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Community Gardening Interview Part 2

                                                                                 

This week I asked my brother Tom to provide an update on his church’s community garden in Kansas City, Missouri.  Back in February, he provided us with a brief overview of the planning and preparation involved in it.  Today he recaps how the garden handled the drought and tells us what they plan for the fall.

Terry:  How did the garden fare this summer?

Tom:  It has been a very rough summer for the garden.  It began with so much promise but as the heat and lack of moisture continued on the plants were stressed.  For example the cucumber plants soon gave up their struggle and produced only 3-4 fruits.  We had to pick them very early also as they became very bitter if left on the vine to grow to maturity.  The Yukon Gold potatoes produced probably half of what we expected and the soil came up in big clods and were more like rocks as the potatoes had pulled out all soil moisture.  We were able to get beets, turnips and summer squash before the intense weather struck.  The green beans produced one big harvest and then were done as they stopped blooming and setting on beans. The collards have done well as they have deep roots and I have harvested them 4 times thus far and expect to get at least one or two more before frost.  We deeply mulched the tomatoes and peppers putting down first newspaper and then at least 6-10 inches of straw.  This plus frequent watering saved them.  The hot peppers have done well but the bell peppers have produced small peppers with very thin walls to the fruit.  Our tomatoes are loaded with blooms and some are approaching 8 feet tall in their cages so we should have tomatoes up until frost.  The zinnias and marigolds have survived the summer though they do not look their best.  The okra is producing but only reached about half its normal height and production is about half of normal.  We won’t know for a few weeks just how the sweet potatoes were affected but expect the yield to be less than usual.  We will have to get rain or water them heavily before being able to even dig them.

We have a few winter squash that are reaching maturity and I think they made it only due to the shade of a pear tree that stands close to the garden. Insects were not surprisingly too much of a problem apart from some grasshoppers eating ripe tomatoes and squash bugs on the zucchini.

Terry:  Any plans for a Fall Garden?

Tom:   We have done two different plantings of turnips and the first planting a couple of weeks ago is up but only half the seed germinated.  The second planting just done this past weekend is up and looks good. I first made a row, watered it, then planted the seed in the moist soil and covered lightly with a rake.  This seemed to help the germination and I feel accounted for the difference between the two plantings.  Lettuce planted at the time of the first turnips planting has not come up.  Regular red radishes planted then have come up.  I noticed this morning that the Daikon radishes planted this past weekend are beginning to come up though the Buttercrunch lettuce planted at the same time has yet to appear.  I will plant Black Seeded Simpson leaf lettuce in a couple of weeks when it is hopefully a bit cooler. It only needs about 30-40 days to maturity.

Terry:  Overall comments or observations?

Tom:    Gardening this summer was not for the faint of heart but it still had some rewards.  When dealing with Mother Nature you soon learn that she controls the season and you can only react.  Hopefully fall will still give us some produce before the frost arrives.   It will soon be time to evaluate the season and decide what to plant for next year.

Community Garden Planning Interview Part 2

                                                                                            

Welcome back to Part Two of my interview with Tom Kincaid regarding his experiences with community gardening.

Terry:  How do you decide when to start planting?

Tom:  One member has a planting guide that he got from a gardening source and we use it somewhat.  However, all of us are long time gardeners and pretty well know by now when something needs to be planted or harvested.

Terry:  Anything else you’d like to add?

Tom:  A community garden is very rewarding in that you get to have fresh produce for your table and then get to share with other deserving folk.  It is a way for gardening people to give back to their communities.

Like most projects that include hard work, many show up in the initial stages but it soon comes down to a hardcore group of committed workers.  It is well worth the effort if you have the space and time.

Terry: Can we check in with you and the Good Shepherd Garden throughout the growing season?

Tom: I’d be happy to update you periodically on our progress in the garden this year.

Terry:  Great!  Thanks so very much, Tom, for sharing your advice and experience with us.

I hope our conversation with Tom will assist all who are rolling up their sleeves and digging in the dirt to help those in need.

Please leave any questions you have in the comments section and we’ll get back with you.

Planning a Community Garden

Many churches and community organizations sponsor community gardens to use their members’ gardening expertise to help people in need.  It’s a wonderful idea, but what does community gardening entail?

I’ve invited my brother, Tom Kincaid, an avid gardener and member of Church of the Good Shepherd, an Episcopal church in Kansas City, to share his experience working in a community garden.

Terry:  Welcome, Tom, and thanks for letting me interview you.  Who does your community garden serve and how long have you participated?

Tom:  I’ve been involved in the Good Shepherd community garden for three years.  It serves the Kansas City Community Kitchen, and in conjunction with Episcopal Services, they feed approximately 500-600 needy people five days per week. We agree to send 50% of everything grown in the garden to the KC Community Kitchen, although it ends up we send closer to 75% of most crops.

Terry:  How big is the garden?

Tom:  The garden is 75 feet by 70 feet. The soil was plowed from pasture land a dozen or more years ago and each year we add more fertilizer and mulch.  It is very good soil.

Terry:  Do you have a water hook-up nearby?

Tom:  We have a water hydrant just about 10 feet from the garden and have long hoses that can reach most parts of the garden.

Terry:  How many people work in the garden and how are the responsibilities divided up?

Tom:  There are five people currently involved with the garden, although most of the work falls to three of us.  One elderly lady works exclusively with the planting and harvesting of the okra.  Another gentleman works almost exclusively with the broccoli, cabbage, and beets.

The garden is divided roughly into quarters with three family units having a quarter and then one quarter is devoted to tomatoes and peppers for all.  The okra is grown in a couple of rows along one side of the garden.  The quarters are rotated in a clockwise fashion each year to prevent repeat planting of crops.  Flowers, usually zinnias and marigolds, are planted at the entrance and the sides of the garden for everyone’s use to cut for arrangements.

Terry:  How do you decide what to plant?

Tom:  We ask the Community Kitchen chef what they need.  Since many area churches also have community gardens, we try to grow produce to meet their specific needs.  For example, we are not growing as many tomato plants since the Community Kitchen gets lots of tomatoes donated during the summer season.  We grow more hot peppers than we did previously.

We also meet as a committee each January or February and review what was grown the previous year and then by consensus we agree on what is to be grown in each of our quarters.

Terry:  What will you plant this year?

Tom:  Our main crops are sweet potatoes, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes, collard greens, Swiss chard, okra, broccoli, beets, and turnips.  We decided to grow kale for the first time this year.

Some space is left in our quarter for us to grow vegetables that appeal only to us.  In my section, I will grow for my own use some sugar snap peas. We usually share with one another anything that is grown in the garden.  I share produce from my quarter with several elderly folk.

Terry:  Where do you get your seeds and plants?

Tom:  Most of the seeds are acquired from Planters Seed Co located in the River Market area of Kansas City, though some are also purchased from seed catalogs and bought in bulk.

Check in tomorrow and I’ll post the remainder of my interview with Tom.  If you have any questions regarding the community garden, please let me know in the comments section.  See you tomorrow!