Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Gardens of Mogreena

They’re not quite the hanging gardens of Babylon, but they are still pretty amazing. Where there was once rubble, a garden now stands. A garden created out of love. A garden created with sweat, blood, biodiesel, compost, and a whole lot of shoveling. The biodiesel powered the tractors that laid the compost out in raised bed rows. We sweat and bled while shoveling pathways and created dimension in this ¼ acre space. The garden just gets better with every passing year.

This is year three in the Modena garden, or Mogreena garden, as we like to say. The gardens at 8 Union Street have evolved into multiple purpose spaces, with the majority of garden space going to veggies. We have gardens for food, gardens for entertaining, and gardens that serve as a pretty face. We have a soft spot for art in the garden, and reusing found objects of industry, but I’ll delve into those topics in a future post.

We added Biochar to a few of the beds this year, to experiment with water and nutrient retention. Our yields should be higher in the Biochar beds and we can’t wait till the harvest comes in! We’ve added more compost and fertilizer, organic of course, and the plants love it. We water the garden with reclaimed water and supplement with well water when needed. We were a little worried when it was dry for about 3 weeks in early spring, but finally the atmosphere is cooperating! Watching the garden grow after a good rain is a miracle of nature.

Garden day has evolved into more than just a day of planting, weeding, and watering. It has evolved into a social gathering of co-workers and friends. The garden is a place and time for relaxation, camaraderie, learning, and exploration. It is amazing what growing your own food can do to influence a willingness to try new vegetables.

Gardens are a joy best shared with others. This is the first of many blog posts where our Mogreena Garden will be shared with the world. I hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Guest Blogger for Organic Gardening Magazine!

I am honored to have the opportunity to be a guest blogger for Organic Gardening Magazine again in 2012! In this post I paint a glimpse into the world of the Philadelphia International Flower Show. I love the Flower Show, PHS, and all the work they do encouraging the joy of gardening. Check out the post and let me know what you think!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Starting early spring seeds for the veggie garden

Starting early spring seeds for the veggie garden

I’m planting early spring veggies like carrots, beets, spinach, swiss chard, arugula, lettuce, mustard greens, kale, cabbage, and broccoli. The carrots and beets were sown directly in the garden. Root crops do better when sown direct. Once planted I layed out a product called reemay, or row cover, a thin layer of breathable fabric that allows light and air to pass through, but acts as a blanket at night for young seedlings. You can also use recycled plastic gallon jugs with the base cut off as mini greenhouses.

I started all the rest (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, parsley, cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash) in seed starting flats I picked up at my local garden center. Starting them a few weeks early gives them a head start in the garden and shortens the time to harvest. Knowing when to start seeds requires looking up your last average frost free date for your region. For Southeast Pennsylvania, May 15th is generally regarded as our last frost free date. For best results, look for seed starting flats that come with humidity domes to hold in moisture for best results with seed germination.

I plant my seeds in Organic Mechanics Seed Starting Blend. It has the perfect blend of coconut fiber, worm castings, rice hulls, pine bark, and organic fertilizer to help them start off strong. Most seed starting mixes do not have fertilizer added, another reason Organic Mechanics is my product of choice when starting seeds. Our Seed Starting Blend holds moisture longer than most mixes, but still has plenty of room for drainage so young roots are not sitting in water. I love having to water less! I’m sure you’d agree; both water and time are precious resources.

Speaking of time being a precious resource, I’ve learned that all too well the past 8 months or so…hence the absence from my blog. Organic Mechanics moved, again, hopefully for the last time for quite awhile. We are set up in our new warehouse, all indoors. The machines have been humming away, the guys are back into the routine, and the phones are ringing. Spring is back, and I'm excited for this garden season.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spring Musings

This winter certainly has been interesting. Snow before Halloween for many of us in the Mid Atlantic, fifty degree days after getting five inches of snow, and seventy degrees in the first week of March. The Daffodils, Hellebores, Blue bells, Forsythia, Rhododendrons, and Weeping Cherries are blooming in my garden right now. It’s interesting to note soil temperatures were quite cool early in the season, yet many flowering trees bloomed earlier than most years. Is it global warming? Solar storm side effects? Perhaps it’s just a warmer than usual year. They call them average temperatures for a reason, right?!?

Spring is finally in fast forward. It’s been in slow motion for months, with chapters of perusing seed catalogs, volunteering for The DCH’s rare plant auction, tending houseplants, and occasionally doing some outdoor garden chores. This year I bought seeds from Happy Cat Farm, Baker Creek, High Mowing, Southern Exposure, Irish Eyes, and D. Landreth. I’m set from March to September for seeds to plant!

The DCH Rare Plant Auction is an annual event held to benefit urban greening initiatives in Wilmington DE, including their urban farm. I’m honored to have served on the plant selection committee for the past few years. It brings out the plant geek in me, allows me to learn new plants, and envision buds, blooms, foliage and form during our meetings all winter long.

I repotted quite a few houseplants this year. All the plants that needed it were bumped up to the next size pot, terracotta of course. I use Organic Mechanics Premium Blend for my houseplants. This blend has a lot of compost and worm castings, which allows me the freedom to water about once a week.

I also spent a bit of time clearing out garden beds, cutting back perennial stems, weeding beds, and planning strategic pruning moves to let more light into the garden. I probably should have spent more time planning the veggie garden design for this year, or have already amended the garden beds for spring plantings, but, in a way, it’s just like college. Sometimes I did my best work when crunch time rolled around.

Time to get planning, and get moving. With the official first day of spring right behind us, and temperatures hitting 70+ last week in the MidAtlantic, it’s time for me to get in the garden and get my hands dirty! Until next time…they call me The Organic Mechanic, and I thank you for reading!