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Gaillardia

 

Fall has arrived in the desert southwest, despite what the thermometer says.

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Have you ever visited a community garden?  


I had the opportunity to help create a community garden with some very special friends in Miami, Florida.

Me (Noelle Johnson), Matt Mattus, Helen Yoest, Amy Andrychowicz, Steve Asbell and Dave Townsend – the ‘Saturday6’
 
So, who are these special friends? 
 
They are garden bloggers, like me and we’ve been brought together through our partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt. We came from all over the United States and came together to work with the folks at a service project in Miami.
 
 
As part of our partnership, we share our gardening knowledge via Troybilt’s gardening newsletter – ‘The Dirt’, Facebook and Twitter.  We also create how-to videos and test Troybilt equipment and offer our honest opinions. 
This year, we were invited by Troybilt to help create a community garden as part of their continuing efforts to give back to the community.  



The day we all arrived in Miami, we had the opportunity to tour the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, which you can read about here.  


The next morning, we all gathered on a vacant lot in the Perrine Neighborhood in Miami.

 
 
The local dry cleaner allowed the property adjacent to their store to be used for this inner-city community garden.
 
 
We were excited to be creating an edible garden for the surrounding neighborhood.
 
Imagine six gardeners together, trying to plan out a community garden.  Believe it or not, it all went smoothly and we all agreed on a plan as to where to put the raised beds and what size they should be.
 
 
We measured out the placement for the beds with assistance from the folks at Troybilt and the Miami chapter of “Keep America Beautiful“.
 

 

 
The surrounding community was very excited about the garden.  We were happy to meet the Perrine neighborhood community activist, Ms. Townsend who would help to distribute the produce from the garden.
 
Steve Asbell (The Rainforest Gardener), took time to talk with her about the different vegetables and flowers that we would be planting in the garden.
 
 
Ms. Townsend, was very interested in learning about the plants and seeds we would be planting.  She listened carefully when Matt Mattus (Growing With Plantsexplained to her how the seeds would grow.
 
*This special lady takes care of those in her neighborhood, including picking up day-old bread from the local supermarket, putting it in her car trunk and then delivers it to those in need.
 
 
Once the outlines were painted, we used cement block to create the sides of the of the beds.
 
You may wonder why we put cardboard on the bottom of the garden beds.  Well, the cardboard will form a nice barrier to keep the grass from growing through and will also serve to ‘smother’ the grass.
 
Initially, we had discussed planting some fruit trees alongside the raised vegetable beds, but we ran into a little problem with that plan…
 
Limestone rock lay right underneath the grass, making digging all but impossible.
 
 
We filled the beds with topsoil and aged steer manure in alternating layers.
 
 
Troybilt supplied us with the necessary garden equipment including a cultivator, which we used to help mix the layers of topsoil and manure together.
 
 
I have a smaller cultivator that attaches to my Troybilt string trimmer that I like to use in my vegetable gardens.  
 
You can read more about my gardening adventures with my Troybilt cultivator, here.
 
 
Amy Andrychowicz (Get Busy Gardening) and Dave Townsend (Growing the Home Garden) raked the soil smooth while Helen Yoest (Gardening With Confidence) filled the holes of the cement block with soil for planting.
 
Community members posing for a picture with a Troybilt representative.
 
Members of the community came out to watch our progress, including the neighborhood police officer.
 
 
We took a quick break for lunch then took a picture with people from the neighborhood, Troybilt, Keep America Beautiful and officials from the Human Services Department who were on hand.
 
Local Master Gardener, Sheila Martinez, assists Dave Townsend with planting.
 
After lunch it was time for my favorite part – planting!
 
Sheila Martinez, a local Master Gardener, assisted us throughout the day and will be in charge of caring for the garden.
 
 
I had fun planting the first bed with tomatoes and herbs including flat-leaf parsley, purple basil and rosemary.
 
