Friday, July 25, 2014

week 12 It's Good to be Back

Kayla making the perfect compost

Debbie :(
 This week was a great week to be in the garden. We are harvesting so much right now! Cucumbers, squash, arugula, eggplant,beans, peppers, herbs, Swiss chard, collards, Malabar spinach, onions, beets, okra! It was so nice to be welcomed back with such growth and produce. The interns held it down pretty well while I was gone and I couldn't be more proud.

This week we were able to work at the Flying Tomato Garden where Kayla is the garden manager. With the help of Debbie Renfroe and her two children Whitney and Bryant as well as Shania we weeded and mulched that garden and made it look even better. While we were there, several people in the community came by to talk with us and see what was growing. This garden is on Boots street and 16th street so it sees lots of Marion's traffic. Kayla did a great job of meeting with all of the visitors and making them feel welcomed.
Sad news though, this was the last week Debbie would be able to work with us as she needs to go back to school. She and her family have been such a blessing to us this summer and we wish her the best.

As you can see the girls fighting in our forest of lettuce, the lettuce has gone to seed. This means that the leaves are now bitter and we will no longer be using it to eat. We have left two rows to gather seed for a seed bank we are starting this year. We will try to gather and dry the seed so that we do not always have to buy new seed every year. We will also be planting some fall crops in this area and in other areas as the crops reach the end of their run.

We are starting to get pests pretty bad on some plants (squash bugs, tomato horned worm, Japanese beetles), so we have bought a backpack sprayer to get rid of the pests. We make organic spray as to not damage the crops and make sure they are still safe to eat. The one we are using now uses baking soda, water and dish soap to keep the leaves to slippery for the bugs to land, eat, or lay eggs. Of course we use other ways as well that are equally Eco-friendly (chicken feed!).

Announcements: We will be having a stand set up on Thursdays in the IWU student center from 11-1 All of August to October. You can get produce here and donate to the garden.
We are always looking for volunteers to help harvest and weed. If you help you can come take some food home!
Please check out our Facebook page for other announcements and picture/videos.

Zach Arington
Garden Manager
Making Kayla's life better


The Flying Tomato Garden on Boots and 16th St.

The girls terrorizing the city of Lettuce

The worse the apple, the better the apple butter!

Some of the produce that you will see at the Farmer's Market

Them Beets!

Tomato Horn Worm: Terror of the garden

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Week 11: When things aren't working the way they should

July 14-20

This week, we have run into several things that aren't working the way they should. 
            Early in the week, we noticed that our hose at the 38th street garden had been mowed over, and that the drip line at 46th was not working. While we cannot repair the hose, we located the problem in the drip line: a tiny kink near the spigot cut off the water for the entire garden. We straightened it out, and now the garden is getting the irrigation it needs. For the plants not along the drip line, we have been trying to use the water in the rain barrels at both gardens. We have also been using the rain water to keep the compost and the vermiculture damp.
            On Friday, Kayla and I turned the compost piles at the 46th street garden. I noticed that my pile was not even warm—when decomposing properly, a compost pile can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Because most of the pile was brown matter—sticks, coffee grounds, coffee filters—we added some green matter like bee balm prunings and rotting apples so that the pile would decompose more quickly and efficiently. Now that the piles have a good ratio of carbon (brown matter) to nitrogen (green matter) they should begin to heat up.
            Lettuce, the first crop that we planted at the beginning of May, is nearing the end of its season. For about two weeks now, our lettuce has been bitter, and the stalks have started to bolt and go to seed. Last week, we harvested the final leaves from most of our plants before uprooting the stalks and throwing them on the compost pile. We gave away our lettuce at the open air market— while we didn’t want to waste it, it wasn’t fit for sale. 
            But the good thing about gardening is that there is always the hope of new life. We plan to plant broccoli, which is a cold weather crop, in place of the lettuce. The compost will begin to break down, and give us good fertilizer, and we can replace the hose. Another positive news item is that we are nearly finished mulching both gardens. This means that we will not have to weed or water as much for the rest of the summer. As we do not plan to till next summer, the mulch will protect the soil from erosion. We are blessed to have such easy access to mulch—we can drive the truck to facilities at any time and completely fill the bed with the chipped wood from the branches cut down all over campus.
            Our raspberries and black raspberries are nearing the end of their seasons, but the corn is tassling, tiny fingers of okra are emerging, and cucumbers are coming in by the bucket load. We separated our basil, which was planted in bunches, so that it can spread out. Unfortunately, we had to burn one of our squash plants because it was crawling with squash bugs. We cannot use pesticides, so we are hoping that none of our other plants fall prey. Katie found an enormous dragonfly as she was harvesting, and we hope that it continues to keep our garden pest-free.
            On Saturday, our entire crew (minus Kayla, who had to work at the her other job) drove over to Victory Acres for their third annual Pie in July celebration. In addition to a pie contest, there were workshops, a hay ride around the farm, and a potluck meal. We enjoyed talking with the share holders and the other interns that came out for a fun evening.
             This is my last week writing for the blog as Zach returned from Puerto Rico on Friday. Writing for the blog has helped me to be able to articulate the things I'm learning. Thanks for reading!

