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2012 is here and there is a new garden on the block–er blog!

Al and I started volunteering at Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse. Last year a combo of work and loosing precious time with my husband thwarted my plans to volunteer at Ginkgo. This year we are working as a team!

April 7

Last Saturday we took on the enormous 1500 gallon rain cistern. Al has some great ideas on how to start an efficient rain water collection system for the greenhouse.  The first step was cleaning the cistern.  Rain water polluted by  the old fiberglass roof had been dripping into the cistern. Kirsten, the (extraordinary) director of the greenhouse was hesitant to use  the water for the plants.  We fully agreed and set to work cleaning the beast.

It was full of at least 70 buckets of sludgy water and a thick layer of muddy sediment.  We started up a siphon system to drain it, but it was going too slow and kept getting clogged. So we formed a two person bucket brigade. Al got into the cistern and bailed out bucketfuls and handed me the buckets.  However they were really heavy to carry to the safe draining spot, so we switched roles.  Dozens of buckets later, we were down to a thick layer of black mud. Scoop by scoop we gathered it up.  Next we turned the cistern on its side and Al crawled in it like an igloo with some rags to wipe up the remaining sludge.  I stayed outside washing the rags and handing them back to him.  Finally Al power-washed the inside of the cistern and then went at it with scrub brushes and a watered-down solution of mint scented Castile soap. Now it is as is good as new!  I foresee a lot of  future savings at Kilbourn Park: the water, money and best of all the Planet!

Volunteering Update:

We’ve been volunteering now for over a month and we have had so much fun and learned so much!  Here I am nursing the sage seedlings back to health after the freak hail storm. Golf-ball sized ice chunks left craters and crushed plants. Volunteers had to carefully re-fill all the holes.

Here’s The Plot

We’ve been granted a plot of our very own at Kilbourn!  We spent a few hours removing the pervasive weeds that grew so deep we reckon they are from the 30s when our plot used to be  a WWII Victory Garden–maybe not but my were the roots of those weeds long.  We needed to use a shovel to dig them up and ended up tilling the soil completely by the time we were through.

The sun was low in the sky by the time we finally started planting our seedlings–which we’ve learned from Al’s very wise parents, is a good thing.  Transplanting is best done on cloudy days and in the evening.  Here’s what else we learned. How to transplant a seedling:

1) Dig a hole deep enough to cover the plant’s roots, the “fake” leaves and sometime well up the stem if the plant is really tall and spindly.

2) Fill the hole partially with compost.

3) Pour a good amount of water in the hole.

4) “Tickle” the roots of the plant so that they become untangled

5) Place the plant in the hole, cover with compost and dirt.

6) Water as needed and let Mother Nature do her thing.

Well that’s how we did it at least. Let us know if there are any flaws in our technique or if you know any tips we could use.  Next Saturday we will plant from seeds.  So far we have planted several varieties of tomato, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, two types of hot peppers, kale, Swiss chard, green onions, rosemary, oregano and thyme.


I’ve started volunteering at Ginkgo Organic Gardens on Saturdays.

I’ve never successfully grown anything (I even killed off three “Mexican Oregano” plants during college, named Lucy, Frida and Rebbecca respectively) and don’t know the first thing about gardening.  But I want to learn everything I possibly can so when things hit the fan, I am ready to grow (pun intended). So I googled “organic garden, volunteer” and I found Ginkgo.  Ginkgo couldn’t be a better choice.  I had a few requirements for the garden I wanted to volunteer at.  I wanted to learn to grow vegetables and other edibles. I wanted the gardeners to use organic methods and I wanted to work in a communal garden, not one where people tended their own plots. Ginkgo does all of these things and then some.  Not only is everything a communal effort but Ginkgo donates its bounty to a food pantry for economically disadvantaged folks. Golden.  Now that I’ve started I couldn’t be happier.

Here’s a video someone made about Ginkgo Organic Gardens.  Its a great preview of the garden in full bloom and tells the story of Gingko’s mission.

I’ve had three Saturdays so far, and its high time I share what I have learned.  I need to keep a record of these things and what better way to do it then to put it on the blog. So without further adieu, here are the first three posts.  Check back for a new post each week!

