Monday, May 4, 2009

Our (volunteer) workers' day

We had a beautiful warm spring day on Saturday May 2 to welcome a willing crew of volunteers from Chicago Cares (Thanks, Stephanie -- the brownies were especially good) and the neighborhood for our very own May Day celebration. With such good weather we managed to make progress on a wide range of tasks throughout the garden.

On the cultivation front, we planted all the greens that have been growing at Kilbourn Greenhouse for the last seven weeks (collards, kale, cabbage and chard). We also trained the raspberry canes in arches over their new wire supports, which should make picking a little easier. The smaller variety of seed potatoes (La Ratte fingerlings) had sprouted well, so we planted these in our newly built potato bed, and with many left over we also filled a bunch of containers and the bath tub (that will be an interesting experiment!).

In the dodecagonal bed, we sowed the last remaining outer portion with turnips. The temperature in this bed measured 59F, so we decided to hold off another week on sowing pole beans or snow peas as these seem to prefer 60F and above.

We also made progress on a couple of long-planned infrastructure projects. Alan and some Chicago Cares folks shifted the huge rock pile to the south-east corner of the garden and laid a new patio area, surrounded by a low stone bench on two sides. The idea is to use this shady, unproductive area as a place to work in the heat of the summer on such tasks as weighing and packing produce. We're hoping we can also create a pergola for some more vines.

The new patio under construction

A separate crew attacked the flaking paint on the benches in the demonstration garden next to the street. The idea here is to coat these with a soy-based sealer, rather than repaint them. But first we need to remove a lot of green paint. Lots of elbow grease was translated into clear progress on these. There's still a little work to do, but the improvement is obvious.

A newly sanded bench in the front garden

We also had a chance to talk to a local contractor about options for fixing the drainage problems in our delivery and loading area, perhaps by diverting the runoff into a rain garden in the area previously occupied by the rock pile. It's clear that we'll need to raise the area by the gate substantially. The contractor gave us some useful ideas about permeable drainage layers and pavers that we could use in this area. We're hoping to get a quote within the week, so that we can put together a budget and apply for a grant. Undoubtedly, doing this properly is going to cost some money.

The last of our bulbs are still brightening the front garden.

Grape hyacinth (muscari)

In our herb beds, chives, thyme, sage and mint are all coming back strongly.