Edible Peace Patch Blogs

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Friday, January 29, 2010

helping hands make a world of change

Just as expected, the garden experienced some serious changes after two Eckerd College winter term classes volunteered their time and energy at the Edible Peace Patch. Although these classes were only at the garden for a few hours, a tremendous amount of work was accomplished. It is always amazing to see what a small group can do when they work collectively to complete several tasks.

For many of these students, it was their first time to work in a garden. They were quickly broken in, however, as they were asked to spread a heaping pile of horse manure throughout all of the beds in the garden. The garden beds were supplemented with a healthy mixture of the horse manure and the rich soil from the compost pile. This should create some extremely nutrient rich soil for this spring’s crops.
At the southern end of the garden, just beyond the three sisters and the pineapples, the latest addition to the garden was created. Last semester’s watermelon plant grew so large that a large four sided trellis had to be constructed in order to keep the plant from taking over the entire garden. Thus, six square plots were dug and supplemented with manure to make way for a new watermelon patch. Now the watermelon plants will be able sprawl out as far as they please.

Several things were also planted this week to get ready for the spring. The pollinator bed received a fresh planting of several varieties of wild flowers. Marigolds were planted along the perimeter of the garden between the mammoth sunflowers. Corn was planted in the three sisters’ garden, and the watermelon patch received its first seeds. Several tomatoes have been placed in starting trays to get ready for next semester. Another sweet potato crop was planted, while other plants, such as the beans and the watermelon, are already appearing as volunteers in several of the vacant beds.

Next week, the new of crew of Eckerd College students that will be volunteering for the semester will be holding its first meeting of the year to prepare for the season ahead. These students are eager to start working in the garden and spend some time with the students of Lakewood Elementary. Some of these students are returning to the schoolyard from previous semesters, while others will be volunteering for the first time. With a new group of volunteers and a fresh layer of fertilizer in the beds, we can expect a very fruitful semester ahead.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Signs of Spring

The sun broke through the clouds, the temperature began to rise, and it began to feel a little more like Florida outside. Unfortunately, the pleasant weather came a little too late for many of the plants in the Edible peace Patch. Many of our plants simply could not handle the harsh freezes that slammed the garden last week. Many of the plants, including the peppers, tomatoes and okra had to be removed from the ground. As a result, the tomatoes had to be picked a little prematurely, but hopefully they will be able to ripen off of the vine. There are now many open beds in the Edible Peace Patch. While the garden seems a bit bare and lonely right now, It is exciting to know that in a few short weeks the garden will once again be bursting with life and healthy snacks in the rapidly approaching spring season.
Because many of the plants had to be removed, the compost is now filled with an abundance of organic material from the plants that will be broken down into nutrient rich soil to be used in the garden at a later date. By turning the compost, you can see the tremendously rich soil that has been cooking since last semester. Soon this soil will be added to the beds to increase the nutrients and rebuild the health of the soil. It Is always a rewarding process to watch the gardens plant matter break down into healthy soil that will one day help to grow healthy plants.

In the upcoming days, the garden might expect some changes. A class of volunteers from Eckerd College will be arriving to lend a hand for a couple of days. Some of these students will be returning volunteers of the edible peace patch, while others in the group will be undertaking their fist gardening experience. The garden is always in need of a little more help and it is truly incredible how much can be accomplished when a group of hardworking volunteers put in just a few hours of sincere effort. The garden was built by the hands of volunteers, and only grows stronger as more and more people devote their time and energy to it.

This week a group of children came out to the garden with their teacher to learn about healthy foods that they should incorporate into their diet. The children were excited to see that broccoli and turnips would be ready to eat soon. While there was a limited amount of vegetable to show them, the children were quick to remember the types of plants that had grown last semester and even remembered which beds they were planted in. I was amazed (as was their teacher)by the amount of information that they had retained since last semester. The students were eager to share their knowledge of pollination, composting, and the life cycle of the pineapple plants. The students cannot wait until this spring when they will once again be allowed to explore the garden on a more regular basis. Hopefully, this semester they will acquire even more science related gardening knowledge that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

tall flowers, low temperatures

As one approaches Lakewood Elementary, their attention is immediately drawn to the garden’s beautiful sunflowers. The small plants that were barely knee high at the beginning of December are now towering overhead. Some of these yellow headed beauties have reached ten feet or taller. With these massive flowers surrounding the entire perimeter of the garden, the peace patch seems incredibly surreal.

The tomato plants have grown tremendously as well, and are now filled with countless beautiful tomatoes on the verge of ripening. The weight of the tomatoes was actually bringing some of the plants down, and new support structures had to be added. Hopefully in the near future we will see these veggies turn from green to red, otherwise we might have to try our luck at preparing the southern delicacy of fried green tomatoes.

The sweet potato plant finally reached the end of its life cycle, after almost a year of unending growth. Thus, the delicious potatoes were ready to be harvested. The quantity of sweet potatoes was truly astonishing. Just as you thought that they were all out of the ground, another half dozen would soon be excavated. These delicious tubers varied in size, with some of the larger one’s able to rival squash and zucchini!

The unbelievably cold weather that we received this week certainly took its toll on many of the plants in the peace patch. Unfortunately, many of the plants, such as the okra, Peppers and nasturtiums are simply not fit for the repeat days of below freezing temperatures. Other plants, however, such as the broccoli, snap peas, radishes and kale, seem to be unharmed by the Tundra-like conditions experienced in the south over the past few days. The Aloe Vera is another surprising survivor of the harsh weather. It is still questionable whether the tomatoes will be able to recover. As more and more plants reach the end of their growing cycle and as more beds become vacant, it is important to look forward to the spring, and remember that every ending is the making of a new beginning.

The Lakewood students are certainly ready for spring planting to begin. Everyday students have been walking past the garden, inquiring about what plants are going to be planted next and when they will be able to return to the garden and see the students of Eckerd College. Soon enough, the children will return to the garden and their laughter will be echoing off the massive walls of sun flowers.