Vinegar and Drills

Well, finals week is upon us and what with exams and papers and all manner of dull things, the nicest kind of study break you can have is to nip down for a quick run to the garden. (Keally and I did it yesterday, from outside Littlefield, at a brisk-ish pace it only took us 6 minutes, when it usually takes me 25 minutes to walk down. I should run there always….)

We’re all starting to get to know a lot more plot-tenders at the garden, which is great since we’ll be part of this community for the summer, and the next four years hopefully! Everyone has been really helpful, and full of advice. Advice which we really did need since up until Sunday things weren’t looking too good. Last weekend (the 1st/2nd of May) was the community work day.  Early in the morning I went down with Tara (who grew up on a farm in Colorado which meant she was full of helpful suggestions). We spent a few minutes examining the plot, which was a slightly forlorn experience. When we originally put compost on the bed we forgot/didn’t know to sift the compost first. So there were a lot of pebbles/larger rocks and sticks in the soil. With all the rain that we get in this lovely city, most of the top layer of dirt had either been compacted down or washed away (down our steep bevelled edges in little brown torrents, away away away!) leaving more pebbles bare. And then, because we had neglected to water for a few days, the top had then dried into a sort of crust. The end result: a crusty top layer that looked rather baked and very pebbly. Moreover, our arugula was still being very eaten, and nothing else had sprouted (except several hundred little weeds). Oh my.

Well. after a quick watering, some dashed weed-pulling (barely making a dent) and spritzing a home-made solution on the hole-y arugula, Tara and I set to work to join the community work day.We picked a corner of the garden (near the beehives) and got to work weeding the paths. After clearing our area of weeds (which took some time), we got several wheelbarrows of wood chips to put down on the path. The work day was a nice time to meet lots of other plot-enthusiasts.

Oh, and for the record, this is the recipe for home-made pesticide according to our Food Prof:

  • a tablespoon of vinegar
  • a tablespoon of washing-up liquid (I use that eco-stuff too, just to try to reduce the chemicals)
  • the rest water in a spray bottle. Shake it and spray it. Though I can’t tell you if it was succesful or not, since I’ve only applied it once, and the next time I saw the arugula they were still looking eaten, whether less or more so, I couldn’t tell.

Well well, so this Sunday (the 9th) the whole lot of us: Keally, Natalie, Becca (and Becca’s two lovely friends Amber and Josh) met at the garden to do some more planting/reflecting on the existential future of our patch of soil. What we found was the same sorry state as described above, except more so because another week had passed. We were really perplexed about what to do about the fact lots of our dirt was just being washed away every time it rained. We had thought we would be ok without wooden sides to our beds, since in our workshop with the Food Prof we’d been told that those wooden sides weren’t really necessary, and if we really needed to we could just plant some thyme around the edge to hold the soil down. Was our bed too high? Were the sides too steep? It was at this point that we decided (perhaps not in these exact words) that the time for dilly-dallying had come to an end, and we had to put the time in today to do this properly before the situation worsened! So, with sunny windows open, and great music blaring, we drove to Home Depot to pick up four more bags of soil, 1″x8″ boards and screws to REBUILD OUR BED!

So we sawed the planks (sawing is fun!) into appropriate lengths (especially since we had unfortunately made a mistake about the length of our plot and brought home planks that were too short. However we neatly side-stepped this problem by adding extra ends to the planks on both sides, and connecting them with joints. Keally and Becca were particularly nifty with the drill, and we handily (or not quite so) put together a frame for our bed. There were a few edges that weren’t quite right angles, but oh my! now it looks just super!

We then filled the bed up with four more bags of soil and (screened) compost. It looks like a whole new bed! We also did a whole lot more planting which Becca will inform y’all about shortly.

Doing all this gardening, and learning a lot about agriculture in the Food Class has got me thinking about agriculture back home (that’s Kenya for me). I’ll be here in Providence for a month this summer, during which time I am excited about working in the garden. But in the one and a half months that I’ll be home in Kenya, I have been thinking it would be a good learning experience to stay with some friends of ours on a small subsistence farm in the village. This is how most of Kenya, and the developing world still produces their daily food and it would hopefully be a great learning experience. Will keep you all posted on how it goes!



One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Fran on May 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Lovely photos. It sounds like Sunday was quite the work day. I’m sure the board border will help keep the soil in place. It may be slugs eating the arugula. Slugs like beer. You could try putting some beer in jar lids or other low containers, level with the soil, so that they walk into the beer and drown. This does work, although it may make your garden the party plot for all the slugs in the area. Another trick is to sprinkle cayenne pepper on your plants. This may stop the nibblers, unless of course, they have evolved into nibblers with more sophisitcated taste buds. Once you get everything planted, putting down mulch between and around the plants will help with the weeds. Such a lovely learning experience you all are having. – Fran


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