Tag Archives: community gardens

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!

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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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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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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What Do You, Beyoncé, and Weeding Have in Common? Y’all Slay.

Weeding. The never-ending task. As our gardens progress through the season, it’s easy to put off pulling those pesky intruders from our plots. If you’re like me, weeding was a romantic endeavor early in the season, a responsibility that has visual consequences and offers that instant gratification. You get in that zen-like zone, clearing the unwanted growth from your plot, nurturing, brushing your shoulders off after beautifying your space and helping your fruits and veggies thrive. Then time passes, you keep at it, it gets hot out, you go on vacation, you come back, and boom. All romance is lost and the task turns to work. Before you realize it your plot is a jungle of intrusion, of unwanted visitors overthrowing all your hard work. Those little monsters spreading their seed like it’s the garden plot apocalypse, battling your cherished plants for energy, water and space. Having grown up gardening in a Pacific temperate rainforest, I’m well acquainted with the rise in blood-pressure that can, and will, ensue.

It’s okay gardeners, we’re all in this together. Let’s put our heads down and win the battle, let’s not schlep, let’s slay.

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At least it’s not this bad…

The term weed refers to anything you don’t want in your garden, or simply, a plant out of place. In our neck of the woods this can include dill, sunflowers, horseradish, mint, and yarrow, among others. More typical weeds that plague us are purslane, quackgrass, lambsquarters, pigweed, dandelion, sow thistle, knapweed, and ugh, bindweed. Download this helpful resource for common garden weed identification and management practices to better equip you for battle.

One plus for weeding is that some varieties are edible and/or medicinal, and downright tasty such as lambsquarters, purslane, and dandelion. Read more about edible weeds and recipes in our previous post, “When Your Garden Gives You Weeds, Make Salad!

And remember, in the words of Beyoncé, when it comes to weeding, slay:

Sometimes I go off, I go hard 
Get what’s mine (take what’s mine), I’m a star
Cause I slay, I slay, I slay, I slay
All day, I slay, I slay, I slay
We gon’ slay, gon’ slay, we slay, I slay

 

Gardens of Missoula, A Tour De Flora

I spend majority of my job garden hopping around Missoula. With ten gardens, this takes me to nearly every corner of the city. I’ve racked up countless hours spent in the work truck, watching the neighborhoods change as I cruise across town in every direction. Considering Missoula has a population of +/- 70,000 people, the community interest in cultivating local foods is quite impressive. Garden City Harvest oversees ten community gardens, with 370 plots, catering to roughly 750 Missoulians, with a lofty waitlist on top of that.

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Visiting the ten community gardens makes for an inspired tour of our city. Every garden emulates it’s surrounding environment, with individual characteristics which make each a unique experience. Make it a bike tour, walk it, or a Sunday drive. In any way, they’ll take you to every neck of these woods.

For a digital, downloadable, and reader-friendly guide of our community gardens, click below.



 

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Time to Soak: H2O in the Hot Hot Heat

So it’s a hot one this week,  Missoula. You’re thirsty, you want lemonade. You’re on day three of a +/- 90 degree stretch. You’ve been sweating, and you’re depleting what normally comprises ~ 60 percent of your body material: water. Now think about this as you slurp that lemonade: veggie plants are comprised of ~ 80 to 95 percent water, and they’ve been basking in the sun all day long.[1] As the Alabama Extension Service states, “Think of them [vegetable plants] as sacks of water with a small amount of flavoring and some vitamins,”[2] or, as Kim Gilchrist articulates, “Plants need water to help them stay upright and grow taller, to photosynthesize, and to move nutrients from their roots to their leaves and flowers.” These sacks aren’t much without water, and it’s our duty to keep them hydrated and happy.

Some arithmetic…

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Photo by Beth Gibson.

Generally, our gardens need at least one inch of water per week. In hot weather, vegetables need more: add about a ½ inch per week for every 10 degrees that the average temperature is above 60 degrees.[3]

By definition, the average temperature is the daytime high plus nighttime low, divided by two. So, if the high is 95 and the low is 73, the average is 92 + 73, divided by two. The answer is 82.5. In this case, that’s about 20 degrees over 60, so you would be watering two inches total for the week (that’s the base inch plus two ½ inches). This explains why most vegetable gardeners in hot climates just laugh at the “one inch of water per week” recommendation. That simply doesn’t work in really hot weather for squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and other crops that need lots of water and have big leaves that wilt easily. This is all to say that when it’s hot, we need to be conscious about watering longer.[4]

You can measure an inch of water by keeping a rain gauge or other container under your watering system. You’ve applied an inch of water when the vessel collects water an inch deep.[5]

No need to buy a water gauge, simply use a container with a ruler.
No need to buy a water gauge, simply use a container with a ruler.

Know the watering needs of your plants. Most plants perform best in soil that is kept moist, but not waterlogged. Some plants, however, prefer the soil to be completely dried out before being watered again. In our dry climate it’s best to err on the side of keeping the soil evenly moist, but if you really want all your plants to thrive, learn about their individual watering needs. The Royal Horticultural Society outlines some basics.

Check out Kim Gilchrist’s post, To water… or not to water, for more detailed information on watering in the heat.

Stay hydrated everyone!

 

 

 

[1] J.K. Kemble, Basics of Vegetable Crop Irrigation (n.p.: Alabama, A & M, and Auburn Universities, 2000), [1].

[2] Kemble, Basics of Vegetable Crop, [1]

[3] Kelly Smith, “How Much Water Do Vegetables Need?,” Bonnie Plants, accessed June 27, 2016, https://bonnieplants.com/library/how-much-water-do-vegetables-need/.

[4]  Smith, “How Much Water Do Vegetables,” Bonnie Plants.

