Category Archives: Community Garden News

Image from Zuni Cafe's Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini Bread-and-Butter Pickles with Ginger

If you’re like me,  you are probably wondering, “What am I going to do with all this summer squash!?!” Whether it’s yellow zucchini, green zucchini, striped zucchini, Crookneck, Pattypan, Romanesco, Cousa… you’ve probably got a lot of summer squash on your hands and beginning to wonder what else to do with it.  A couple weeks ago, it was exciting to slice one up for an omelet or throw some spears on the grill. However nowadays, the excitement has worn off, and I am just trying to keep up with the abundance that these plants can produce.

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Before you start secretively dropping unwanted squash plants in your friends’ car or on your neighbors’ doorstep, consider this recipe below for zucchini pickles. This recipe was given to me by a good friend, who adamantly doesn’t like “regular pickles.” And, from someone who doesn’t like bread-and-butter pickles, I promise you this isn’t like those mouth puckering, store-bought, bread-and-butter pickles either. These zucchini pickles are tender but firm, slightly sweet and tangy with a hint of cleansing ginger at the end. You’re sure to impress your friends at potlucks, and when the snow flies, you will even find yourself enjoying this essence of summer gardening in a jar.

Zucchini Bread-and-Butter Pickles with Ginger

Image credit: Craving Something Healthy
Image credit: Craving Something Healthy

Makes about 6 pint jars.

Ingredients:

4 pounds of zucchini

1 pound of mini onions (small sweet onions)

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

6 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)

1/2 cup light agave nectar or 3/4 cup mild honey

1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder

6 thin rounds of fresh ginger

Directions:

Scrub the zucchini and cut them into 1/4-inch rounds (Emily’s note: I’ve made this recipe with 1/2-inch-wide spears, and that turned out well too). Cut the onions in half-lengthwise and thinly slice them into half-circles. Put the zucchini and onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with the 1/4 cup salt, tossing to combine. Cover with a layer of ice cubes and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Pick out any unmelted ice, drain well, and rinse under cold-running water. Toss with coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and red pepper flakes and set aside.

Prepare for water-bath canning: Wash the jars and place them in the canning pot, fill with water and bring to a  boil. Put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl. (Emily’s note: For more directions about water-bath canning, I recommend you ask your closest “canning guru.” You can also find many resources online or in cookbooks with step by step directions.)

In a nonreactive pot, combine the apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 cups water, the agave nectar (or honey), turmeric, mustard powder, and the remaining 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil.

Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded kitchen towel. Drain the water off the jar lids. (Reference your personal canning guru or other resources here if needed).

Working quickly, put a slice of ginger in each jar, then pack the zucchini and onion in the jars (not too tightly). Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at the top. Gently swirl a chospstick or butter knife around the inside of each jar to remove air bubbles . Use a damp paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove any residue on the rims of the jars. Then, put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight. Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch.

Bring to a boil again, and boil for 15 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. You should begin to hear popping sounds as the flat lids seal to the jar. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately and consumed as soon as possible because those that didn’t seal will not keep long-term. Label the sealed jars, store and enjoy during non-zucchini season.

This recipe is borrowed from Liana Krissoff and her book Canning for a New Generation.

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Wrangling Strawberries

Sweet, juicy strawberries are a treat right off the plant. Not only are they easy to grow, but they are also easy to find in all of the community gardens. Many of us have strawberries already growing in our plot or would like to plant some for next year. Whatever you have, it’s important to know how to plant, care and maintain a healthy strawberry patch to ensure a fruitful harvest and minimize disease and pests. Furthermore, the best time to wrangle your strawberry patch is after the fruit harvest, which is right now in Missoula. Below are guidelines and best practices for growing (and wrangling) strawberries in the garden.

Planting

The best way to plant strawberries in a home garden is in a matted row system, where daughter plants are allowed to develop into a solid mat, or in a spaced row system, where the daughter and mother plants are spaced evenly along the row.

(Warning: The photos below were taken from real-life community gardeners’ plots and may contain some weeds.)

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Strawberries (in front) in a matted planting.
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Strawberries in a spaced row planting.

To begin your new strawberry patch, ask a garden neighbor! Since strawberries spread with runners and always produce an abundance of daughter plants, your neighbor will probably be more than willing to share. Just make sure to ask first! You can also find strawberry starts at any local nursery.

