Stacking Functions Garden


The three Rs

Single sort has arrived!

Single sort recycling has arrived in Minneapolis! Welcome to a new era where more than 18% of Minneapolitans recycle!

Wait, what? Yes, it’s true. One of the reasons Minneapolis switched to single sort is to increase recycling numbers. The old system was somewhat complex, but still, I am perplexed that, as recently as 2012, 80% of people in my fair city were still not taking this simplest of steps. This is a move in the right direction.

And look at the size of that cart! The idea is to make absolutely sure that anything people can dream up to recycle will fit in there. Maybe someday the city will make garbage carts smaller; ours is never more than half full. It’s a bit demotivating when you pay the same price for your garbage cart every month whether it’s got 1 bag of garbage in it or is overflowing every single week.

Solving problems like that on a city-wide scale is really tough. I don’t want to downplay it. But I also don’t feel like waiting around for city governments (or any government, really) to figure these things out when there are so many changes I can make at the household level. Therefore, I can’t waste this opportunity to bring up a key point:

Recycling should be lower priority than Reducing and Re-using.

Producing less waste in the first place should be our top priority (and I’m talking about waste at every level, including emissions). There is a new book out which I’ve recently added to my “must read” list; the author also has a blog: Zero Waste Home. There’s also a local blog with a similar theme: The Trashbasher (although she updates less frequently).

I’m really excited to see this idea getting momentum. It’s not just about buying less, it’s about creating opportunities to close as many loops as we can. It’s a cup of permaculture tea, applied to every aspect of our lives. Overwhelming, but maybe less so when taken one thing at a time.

So, yay to single sort recycling, but let’s all get going on our compost piles too, OK? Or maybe do a little bulk shopping at the grocery store? What are you doing to reduce waste? This is an area that, for me, needs constant inspiration, lest I slip back into old habits out of sheer exhaustion. So, inspire me please!

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Community Gardening

Wow, the past two weeks have been busy. It all started on May 9 with the Friends Plant Sale. Since then, I’ve been going non-stop. One big occupier of my time has been the community garden behind Sabathani Community Center on 38th Street in Minneapolis. I’m currently in my 4th year of coordinating the master gardener demonstration plot there. This year things got more complicated, because some other Master Gardeners and I decided to use the demonstration garden as a true teaching garden, and teach a class, en español, to a group of new gardeners. The class has had its share of hiccups, mostly weather-related, but we’re on our way.

Here’s the layout of the Master Gardener demo plot for 2013. I always try to keep this simple, and dedicate lots of space to collards and kale. When I take our harvests to the food shelf every week, I get mobbed for my greens. I also tried to include examples of what I knew my students wanted to plant, so I could demonstrate.

Sample layout for a 10' x 20' garden, via the New Home Economics

Adam and I and some fellow MGs planted 75% of this last week, and then I planted the rest on Tuesday night (in 55 degree drizzle) for a planting demonstration. Here’s what the garden looks like as of today:

Community garden plot, 10'x20'

I haven’t gotten straw mulch down around the plants yet, because straw has suddenly become VERY hard to come by in Minneapolis, thanks to the straw bale gardening trend. But I got toilet paper collars (for cut worms) around the peppers and tomatoes today. That crooked trellis in the background will be for tomatoes, grown similarly to how I grow mine.

This week, I asked the main community garden coordinator about an empty plot that was near the demo plot, and whether anyone was using it this year. She gave her blessing, and I suddenly had to quickly come up with another 10’x20′ plan for myself! I wanted to keep things simple, and I’ve always wanted to try winter squash, so that’s what we planted today: 14 hills of it! Am I crazy?!

Digging up a neglected community garden plot in Minneapolis

Today Adam, my best friend CJ, and I dug up the VERY WEEDY plot (she’s sharing the plot with us), while the kids made dandelion chains in another abandoned plot nearby. Then we sowed 5 hills of pie pumpkins, 4 hills of acorn squash, and 5 hills of butternut squash. Later CJ added a few rows of radishes. Here’s what it looks like now:

hills of squash

Again, I had to conserve what little straw I had left, so I only put it on the actual hills for now. Tomorrow we’re going up north to visit our parents, and my dad, who knows actual farmers, has procured two bales of straw for me. So everything will get mulched in good time!

