I cannot help but speak the praises of all I learn from participants and from research inspired by participants’ gardens needs.  The past few weeks have been full of site visits and the diverse ways that folks design and tend their gardens is really eye-opening.  One participant, Jackie C, had particularly poor soil based on her soil test.  And we waited it out because it seems that some folks haven’t had trouble growing in soils with low macro-nutrient levels, but Jackie and her husband could not get hardly anything to germinate in spite of daily care.  So, I went looking around and decided to go with the recommended Seven Springs Farm for some more heavy-duty organic fertilizers with P and K and a biodynamic field spray to bring back life to what might be mostly “dead” soil.  I didn’t realize it was biodynamic when I purchased it, and though I have a certain degree of skepticism about biodynamic preparations, I have seen biodynamic farms bursting with life, health and beauty.  So, I am excited to see Jackie’s germination and yields respond to the input of nutrients and new life.  Jackie is suffering from breast cancer while at the same time helping to raise her young granddaughter.  She is growing the garden and hoping to use the most natural means possible in order to improve her health and that of her family.

Wouldn’t you know it, but one of are participants is an Allman of Allman’s Beer Cheese.  Ian and Angie Allman joined late this year and Sam and I just visited their garden for the first time the other day.  They have a very beautiful garden that seems somewhat permaculture-inspired.  They grow marigolds in with their veggies and use fallen tree branches for their peas and beans.  The pathways between their garden beds are kept in grass and clover.  Around the other side of the house they have “potato towers”, basically round cages that the potatoes grow upright in and straw is added as they grow taller.  When its time to harvest, open the cages and the potatoes fall right out on the ground without digging!!

We also visited Jessica D’s garden.  Jessica D often volunteers with ASPI doing a number of things, but she has been a very important part of making our garden grow this year!  Jessica is a first-time gardener, so sometimes she is unsure of herself, but she is gaining skills and confidence.  She has discovered a love of kohlrabi too!  She and her family have a fairly large garden this year, with a great variety of things including huckleberry, basil, root veggies, tomatoes, dill, melons and more!  Unfortunately, they also have a great variety of insect pests.  The most insect pests I’ve ever seen all in one garden in a manner of minutes.  She had potato bugs on her tomato plants (and potato plants, probably due to the fact that the landlord had a potato field there previously).  She also had, on everything it seemed like, cucumber beetles, harlequin bugs, all 3 kinds of cabbage worm, weevils, and flea beetles.  I would guess that this was a plot that has been sprayed and sprayed for bugs and now they’re fighting back!  I just called Jessica to check on her bug situation and to ask if she had used any of the products I recommended, and she said that they’ve simply been going out each day and handpicking and each day there are less and less.  I hope she is right!

Mr. J.R. Kimsey has little to worry about with his garden this year and to me, that is a breath of fresh air.  Last year, J.R. had trouble growing anything, the germination wasn’t good and the weeds took over before he could get to anything.  I am very proud of J.R.’s work and his continued willingness to learn!

Well, that’s all for now.  More reports soon to come!

Happy Gardening!