What’s New at the Garden?
2021 September 13
Former members Sam and Jay Hall built a fine Little Free Library (LFL) for Community Harvest Garden many, many years ago. Designed with a public side for sharing books and magazines, and a separate side for the gardeners, it served us well as a safe place for storing resource material, seeds, labels, and a few tools. It was a destination spot and point of reference for visitors. We’ve painted and patched it along the way, but years of baking in the Texas sun finally took its toll. When our frequent garden volunteer Boy Scout Max Tennyson suggested he’d like to earn his Eagle Award with us, we had a project in mind.
Six months later, we now have use of more protected square inches, sturdy walls (built from scrap pallets), a tin roof (from Max’s aunt’s shed demolition project), secure doors, and three shelves in each of the private and public sections. We are grateful for Max’s listening skills and patience through multiple meetings with us to understand our needs, his careful planning, construction, and constant communication as the project took shape.
Next steps: Gardener Tricia Lewandowski plans to paint it. Come to the garden to appreciate our new addition and have a peek inside!
2021 August 28
We celebrate the completion of two Scout projects at the garden this month! Maira Padani’s Girl Scout Gold Project rebuilt a demonstration hugel kultur mound and planted two seasons to produce cucumbers and squash. Max Tennyson’s Eagle Project gifted us a larger, sturdier Little Free Library for supplies and resources. A plaque at the tool area recognizes the work of Scouts who have helped the garden flourish.
2021 August 21
Spotting critters brings surprise and delight to our garden visits. The plots are blessed with dozens of colorful argiope spiders helping control insect pests. A zig zag pattern in the center of the web reminds us to avoid disturbing them. Two inch black toads jump near our feet as we water reassuring us this space is a safe habitat. A large raccoon was spotted during a twilight watering visit. Solar sonic devices emitting a high pitched whine discourage critters from sampling our produce as they wander through the garden.
2021 August 14
It takes a village to keep a community garden running smoothly. Regular repairs are required to tools, hoses, and wheelbarrows. Planting, watering, pruning, weeding, fertilizing, adding compost, treating fire ant mounds, removing wasp nests – all these efforts contribute to maintaining a safe and productive operation resulting in our bountiful Saturday harvests. You can help us with weed control by bringing large, flattened cardboard boxes and stacking them on the pallets just inside the gate.
2021 August 12
Pears! 94 pounds of pears! While I was in the garden this morning, I heard laughing and pears pounding the ground. Lucinda was climbing the tree, shaking branches, and Marisa was jumping out of the way as they fell. They’ve left us bags full in the harvest shed for Saturday’s delivery. There are still more to collect. The Pear Procurer Team plans to try a rake next time. A shout out to Marisa whose research, pruning, fertilizing, and care is responsible for this bounty. This is the biggest production we’ve ever had on this ten year old tree.
2021 August 7
Israeli melons are thriving in our patch. Heirloom seeds saved from last year were sprouted in time for planting this summer. Each melon has support off the soil and is watered regularly by the melon team.
2021 July 29
It’s time to start planning fall plantings. Sow seeds and tender transplants in the shade of existing plants that will soon stop production. If you plan to start a fall garden consider these planting windows for North Texas.
North Texas Fall Seed planting calendar:
- Brussel Sprouts and Cabbage 8/1-8/15 (transplants 8/25-9/15)
- Carrots and Kohlrabi 8/1-8/20 (kohlrabi transplants 9/1-9/30)
- Bok Choy 8/10-9/1 (transplants 8/25-9/15)
2021 July 22
Two to four weeks prior to each planting season, Community Harvest Gardeners refresh the soil and nutrients in their plots and feed the microbes. Slow release organic fertilizers and dried molasses are sprinkled on the gardens, covered with an inch of organic compost, then watered in. We practice “no-till” and try to not disturb the hyphae filaments that distribute moisture and nutrients to plant roots.
2021 July 15
Grasshoppers’ exquisite decoration catches our attention, but if not controlled, their presence makes quick work of crops this time of year. Covering bear soil with mulch can discourage them. One of our gardeners has had good results scattering cut cloves of garlic around her plants. Removing nymphs to a jar of soapy water can prevent future problems.
2021 July 8
Ninety-five percent of insects are beneficial. Those that draw our eye are often causing critical damage to our plants and crops. Checking on the garden each week and catching problems early can make a difference in helping your plants survive. The gardener’s shadow is the best defense. Handpicking pests and placing them in a jar of soapy water works when there are just a few. Spraying the plant with a potion of jalapeno pepper, garlic, water, and a few drops of soap deter many problems. Remove damaged leaves and place them in the trash rather than the compost bin.
2021 July 1
Wise use of water is primary on gardeners’ minds throughout the year, especially in the heat of the summer. The ground hydration is checked using a moisture meter probe. Water is applied deeply to the soil near each plant twice a week if needed. Water buddy partnerships allow us to share the work and reduce trips to the garden. Adding 3-4” of mulch over the soil using coastal grass or wood mulch reduces evaporation and weeds which compete for water, nutrients, and space.
