Earthkeeping – Orchard Gardens

Holy Cross Lutheran Church


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A Ton of Food!

A  Ton of Food…After months of planning, removing sod, plowing and planting in the spring of 2010, Orchard Gardens community garden in South Bellevue was born.  Every year since that first season, we have produced well over 1,000 pounds of fresh organic produce for Bellevue’s Hopelink food bank, in addition to plenty of produce for the 15 or so gardener’s own tables.  We have dreamed of giving one TON.  2015 was the year we did.  During this growing season, we brought 2,310 pounds of fruit and produce to Hopelink where it has been received with “Ooh’s” and “Ahh’s” and ‘Thank You’s.”

Many workers and partners helped make this happen.  Holy Cross Lutheran Church donates part of its land for planting.  A few staunch gardeners and people with passion for growing things work together to move this project forward.  But without our community gardeners, we could not produce all the food.  The fresh produce was donated by gardeners who planted an ‘extra row’ and shared a few extra pounds each week, the produce was packed in the trunk of a Honda sedan every Tuesday morning and delivered to Hopelink for the afternoon shoppers.

Many wonderful people make this happen.   One amazing “Garden Godfather” is committed to growing for the purpose of sharing with local hungry families and he also shares his expertise with fellow gardeners.   A  Master Gardener oversees our composting as well as plants his own garden.  We have gardeners who, together with family members, built a structure for climbing plants.   A local Windermere office staff helped create a rose arbor.  A volunteer group from Stanford wheelbarrowed compost around each of two dozen fruit trees and built a brick edge for the community herb garden. One gardener single handedly took on the project of creating a beautiful clean edge for the garden and was assisted on several Saturdays by local volunteer groups including one sponsored by the City of Bellevue.

We partnered with Lettuce Link of Solid Ground who gave us plant starts and seeds for Giving Gardens.  Cedar Grove contributed 30 yards of compost for free and we have purchased many other yards of great Cedar Grove compost over the years to create healthy and productive soil.  Local landscapers give us chips to make walking paths.  We have a local “Bee Whisperer” who takes care of our Mason bees that pollinate the blossoms on the more than 25 heirloom apple, pear, plum and quince trees.  One gardener cares for worms that create nutritious compost. Another experiments with new ideas such as hugelkultur planting.   The Church of Steadfast Love from the Compass Center in Seattle helps us keep the fruit trees pruned and harvested.  The Pomegranate Center of Issaquah partnered with us to build a shelter from the sun and rain for the gardeners.  The list goes on and on.  Thank you Orchard Gardens Community.

Each year new gardeners become part of this community and invest a nominal amount to rent a plot and support the work of this community garden. If you have an interest in joining a thriving community garden, contact Jan Starr, Orchard Gardens P-Patch Coordinator at 425-221-8544 or jdstarrs@gmail.com.

 


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Aphid Control

By Robin Bentley

November 4, 2015

In a garden where the focus is on production I sometimes see the plant’s natural “end stage” as unnecessary.  When the parsley, carrots, mint and cilantro, for example, start flowering and setting seed I yank them up to make way for something else.  And yet those flowers are important, even in a highly productive p-patch like ours.  First of all, there are the bees.  Anything we can do to encourage them and reverse colony collapse is crucial.  Flowers are also important to a host of other beneficial insects.  We hear that term a lot, but what does it mean?  Who are they?  These “insects with benefits”?

Ladybugs, for one.  But you’ve known that since you were three years old.  What you may not know is that the predatory larvae of hover flies and parasitic wasps (I know, yuk!) prey on—you guessed it—aphids.  So do the aptly-named bright orange aphid midges.  With flowers come pollen and nectar—which entices the flying adults of these beneficial insects to stop and raise a family, producing the hungry hordes of predatory larvae which feast on juicy aphids.  Yum!

Last summer a lot of our patches were stressed from drought—weakening our veggies and making them that much more susceptible to infestation.  Some are tempted in an acute attack such as ours to apply insecticidal soap or neem oil.  Proceed with caution, though, as many of the beneficial insects are hidden under the aphids, and they succomb to the soaps and oils as well.   My old trick of blasting the aphids with a strong stream from the hose will make the beneficials disappear as well.  Even pinching the suckers between your fingers risks killing the good larvae.

So feel good instead about letting some of your plants go to seed—plant a row of alyssum, some clumps of calendula among your veggies, or a border of verbena around the edges…in the case of calendula and many other flowers the petals are edible for humans as well.  You can be secure in the knowledge that they’re your best allies in the aphid battle.

As well as eating some of these flowers, the seeds that follow are available for planting next year.  So it’s a win-win-win.

In her book, Backyard Bounty Linda Gilkeson lists the following beneficial herbs, flowers and vegetables useful for planting to keep aphids away.  She also reminds us to have something in bloom from early spring to late summer by growing a variety of plants.  Here are some herbs you probably already have growing somewhere in your patch:

Coriander/Cilantro

Dill

Caraway

Fennel

Parsley

Summer Savory

 

Try letting some of these go to seed, too:

Happy Planting!!

