Sunday, November 21, 2010

3DW, 11/10

Ecology Action holds its Three-Day Workshop (aka 3DW, as opposed to WD-40) twice a year, usually the first weekend of March and November. It is intended as an opportunity for folks who have read about, practiced, or heard of Grow Biointensive to learn more through lecture, discussion, and hands-on practice. Not only is is it an educational experience for the participants, but for those of us who attend many times as presenters or support staff it is an inspirational event.
This time over 50 people (some of them Ecology Action interns) came from California, Utah, New York, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Missouri, Manitoba and Alberta, Canada, and Ecuador to attend. Most of them had great gardening-related projects in the works, and all of them had fascinating work beyond gardening.
When we arrived the workshop presenters were John Jeavons (above and below, leading the participants down to EA's garden) and Ecology Action Garden Manager Carol Cox. Margo and I began doing some of the hands-on instruction after our first summer as apprentices, and began presenting during the lecture time in our third year. When Carol retired from EA last year we picked up the most of the classes she taught and created a couple of others. No comparison to the instruction she could give after 20 years of experience, but she was very encouraging to us, as was John. (At left, me workin' the overhead while teaching garden planning).
We decided that Alten was too young yet to hit the cross-country Amtrak circuit for this workshop, so I went alone this time and taught for both Margo and myself. And while the opportunity was a great one and I had a wonderful experience, I will be glad to have Margo back when we teach in March 2011.
So come and see us!
(By the way, one of the participants was Matt Harnack, a documentary filmmaker and co-coordinator of the Common Ground Demo Garden in Palo Alto, CA. All of the photos in this post were taken by him. Thanks, Matt!)


Monday, November 1, 2010

The Garden Is Dead

Long Live the Garden! (Our Fall garden is pictured above)
Our first frost happened on October 16, and didn't mess around. The low was 28° F, effectively ending our main season. Basil was the only hot-loving crop we still had in the ground, and had long passed its productive leaf stage. And that was good, because it is not made for 28°. We did manage to get some seed from it, and will test its viability after we clean it.
The only crop we have to harvest yet is our remaining ~140 sq ft of potatoes. Our lack of rain keeps us from that harvest. We know they grew fairly successfully, but the nature of our soil means they are locked in the ground until we get a couple of good rains in a row. The last time that happened was the 9th and 10th of July.
Potatoes excluded, we have now entered the stage of the garden that a lot of folks around here skip: the late-Fall and Winter plan. Our original idea was to plant the currently double-dug beds into cover crops, and prepare previously un-dug beds for our wheat, rye, and garlic plantings. Again, we needed some more rain to pull that one off, so we now have planted 600+ square feet of a wheat/rye/canadian field pea mix (on the left), 200 sq ft of cereal rye, 150 sq ft of winter wheat, and about 40 sq ft of garlic. And that's where we'll likely finish for this year.
Compromise number one was planting our wheat, rye and garlic in previously dug beds. Compromise number two was the nature of that planting. Garlic is garlic, and that simply involves separating cloves, and planting the choicest (the first sprout is pictured on the right). But the wheat and rye, which we want to bring to full maturity next summer, would normally have been transplanted on 5" centers. A combination of travel and lack of rain made that difficult, so we decided to just bite the bullet and broadcast. The only thing desirable in that choice, though, is the ease of planting. Weeding will be much more difficult, coverage will not be as thorough, and yields will suffer. Our final compromise was not so much a decision we made as a matter of indecision. Because we were so far behind, we gnashed our teeth about planting and digging options, and whether or not it would rain for us. As a result everything has been planted a month or more late.
But farming is about learning from mistakes, right? And by all accounts it has been a doozy of a season for all the farmers and gardeners around.
Since the 16th of October we have had frosts of 28, 32, 27, 24, and 23°, and when I left from watering the garden at 7:00 last night the temperature had already fallen to 39°F. I think it's time to hibernate.

This week brings a trip to California to teach at Ecology Action's 3-Day Workshop on the 5th, 6th, and 7th. It is always inspiring to get to meet so many motivated gardeners, share knowledge with them, and learn what they have to offer. Plus maybe I can bring some of the copious amounts of rain they're getting back home with me...