Heather here

Today marks another ASD garden workshop. This morning, gardeners came by to turn in more planting records, update old planting records with harvest records, and see what’s new.

We began with a lesson on cover crops, white clover and oats specifically.




I dig these guides–succinctly describe the multi-layered benefits of green manures/cover crops, and how different cover crops fill different niches.

We moved on to season extension. I put together a handy guide titled Row Cover vs. Cold Frame to explain the different methods and get people excited about adding 2 to 6 weeks to their growing season.

Together we seeded some kale and spinach, placed wire hoops along the bed, laid row cover, and buried the edges. Along the way we went over why we were doing these things.

It is important to bury your edges–especially if you are covering specifically for insect protection, as insects will just crawl under the bottom of the cover if it is exposed.

We walked over to our potting table, admiring the beautiful starts for more fall/winter plants. Everyone who wanted some took home chard, kale, lettuce, mizuna, dill, cilantro, and spinach plants in addition to seeds of kale, spinach, turnip, beet, and cover crops oat and white clover.

We also gave out 20′ of heavy-duty row cover purchased from Johnny’s. People are set for some cool/cold season gardening.

As per usual I learn more about people during class–two ladies did not want any plants although they did take cover crop seed. They were both life-long gardeners, but they know themselves and their eating habits. They don’t like to be out in the garden all year, they enjoy eating canned produce from summer over the winter. A fall/winter gardening experience is not for everyone. At the very least, we hope that people walk away understanding that for a good spring 2014 garden, one needs to leave the finished 2013 garden in good shape. I mean, the weeds aren’t just going to go into stasis until you decide to plant spring carrots.


Last stop–building your own soil.

At this time of year, hopefully you’ll be doing one of my favorite jobs–sifting compost. I find this meditating. As I move shovelfuls of compost across my sifter screen, into bins or a wheelbarrow, and slowly containers fill with a friable, loamy, dark material,  I am renewed.  I facilitated a procedure of natural events to take place in a square of scraps, ending in a crumbly sweet black substance my plants will love. Imagine the clay soil of our area–good at holding nutrients, a tendency for slow water drainage  and compaction. Mixing in this compost improves soil texture!

This compost is being used to fill our raised beds inside our hoop house. With 1/3 garden soil, 1/3 compost, 1/6 coffee grounds and 1/6 composted horse manure, I think we are in for some good growing. It is a good feeling to fill a growing space with something you mixed and made for free…I’m excited to experiment with coffee grounds and see if this mix has positive results!

As a reminder, never fill a raised bed with purely native soil–There will not be enough drainage.

And, remember that this compost might look great for starting transplants in as well, but don’t be tempted to use it as a seeding medium unless you solarize it or bake it in the oven–when starting seedlings in flats, always use a sterile growing medium.

That’s it for now!