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Unexpected Yields

 
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Perhaps this post belongs in the "compost" forum, but it feels proper here as well.

Have you ever sought out one yield in the realm of growing food, and then received something completely unexpected--even better than the food you intended to grow?

I recently moved to a more urban setting, and was elated that the neighborhood had community garden plots!  Sadly, I missed the lottery for the summer and winter season, but there was one thing I could still do...make compost!

I resurrected the community compost bins, and in doing so, have made more than just healthy soil.  Here are a few unexpected or unanticipated yields from working the compost bins:

*A sense of place* Being outside in the neighborhood year-round provides a sense of belonging to and understanding of the new environment I'm in.  I also get my daily sunshine from the walk.

*Community* I have met other gardeners, strangers, and have made friends!  Mostly people, but some animals too.  (Though I confess I killed one of my mouse-friends digging in the bin).  I even was able to help mentor a young lady interested in my Alma matter...all because of the bin!

*Food* I've been able to appreciate certain foods which other people have tossed as less than acceptable.  Let's just say I never had to buy Tomatoes, Broccoli, or Kale last year.  I also have some sweet potato stocked up for planting soon...if I win the garden-plot lottery.

*Exercise* I'm using a modified Berkeley method...in other words I'm out there just about every other day turning the pile.  My arms get a great workout, and I am weighing the same as I did in college.

Masanoba Fukuoka's quote certainly comes to mind here, but I guess what I'm trying to convey is encouragement.  

I hope people realize that it's not *only* the food itself that is *medicine*, but the entirety of what goes in to making it: the sun, the land, the labor, the people, the patience and hope, and the compost bin.
 
George Yacus
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What are some unexpected and healthy yields that you have achieved in your quest to grow food?
 
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Sounds like fun, George!

I have a backyard garden in an urban setting, and I see all sorts of birds that are not common here. Recently we are getting a lot of bee diversity as well. I had a volunteer male papaya come up recently: it won't bear fruit, but instead is covered with flowers. It has turned into Hummingbird Disneyland, and I have every intention of leaving it there as long as it keeps flowering-- there are at least 5 kinds of hummingbirds that feed from it every day, here in the city. Definitely not what I was thinking when I started this backyard homestead!
 
George Yacus
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Tereza Okava wrote:It has turned into Hummingbird Disneyland, and I have every intention of leaving it there as long as it keeps flowering-- there are at least 5 kinds of hummingbirds that feed from it every day, here in the city. Definitely not what I was thinking when I started this backyard homestead!



And just like that, I imagine dozens of little hummingbirds singing "It's A Small World, After All" in the tiniest of voices.
 
Tereza Okava
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haha. Just this morning I had to go out there and see what all the squeaking was about, they spend most of the time chasing each other while shrieking what I assume is bloody murder!!! (at each other, at the other birds, at the carpenter bees.....)
 
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I live right in the centre of a mid-sized city, surrounded by about two-hundred thousand others in many kilometres of continual, boring urbanity that is ringed by yet more urban cities. Turning to gardening has been a major source of personal growth and joy, as well as being very educational. Three years ago we had a bit of a life adjustment with the discovery of my husband's brain tumour, and gardening became a much more prominent hobby- a way to really improve upon and enjoy our backyard since we are no longer travelling much. Most importantly, it also functioned to provide more nutritional benefit to our diet in the form of growing fresh, organic edibles. For us, this endeavour has been (and continues to be) all of what we expected, and so much more.

I personally hate exercising as I find it boring. My husband is the same. For us, doing house work, like renovations, and more frequently as gardening, provides lasting benefits and has the advantage of physical activity, which we would struggle to stick with if it was just exercise. I also find gardening to be very stimulating mentally, as it is filled with rewarding and stress-relieving activities. We love to eat our dinner and supper outside in the summer, admiring our garden, and away from cellphones and computer screens. The more stuff grows, the more it muffles the drone of the streets, and the more we hear the songs of birds. I didn't expect gardening would be such an important boost to both our physical or mental health, but it's been incredibly beneficial as a way to manage stress and anxiety, even during trying situations.

In addition, I love to cook, bake, and eat (all the more reason for the physical activity). Besides the benefits of excellent nutrition - by increasing our vegetable intake and variety-  gardening has really allowed my palette and my cooking repertoire to expand, and I have revisited vegetables that I previously did not care for.