[5] Smith, “How Much Water Do Vegetables,” Bonnie Plants.


Sources

Kemble, J.K. Basics of Vegetable Crop Irrigation. N.p.: Alabama, A & M, and Auburn      Universities; Alabama Cooperative Extension System, 2000.

Smith, Kelly. “How Much Water Do Vegetables Need?” Bonnie Plants. Accessed June 27,  2016. https://bonnieplants.com/library/how-much-water-do-vegetables-need/.

 

Pester Those Pests!

This week The Real Dirt is featuring a guest blog from Patrick, Community Gardens Maintenance 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.


Whether you are brand new to gardening or have the greenest thumb in town, community gardens offer a place to share ideas, knowledge, conversation, growing materials, and so much more.  Unfortunately, some of the many things that can be “shared” at the gardens are pests, which are not what your friends and neighbors are looking for.

With this in mind, this post will focus on a few common Missoula pests and how to keep yourself, your neighbors, and your plants happy and healthy.  No matter if your garden is in your own yard or you share four borders at one of our community gardens, pest awareness and control are crucial to a thriving garden.

The best defense against garden pests is to have a healthy and diverse garden, strong plants, a bit of knowledge, and time in the garden.

Healthy Soil:

Healthy soil will have the fertility to grow strong and resilient plants and will have all sorts of beneficial life in it that will aid in fighting off garden pests. Incorporating organic material such as compost and plant material will go a long way towards healthy garden soil.  Keeping up with pests before the need to spray any pest control will help ensure the garden life we want won’t be harmed.

Crop Rotation and Diversity:

Rotating your vegetables will ensure that the same nutrients are not being taken out of the soil year after year and degrading your soil.  It will also make it tougher for pests to find the plants they prefer. Planting a diversity of different crops and varieties, including flowering plants, will reduce the effect that any one pest may have on your garden as well as attract an array of beneficial insects.

Healthy plants:

Similar to when we are stressed and unhealthy, an unhealthy or stressed plant will be much more susceptible to and less able to fight off pests and diseases.  Our vegetable plants are especially prone to pest issues when they are young and/or have recently had the stress of being transplanted out to the garden.  For this reason, growing or purchasing healthy starts for your garden and keeping a keen eye early on can greatly reduce pest problems in your garden.

Time in the garden:

The small scale of most of our backyard or community gardens allows us to keep a closer eye on each individual plant in the garden. Physically removing pests as they arise early on disrupts their lifecycle and reduces some negative effects that other eradication practices may have on the critters we want. Timing is crucial when controlling pests.

No matter how hard you try, you will undoubtedly run into some pest problems in your garden at some point or another.  But don’t stress it too hard; as long as you keep an eye out for potential pest problems and address them as soon as you notice an issue, you should be able to get things under control. Fighting off pests and damage requires energy, reducing energy going toward plant growth and food production.   Delays in addressing a pest problem will make eradication more difficult, plant damage more severe, and reduce garden productivity.

Key Elements of a pest free garden

-Healthy soil

-Healthy plants

-Diversity in the garden

-Crop rotation

-An alert presence in the garden and attention to detail

Common Missoula Pests:

Below is a list of a few pests common in Missoula gardens, what they look like, what they like to eat, and how to control them.

Leaf Miners:  Most common on beats, chard and spinach, they produce large blotches and tunnel like markings on leaves.  Keep an eye on the underside of leaves for rows of small white eggs to squish, and remove and destroy any damaged leaves from the garden.

Leaf Miner Eggs. (photo: www.utahpests.usu.edu)
Leaf Miner Eggs. (photo: www.utahpests.usu.edu)
Leaf Miner Damage. (photo:  www.garden.org)
Leaf Miner Damage. (photo: www.garden.org)

Cabbage Moths:  Most common on cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.  They will eat holes in the leaves, leaving jagged holes or edges.  Look for and squish any green caterpillars on the underside of leaves, also try to catch and kill adult cabbage moths flying in your garden.  Covering plants with a floating row cover will also help keep cabbage moth numbers down early on.

Cabbage Moth. (photo: http://www.arbico-organics.com)
Cabbage Moth. (photo: http://www.arbico-organics.com)
Cabbage Worm. (photo: www.almanac.com)
Cabbage Worm. (photo: www.almanac.com)

Flea Beatles:   Usually affects tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants early on in the season before plants are well established.  They are tiny black beetles and will produce numerous small holes in plant leaves.  Hand squishing in the morning or evening when they are a little slower can work well, place sticky traps around the garden to catch them, and shaking them off the plant into a tray of soapy water can help get rid of them.

Flea Beetle Damage. (photo: www.extension.umn.edu)
Flea Beetle Damage. (photo: www.extension.umn.edu)
Flea Beetle. (photo: www.garden.org)
Flea Beetle. (photo: www.garden.org)

Cut worms:  Commonly affects corn, onions, broccoli, cabbage and kale.  Cut worms will eat away the stem of plants at soil level.   By scraping the soil around affected plants and removing any caterpillars you find will reduce cut worm numbers and damage.

Cut Worm. (photo: www.extension.umn.edu)
Cut Worm. (photo: www.extension.umn.edu)

Aphids:  Aphids are common on kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts.  Aphids will make curled and distorted leaf growth, and will also be visible on the leaves.  Spraying them off the affected plants can help reduce aphids. A soapy water bath to the leaves is also effective.  Promoting or introducing beneficial insects such as ladybugs also help control aphid populations.

Aphids. (photo: www.onthegreenfarms.com)
Aphids. (photo: www.onthegreenfarms.com)

This is just a short list of common garden pests – – there are many others that we may find in our gardens.  There are many good sites online that can help identify garden pests and samples can be brought into the Missoula Extension Service to be identified.

Happy gardening!


 

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