PLANTING INTO SHEET-MULCH:

Seeds:

  • Layer 1 inch of compost or planting mix over top of the sheet mulch, and place seeds on top.
  • Sprinkle a thin layer of compost or planting mix over the seeds to cover them.
  • Water gently.

Plant Starts:

  • Push the sheet mulch aside until you get to the cardboard below.
  • Cut an X in the cardboard, and plant the root-ball in the soil below the cardboard.
  • Stick your finger in the soil to make sure it’s moist. If not, add some water.
  • Replace the sheet mulching around the plant, taking care not to cover the leaves.
  • Make sure the leaves of the plant are above the sheet mulch.
  • If the plant it too short, fill the hole you created in the sheet mulch with some compost or planting mix, and plant the root ball into this.

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GG’s Latest Dig (A taste of everything)

A few small bites from around the web this week:

  • Good Food For All Kids; A Garden at Every School was voted one of the 2010 Top Ideas for Change in America on change.org. You can read about the idea, here. Yay for a garden in every school!
  • Not necessarily new, but a resource we were reminded of this week. LifeLab compiles videos on garden-based learning, nutrition, and school gardens at this great site. Get inspired!
  • Lastly, with farmers market season just around the corner, we wanted to remind folks that you can use your SNAP benefits (food stamps) at many of our local Portland markets.  And, for us gardening folks, its important to note that you can also use your Oregon Trail Card to purchase food-producing plant starts and seeds!  Get eating and growing healthy fruits and veggies!

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Kale and garlic: A little bit of winter leftovers

Lately, in garden club, students have been noticing the prehistoric-looking overwintered kale plants and little green stalks of garlic sprouting around the garden.  We planted the garlic  with the students last fall, and students are finally getting the opportunity to see it grow (and taste it’s garlicky leaves).  Students have also been learning to differentiate kale and chard from the green lettuces we’ve been planting lately. As we’ve been thinking about garlic and kale lately, we thought we would share a little history and a recipe with you.

Garlic, in one form or another, has been used for hundreds, even thousands of years. Paintings and clay sculptures of the superfood have been discovered as far back as the Egyptian tombs, dating 3200 BC.  The Greeks and Romans also shared the Egyptians’ uses of garlic as a cure for common aliments, treating dog bites, repelling insects, as well as increasing stamina, strength and courage.

During WWII British and Russian armies used diluted garlic solutions as a replacement for penicillin and sulfa to help kill bacteria stricken infections. Today the healing uses are implemented by many to rid the body of toxins, regulate blood sugar metabolism, and stimulate blood circulation, the liver, and the nervous system. Meanwhile the widespread culinary use of garlic extends to the palates of cultures worldwide.

Kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels spouts, cauliflower and broccoli are all the same species of plant named Brassica oleracea. The clear distinctions between each of the vegetables we recognize today are a result of over two thousand years of selective propagation and cultivation. The result of the cabbage “head” for instance was instigated by successive generations preferring the vegetable’s tender leaves found clustered together in the top of the stem, eventually becoming so large that the cluster formed the whole plant.

The species is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe and until the Middle Ages was the primary green vegetable eaten in Europe.  It was commonly grown in the Scottish Islands and other colder regions because of its proved hardiness.  In fact, most houses had kale yards that would help protect the harvest from the extreme elements as well as storing kale preserved in barrels of salt.  The leafy variety of Brassica oleracea is still enjoyed to this day and can be paired with the ancient flavors of garlic in the recipe below.

Reference: www.veraveg.org/Veg History/

Kale Sautéed with Garlic

Serves 2-4

Ingredients

  • 4-6 large kale leaves
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

Optional: ¼ red or yellow onion,

salt, pepper, other spices, vinegar, fresh or bottled lemon juice.

Directions
Rinse kale leaves, chop off and discard bottom 2 inches of stem. Rolling the leaves together, chop every 1-2 inches along the stem. Set aside. Peel and finely chop garlic. Warm a saucepan on medium adding oil or butter until it spreads evenly across the pan. Add garlic (and optional onions) and sauté 2 minutes. Add chopped kale.

(and optional vinegar or lemon juice) and sauté for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste, as well as other spices.

Thank to our Youth Grow Intern, Andryce Anderson for her diligent kale and garlic research.

