Friday, March 22, 2013

Our {try at a} church garden

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Justin & I have been wanting to do our own vegetable garden for a few years now. Even though our landlords have approved, and even encouraged, us to do one, the truth is that we just don't have much space here where we could dig up earth or place raised beds.

When I saw my friend Jan's successful church garden that her family tends to at their church where her husband is the pastor, it gave us the idea that maybe we could do the same thing...? So, nervously, Justin and I approached the church council last month, Justin is a trustee and I am the board of social ministry at our church {so it was a kind of fitting topic for us}, and we pitched our idea to start a church garden. They enthusiastically approved our idea and gave us the go ahead! We're taking on a lot, as we want to do a large garden that our whole congregation will benefit from, but also very excited. {Though to be clear, we have a relatively small church. I love my small church.}
Veggie Sprouts
We've planted some starters already, and we're learning a whole lot about gardening. Like what a cotyledon is and why too much phosphorus in soil is bad. Stuff like that.
Snapdragon sprouts
I've also started some flowers for our beds around the house. Those tiny seedlings will turn into large snapdragons. I hope.
Birthday tractoring 
Our church has a ton of open space, and we originally wanted to put our garden in one of the old school yards, behind our old school building. It was fenced, and we liked the location. So Justin borrowed his parent's tractor last weekend and spent his birthday scraping away the gravel that once provided well for recess time, but is no longer needed.
Tractoring 
Unfortunately, we had to switch to Plan B. After nearly a whole day of moving gravel, we found that the earth underneath was just too hard with clay and had too much gravel still, after decades of being a school yard. Also, Denver is known for it's clay soil, and it seemed like almost pure clay down there. It was very hard. While we could do lots of treatments and add tons of compost and make it work, that also would end up costing us several hundreds of dollars. So we decided to check out the soil on the other side of the fence...
Composting
It was like night & day! There was a decent top soil on the other side of the school yard fence, and we added just a small amount--about 1 inch--of compost.
Tilling
Justin spent another full day tilling it to work the compost in. The end result was beautiful, loamy soil. It's perfect and very low in clay, especially for Denver soil.
Loamy earth
I helped by shoveling compost out of the truck bed, wheelbarrowing it into piles and spreading it with a rake. We were both sore by the end of the day, but it's such rewarding work. Gardening burns a lot of calories, it turns out. I'm sort of excited to get a workout at something that doesn't involve weights or a treadmill.
Freshly tilled
It doesn't look so big in the pictures, but it's 900 square feet, and we're going to be adding & tilling a little more near the Highline Canal fence and putting in a large pumpkin patch and watermelons and some squash. We're hoping to get the community or the little school that rents out our old pre-school space involved in our pumpkin patch this fall.
Our church
We know this project will be a lot of work, but the benefits are exciting. We're going to be spending most of our summer here, I think, but it will be good family time. Educational, healthy, productive, and inexpensive outings to our church garden. There is a playground right next to our garden for the girls, shady trees with picnic tables for lunches, and seedlings waiting to grow and produce.
Swings 
The girls have loved our time there so far, though they got incredibly filthy in the dirt. I've been thinking of ways we can make it fun for them if they get sick of it, bringing the kiddie pool over or side walk chalk or their tricycles and such. I want to get them some kid sized garden tools too.
dirt mountain 
Though they haven't gotten bored of Dirt Mountain quite yet.
Plant lights 
Meanwhile, we're waiting for the ground to warm up enough to start planting. Justin installed plant lights for our starters and they're thriving.
Sprouts
Those are our Super Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, and I recently learned they can grow up to 10 feet tall and produce over 1,000 tomatoes. Oh boy. Jan has grown them before though, and she said they're like candy they're so good. I'm excited! {Can you tell?} 

Our next step is installing soil soakers and a motion detecting scarecrow sprinkler. Since our garden is right next to the Highline Canal we're concerned about critters. The Canal has been known to have rabbits, deer, raccoons, and even mountain lions living there. Not that mountain lions eat vegetables, point is, there will be animals. 
Garden gloves
Despite labeling myself a black thumb in the past, I'm hoping this new project is a productive and happy one. Hey, I have my 6-pack of garden gloves from Costco. {$8 for six pairs. Woot!} Go get some and start planting.

Also, pray for us. I keep going back and forth between 
"WOOHOO! THIS IS GREAT!" 
and 
"WHAT HAVE WE GOTTEN OURSELVES INTO!?"

Cheers,
Heather

5 comments:

  1. Good Luck you Guys! Now you'll have to give me a primer on how to be a better gardener. My soil is lousy with clay, as you know, and the last garden we planted was very poor in yield.
    Love Dad

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Dad!

      We definitely have to work hard here in Colorado to grow anything even half-decent. Between our shorter growing season and our clay soil, it's quite the challenge!

      Hopefully we'll have some extra crop to share with you :)

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  2. I'm so excited for you! I know so very little about gardening. I tried last summer and pretty much failed at everything except jalapenos (which I froze, and then my freezer broke so I had to throw them out... grr...).

    But this year I researched and consulted with a gardening expert, and my first seeds - carrots, spinach, and lettuce - went into the ground on Monday night! I'm hopeful and cautiously optimistic this year. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Alissa! You probably actually know just as much, if not more, than we do! It's been a huge learning experience. But it's such a cool thing too, isn't it? Putting a tiny seed into the ground and seeing it grow. I sound corny, but it's how I feel. Gardening is like magic.

      Good luck this year! You'll have to keep us updated on how it goes.

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    2. Yes, it is like magic! And growing my own food feels like getting free stuff and bucking the system or something. "Ha, I don't have to go to the store and give you my money because I'm just gonna rip this out of the ground and eat it!" :-)

      I've been curating Pinterest tips and may be testing them out to see if stuff you read on the internet is trustworthy. I'm excited to watch your (and Jan's) garden progress this year, too!

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