Part of the River Valley Area Community Gardens mission / goals is to provide educational opportunities to both our Gardeners and the community at large.
Our first opportunity for the 2022 growing season occurred on May 7 as Doug Rouse presented a demonstration of planting a vegetable garden. He shared many tips and gave practical advice as well as answered lots of questions from the gardeners.
Doug talked about both tilling and no-till gardening.
He demonstrated some of the techniques that he uses at the RVACG to plant both his plots and the Food Pantry plots that he manages.
He demonstrated a "quadruple dibble stick" which he had constructed. The dibble stick, a simple stick slightly larger than a seed, is used to poke holes in the soil to plant seeds. Doug wanted to do it faster so he attached 4 pointed ends to a scrap piece of 2 x 4 board.
Doug also talked about watering plants. He shared how he installs a drip irrigation system to get water directly to the roots of the plants rather than watering from the top down which my cause diseases and encourage pests if plants get too wet. It's important to know your soil type because different soils require different watering requirements. Sandy soils in hot weather require more than loam or clay soils. Doug demonstrated hooking drip strips to the irrigation header
One of the big crops grown in the Food Pantry plots is potatoes. Doug demonstrated using a potato planter. He talked about why it is advantagous to plant potatoes in hills to draw the water away from the tubers so they don't rot if the soil retains a lot of water. He talked about the importance of using seed potatoes instead of leftover potatoes from the supermarket as a means of preventing disease in the potato crop.
Most everyone likes carrots but it is hard to control the planting of the tiny seeds. Once the seedlings emerge, they have to be thinned to allow room for the carrots to grow. Doug demonstrated a device that he constructed to make planting tiny carrot seeds easier. He cut a piece of pvc pipe in half lengthwise. He spreads the carrot seeds out along the pipe. When the seeds are where he wants them, he carefully and gently flips the pipe upside down in the row that he has prepared for the carrots. Doug also said the seeds could be spread out over a damp paper towel or strong toilet paper. Paper should be folded over the seeds. Then the paper could be laid in the ground and covered.
Doug also talked about a device he constructed to plant seeds without having to crawl on the ground or bend over. He constructed the device out of a piece of pvc pipe and a common funnel. Prepare your row and drop the seed in the device to plant it. Then cover the seeds with dirt. He said that if the device was just poked into the ground without preparing a row, the pipe would plug up with dirt.
Mulching is important in a garden because it is a weed control and also shades the soil to prevent moisture from evaporating into the atmosphere. Weeds pull moisture and nutrients away from the veggie or flower plants causing them to be less productive. Doug demonstrated laying either multi-layed newspaper or cardboard covered with straw or marsh hay between the rows. It saves a lot of work weeding and the gardens require less water. As the materials decompose, they add nutrients back into the soil.
Doug also demonstrated the proper hoeing technique for weeding if someone wanted to manage weeds manually.
Doug answered some questions about pest and disease control. If you missed the planting tips demonstration this year, Doug will do it again next season.
Doug will do at least one Disease and Pest Garden Walk later in the season to identify problems and give advice on how to prevent or control pests and diseases on plants. The dates have yet to be determined. Watch the local media sources for an announcement. Check our events calendar on our website. Check our Facebook page for event dates.
Thank you to Doug for doing the demonstration. Thank you to those who attended and asked such wonderful questions.
The 2022 Gardening Season is starting.
Today was Gardener Orientation Day.
New Gardeners met at the Gardens at 1:30. We introduced ourselves, went over the Garden Guidelines, signed Gardening Agreements, and had questions answered.
Then we were off to find our plots
and tour the Gardens,
and inspect the Gardeners Shed.
Then we met up with the returning Gardeners, initiating the new shelter built last fall and enjoyed some cookies to warm us up.
Then all went home to warm up and plan our gardens and hope for warmer weather.
Great day on Saturday April 23. Weather was warm. The wind behaved itself. The rain stayed away.
And, many RV Area Community Gardeners, returning and new, and friends showed up to get the Gardens ready for the coming season.
Several dump runs for garden garbage. Mulching rhubarb. Cleaning up tape, cardboard, and stuff that blew in over the winter.
Pruned shrubs, dug shrubs, weeded berries, painted stakes for the plant sale.
Mulching and cleaning nursery beds, raking dirt on to the irrigation lines
AND, then there was the Busy Bees Garden.
What fun these youngsters had getting the new raised beds ready for their season and the parents enjoyed it too. Next time they are all together is the Meet and Greet on May 15 at 3:30. It will be fun to have 28 youngsters ages 3 through Grade 4 in the Busy Bees Garden this summer, planting and learning, and playing, and creating. We will also have at least 5 Junior Gardeners ages Grade 5 through Grade 12. Busy summer ahead.
It was so good to see people that we haven't seen since last fall and to meet new friends.
The next big gathering of Gardeners is Orientation on May 1. Looking forward to meeting all the new folks at 1:30 and seeing all the returning Gardeners at 2:15. The street will be even more full that afternoon.
