Earthkeeping – Orchard Gardens

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

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“Orchard Gardens Cooks” – cookbook by our gardeners

CookbookOrchard Gardens has published a cookbook!  Thanks to Sharon and Nicole, dedicated gardeners, we have assembled a complete set of recipes from our garden clan.  We have tried to incorporate recipes which include vegetables from the garden.  Kale, beets, squash, and even quince have found a place in our cookbook.  I can’t wait to try the “Basil and Onion Mashed Potato” recipe by Jan.

The books are $10 and 100% of the proceeds go to the Backpack Meals for Kids program here in Bellevue.  Backpack Meals provides a bag of food to kids who would otherwise go hungry on the weekends.  You can look at their website, Backpack Meals for Kids, to get more information.  Backpack Meals was started by one of our gardeners who wanted take action to help kids in Bellevue.  The $10 from the sale of one book will fill a backpack for one student! A student who will surely appreciate it.

You can purchase the book online at Create Space.


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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:






Summer Savory


Try letting some of these go to seed, too:

Happy Planting!!




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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April 19th – Healthy Soil Class

Where: Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Orchard Garden P-Patch

When: April 19, 2014 10:00 a.m.

Instructor: Gary Scheider, Your p-Patch neighbor and King County Master Gardener

Subject: “Building healthy soil in our Garden”

Cost: Free!

Join Gary and learn about the characteristics of healthy soil, how to enhance your soil, and how to maintain it. Gary will tell us all about soil amendments and compost as well. Our gardens are only as good as the soil they are grown in. Our Northwest soil is not so great all by itself (glacial till, basically) so find out how to make yours better. Good soil uses less water and requires less fertilizer to grow great vegetables.

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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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Holy Cross Featured in Bellevue Reporter Article

Check out this new article on Holy Cross Church – featuring Linda, Rahmet and Jan Starr!

A great write-up on our efforts and some nice pictures of the p-patch.

A great write-up on our efforts and some nice pictures of the p-patch.

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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.

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.

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

Broccoli Rabe (45 degrees)
Swiss Chard
Brussel sprouts
Leeks (grow from seedlings)
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.


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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

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