An Interview With LaManda Joy...

I sat down with LaManda Joy to talk to her about her new book, Starting a Community Food Garden: The Essential Handbook from Timber Press. Alexandra: Why did you write another book? LaManda: Because people knew of my involvement with Peterson Garden Project and the American Community Gardening Association, I kept getting asked the same questions, or I observed the same issues repeatedly. And I saw this from all across the country. When I started PGP I found there was no playbook, with everything in one place, about how to do this. I think this is a movement that will make a huge difference that will have greater success if everyone doesn’t have to figure it out like it’s the first time. This book can make gardens more fun and more sustainable. A: You’re the community person– did a community help you write this book? L: Absolutely. I pulled on resources that I don’t have expertise in from grants to cooking to finances. So much goes into a community garden. One publisher said they weren’t sure it’s really a garden book because I don’t even mention plants until page 120. A. Why do people need this book? L. People get so excited every spring and just think about the plants. But it’s not one-and-done. There’s other stuff to think about and prepare, it’s like having a baby or a puppy. Interest in community gardening is skyrocketing. And community gardens suffer from a boom-to-bust cycle. We had Victory Gardens in the ’40’s and then back to the land in the ’70’s, urban revitalization in the ’80’s, and the current interest in food safety and food availability. I would like community gardens to stay a part of the culture and not just a trend. A: What’s your...

Bringing Overwintered Herbs Outside...

If you brought woodsy herbs such as rosemary or thyme indoors for the winter, it will soon be time to transition them for outdoor growing. This is much like hardening-off seedlings before transplanting. Indoor-grown herbs are typically somewhat dormant during the winter, receiving less light, water and nutrients than during the growing season. This allows the plant to better maintain existing vegetation, rather than putting resources into new growth when conditions are less than favorable. First, examine the overall health of the plant. Do you see any signs of pests or disease? Remove severely affected leaves, and treat with an organic fungicide or pesticide if necessary. This rosemary did not have pests or disease, but some of the branches had died back. Cut off the dead branches with a pair of snips. Many of them still have edible leaves, which will be saved and stored in the pantry to eat later. Here, the top of the potting soil is covered with a very thick layer of brown, dead rosemary leaves. If you see these around your plant, gather up as many as you can and discard as they may harbor pest eggs, larvae or fungal spores. They can also reduce the amount of oxygen or water reaching the soil. Apply dry or liquid fertilizer at half-strength and water thoroughly. Harden-off by bringing outside when temperatures are at least 50 degrees, and exposing the plant to at least a few hours of sunlight per day over about a week’s time. Remember, indoor light is much dimmer than outdoors, and you don’t want to burn the plants with too much exposure too soon. As the rosemary is gradually exposed to more sunlight, it’s leaves will thicken and the plant can be left outdoors for full days and gradually, nights. This plant can continue growing in a...

Growing + newbie = grewbie™...

Are you a “grewbie”? Our newest gardeners love the basic information offered by experienced gardeners trained to offer our Grewbie 101. The one-hour free class covers everything from amending to soil to making garden friendships. Find the garden nearest you! April 25 Ashlandia Global Hello!Howard Land on Lincoln NEIU Ground Vedgewater April 26 Global Hello!Howard Land on Lincoln NEIU-Ground Vedgewater May 2 Global Hello!Howard Land on Lincoln Vedgewater NEIU Ground May 3 Ashlandia Global Hello!Howard Land on Lincoln NEIU Ground...

Plants Have Stories Too...

At Peterson Garden Project we love stories. We’ve told our own origin story so many times most of us can recite it in our sleep. It’s been told so often that we’ve even heard a fairly mythologized version of it that attributes our founding to people we’ve never even heard of. Stories are an important factor in edible gardening. LaManda’s stories about learning to garden from her parents and how she bought her house based on the size and sunniness of the yard (a “yard with a house” rather than a “house with a yard”). Breanne’s tales of her family’s maple syrup business, Maribeth’s chickens, Leah’s seeds. When you go to your local garden center or Big Box, you’ll find some stories there too, as heirloom varieties, usually tomatoes. But mostly the garden centers stock hybrids. We’ve got nothing particularly against garden hybrids. When people bemoan hybrids, they’re often thinking of the grocery-store tomatoes that have been developed more for durability than for flavor. Hybrids that have been developed for backyard gardens have qualities that backyard gardeners prize, like early or high yield, large fruits, or pest resistance to name a few. But heirlooms come with stories. Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter was developed for size and yield; it was so successful it paid off Charlie’s mortgage. Cherokee Purples were supposedly developed from seeds given to a settler family way-back-when by the local Cherokee tribe. Aunt Ruby’s German Green really was developed by Aunt Ruby, a prolific developer of great tomatoes and other vegetables. (You’ll find a lot of common and unusual heirloom plant at our plant sale). Gardeners write new stories every day. What’s...

Success with Peas and Beans...

If you’ve had trouble with pea, fava and bean production, take note! 1. Soak the seeds a few hours to overnight. This will help the seed coats soften, take in water and swell- allowing for faster germination. 2. Inoculate with Rhizobium bacteria. This isn’t necessary if you already have microbe-rich soil. However, if you’re growing in containers, haven’t amended your garden with compost in awhile or are using new garden soil, this step will help increase growth, health and production of your peas and beans. Look for products called “legume inoculant”, such as this from Johnny’s Seeds. 3. Plant directly outdoors. Peas and fava beans can be planted in Chicagoland this week (April 13th) through mid-May. If planted earlier, they may take a longer time to sprout or even rot in the cool, wet soil. Beans can be planted mid-May through late June. Follow directions on your seed packet for spacing and planting depth. 4. Take care not to overfertilize. Since legumes fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, it is not necessary to add much to the soil. Try a balanced blend of 4-4-4 or apply half of the recommended amount of a 10-10-10 fertilizer. This information will be on your bag of fertilizer. 5. Provide support for those who need it. Bush beans do not require a trellis, while pole beans and runner beans do. Since climbing peas and beans use tendrils to attach to a trellis, use netting, string or wire materials that are less than 1/4″ in diameter. Larger materials such as bamboo are more difficult for the tendrils to attach. Wondering where to get information on plant/trellis height? It will be on your seed packet! Wondering which is the best trellis design? Check out these tips from our friends...

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On Linkedin