Plant on slightly raised beds to assure good soil drainage and work rotted manure or compost into the soil to improve its structure and water-holding capacity. Form the soil beds 18-24 inches wide and three to four inches above grade. Make sure to provide adequate space for sprawling, and set plants 24 inches apart.

Make planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. If roots are longer than 8 inches, trim them when transplanting. Most importantly, don’t plant too deep! The roots should be covered, but the crown should be right at the soil surface.

Firm the soil about the plants and water them in. If you can lift the plants with a quick jerk on a leaf, the soil is too loose, and the roots may dry out.

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In the first year, pick off blossoms to discourage strawberry plants from fruiting. If not allowed to bear fruit, they will spend their food reserves on developing healthy roots, and the yields will be much greater in following years.

Managing Runners

As the plants grow, you want to keep the beds from becoming overcrowded, which can reduce yield while encouraging disease and pest habitat. Managing runners and the “daughter plants” are the principal means way for keeping your strawberry bed healthy and fruitful year after year. Furthermore, first and second generation plants produce the highest yields!

Because strawberry plants produce an excess of daughter plants, prune extra runners and old plants every season after the last harvest:

  • If you have the spaced row system, leave only four daughter plants evenly spaced (about 10 inches apart). New daughter plants produce the best fruit the following spring if planted early in the spring, and each plant has at least ten leaves by autumn. When new plants are established, remove the old ones (three years and older).
  • If you have a matted system, pull any weeds, trim rouge runners, and cut all strawberry plants down to 2” above grade. Don’t worry, the plants will bounce back over the rest of the summer!

Best Practices for a Fruitful Harvest

  • Moisture is incredibly important due to shallow roots, and strawberry plants need a lot of water when the runners and flowers are developing. Water adequately, about one inch per week.
  • Keep the beds mulched to reduce water needs and weed invasion.
  • Be diligent about weeding, especially in the first months after planting.
  • Pest and Disease Control: Often we don’t realize that a lush strawberry forest creates a cool and damp environment perfect for slugs and other pests, including rodents. Keep your strawberries thinned and healthy will minimize pests and fungal problems.
  • Many berries are damaged by birds, especially robins. Excluding the birds with netting or row cover is most effective. Another method is to drive heavy (stronger than lath) stakes, four feet in length, into the ground at corners of the strawberry bed. Stretch twine between the stakes and attach streamers every five feet along the string to deter birds.
Netting strawberries is the most effective way to keep hungry birds out.
Netting strawberries is the most effective way to keep hungry birds out.

For more information, visit the Montana State Extension online resource on strawberries by clicking here or to the Old Farmers Almanac page on strawberries.

 

 

Jewell Case_goats

First Friday in the Garden!

Have you heard?! Next Friday (August 4th), we are teaming up with our garden partner, St. Patrick and Providence Hospital, to host a First Friday event in the garden!

The Providence Center Garden is a special aspect of the community garden program at Garden City Harvest. Each year, it is planted, tended and harvested by Community Garden Coordinators. The garden is intended for the use of patients, hospital staff, and  the community to enjoy and heal. Additionally, all of the food grown on site is donated to the Food Bank or sold as a part of the Prescription Veggie Program.

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At this special First Friday event, we’ll have garden fresh snacks, refreshments, an art installation, and live music by St. Pat’s own staff person, Walt Pedersen, and his band “Desiderada.” We want to bring the community together and celebrate the Providence Center Garden.  All are welcome!

Local artist, Jewell Case, will have her free-standing murals titled: “Addicted to Grandeur: A Retrospective of Wrangling on America’s Public Lands” placed throughout the garden. These vivid paintings depict  the landscapes and tradition of backcountry horsemanship in Alaska, the Grand Canyon, and Montana Wilderness. The opening will also include storytelling and interpretation of the history of Glacier National Park from a trail guide’s perspective.

Jewell Case_Guardian of the Desert

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FullSizeRender  Jewell explains, “I convey scenes which are memories and renditions of my explorations in the wilderness and public lands of the U.S.” Jewell has worked as trail crew, wrangler, horse packer and outfitter for the last seven years. Currently, she is a wrangler outside of Glacier National Park. Most of her paintings are made in one or two sittings along the trail and carried in her backpack with all other essentials of camping.

             jewell case_drawing              jewell case_wrangler

The Providence Garden is located at 902 N. Orange Street, behind the Providence Center. For more event details, check out the Facebook event here or contact Emily at Emily@gardencityharvest.org with any questions.