Until three years ago, when the guy asked me to start growing them, I really disliked beans. Now I love them, and know many different ways to prepare them. I still don't want the tasteless straws sagging inside little bags at the store, but forays into heirloom vegetables have really made me appreciate produce beyond feeble hothouse crops. It is the same feeling with melons and tomatoes, and I have a renewed love of lettuces since I have started growing different varieties. Salads are wonderful made with truly fresh vegetables, and they smell ridiculously good when chock full of fresh herbs. If I toss in some edible flowers they look stunning, too, and it seems more enjoyable to eat beautiful things. I didn't grow up eating salad (my Irish family didn't eat salad) but now I actually really like it.

I have also been learning to hand pollinate, harvest, and store seeds from my most successful plants for the next year (some of which I have now started for planting this year). It's been amazing to learn to cure and store my own squash, and to eat it all winter, to pickle beans, and jam green tomatoes after months of eating ripe ones fresh and then making litres of passata. When I started plans for a garden, it wasn't anywhere in my mind that I would grow enough of anything to put it away through the winter, and seed saving wasn't a consideration- I didn't even understand the difference of hybrid seeds versus open pollinated varieties. I never expected to put so much thought into seasonal growth, rotations, soil quality, even moon phases. lol. It is truly fascinating  and very exciting to learn about, and the more we learn, the more we shift our habits and preferences (like drastically reducing the amount of exotic fruit we buy, as well as not buying out of season produce, and finding new, local supplies outside of the usual chain stores.)

We have built seven raised 1.2m x 2.4m wooden vegetable beds in the back garden, along with a kingly 5m x 1m x 1m wooden planter that runs the whole length of our patio, that is topped with a 3m high pergola and a back trellis wall. In our summer parties last year, guests could not resist wandering over to the planter with it's beautiful wall of burgundy-tipped foliage, dripping with fuchsia flowers and deep violet beans. Big, ink-topped tomatoes shone out from under emerald branches overhanging the front of the planter, and brilliant green vines with enormous yellow blooms laced the whole exterior and piled across the pergola, crowning a line of vermillion pumpkins that hung between the slats like big painted lanterns. Along the bottom was a mixed variety of basils, affording a green, maroon, and chartreuse carpet. It functioned as a living, edible art installation, it smelled like perfume, and we ate many meals from the offerings. It also gave us a much needed privacy screen from a neighbour's raised deck that overlooks our patio, and acted as a lightweight noise buffer.  It was such a conversation piece, I would catch even aforementioned curmudgeon neighbour admiring it. (No one has seen trellised pumpkins hanging 3 metres from the ground.)

My strategy to fight pests with natural control methods has been working quite well, and is far less stressful (actually usually enjoyable) than trying to use chemical cocktails to control everything. I enjoy supporting my local birds, which has completely eliminated my (originally severe) snail problem. I benefit from families of cheeky robins that are ridiculously cute to watch, and I also get to eat my cabbages.

The birds understand my yard is (mostly) welcome to them, as do the squirrels, rabbits, voles, raccoons, possums, and foxes, and the balance of my critter companions is that most of my insect problems are handled, and I don't suffer from various rodent issues which plagued the original owners of this house. I mean yes I have some voles, but they aren't interested in tunneling into the house, and they can't possibly eat the *whole* garden. Watching the cheeky, chubby buggers line up as a family and tear the leaves off my alliums one-by-one is mesmerizing as some kind of Wind in the Willows sketch- with the robins pulling worms out of the clover, the buns munching on the lilies, tiny sparrows flitting about on the creeping juniper, and fluffy squirrels stuffing pine nuts and crocus flowers into their faces up in the mulberry tree above. We built in a custom box bay window in the master bedroom so both myself AND my fluffy house cats can enjoy the free entertainment. If the critters get themselves too fat and adventurous we have a gorgeous slinky ginger fox around here that will happily eat them.

