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John Zon Community Center Community Garden

Martin Anderton at the John Zon Community Center Community Garden

Martin Anderton and Princess at the John Zon Community Center Community Garden

The Pleasant Street Community Garden provided garden plots for over 20 people until that whole site was razed a few years ago. Davis Street School, the surrounding paving and the gardens all disappeared. There was great mourning, but last year the John Zon Community Center was completed. Hedges and trees were planted, and a Meadow Garden was planted by volunteers, but there were no Community Gardens.

One could imagine that the Community Garden was just sleeping, because there was a Working Group of gardeners at work preparing the garden space. I spoke to Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kliener who had joined the remnants of the community gardeners who were thinking about how the it would return to life. “It was an unhappy time for the community gardeners. We had to be patient,” she said.

Rabbi Andrea told me that she came to this project to do her rabbi work and find her place in the regional food system. “To reach out to the broader community and the ‘old’ community gardeners we held a community walk. We visited neighborhood gardens to see how people could garden in small spaces,” she said.

I was on that walk and we not only saw small gardens, we saw new gardeners who were finding their way with seeds and weeds and bugs.

Rabbi Andrea and the Working Group of gardeners kept things moving last year. The garden plot is approximately 180 feet long and 40 feet wide. The soil in back of the Zon Center was very poor, and not ready to be gardened. Instead, soil amendments were added.

This year the soil improvement work continued. “With advice from the UMass Extension Service and NOFA (Northern Organic Farmers Association) we planted rye, but had to cut it down before it went to seed. We also planted clover, vetch, peas, oats, and sorghum,” Rabbi Andrea said.

Interior of Chicken coop

Interior of the coop Anderton built of recycled materials

Now those special crops have to be incorporated into the soil to improve it. Martin Anderton replied to a notice in the Zon Center about the need for a wheelchair accessible flower bed. Building the raised bed was his first contact with the Zon Center and he did build a beautiful raised bed. When he heard about the Community Garden he spoke to Rabbi Andrea. He explained that he rented out chickens and ducks that could help with soil improvement.

This was certainly a unique project. Anderton built a moveable coop from salvaged materials. When I spoke to him the coop with its electrified fencing had been in place for a week. By the time you read this the coop will have been settled in the next section for a week. It is amazing how much scratching and eating of clover and other plants five ducks and four chickens can do. Not to mention the amount of manure the birds can produce.

“Fresh animal manure introduces beneficial microbes and bacteria directly into the soil,” Anderton said. “Manure can also be composted with other materials, of course, but having both is very good.”

Anderton explained that he does have a business named Homestead Habitats. He rents ducks and chickens to people for a variety of reasons. Some people are testing whether they really want to raise fowl. Some people don’t want to keep fowl through the winter. He also sells fowl, sometimes as chicks, and sometimes as pullets because people find it difficult to care for tiny chicks. He will also build a shelter or coop for the birds.

Dorothea Sotiros is the Treasurer of the Working Group that meets and makes decisions about what happens next. There is a shed and tools next to the garden space. Most of the items in the shed were used by the earlier community gardeners.

Sotiros said that about five people have signed up for garden plots. There is room for more. “We are also welcoming community groups to claim a plot,” she said. “You could garden in a plot with a friend, or an organization like the Recover Project might like to take advantage of this opportunity. Inmates of the County Jail used to work at the earlier garden.”

Ducks at the John Zon Community Garden

Ducks have an extra advantage over chickens, digging into the soil with their beaks

Now a workshop is being planned, possibly for mid-October. There will be a talk, but there will also be a practical element. The plan is to cover the whole community garden space with cardboard and then cover the cardboard with mulch. In the spring the garden will be ready for planting.

The cardboard-mulch system is sometimes called Lasagna Gardening. I have used it myself in my new Greenfield garden. This method will kill the weeds. In the spring gardeners will move aside the mulch and find the cardboard has disintegrated and disappeared. What is left is wonderful soil, and worms, ready for planting. It seems like magic. I can attest to the reliability of this system. And I will tell you that worms love cardboard.