2021 June 12
Faces! Full faces! Gardeners voted to make masks optional at the garden for now. Just in time for working in the heat. We are already planning our fall plantings, considering crop rotations, plant families, and companion plants. Fall seedlings are sprouting indoors. Weekly plot visits help us find and address problems early. Tomatoes: keeping yellowed leaves removed, leaves trimmed from the bottom, and pruning for air flow has helped increase production and reduce disease. Community okra and melon patches are thriving. Tulle netting is currently protecting the melon plants from hungry rabbits. Grasshopper nymphs have been sighted, reminding us to mulch bare soil to discourage them from settling in. Come visit us when you’re in the area. There’s a lot going on at the garden!
2021 May 10
Community Harvest Gardeners held our May social in person at the garden for the first time in more than a year. We got to know the new gardeners, share healthy, delicious food, talk plants, and enjoy a beautiful day. Sylvia Martinez, Executive Director of God’s Pantry stopped in after our meal. The number of clients served has doubled (from 450/mo. to more than 800/mo.) and increased in age and cultural diversity in COVID times. While many pantries had to shut down, God’s Pantry was able to set up safety precautions and locate more donating partners. The facility is open 10-1, three days a week, and practices an open door policy, turning no one away. Clients may come for help as often as they need to. Client data is not shared and proof of citizenship is not required. Clients who have returned to work are now donating their time and money to support the pantry’s operation. There is currently a need for volunteers able to lift heavy cartons. Sylvia reports their clients love to receive our produce. If they see a few holes in leaves or spot a ladybug of spider, they view those as signs of proof it’s organic. They are especially fond of receiving mint, rosemary, basil, and the herbs. Sylvia thanked us for our weekly contribution to their mission.
2021 April 7
Water, wait, and watch for greening. That’s been our patient mantra as we assess the February freeze damage at Community Harvest Garden. The resilience of many plants has amazed us, particularly deceptively delicate appearing cilantro. Each year we allow some cilantro plants to go to seed. The fern-like foliage provides beneficial insect nurseries (think ladybugs) and the resulting coriander seeds are useful in cooking.
We’ve created new community beds for okra and melons. These crops take up a good deal of space in our 4’x16’ plots and this effort helps to avoid paths clogged with tangled vines and shade on other plants. After spreading a blend of soil and compost, adding nutrients, dried molasses, and water, we wait several weeks to plant giving the micro-organisms a chance to multiply and prepare a welcoming habitat for our seeds. A soaker hose aids in summer watering detail. Keeping bare soil covered with mulch will reduce weeds and evaporation. We use bales of coastal hay. Shredded leaves also work well and eventually breakdown to add organic matter to our thick clay soil.
While the weather is pleasant this month, bring your family and friends to stroll through the paths. We have benches and tables for your picnic!
2021 March 18
The garden is at its best when gardeners have spontaneous encounters. Conversations sharing tips for the best plant varieties, recipes for tonics from the weeds that are being pulled, ways to use kitchen waste to feed the soil are bonding and enriching times.
As I write this update, Community Harvest Gardeners are expecting lots of assistance from youth tomorrow, Sat. March 20th. A Girl Scout Gold Project will begin restoring our 15 year old hugel kultur mound garden led by a young woman who has been with us for several years. She has recruited another high school aged gardener and two members of her troop who will spend two Saturdays taking it apart, rebuilding it, and planting it for the spring. In the afternoon, the Sai congregation will have teens and their parents planting their two plots and doing some additional maintenance around the garden. A Collin College student, has expressed an interest in beekeeping and efforts are being made to arrange for him to assist our resident beekeeper.
Butterflies have been spotted and the native plants will soon be blooming. Come visit. If you’d like to try your hand at growing fresh, organic produce, we still have one plot available. Mentoring is provided if needed. Contact Deb Bliss at firstname.lastname@example.org .
2021 March 1
Community Harvest Gardeners are grateful to two gardeners who have led us to new heights in our public presence and brought us a safer, better organized, and eye-pleasing campus these past twelve years. Mary Ann and Mike Owens are soon moving to Driftwood, TX to enjoy and provide support to their children and grandchildren. They will be missed and fondly remembered in our garden community.
Mary Ann had the proactive idea that the garden needed a web site, so she learned how to create one and has managed and funded it. https://www.communityharvestgarden.org/ She’s written our monthly church newsletter articles and established our Instagram presence. She and Mike worked many hours on a community fundraising campaign sending letters to green businesses in the city.
We first met the Owens on a community garden tour for prospective church members. Mike signed up as a gardener immediately! His enthusiasm and can-do approach has raised our spirits and helped add color to our space with hose tree posts. Mike re-engineered our rotting picnic tables, developed a unique plan to mend rotting plot corners with recycled plastic edging, straightened our harvest shed, repaired a damaged gate post, righted a toppled concrete bench using a water bottle as a level, built two benches from a design he observed on his travels, and transformed some wooden crates into an orderly storage area for tomato cages and chicken wire. He’s kept us updated on the status of our dedicated funds, monitored our summer water bills, reworked hose connections to make them more user-friendly, and repaired leaks as soon as they were reported to keep us functioning as responsible stewards of our water and financial resources. (I know I’m forgetting something!)
We’ve been blessed by their time with us and wish them well!