First Garden Blooms
As the picture above illustrates, the garden is experiencing its first blooms of the year! The white flowers belong to our blackberry bushes. Over the next 4-6 weeks, the flowers will fall off, allowing a green berry to emerge, which over time, will darken in color. The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice, so keep that in mind when they start appearing!
Below, is a picture of one of our ornamental onions, Allium Schubertii, starting its cosmic-looking bloom. Keep an eye out for the others along the food fence as they also reach peak bloom.
SW Duck Drop
This Saturday, from 1-4pm, at the Southwest Duck Pond (located in the park at the corner of 6th and i Street SW), the Southwest Business Improvement District and the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly will be hosting a “Duck Drop”, where the pond will be getting refilled. There were be live music and food from King Ribs. The garden will have a table at the event and will be handing out free rosemary and lavender.
Available for harvest:
What A Kick-off!
Shout out to SW (and its honorary visitors), way to represent! 👏🏾 🙌 If the kick-off is a sign of things to come, we’re about to have the greatest garden year in garden history … 😛🤞🏾 but seriously, that was an amazing kick-off: more than 50 people stopped by to contribute their talents, time, energy, green thumbs, sweat, and coolness 😎. Even Ward 6 council member, Charles Allen, made an appearance with his daughter, in which they contributed some garden artwork. All in all, it was great to see so many people work with one another and nature. A valuable reminder of how transformative community work is!
[To check out more photos from the event, click here]
⚒ Next steps ⚒
Now that the kick-off is behind us, our regular work days will begin, starting this Wednesday, April 12th, 6-7pm, and Sunday, April 16th, 4-6pm. Work days will continue every Wednesday and Sunday at those same times. You can consult our garden calendar for the schedule, if you ever forget. As a heads up, work days will be cancelled when there’s inclement weather.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be putting the finishing touches on our S❤️W garden, as well as weeding, watering, creating artwork, and composting!
Speaking of composting, our new 365/24/7 compost system is officially operational. You’re welcome to drop off your food scraps during work days, but if those times are inconvenient, you can leave them in our new compost bin that is located outside of the garden. To learn the proper protocol, please email me for instructions. We’re going to start by prohibiting meat and “compostable” utensils. The meat may attract some unwanted visitors, and the limited size of our compost pile will prevent us from generating enough heat to break down the compostable materials. If you’re interested in learning how the magic of composting happens, just just during any of our work days.
Thanks again for a great kick-off! Looking forward to a great year in the garden!
Ready For The Spring Kick-off!
Last Wednesday, despite the chilly weather, a group of SW neighbors worked with a volunteer group from Georgia, organized by Mercy Hill Church, to get the garden ready for the spring kick-off. We successfully fixed a couple of the wheelbarrows and the entrance to the garden, pulled up weeds, and turned over all our cover crops. We are now ready to start the gardening season!
Companion planting plan
At the kick-off, we’ll be trying our hand at companion planting for the first time. Companion planting is the intentional planting of mutually beneficial crops next to each other. This method maximizes space, deters pests, and encourages a healthy growing cycle. If you’ve attended one of our previous kick-offs, you’ll already know we follow a PIY tactic — plant-it-yourself! The combinations we’ll be planting this spring will be the following: onions/carrots, peas/spinach, and carrots/lettuce. If you’re interested in learning more, and trying out this strategy, come to the kick-off!
Pre-kick-off Work Day, March 22nd @ 5:30pm
In order to prepare for the spring kick-off, we’ve organized a pre-kick-off work day for Wednesday, March 22nd, starting at 5:30pm. During this time, we’ll be turning over our cover crops, pulling up weeds, fixing the wheelbarrows and the fence, organizing the tool shed, and preparing to build our new SW-inspired flower garden. We’ll be helped by a group of volunteers organized by Mercy Hill Church, which is a new church in the neighborhood that will have teams of people coming to town regularly between March and August with the sole goal of serving the community.
We visited the garden last weekend to see how it was doing, and, as you can see from the photos above, it’s looking great! The cover crops, garlic, kale, and collard greens are all doing well. A note about cover crops: cover crops are great for growing over the winter, as they prevent soil erosion, and help provide valuable nitrogen to the soil for future plants to consume.
