Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Accelerated Permaculture Training Begins

Accelerated Permaculture Training is a varied and fascinating group of twenty-two—each participant bringing a world of experience into the class. There’s Annie from Garrison and Sienna from Brooklyn, Magda from Nyack and Roberto from Norwalk. Beyond looking at the cardinal directions of where the participants are from, there’s the variety of impetus for taking the course.
  • Zinnia, a woman from Manhattan, wants to be a farmer
  • Chris, a first-time home-owner in Hastings, “wants to do the right thing”
  • Sarah’s journey has spanned biology, religion, and farming—now to permaculture
  • Natalie wants to launch her adult life with knowledge of permaculture
  • Aslihan wants to do her part in creating a sustainable future

All four of the teachers were present to welcome the students: Claudia Joseph, a lifetime gardener who has taught permaculture since 1998; Jono Neiger, a Massachusetts based agro-ecologist; Anne Wiesen, an herbalist; and her husband John Steitz, an architect and landscape designer.

“We’re going to take a very quick tour of permaculture,” said Claudia, explaining that permaculture was traditionally taught over a two or three-week residential program. Accelerated Permaculture Training is six sessions. 

Claudia introduced the class to shapes in nature that are useful in permaculture, zones, and basic mapping techniques. She took a first look at a needs / yields analysis. Each person there wrote down what they needed and what they could contribute to a community. 

A glimpse:  

I need to learn carpentry. I can give gardening skills. / I need a love seat. I can give chicken poop. / I need a job. I can give community organizing. 

Jono took participants on a tour of his home and garden, noting how permaculture influences his decisions.

The class also went into the Kitchen Garden and tried tools which measured the sun’s arc, and the soil’s aeration and ability to hold water.

Homework: map a space which you visit every day. Using permaculture principles, redesign this area.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

July 7 Garden News

We worked like fiends on Saturday . . mostly weeding . . pulling out crabgrass and covering the bare soil with wet newspaper. Iris sprayed the poison ivy by the wood chip pile in the parking lot with more vinegar solution. Susan worked on it under and around that bush, using gloves and plastic bags. . . no chemicals!

Marcelo inoculated another couple of mushroom logs, with help from Solange, and dealt with those two plugs that were coming out. Gabriela's chicory is starting to bloom . .love those blue flowers!

Marcelo, Susan, Els, Solange, Blanca, and Iris were there. The beans are going up the back fence, the cucumbers in the communal bed are going wild. We put a cage on one, are training another up the fence, and put a plastic net/trellis thing over the hoops for the third . .we'll see which one works best! The little Asian eggplants Iris planted in that bed have vegetables on them already. Susan's cucumbers have gone wild and threaten to take over the world. Tomato plants all have tomatoes on them and the brown-eyed Susan (rudebekia) Claudia gave us looks like it will burst into bloom just in time for her visit.

We are also considering establishing a permaculture area with fruits and nuts and will consult with Claudia Joseph next Saturday. 

- Iris

Mushrooms and May Update

Summer is moving along at the kitchen garden. We have planted tomatoes, tomatillos, hot peppers, squash, cucumbers, kale, chard, carrots, radishes, spinach, lettuce, beans, peas, eggplant, raspberries, flowers, and herbs. With the recent hot weather, things are really taking off! 
We let some of our crops (greens, radishes, herbs) to flower to attract and nurture pollinators including native bees and a recent black swallowtail butterfly. We will collect the seeds later in the season to save for future plantings. Weeding still feels like a full time job and we are battling to overcome the crabgrass by pulling it out and covering the soil with straw and/or newspapers. Tending the compost continues.

Our latest effort has been to start a mushroom growing project! Using some logs from the Norway maple that was partially cut down to provide more sun to the garden, we drilled holes, inserted shitake mushroom plugs (grooved wooden plugs colonized with shitake mycelium), pounded them in with a rubber mallet, and sealed them up with wax. This is called inoculating the logs. They will now sit in the shade and we wait . . . but not with baited breath because it will take from 8-16 months for the shitakes to appear. We are told this will happen in 8-16 months and that the logs can produce mushrooms for up to eight year.

