Over the last few weeks while waiting for the warm weather to arrive and for the community garden to get tilled, we have been planning and preparing our plants and our plot. Indoors I started onions and celery in February, then herbs, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes in March, and will soon be starting more seedlings in the next few days in preparation for the average last expected frost date coming up way faster than I expected (2 weeks away)!
The time sure does fly! Just the other day it was the beginning of April, and now we are already half way through. Crazy!
Outside we have been spending some time helping clean up the Fall gardens that people left behind in order to prepare the garden for the spring tilling. Since this is an apartment complex’s community garden belonging to the university, they do us the favor of bringing out their little tractor and tilling the garden for us each spring. While we don’t get to have the fun of planting perennials (although this year we will be setting aside a perennially plot area that will not be tilled next year), it is great to start fresh each spring with a large area of loose dirt. So in order to be able to get the tractor and tiller through the garden, we remove all of the fencing and stakes from last year as well as any dead plant matter that might get stuck in the tiller.
We managed to get if fairly picked up, at least so that nothing would get stuck in the tiller.
Andrew and I also oversee the community garden’s compost tumblers, so we are in charge of informing the public (gardeners and other apartment dwellers that contribute to the compost) which of the four compartments in the two large tumblers are currently “open” for deposits, as well as making sure that all of the discarded nitrogen-rich kitchen scraps are balanced with carbon-rich browns like straw and leaves. Since we don’t technically live in these apartments, we are glad to help out any way we can in order to earn our keep in the garden. Before the garden was tilled we spent what felt like hours on end sifting through one of the finished compost bins in order to remove all of the things people should not have added like stickers on fruit, chicken bones, and other non-compostables we want to avoid spreading around the garden. Even though we have tried to post rules about the compost (no meat, no grains, cut things into small pieces, take stickers off of your fruit), not everyone seems to take as much time as we do when dumping their kitchen scraps into the tumblers. Last fall we arrived at the garden one day to find two whole pumpkins stuffed in one of the bins. Pumpkins are great for the compost bins, but when they are put in whole they take a lot longer to break down. We try to encourage people to cut large things into small pieces, but for some reason we still find whole fruits and veggies in the bins that we extract and cut up ourselves to make sure we are getting the fastest moving compost that we can. We have also found things like biodegradable plastic bags and silverware really don’t degrade in the smaller bins in the short amount of time we want need them to.
Once the compost was mixed with soil by means of tilling, we finally had our garden grand opening this last weekend. We officially staked off our plot and then got busy shoveling out the main pathways in the garden, as well as the dividing up the beds in our plot. This year our plot is larger (roughly 30’x23′, where as last year was 20x’25’), and are very excited about what is ahead! Here is the most up to date plan for our garden (which is still being updated on a daily basis).
Over the next week, we will continue to prepare and plant our plot, while also starting to prepare our indoor plants for their outdoor life. The onions and celery are outside as we speak hardening off to make the transition to the garden, while the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are starting to get their second set of leaves. It won’t be long before they will go through the hardening off process as well.
Since there is still a bit of waiting on the weather, I have also been occupying my time with the design of a little open air dog house we are going to build in the garden to protect the dogs from the hot summer sun, as well as provide a trellis for our winter squash with the hopes of growing the squash on top of the dog house! I am super excited for it and have gone all out using Google’s SketchUp design software. More details on that coming very soon, but check out the design below. What do you think? With a wonderful layer of earth filling the bottom the dogs will be enjoying their shady spot while still getting to watch us as we do our work. Not to mention I get a little piece of mind knowing that there is a barrier between them and our plants.