The first Saturday it was all about clean up and preparation. We raked leaves, picked up trash and collected old wire fencing (used to protect fragile plants). It was a little cold and damp but it was great to be there surrounded by well-intentioned people and doing something useful.  The tulips were just starting to show green shoots.  I literally tiptoed through the tulips as I gathered up the flotsam and jetsam of trash that accumulated over the winter in the front garden. (There are two gardens at Ginkgo, one is for flowers and the other is for produce.  The front garden has a ginkgo tree, meandering paths, a little footbridge and comfy benches.  I can’t wait to see it in full bloom.   I chatted amicably with other volunteers as I removed chewed gum, cigarette butts and plastic bric-a-brac from among the plants.  We also raked and composted all of the dry leaves. while cleaning and raking, I found three fairly shiny pennies which I lined up on a bench, an omen of good luck and prosperity for the new season, I think.

Volunteers at the Garden April 2, 2011 -spielmacher

Click on the picture or this link to visit the Ginkgo Organic Gardens blog!

The second Saturday was cold and wet, too wet to start planting, according to Susan. So today we cleaned last year’s dirt off the tools, made sure the tool shed was organized and my favorite part, hulled seeds.  The Diakon radish (a spicy hot variety, I am told) keeps its seeds in dried pods resembling that of peas.  We had to carefully open the pods and pull out all the tiny red-brown seeds.  The seeds are minuscule.  We hulled them over a bowl so as not to lose any.  At one point a gush of wind knocked over one of the bowls and we had to rescue as many of the seeds as we could.  We put stones in the bowls after that.   With five us hulling, soon we were done.  I heard someone say at the garden “Many hands make light work,” so far every time I have come I have seen the proof of that statement.  The seeds were hulled in no time.  I was sad to leave when we were done.

Today the real work began!   It was a beautiful sunny day, a little on the cooler side, but once I got moving, I quickly grew hot enough to strip down to my tank top.  When I arrived the veterans were un-burrying the plumb trees. In the fall, they had put the young saplings “to bed”  to protect them during the winter months. It was incredible to see the young trees unearthed, one of which was even bearing a plumb! Ivy said the trees looked healthier and fuller then when they were laid to rest .  I helped fill in the hole for one of the trees. After that, I  joined Patricia and James  in assisting Evelyn with planting.  We planted potatoes, spinach and later turnips.  It was fascinating to me how each plant had different requirements of depth and space a part from one another.  The potatoes needed to be 8-10 inches apart with two inches of dirt on top while the spinach was on 3/4s of an inch a part and only required the thinnest layer of dirt. I am going to have a hard time remembering all the measurements even if I do blog them, so if you come upon an incorrect one, please comment below.  That’s the only way I’ll learn the correct ones!  I was also fascinated by how the potatoes were prepared for planting. You start with ordinary organic potatoes (like from Whole Foods!) and let them sit in a cool dark place for a while until they develop eyes.  Then you slice them up so that there is one eye on each piece then you plant them in the ground with the eye side up.  I’m told that each eye will sprout multiple potatoes if we keep piling on the dirt each week.   I am so excited to see this happen.  As I said to a fellow volunteer Justin, sometimes in the rush of the modern world, we forget about the tiny miracles of seed growing into vegetables that we can eat. Next we spread mulch which was very hard work but instantly rewarding.  James and I filled the wheel barrows from the pile and other volunteers and I wheeled them to where they were needed. Evelyn, Patricia and a few other people raked the mulch out between the beds.  It looks very pretty and feels soft to walk on.   After planting the turnips, we spread netting over the beds to protect them from birds.  This was a lot of fun considering the strong wind.  Next we spread mulch which was very hard work but instantly rewarding.  James and I filled the wheel barrows from the pile and other volunteers and I wheeled them to where they were needed. Evelyn, Patricia and a few other people raked the mulch out between the beds.  It looks very pretty and feels soft to walk on.   After planting the turnips, we spread netting over the beds to protect them from birds.  This was a lot of fun considering the strong wind.  Staring down at our seedlings, all tucked in, I thought about that tiny miracle of growth.  I am going to do my best to show a greater appreciation for this from now on.


At the Garden 4/30/11; Fond Fiddlehead Memories

At the Garden 5/14/11; Grandpa Admire and Why Mint is NOT a Weed!


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