squash bugs: public enemy number one

Hannah Combs

Alliance Garden Intern

the compost piles at 46th 

Week 10: Ready for Rest

This is a week late! Sorry for the delay.

July 7-11         

            Last week, all of us felt the physical effects of gardening. Bending or kneeling to weed for several hours at a time can strain an otherwise healthy back. Don’t get me wrong—I love that my job requires me to be outside, hoeing weeds and spreading mulch even in the afternoon sun. My arms are tan and strong, and I feel healthy and happy. But by Friday afternoon, we were all ready for a two-day nap.
            Last week, we aimed to weed and mulch everything at both gardens to cut down on later maintenance. While we didn’t achieve our goal, we are close. On Monday, we weeded the melons at 38th. Zach left for a ministry trip to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, leaving Kayla in charge of the interns. At the Victory Acres CSA drop off on Tuesday, she and I met many people who were picking up shares for their friends—after the holiday weekend, many people were out of town, including Patrick, who came back on Wednesday. On Wednesday, we weeded the okra, beets, and spinach at 46th, and watered everything that was not on the drip line. We also put in cages around the tomatoes. In the afternoon, Patrick and I began to mulch the beets. On Thursday, I cleared out the area by the shed at 46tth, transplanted mint, and mulched. Josh trimmed the overgrown bush at the base of one of the trees, and the others watered, weeded, and harvested raspberries and black raspberries. In the afternoon, Kayla and I shopped for a second-hand refrigerator. We bought one at a used appliance store on Washington St., and had the IWU furniture movers install it. Friday morning, we picked lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach, which we washed at the Alliance House in the afternoon. Throughout the week, we caught more Japanese Beetles than the chickens could eat.
            While we had a productive week, we were all thankful to have a weekend to rest. I am thankful for the weekly rhythms that God has set in place, as well as those that we have set in place. We are now working longer in the morning so that we can avoid the hottest part of the afternoon. I enjoy waking up with the sunrise and walking to work when the grass is still wet with dew. I also enjoy our extended lunch breaks, which allow me to sit down and relax instead of just eating and rushing back to work. Each night, I go to bed knowing that I worked hard and that my efforts are literally bearing fruit.

Hannah Combs

chickens love Japanese beetles!
Alliance Garden Intern
beetle harvest

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Week 9! Japanese Beetles are Annoying

Patrick showcasing some new flowers

Katie picking lettuce
Happy 4th of July weekend! I hope you all have been as thankful as I am that we live in a country that allows us freedom. At our garden we get to exercise this freedom by planting what we want, giving it away to who we want, and talking about topics without fear of being taken from our homes at night. I have been to countries where this is not always the case. While not a perfect country, it is a wonderful one and I am glad to live here. Now on to gardening!

