Saturday, April 24, 2010

The growing is starting

It was a busy and productive day thanks to all the volunteers who showed up.

And thanks to the mild weather, some tiny spinach seedlings have already started to appear.

As have some peas.

Kale and collards — started in the greenhouse at the end of March — were planted in a couple of beds. And, owing to the fickleness of Chicago weather, row cover was draped over the beds in case the temperature drops.

A number of volunteers spent time thinning the blossoms on the pear trees to prevent the spread of disease and to encourage bigger, better fruit.

These industrious folk are finding a route for the hose under the shed and along the back of the garden, out to the front garden, ready to be hooked up once the city turn on the water.

And the cold frame is set up and ready to go for when it's time to bring the peppers over from the greenhouse. We're still having some cool nights, so it's a little too soon for them to join the party in the garden.

(And this blogger apologizes for the lateness of recent postings; they were delayed due to computer crashes and thesis-writing! Things, however, are looking up.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The official opening of the 2010 season

On our first official work day of the season, we welcomed a large contingent of volunteers to a garden that was already bursting into bloom.

Check out this garlic, happy to see spring:

A couple of lucky volunteers were able to recapture their childhood by fingerpainting some signs.

And the scarecrows that kept watch over the garden during the summer were recycled into the mushroom bed.

And, of course, we spent time weeding everywhere and preparing more beds for the sowing to come.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sneaking into the garden

We sneakily opened the garden a week early for some wonderful volunteers from Chicago Cares. Our favorite volunteer coordinator, Stephanie, was back despite suffering from a terrible cold. And Doug made some lovely muffins for snacking on.

The weather was amazing: warm and sunny and conducive to spending time outdoors. The cover crop, planted at the end of last season, was lush and green in most (but not all) of the beds. The cover crop includes rye, alfalfa and field peas. The alfalfa and field peas are legumes. As they grow, they take nitrogen from the atmosphere during the winter and "fix" the nitrogen into the soil to feed our crops during the growing season. Also, at sowing, the cover crop was inoculated with bacteria known as Rhizobium. These bacteria do the actual nitrogen "fixing". So, as the cover crop grows it replenishes nutrients depleted from the soil during the last growing season.

During our first day back in the garden, the primary mission was to get the beds ready for planting. To do this we trimmed down the cover crop – in some of the beds the crop was about 4 or 6 inches tall! After trimming, volunteers helped turnover the beds, working the crop back into the soil where it will decompose, adding additional nutrients to help support this year’s crops.

Thanks to the hardworking volunteers and the wonderful weather, we were able to sow three beds of spinach (which will be able to tolerate a cold snap, should one come along) and a bed of snow peas (which always do well).

The rhubarb, lovage and sorrell are already growing strong. The raspberries are getting leaves.

This kind soul went out and got water for us to drink as the day proved unexpectedly warm. We’d collected water in the rainbarrel, but that is definitely unsuitable for drinking. And the city hasn’t yet turned on the water for the season.

And these two braved the compost piles, probably turning them for the first time since we put the garden to bed last November (unless someone snuck in over the winter or earlier in the spring, which is a possibility knowing some of our volunteers).

We’re looking forward to preparing more beds next week, although the weather isn’t predicted to be quite as beautiful.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tomato planting at the greenhouse

Dave Sny and Megan and Michael biked and bused it over to the greenhouse to make sure the tomatoes got planted. Somehow, the rest of us wimped out. Thanks for picking up the slack, y'all.

They planted a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes (which means we'll be able to save seeds from this year's crop to plant next year).

To check out what these gorgeous tomatoes look like, see our earlier post.
  • Oxheart
  • Japanese black truffle
  • Orange banana
  • Brandywine
  • Fireworks
  • Oregon star
  • Koralik
  • Amish paste
  • Fruity cherry
  • Rutger
  • Dad's sunset
  • Fox cherry
  • Cherokee purple
  • Pearly pink cherry
  • Purple calabash (a garden favorite)