Thank you to the Spring Green Lions for sponsoring the Spaghetti Dinner on March 1. Thank you to everyone who bought tickets, or made donations. Thank you to Mark and Wynn, Suki and all the other Shed employees who were involved in preparing the spaghetti dinner. It was declicious!
The Lions served 444 dinners that night.
We received a check for $3546.16. Several direct donations brought the profit up to nearly $3800. The money will be used to build a new equipment shed at the Gardens. Over halfway to our goal!
Members of the Gardens Board and Dinner helpers gathered at the Gardens recently to receive the donation from the Lions. Pictured are Wid, Don, SG Lions member Howard, Rose Ellen, Doug, Amy, Melissa and Barb.
Spring Green Lions’ Club Spaghetti Dinner
Tuesday, March 1, 2022 4:30-7:30 PM
Proceeds go to the River Valley Area Community Gardens for building equipment shed
Drive-Thru 0nly In Alley behind The Shed
Carry outs available / No dine=ins
Adults: $7 Advanced --$8 at the door
Children (K-8): $5 Advanced--$6 at the door
Advanced tickets available at The Office Market, Pamela’s Fine Jewelry,
Spring Green Lions’ Club members and
River Valley Area Community Garden members.
The current equipment shed is small and made of wood pallets. It is not weather or rodent proof. Other equipment is stored under the water tank that was damaged in the August windstorm. Some equipment is stored under the frame of the water tank. There wasn't enough space to store the Busy Bees picnic table and the leopold benches inside for the winter.
Come enjoy some spaghetti and help us build the equipment shed.
In May the Gardens received a Sauk County Pollinator Grant of native pollinator plants funded by Sauk County and the Ho Chunk Nation. The purpose of the grant is to encourage home gardeners to include native plants in their home gardens.
Prairie Nursery in Westfield Wisconsin provided the following native plants: Smooth Penstemon, Ohio Spiderwort, Butterfly Weed for Clay, Wild Senna, Stiff Coreopsis, Purple Prairie Clover, Purple Coneflower, Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Prairie Blazing Star, Bergamont, Ironweed, New England Aster, Ohio Goldenrod and Prairie Dropseed grass.
Once planted we needed to keep them watered and also to gradually move more of the non-native plants out of the existing bed. By August they were looking really good, starting to become established and starting to bloom.
Row 1: Picture of the site; butterfly weed; stiff coreopsis
Row 2: Prairie drop seed grass with a stem of quickgrass; purple coneflower and bergamont; New England astor and a dill weed
In September, the New England Aster, Ironweed, and the Stiff Coreopsis were beautiful. I was lucky enough to find three Monarch caterpillars in the gardens and successfully kept them through their metamorphosis. They were released into the Prairie Garden. One was released on the aster, one was released on the ironweed, and one was released on the stiff coreopsis. Hopefully they or their offspring will return to our Native Prairie Pollinator garden in 2022. And then, all too soon it was November and our native plants were sleeping for the winter.
In the summer of 2022 we are planning to have a seminar on the native pollinator plants. Please watch either the web site or our Facebook page for the date.
Following are some articles on the importance of planting native plants not just for pollinators but also to prevent soil eroison.
Native Plant Root Systems
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District "Native Landscaping"
USDA "Landscaping with native plants"
Wisconsin Department of Ntural Resource "Plant Native Plants"
Illinois Native Plant Guide https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/il/plantsanimals/nrcs141p2_030726/
Notice how long the roots are on the native plants in comparison to the roots on lawn grass.
The RV Area Community Gardens undertook a major project of building a shelter for shade at the Gardens. The only shade on site is the maple tree by the street. While the tree provided some shade, it wasn't enough. To raise money, we had a perennial plant sale in the Spring and 4 brat frys throughout the summer and fall to raise money to build the shelter.
The shelter was designed by Gardeners Wid and Tom with some help from Chad Kannenberg at TriCounty Building and Supply.
Chad introduced us to a diamond pier to use as a foundation instead of pouring cement. Pretty cool device.
Construction began in mid-September. Gardeners Wid, Tom and Doug put the diamond piers in the ground. They had fun and took turns using the jackhammer to drive the posts into the pier to secure it to the ground.
The next work day was putting the framing up. Gardeners Tom, Wid, Doug and volunteer Larry had a beautiful day to work.
Then the long wait began. We got caught in the supply chain snafu of 2022. Our trusses were being built in Minnesota. They were expected to arrive the first of October BUT.... 2 months later in early December we received word that they were in. Gardeners Wes, Tom, Wid, and volunteer Larry were blessed that December 3 and 4 were fairly mild and it was comfortable to work outdoors.
Needless to say, we are looking forward to using the shelter this year not just as gardeners but for the Busy Bees Garden Club and our summer board meetings. We hope to have a shelter party this spring.