Our garden is still very much a work in progress, but we started with a flooded, smelly clay bog topped by a rotting wooden deck and an over-choked mini-pond that was a mosquito heaven, and now we have a nice and tranquil place to sit, a space to walk around, a storage shed, a bountiful supply of fresh food through the warm months, and a bunch of bird varieties that either visit throughout the year or are now permanent residents. (Woodpecker, bluejay, robin, housefinch, goldfinch, cardinal, black-cap chickadee, mourning dove, nuthatch, warblers, sparrow, swallow, gnatcatcher, and grackles- that I have identified so far.)
I document the new varieties of butterflies and bees that I find every year while sketching the birds and flowers in my backyard. I have bought books so I can identify my various new garden friends. I've also made a nicer relationship with most of my neighbours, who are usually interested about the odd young couple with the unusual flowers and strange vegetables whose house always smells like bread.

Every year, my plans for expansion of this conservatory of plants becomes more ambitious, and this year I am starting vegetable and herb seedlings for 3 other branches of the family, my next door neighbour, and my best friend in addition to my own garden. Enthusiasm is apparently very infectious, and many of those that ate gifts from our garden are keen to grow a few of those interesting and colourful items themselves. I did not expect my in-laws to try, let alone relish, Japanese cucumbers, French pumpkins, or Siberian tomatoes, or to enjoy borage leaves and calendula flowers in salad. Expanding horizons!
 
                                
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I moved into a suburban house with a little land a few years back and had continually battled bermuda grass from overtaking new earthworks, beds, etc. This year i made the decision to surrender to the persistent grass and utilize it by buying a lawn mower with a bagging attachment. This has been my unexpected yield in unlimited supply of clippings for composting and mulch. Before utilizing clippings, I did not have a consistent source of mulch/cheap waste stream inputs for composting in my area (or on site) and as a permie, that is incredibly anxiety inducing.
 
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Sionainn Cailís wrote:I live right in the centre of a mid-sized city, surrounded by about two-hundred thousand others in many kilometres of continual, boring urbanity that is ringed by yet more urban cities.


Sionnain, I love the journey you describe into gardening and food appreciation, and that you could infect more people with your enthusiasm! Beautifully written.
I am sure I am not the only one who would be happy to see some pictures of your garden!
 
George Yacus
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Well, it's been nearly two years now since volunteering at the compost bin.  

Last year, we did win the garden plot lottery (which I like to call the garden "plottery") and enjoyed our little postage stamp garden, receiving ample greens and growing simple new staples which we'd never tried growing before: peas, beans, beets, onions, kale, corn.  We didn't have enough space to get good quantities, but it was enjoyable nevertheless.  What a delight to have a little urban escape, a tiny place to travel to when everywhere else in the world seemed so closed off and quarantined.  And how fortunate to have all the compost we needed, as well as seeds purchased the year prior before the big rush on suppliers!  

The garden, like the compost bin preceding it, also brought with it closer friendship, and a chance to socialize a little, and even teach others a little more about gardening.  More unexpected yields.  At one point, a pre-school class came by, and my wife and I were able to share some greens with them, and discussed hosting gardening classes for them.  And as the season went on, it was also fun getting to practice seed saving: lettuce, peas, beans, sunflowers, and in the future, a biennial like kale perhaps?  When the end of last season came, I had saved that 1m tall kale plant and potted it up and stored it in our living room for winter, hopeful to transplant it back out if we had won this year's plottery.   The tall plant stayed in its tiny pot, stuck inside, starving for space and sun and nutrients.

Well, this year came around, and we didn't win the plottery.  There were twice as many families as there were garden plots!  Everyone loves to garden during a pandemic!  Several friends in the community were sad that we didn't win, and kindly offered to share their plots with us.  We took them up on the offer.  

But then, more unexpected yields!

In late winter, with COVID restrictions slowly lifting, the local community school reached out to me again about starting up an informal kids garden program.  Woohoo!  Furthermore, there was a garden plot opening, and my wife and I were awarded a garden plot of our own, conveniently right next to the kids' garden plot!  (So now we could share ours with others, and I could plant anything in the kids plot.)  The whole setup seemed rather providential.

Here's the best part: It's now mid June, and for 7 or 8 weeks now I've been able to share my love of gardening, nature, and composting, each week with pre-schoolers, hosting seven 4-year olds plus teacher(s) and occasionally another 3-year olds class, for 30-45 minutes at a time.  

