All posts by Emy Scherrer

University buildings at the base of Mount Sentinel as seen from Mount Jumbo. Hughes Gardens are in the foreground. Missoula, Montana, 1901. Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.

“Putting the Gardens Back in the Garden City”

In my first blog post as the Community Gardens Outreach Coordinator, I wrote a “ramble” on the connection between historic preservation and community gardening, titled The Solace of Shared Place. On March 16th, 2016, a mere 30 days after I began working for Garden City Harvest, I waxed poetic in the concluding paragraph of that first post;

Community gardening builds community through agriculture and shared place. Historic preservation builds community through shared meaning. Both facilitate the observer, visitor, gardener, to cultivate their own sense-of-place. Both tie cultural landscapes together. As anew member of the Garden City Harvest team, my past in historic preservation has lent me an appreciation of the local place and a specific lens in which to view our mission. Yet, this organization has taught me more – – GCH has taught me the many other ways of building community, and most importantly, it has cemented my belief in the solace of shared place. Whether a green garden or a defunct industrial ruin, both serve as reminders of community, and undergirds the process of place-based progress. Both bring us all together.

Little did I know when rambling 15 months ago that the notion of historic preservation would become such a vanguard within the Garden City’s communal conversation.  Even less did I know that co-coordinating Community Gardens would lead me directly back into the world of building community through historic places, and that the lessons I learned while sowing seeds with my fellow community members would prove my previous romantically concocted notion, that a special union exists between old places, green places and shared places, to be inextricably true. That when value is cross-pollinated amongst these places, the collective strength of a community thrives: historic preservation and community gardening both serve to construct place through interaction with our local landscapes.

Which brings me to this: My last day as the Garden City Harvest Community Gardens Outreach Coordinator is today. In cyclical fashion, I accepted a position with our local government working to maintain Missoula’s historic fabric. The work will be different, but I can now say for fact that the mission is the same. I thank Garden City Harvest for:

  • Proving that the local is paramount in all aspects of building community
  • Illuminating the subtle nuances that make Missoula special, narrating our collective story, fueling the fire for which we choose to protect this city, progress this city, and respect this city.

Thank you Garden City Harvest for not only building community, but for believing in and celebrating this very special place we live in.

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So! As my fond farewell, here’s a quick history lesson in celebrating the union of local history and community gardening:

Why is the Garden City named the Garden City, after all?

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Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.

Here’s why: because Missoula is so goshdarn dreamy that’s why. No, just kidding, not really, but no.

Much debate surrounds the origin of the Garden City. Some say it was termed due to our relatively mild climate compared to the rest of the state, and thus its delightful environs for habitation. Some say that Missoula became the Garden City as it was known across the region for its boulevards with mature trees and purposely landscaped median lanes – a practice we’ve lost with the onset of traffic, but one which will hopefully make its way back to the Garden City. Others say that it’s due to the fertile Bitterroot Valley, and the quick, widespread and easy settlement of farming.

Missoula, Montana and the northern portion of The University of Montana campus from Mount Sentinel. The Power Plant, Prescott house and garden is visible at the base of Mount Sentinel, 1922. Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library
Missoula, Montana and the northern portion of The University of Montana campus from Mount Sentinel. The Power Plant, Prescott house and garden is visible at the base of Mount Sentinel, 1922. Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.

Although this area was originally named “Nemissoolatakoo,” a Salish word from which Missoula is derived, our charming slogan commenced, like the majority of development in the American West, after the Northern Pacific Railroad laid ties along the Clark Fork in 1883.[1] With it came the usual flurry of development; city infrastructure, trading, industry and of course, farming. What sets Missoula apart from growth in other western towns is the succession from traditional style farming, with sprawled fields located outside the urban core, to subdivided and incorporated farming communities located within the Missoula urban core. The planned incorporation of “rural” living spaces, platted and added as a city addition, articulated farming and gardening as a major character defining trait of the community.

In the late 1800s, farmers and developers alike realized that Missoula’s soils were, despite the short growing season, especially conducive to growing, as Missoula quickly became the main supplier of farmed goods to lumber and mining towns across the region. As Missoula expended across the Clark Fork and to the south, land owners sought the opportunity in developing Missoula’s first intentional community. Orchard Homes was subdivided along the south bank of the river and marketed with the sole purpose of family farming and gardening.

In 1900, Samuel Dinsmore and R.M. Cobbin purchased 640 acres near present day 3rd Street and Reserve for $1.25 per acre. They subdivided the area into properties of about five to ten acres in size, which initiated the development of “gentlemen farms,” or “farmettes.”[2]  Shortly thereafter, an irrigation ditch was built and the land in the new Orchard Homes area was sold for $100 to $300 per acre. In total, 300 irrigated 5-10 acre tracts were individually farmed and cultivated between the turn of the century and the 1980s, when newer development and single and multi-family homes began to fill in the once open landscape. [3]

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Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.