Adding cover for our garden
Children of the corn weeding
This week was really beautiful and a joy to work outside. It was cool and only wet on Tuesday morning so we got lots of weeding and mulching accomplished. We are mulching everything this year not only to keep the weeds down, but to keep the ground moist and build back the soil. We will not be tilling in years to come because that disrupts the soil and we lose the nutrients in the soil. The mulch acts like a forest floor where leaves and pine needles protect the ground from harsh conditions and it can grow healthy. Think of it like feathers on a bird, or clothes on your body. This idea came from Back to Eden and we will be experimenting on how this improves our production over the years to come. The day it rained we watched Forks Over Knives, a documentary that calls for people to eat more whole plant-based foods (non-processed). This means less meat and dairy as well as the obvious sweets and oils. Now if you know me, you would understand that meat would be the only thing I would eat if I could. The research shows however, that if animal products are the focus of a diet this can lead to many health issues that can actually be reversed if you ate more fruit and vegetable meals. A very interesting movie and one I think everyone should watch to at least start to wrestle with these questions.

Look at all these weeds! They won't be here much longer :)
We are picking arugula, swiss chard, lettuce, collards, Malabar spinach, and the bit of Kale we have at a regular pace. We are bringing these items to Victory Acres as well as the Farmer's Market on Saturdays for the Community Garden Association to sell. Blackberries and raspberries are also coming in and we are eating those and asking for donations whenever we can. We are having a Japanese beetle problem right now as they are mating and eating our raspberry bushes. An organic way that does not hurt the plants and is relatively cheap is to place beer by the plants. The idea behind this is that they like the sweet smell and will fly in and drown. This has been confirmed with slugs another pest that we have. However, the beetles did not go willingly and we kind of had to push them in to drown them. They were then given to our chickens to eat which they loved.

Side notes: We did have some videos of our chickens but I do not know how to get them onto the blog and have them play. I will be looking into this. We added two eggplants and four zucchini plants to 38th st. I will also be gone this week so this blog will be done by Hannah. She is a writing major and will be a pleasure to read. She will be filling in for me whenever I have to be out of town. I am going on a mission trip to Puerto Rico with sports teams to play games, do ministry, and share Christ. The organization is called SportsReach and I am helping to lead the trip. If you can please remember us in your prayers and I will be back July 17th. Thank you all very much. See you when I get back!

Zach Arington
Garden Manager

Friday, June 27, 2014

Trip to Prasco and weeding!

Box gardens at Prasco

stones help keep the weeds down

 This week was a special week as the Alliance Garden interns got to go on a field trip to Prasco down in Cincinnati. Prasco is a family run pharmaceutical company with a strong missions mindset. The family foundation has funded the IWU Alliance Garden and this trip was designed for our students to get an idea of why we do what we do and who helps make that possible. While we did get a tour and were treated to an awesome lunch, we did help transplant melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. The trip was not long but it was well worth the trip for the interns to see a company that lives their Christian walk the whole week, not just Sunday. For more information on Prasco and their affiliates check out these websites.

Free Bible and Christian literature booth at Prasco Park
Back in Marion have just been on a weeding frenzy. That and we have hundreds of tomato volunteers. We have been transplanting the biggest and the best while uprooting the others. I have no idea what they will be but I am sure we will find out soon! Our blackberry and raspberry bushes are starting to fruit and they taste really good! We are harvesting arugula, lettuce, swiss chard, collards, and a quailgrass spinach hybrid. It basically grows like a weed and can feed people anywhere under adverse traditions. Growing this plant is one way many groups are combating hunger across the globe. Our strawberries are basically done now thanks to all the rain and muggy weather. They get overdosed on water and just start rotting and attracting bugs. We have transplanted more flowers and have added some more peppers. With all of the tomatoes we should be making lots of salsa and tomato and pasta sauce.

Side notes: We will be bringing our produce to Saturday farmer's markets starting tomorrow so be sure to visit the Marion community gardens booth.
We also have a Facebook page. Like us and follow the blog here.