The kids sowed or transplanted beans, peas, sunflowers, and pumpkins, and I sowed spinach and lettuce and transplanted tomatoes, and we even transplanted that old kale plant, as well as a pineapple top from the compost bin!  Yes, some of the seeds came from my own seed saving and previous storage, but most were surplus plant gifts: from new gardening friends, from seeds brought in by the teachers, from a kind neighbor who gifted me her spider plant.  And of course, other plants were just plain old volunteers from the compost bin.  In other words, it cost me nothing but a little time each week, and some behind the scenes weeding fun.  

The kids learned about perennials like the trees nearby and the strawberry plant (which I had rescued from an abandoned pot the previous year), vs annuals like the sunflowers and biennials like the kale.    I really emphasized what plants need: sun, air (CO2 but also O2 for roots), water (in the root zone, not on the leaves), soil, space (from other plants, but also space for roots to grow), protection (from herbivores like kangaroos or deer and also adverse weather like hail and too much wind), the right climate or warmth, insects/pollinators/wind.  I was especially happy to hear that the teachers were enjoying learning as much as the students!

The kids (and teachers) got to smell the difference between stinky anaerobic 'compost', and well-mixed neutral, earthy, good microbe-filled stuff.  The kids got to see and touch roots, develop motor skills with trowels and hand cultivators, and get their hands dirty adding compost to plants.  And you have no clue how much kids LOVE to water plants.  

We even laid the groundwork for an expanding vertical guerilla garden just outside the bounds of our garden plot, which, who knows, might offer us some pumpkins to carve in the fall.  The kids also saw different ways plants spread: We direct sowed sunflowers, then transplanted them; we scattered flower seeds; we divided and repotted that gifted spider plant, making four new decorative plants out of what had been just one, yet another unexpected yield!  And when the aphids came, so did the ladybugs, and yet another learning opportunity.

Yesterday, the kids, teacher, and I ate fresh sweet peas, straight from the vines.  They even ate spinach, with many asking for more!

And lastly, the kind teachers and administrator invited me to the 4 year olds' preschool "graduation" ceremony!  

It was complete with a celebratory BBQ, cupcakes, cake, watermelon, and more.  The teacher and administrator had very kind words to share, and the kids showed their appreciation by bringing me drawings of our garden adventures the past two months.  And I ...no...WE had something to share with the parents and community, too, a fresh, organically grown garden salad with less than 0.25 food miles, grown from the very compost made from the same community's kitchens, and it was complete with sweet peas picked by the kids who watched them grow in their very own little Kinder Garden these past two months.  Unexpected yields.


KinderGarden.jpg
Drawings the class made of our garden adventures. I love that some drew the roots!
Drawings the class made of our garden adventures. I love that some drew the roots!
BBQfun.jpg
I ate a lot of watermelon at the graduation, and to come full circle, composted the rinds!
I ate a lot of watermelon at the graduation, and to come full circle, composted the rinds!
 
George Yacus
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Some pictures...
April-22-compost-lesson-8-kids-plus-teacher.jpg
Urban community food waste transforms into compost.
Urban community food waste transforms into compost.
April-22-compost-lesson.jpg
Compost transforms into soil nutrition.
Compost transforms into soil nutrition.
I-made-my-first-wood-burned-sign.jpg
Soil nutrition turns into healthy plants and happily tended gardens.
Soil nutrition turns into healthy plants and happily tended gardens.
Vertical-Pumpkin-Patch.png
Tended gardens tend to grow (here's our vertical guerilla garden pumpkin patch expansion plan)
Tended gardens tend to grow (here's our vertical guerilla garden pumpkin patch expansion plan)
The-kids-garden-is-full-of-life.jpg
And places transform into productive niches for life, and art...
And places transform into productive niches for life, and art...
Herb-workshop.jpg
And they become places for education, to learn about life.
And they become places for education, to learn about life.
Hyper-local-graduation-party-nutrition.jpeg
And of course, to come full circle, gardens produce healthy community food.
And of course, to come full circle, gardens produce healthy community food.
 
George Yacus
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A few other unexpected yields, improvements, and pictures from around the Kinder Garden:  

1. A new home for my pomegranate tree, plus a new perennial patch!?  Last year, while working in the compost bin, I noticed someone had tossed a pomegranate.  Well, I took a couple seeds out, and got them growing over the winter in an old pot someone had tossed away.  Through winter and spring, whenever I looked at that plant, I kept thinking "where am I going to put you?"  You see, our community garden only accepts annuals, and most other places I could think of planting it ran the risk of it getting destroyed.  Well, after starting that little vertical pumpkin patch with the kids, it occurred to me, why not right here at the fence's edge, just outside of the Kinder Garden and other plots?  