The establishment of gentlemen farming was growing on a national scale as well. With the advancement of urban infrastructure and industry came concern for traditional farmer welfare. Eight years after Dinsmore and Cobbin subdivided Orchard Homes, and four years after the irrigation ditch was added, President Teddy Roosevelt established the Country Life Commission, or, the Rural West Initiative. As Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West states,

President Teddy Roosevelt believed that rural America was the ‘backbone of our nation’s efficiency,’ but that rural life risked being left behind in the modern America emerging in the first decade of the 20th century. In 1908, he formed a Commission on Country Life, headed up by Liberty Hyde Bailey, to investigate ways of making country life more attractive. The 1909 Report of the Country Life Commission highlighted a list of “deficiencies” in rural life that were prompting people to leave the country for the city, but had few concrete recommendations for remedying the situation. One hundred years later, just about all of those “deficiencies” still plague rural America, and people are still leaving country for the city. Despite its apparent lack of results, however, the Report remains a landmark for the attention it brought to issues of country life, and it remains an inspiration for our Rural West Initiative.[4]

Although the Country Life Report may have failed in enacting change in other locales around the country, Missoula took it in stride, and even exemplified remedies that the report otherwise fell short in advancing. In 1911, following the Country Life Report, and in conjunction with the success of Missoula’s farmettes, the ladies and gentlemen farmers enacted the Orchard Homes Country Club, “with the purposes of providing a community center, mutual welfare, and a better rural environment for its members.” [5]  Members of the club were able to volunteer as local firefighters, advocate for Women’s Suffrage, and generally promote civil and community service on a local level.

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Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.
Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.
Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.
Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.

In addition to gentlemen farming, rural advocacy and providing goods to the region, the Bitterroot was on the forefront of agricultural showmanship with the advent of the McIntosh Red Apple. The McIntosh helped the area develop a wider scale of export and recognition – but I’m getting a little off point, read more about our historical relationship with the McIntosh Red here!

University buildings at the base of Mount Sentinel as seen from Mount Jumbo. Hughes Gardens are in the foreground. Missoula, Montana, 1901. Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.
University buildings at the base of Mount Sentinel as seen from Mount Jumbo. Hughes Gardens are in the foreground. Missoula, Montana, 1901. Photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library.

The Orchard Homes farmette concept proved successful in the years following development. In 1904, four years after Orchard Homes was subdivided, the Northern Pacific Railroad flaunts this success in a report entitled, Irrigation in Montana:

“Missoula is at the head of the Bitter Root Valley, long celebrated for its fertility, and for its possi­bilities in the way of horticulture. Bitter Root Valley apples have long been famous, and it is expected that this year there will be over 200,000 boxes or bushels of apples shipped from this valley to the eastern market.

Plans are now under way for the construction of irri­gation ditches in this valley, which will put water upon 70,000 acres of land, and, with the completion of these projects, it is needless to say that this valley will soon be one of the most populous and prosperous in the west. What has been accomplished by those -who have settled in the vicinity of Missoula may be seen from the following statements:

Missoula, Mont., Oct. 9, 1901.

Dear Sir.—I have just harvested the last of my Orchard Home crop. Had you told me a little over a year ago, when I made my purchase of ten acres, that I would realize in dollars and cents the amount which I have this year, I would not have believed you.

My crop and profits this season have been enormous; I will clear over $1,000 on seven and one-half acres, two acres of cabbage alone bringing me $400. I know of no land anywhere that is so admir­ably suited to the raising of fruit and vegetables as that obtain­able in the “Orchard Homes.” I am more than satisfied with my investment and know of nothing which brings the return on the money invested which an Orchard Home tract will bring a man who will tend it properly.

I will freely give the result of my experience and success to anyone who will call on me or write me, feeling in so doing that I will be conferring a lasting benefit on him if I can interest him as I have been interested myself.

-H.G. DAVIS.

To: Samuel Dinsmore. Missoula, Mont., Oct. 8. 1903.

Dear Sir. I do not believe that there is a property owner in the Orchard Homes who can so freely and justly express his views regarding the fertility and productiveness of the soil as the under­signed….

M.A. ROBINSON.”[6]

And so forth and so on.

Thus became the Garden City forevermore.