In 2021 Gardener Doug built a caterpillar at the Gardens to grow tomatoes for the Food Pantry. Commonly known as a hoop house or high tunnel, researchers and commercial produce farmers use the hoop house to control the growth envirornment. The West Madison Agricultural Research Station on Mineral Point Road on Madison's west side uses hoop houses for their research projects.
The caterpillar was 50 ft. long and made from UV resistant or coated plastic sheeting and 2 inch pvc pipe. Rope was criss-crossed across the plastic to hold it down making it look like a big white caterpillar. Doug planted a total of 48 tomato plants primarily two varieties called Estiva and Firecracker in two alternating rows down the center of the tunnel. He set up a drip irrigation system to water the plants. The tomatoes were trellised to a rope running the length of the tunnel at the top.
A disadvantages of the caterpillar was someone had to be watching the weather. If it was too hot the plastic had to be hoisted higher to let the air flow more easily. If a storm was imminent, the plastic had to be dropped so that the wind didn't tear it. On most days the plastic could be rolled up and not touched until the weather forecast indicated that action was needed.
The catepillar was quite a point of interest. Gardeners had questions about it's use. Doug explained the purpose and construction of the caterpillar to the RVHS Conservation Science classes when they visited the Gardens in June. The Busy Bees Garden Club found the "big white plastic thing" interesting and had fun picking tomatoes to take home for lunch.
Following are Doug's comments on his experiment: "I thought for the first time, it worked quite well. I think we officially weighed around 150 pounds of tomatoes for the food pantry and the Meadows Assisted Living Center. I am sure we took more than that out unofficially because between food pantry deliveries Gardeners were able to help themselves and those harvests were never weighed. Also some of the tomatoes were placed in the Free Veggies Kiosk on Westmor Str.
The Firecracker variety had a lot of growth cracking on the stem end which might be due in part to uneven watering. On the other hand, the Estiva variety did quite well.
Naturally, I think we can do much better next year. More regularity with water and fertilizer along with fabric mulch will, I hope, make a difference"
Stop by during the 2022 gardening season and check out the Caterpillar. Doug will be putting it back up as soon as the weather permits this spring.
Another project the RV Area Community Gardens developed was an demonstration Enabling Garden.
At the October 2020 meeting the Directors decided to create the Enabling Garden to demonstrate alternative gardening methods for people who have mobilitiy issues, physical limitations and mental limitations. It is also hoped that the demonstration garden will continue to encourage more people to garden at their homes or develop their own garden plot at the Community Garden.
In the Spring of 2021, preparation of the Enabling Garden began. Thursday, before garbage pick up in the village, was a prime time to scour the village for containers appropriate for planting veggies. Gardener Tom constructed two raised beds. Cardinal Glass donated plastic recycling bins. Standing sinks were found on the street. A cow tank and child's swimming pool were donated. Boxes and tent frames were donated by American Players Theatre. Mulch was spread to prevent weeds and eliminate mud on the site. Stands were constructed for containers that needed them. Holes were drilled in the bottom of containers for drainage. Containers with big drainage holes had them reduced to prevent loss of soil. Containers were filled with soil and mulch in preparation for planting. The project was fairly inexpensive requiring the purchase of some hardware for building the container holders and dirt for the containers. Everything else was either found or donated.
As the Spring progressed Gardener Forest asked to garden on the site. He had found that he would not be able to garden normally due to back issues. Forest and Cait worked together to further develop the demonstration garden. A variety of other containers were donated and trellises were strung on the tent frames. Containers were arranged and planted. Straw bales were put in place.
Forest said it was a successful year with a lot of produce harvested and it really eased the strain on his back. He will be gardening the same spot in 2022. Stop by and ask him some questions this summer.
People interested in developing a garden at home should be on the lookout for discarded containers. It is not to early to start planning your garden. Don't forget to put holes in any containers with solid bottoms so that water will drain out. Be careful with fabric bag containers. We found that fabric shopping bag containers rotted quickly.
If people would like better looking containers and can afford to purchase them, raised bed containers and boxes may be found at local stores such as Menards and Farm and Fleet. Gardeners Supply Store, Burpee Seeds and Johnny's Seeds, online sources, contain a variety of raised bed and containers for planting.
If you need advice, don't be afraid to ask us. Or, check out your local library for books on the topic of raised beds, container gardening, accesible gardening, enabled gardening, or gardening for the disabled. The internet, especially YouTube, has many videos on these topics also.
If people want to develop an enabling garden in a plot at the Gardens, we will help make it happen. Contact us.
The RV Area Community Gardens was blessed with a successful 2021 gardening season. A big thank you to everyone who helped to the make the year a great one. Following are the highlights.
Lake Redstone Garden Club visted the Gardens twice. The July visit was cut short by a storm. The August visit followed a storm the night before.
RVHS Conservation Science classes visited the Gardens June 1 and 3.
Seven garden plots were planted as nursery beds for the 2022 plant sale. The Gardens plants have been culled or divided. Several local gardeners have also donated plants for the nursery beds. The plant sale is scheduled for May 14, 2022.