So my next goal will be to expand this little guerilla garden -- though I think I will brand it more positively as a "liberty garden".  Very often people will grow a plant indoors, and then place it by the compost bin when they have to move, or when the plant starts getting sad after running out of nutrients and space.  Well, I've been taking these Foundlings and moving them to the fenceline, and slowly incorporating them into the design.  Now I just need to design myself out of the solution, too, so that folks are empowered to gradually grow the zone without me, in such a way that lawn maintenance workers won't mind, and so that gardeners can plant lasting perennials.  Alternatively, maybe I'll make a little plant adoption center on the fenceline.

2. An orderly place for the cans. After cleaning out a community basement, I found a wood-burner and four nice scraps of wood!  The first thing I made was a fun plaque for branding the Kinder Garden.  Then I made a sign to keep the watering can family from being separated.  UV light breaks down plastic, and plastic watering cans have a tendency to migrate.  So I think now that there is a sign, people might be more inclined to keep the cans together right by the hose, in the shade, so they will last longer.

3. A new place for the pots.  I've learned that urban environments truly are filled with surplus "waste" streams of discarded but otherwise useful materials everywhere.  That pot I salvaged for my pomegranate was just one of many lying around or being tossed away.  As individuals buy plant supplies, and then enjoy their annual garden, they are often left with extra materials at the end of the season.  Wouldn't it be nice for others without plots to feel empowered to enjoy the surplus, too?  Another sign was in order, so now people can take a pot or drop off some surplus materials in a common location.

4. A home for my bird friend?  Last year, during the height of pandemic lockdowns, I found myself aerating the compost bin, just for the sake of keeping routine, getting outside and getting fresh air and exercise.  I was out there so much, that a local robin would feel comfortable landing right on the bin next to me.  (Apparently this friendliness is common in the species.)  I'd often go to lift one of the other bin lids, so then she could fly over later and feast on the bugs hiding out under the lid.  Well, this year, after volunteering with Scouts again, I received a surplus (assembled) bird house.  Yesterday, I got tired of having a random birdhouse in my living room.  So I made the opening a little larger, and jazzed up the exterior with the wood-burner, and added it to the Kinder Garden fence/trellis with my trusty garden wire.  Maybe my robin friend will move in?

5. Safer spot for tools.  There were a bunch of surplus - though often broken - garden tools at the compost bin.  Gardeners would occasionally ask me if it was okay to use the tools.  "Yes, please!  Of course it's okay!"  I only need two at the bin: a shovel, and a cultivator, and the rest were frankly in my way all the time.  It also occurred to me (especially after looking at some of my workshop photos) that these tools' busy ends were jutting right into the path around the bin.  That's waist-level for me, and could only snag my clothes, but it's near eye level for kids.  I finally decided to move them right next to my "liberty garden" fence zone.  Safety note: If you've ever watched quality cartoons in your life, you know you should never leave a rake on the ground or leaning against a building with the prongs facing up!

Gave-the-lonely-fence-my-pomegranate-plant-friend.jpg
Hopefully the community will start planting perennials all around the liberty garden.
Hopefully the community will start planting perennials all around the liberty garden.
Lets-stick-together.jpg
Take what you need, return what you don't.
Take what you need, return what you don't.
Added-a-bird-house-for-my-friend.jpg
The spider plant was a gift from a neighbor, I taught the kids how to divide it into many more during a workshop
The spider plant was a gift from a neighbor, I taught the kids how to divide it into many more during a workshop
Made-tools-more-safely-accessible.jpg
Notice: busy end down; and the ends of the handles are tucked through the fence, so even if someone steps on the end, it won't thwack them in their face!
Notice: busy end down; and the ends of the handles are tucked through the fence, so even if someone steps on the end, it won't thwack them in their face!
burndoodled-sign.jpg
Just added this tiny burndoodled sign for the tools location. A couple screw hooks in the back and now it can hang on the fence.
Just added this tiny burndoodled sign for the tools location. A couple screw hooks in the back and now it can hang on the fence.
 
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Loved reading this, George! In fact, I joined the forum just to say this. It's so awesome how much you are giving to your community! Thanks for sharing!
 
