Sunday, 1 September 2013

Thistletown Collegiate Institute 

Nasturtium flowers delicious added in salads
Morning glory flowering

Goldfinches, pollinator insects, and humans all enjoy sunflowers

Borage flowering

TCI volunteers harvested over 62 pounds of cantaloupe August 2013.
Fall spinach crops

Bean plants flowering
Tomatoes finally started ripening
In addition to the garden crops, thistle plants have been growing incredibly healthily and consistently at TCI throughout 2013 summer.  This school is remarkably well named.    The upside of this condition is that birds such as Goldfinches and  butterflies including various fritillary species love thistles, and TCI volunteers have enjoyed the company of these creatures throughout the summer. Volunteers have been working hard to keep these plant communities from taking over the garden beds, but it is seemingly an endless job as these plants propagate from seeds and roots.  

Feeling exhausted and defeated by these and other plants, volunteer gardeners were at a loss how to proceed.  Ruth Stout's gardening method described in her book, No-Work Garden Book: Secrets of the Year-Round Mulch, gave the TCI volunteers the incentive to carry on.  Stout describes personal observations from years of gardening, arguing that by maintaining a thick mulch of hay, garden work can be radically reduced and produce outputs can be greatly improved.  

Confronted with the problem of how to acquire hay, TCI volunteers set to work on identifying resources readily available to follow Stout's recommendations of year-round mulching.  Collecting cardboard boxes from neighboring businesses and laying out over aggressive weed patches was the first application.  Cover cropping with nitrogen fixing plants (e.g.,  hairy vetch) and allelopathic crops (e.g., rye) has been adopted as a second means of weed and soil fertility management.  We will be collecting leaf mulch as well as the cold weather starts to set in.

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