Monday, May 27, 2013

Grace has its moments.*

Ginkgo has an electronic calendar by which we schedule visits by volunteer groups to our Saturday workdays. Dave manages the calendar, listening for emails sent to our web site.

It would probably be beneficial for those of us who run the workdays if we consulted this electronic calendar at least once before opening the gates to the garden. Unfortunately, by the time I remember that we have a schedule, I'm already clad in Carhartt and antipathetic to all things internet. (The bib pockets are too small for smartphones, in any case.)

May 4 started with me standing next to a raised bed and scratching my head, wondering what we were going to do on that day. I noticed a group of identically-garbed people approaching the front gate. As the group smiled and waved, I suddenly realized that it was the 2013 Vincentian Day of Service, and that I had to think quickly of a whole lot of things for a whole lot people to do.

For at least the last three years, Ginkgo has been one of the many beneficiaries of DePaul University's spring Vincentian Day of Service. In this semi-annual juggernaut of goodwill, teams of students spread out around Chicago, volunteering for a morning before heading out to a peace rally. We have always had a very good experience with the students who volunteer with us: they are focused, energetic, prepared to work, and exceedingly polite.  (They even write us thank-you notes, when it should really be us thanking them.)

On May 4, our group of students sifted compost, weeded beds, and planted spinach, lettuce, and peas. They worked their way through all of the tasks that we could think of. Our garden was the better for their volunteering.

*St. Vincent de Paul. Correspondence, Conferences, Documents II (January 1640 - July 1646)
 p. 499.

As they say

If you don't like the weather in Chicago, just wait ten minutes.  On Saturday May 18th I got a sunburn.  On Saturday May 25th I did not.  It was cold.  The fingers of our dedicated volunteers were also cold.  This did not prevent them from harvesting four pounds of chives and a medley of other herbs for our very first delivery of the year! 

We collected four pounds of chives with plenty more for future harvests.

Can you spot our mystery volunteer?  A regular who has no problem helping with the harvest? 

While the temperature plummeted this week, we don't seem to have fallen into a frost.  This is good news (I swear that I'm not counting chickens yet) for our fruit trees.  Last year's sudden late season frost did a number on apple crops across the Midwest.  Right now our trees appear laden with growing fruit.
Apple trees, pruned during dormancy, full of fruit.

Who can resist the appeal of a baby plum?  They are so cute at this age.

These apples deserve their own post... so if you need to know about this variety before then, drop by the garden and ask someone.

And the figs are growing and fruiting healthily too.  
Volunteers use leftover fence wood to cover a large divot left from Persephone's tomb.

I might be most excited by the buds and flowers on the red raspberries.

 Then again...

A lot of credit has to be given to the volunteers that pushed themselves to the garden on a day that warranted despondent checking and rechecking of weather apps.  Maybe it's the radishes that are about to pop out of the soil like inflating party balloons, but these are sunny people.  

The again...  The hard work and harvesting of our mystery volunteer, who is no doubt adorable and probably weighs less than a Purple Calabash tomato, continues all throughout week.  Which is why we have chicken wire.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Not-So-Lazy Saturday

The past workday featured some warmer temperatures and a lot of plotting and planning. Our fairly low key workday featured a lot of our tomatoes being put into the ground in hopes that we have a bumper crop this year, as the weather here has been very Chicago-like (that is to say, unpredictable).

We also rehabilitated the bed closest to the compost bins and planted some kale varieties there.

Also, like the mythical bigfoot, there was a brief and poorly photographed Dave Snyder spotting at Ginkgo.

Can you spot Dave?

We would also like to thank the group from Second City that came out; they were a pleasure as always! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wednesdays Begin!

Ginkgo kicked off the first Wednesday night of the season with a stellar group from Moishe House.  Look at everything we got done in a scant 2 hours.  Good work everyone.  Much thanks.

All are invited to come by the garden on Wednesday nights from 6:30pm until it is too dark to garden.  Wednesdays offer all the exciting tasks of the Saturday work day, but tend to focus on meditative tasks like weeding and watering.  Because I got busy and could not turn Ginkgo's rhubarb into a pie for Saturday's volunteers... there will be pie for Wednesday's volunteers.  You know you want it.

Oh... and by the way,  despite the attempts of local rabbits to eat nearly every leaf off of Ginkgo's strawberries, the plants have bounced back and set flowers.  This is going to be a good summer.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Our Figgest Day of the Year!

A lot of exciting things happen at Ginkgo, but perhaps the most spectacular is the annual unearthing of the fig trees.  On May 11th our volunteers set to work digging gingerly and bringing the trees back up into daylight.

For those that are unclear, let's review:

Figs like ours are typically found in the Mediterranean where the winters are mild and no one puts lawn chairs in parking spots that they spent 45 minutes shoveling out.  We insulate our figs against this harsh winter by burying the trees around Halloween.  We wrap the trees, dig a large hole beside each one, dig around the root balls and tip the trees down into the holes while trying to maintain the long, vital, tap root.  Following this, we lay something sturdy (plywood) across the hole and cover it with soil to keep an insulated even temperature in the chamber below ground.  We then dig up the trees in spring, water and wait for delicious fruit.

During this process last fall we had to make a rather drastic cut to the tap root of our larger fig tree in order to bend it into the ground.  There is a lot of anticipation concerning the consequences of that cut, but when we dug it up, there were signs that the tree was going to make it.  Fruit continued to grow, even below ground, and new growth was evident.

The meretricious draw of figs should be enough to lure you to the garden this season, but until they have begun to fruit, our lilacs will drive you wild. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Archeworking it out

Consider what each soil will bear, and what each refuses - Virgil 

I think this is my first post on the Ginkgo blog (shameful, I know) and will likely not be the last (You have been warned). A few months ago, Ginkgo was contacted by our partner Neighborspace about working with the the alternative design school, Archeworks and all around soil expert Nance Klehm  on a project that would be unique to Ginkgo. As some of you may know, we have been having some erosion issues near the west side of the garden, and we thought that any sort of solution could be beneficial. 

Through the democratic decision of the Ginkgo steering committee, I was chosen to take Nance's soil class (hosted at the Archeworks building) and act as sort of the liaison between Ginkgo and Archeworks. The class lasted a month and focused on the elemental properties of soil, something that might be important for a group that concerns itself with gardening to know.

My barely legible notes

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

In Bloom

Spring was best described by Kurt Cobain who said, "Sell the kids for food.  Weather changes moods.  Spring is here again." ba da-da-dada-ahem!  While Cobain's words are often unintelligible, the blossoms on our ornamental cherry tree are well pronounced.

Was Saturday the 28th so beautiful because flowers were opening? Was it because we had gorgeous weather?  Maybe it was because we had an excellent and curious crop of volunteers.  Whatever the reason or combination thereof, it felt like spring and it felt good.

Volunteers worked to plant more early season seeds and we transplanted some of our hardier greens (Don't mistake this optimism for naivety.  We're not out of frost danger just yet).  Aside from planting, volunteers including a great group from Chicago Cares, calculated the dimensions of some of our beds so that we can update Ginkgo's site map.  We also began construction on our new compost system by cutting cedar 2x4s left over from the fence.  Another ambitious team helped to transfer finished compost from the existing bins to the beds.  They were able to empty the bin, a task that was impossible even a week ago because the pile was frozen.

The smell of warm dirt mingling with cedar  and cherry blossom might, after all, have been the reason why Saturday was a perfect day in the garden.