Hope to see you there!

 

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Northside Garlic Festival

Did you know that all community garden plots have community areas nestled within the individual garden plots? Each year, thanks to the gardens’ leadership committees and volunteers, the community plots are planted and tended with different crops. Most gardens have community raspberry patches, some have flowering perennials for pollinators, annual vegetables, and even a couple fruit trees!  Food grown in these community plots are either shared among all community gardeners at each site or donated to the Food Bank.

Last fall, the Northside Community Garden Leadership Committee and several volunteers planted about 1000 heads of garlic on the east edge of the garden. They planted it with the intention of harvesting and sharing the garlic with all Northside community gardeners.

After diligently hand-watering and tending to the 1000 garlic plants all spring and summer, the time came to harvest. When garlic is ready to harvest, it should be harvested as soon as possible. If garlic sits in the ground too long, the stalk will become too dry and brittle and thus difficult to harvest, hang and cure.

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Last Thursday, the Garlic Festival began. Fifteen volunteers came out, despite the heat, to pull the garlic heads. Young, old and every age in between was drawn to the frenzied fun that evening. Luckily, most of the garlic heads came out with a good ol’ yank, and the help of many hands made light work.

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In total, 860+ heads were harvested, bundled and carried away to hang in a volunteers’ barn for the week. The ideal temperature for garlic to cure is 80 degrees Fahrenheit over two weeks. (For more information about how to harvest and cure garlic heads check out the blog post links below. )

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No need to dust off your garlic just yet. Garlic can hang and cure as is.

This Friday, all the garlic will be brought out of the barn to be cleaned, inspected for any mold or bad cloves, sorted, and braided so it will keep well all winter long. Feel free to stop by the Northside Community Garden, this Friday, July 21st at 6pm, to learn how to clean and braid garlic.

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Happy garlic harvesters with more than enough garlic to share!

 

 

 

PEAS summer school students with GARLIC!

Here at Garden City Harvest, we love our garlic! For further reading on garlic, check out these other related Garden City Harvest posts:

Learn how to plant garlic here: Falling for Garlic

A Day at the Providence Hospital Garden: Harvesting Garlic – Part I

Warding off Vampires & Boosting Fertility: Harvesting Garlic – Part II

 

 

 

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Midnight Baking

For most, strawberry season in Missoula is coming to a close.  As I harvest the last of my strawberries from my June bearing strawberry patch, I am reminded of a recent midnight baking escapade with strawberry rhubarb scones. The scones were deliciously memorable. And as I watch the raspberry canes begin to droop bearing the weight of ripening fruit, I think this strawberry rhubarb scone recipe would translate easily to a raspberry scone recipe.

It all started a couple weeks ago with a craving for a baked good, a breakfast baked good to be exact.  However with the consistent 90-100 degree heat we’ve been experiencing in Missoula, the idea of baking is absolutely ridiculous. Regardless, I couldn’t get the idea of a delicious baked good with my morning coffee out of my head.

I waited until sun down and the temperature outside was cooler and comfortable. Flinging open all doors and windows in the house, I hesitantly fired up the oven to 425 degree and hastily started adding flour, sugar, salt and butter into a bowl. As the dough began to take shape, I could feel some of the heat slipping out of the oven and beads of sweat prickled on my forehead. I moved quicker, dropping ruby strawberries and chopped rhubarb into the sticky dough, then finally folding and forming the triangular scone shapes. Once in the oven, I stepped outside and sat on the porch. The birds were still whistling and trilling to each other in the trees as the last daylight faded. Only five minutes later the sweet smell of the scones wafted through the window, and another five minutes later I pulled the thick and fluffy scones out of the oven.

It was just about midnight when I finished cleaning up, so I crawled into bed. In the morning, I had strawberry rhubarb scones with my coffee and smiled.

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This recipe for strawberry rhubarb scones come from Heather Cristo.  I also encourage you to try it with raspberries instead of strawberries. Let me know how it goes and keep cool!

Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 Tablespoons cold butter cut into pieces
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup rhubarb, cut into ½” slices
  • 1 cup strawberries sliced
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prepare a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt. Pulse it together.
  3. Add the cold butter and pulse until the butter has been cut into the flour and you have a coarse crumb.
  4. In a small bowl beat together the cream and the egg. Add it to the mixture and pulse until you have a dough that comes together but is still crumbly and wet.
  5. Dump the dough out onto a generously floured counter top and gently fold the fruit into the dough with your hands.
  6. Using the extra flour, pat the dough into a disc. Using a floured knife, cut the disc into 6-8 scones (depending on preference of size).
  7. Brush the tops of the scones with the remaining 2 tablespoons of whipping cream.
  8. Bake the scones for 10 minutes until slightly golden around the edges. Let the scones cool for a few minutes and firm up before removing them from the pan.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature with strawberry jam.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

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Best Practices for Watering Your Garden

As we brace ourselves for this week of 95+ degree heat and even more hot summer days ahead, it’s important to know how to water your garden effectively and efficiently. Fruit and vegetables cost a lot of water for a plant to produce, so watering adequately will promote healthy plants and an abundant harvest. Insufficient watering can cause problems in the garden. In addition to making your plants wilt, inadequate watering actually stresses plants, which can lead to unhealthy and unproductive plants that are more susceptible to pests. Below are five best practices to follow when watering your vegetable garden.

1. Know your plants

If you watch your plants, they will let you know when they need water. They wilt. Colors become dull. Furthermore, different plants have different water requirements. For example in a standard vegetable garden, onions do not need as much water as carrots, and carrots don’t need as much water as tomatoes, cucumbers or beans. Potatoes are very sensitive to not enough water, but peppers like it hot and dry.

The age of the plant also matters. The more mature and bigger the plant, the less water it requires compared to young and small plants. Young plants are tender and have small root systems whereas a mature plant will have a bigger root system to cover more area below ground. Always remember to water immediately after transplanting a young plant!

Well watered tomato plant

2. Know your soil

The ability of soil to store water is dependent on the soil texture, which is the ratio of sand, silt, clay and organic matter in a soil.  According to Washington State University Extension, a 5% increase in organic material quadruples the soil’s water holding capacity. Organic matter not only holds and stores water but also insulates the soil against heating and cooling. One of the easiest ways to increase a soil’s water holding capacity is to incorporate more organic matter in the form of compost.

Mulch (i.e., straw, grass clippings, woodchips, leaves, composted manure or compost) will also add organic matter to the soil as it decomposes while helping to smother weeds as well. Place a 1 to 2 inch layer of mulch on the soil surface around your plants or place mulch between plant rows. Start by using small amounts at a time so you don’t cause mold or fungus problems.

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3. Deep watering

Watering deeply generally means watering a plant so that the water soaks down to at least 8 inches below the soil surface. This encourages a plant’s roots to grow long and deep. The saying goes that one deep watering is much better than lightly, more frequent waterings. This is because brief waterings may not penetrate the soil and reach the roots. It also encourages shallow roots, which dry out easier and are more susceptible to stress.

Soak your garden once a week to a depth of 6-12 inches and don’t water again until the top few inches begin to dry out. If you’re not sure when you need to water again, use the finger test. For the finger test, stick your index finger in the soil, up to the knuckle. If the soil feels moist, there is no need to water. If it’s dry, it’s time to water again.

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4. Timing is everything

What time of day you water and how frequently you water is very important. The cool of the evening is the best time to soak or drip irrigate a garden, because this gives the soil and plants all night to absorb the water. Early morning is an ideal time for sprinklers. The leaves of a plant can still absorb the water in the cool of the morning but dry out during the day which minimizes any leaf molds or fungus.

Also, avoid watering when it’s windy. Since windy conditions increase evaporation, it is inefficient for plants to absorb water. In fact, windy conditions even cause evaporation directly from the leaves of the plant as well. If possible, give your plants extra water before or after a warm windy day.

5. Keep water on site

If you have a hard pan developing on the surface of your soil, it won’t absorb water well and instead run off and pool up in your garden path instead. Try loosening the top inch of soil around your plants with your fingers, a hand trowel or to help the soil absorb the water.