George Yacus
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Jer Steph wrote:Loved reading this, George! In fact, I joined the forum just to say this. It's so awesome how much you are giving to your community! Thanks for sharing!


Thanks for the great encouragement, and welcome to the forum!
 
George Yacus
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It's been a couple months, but the liberty garden keeps growing every week.  

Just last week I made some new signage with my borrowed wood burner, and I touched up some of the old ones with linseed oil.  

My pomegranate -- started from a seed from the compost bin a year or two ago -- is looking happy, and it has a couple friends: some beans and peas which came from saved seed nearby, along with a strawberry plant that came from my traveling strawberry plant (which also was a foundling!)  Perhaps the peas and beans will give it them both a little boost of nitrogen?  I've also begun to give this tiny pomegranate guild more dignified (and lignified) materials, bits of ramial wood from a shrub 10' away.  As I add compost to the pomegranate guild, I add some extra rocks around it, building it upwards.  So what started out as boring, single-level terrain now has some texture, plus those rocks will help with heat absorption come winter, Lord wiling.   I think this spot will take and make for good edge effect.

The vines that the kinder-gardeners and I planted a while back are doing well, too.  One of them looked like it was going to slow down, but it continues to travel along the fence, making little squash plants along its meandering path.  I'm training it to loop back with hopes it will seek the sun as the temperatures wind down.  

I've also been surprised that some Takane Ruby buckwheat seeds have been flowering nicely.  
I planted them in my personal plot, and added a few extra along the liberty garden fence.  The buckwheat seeds have come out gradually, and now I'll have enough saved to share for next year.

Last week I was pruning a nearby shrub's 'water spouts' and adding the leaves to the compost bin to help keep down flying insects.  Then I had a lightbulb moment.  Hey!  I could make a basket with these long stems!  So that's what I did.  Yesterday evening I made a basket, burndoodled a sign and as of this morning I now have a place for the community to take or share surplus garden goods.  Even if nobody takes anything, it makes for a nice fall display.  
Garden-Surplus.jpg
I added some extra pumpkin and squash, along with some surplus plants and later some onion seeds. You can see the squash vine hanging above.
I added some extra pumpkin and squash, along with some surplus plants and later some onion seeds. You can see the squash vine hanging above.
Pomegranate-nook.jpg
I've begun to add more woody material as well as cardboard, in order to increase fungal activity for the pomegranate.
I've begun to add more woody material as well as cardboard, in order to increase fungal activity for the pomegranate.
 
George Yacus
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Fall is here!  No doubt about it.  And how grows the garden?  *GREAT!*  

The biggest news is that I finally felt ready and announced the garden to the community.  I wrote a set of mini-articles about composting fall decorations, and highlighted that this expanded Kinder Garden fence area was 100% grown with our community's compost.  I also encouraged the community to add their own natural artwork to the fence, insect hotels, etc., and to feel free to add their own plants in a no dig manner.  A friend who works on the community newsletter jazzed up the articles a little with some B-roll plus my garden and compost pictures, and voila!  Now the community is engaging.  Some recent proof:

Giving: I walked out a few days ago after the article was posted, and was happy to find tiny little rosemary and basil plants sitting naked (no pots) on top of the soil in one of the planting nooks.  I took that as a sign and nestled them into the ground with their new friends.  I'm excited that someone out there was willing to take just that one step forward in giving themselves permission to grow.  The plants resting on top of the soil was almost like them asking the world "may I plant this here?"  Yes, you may!  I hope they come back and see the plants thriving.  One step forward!

Receiving:  I also was happy to meet a (very simple) need with this garden.  Someone in our community was eager to buy kale, but simply couldn't find any in the grocery stores.  So a community leader sent her my way, and so now she'll be able to harvest as much as she'd like from our new little community garden area.  Two steps forward!

So there we have it.  Our Kinder Garden is officially open to 'kinders' of all ages!  Giving, and receiving.  That's what fall is all about to me.
Demonstration-Garden-Fall.png
Urban garden, 100% grown with community compost
Urban garden, 100% grown with community compost
 
George Yacus
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I know "winter" in the northern hemisphere is still officially a couple weeks away, but it certainly feels like winter is here.  That axial tilt sure means business with colder weather and darker days!  So of course the plants in the liberty garden take their cue: the pomegranate drops its leaves, the pepper plants -- still laden with thin unpicked peppers -- shrivel as if crossing their little arms while going "brrrrrr!"  Most of the squashes went on their way as fall decorations, though a couple still cling to the fence, riding out the cold.  Perhaps they will become a winter snack for a squirrel?

