RGCF Garden Guide
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A Message from Sara
Green tomatoes aplenty and patches of garlic covered in straw popping up around the garden, we have reached the end of our 2010 irrigation season. The Sandhill Cranes are here and the first frost is just around the corner, it is time for our soil to rejuvenate for next year!
Education is an important link in optimizing our community garden. I will be using a local garden curriculum called “Building a Community Garden”, by A Collaboration of New Mexico Farmers and Educators that was published by the local American Friends Service Committee last spring, as a guide this year.
I am also creating a list of workshop topics for the upcoming year based on discussion and suggestions and plan to use the county extension service as a support for this. If anyone has suggestions on topics or would like to present a workshop this year, please let me know. It’d be great to have gardener lead workshops; I think everyone should attend at least one.
The mission of our garden is also a priority to me: support our members to grow their own food. I would like as much of the land to be as useful to the community as possible. An important part of this is passing on rows to new members as current members are finished with the space. WE NEED TO STAY IN COMMUNICATION ABOUT THIS in order to accomplish our mission. Please choose 1 of the 3 options for the fall/winter season and let me know which one you choose for your row/s.
1) I have finished using my garden row, please pass my land on to a new member.
2) I am growing/planting cool season plants or cover crop in my row (building a row cover if necessary).
3) I am mulching my row with straw, manure, cardboard or another organic mulch to improve my soil for next spring.
Please let me know if you need extra support to prepare your row for fall. Also, please let me know if there are extenuating circumstances that will keep this from being done in a timely fashion.
OUR LAST SCHEDULED IRRIGATION DAY WAS OCTOBER 20TH
See you at the garden,
‘Tis the Season: Thoughts on managing our incredibly invasive weeds from Joran Viers at the NMSU Bernalillo County Extension Service:
I’m thinking that sheet mulching with the manure would be the best option. So, a layer maybe about 2” deep of manure, topped with either overlapping cardboard or newspaper (several thickness together on the newspaper), topped with some more coarse organic matter (old hay? Beware of weed seeds! Wood chips? Good, but spring incorporation of those might carbon-load the soil so much it tied up the nitrogen added with the manure…ideal would be decent quality alfalfa hay, in a layer maybe 3” deep). This will certainly help build soil, and would suppress cool-season weeds like London rocket and hare barley. Frankly, it will not provide much deterrence against bindweed, which will resume growth as things warm up next spring. Partly this is because the layers will need to be incorporated (tilled in), which will open up avenues for the bindweed. Now, one could do the row no-till: leave them layers undisturbed, and just make small openings to transplant into. The bindweed will find those to emerge from, and will probably power through the undisturbed layers as well. However, if left un-tilled, it will give some deterrence against summer annuals like pigweed, kochia and the like. Do you know which weeds you are most concerned with?
(A note from Sara: I’m pretty sure we are concerned with all of the aforementioned weeds.)
Another option would be to incorporate the manure now (in the fall), and then to regularly do shallow cultivation to mechanically kill off emerging weeds, whether from seed or root. This would allow you to have a reasonably weed-free bed, at least until planting time. From then it would depend on how well someone kept the row weeded.
County Program Director/Agriculture Agent
Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service
1510 Menaul NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107
The master gardeners at our garden also suggested using a very heavy mulch. Chuck said there is a row near his that is heavily mulched with straw (Ed’s Garlic).
The year we did a straw mulch at the MG garden we put it on too lightly and it blew away.
Another suggestion – the MG’s this year are putting manure from the community garden on the rows as the vegetables finish producing. This will seep in during the winter in time to plant the rows in the spring.
You can download an electronic copy of this curriculum at: www.afsc.org/albuquerque
Preparing the Garden for Winter
Once the crops have been gathered, there are many things to do to prepare the
garden for winter. Much of the preparation gets the soil ready for a new plant life
cycle. Here is a list of chores you can start in mid-September through October:
Clean up garden debris. Leaves and branches can harbor insects and
Continue to weed. Pull the weeds before they have a chance to seed. Do
not add the weeds to the compost pile, they may contain seeds.
Take a soil test, you may be able to amend the soil in the fall.
Till the soil in the fall if erosion is not a problem. Add compost or manure
to improve soil structure.
Plant a cover crop to protect soil from erosion during the winter. In the
spring, tilling it into the soil will provide organic matter to improve the soil
structure. A cover crop also shades the soil and prevents weeds from
If you decide to mulch choose one that is consistent in color and texture.
One that will resist compaction, resist wind and water erosion, has a slow
rate of decomposition and reduces weed growth. You might decide to try
small amounts until you find the one that suits you garden.
Plant trees, shrubs, evergreens and bulbs in early fall to allow root growth
Preparing for Winter
BY SPIRAL BLANTON
A special aspect of being engaged in farming or gardening is that you become especially aware of the rhythms
and changes of the different times of the year. Our main growing season begins in May and winds down
towards the end of October. I feel a growing sense of contraction moving into wintertime. The days grow
shorter and colder and the plants die back into the earth. The abundance of warmer days begins to seem
like a distant memory. While winter can outwardly seem like a very still and slow time, it is a most dynamic and
important season for the gardener and the earth. The long nights provide space to contemplate and plan the
adventure of working with the land another year. It is a wonderful time to evaluate what how things went this
season and to nurture ideas about what we might do next year.