It was especially exciting to see the success of the collard green experiment we tried last fall. To summarize, here’s what we tried: we noticed that the collard greens we planted last spring were becoming a popular hang-out spot for the aggravating harlequin beetles during the summer months. There are no natural predators for the beetles, so the only way to thwart their growth is to manually remove them. We decided that our approach would be to decrease their habitat — thus, we cut the collard greens down to about 2 inches above the soil. The hope was that the greens would grow back, but by the time they had, it would be too cold for the beetles. And now, we see the result — the collards are almost as bushy as before!
The SW Community Garden Beet 📝
If you’re new to the SW neighborhood, and even if you’re not, I recommend following, or picking up our local newspaper, The Southwester — it’ll keep you updated with all things SW. Including, of course, the garden. Our goal for this year is to submit an entry every month. The above photo is from our March entry regarding the spring kick-off. Speaking of which…
*Reminder* 4th Annual Spring Kick-off: April 8th
Just a reminder that our spring kick-off will be on Saturday, April 8th, from 11am to 3pm. You can RSVP via Facebook, if you like.
If you’d like to help with any of the planning, or have suggestions for additional activities, feel free to get in touch!
Date set for our 4th Annual Spring Kick-off: April 8th
Thanks to everyone who came to our get together last Saturday! We had a great discussion, and it was refreshing to see both new, and familiar faces.
The kick off will be on Saturday, April 8th, from 11am to 3pm. You can RSVP via Facebook, if you like. We’ll be planting the communal beds, creating garden signs, amateur face-painting will be offered (emphasis on amateur 👩🎨👨🏽🎨), and we’ll be creating a new SW-inspired flower garden: the garden will be in the shape of the letters S and W, with a heart in between — S ❤️ W
If you’d like to help with any of the planning, or have suggestions for additional activities, feel free to get in touch!
Celebrating Black History Month
In honor of Black History Month, consider reading this piece written in 2005 by Juan Williams and published by National Public Radio on the history, and current status of Black Farmers in America.
Getting Ready For Our 4th Annual Spring Kick-off!
Are you ready to get your hands in some dirt again? Well, spring is getting closer and closer each day, which also means it’s time to start planning for our annual, spring kick-off. The kick-off marks the beginning of the communal section’s growing season, and the resumption of regular workdays.
In previous years, we’ve held cooking demos, compost workshops, planted potatoes in buckets, painted garden signs, and of course, planted seeds in the communal section (photos from previous years can be found here: 2014, 2015, 2016).
So… what have we got planned for this year? We don’t know yet, but if you’d like to help us figure that out, please fill out this Doodle poll by Sunday night, February 12th. The next day, the 13th, via this newsletter, the most convenient day and time will be shared for anyone to attend.
Building On Last Year
Our goal for 2017 is to continue the momentum we’ve created over the past couple of years. In 2015, we grew 65 pounds of produce and averaged about 10 people per workday; in 2016, we grew 140 pounds and averaged almost 14 people per workday. Please feel free to share with us your talents, ideas, energy, and any other unique attributes!
Oh, and hey, the brothers at Urban Farm Plans built us a new compost bin that will be accessible all day, every day!
Well, friends, yesterday, was the garden’s last workday of 2016. The cover crops are in, and the gates are closed. It’s been a fantastic year in the garden — we grew, and distributed more fruits and vegetables than we had our previous 2 years, and had a record number of visitors to the garden.
Last year, we grew 65 pounds of produce, and this year, we stepped up our production and reached 140 pounds! We also took another step forward in our pursuit of creating a true “community garden” rather than a “garden in a community” by connecting with more of our SW neighbors (and honorary SW residents).
In 2015, we had 364 total visits to the garden, with 58 new visits, and an average of 10 people per workday.
This year, we had a total of 655 visits, 80 new visitors, and an average of 13.5 people per workday!
Overall, from 2014-2016, we’ve had a 180% increase in visits during our workdays!
More isn’t always better, but whoa!
While the garden is closed, we will recharge, take time to reflect, and start thinking about what we can do to continue becoming a valuable component of the community. If you have ideas, suggestions, feed back, or want to get involved, feel free to get in touch with us. If there are items that you think we should purchase, let us know!
We’ll start preparing for our spring kick-off in February, so you can expect to hear from us then!
Enjoy the rest of the year, and see you in the spring!
Spring Kick-off Less Than A Month Away!
Our 3rd annual spring kick-off event is about a month away. Mark your calendar, April 2nd, from 11am – 3pm.
We’ve got a great schedule planned for the day:
11 – 11:30am: Stretching, warm-up led by M Street Yoga.