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Yesterday, Garden City Harvest unveiled the public phase of building its new farmstead with an official press conference. The farmstead is located at the River Road farm, and will include a new farmhouse style office and community barn space. More specifically, the new home of Garden City Harvest, whose motto once stated, “putting the gardens back in the garden city,” is located on one of the original tracts of land platted within Dinsmore and Cobbin’s historic Orchard Homes. Although the majority of parcels within this plat addition have been further subdivided and developed into single and multi-family homes since the 1970s, the River Road Farmstead will now serve as a vestige, harkening to a time when the land was devoted to farming, the very land which constructed the identity of Missoula as we know it. Garden City Harvest is now joining our forefathers who sowed the same land, those advocates for the rural west, apple farmers who put the Bitterroot region on the map, and initial community builders through agriculture, over 100 years ago.

What a pleasure it has been,

Emy, Former Community Gardens Outreach Coordinator

P.S. – Check out the Montana Memory Project for more historic photos and documents about Missoula!


 

[1] Make it Missoula, “History of Missoula, MT,” Make it Missoula, last modified 2017, accessed May 10, 2017, http://www.makeitmissoula.com/community/history-of-missoula/.

[2] Stan Cohen, Missoula County Images II (Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1993), [16].

[3] “Orchard Homes Country Life Club Records, 1906-1994.” Archives West, last modified 2011, accessed February 29, 2016, http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv94555.

[4] Stanford University, “Teddy Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission,” Rural West Initiative – Bill Lane Center for the American West, last modified 2012, accessed May 10, 2017, http://web.stanford.edu/group/ruralwest/cgi-bin/drupal/content/country-life-commission.

[5] “Orchard Homes Country Life Club Records, 1906-1994.”

[6] Irrigation in Montana (n.p.: Northern Pacific Railway Company, 1904), [21].

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April Showers Bring May Flowers…

Welcome back new and returning gardeners! 

We’re two weeks in, after faring an especially chilly Opening Day.  Missoulian gardeners are tough cookies, they took the cold winds in stride, showing up smiling and ready to dig into the season (no pun intended ;). Take a gander at your hardy selves below, and pat your backs on a such a successful start!

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Kelly finds surprises from last season in her plot at Milwaukee Trail.
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The crew is all smiles at Milwaukee Trail.
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Maria holding down the fort at Meadow Hill.
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The lovely ladies of the Milwaukee Trail Leadership.
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Amy and Maria warm up by the fire at Meadow Hill, lucky ducks.
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Leadership Committee Member, Emily Kern’s mother helps get things started at ASUM.
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ASUM, with 70 plots, is the second largest garden of the troop, making Opening Day an especially social event.
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New gardeners, new smiles at ASUM.
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This pic of Northside Leaders Brian and Joe definitely wasn’t staged  ;)
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Returning gardeners know the drill at ASUM.
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A rare moment of sunshine see these returning gardeners off at ASUM.

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New gardeners dig in at the Northside.

Whether you’re a new or returning gardener, it can be challenging to get back in the swing of things, especially after the distressingly long winter we’ve endured. But fear not, we’re here to help. Attend the Gardening 101 & Planning Workshop tomorrow, from 6:00 – 7:30, led by gardening-extraordinaire Patrick (our Community Garden Operations Coordinator)! Patrick will cover the basics, leaving you feeling ready and confident to dig in. The workshop will be held at the Providence St. Patrick Hospital healing garden, located at 902 N Orange St behind the Providence Surgery Center (Here’s a map).

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P.S. – it’s free! We hope to see you all there!

Also, check out these other gardening opportunities throughout the season. Keep checking the blog, our Facebook page and website, as well as your email and garden blackboards for additional events.

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And remember, April showers bring May flowers…  and besides, what’s better than a nice shower followed by a bask in the sun, all in the same hour?

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Head Starts With Starts

Patrick, the Community Gardens Operations Coordinator,  grew up in Wisconsin, and from day one wanted to be outside whenever possible. While earning his degree from the University of Montana, Patrick enrolled in the PEAS Farm class, and couldn’t give it up – staying for two semesters and a summer session. Through the PEAS Farm and his Environmental Studies Program classes, he’s decided he wants to keep working on local food efforts now that he has earned his degree. When he’s not digging in the dirt, he is hiking, biking or fishing with his dog, Lola.


With spring officially just around the corner, many of our garden crops will be getting off to an early start.  With our cold and lengthy winters in Montana, several crops that we love to grow and eat need to get a jump on the season.  Farmers, nurseries, and gardeners around the area are getting busy seeding and tending to our favorite plants.

Patrick 3While it gets nice and hot in Missoula, our nighttime temps in the late spring and early fall allow us a mere 120 frost-free growing days, on average.   Many of our favorite plants are capable of braving the cold, so we may choose to focus on these crops.   However, many others will wither away at the first sign of frost.  Extending our seasons by starting some of our plants in controlled environments like greenhouses, allows us to grow many crops that we otherwise simply couldn’t produce in our climate.  Others we can simply direct seed into the ground and will do great with our natural climate.

