Thursday, June 30, 2011

What a Wednesday!!

Yesterday morning, several members of our "dream team" met with the new Extension Program Coordinator at the UMD Center for Educational Partnership, Christie Balch, to tour the community gardens and facilities on site in Riverdale. Before heading back to campus to gear up for volunteer night, we popped by Eco City Farms for inspiration and to talk collaboration.

Club President Allison Lilly couldn't hide her enthusiasm about our "growing garden family" and the arrival of grading and leveling equipment and representatives from Facilities Management.

"Best day ever," she said (several times) before running off to give a tour of the roof top gardens.

After snapping a few pictures of the raised beds and irrigation systems in place atop the dining halls, the photographer from Terp Magazine joined Lilly and the rest of the garden gang for a pumpkin planting at the Public Health Garden. Thanks to the St. Mary's Garden Club and Carin Celebuski, we had a pallate of pumpkin plants to add to Landscape Architect Bobby Tjaden's sketch for an interactive farm map (coming soon!).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Welcome Home, Praying Mantis

A few months back we found a Praying Mantis egg sack on the garden site. In order to protect it from accidentally being eaten by an Eco-Goat or damaged in other construction, our Farm Manager volunteered to take it home. Sometime in the last few weeks, the babies spilled out and ventured into the world. All except for one, that is... who showed up on the dashboard of the Farm Manager's vehicle this morning - as if to say "Can I go back to the garden site with you?"

And so the two of them travelled to the garden site where both enjoyed morning sun and conversations about beneficial insects.

Bye Bye Brush Pile

Special thanks to Adam Steven Shervanian, Bobby Tjaden and the loaner CRS truck for helping us rid the garden of that unsightly brush pile.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Community Support: ComposTumbler

If you walked passed the garden over the weekend, you may have noticed we did some plant relocating, supply reorganizing and have an awesome new ComposTumbler on site.

After winning one of ten rain barrels in the raffle at the WSSC lecture in College Park last weekend, we received an encouraging email from another attendee and local gardener, Janis Oppelt. Janis offered to donate her gently-used ComposTumbler to the project and our cause. We (obviously) accepted and couldn't be happier about the item and the incredible community support it exemplifies. As a student group dedicated to conservation, re-use and sustainability, we are proud to have mitigated the environmental cost of production and shipping a brand-new ComposTumbler and to have the opportunity to turn garden waste into "black gold" on-site already!

While most of our beans and remaining cucumbers were happily placed into the soil on Saturday morning, the few container plants that were struggling are on the path to becoming rich organic matter in as few as 90 days thanks to Janis's donation.

As always, you can check out our latest crop of photos on our Facebook page.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Site Update

Slowly but surely, the hillside designated for community gardening is taking shape. Wednesday night volunteers moved several of the cucumber and marigold plants out of containers into the ground, started an experimental root vegetable patch, and used donated straw designate a path and control weeds.

This weekend, the team hopes to get the remaining container plants and our glorious Red Delicious apple tree into the ground.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Water Conservation

Deb and Allie, proud recipients of one of ten rain barrels
from the Aquabarrel raffle

While Garden Guys (Bobby, Scott, Ben and Bob) planted fruit trees and worked on weeds on the hillside, Garden Girls (Allison Lilly, Deborah Dramby and Rachel Tennant) spent Saturday morning learning how to structure and plant a garden in order to make the best use of the 42 inches of rain that fall in our corner of Maryland yearly.

In a one-hour workshop, Community Outreach Manager for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) Kimberly M. Knox shared a collection of tips for water conservation. Kimberly Knox is also the coordinator of WSSC's Native Plant Demonstration Garden, a member of the Beltsville Garden Club and Editor of Landscaping for Water Conservation: Xeriscape. In other words: we took a lot of notes!

We learned that planting Multi flora Rose (one of our archenemies on the garden site) was originally encouraged for erosion control, WSSC gets 70% of our water from the Potomac and 30% from the Patuxent and in order to encourage strong roots, it is best to water deeply and infrequently.

After the lecture and drawing, Barry from Aquabarrel showed us the proper techniques for rain barrel installation and Allison managed to fit that rain barrel into the Prius.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Crop Swaps

James Williams, St Mary's College of Maryland

This has been a busy week* for the Garden Girls! Members of our executive team have been nurturing and building relationships with the University of Maryland's roof top gardeners, fellow garden clubs, student growers, experienced farmers and local foodies.

Last night, our Farm Manager Deborah Dramby joined Joel Bunker of Grow Annapolis and Sharon New of Local Food Beat on a panel presenting and discussing the local sustainable food movement in Maryland. Speakers and guests snacked on local berries and brainstormed solutions for the challenges local growers and consumers face or could face in the future. Meanwhile, Club President Allison Lilly found a lovely home for the remainder of our greenhouse-dwelling tomato and basil plants: the raised beds atop the North and South campus dining halls.

Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to visit our favorite weed-eaters, the Eco-Goats, at St. Mary's College of Maryland and tour of the student-run farm with James Williams. James was particularly taken with our purple beans so we did a good ol' fashioned crop swap. A few cucumbers and servings of beans for a beautiful kohlrabi, some garlic, and a few fancy melon plants.

We will be on site bright and early tomorrow morning swapping harvested crops for time spent weeding and turning over new beds. Stop in anytime between 8-11:00am. The more the merrier!