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Stories from the garden: What it takes to be a garden teacher

In the first of a series of bios and stories about GROWINGGARDENS staff, volunteers, and partners, we hope to highlight the folks that make GROWINGGARDENS‘ work possible.  We start with a very special garden teacher at Vernon.  In the second year of our GROWINGGARDENS Youth Grow partnership, Sarah Canterberry has brought amazing knowledge and energy to the Vernon Garden Program, and is much of the reason Vernon has been so successful in establishing their school garden.  In the story below, Sarah reflects on her relationship with the Vernon Garden.

Sarah grew up in Ellensburg, WA, on a small farm. Sarah first got a taste of how food and gardening impacts how we experience the world from her family.  Sarah’s mother had a huge garden and taught her all about preserving and drying food. Her family also had a couple of farm animals. Sarah explains that as she grew up helping her mom in the garden was fun, but “it [also] really affected my work ethic (in a very positive way).  It also taught me to appreciate the flavors of food eaten right out of the garden, so it really affected my palate.”

As an adult, Sarah continued to think about gardens, the food system, and education. Sarah and her husband, Gage, a Vernon teacher, often had heated discussions about the inequity of the public schools in the Portland area.  Their cousins’ children attend an environmentally-focused  school in Southeast Portland and Sarah and her husband were often surprised by the number of different opportunities for learning students received at this school compared to the Vernon students.  When Gage was in graduate school, he decided to focus his final graduate project on building an edible and native plant garden at Vernon–figuring that a garden offered many different options for learning and would make Vernon a more interesting place to learn. Once the garden was in place, the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) program was looking for someone to teach a class, and Sarah was offered the position.

During her first year as the garden teacher at Vernon, Sarah worked closely with the 2008/09 GROWINGGARDENS Youth Grow Educator, Emily, in growing the garden program, developing activities and lessons that best served Vernon students.  Sarah also showed her commitment to garden education through her participation in the pilot of our School Garden Coordinator Certificate Training. As she has continued her work in the 2009-2010 school year, Sarah has taken on a strong leadership role in the SUN School  garden classes and has planned highly successful work-parties that have further engaged families with the garden at Vernon.  Sarah and Gage have also worked together to establish regular meetings of the Vernon Garden Committee, which now includes a broad range of parents interested in helping with the garden program.

Sarah participating in the School Garden Coordinator Certificate Training

Sarah sees many values in having the school garden at Vernon. As she explains, “I think providing another opportunity for children to learn in an experiential way is so valuable, and in a neighborhood where hunger and obesity coexist, it is nice to provide a space that addresses both of those issues…. I feel that the garden also provides a space where people can meet, work together and build community.” As the garden program at Vernon has grown, Sarah has also seen many of her and Gage’s ideas come to fruition: “I feel that the garden has brought families together on a regular basis, and I also suspect that it has helped to bring more neighborhood children to Vernon….In this climate of school closures and public schools having to compete with well-funded charter schools popping up all over, every public school has to work hard to capture those neighborhood kids–and a garden is a great draw. “

Working in gardens is not without challenges, however, and Sarah notes that those range from engaging teachers and students during school hours, as well as finding enough time and support to manage the maintenance of the garden in the summer.  Yet, in Sarah’s experience, teaching garden club is full of daily reminders that the work is meaningful.  Sarah notes a memory from her first year teaching: “I love when kids are so blown away by eating a new vegetable.  I remember one time cutting a chiogga beet, and the kids all ooooing and ahhhing at once.”  The garden also provides a space where students are able to connect and receive support from other students and adults, beyond what happens during the regular school day.  Sarah says: “There have been some really intense moments of kids sharing feelings or sharing problems they are having.  One time, while pulling carrots, a boy told me that his mom had been missing for a week.  That’s all he said, and really all he wanted to say.  I gave him a hug and we kept pulling carrots. “

Sarah and her famous rainbow smoothie

Vernon K-8, and the whole surrounding community, has greatly benefited from the presence of Sarah in the garden.  And luckily, Sarah continues to enjoy working with students in the garden: “I like providing kids with time to be outside and play, breathe fresh air and just experience working in a garden… It really is a beautiful thing.”

Thanks to Sarah for all of her hard work.  It has not gone unnoticed.

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