 

Early Start Recommended

Tomatoes                       Peppers

Onions                            Cabbage

Squash                           Cucumbers

Broccoli                         And More!

Can be Direct Seeded

Carrots                          Beets

Peas                               Radishes

Corn                              Most Greens

And More!

It is certainly possible to grow starts in our houses, utilizing sunny areas or even supplying supplemental lighting.  However, starting seeds at home can be surprisingly tricky. Tending to watering needs can be time consuming, and often our home starts don’t receive the adequate amount of light to sustain proper growth.  This often results in lanky, stunted, or otherwise stressed plants.  We want our starts to be as healthy and vigorous as possible when we plant them out. The process of leaving their comfortable, pampered lives in their climate controlled homes will be stressful enough; we want them to hit the ground strong.

Patrick 1Most homes are not designed with plant growth as their primary function, and most people’s days are already busy enough as it is.  For this reason, many gardeners decide to leave the starts to the professionals.  Greenhouses are designed for the sole purpose of promoting plant growth, and are maintained by folks who dedicate their days to ensuring successful starts.  Farmers markets and nurseries are great spots to look for strong and healthy starts to grow.  They are also great places to make sure you are picking the right varieties for your needs and wants.

But! If you want to hit the ground running and start those starts early yourself, it can be an incredibly fun and rewarding process.  There are a few things we need to consider when starting seeds at home.  We need to choose the right varieties for our climate and preferences; sauce tomatoes vs. slicing tomatoes, for example.  We need to sow the seeds indoors and re-pot if necessary at the proper planting time; we want them to have a good head start while not outgrowing their containers and becoming stressed. We want to let them “harden off” before transplanting to reduce shock by moving them into a cooler and less controlled environment.  This can be done using cold frames or floating row cover. (Both of these can be used to extend the season for bedded plants as well).  Lastly, we want to make sure that the beds and weather are suitable for the plants before we transplant them outdoors.  Check out the links below for some more information!

Garden “Calculator”

Helpful Hints

Cold Frame

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So Long & Minestrone Soup

static1-squarespaceThis week we’re featuring special artwork from Northwest artist, Phoebe Wahl.  Phoebe is an artist whose work focuses on themes of comfort, nostalgia and intimacy with nature and one another. She grew up unschooled in Washington state, and credits her ‘free range’ childhood in the Northwest for much of her inspiration and work ethics. Phoebe graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 2013 with a BFA in Illustration, and currently lives in Bellingham, Washington.  Her first children’s book Sonya’s Chickens (Tundra) was the recipient of the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award for New Illustrator, as well as a Kirkus star, and was listed by School Library Journal, Kirkus and HuffPost Books as being one of the Best Children’s Books of 2015. Phoebe is represented by Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary


While sitting here in an effort to write our closing blog for the season, it is this quote that sticks:

how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,”

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Moon Dance. Watercolor, collage, colored pencil. Phoebe Wahl.

…perfectly articulated by the original and ever so wise, Winnie the Pooh. We’ve now said goodbye to our shared gardens; they’ve been tended to, cared for, and put to sleep for the cold winter to come.

Cider Pressing. For October in the 2015 Taproot Magazine wall calendar. Watercolor, collage, colored pencil. Phoebe Wahl.

How lucky are we that we have something to miss and reminiscence through the snow. We say goodbye to our gardens, to these places that we tend, and to the neighbors we tend with, with the luxury in knowing that we will be seeing it all again come spring.

Preserve. For August in the 2016 Taproot Magazine wall calendar. Watercolor, collage, colored pencil.

In the meantime, we hope you continue to enjoy your garden goods through the winter.

**So here is a winter recipe and a few last quotes to last you the winter through:

Half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. ~Mrs. C.W. Earle, Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden, 1897

One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides. ~W.E. Johns, The Passing Show

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. ~Audrey Hepburn


Community Gardens Minestrone Soup

Last week we celebrated the hard work and devotion that our volunteer garden Leadership Committees put forth with a dinner party. Here is a recipe from the event: Community Gardens Minestrone Soup to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

This is a go-to for me; it doesn’t take long, and usually doesn’t require a trip to the grocery store. You can be creative with what ingredients you have on hand.

Ingredients:

Veggies – This is more of a “kitchen sink” soup, so use what you like or what you got! I’ve found that anything from Brussels sprouts to kale to spinach to beets to peppers all tastes good and blends well. If you are worried about cooking times check out the Kitchn’s guide to making soup with almost any vegetable.

