Sunday, March 25, 2012

Student Operated Agricultural Project (S.O.A.P) - A Brief Overview

Working Title: Student Operated Agricultural Project (S.O.A.P)

Possible Motto: "We don't mind getting our hands dirty as long as we have S.O.A.P."

Second Group Project: Come up with a better name. :-)

Who: People who want to garden but who do not want an individual plot. This could be for people who can participate part of the time but might be out of town part of the time during the spring and summer, people who don't want to manage an individual plot, people who like the idea of working on a team, novice gardeners, experienced gardeners, etc.

What: Pilot Project in the Community Garden, using the team plot which is roughly 1600 sq. ft.

In addition to the individual, pea-patch plots in the garden, we  have a huge group plot. In past years this plot has been underutilized. I'm not going to lie, it is a lot of work. But when the work is shared by several gardeners, it gets a lot easier and fun. The plot is big enough that the group could potentially grow enough to supply themselves with a small CSA. The folks who do the work will be the ones who share the harvest.

Ideally it would be a group of between 10 and 20 potential gardeners who will create a modified and smaller version of the Wendell Berry Community Garden in east Olympia. As presented on their website:

"...our garden is managed by a collective of people who
jointly share responsibility for planning, tending and
enjoying the bounty. Collective management allows us to
think more long term and to design systems to maximize
the sustainability of the land. For example, we are
committed to producing all of the compost and organic
material needed for ongoing soil health on site, so that
we don’t need to continually bring in outside inputs, thereby
reducing our environmental impact and carbon footprint.

This has not been tried before at Evergreen, so it will be a pilot program. The student garden team would share in the work and fun of preparing the soil, creating seed beds, and rows, decide what crops they want to plant, start seeds in the greenhouse, transplant starts and direct sow seeds, thin seedlings, weed, water, compost weeds and crop residue, and the on-going harvest. It would require peopl who would be willing to agree in advance to share and share alike.

I did plant a couple rows of garlic and shallots last November, which seem to be doing well so far...those would also be shared with the garden team. Required work time could vary depending on people's schedule. Some people might be around a lot in the spring but not in the summer, and vice-versa.

Right now the soil is still way to wet and cold to work without creating mud, so we have time to compile a list of people who might be interested.

What would be great is, people who are interested, email and let me know what days and times might work out for you to have meetings during spring quarter. The meetings and work parties are where the garden team will plan out what they want to do.


-Matthew, Community Gardens Coordinator
"The Loop" :

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Making paper pots for seed starts.

(click any picture for a larger view)

Here's an idea some of you might have heard of before...making your own seed pots out of paper.

Nick Wooten explained his method to me today so I gave it a try.

**Caution: When using glass be careful not to use too much force - you don't want to break the glass and cut yourself.**

For equipment all you need is a drinking glass or vase that is not tapered or fluted (see picture), some old newspaper or shopping bags, a pair of scissors, some kind of tray, and of course a little soil.

Cut the paper into can pick the width of the strips after a few trial runs... then you roll the paper strip around the glass. I noticed that if I didn't wrap it very tight it was easier to finish.

Next, fold the end of the rolled up paper into the mouth of the jar.

Then carefully remove the jar from the paper roll. This is where you discover that a looser wrap makes things easier.

Then you insert the bottom of the glass into the paper roll and mash the wadded paper down on a counter top or table, packing it pretty good. This is where you want to make sure you don't use too much force on the glass. The last thing you want is broken glass and possibly cut hands

So then you fill them with your soil and put them in your tray. See that tray I'm using? I recommend using something with a little taller sides because the paper pots can be a little wobbly before they are watered, especially if it's your first time making them. Mine is just some old tray out of an old microwave.

Notice the variety of sizes I made? Uh...that was on purpose...yeah. I think I will become more skilled with practice.

Oh yeah, I have also been saving my cardboard egg cartons.

I planted this first batch with seeds I had left over from last year...basil, cilantro and beets. The tray is now sitting in the kitchen window. I will update after I see for myself how the pots hold up.

The beauty of these otherwise ugly pots is, you are re-using paper and when it comes time to transplant all you do is tear off the bottom and plant the whole thing. Considerably less transplant shock.

