Thursday, May 23, 2013

Community Gardens in Huntsville? Yes!

There are some great community gardens in Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley Community Garden Association has arranged for you to have a look at a lot of them!  Save the date:  June 22 2013 Gardens will be open all through the day... some only in the morning.. some in the afternoon... make a plan to see those you might be  interested in!

Lewter Park
Here is the map for the gardens on the tour this year... there will be printed copies of a map and information on the hours each garden will be open at the Main Branch of the Huntsville Public Library soon.
CASA Garden

Last year we didn't get to all the gardens we wanted to, though we did get to several, you can see our post about it here.  We'll try to get to more this year, especially to those we haven't been to yet.
New! Burgundy Square Apartments

You can get on the mailing list for the TVCGA by going to the google group and adding yourself.  The group meets sort of monthly for a pot luck dinner and general conversation...if you are thinking about starting or joining a community garden, there's always lots of knowledge and connections to be made there.  For any specific questions, you can contact us... or Alice Evans (email link).  You can join the Facebook group here.

Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Is this thing still on?

Wow... take a few days off to move and get settled and pretty soon nearly a year has gone by without a post!  Time to remedy that.  So here is a post.

We moved to far south Huntsville, long story.  Larger house to accommodate my father.. and much larger lot.  I'll be posting pictures, before and afters, but thought I would just break the ice now with a little post on saving seed.

Don't do what I've done :)

First, the part I did right!

well sort of...

Please welcome the Bonita Brassica!   This plant is the result of saving seed when the Napa cabbage, kale and collards were blooming and setting seed all at the same time in a small garden.  That was in the early summer of 2011... I planted the seeds in March and they are, as you can see, not like any of the above listed plants.  The leaves are thicker than Chinese cabbage, but rather like a very young collard, not leathery or stiff.  They actually look rather like choi on the bottom, tho they are green and not white.  Now, they may have some choi in them since there was choi blooming in the back yard at the time, who knows.  These are mature plants, since they are already setting seed with the hot weather last week.

The taste is not to die for...rather tasteless actually.  BUT... it is a 'new' plant.. one I shall now mercifully not grow again :)   I knew I would not be getting anything 'pure' out of the saved seeds, but it was interesting to see how the plants crossed up.

So, if you are saving seed..start with a good 'heirloom' seed, try to make sure that nothing in the same family is growing anywhere close (see a good seed saving book for distances) and take notes on how and what you saved.  Make sure you dry and store the seed correctly ( you might try this book, or this one) and grow it out.

As for what really not to do... Do not get frazzled with moving and snatch seed setting lettuce stalks and shove them in a jar.  Well.. you can, as I did.   I grabbed these last summer as we were moving rather quickly.. our house sold before it went on the market (yeah!) but we left a lot of dirt and 'stuff' behind that we are missing now (boo!).

I know that this is lettuce.. and I HOPE it is a red lettuce that we particularly liked.  But I won't know until I plant it and since I just found it under the bed (that isn't where you keep your seed stash?) I will have to plant a little now and a little this fall.  The cool spring gives me hope that I can sneak some in before the bolting season begins.  Label your seed when you store it, you will not remember, even if it was the only lettuce growing in the front yard.

A note:  lettuce 'flower'/seedheads are rather like dandelions.  If you are saving seed while the plant is still alive, wait until the seedhead is really fluffed before harvesting, the immature seedheads look a bit like a paintbrush and do not 'ripen' after being removed from the plant.

gosh.. that wasn't so bad.  Ice broken, posts to follow :)


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Great Resource!

Check out DIY Pest Control at!   I can't wait to find some great new ideas here, they've really made it easy to use.

Check out the comments also :)


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tennessee Valley Community Garden Association Public Tour of Gardens

      What a gorgeous day to tour some of the local community gardens in our area on Saturday ! We ran out of time before we could see all of the gardens. There was so much to see and talk about.
     The garden that wins the prize for best effect for a new garden is the Amos Garden off of Meridian St. The apartment manger Patricia read an article in the Huntsville Times about gardens and their effect on communities and was inspired to begin a Community garden at the AMOS Apartments at Winchester and Meridian St. Tired of seeing her tenants walk to the corner convenience store she decided to try to develop a garden in the middle of the complex.
     The vision came alive with the effort of Randall and other folks who live in the Apartment complex as well as several volunteers over the last 4 months. County Commissioner Harrison, Willie McCrary and Jeff Komara of Deep Roots have been instrumental in helping this project move forward so quickly. There are now 30 boxes on site. The layout of the garden is quite striking and the arrangement could work in other areas as well.
    As we parked, the first sight and most lasting impression was the children playing in the garden sand box set up in the garden proper. The children even did a bug hunt for us as we were trying to find a specific insect in the corn patch. The effects of the new garden are just beginning to take hold; Walter, a 3 year resident of the complex, told us “ The garden is beautiful to look at, it is unique and is to be found nowhere else in the city. The garden is bringing the apartment community together, we are watching out for each other more than ever.”
     Patricia sees economic development from the effort as well. Over time as the group's skills improve they want to sell food to local restaurants. It is important to remember for all of us that a new farmer, sub acre or larger isn't just a job but an enterprise. The opportunity for those who work hard and smart to grow themselves into a better life is available here and in other community gardens.
     One of Patricia's major goals is for people to want to live at her apartment complex not simply because of the low rent, but because of all the the facility offers it's residents. They want to excel at helping people help themselves.