- Iris

Sunday, April 29, 2018

April Wrap Up

These last few weeks have been busy at the kitchen garden and we've gotten a huge amount done! We've created paths from the big pile of wood chips in the parking lot (which is almost gone now) and added dirt and compost to build up all our beds.

In the communal beds (all expanded this spring), we tucked in some small broccoli, spinach and kale plants dropped off by the veggie fairy (aka Linda Jo!) and patted in seeds for kale, cilantro, and scallions. Individual gardeners planted seeds in our plots—carrots, radishes, kale, cilantro, beets, kale and many kinds of lettuce—and tiny seedlings are popping up all over. 

Some of us have also started tomatoes, peppers, and greens at home in seed trays. Those will be transferred to the garden later when they are bigger and the weather is predictably warmer. Iris covered her plot with plastic to create a warmer environment for early growing.

This Saturday was our second workshop with Claudia Joseph and we really got down to business. Of course, there was time to sit around the table (which we moved into a shadier spot) to discuss
plans and ask questions, but mostly we were spread out all over the garden, trying to get as much accomplished as possible while we had an expert on hand.

We separated and transplanted some speckled trout lettuce that had reseeded itself from last year's crop. We laid planks every five feet in the garden plot nearest the street so that we can have access to the full bed . .all the way back to the fence where we hope to grow crops including pole beans, cucumbers, and squash. We discussed which vegetables don't like to grow near each other (beans and squash, for example). We reconfigured the spice garden to make it bigger and continued the edging to try to contain the wandering strawberry plants. We discovered a few stalks of asparagus coming up.

Our biggest project was tackling the fence, which had big gaps and was sagging so low that a deer would barely need to jump to get in and a groundhog could saunter through the holes! Thankfully, Dave Person
showed up and led us in addressing the section near the driveway. Amazingly, by noon, it was looking taut and seamless—very satisfying! Dave was still working on the gate when the last of us left for home around 2:00 p.m..

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Earth Day

Alex, Chris, Hilary, Lenore, Marc, and Mark marked Earth Day in the Labyrinth Garden in front of South Church.

They planted herb seeds, replenished the pathway's wood chip covering, and pruned last year's stalks.

A week before, some of the group met with local farmer Doug Decandia. (Read about his work growing food with inmates for the Food Bank of Westchester here.)

He told the group to aerate and loosen the soil with a broadfork. That's what Mark is using in the photo! He also recommended watching the garden, seeing what takes, and planting more of that.

Gardening was followed by a pizza party in the sunshine : )

Monday, April 9, 2018

In the Kitchen Garden on April 7

Although it was chilly, Els, Jane Ann, Marcelo, Iris, and Susan met at the garden on Saturday morning to continue preparations for the coming season. As we dug and hauled wheelbarrows full of compost and wood chips, it suddenly didn’t seem chilly at all!

We did some work on individual beds—pulling weeds, adding compost and dirt from the dirt pile, and pondering when and where to plant vegetables and flowers—but we mostly turned our attention to the common areas. We enlarged the bed that runs parallel to the street by digging up the crabgrass and moving the stone edge back. All the areas we cleared either became part of the garden bed or were covered with layers of wet cardboard and then wood chips to keep the crabgrass and weeds from returning, as well as to make it look nice. We’ve made good dents in the wood chip and dirt piles over the last few weeks—altho the photo of the wood chip pile doesn’t show this as dramatically as I had hoped.

Back against the fence, we noticed some old Brussels sprout plants that had never reached their full potential in the fall but had lived on thru the winter as funky looking green stalks topped by a bunch of leaves with a teeny, tiny Brussels sprout below each leaf. Els, ever resourceful, had pulled one out last week and chopped the leaves up for a salad. She pulled the remaining ones and we divided them up. Els' recipe included kalamata olives, fennel, radishes and a Greek dressing. I added shredded grilled chicken, grated carrot, avocado and a lemon juice and olive oil dressing. It was delicious!