Also, for people with kids (assuming you use sturdy glasses) it is a great teaching moment about re-using and about seeds and plants.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Freshening Up the Greenhouse!

(click on any picture for larger view)

One good winter job is cleaning and refreshing our little greenhouse to get it ready for early seed starts and also prepare the soil for planting.

Here is what it looked like earlier in the day...

I put screen doors at both ends for better ventilation. This is from the east door, facing west... the tall brown stalks are all that is left of the beefsteak tomatoes we grew last season.
This year we will be trying some different heat-loving plants.

Here is the view from the west screen door, facing east toward the farm. The pile of dried brown stalks in the left corner are the remnants of our chamomile drying efforts. Much seed was saved and we will be planting chamomile in the herb garden this year.

Here's what it looked like after the housekeeping. I cleaned out the old plants and then amended the soil with just a touch of chicken manure from the farm. Then I mulched it with straw and watered it in really well (using a watering can and rain barrel - the water supply is turned off until freezing danger has passed).

While I was working the soil I felt pretty good about its condition. Last year it was a hard-packed, anaerobic smelly mess. You might remember that I literally excavated the entire greenhouse down to about two feet then broke up the packed clods and added some Black Gold topsoil and compost then replaced the soil. This year the soil was nice and crumbly with a good population of earthworms. It is a lot better shape than last year. That is kind of gratifying.

So here's what it looked like when I was done. When I build the seed tray tables last year I designed them with removeable sections so when we are done with our seed starts we can grow heat-loving plants in the ground. Last year we did tomatoes on the south side and peppers on the north side (with some lemon cucumbers mixed in). This year we need to switch out to something else. I think we should try our hand at melons. Except for the plastic, we built this greenhouse entirely from reclaimed lumber. The frame is from construction site cast-offs and the seed tray tables were a bed frame and headboard in an earlier life.

Open Letter to Potential Gardeners:

Hello all potential Community Gardeners!
I just wanted to keep everyone in the loop about what is going on.
First things first, the new garden contract and application is FINISHED and approved by Student Activities, which means we have been able to create a schedule.
The formal start of the new gardening season in spring equinox which, this year, is March 20th. Generally it is still too wet and cold to do much in the ground but we can get our seed starts going in the greenhouse and do other preparations.

So here is the schedule:
Feb. 22nd - Finalize Application and contract - DONE!
Feb. 29th - Applications and Contracts available for interested gardeners
March 14th - Applications deadline for first round of plot assignments.
March 20 - Plot notification

I am making copies of the applications and contracts. They can be picked up in person at the garden starting Wednesday, February 29th. I will be in the garden that Wednesday between 12 and 3pm. On Saturday, March 3rd and March 10th I have reserved the farmhouse from 12-2pm so apps and contracts can be picked up (and turned in) on those days.
I am also on campus Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday afternoons so we can schedule a time at our garden cubicle on the third floor of the CAB building. The due date for applications is March 14th. Applications will be reviewed by Student Activities staff and myself. If there are more applications than there are available plots, assignment will be based on a lottery-style drawing. Anyone not drawn will be placed on a waiting list in case a plot becomes available.
I will let you know, via email, on March 20th whether or not you got a plot. Once we get the plots assigned, together we can schedule a potluck meeting to get together and meet each other and get rolling!!  Whooo-hoooo!!
-Matthew, Community Gardens Coordinator
"The Loop" :

Saturday, January 14, 2012

It won't be long now!!

Letter to Gardeners:

Hello Gardeners!

It won't be long now :-)

Just wanted to let everybody know, I sent an email out to the potential new gardeners (copied below) to get them oriented to the garden and start filling out garden contracts. Depending on who shows up there may be a group of people walking through the garden the next couple of Saturdays.

Tabling: After the two garden orientations, if there are any plots still available, I was planning on tabling in the CAB for an hour or two. I'll let you know if that is happening and it would be great if a couple people could join me.