     We started our tour this morning at the Howe Avenue Community Garden. Wow. If you want to see how prolific an organic vegetable garden can be, visit this garden soon. A core group of 8 folks led by Lee Ellenberg and Marion Moore and including Clint Patterson, Lisa Gardner, Lori Pence, Allison, and “J”.
      “J” is the old man here although he is young at heart. Being around the energy and enthusiasm of the twenty somethings invigorates “J”. Allison simply loves gardening, she lives in an apartment near the garden and this site provides her with the opportunity to grow enough food for her use, but to give to others and even the opportunity to sell at a farmers market if she and the other members choose too. They will certainly have surplus too sell.
     The Howe Garden is an excellent example of proper soil preparation with amendments such as leaf mold added in large quantities. The group has used cardboard to hold down weeds in the rows. Using fish emulsion and Worm Casting Tea made by the brew-master Clint, the garden is jumping with vibrant, pest and disease free plants loaded with food.

     Next we visited the Monte Sano Community Garden. K.T. Bothwell and her sister Maggie spearheaded this garden's jump start last year. K.T. and the garden group have done a text book job in acquiring access to the property and setting up a first class garden that contributes aesthetically to the community it serves. Monte Sano gardeners rent their box for the season and have “ownership” of that box as long as they take care of it. All gardeners are expected to work together to take care of the big chores such as hauling leaf mold and spreading wood chips. Miss Christine Donley has found that organic gardening is just as easy and productive as using conventional techniques.
     Christine particularly enjoys the camaraderie with the other ladies at the garden as they teach and help each other become better gardeners. Elsie enjoys trying new things if a particular plant doesn't work out it is OK just add a little compost try something else in it's place. Pat McMillion who does such a great job as the Herb lady at Burritt takes care of the herb box at the front of the garden which for the use of the community.

     Next stop was in Artisans Cove. The new farmers market was well attended by farmers such as Champion farms and Isom's (the peaches looked fantastic). The farmers market is a needed resource for those east of the mountain. Kristin is the farmers market manager and is working hard to create a viable thriving market for the Hampton Cove community.
      Marguerite McClintock the owner of Artisans Cove has a vision for the educational community garden. Marguerite wants children to learn how to grow food sustainably, using a variety of techniques from organic in-ground techniques to hydroponics and aquaponics as well. Bringing in the business aspect is important as well, teaching kids the value of work and it's rewards. Children will learn to grow food, prepare it for sale, and learn to set up and sell food from a direct market booth. Successful future Small Plot Intensive Farmers may one day grow from the seeds Marguerite is planting today.

     Across the street, literally, at Hampton Cove Middle School, hidden behind the North West corner of the building is an educational garden of amazing potential. Melissa Schneider has taken over the green house and the immediate surround of raised beds and is working hard to bring a productive garden to reality. Middle schoolers were able to grow cabbages and other plants this school year in the green house and the goal for 2012 -2013 is to have a crop with each season for a continual harvest. Melissa and school officials want the community and particularly parents to be involved as well. There are garden and landscape projects that need many hands to turn the effort into light work for all involved.

