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How Does Your Garden Grow: Week 2

October 11, 2016

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With bad weather (Hurricane Matthew) in the horizon, I knew I had a few days to get things into the ground. I laid out the plants from Brad of Veg Out Gardens, in a general location of where they needed to go. The Elementary children studied the root balls of kale and lettuces, and smelled the assorted herbs plants. I pointed the different shapes of the plant leaves, and we talked about what things help a plant grow (especially those worms we had plopped into the dirt the previous week). The children carefully measured the advised spacing directions, and with small beach shovels substituting as a garden trowel, they each dug a hole, placed the plant into it, and moved dirt around on top of it. I was surprised no one bulked at the idea of getting their hands dirty.

~ Brad’s tip of the month ~

The first frost is around Thanksgiving (November 22nd with a 50% of probability), so be sure to have your transplants in your garden soon. They need at least one month of growth and root development.

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“Straight” rows of kale & lettuce!

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Happy herbs.

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Excited Kindergarteners were up next to plant the carrot seeds in the smallest of the raised beds. Carrots are usually planted in the spring, but I wanted to give it a try in the Fall, and I had a row cover (of a soft fabric like material) that I wanted to test out as well.

This group of children had participated in the worms, so they were curious as to where the worms were and if they could find them. I had organized the number of carrot rows we would have, and had marked them with chopsticks and garden markers beforehand. The children pulled a string from one side to another, to make a straight line, and then used a trowel to make a small trench. Seeds were carefully pinched into the trench trying to give everyone enough space as to not over lap each other. Afterwards, eager hands covered each row with soil and patted them down. We talked about coming back each week to check on their progress.

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This sums up the end of week 2 in our school garden. I checked on the gardens today (3 days after the rain and winds of Hurricane Matthew struck us), and most of the plants survived. There are even carrot seedlings poking up from beneath the soil. So good so far!

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How Does Your Garden Grow: Just Start digging

September 26, 2016

Childhood

The fondest memories of my childhood were spent on the ten acres of gardens on Shelburne Farms. From an array of garden and farm adventures, my favorites included being in the woods, attending summer camp every year, and swimming in Lake Champlain. My least favorite activities were stacking firewood (but I’m quite good at it), lugging buckets of water to the chickens during wintertime, and that one turkey who didn’t like people. I also went in waves of liking/disliking gardening (just ask my parents), and still have dreams of that “tomato tar” that is a struggle to get off your fingertips. So as you can only assume, my “green thumb” is a work in progress.

My most favorite part of gardening NOW, is getting to share it with my three boys, as well as the children at a local pre-school. The best part about having them participate in the process of preparing the soil, adding the seeds, examining pests and eventually (and hopefully!), and tasting the end results is that you get to see a garden through their eyes. I’ve also learned that gardening is about trial and errors, sometimes the plants do exactly as you had thought they’d do, and other times it’s not the case.

It’s not too late to get started on your own garden, here’s how.

STEP 1: PLAN (Anywhere from the end of August – present day September)img_5940Making a plan is very important. Figure out what you how much sun you have, and what exactly you’d like to plant (take care of), and when you want it by (growing span). Don’t forget, you can veer off this plan at any point, but it’s a good idea to go into it with a general idea of what you want to do. Write it down.

Since I’m in that experimental stage of my garden career, I’m lucky to have a friend locally to guide me along. My friend Brad Wynne of Veg Out Gardens is my go-to resource of all things vegetable gardening. A Virginia Beach native, Brad followed his passion of gardening, and has created something quite unique. From custom built raised bed gardens, good soil, plants from his greenhouse grown from seed, and most importantly his vast knowledge in the subject of vegetable gardens. Brad makes the whole process simple and enjoyable, which is exactly as it should be.

After meeting to discuss the space I have to work with, a line-up of plants was created as to what we . We settled on kale, a few herbs, and we set a tentative date for the delivery of the plants. There wasn’t a huge rush, the school garden’s summer plants were still happy and producing, however there was the goal of harvesting by Thanksgiving that I had to keep in mind.

STEP 2: JUST START DIGGING (Beginning of September)img_8422I made a list as to how much organic compost/soil I needed to add to the three gardens (donated by a local Virginia Beach business. Ordered worms (Brad’s suggestion), ordered seeds (or so I thought!), and cleaned up the three raised beds of weeds. We have about 1/2 of bed of strawberries which I left since they’re a perennial plant.

~ Brad’s tip of the month ~

Favorite Soil
I break from the norm a bit in that I prefer bagged soil.  Even if you have never sprayed your lawn with pesticide, herbicide or fungicide, has your neighbor? Are you certain?  Do you know the run off and drainage of the water from your neighbors?  Plus, it is mosquito season.  Most companies use a synthetic pesticide called pyrenthoid to kill the mosquitos.  The problem is that this pesticide is a kill all, even the good bugs, and has a long residue on the plants.  I prefer being in full control of the soil and knowing exactly what is in it, which is what you get from bagged soil.  The major downside for me, obviously, is that you have a ton of plastic left over.
 
Without a doubt, it is the Happy Frog from Fox Farm.  I am addicted to all of their products.  They really take the time to know that there is a ton of great bacteria in the soil and this can really help the plants thrive.  However, at the higher price point of about $14 per 2 cubic feet (and some stores sell it for a much higher price,) it can add up quickly.  After all, a 4’ x 8’ x 18” bed is 48 cu. ft.  This means it would cost $672 + taxes to fill up the bed.
 
A great company that offers a great brand of soil and a good price is Harvest Organic Soil.  It is aMUCH lower cost at $5.50 per 1.5 cubic feet.  This same raised bed would cost $264 + taxes using this soil.  Certainly a big difference.  You can find this soil at Lowe’s.
 
My suggestion is to have the base soil as the Harvest Organic and then add a bag or two of Happy Frog Organic Potting Soil to the top.

STEP 3: PLANT (Mid September or if you’re me: Late September)

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garden-handsBecause of various factors, the garden is getting it’s plants and seeds this week. The soil in the beds are ready to go, as are the happy worms that were plopped into the soil by approximately 60 children, several of which replied “no thank you” when asked to stick their hand into a bucket of dirt and wiggly worms…

With the guidance and healthy plants from Brad, I fully expect for it to be a successful season and am looking forward to the children being a part of the process.

Please stay tuned on following along with the process! And, in case you’d like to buy beautiful vegetable plants, Veg Out Gardens sells his plants at various local nurseries; London Bridge Greenhouse and NurseryJack Frost Landscapes & Garden Center, and Taylor’s Do It Center on Independence Blvd. Just look for the biodegradable pot! You can also find Brad at the Old Beach Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. baby-lettuces

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Blog post in collaboration with Veg Out Gardens

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