Also, try watering slowly or in several stages a couple minutes apart so that the soil has time to absorb the water. Build up small mounds several inches high with your hands around the edges of your garden bed or around individual plants. This will act like a moat or dam and help keep water where you want it–at the base of your plants.

Keep in mind that every garden and every garden plot is different, so we recommend trying a couple of these things to find what works best for your garden. If you have questions specific to your site, ask your community garden leadership committee or garden mentors. They are always willing to help!

Good luck and stay cool!

A New Emily in the Gardens

Emily, the new Community Garden Outreach CoordinatorHello Gardeners!

I am the new Community Garden Outreach Coordinator. You might have seen me digging in my garden at the Northside or ASUM Community Gardens, teaching a compost workshop or helping out with Opening Day on the ASUM Garden Leadership Committee. I have been gardening with the Community Gardens for the last three years, and I look forward to working with you and for you in this new role at Garden City Harvest.

Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, I earned a degree in landscape architecture from Colorado State University before discovering the wilds and wonders of Montana. My love of plants and sense of adventure has provided me with a variety of professional experiences around the West, including wilderness trip-leading, ecology research, farming, permaculture and landscape design. I spend my spare time hiking up mountains, tending to my chickens, experimenting with new plants and new foods, and water-coloring.

I will also continue to cultivate my plot at the ASUM Community Gardens this year. Like all of you, I will be battling the same weeds and pests while juggling the needs of a tomato plant with the needs of my job, my partner and other life pursuits. I try to keep in mind the sage words of a fellow ASUM gardener: “If it’s not fun, then why are we doing it?” Although keeping up with bindweed isn’t exactly fun, I believe there are plenty of things to appreciate, celebrate and share when it comes to community gardening.  Keep your eye out for my weekly Community Garden blog posts this season as I share tips and tricks, gardener spotlights, events, recipes and creative ideas to fill our gardens and minds.

See you in the garden!

Attack! The top 4 pests in Missoula right now and what you can do about them

Here’s our Community Garden Operations Coordinator on some pests that have been plaguing our gardens in the last week or two:

I have been getting a lot of questions regarding garden pests, particularly flea beetles! I wanted to share a couple of tips to help control these critters. With a little bit of time and persistence, hopefully we can keep our plants, ourselves, and our garden neighbors happy!

flea beetle damage
Here’s some flea beetle damage.

Flea Beetles:

Symptoms:

Tiny “shotgun” holes on leaves of plants, especially tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and early brassicas. Very small black beetles that are very quick and jumpy.

Treatment options:

  • Hand squish any beetles that you see and can get your hands on.
  • Place trays of soapy water below your plants and shake them. Many of the beetles should fall off and get stuck in the water.
  • Pyrethrin spray is a common treatment. It should be used sparingly as needed to kill flea beetles. This is an insecticide that should be used carefully, but is acceptable by Organic standards. Spray tops and bottoms of leaves on affected plants.
  • Many people also mix organic biodegradable dish soap with water into a spray bottle. I generally use about 1 tablespoon of soap in a liter spray bottle. This should be applies the same as the pyrethrin sprays.
  • I have also seen a lot of folks use sticky bug traps around their affected plants. These bugs do jump around and move a lot and many of them can be caught in a sticky trap. They are a bit slower in the cool mornings and evenings and can also be caught by hand individually in the sticky traps.
Leaf miner eggs
The white flecks are the eggs of leaf miners. To remove, run your thumb or finger over the eggs.

Leaf Miners:

Symptoms:

Large blotches and tunnels within the leaves, most common on chard, beets, spinach. If you inspect the underside of the leaves, you will see linear patterns of small white eggs.

Treatment:

Regularly inspect the underside of leaves and squish any eggs that you find.

cabbage moth
This is a cabbage moth.

Cabbage Worms:

Symptoms: Large, jagged tears and holes in leaves. Common on cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Treatment: Inspect plants for green caterpillars and squish. Catch and kill any white cabbage moths that you can.

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Aphids eating away on a
kale leaf.

Aphids:

Symptoms: Curled and Distorted leaves. Commonly found on kale, cabbage, broccoli and the like. You will see clusters of little grey bugs.

Treatment: Promote or introduce predatory insects like ladybugs and lacewings that will help to keep the aphids at bay. Spraying a biodegradable soap and water mixture will also suffocate many of the aphids. If you end up with any plants that are totally infested, remove them from the garden completely.