That said, pretty mandatory veggies for base –

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

Three cups diced tomatoes, canned or fresh (no need to de-seed fresh tomatoes)

2 large carrots, chopped

2 large or 3 medium potatoes, chopped

2-3 cans of beans, whichever you’d prefer (I generally use black, great northern, or whatever is in my pantry)

Broth –

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 32 oz. container of vegetable broth + water to dilute

1 – 3 tablespoons of vinegar – I prefer red wine vinegar, but rice vinegar works well too

A splash of red cooking wine

Spices –

I spice to taste; start with a dash or two, add more as you go

Salt

Pepper

Dried thyme

Dried oregano

Dried basil

A hint of cayenne

FRESH curly parsley – a large handful, chopped. You can be generous with this; I usually use the entirety of one produce bunch.

Grains –  

1 bag of whichever noodle you like, I usually use macaroni, shell, or whatever is in my pantry so long as its bite-size, i.e., not spaghetti, angel hair, etc. Gluten free are fine too.

Directions:

Cook pasta in separate pot. Once pasta is cooked, drain and run under cold water until it is no longer steaming and set aside.

On medium-high heat sauté onions in olive oil until slightly tender in large stockpot. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute or until fragrant. Once sautéed, add carrots, potatoes and any other starchy or hardy veggie that needs time to cook. Once all veggies are tender, turn heat to medium and add tomatoes and beans and stir. Add all dried spices plus salt and pepper and bring mixture to a soft boil while stirring. Add liquid broth ingredients on medium heat; bring mixture to a soft boil once again.  This is your time to add spices and liquids to your taste. If it’s bland, add a pinch of salt, more herbs you desire, and a teaspoon or two of vinegar and wine. If it’s too salty or strong, dilute with a cup of water. Repeat this process as necessary. *The beauty of this soup is that it is very forgiving. Once you’ve seasoned to taste, bring soup to a low simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in pasta and parsley five minutes before serving.

Optional garnishes-

A dollop of plain yogurt with a hint of fresh parsley sprinkled on top

A sprinkle of grated parmesan or asiago cheese

Makes 8 – 10 quarts

Thanks all and see you next season!


**All quotes from “Quotations: Gardening, Farming, Dirt, Soil.” The Quote Garden. Last modified July 16, 2016. Accessed November 1, 2016. http://www.quotegarden.com/gardens.html.

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Falling For Garlic

This week The Real Dirt is featuring a guest blog from Patrick, Community Gardens Operations Coordinator. Patrick grew up in Wisconsin, and from day one wanted to be outside whenever possible. While earning his degree from the University of Montana, Patrick enrolled in the PEAS Farm class, and couldn’t give it up – staying for two semesters and a summer session. Through the PEAS Farm and his Environmental Studies Program classes, he’s decided he wants to keep working on local food efforts now that he has earned his degree. When he’s not digging in the dirt, he is hiking, biking or fishing with his dog, Lola.


Fall can mean a sudden change of pace for those of us who spend time working in the dirt.  Our lives as well as those in our gardens undergo some major changes as we transition from the warmth of summer into Missoula’s cool and dark winter.   For many of us, this is a bittersweet time.  We will miss our time in the garden, fresh picked meals, and chatting with fellow gardeners.  But winter also offers a chance to reflect on the past season, plan for the next, and hunker down with a warm winter dish.

An oddball in our fall routine of closing our gardens down, putting our storage foods up, and settling into a new schedule is garlic.  This time of year, when all of our crops are reaching the end of their lives, or have already passed, another round of garlic is getting ready to grow.  We plant our garlic in the fall to overwinter so that it can begin to grow as soon as weather permits in the following spring.  Garlic can also be planted in the early spring as soon as the ground is workable.  However, bulb production seems to be greater when fall planted.  Also, fall planting is simply a much welcomed change of pace from our usual fall routines.

Planting Garlic

When planting garlic we do not plant seeds, we plant individual cloves.  The first step then is to harvest and cure your previous garlic crop.  Read Emy’s blog post about harvesting and curing for more details.

Since we produce our next garlic crop asexually through cloning, we want to make sure to choose the right cloves to plant for next year.   We want to choose cloves that exhibit traits that we like, and would like to continue to see in our crop.   So we don’t plant small cloves or cloves from heads that have rotten, because we don’t want small or rotting heads next season.  After the garlic has been cured, choose the cream of the crop; good looking cloves with desirable traits.

Choose cloves with desirable traits.
Choose cloves with desirable traits.

If you did not grow garlic this year, don’t worry!  Simply use garlic that you normally buy from the farmers market or grocery store.  (It is best to save cloves from a local garlic source, as you can be sure that they will grow well in Missoula!)

