Tuesday, May 18, 2010

First Ginsberg Workdays of the Summer

Last week, we had our first workdays of the season at Cultivating Community's demonstration garden at the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning.

The Ginsberg Garden, as we like to call it, is located in front of the Center on the corner of Hill St. and East University Ave. This garden is about six years old now, but every year brings new surprises. At our most recent workday, we discovered a number of "volunteers," which is a gardening term for plants that show up unexpectedly in the garden from seeds dropped by birds, inadvertantly mixed into compost, or fallen from last year's plants.

Among our volunteer plants were dill, tomatoes, kale, borage, and calendula. We chose to pull out many of them simply because there would not be room left in the garden for anything else if we let them grow, but we let a few of these "freebies" stay for the season.

We also pulled out several rows of rye grass, which served as a cover crop for the winter. Cover crops refer to any plants (typically grasses or legumes) that are planted during the off-season to protect or add nutrients to garden soil. Cover crops prevent erosion by keeping soil covered through winter's harsh winds. They have other benefits, too: they suppress weeds, reduce insect pests and diseases, and can add valuable nutrients back to the land. Legumes are excellent as cover crops because they fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, increasing soil fertility. Cover crops removed in the spring can be composted with other organic matter and reapplied to the garden as compost later in the season. Cover crops that are not removed but rather plowed directly back into the soil, called "green manure," also add valuable organic matter to the soil.

Once all the unwanted plants were removed and tossed into the compost pile, we added a layer of finished compost to each row of the garden. The photo below shows the end result- a garden ready for spring planting. Thank you to all the volunteers who came out on a blustery Wednesday and a beautiful Friday to get the job done!

Join us this week for more weeding, turning compost, transplanting seedlings, and more!

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