Watch for an announcement about the date of this workshop. I will be sure to include it in my column.###

Between the Row   September 21, 2019

Climate Change Rally Right in Greenfield – September 20, 2019

Just Not Cool!

Just Not Cool – Our fifth grade friend protested at the Climate Change Rally

The Climate Change Rally in Greenfield brought many children, inspired by young Greta Thunmberg, to the Greenfield Common on Friday, September 20. The Children and the Adults were all protesting. Our climate is dangerously changing and there are protests this day all around the globe.

Fifth graders’ Mother protests

Protestors of every age

If not us

If not us

Change the Laws

Students from local schools protested

Students from local schools protested

High School Students

Some Students went to Boston to participate in the Youth Climate Strike

Students Protesting Climate Change – There is no Planet B

Students protesting Climate Change

Young and old Protest

What can we all do?  Vote!  Learn about ways you can stop global warming.

We can’t leave it all up to Greta.

Industrial Hemp Uses

Cousins Debbie, Tammy and Heidi in their hemp field

Everybody is talking about hemp. When we recently attended a family gathering in Vermont we talked to three of my young cousins, Heidi, Tammy, and Debby who had planted hemp. A change in the Vermont laws now makes it legal to plant hemp. Four hundred and fifty or so farms are now doing just that. Dairy farming is not as profitable as it was, and hemp is now in demand. Please remember, industrial hemp does not contain THC, the compound in marijuana that makes you get high.

My cousins got their start with a friend who gave them about 1900 baby cannabis plants in the spring. They had rototilled one and a half fertile acres of the old family farm. Then they set to planting in early May. There had been rain and their soil had good drainage.

The plants were very tiny with a tiny root base. They said each of them used a teaspoon for putting them in the ground. My cousins have day jobs and so it took three weekends to get them all planted, carefully providing at least six feet of space between each plant which can reach a height of eight feet.

Closeup of hemp plant

Closeup of hemp plant in Vermont

There is more to raising hemp than getting tiny plants in the ground. At some point the hemp plants will decide if they want to be male or female. They have no gender when the seeds sprout unless they have been feminized. My cousins did invest in paying for enough femininized hemp to fill two rows.

I got in touch with Professor Heather Darby at the University of Vermont and she explained feminizing. “Young plants are sprayed with colloidal silver, and this triggers them to produce “male flowers” that only produce female pollen. Hence, if this crosses with the female flowers you should end up with female seeds,” she said in an email.

Professor Darby said she did not know of any Vermont production companies that treated hemp for anything other than CBD oil.

My cousins did know it is only the female buds that can make CBD oil which has medicinal uses.  All male buds have to be removed. If the male buds are allowed to open and spread their pollen, the male pollen will infect all the females and ruin them – no CBD oil.

This is a real learning experience for them – and many others in Vermont and other states.

Last week I was on my way through Buckland to Goshen and was stunned to see three big fields of hemp plants. I used to buy great corn from a farm on Route 112, and corn is still available. However, two fields on either side of the farmhouse, and a third field  surrounding the Wilder Homestead are filled with industrial hemp plants. This is a much more serious operation, than my cousins have. It is an indication of the increasing interest in hemp.

Hemp field in Buckland

Hemp field in Buckland

For myself, I am interested in hemp being grown for more reasons than CBD oil. It is the fibers of the plant that can be used in many ways, for textiles, paper, insulation, biodegradable plastics, and bio-fuel to name a few. Forbes Magazine said 25,000 products can be made from hemp.

Industrial hemp has an environmental benefit in that it can be grown in every state of our nation. In addition last December President Trump signed a Farm Bill that removes hemp from the Controlled Substances list, and redefines it as an agricultural product.