Once you have your chosen cloves, keep them in a dark, dry space until late fall.  I normally plant garlic in late October when the weather is getting cold yet the ground is still workable.  Garlic can be planted pretty close together; I usually plant cloves about 5-6 inches apart.  Make sure that the cloves are planted root end down, and cover with soil.photo-4

Your next round of garlic is now underway for next season!  Cover your garlic beds with a significant amount of straw.  The straw will help keep weeds down and also balance out temperature fluxes in the soil surface.photo-1

Next spring when things start to warm up, start pulling back/removing a portion of the mulch.  Leave some mulch in place as weed suppression (garlic has a small leaf area and is a poor competitor against weeds), but do be aware as too much mulch can cause rotting at the base.

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Save It For Later: Winter Veggie Storage

Don’t forget! The annual Garden City Harvest Fire Sale is quickly approaching – next Wednesday and Thursday, 10/19 & 10/20, from 2:00 to 6:30 PM, at the River Road Farm (1657 River Rd). What is the Fire Sale you ask? Sounds spicy… It’s your chance to stock up on storage quantities of cured onions, squash, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and much more. It’s set up market style, so you can select your favorite summer tastes to last you the winter through. With pretty amazing prices, I might add.

Which brings us to another point: storing said veggies. As post-modern neo-pioneers, most of us in the community garden world don’t have the nostalgic root cellar to store our goods. Well worry not, one can wax poetic for winter veggie storage in a multitude, and quite innovative, of ways. Apartment and alley-house dwellers, this is your time to shine; let the creativity commence like it once did in the time pre-shipping containers and electric air-conditioning.

Winter squash keep well in a cool bedroom. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.
Winter squash keep well in a cool bedroom. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.

Things to consider –

Curing – Most storage crops need to be cured to enhance their storage potential. “During the curing process, potatoes and sweet potatoes heal over small wounds to the skin, garlic and onions form a dry seal over the openings at their necks, and dry beans and grain corn let go of excess moisture that could otherwise cause them to rot.” [1]  Harvesting, curing and storage requirements vary with each crop. Luckily, if you’re buying your veduras de fuego, ie, Fire Sale veggies, then the crops have already been cured and are ready for storage.

First thing’s first – you need a cool (but not freezing) location for storing your bounty over the winter. This has to do with slowing the release rate of xylene gases which accelerates ripening and thus, spoiling; 34F and 50F (1 to 10C) is best.[2]

Uproot leeks, cabbage and Brussels sprouts and place in damp sand. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.
Uproot leeks, cabbage and Brussels sprouts and place in damp sand (more on sand storage here). Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.

Ventilation – Although you’re purposely slowing the release rate of xylene gases, your veggies will naturally still emit them. Keep your goods in a ventilated area to allow wafting of the gases – somewhere with natural openings and airflow. Closets which are regularly opened and mudrooms are good examples.

Humidity – Another thing to consider when choosing a place to store your winter goods is relative humidity. “Providing moisture lets crisp root vegetables sense they are still in the ground. Some staple storage crops, such as garlic, onions and shallots, need dry conditions to support prolonged dormancy…”  so be aware as to which vegetables you are grouping together and where you’re putting them.[3]  Barbara Pleasant’s article (below) has a thorough chart on which veggies need what for optimum storage.

A spare dresser in a cool room can provide convenient storage space. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.
A spare dresser in a cool room can provide convenient storage space. Image by Keith Ward via Mother Earth News.

Lastly, be creative (like this trash can root cellar idea)! Don’t think that because you live in a small space, don’t have a garage, basement, or extra freezer, you can’t store fruits and vegetables through the winter. Read garden writer Barbara Pleasant’s article (with such lovely illustrations) for brilliant vegetable storage ideas.


[1] Pleasant, Barbara. “Food Storage: 20 Crops That Keep and How to Store Them.” Mother Earth News. Last modified September 2012. Accessed October 10, 2016. http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/garden-planning/food-storage-zm0z12aszcom.

[2] Bourque, Danny. “Root Cellars and Me (Tips for Cold Storage).” Simple Bites. Last modified October 12, 2012. Accessed October 10, 2016. http://www.simplebites.net/root-cellars-and-me-tips-for-cold-storage/.

[3] Pleasant, Barbara.

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This Survey Got Style

Hey Community Gardeners!

Do you want to look good in your garden ‘hood?

Rock it while diggin’ in the dirt in a fresh Farm Party t-shirt?

Please take a min out of your day, and fill out the ’16 Comm Garden Survey.

Your opinion matters, don’t just flatter,

it helps us grow, improve, enhance, refresh and progress.

By writing your thoughts, professing your perils, you’re granted the chance to win;

not a fake timeshare or dinner at Dennys,

but the ability to wear with care, to make people stare,

because filling out this survey isn’t for not,

when you can win a free T, and look oh so very hot.

