The 2013 Garden Education Program classes have been going on for over four weeks now, and it shows. Our garden plots, which started out as a field of crop-cover divided by strings and stakes, are really starting to come together.
Most students have their beds planted with an assortment of seedlings and seeds – multiple varieties of tomatoes, basil, eggplant and peppers (grouped together by many students after learning about companion planting), along with sweet potatoes, melons, cucumbers, squash, green beans, peas, carrots, chicory, lettuces, greens, okra and probably a number of other plants I’m forgetting!
It is fun to hear from different classmates about why they choose certain plants for their plots – a favorite food, a childhood memory, to try a new vegetable or new variety, or to have a challenge to learn from. Each plot reflects something of a student’s preferences and story.
Last Saturday, Joe shared with us during the “classroom” portion of our morning that much of gardening is “weeding, watering, and watching.” We’re beginning to learn how to do all three well.
We’ve laid woodchips between our row down to prevent weeds, and laid straw down around our seedings as a mulch. Joe stressed the difference between hay and straw (with all of the grass seeds in hay, it wouldn’t make for a good weed-inhibiting mulch!).
Volunteers graciously set up the drip irrigation in our gardens on Saturday, too, but with the amount of rain we’ve been getting this week, I don’t know if we’ll need to turn it on quite yet (I’m more worried that our seeds may get washed away!). We learned about how much water different plants need, and how to water such that the roots grow deeply and improve their resistance to drought.
“Watching” is the activity that intrigues me the most. I’m eager to watch how the seeds and seedlings respond to their environments and to what their companions the gardeners offer to them. Do certain plants prefer certain spots in the garden, and which neighbors do they prefer?
By watching my plants and those of my classmates, along with the interpretation of our teacher and classmates with more experience, we’ll be able to learn a lot from nature.
I will share about some of the fruits of our weeding, watering, and watching in future posts.
On another note, Saturday was also NFI’s Open House. Once again, I was reminded of how meaningful it is to be learning about gardening in the context of a community, as volunteers simultaneously worked in the NFI demonstration garden, set up tents for serving the food, and prepared for the workshops that would be offered. We are all working together to create something bigger than ourselves which can be shared. Kristin posted pictures of the Open House on Facebook – it looks like a wonderful time was had by all.
Jenn Svetlik is grateful to be a member of NFI’s Garden Education Program for the 2013 season. She’ll be reflecting on the experience throughout the summer.