Cotton requires southern weather, more water, more fertilizer and pesticides per acre than hemp. Hemp requires much less water, grows very quickly and uses minimal soil nutrients. Hemp roots aerate the soil, leaving it rich for future crops. It can produce 1500 pounds of fiber per acre, whereas cotton will only produce 500 pounds per acre!

Since growing marijuana and industrial hemp has been illegal since 1937 there is a lag in how quickly production machines can be put in place. This is particularly true for hemp because people have forgotten its advantages, However change is coming.

Carl Lehrburg of PureHemp Technology in Fort Lupton, Colorado said “Most of the hemp plant is underutilized and wasted today in the U.S.” His company is developing traditional hemp stalk processing equipment that separates long and short fibers from the tough stem for processing into pulp, sugars and lignins, a process called “decorticating.” Processing hemp in the CCR (countercurrent reactor) results in the production of pulp as one product, and the extract liquor is further refined into lignin and sugar co-products. I like to think his company is only one among many.

Hemp fiber can be a little scratchy but it is often used with other fibers like cotton. Some companies like Patagonia are using hemp with other fibers like cotton and polyester.  Levi Strauss and Company, has a new line of Outerknown clothing made of what they call cottonized’ hemp, another combination of hemp and cotton.

Hemp has only been legal for a couple of years, but already there are 115 licensed growers and processors in Massachusetts. I can almost see the hemp clothes I want.

Between the Rows   September 14, 2019

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – September 15, 2019

Asters

Asters in the mist

On this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day I went out into the garden in the mist to take my photos. These asters just started blooming on the ‘hellstrip.’  A few other plants are  blooming like the coneflower and a pink phlox.

Hydrangea

Hydrangea plus

The Firelight hydrangea (one of three hydrangeas) is getting pinker every day. Blooming flowers around her include a helenium, Grandpa Ott’s morning glory, a delphinium and a pink  honeysuckle. A lot is still going on in the garden.

Robustissima

Anemone ‘Robustissima’

I love Robustissima, even when she is knocked down  by last night’s rain.

Sedum

Sedum

Name lost. Maybe ‘Neon’?  She doesn’t seem very Neon-ish.

Zinnias

Zinnias, cosmos and marigolds

These annuals are growing on a bed where all the perennials drowned last year. I love looking at this melange from my kitchen window. I’m planning to keep them there.

Black eyed susans

These black eyed susans somehow jumped from the big clump in the nearby bed. I think black eyed susans will have to leave.

Purple Rain Kordes rose

Purple Rain rose

There are still a few scattered roses like Purple Rain.

Raspberries

Can I call these ripening raspberries ‘blooming’?  I am surprised to have them so late in the year, but the bushes are full.

I want to thank Carol over at May Dreams Gardens and giving us the chance to see gardens all over this great land.

Daniel Greene – My Good Bunch Farm At Last

Teri and Daniel Greene

Teri Rutherford and Daniel Greene

Good Bunch Farm didn’t grow overnight. Like many new students entering the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Daniel Greene did not know what he really wanted to do. This was a new environment, filled with new people, new freedoms, and new ideas. He did know he was concerned about climate change and other environmental issues. Academics and learning were important but he was eager to get to work, get his hands dirty. But his ultimate goal was not clear.

As he began his studies he realized he was surrounded by farms and a university with agricultural programs. In 2008 he graduated with a degree in Sustainable Agriculture.

After graduation he began his years of peripatetic farming. He moved to Shelburne Falls and worked on a Conway farm as manager and planted his first field of vegetables.

There were a few years of moving and farming in Colrain, Shelburne Center, and Ashfield. Four years ago he was renting fields in Conway again. Last fall Greene decided it was time to move to his own land permanently.

He bought an old house in need of a lot of work in Charlemont that came with eight acres. By this time he had a partner, Teri Rutherford. They met while they were both working at Gloriosa and Co. in Ashfield. One of the strings in Greene’s bow is carpentry. He was working on the old barn which was used for special events – like weddings. With Gloria Pacosa’s help, Rutherford was learning how to be a wedding organizer. I thought it was very romantic that they met where they were surrounded by beautiful plants – and love.