Contracts: Everybody who kept their plot also has to fill out a new contract. Evergreen staff and faculty and community members will have to turn their contracts in at the cashier's office. Fees are: 12x12 plot, $10 for Evergreen staff and faculty, $20 for community members. Current Evergreen students also have to fill out the contract. If you have a current Evergreen i.d. there is no extra charge. Fees go to help offset the cost of seeds and tools.
Contracts are required, even if you have filled on out before. I will have contracts with me at the work parties after orientation. Be sure to read them over. There are a few requirement we all have to meet in order to participate in the community gardens.

Lock for the shed: I got a new lock for the shed, the old one is pretty shot. I haven't put it on yet.

Seeds: At one of the meetings we can pool our ideas about what sees to order. We should do that within the next month or so to avoid the spring rush.

A few changes from last year: Hopefully there will be a team of people working the community plot this year. These will be folks who don't want to have an individual plot. The community plot will be theirs to work, so it should be respected the same way we respect other peoples plots. This is a change from previous years, in that we should not glean food from the community plot unless we put in the work. Like I said, "hopefully". There are more people interested in gardening than ever, and only a limited number of plots so this will give more people a chance.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Community Gardens <>
Date: Sat, Jan 14, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Hello everybody!

Mark your calendars!

Garden orientations will be Saturday,  January 21 and Saturday January 28

at 1 pm. We'll do a stroll through the garden, get familiar with where everything is, go over the garden contract and take a look at some potential projects people might be interested in. I will hand out contracts for people to take home and read over.

After the orientations we will have an idea about how many people we have interested in gardening this season and start doing plot assignments. Plot assignment priority will be given to those who come to orientations and work parties. After that, if there are still plots available, we will start with first come, first served.

 There are a limited number of plots, so sharing is encouraged. We also have a large community plot that will be gardened as a team effort by folks who don't want to have an individual plot.

Something to think about: There are things to do in the garden year-round but spring and summer are the most active. If you are not going to be here for most of the summer you should definitely team up with a friend who is going to be here because plants don't make it through summer without care.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Compost Toilet = Locked for winter

I just got word from the farm manager, Melissa, that the composting toilet will be locked down for winter. I'm hoping we will have other  restroom facilities available to us for meetings. Maybe the work room since there is no PSA clas over winter quarter.
Hello Gardeners and Potential Gardeners!!

Gee, what's happened to winter? So far it has not rained much and it has not been very cold. There, now that I posted that it will rain and snow until July, right?

For winter quarter the garden will have meetings/work parties every Wednesday from noon - 2 pm.

We meet outside in the garden but if there is any interest we will also do indoor meetings/potlucks (pot-luk: bring food)

Our beloved advisor is checking to see if we can use the farmhouse over winter quarter. There is

no PSA class this winter so hopefully it will be open. Alternatively, I will see if we can use the farm

work room.
Meetings are for Gardeners, Potential Gardeners or anyone who wants to do stuff outside in the winter.

The list of projects is getting longer, not shorter :-)  I am posting the winter project list and the status of each project.

Hopefully you will find something that interests you...


Tool Inventory. (DONE!!)

Stack and Organize the donated pots so they are ready for spring starts (currently stacked outside fence by rain barrels)

Store lumber that is over by the greenhouse

Clean out Greenhouse

Tool Cleaning and Sharpening. (Started)

Prepare soil in greenhouse and clean up the surrounding area

"Re-grid" the garden. Plots have been encroaching on paths. Let's find out how many plots we
really have available.(Started)

Restore Pathways. Leveling and applying wood chips in places.

Tool Shopping

Flip Compost Piles. (On-going project)

Build New Compost Piles. This could be smelly as it involves chicken manure.

Mulch Fence line. (I started this, using straw - Also we can plan what we want to plant there this year. Last year we did
pumpkins and cucumbers with some success.

Also, it would be fun to show a movie over the winter. I am hoping to show Greenhorns if that's cool with everybody.

We can pop corn and give away tickets. I was hoping to get a few local farmers to come and chat with the movie goers

too. Anybody want to help on this one? Or have other garden related movies to show?

Later in the winter around mid-February:

Form Central Plot gardening team

Crop planning for Central Plot

Seed Order

(Note: I oiled the lock but it is still kind of bogus so I will be getting a new

lock soon. I will email the combo to registered gardeners.)