Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The first 3 months of the season at Thistletown!

Spring was busy this year:
We had lots of birds nesting in the garden including these song sparrows
How is it almost August!? I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a proper update about the PACT grow-to-learn garden at Thistletown CI since May and there’s just been so much to do in the garden that it’s been a challenge to find a moment to write down everything that’s happening! And there’s a lot happening! But, first, let’s start at the beginning:

I’m Liane, the full-time garden manager at Thistletown CI this year, and have Clara, the garden manager from last year, co-managing the garden part time. After completing an internship on an organic vegetable farm last year, I joined the PACT team because, like PACT, I believe in the power of a garden (or even more simply, seeds) to bring people together to create and grow community, educate, and engage, and positively influence sustainability.


One of my first days in the garden when I was still trying to figure out a
growing plan for the year - so many opportunities! And hard to believe it could produce so much!


Back in mid-April, the garden felt like a blank canvas, ready to be designed the way I envisioned, and then the reality of having to weed EVERYTHING and figure out what I was going to plant set in very quickly. One of the main things this spring was turning some of the weed-prone places into perennial areas for more asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, and herbs to try and get some of those typically weedy areas under control. Hopefully, this will translate to more rhubarb and asparagus for all next year (but we’re still having problems with those pesky asparagus beetles). Through the spring there were learning moments: some things got planted a bit too soon (like the radish), scaling my thinking down to a half acre of growing (instead of 7+ acres), learning to prioritize in this space, realizing that strawberry patches are not a bad thing (although we did get rid of some of the older strawberry patches), discovering new pest problems to deal with (aphids have been terrible this year!), and figuring out what made the most sense for the space. Overall, it was a good spring, and at our first market on June 16th we had a selection of veggies that I was proud of: radish, spinach, salad mix, kale, and herbs. 
The day we weeded, added compost, and prepped beds for our hot crops -
a pretty big accomplishment for one day! (That's me in the red hat)



Our hot crops all planted and growing strong!
 That's tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant planted that you can see
(alongside beets in the foreground and bush beans somewhere in there too!)


Harvesting garlic. It needs to dry out for a bit before we will have it at market.
We’re now approaching our seventh market and it’s amazing how much the garden and our selection of produce has changed. Despite all the rain, things have been growing. Just today, we have surpassed 800 pounds of veggies produced by the garden, including 118 pounds of garlic!I still haven’t managed to grow spinach since that first market though. Most of our berries are done for the season now although there are still some raspberries hanging on, we recently added cabbage to the market and will be making sauerkraut in August too, and next week we will finally have zucchini and eggplant, with tomato, peppers and beets, and other deliciousness not too far behind. I know a list of vegetables might not seem that interesting, but to me it is a sign of accomplishment – the time and energy that our students, volunteers, summer staff, and myself have all put into this space is paying off and the community, especially those most in need, will have access to healthy, fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Even our resident groundhog gets his share of the veggies growing in the garden although I wish he would stop nibbling on our beet tops and bush bean greens.

Our first cabbage harvest on July 14th.


Our latest market - lots of veggies to choose from!
Outside of the veggies, the summer hasn’t been nearly as hot or dry as last year, which has been nice Our summer students have especially enjoyed some of the cooler, shady days and are hoping for more who now that they just over half way through their six-week contract with us. We have four students this year and they’ve all been doing a great job so far; hopefully, you’ll be hearing from them in another blog post before long. It’s been nice having more hands helping – volunteers too – in the garden although the weeding still never seems to end (thanks to all this rainy weather we have had). I’m sure the weeding will be finally all done just in time to put the garden to bed for the winter! Until you hear from me next month, I’ll be in the garden getting some of our last veggies for the season planted and establishing our perennial herb garden!

Liane


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