I was happy and surprised to discover a few things today!  Here are three new unexpected yields:

1) My travelling strawberry plants look splendid!  It's been many months since dividing the plant roots, and all divisions are looking healthy.  I was concerned that the left-side root system wouldn't be strong enough, but the plant looks just fine.  It's hanging out underneath some marigolds which I planted from seed stolen deadheaded from another garden plot.  And the right-side strawberry plant has a blanket of thick, dark green spinach leaves snuggled up in its winter bed.

2) A 6" tall avocado tree of all plants still has its leaves.  I didn't expect that by a long shot!  It was far less of a "hey let's see how this grows here" experiment and more of a "I need to get this ugly pit out of my compost.  I'll put it... here by this concrete wall...I guess."  So I suppose the word of the day, friends, is "microclimate".  And the lesson with regards to microclimate frost protection specifically can be found in the PADM on page 120:

Mollison wrote:The proportion of heat loss on a cold night is proportional to the area of the night sky that is visible to the object losing heat.



3) Plants aside, this third yield is the best!   While walking to the compost bins, I ran into one of the preschool teachers from our spring Kindergarden adventures!  She told me that the kids enjoy playing and learning in the new fence garden area, and exploring the surrounding gardens nearly every single school day.  Not only that, but the kids often *prefer* exploring our community garden to playing on the fancy playground!  She and her husband are also interested in starting a new nature nook right by the playground, specifically for the benefit of teaching kids to respect the wild critters.  So I might help her brand and build this new nature niche as another side project for all to enjoy.

So here I was, thinking that the fence garden was at peace for the winter, yet it is still bringing joy to the younglings.  All of this is such a gift of hope. These kids are learning to love nature and play in it, but also respect it and care for it too.  It's enough to warm my heart -- perfectly timed for this winter's advent season if I may say so.
 
George Yacus
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Winter update for the unexpected garden.

It's stayed green!  

I rescued all sorts of kales and other brassicas that were getting tossed from the annual garden plots, and transplanted them into the fence garden.  I also decided to take a big aesthetic risk and I decked the garden (and fence) with Christmas tree boughs.  It's a couple months later now, and many of the boughs are still green, though the ground path needle mulch is lightening up well.  

While pruning one of the boughs to make mulch and a new garden lobe for the keyholes, I noticed that the cambium layer was still a lively green inside.  It made me wonder, are green boughs with living needles still photosynthesizing?
Rescued-Sage-and-Rosemary.jpg
These herbs were getting tossed in December, but they are rescued in unexpected garden!
These herbs were getting tossed in December, but they are rescued in unexpected garden!
Winter-Christmas-Tree-Mulching.jpg
This picture is a little old now, but the boughs on the fence are still verdant!
This picture is a little old now, but the boughs on the fence are still verdant!
Stumpy-on-the-strawberry-spiral.jpg
That's "Stumpy" the garden guardian gnome sitting on top the strawberry spiral
That's "Stumpy" the garden guardian gnome sitting on top the strawberry spiral
woven-with-weeping-branches.jpg
I recently decided to make a new garden lobe, using tiny tree branches instead of rocks.
I recently decided to make a new garden lobe, using tiny tree branches instead of rocks.
Starting-a-new-lobe.jpg
The garden lobe has a nice natural curve, and I think it harmonizes well with the light pine needle mulch and grassy lobes.
The garden lobe has a nice natural curve, and I think it harmonizes well with the light pine needle mulch and grassy lobes.
 
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I don't know how I've missed this thread before, George. I'm so glad I stumbled on it! It's inspiring and positive. Love the pics and the over-time updates. Thank you so much for inspiring smiles and a lighter heart today.
 
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Great thread, George.
There is no way I am going to remember all of the positive surprises. Here are a few.

I have discovered many edible and medicinal plants in my yard when they showed up and I didn't know what they were.  Now I make medicine out of St. John's Wort and tea out of Feverfew.  I noticed the beautiful flowers on a plant and realized that it is salsify. Now I eat it as a vegetable as well.  Who knows what we will discover?

John S
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