Greene and Rutherford spent a lot of time last fall working on the house. At the same time Greene was also working on the year-end harvests and field work on his rented two acres in Conway. Rutherford was now working at the Valley View Farm in Haydenville, coordinating and pre-planning weddings.

By the time the holidays were in sight, the couple had finished enough electrical and plumbing renovations to make the house livable. They moved in.

Greene has now had a full season of planting and harvesting in back of his house, as well as finishing up in Conway. He and Teri gave me the tour of plantings and necessary work spaces. Early in the spring he had planted a quick buckwheat cover crop before planting, very aware of how important soil improvement is on a new property.

The long hoop house was mostly filled with all kinds of tomatoes climbing up wires to supports. Another long hoop house will join this one next spring.

Right now another long bed filled with tomatoes, ground cherries and tomatillos is being harvested. One section was filled with Goldenberry (Physalis peruviana). I had never seen much less heard of goldenberry before. “I’m growing it more for fun than anything, but this is a trial plot for Rutgers University. Rutgers is testing this crop for small farms with CSA programs because many small farms don’t grow fruit,” Green said.

Goldenberries are a small, cherry sized fruit that tastes like a mix of pineapple, strawberry, and sour cherry. These little fruits can be eaten raw, dried or made into jam. They can be harvested over six weeks and be a financial benefit to a small farm.

Cucamelon

Cucamelon

Greene has other experiments. He showed me a section devoted to Mexican Cucamelon also known as Sour Gherkin Cucumber (Melothria scabra). This fruit shaped like a tiny watermelon ripens in75 days. I tasted one and it does taste a bit like a cucumber. They give a big harvest and they do look pretty on their vines.

There are fields that cannot be seen from the house because of an intervening woodland, but we walked up the hill and Greene pointed to plots planted with sorghum-sudangrass hybrids in preparation for planting next year. This hybrid is a soil builder, weed suppressor, and subsoil loosener..

“I’ll cut down the sorghum-sudangrass early in the spring, and chop it up and into the soil. I won’t be able to plant small vegetables in that plot, but squashes should be able to thrive,” he said.

Planting, growing and harvesting vegetables aren’t the end of a farmer’s work. Greene showed me a small production house where produce is washed and the leafy crops even get spin-dried in an old washing machine.

Then produce is stored in a chilled concrete room ready to be brought to the Friday Shelburne Falls Farmer’s Market and the Saturday, Ashfield Farmer’s Market. Greene also delivers vegetables to several restaurants including the Blue Rock Restaurant and Bar, Hearty Eats, Ashfield Lake House, and others.

Rutherford is responsible for keeping the Farm Stand supplied. The milkhouse part of the old dairy barn has been renovated to house a cooler, a table with a variety of vegetables  – and honor system payment.

After the tour we walked back to the house and sat on the porch. I felt the serenity of the spot, looking across the lawn at the magnificent old trees. We chatted about all the work that had been done, and work that waited. There was a silence then Greene smiled a small smile. “I think I have pretty much accomplished my ten year plan.”

I smiled. I think he  is ready  for  the next ten years to begin.

Between the Rows   September 7, 2019

Autumnal Flowers Provide Bloom Through October

Japanese anemone

Anemone ‘Robustissima’

Tomorrow it will be September. How did autumn creep up on us? There are only 22 days before we celebrate the autumnal Equinox on September 23. The real question is have we selected flowers that will bloom through the fall?

As I look around my garden I see a number of plants that have just begun to bloom. My ever larger clump of pale pink Japanese anemones, Anemone vitifolia ‘Robustissima’ has just begun to bloom. I love the way the dainty pink flowers dance on their delicate, but strong stems. I also love the way it has spread over the past four years, but in the spring I will need to do some thinning. I’ll have shoots for the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale.