11:30 – 11:45am: Biosolids demo by DC Water.
11:45am – 1:30pm: Planting! Vegetable beds + expanding the pollinator garden
1:30 – 2pm: Lunch / Healthy food + bike blender demo
2 – 3pm: Finish planting, clean-up
For those that don’t want to get their hands dirty, or want to take an artisitc break, there will be a painting activities throughout the event as well!
The spring kick-off represents the reopening of the garden’s communal section for the year. After this, we’ll begin having our regular work days again. Remember, our work days are open to anyone to help out and volunteer in. No prior gardening experience is needed, and all suggestions and input are welcome. If you’re interested in staying in loop with our communal section, you can join our newsletter here.
Hope to see you in the garden!
Happy first day of summer!
Today, June 21st, is the summer solstice — the day when the sun sits in the sky for the longest period of time. From this point forward, the sun will begin appearing in the sky for an increasingly shorter period of time, until its climax, the winter solstice in December.
Now that we’re over half-way through the year, let’s take time to reflect on what has been accomplished in the garden this year:
Compared to 2014, the health and vibrancy of the crops we’ve grown in the garden has been excellent. We’ve followed a crop rotation cycle, used cover crops, have added compost, and have surrounded our seedlings with straw. All this seems to be working nicely, as there have been few pest issues, and we’ve already harvested a little over 31 pounds of produce. Just last week, at our #BeetTheHeat event, we harvested 9 pounds of beets! (For more information about what we’ve planted, how much we’ve harvested, and who’s visited the garden, check out our Garden Journal)
We’ve also kept to our #FoodIsFree mantra by setting up a table outside the Waterfront metro, offering free produce to passersby. We offered kale, collard greens, spinach, lettuce, and thyme, all for free. In the process, we received $10 in donations, and help spread the word about the garden, and what we’re doing there.
There has been a steady number of regular, and new visitors to the garden this year. So far, there have been 200 visits, 43 of which have been newcomers.
It’s been great to see some of the original neighborhood kids that visited the garden when it first opened, still showing up, applying what they’ve learned, and then teaching their peers how to take care of the garden.
In addition to the kids, we’ve had other residents of the community stop by to help out, pick up some produce, or just explore. It’s exactly why I initially became interested in urban gardening: food brings people together, regardless of race, age, class, sexual orientation. Once together, we can see and discuss our similarities, and talk about the visions we’d like to see in our communities.
We’ve witnessed neighbors interacting with others, with food being the catalyst for conversation. It’s been a beautiful thing to be a part of, and I hope this trend continues.
The garden was able to expand a little outside of its fence, and start a habitat garden on Earth Day. The plants were provided by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) as part of a city-wide effort to “attract and support hummingbirds, butterflies (including Monarchs), bees and other creatures that are important players in a healthy ecosystem.” DPR selected a site in each ward for the project, and the garden was selected to represent Ward 6! (For additional info on the project, you can check out this document)
In addition to the habitat garden, we’ve also planted sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, cramer’s rose, and snapdragons.
The garden is becoming a beautiful place to spend an hour or two, and we hope to see you in there!
At the 2015 spring kick-off, we held an intro workshop to bokashi composting, and planted the communal beds with the most popular vegetables voted on by SW residents.
Bokashi, which means fermented organic matter in Japanese, is a way of creating composted soil through the use of microorganisms and fermentation. The process works anaerobically (without oxygen), and requires the mixing of “Bokashi Bran” with a pile of food scraps in a sealed container. Over time, the microorganisms within the bran break the food down into soil. The process suppresses stench, and is protected from rodents since it occurs within a container.
The materials are mixed together, placed in a sealed container in a space where it will receive heat, and left to sit for two weeks. During this time period the microorganisms will come to life, feeding on the molasses, and will then be ready to break down the food scraps. The bran looks like sawdust, and is spread on top of the food scraps.
The planting of the communal beds followed a “do-it-yourself” style. Groups of volunteers were given markers, a tape measure, seeds, and directions to plant the appropriate seeds in the correct beds. Then, they were free to learn and apply the square-foot gardening technique. For a copy of the directions we used, check out this document.
In addition to all this planting, there were also artistic activities to liven up the garden:
As the photos from the kick-off show, the garden opened with great energy and participation. This has continued into our regular work days (which are: Wednesdays 6-7pm, and Saturdays 4-5pm).