     Pecan Grove - If you have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bill Thomas you should drive out to Pecan Grove Rd and see Bill and the community garden he is nurturing. If you live in the area and have a shaded yard or live in an apartment complex, or if you simply want to garden with a community of folks Bill has a spot of land with your name on it waiting.
     Alice Evans who started the Tennessee Valley Community Garden Associaion with other gardeners, has a fine garden coming on here. There is room for you and this group is a lot of fun, they also have some excellent technical advisers, including retired agriculture professors from Alabama A&M available to help you learn to contribute to your own food supply. Bill says “the time to start growing is now, learn what real food is all about. “
       After dropping off one of our party who had to go back to work we traveled over to UAH to see the community garden the students are growing near the maintenance headquarters. Claire Herdy found that today’s tour was very helpful in that several really good gardeners visited and gave excellent advice and growing tips to some of the student gardeners. Claire and the crew have a very nice garden growing in the middle of a Bermuda field. They are doing a great job of beating the demon weed back and have some beautiful produce growing on.
 They are about to be over run with tomatoes. Claire came up with idea with Marion from the Howe Ave. garden to have several tomato / produce canning days. Everyone bring their tomatoes and cans and pressure cookers and knock out some serious food preservation. If this is of interest to you you can leave a message on the TVCGA facebook page or call Alice Evans. There will be a TVCGA meeting open to the public June 25th at the extension office on Cook Ave. The meeting starts at 6 o’clock sharp.
     Regrettably we did not have time to visit the Asbury garden that Mary Lynn Botts and the Asbury church community are doing such a great job with in serving others through their garden. The tour hours were gone before we could visit the Legacy Elementary School Projecct Pond garden in Harvest or the city sponsored garden at Lewter park (that is just fabulous).

     Our last stop was at the CASA garden, probably the oldest continuous community garden in the state, certainly in this area. Everything was growing on and looked great. The CASA garden is unique in that all of the food is grown by volunteers and is given to home bound seniors in Madison county on a rotating basis. Karen Voelker, the queen of the garden, was giving the grand tour ( this is a BIG garden ) to visitors as we arrived after 3 o’clock. Karen enthusiasm and dedication to providing nutrition to those who need it most are what keeps the CASA garden improving year over year. If you would like to see what a masterpiece community garden looks like when it has matured, visit the CASA garden on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons or Saturdays from 8- 12. This is learn by doing experimental garden. Come learn about rotation and companion planting while you weed a row for the less fortunate.
     All of the gardens on the tour today want you to know where they are in your neighborhood. Several have open spots waiting for you to grow food for yourself and your family. Several gardens are totally volunteer run and supported and they need your help NOW. The summer harvest season is upon us, it can be very difficult to harvest and keep up with the regular garden chores. Consider committing to a garden for the summer, this summer.
     Thanks to all of the participating gardens in the 1st annual tour of Community gardens. The energy, enthusiasm, and talent among these folks is prodigious and contagious. The growth of gardening in all its manifestation has been exponential in this area over the last several years and will continue to grow in the future. If you want to learn more about gardening in your area check out the Tennessee Valley community gardens facebook page or try to attend the meeting on the 25th.

Well done, to all of the gardens, well done indeed!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Festival Fun!

            We went over to Moulton for the Alabama Chicken and Egg Festival on Saturday and saw some awesome birds... before we get to those, there were some other great ideas and exhibits.

     Gaither Folk Art Pottery was there with his amazing pottery.  He's sold a few pieces up this way and we hope to get him up here again soon. 

 I never had the patience for piecing quilt tops, but I loved the quilting part. Need to make time for that again...

 There were several quilters displaying. I love the colors on this green / beige / red.


Here's a good use of 'gently used' linens, pillowcase dresses for little ones. 

I didn't get a good shot of the details, but they were quite lovely with lace and ribbon trims. 

Good old cotton linens make good aprons too, easy to dress up with fabric paints or appliques and more advanced techniques.

 Clay and pottery were popular at the festival's Southern Folklife Art and Gentleman Farmer displays.  Here's another potter giving people a chance to throw thier own mini-pot. 

Whittled Chickens were popular...

More skills on display:  Caning
Horse riding



A 'green' ride?  This is a handpowered gyro...does it count?

Ok, Ok... on to the birds!  There were so many gorgeous birds, I really hate we missed getting a picture of some of them, maybe they'll post the winners in each breed on the website.






 And last, but not least.... Buster, The Wonder Goat!   Who is female, and 'with kid' and very sweet.   This is the right place according to the festival map, so that must be him.. er, her.  She was a nice goat, with two cute kids all playing mostly happily with the ducks, rabbits, piglets and children. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Watch your tomatoes :)

Tomatoes will tell you what they need!  Here's a cool graphicfrom lots of interesting information there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Real Food and Real Money

         Great new series starting on eating well on a budget, I can't wait to follow this one at Rocket City Mom.  There is a balance to be found between growing it all yourself (I can dream) and eating the "typical American Diet" .  Since 'doing it yourself' whether growing or just cooking from scratch can be both time consuming and expensive, I'm looking forward to Ashley's suggestions.  Here's the first post!  
        We all face the "Cheerios" dilemma in some form, time is short and money is tight.. start small and grow!