In other words, please fill out the 2016 Year-End Community Gardens Survey, and should you choose, you’ll be entered in a chance to win a 2016 Farm Party T-Shirt.

fullsizerender-1fullsizerender-2So fresh and so clean, you’ll look like a boss, like the cream of the crop.

PS – For inspiration and to see what others are doing, check out this incredible community garden in London…

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Nurturing for Next Season – With a Winter Intermission, It’s All Cyclical

Well folks, as I sit here writing this, it’s a balmy mid-50s outside with a forecasted rise to 79 by this afternoon. We’re in the throes of transitional temperatures. In three days it’ll be October and all of a sudden, it’s fall. In an effort to avoid the usual autumnal rhetoric of reflection and nostalgia, I’ll keep my melancholy to a minimum. However I will say this; I’ve learned and experienced many new things during my first year as a community gardens coordinator, but witnessing the seasonal change through the lens of our ten community gardens has been the most radical of experiences. Missoula’s short growing season lends itself to vicious seasonal transformations, and with the quickly dying leaves and decrease in production comes a marked shift in energy.

Although it seems like our plants are asking to be excused from the dinner table, and if you’re anything like me, you’re also falling victim to the sleepiness in the air, fall does bring an element of new life. One aspect of this is soil. 2298564117_b9ba35d18c_o

Nurturing for Next Season

Like candy for your garden.
Like candy for your garden.

As you begin clearing your garden of tired plants, be sure to turn them back into the soil – despite a slowdown in harvestable goods, they still have much to offer. Fall is ideal for building soil health; it’s now that we’re surrounded with decomposing leaves, veggies, plants, and matter – you can smell it in the air!  Adding this naturally occurring organic material reintroduces nutrients to your soil, plus it’s cheaper than buying compost, and easier than hauling it to the compost bin or EKO. Be sure to chop up large matter before turning it in, as that will aid in decomposition. Read specific directions and tips, the benefits of fall soil propagation, as well as the science behind organic matter and soil health, here.

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Closing Day & Cold Temp Prep

With all this said, Closing Day is officially just around the corner: Saturday, October 22nd. Closing Day isn’t entirely what it sounds, it’s simply a deadline for you to prepare your plot for winter, and to have it clean and tidy. You’re welcome to continue gardening through the winter, so long as you’ve taken the steps to winterize. It is also a time for us to assess whether you’ve properly put your plot to sleep, and thus whether you will be receiving your $15 deposit. Follow these guidelines to ensure you properly prep your plot and receive your deposit. Every garden has Closing Day Guidelines posted, so be sure to check your garden’s blackboard/shed.  If you have any questions at all, please reach out to your Leadership Committee or Garden City Harvest Staff! We’re all here to help.

As we all know, and as I slipped into above, fall begs for reflection … which can be so useful for all of us. Please take a few minutes to complete our Year-End Community Garden Survey. This helps us prep for next season, helps us grow as coordinators, and mostly, it helps us nurture this program. Thank you all!

“Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower” – Albert Camus

Earlier this week Patrick and Northside Leader Brian, delivered straw to all the gardens. Use straw to help prep your plot for the cold temps ahead.
Earlier this week Patrick and Northside Leader Brian delivered straw to all the gardens. Use straw to help your plot retain moisture over the winter.
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Garden Realities

This week The Real Dirt is featuring a guest blog from Patrick, Community Gardens Operations Coordinator. Patrick grew up in Wisconsin, and from day one wanted to be outside whenever possible. While earning his degree from the University of Montana, Patrick enrolled in the PEAS Farm class, and couldn’t give it up – staying for two semesters and a summer session. Through the PEAS Farm and his Environmental Studies Program classes, he’s decided he wants to keep working on local food efforts now that he has earned his degree. When he’s not digging in the dirt, he is hiking, biking or fishing with his dog, Lola.


 

For many of us, gardening can offer a deeper and more tangible relationship with our surroundings.  Weather it is mingling with fellow gardeners, spending some time outside, or appreciating your hard work and dedication after taking a bite into a delicious garden meal; gardening can offer a much needed dose of connection with our place.

5340212542_470cff8820_oBut with this delve into our very real and unpredictable surroundings, comes certain realities that we must accept.  These may come in the form of an early fall frost, as many of us saw this week, or countless other instances that we may or may not expect.  We may get a strangely warm April and be coaxed into giving our peppers and tomatoes an early start, just to have an unexpected late frost take them out.  Our spring greens may go to seed seemingly immediately due to an abnormally hot stint. We may lose track of time and put off watering just a bit too long, returning to a sad, dry patch wilting on a hot, dry day.  Or it could be a band of hail that obliterates every leaf in your garden, just when it was really starting to take off.  All of these happenings, though extremely disheartening and frustrating, can also be a powerful reminder that many things are simply out of our hands.