Physical work outdoors does not stop in winter. We build long compost windrows to provide for next year’s
crops. Plant materials are recycled from in and around the gardens—weeds, leaves from trees, and dead
plants from hot weather crops like tomatoes, chilies, etc. We layer these with locally collected animal manures
(horse, cow, chicken, goat) to create a rich soil amendment. Some hardy crops are “over wintered.” These
include greens (lettuce, kale, chard, etc.), some herbs, and members of the onion family (garlic, onions,
leeks). In our dry climate, such crops may need occasional water during cold weather and will do better with
the climate moderating “helpers” such as mulches and special covers made of fabric, plastic, or glass. By
February, we are busy amending and tilling the soil in preparation for the upcoming season. This is one way
we’re lucky—our friends in wetter climates usually have to wait much longer until the soil is dry enough to work!
While there is outdoor work to be done, winter is a great time to do all those things those indoor activities we
didn’t have time for when it was warmer. Some activities I am engaged in during this time include compiling
harvest records from the past season, cleaning and organizing seeds we have saved from the past season,
doing a seed inventory, working with our volunteer board and core group to come up with next year’s goals
and budget, and planning next years garden. We grow a diversity of crops (40+) and several varieties of
many. We do this on three different plots and strive for good crop rotation while working with various growing
conditions. The farmers put together a seed order (we strive to support small companies that work to maintain
genetic diversity), developing a planting schedule and acquiring new tools and other supplies we need
By the late winter days of February, we are starting some crops in our greenhouse. Seeds and little plants
are watered and cared for until the conditions are right to plant them outside. We gradually plant more and
more “early” crops outdoors, such as peas, greens, and root crops during the increasingly warmer days. The
crops—and weeds—start growing more abundantly. As we become fully engaged in tending to the rampant
life springing into being outside, the comparatively sparse days of winter become yet another memory…
I have shared my experience on a particular farm through the winter in Albuquerque. If I were on a farm with
more animals needing attention or a place engaged in more “season extension” (such as hoop houses and
solar heated greenhouses), my activities during this time would be different. What I hope to convey is that
regardless of the type of work being done in the “off” season, the work done curing the colder time of the year
is crucial to our farming success throughout the whole year.
Since September 1st of this year, Rio Grande Community Farm has donated over 1,080 pounds of produce to local food banks. A large portion of this comes from community garden donations. This number is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing your produce with our community!
Our last scheduled day of irrigation was Wednesday, October 20th! We will continue to fill the water tanks until the end of October for last minute hand watering, in November the water will be shut off for winter. However, we are looking into the possibility of keeping the water tanks filled over the winter using the well water from the drip system in the field east of us! This may be possible and I will let you know if it works out.
Americorps in the Garden:
Please welcome the Rio Grande Community Farm’s Americorps members to our garden! Joshua, Gabe, Pancho, Ryan, Kacie, Mona and Nicole will be tending rows in the community garden this year. They are all working on different projects with RGCF, the NMSU Extension Service and the Agricultura Network, if you see them in the garden, say hi! They are fun, interesting people from all over the country!
Much ‘ado About Weeds!
After you pull your weeds, please put them in the field directly south of the garden. We have outgrown our invasive weed barrels and learned that this field worked as a weed grave yard for the garden years ago, so we’re trying it again. A wheel barrow is nice for carting the weeds from your row to the south field weed pile.
Soil Soil Soil, Plants Plants Plants:
It is time to decide between mulching or planting your row/s for fall.
If you would like to grow food through the fall and winter, there are cool weather veggie seeds in the seed closet. Also, there is contact information for Ed Stevens on the bulletin board in the shade structure, if you want to buy some garlic to plant this fall. Plant your seeds soon so there will be water in the tanks to start watering them! Also, prepare a row cover for your plants, as we expect our first frost soon.
If you do not plant for fall you NEED to clear the old annuals and weeds out of your row and mulch it for winter! Either of the suggestions from Joran (in the “ ’Tis the Season section) on mulching with manure are fine, but everyone needs to choose one. Mulching your row will help control weeds over the winter and improve your soil for next spring! There is manure north of the shade structure and at the south end of the garden just waiting to cover your row for the winter, use it please. There is also some straw west of out hedgerow around the middle of our garden to cover your strawberry plants for winter.
There is a group of home school students that are a part of the Jane Goodall education program Roots and Shoots coming to our garden on October 27th. They will be covering our garden paths with black plastic and burlap to help keep the weeds down and make the paths more accessible and easier to maintain. If you have black plastic (such as old trash bags) or burlap (such as old coffee sacks) to donate to this project, please let me know, or, leave them in the shed where I can find them.
Fall clean-up days at the garden are scheduled for Friday November 5th and Saturday November 6th from 9am-1pm. These days are open to everyone who’d like to help out at the garden. We will be tidying up the paths, the hedgerow and other common areas that have gotten away from us this season. Fall clean-up days will be a mini potluck so please bring a snack to share. Also, remember to bring plenty of drinking water to stay hydrated while you work!
If you are interested in volunteering at the garden another time, please contact me (Sara) through firstname.lastname@example.org so we can schedule a time to work at the garden.
Garden Guide Q&A:
Since each of us has different schedules, it’s often hard to find a way to get timely information to everyone at the community garden. I hope you will send me some of your questions and concerns about gardening at RGCF.
please e-mail me (at email@example.com) with any questions you have about organic gardening, issues you need help with, suggestions for doing things better and the like and I’ll do my best to cover them here.
I would like give a special thank you to our group of volunteers who fills the water tanks on Tuesdays! They have made it possible to keep the fish alive and our gardens watered, and they go above and beyond to water our compost, hedgerow and empty our invasive weed bins! They are totally awesome and a HUGE help to the garden!
Also, thank you to everyone who has continued to attend to their common tasks! This keeps our common areas useful and comfortable and I can not do it without you!