Other beds included strawberries, peppers, leaf lettuce, collard greens and onions.  Beans were planted from seed.
 
 
The holes in the cement block was filled with soil so that we could add companion plants, which help to attract pollinators as well as repel bad bugs from damaging the vegetables.
 
To that end, we planted sage, basil, green onions and marigolds in the holes, which will not only help to protect the edible plants but also add beauty to each garden.
 

 

After a productive day in the garden, we were tired but happy with all we had accomplished.
 
This is the second year that we have all been part of the Saturday6.  Imagine how much fun six garden bloggers have when they get together!
 
Last year we all met in Arizona and enjoyed a great time, which you can read about here.
 
I am so grateful to be a part of this group of great people and the opportunity to work with Troybilt again.  I will be reviewing another piece of Troybilt equipment this year and giving one away, so stay tuned!
 
 
 

 

Today, was a very special day in the garden and it took almost 2 years to reach this date.


Today marks the first harvest from our young orange tree. 

When planting trees, it is best to dig them 3x as wide as the rootball to allow roots an easier time to grow outward.  However, plant at the same depth as the root ball.
Back in February of 2012, we bought our first citrus tree for our edible side garden.

Years ago in our first home in Phoenix, we had large, mature citrus trees.  My two oldest daughters (then 9 and 4 years old) would climb up into our grapefruit tree.  We also had orange and lemon trees on our flood irrigated lot near 48th Street and Thomas.

I’m not sure why it took us so long to plant an orange tree in our current home.  But, our youngest kids loved picking oranges from their grandparent’s blood orange tree.  So, shortly after the birth of our granddaughter, I decided it was time to plant one in our garden.


My youngest daughter and son were anxious to help plant their very own orange tree under the guidance of their older sister.

I explained to the kids that it would take a few years to see any fruit form on our new tree.  So, we settled ourselves in for a long wait.

The first year, we did see orange blossoms form, but no fruit set.  This is normal for a newly planted tree, so I wasn’t surprised.

Last fall, were thrilled to discover oranges forming on our tree.

I must admit that it was hard to be patient at this point.  I couldn’t wait for them to start turning orange.

My husband kept asking me when it was time to pick the new oranges.  I explained (more then once) that they had to come off easily when lightly pulled and twisted at the same time.

*Citrus does not continue to ripen and get sweeter after picked.  So it is best to leave them on the tree until they are ready to be picked.

Some varieties of orange will have a little green color on their skin like Valencia oranges.  However, Navel oranges should be mostly orange before picking.


Today, I decided was the day to pick our new oranges.  My granddaughter was here and ready to help.


She needed a little help, but they did come off fairly easily.


While our harvest was quite small, I don’t think we will ever enjoy the taste of a fresh orange more then this one that took 2 years of waiting.


The variety of orange that we planted is called ‘Arizona Sweet’, which is great for both juice and eating in sections.

To make the most of our small harvest, I will make orange vinaigrette dressing for our salad tonight.  But before I juice the oranges, I will take the orange zest and freeze it for later use, which is an easy way to extend your citrus harvest. I have done this before with lemons harvested from my mother’s large lemon tree.  To learn how, click here.

Do you have citrus in your garden?  What kind(s) do you grow?
I love roses, don’t you?

Believe it or not, I used to have 40 different varieties of hybrid tea roses in my garden when I lived in Phoenix.

Now, I am perfectly happy with my 3 David Austin shrub roses.


Technically, they aren’t my roses.

They belong to my kids.

The beautiful pink rose, above, is Abraham Darby, which belongs to my daughter, Ruthie.

We planted these roses 3 years ago.

You can read about our planting adventure here, “Three Little Roses – Ready for a New Home” and “Three Little Roses -Time to Plant” complete with rose planting guidelines and pictures of my kids when they were much younger – where does the time go?

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Hope your week is off to a good start!

I must admit that I am really missing my daughter, Rachele, who is entering her second week of basic training in the Navy.