Dahlia

Dahlia with bee

The Bridge of Flowers can give interested gardeners a great lesson in the variety of form and color and the vitality of dahlias. Some dahlias begin blooming in late June, but more and more begin blooming as the season progresses. There are single dahlias that look like fat daisies, as well as pom pons that bloom early. Fancier dahlias include huge blossoms up to 10 inches across in colors from white to dark wine red.

Dahlias grow from tubers that are planted in the spring. At the end of the season the tuber, which now has additional tubers attached, needs to be dug up and stored for the winter. Next spring you will have three or four tubers to plant – or trade with a friend for a different dahlia style or color.

Potted chrysanthemums are already showing up in front of supermarkets. These mums, as we call them, will only give you pleasure this year, but you can grow mums that will come back every year. Like dahlias chrysanthemums come in many sizes, color and forms. We are lucky that we can go to the annual Chrysanthemum Show at the Lyman Greenhouse at Smith College from November 2-17 and see those brilliant flowers.

Spoon chrysanthemums and asters

Spoon mums and asters

There are 13 classes of chrysanthemums from blossoms with incurved petals, reflex petals, through single and semi-double blossoms to spoon mums that have petals ending with a spoon shape.

I am not sure what category my Sheffield daisies fall into, but they are also classified as a chrysanthemum. Sheffies are great autumnal plants, cheerfully pink beginning in September and blooming well through October. They are a little floppy around the edges but they are wonderfully determined and dependable.

Sheffield daisies

Sheffield daisies in November

I recently found it fascinating to learn that mums are related to dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, and cosmos, all of which will bloom into the fall

The large family of asters are familiar and important autumnal flowers. I have Wood’s Blue with a yellow center, a wonderfully spreading low growing aster. It prefers full sun, but mine tolerate late afternoon shade.

Alma Potchke is a popular aster, in a cheerful shade of deep pink with yellow centers. She is about three feet tall and in my garden she thrives in a very sunny spot.

Boltonia Snowbank is also an aster, thriving in the sun and forming an upright tall snowy white mound up to five feet tall. It is one of the latest blooming asters. In fact, all these three asters bloom from early to late fall.

Boltonia

Boltonia

Aster Frikartii is a blue/lavender aster with a yellow center that has been a standard in the fall garden for many years. Given good rich soil and sun it will form a flowery mound three feet tall and wide. It will bloom earlier than the other three asters, and finish earlier.

What all these asters have in common is their benefits to pollinators until late in the season. They also attract butterflies, and are ideal for bouquets.

There are other perennials that will bloom into the fall including pink turtlehead, Joe Pye weed, black eyed susans, phlox, and large sedums like Autumn Joy.

Large shrubs like hydrangea have an important place in the fall garden. Hydrangea paniculata is also known as hardy hydrangea because it tolerates winters well. By annual pruning you can manage its size which can range from 8 to 15 feet. Paniculata blooms on new wood which means pruning back in very early spring.

'Firelight" hydrangea

Hydrangea “Firelight’

Hydrangeas don’t begin to make buds until summer begins. Those buds grow and open slowly through the summer and the fall. They prefer a rich soil and a sunny location.

Paniculatas are now available in colors other than white. Their colors change over the summer. This is just the way the color develops. Paniculata color is not altered by having more or less lime in the soil. In my garden there is Limelight, which slowly turns from white to a pale shade of green. So far it is about six or seven feet tall. If you prefer a dependably small green hydrangea Little Lime is waiting for you. Its size will range between three and five feet.

Angel’s Blush and Firelight are about the same size, the first will be a very pale shade of pink, and Firelight will become more and more red as the season progresses. These are now about seven feet tall and will get taller.

A little deadheading here and there will keep the rest of the garden looking neat and attractive through autumn days.

Between  the Rows  August 31, 2019

Wordless Wednesday on the Golden Days of Autumn

Black eyed susans

milkweed

Zinnia

Daylily

 

Daylily altissima

Folksinger rose