Young plants are especially susceptible to being infested, which can lead to severity stunted and unhealthy plants. It is best to address these issues as soon as you become aware, as your plants become more established they will be more resilient to infestation.

Have you seen these pests in your garden? Do you have other pests? Let us know what questions you have!

Spring is here!

This week The Real Dirt features a guest post from Kaitlin McCafferty, our wonderful Community Gardens Intern.  Originally from Ohio, Kaitlin is a current graduate student at the University of Montana pursuing her M.S. in Environmental Studies and has a B.S. in Marketing from Fordham University. She can be reached at kaitlin@gardencityharvest.org.

Hello Community Gardeners!

I am so excited to join the GCH team as this season’s Community Gardens Intern. I cannot wait to get digging and to get to know all of you! But first, a bit about me:

I am a current graduate student at the University of Montana, enrolled in the Environmental Studies program focusing on Sustainable Food and Farming. I am new to Missoula’s agriculture scene, but I did spend the last seven years living, learning, working and gardening in New York City.

St. Rose's Garden

My journey with gardening began when I joined the community garden pictured above on Fordham University’s campus in the Bronx, Saint Rose’s Garden.  The garden introduced me to the world of local food systems, including urban agriculture, food pantries, community-run farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs. What I found most impactful was the sense of belonging and personal improvement I felt as a member of the garden, and I instantly connected with the welcoming and nourishing environment.

Suffolk Garden
That’s me in front of Suffolk Garden.

After college I moved to Manhattan and joined my new neighborhood’s garden, Suffolk Street Community Garden. At Suffolk Street, along with maintaining my own plot, I participated in garden-wide projects like building tree-guards for all the newly planted trees in our neighborhood.  I also began to take courses in Urban Agriculture from Farm School NYC, an organization with the mission to build self-reliant communities and inspire positive local action around food access and social, economic, and racial justice issues. I took courses in food justice, botany, carpentry, propagation, and growing soils. I was immersed in how local food systems can take a multi-faceted approach to strengthening communities.

All of these experiences contributed to my love and connection to community gardens, which led me to apply to the Environmental Studies program at the University of Montana, and soon after, an internship with Garden City Harvest. During my short time here, I have already been inspired and energized by the community gardeners in Missoula. This truly is a special place.

The Brooklyn Grange
Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm in Queens, NY. The site of one of my Farm School classes

Now enough about me, let’s get digging! Here are a few gardening tips I’ve learned over the years to help you all get started:

Sun: Check out your garden and note how many hours of sun it gets and if any sections are particularly shady. Pick your crops based on the amount of sun your plot gets, and the amount the crops need. (P.S. don’t be discouraged if your plot is shady. Leafy greens are a shady plot’s best friends. Think kale, arugula, chard, spinach; these crops will do great in partial sun. So will many herbs!)

Soil: Once you’ve got your plants it’s time to turn your soil and add compost! Compost adds nutrients and turning the soil mixes all those nutrients in and breaks up soil clumps to make room for roots. Not sure where to get your hands on compost? Never fear, Garden City Harvest supplies some compost for all its gardens! Just ask a fellow gardener or staffer and they will point you to the pile. Not a community gardener? Most of the nurseries around town should have both bagged and loose compost (you’ll need a pickup truck for the loose compost). It is important to know where your compost comes from and that it is food safe. The Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI) has a list of approved suppliers, but the nursery should be able to help you locate a good brand as well.

Water: The younger the crop, the more water it needs, especially if you are direct-seeding. Also, I’d recommend watering in the morning, especially once hot summer temperature kicks in. This way, you can avoid water evaporation caused by mid-day heat.

Friends: Meet your fellow gardeners! First, they are the biggest resource for garden-specific knowledge.  Second, forming a relationship with fellow gardeners is half the fun of (and my #1 reason for) joining a community garden. Gardens are a unique space for fostering relationships between neighbors who otherwise would not mingle. They are welcoming space to exchange resources and support the ideas of all its community members, a powerful combination to make for a fantastic, and maybe even life changing, experience!

I hope these tips help. Thanks for tuning into my story, and I can’t wait to see you all outside!

Building tree guards
My old garden crew and I proudly showing off the tree guards we built.
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].