In ground garden that we helped with
Garden Manager
Zach Arington

Lunch break at Quatman's

Patrick harvesting arugula

Katie adding top soil to new tire gardens

Hannah weeding

38th st


Peppers and tomatoes


Friday, June 20, 2014

Vermiculture and Milkshakes

Vermiculture lab

 This week was the first week of several things that we have planted being ready for harvest. While this is wonderful and what we have set out to do this can become too much of a good thing. Take our strawberries for example. Right now we are getting 25 lbs. give or take every other day! What are we to do with this abundance when they will go bad very VERY quickly after we pick them.We do not have lots of fridge, freezer space otherwise we could freeze them and make them into jams and jellies later or just eat them at a reasonable pace. Thankfully Victory Acres has the fridge space and we are bringing our strawberries to them so that they can sell them. They donate the money back to us and they can give their customers something they do not grow themselves. We also decided to make some milkshakes for the people working at IWU, going to camp, or conferences this week. They started out strawberry banana, then just strawberry, then vanilla. This was great promotion and we made some money off of it. They were really good. We will be doing similar promotions at IWU in the student center when we have more variety later this summer. For those of you who want to know when that starts just check out the blog weekly and I will let you know.

Patrick training grapes
Not even all we picked today!
What did we do with our swiss chard and lettuce you might ask. Well they were all donated to St. Martins. They will be used in lunch for those who come to get a meal at St. Martin's. Often the stuff we do not use or is not taken during our promotional time at IWU goes to them. We also sometimes let the community gardens sell our produce at farmer's markets. We do not have enough cherries to be worth selling or donating so they will just go into a pie (hopefully) this week.

Future pickles of America

This week we were also able to weed, transplant, and reseed as it was dry enough to get into the ground. Some of the seeds were old and just did not take. The kale and brussels sprouts were basically total no shows and have been replaced by carrots, radishes, and turnips. We transplanted more tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, and eggplant. The weeds are mostly gone at 46th and you can see what we are growing again.

We hope to see you out at our gardens soon! Please let us know if you follow us and tell your friends and family! I do not like people not knowing that we are here at IWU.

Zach Arington
Garden Manager

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mulch and Weed, Mulch and Weed

Look how weed free this section is!
Pepper with new sign
This week was a maintenance week. It rained often so it was mostly too wet to plant or transplant. We did get some more beans planted and tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and eggplant transplanted but that was at the end of the week. Some of us worked on this Saturday because it looks to be wet this next week as well. Our arugula is coming in nicely so it had to be thinned. I have never had arugula before but I decided to try it as we picked it out. It tastes like a peppery, peanut-like spinach which is better then that might sound. Lots of our seeds are not doing as well however, and we think it might be because the seed we used is just older. Seeds become 10% less effective each year and we needed to get rid of some.

Grace explaining things on our weekly farm walk
Transplanted cucumbers
Bernard :(
 The weeds have done very well with this rain so weeding and mulching were very important this week. We couldn't get all of the weeds without messing up the soaked ground but it will be happening as soon as we can. When we are not outside due to rain, we are reading up on what we are growing, ways to prevent pests and diseases, and preserving the produce we have harvested. If you go out to our gardens you could pick our lettuce, strawberries, herbs, and swiss chard. You will know what to pick since we have made excellent signs to tell you what is what.

Our chickens love eating weeds! (And Frogs!)
We pick about this every other day
Our chickens have lasted longer then last year. You can celebrate that fact alone. The three hens are laying eggs, eating our scraps, weeds, and any frogs we might find and turning them into delicious eggs. They can no longer escape because they have had their wings clipped. This was a fascinating experience as our neighbor James ran through the process with us. This does not hurt the chickens and they can not jump out. It is similar to getting your fingernails cut. We tried making a water feeder for them out of 2 litter bottles but they could not figure it out.

We will hopefully start picking this next week!
The girls freezing in June
We have started harvesting swiss chard!
The cherries are coming in!
Last bit of good and sad news. Good news is that our rhubarb and blackberry bush that had been tilled under a few weeks ago have started making a comeback! It amazes me how vigorous some things are. Now the sad news. Not all things are quite as vigorous. We had been given a 3 week old rabbit to raise by facilities. Without their mother, rabbits have only a 10% chance of living. Even with all the care given to Bernard (we named him that) could not survive.
Our corn is loving the rain
Team dinner at Grace's house

Garden Manager
Zach Arington

Rainy day research