Soon we will start planting some greens. Crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and the like will need to wait till the end of May. It’s great to be working together in the fresh air in the Kitchen Garden once again. Our next workshop with Claudia Joseph of the NY Permaculture Exchange will be on Saturday morning, April 28.

- Iris

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Back to the Kitchen Garden! March 31

Things are starting back up at the Kitchen Garden! Two weeks ago, a small but hearty crew (Els, Ben, Marcelo) began preparing the garden for spring planting--building up the community beds with dirt and compost and ripping up the crabgrass in between and covering the bare earth with wood chips from the pile in the parking lot. This past Saturday, a larger group of us joined in—Marcelo, Solange, Susan, Blanca, Laura, Iris and Els. We managed to get the irrigation lines on top of those newly built up beds (which we hadn't been sure we could) and removed more crabgrass and laid down wet cardboard and then a layer of wood chips. Lots of trips with the wheelbarrow! We began enlarging the community bed on the street side. Marcelo and helpers sifted the compost and put it on the community bed near the street and mixed some into the dirt pile to continue improving its usefulness. A highlight was when a young gardener/scientist stopped by with his mom and enjoyed examining the worm Marcelo found in the compost.

It was a great day to be out in the sunshine working together and getting ready for spring planting. And then today, it snowed! And then, it melted... spring is indeed on its way...

- Iris

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Applying Permaculture to the Kitchen Garden

Claudia Joseph, a permaculture teacher from Brooklyn, is leading three classes this spring at the Kitchen Garden. The question at hand is: what is transformed when applying the knowledge of permaculture to this community garden.

There will be three classes: Sat March 24, April 28, and May 19, from 9 AM to noon. They are open to all. However know that the focus will be on the Kitchen Garden.

Crops we would like to plant for the communal garden and/or individual plots: Greens (kale, chard, spinach, collards, mizuna and a variety of lettuces), tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers (hot and sweet), eggplants (?), broccoli (?), Brussels sprouts (Susan, maybe Laura), beets, carrots, winter squashes, tomatillos (Iris), peas, herbs (cilantro, parsley; we have lots of sage, oregano, thyme, mint), mushrooms?, native flowers to attract beneficial insects and for beauty. Gabriela plans to use her bed for medicinal plants.

Here are the questions the group has for Claudia. Stay tuned for some learnings to be posted here. 
  1. We currently have crab grass in between the beds and bare dirt under our table (where we had a huge crop of volunteer lambs quarters last year! Not a good spot for them.) We also have a large pile of dirt and a smaller one of wood chips. Would it be good to spread the woodchip pile under the table or in between some of the beds (not sure how far the chips will go)? Or how about spreading the dirt pile as far as it goes and covering those areas with wood chips?
  2. What’s Claudia’s opinion of the Norway Maple that shades part of the garden and is rumored to be non-beneficial (or actively worse)? Cut it down and chip it for garden paths? Leave it and grow mushrooms underneath? (Whether it could actually be cut down is a decision of Roots & Wings bc of finances.)
  3. Can we find an area for perennial fruits and nuts?
  4. Are we using our space well? Is there more room for planting?
  5. What can we do about the deep back bed to provide more accessibility to all parts of it?
  6. How can we grow more vertically, using the fences for growing? Beans? Cucumbers? Peas? Flowers?
  7. Can we use the raised beds with the hoops for seed starting or in some other helpful way?
  8. Should we plant clover or some other crop instead of crab grass in between the two long communal beds or reconfigure them in any way?
  9. How important is it to rotate crops in the communal beds?
  10. What should we plant at various times, especially in order to have some fall/winter crops? (succession planting strategy)
  11. Can anything be grown in the same bed as garlic to maximize use of space?
  12. What are beneficial combinations of plants that we could grow together?
  13. Is there anything we should do before the first workshop? Spread dirt/woodchips? Start seeds? (limited capacity for this)
  14. What about control of invasive species and pests?We’ve had wild grape and poison ivy coming from next property via the stone wall, powdery mildew, leaf miners and cabbage worms