 

Annuals

 

Perennials Vegetable Flowers
Calendula Alyssum Chinese Greens and Mustards
Coreopsis Basket of Gold (Aurinia) Kale
Cosmos Coneflower Radishes
Feverfew Daisies Leeks and Onions
Heliotrope Golden marguerite (Anthemis)
Lobelia Goldenrod
Mignonette Rudbeckia
Schizanthus Verbena
Sweet Alyssum Yarrow

 

From Gilkeson, Backyard Bounty

 

 


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Food Bank Donations

Every week during the late spring and summer, volunteers from our garden take food grown in the garden to the local food bank run by Hopelink in Bellevue. A few dedicated gardeners share all the produce grown on their plots with the food bank, while the rest of us send our excess. The clients at the food bank love fresh produce, and we gardeners like thinking about how others will enjoy what we’ve grown. My cucumber plants have been so prolific that for several weeks I have had a bag of cucumbers to send while still having plenty for my family to eat. (And a cucumber salad to take to every picnic I’ve gone to.). Our tally so far this year has been 625 pounds. We have a board in our kiosk which tracks our total.

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Straw Bale Garden

Our straw bale garden is doing really well. After a month of “conditioning”, I dug some holes in the top and added potting soil. I then planted some petunias and nasturtiums. The result is fantastic! We placed the straw bale along a building, under the eves, where nothing much would grow. I water it a couple of times a week and occasionally add a high nitrogen fertilizer. Beautiful!

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A new adventure – making a Hugelkultur raised bed

Hugelkultur is a German word which means roughly “mound culture”. It’s an innovative new way of making a raised bed. The bed utilizes old wood, twigs, organic matter and soil. The combination of the wood and organic matter makes it very fertile and the biological process of breaking down the wood and organic matter generates heat (just like in a compost pile). This heat and organic matter makes it a fertile place to grow. I have read about hugelkultur beds and the fact that they need much less water and no fertilizer to grow really nice crops. So I’ve decided to make my own, right in my p-patch bed.

At our p-patch we have lots of old apple wood from apple trees that have lost a limb, so we started with that. Rick cut it up into firewood sized pieces.

Cutting up the apple wood

Cutting up the apple wood

Then, I dug the top six inches of soil out of my bed in a 6 foot by 3 foot area. I wanted to preserve the top soil for the last step of the process. This also made a convenient space to contain the wood. I then brought in the pieces of wood and distributed them through out the area. I added twigs on top of that. (the twigs had a lot of leaves attached, I think that will help).

Piling on twigs after wood

Piling on twigs after wood

Then I covered it with a layer of leaves and organic matter from the garden (rhubarb leaves, squash leaves, etc.). Then I piled on the top soil that I had saved. The whole pile is at most 3 feet tall.

Finished Hugelkultur Bed

Finished Hugelkultur Bed

Lastly, I put straw on top to act as a mulch and keep it all nice until spring when I plant my vegetables in it. I can’t wait until spring and summer to see what my results are and if I really do have to water less. (that would be a nice bonus).

If you are interested in hugelkultur, you can do a search and find lots of detailed descriptions of how to do your own project. I will update this blog with my results (good or bad).


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Orchard Gardens Update

Current soil temp 52 – 55 degrees! The soil has warmed in the last few weeks. Unseasonably cold weather in the first two weeks of April held down the temperature a bit.

I have been growing vegetables indoors for a few weeks now and have tomatoes, broccoli, flowers, thyme and other plants growing. The tomatoes have been moved out to my greenhouse. They started life in a growing tray with a heat mat with a special starter soil. This greatly increased how fast they germinated and grew in the first few weeks. They were moved to bigger pots and spent a week in the garage before going out to the mini greenhouse. I waited to move them outdoors until the temperatures were in the mid 40’s at night. The mini greenhouse really warms up any time there is a bit of sun.

Here is a picture of my laundry room with my full spectrum grow light. The temperatures in this room are coolish, maybe lower 60’s.
light

The mini greehouse was obtained at a very low price at a local drug store. I keep it in the warmest spot in the yard, in our south facing driveway in front of the garage door.
greenhouse

Now that the soil temps are in the mid 50’s, here is what is safe to plant:

Fennel
Arugula
Broccoli Rabe (45 degrees)
Lettuce
Swiss Chard
Peas
Brussel sprouts
Kale
Beets
Carrots
Leeks (grow from seedlings)
Potatoes
Radish (45 degrees
Turnip (45 degrees)

Covering your seeds with a loose row cover fabric will help keep the slugs and rabbits out and warm them slightly. As they grow they will push the fabric up as needed. Weight down the row cover with rocks but leave plenty of loose fabric. You can also use hoops, but this not necessary for many plants.

Many gardeners have been tending their gardens in recent weeks. Here is a picture of an artichoke growing in one of our beds.

artichoke


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Orchard Gardens Update – What to Plant Now

This just in! Evidence of spring is in the air. Today was a beautiful later winter day with sun and temperatures in the 50’s. The grass is starting to grow and cherries trees are just starting to bloom. It’s still cold and night and many gardeners wonder – what to plant now?

The soil temperature today was 45 degrees. Soil temperature is a good indicator of when it is safe to plant. Soil temperatures are much more stable than air temperatures and the weather in the Pacific Northwest can be gloomy and cold into June. Many plants have a preferred soil temperature.

At 45 degrees it is safe to plant:
Broccoli Rabe
Fava Beans
Radish
Turnip
Dill
Spinach

At 50 degrees there will be many more that we can plant, so stay tuned!