*Note that a farmer week = 7 days :-)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another Great Volunteer Day

Thank you to all the club members and volunteers who weeded, watered and nurtured the garden grounds last night. Special thanks to the First Lady of the School of Public Health, Barbara Gold (pictured above watering the companion plants she transplanted) for her consistent support, encouragement and sweat equity. As always, you can find lots of pictures on our Facebook and Flickr pages.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lecture Series: The Benefits of Eating Green

Please join the discussion this Thursday, June 16th 2011 at the seventh installment of the Quiet Waters Park Environmental Lecture Series: The Benefits of Eating Green. Speakers include: Joel Bunker of Grow Annapolis, Sharon New of Local Food Beat and Deborah Dramby on behalf of Allison Lilly and the University of Maryland Public Health Garden. We will be talking about how the local food and sustainable agriculture movement is impacting our health, community, economy, and ecosystems. Admission is free thanks to event sponsors: Friends of Quiet Waters Park.

6:30 PM Blue Heron Center, Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis. For more information, visit the event website or contact Natalie Nucifora at

Great Weekend for the PHG

Thanks to our fantastic club members and volunteers, we were able to add more stone and Stepables to our summer work entrance, clear away additional bed space and paths, get our apple trees and berry bushes on site, harvest a few more beans and cucumbers and deeply water our hillside farm.

As always, more pictures can be viewed on our Facebook and Flickr pages.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Volunteers Welcome Saturday Morning

Our Farm Manager and Executive Team Members will be on site tomorrow morning (Saturday, June 11th) from 8-11:00am weeding, preparing more soil for planting, harvesting, and doing general site maintenance. If you'd like to lend a hand, we'd like to offer you a share of the produce harvested.

Too busy this weekend? No problem! We will be on site two times per week all summer long: Wednesday evenings from 5:30-8:00pm and Saturday mornings from 8-11:00am (weather permitting).

Please review our safety suggestions here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Persistence in Purpose Leads to Success"

Thanks to several volunteers who braved the heat last night, we applied fresh compost to the soil around our young pepper and tomato plants, pulled up stubborn weeds, cleared a path to our temporary beds, and harvested four more pounds of produce. As always, we snapped a few pics. Find the rest on our Facebook or Flickr page.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who is ready to garden and get sweaty!?

Hello, friends and volunteers. Immediately following our weekly club meeting in the School of Public Health we will be headed out to the site to clear remaining weeds on the lower portion of the hill, landscape a small entrance with slate stones and stepables, spread donated compost, pot our new shade plants and sow seeds into the beds we prepare. We need lots of volunteers so come on down!

A few safety suggestions:

- Closed-toed shoes are required and long pants are suggested. Garden girls Allison Lilly and Rachel Rosenberg-Goldstein look adorable in the photo, but they are professionals and were only on site momentarily to move these tools into storage. We would prefer that our volunteers wear clothing that can protect them from thorns, heavy tools, insects and sunburn.

- Come prepared. We will have some natural insect repellent sprays, gloves, sunscreen, and first aid on site - but that supply could deplete quickly if we have a lot of volunteers. If you have a known bee allergy, please bring the appropriate medication.

- Hydrate. We have record high heat and humidity in Maryland today so please start drinking water now and bring your re-usable bottle tonight.

- Bring a bag. We have a few items ready for harvest that volunteers can take home on a first pick, first take basis.

- Garden at your own risk. The university is not liable for any injury to person or property.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Garden Social at Behnke Nurseries

The garden girls had a fantastic time hanging out with our friends and collaborators at Behnke Nurseries' Garden Social yesterday. We gifted more than 50 basil and thyme plants to attendees, swapped PHG seedlings for a few plants on our wish list: nandina shade shrub and a hardy begonia AND won a palate of stepables from Sandy's Plants in the raffle.

On top of being surrounded by incredibly beautiful and rare plants and people, we had the opportunity to learn about rain barrels, ideal soil mixtures for raised beds, edible begonias, sacred herbs and celebrated native plants from local and national experts. Special thanks to everyone who shared their experiences with us!

Check out pictures from the day on our facebook page.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Update from June 1 Meeting: Our Summer Plans

Please check out the meeting minutes from our first weekly summer meeting.  Thanks to those that attended.  We were excited to have Dean Gold from the School of Public Health and his wife Barbara there to support the kick off of the summer at the Public Health Garden! We hope you all enjoyed the bean and cucumbers salads:
Recipes are available here
The major take away from the meeting is that we are going to start our open harvest days on June 8 (next Wed).  We will have two open harvest days (available to anyone) each week where volunteers can weed and participate in other tasks around the garden, as well as harvest the produce available.  If you remember, bring a bag (or we will try to have some available) to take produce home with you. Make sure we weigh and document the food before you head home though- we are keeping a tally. Open harvest times are as follows:
  • Wed. 5:15 - 7pm (we will be holding a weekly, quick meeting beforehand from 5-5:15)
  • Sat. 8 - 11 am 
We will also be holding work days as needed in the garden to take care of much larger tasks, such as building raised beds, starting our compost pile, organizing our utility area, planting permanent plants, etc. These events will be announced as they are scheduled and volunteers will be able to sign up (or just show up) to help.

Next Wed., we will be installing another temporary bed at the bottom of the site and continue to anticipate the construction of Phase 1 of the top tier of the garden. It looks like we are getting very close to construction with UMD Facilities Management and the generous support of Potomac Valley Brick (more details to come). 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy Harvest!

A few of our Institute of Applied Agriculture collaborators braved the heat yesterday and harvested three varieties of green beans and a few cucumbers from our currently-container garden. The happy harvesters commended the health of our striped zucchini plants and snapped a few pics of the veggies and our recently built "guerrilla garden." To see how the School of Public Health's Allison Lilly turned those beans into a delicious dish for our weekly meeting, check out the First Harvest post on Adventures in Container Gardening.

Some Success in Solarization

Although we have decided to remove the tarps - and the mosquito larvae their puddles are hosting - we are pleased to report that they were fairly successful in our continuing battle with the weeds. Special thanks to everyone who donated a tarp and pitched in advice and ideas!