7342926264_b2eb56fd29_oSome things are just plain unfortunate, such as a sudden hail storm.  Not much we can do against that. Yet, other battles we can learn from.  We may reconsider putting our warm weather crops out for an early start after losing a crop a few years back.  Covering susceptible plants as the weather cools in the fall may come more natural next year.  We may construct some form of shade to help our spring greens though a hot streak, or grow them in the shade of a tall or climbing crop in an attempt to help them survive in the summer’s heat.

5502993383_0668ed1127_oThese days, we are lucky to have things like floating row cover, shade cloth, and weather forecast that help us prepare and get through some of the uncertainties.  Yet, despite our best efforts, one of the greatest aspects of gardening is the reminder of uncertainty, that while participating in the natural world, somethings are just what they are. All we can do is try our best from year to year, and learn from our experiances.

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Warding off Vampires & Boosting Fertility – Harvesting Garlic Part II

Picking up on where we left off oh so many weeks ago, a la Harvesting Garlic – Part I, it’s now well time to harvest your garlic. Before we walk through the simple process, here’s a few facts to wet your palate, ward off vampires, treat your wounds, prepare for battle, and boost your fertility.

According to the researchers at American Folklore, “Garlic: Superstitions, Folklore and Fact” …

  • Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Sanskrit records show its medicinal use about 5,000 years ago, and it has been used for at least 3,000 years in Chinese medicine. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans used garlic for healing purposes.
  • Hippocrates (300BC) recommended garlic for infections, wounds, cancer, leprosy, and digestive disorders. Dioscorides praised it for its use in treating heart problems, and Pliny listed the plant in 61 remedies for a wide variety of ailments ranging from the common cold to leprosy, epilepsy and tapeworm.

  • During World War I, the Russian army used garlic to treat wounds incurred by soldiers on the Front Line. Although Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928 largely replaced garlic at home, the war effort overwhelmed the capacity of most antibiotics, and garlic was again the antibiotic of choice. The Red Army physicians relied so heavily on garlic that it became known as the “Russian Penicillin”.
  • Dramatic results in treating animals infested with ticks showed that garlic was able to effectively kill the ticks within 30 minutes, while garlic proved to be a repellent toward new infestations. Garlic was also successful in treating cattle with hoof and mouth disease.

  • In a study conducted in Russia in 1955, garlic extract used therapeutically was found to bind with heavy metals in the body, aiding their elimination. Workers suffering from chronic lead poisoning while working in industrial plants were given daily doses of garlic extract and saw a decrease in their symptoms. Other experiments that took place in Japan using mercury and cadmium also found that garlic bound with the heavy metals.
  • Egyptian slaves were given a daily ration of garlic, as it was believed to ward off illness and to increase strength and endurance. As indicated in ancient Egyptian records, the pyramid builders were given beer, flatbread, raw garlic and onions as their meager food ration. Upon threatening to abandon the pyramids leaving them unfinished, they were given more garlic. It cost the Pharaoh today’s equivalent of 2 million dollars to keep the Cheops pyramid builders supplied with garlic.

  • During the reign of King Tut, fifteen pounds of garlic would buy a healthy male slave. Indeed, when King Tut’s tomb was excavated, there were bulbs of garlic found scattered throughout the rooms.
  • It became custom for Greek midwives to hang garlic cloves in birthing rooms to keep the evil spirits away. As the centuries passed, this ancient custom became commonplace in most European homes.

  • Roman soldiers ate garlic to inspire them and give them courage. Because the Roman generals believed that garlic gave their armies courage, they planted fields of garlic in the countries they conquered, believing that courage was transferred to the battlefield.
  • Dreaming that there is “garlic in the house” is supposedly lucky; to dream about eating garlic means you will discover hidden secrets.

  • European folklore gives garlic the ability to ward off the “evil eye.” Central European folk beliefs considered garlic a powerful ward against devils, werewolves, and vampires. To ward off vampires, garlic could be worn on one’s person, hung in windows, or rubbed on chimneys and keyholes.
  • This old Welsh saying may indeed have merit as a health remedy: “Eat leeks in March and garlic in May, Then the rest of the year, your doctor can play.”

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Untie your bundles of garlic from their drying place.

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Clip off the top stalk of the garlic and brush off remaining dirt around the cloves so it looks like this:

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Be sure to save some cloves from larger bulbs, break them apart, and plant them for next season’s crop.

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And shazaam! Garlic for the year!


Facts from “Garlic: Superstitions, Folklore and Fact.” American Folklore. Last modified December 13, 2014. Accessed  September 6, 2016. http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/10/garlic_superstitions_folklore.html.