I’m relatively new to growing squash. I’ve only tried it the one time before in my garden, and it ended early with squash vine borers. Hoping to avoid that here, I’ll add some nematodes in the next couple weeks. Got any advice about winter squash for me?

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2013 garden: planted!

We placed an arch between the two tanks for a new flower tunnel!

Saturday was cold and windy, but we got things started by making an archway between Rowan and Anneke’s tank gardens. Later on we planted a cup and saucer vine, which will cover this arch and make a tunnel of flowers by mid-summer.

Rabbit-proofing the vegetable garden, from New Home EconomicsSunday morning was cool and beautiful, so we got started early. Rabbits were getting in through gaps in our (formerly) rabbit-proof fence. We wired chicken wire over the whole thing to beef up security.

Laying out soaker hoses, via New Home Economics

Next we laid out the soaker hoses. I hate this part. It’s always a puzzle to figure out the best possible layout, re-arranging a couple times before we figure out what will work best. But I like to do it before we plant so that we’re not running over little plants with the hoses.

Garden: planted! Via New Home Economics

Later in the day, garden planted and lightly mulched with straw. Here we go! It did get a little cool for the tomatoes on Sunday night (40 degrees F) but they survived just fine. I think my garden’s microclimate is a bit warmer than the official temperature for Minneapolis, since it’s between two houses.

Beginnings of a native prairie boulevard garden

Then, because I’m not satisfied to garden for a mere 6 hours on Mothers Day, in the afternoon we decided to put in our new plants (we picked them up at the Friends Sale on Friday) into the boulevard. I’m going to do a separate post about the new prairie/native/butterfly boulevard garden this coming weekend after we put the finishing touches on it. Suffice to say I’m excited. Also, tired.

Lettuce in a stock tank garden, via New Home Economics

Lettuce, greens and snow peas coming along, and the weather’s nice enough now that we removed the hoop house. Aesthetically, a big improvement. I’m going to have to whip out a small support system for those peas this weekend. I’ve gotten one small lettuce harvest already, and plan a second for tomorrow.

Plants for Master Gardener event

As if I weren’t busy enough, this Saturday I’m teaching vegetable gardening (as a Hennepin County Master Gardener) to a bunch of people who’ve never gardened (here) before and speak a different language than me! (We have a translator, thank goodness.) We’re giving them each a box of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and a few other goodies to get them started. That is, if I can keep all those plants alive for the rest of the week. But hey, they survived a hot 96 (F) degree wind today, so they must be pretty hardy.

What a weird spring. We’re not really having a spring; pretty much went from winter to summer overnight. Oh, Minnesota, I love you. This climate shapes us, shapes our character as people, whether we acknowledge it or not. (Most of us do, actually. See Keillor, Garrison.) Truly, it makes us better people. (See how I’m trying to convince myself?) Also, what year isn’t weird in some way?

OK, off to bed. May is a busy month!

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Winter sowing update

Back in February, I decided to try my hand at winter seed sowing again. It’s become very popular, so I thought I’d give it a second chance even though my first try was a failure.

Winter seed sowing update

The wild rye and calendula sprouted nicely. But the native prairie plants I really wanted, in large quantity for my boulevard, have thus far done nothing. I think there might be a small sliver of green in the prairie blazing star, but I’m not sure if it’s even blazing star at this point or a weed.

Also, I’m not 100% sure I want to plant the Canada wild rye (mislabeled by me earlier this spring as virginia rye). We brought the seed head home from a prairie restoration that we visited in South Dakota last summer. The kids were really into it, so I thought “why not!” … but… it was so easy to sprout, and it was EVERYWHERE in the place where we camped… and I’m wondering now if it might be a tad invasive. Here’s more information on Canada wild rye.
So, anyone have experience with it? Should I go for it?