Plants Finally in the Ground

It’s taken a while to get The Soul Patch Community Garden going this season. Blame it on the wet, cold weather we’ve had all spring. We’re hearing it from other gardeners as well. Few of them could get plants and seeds in the ground and if they managed that much, the weather has been uncooperative in helping those plants to grow.

Erik got out to the garden on May 15 to get it tilled and ready for planting. Spinach from last year had sprouted again in the middle of the garden and had to be tilled up, although not before we sampled some. It was delicious. There were also some volunteer onions, which we kept.

Erik at the beginning of tilling The Soul Patch for the 2011 season.

Erik at the beginning of tilling The Soul Patch for the 2011 season.

The spinach returned from last year, May 15, 2011.

The spinach returned from last year, May 15, 2011.

Volunteer onion, May 15, 2011.

Volunteer onions next to the rhubarb, May 15, 2011.

Rhubarb was donated and planted along one edge of the garden by volunteers Carol and Dave.

This past week has been a frenzy of planting by Al Jabs from the Farm of Plenty CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Randall, MN, and Erik. Al has donated all the seeds and starter plants (with the exception of the rhubarb) for this year’s garden. (Thanks, Al!)

Erik and Al made a plan for the garden that should make it very attractive. There are semi-circles and diagonals of plants, along with rows that will graduate in size based on the height of what’s been planted. Sunflowers have been planted around three sides of the garden, which will give it an interesting walled effect. A small patch of herbs has been planted in one corner.

After today’s hot, sunny weather, the new plants (a bunch of which were planted yesterday) are looking a little wilted, so Erik is watering. We’re crossing our fingers that the growing season will be productive now that we’re past our crazy spring.

By the way, The Soul Patch inadvertently made the news a few days ago. The Brainerd Dispatch’s Police Blotter reported “suspicious activity” at the garden. Turns out there were people picking nightcrawlers.

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Tip Sheet Available

The fine folks at the Minnesota Idea Open have put together a tip sheet on starting your own Soul Patch garden based on information received from Erik. You can download the tip sheet from the Minnesota Idea Open website.

Meanwhile, things are winding down in the garden. We don’t have a final weight total for the season yet, although we suspect items are still being harvested by our dedicated volunteer Hubert. We’ll do a check-in soon and see where things are at.

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LF Football Players Pitch in on Harvest

Last Thursday afternoon, a group of sophomores and juniors from the Little Falls High School varsity football team, led by Coach Brad Czech, helped out with harvesting at The Soul Patch Community Garden. Here are the football players with the produce they picked:

Little Falls Varsity Football Team members help with harvesting at The Soul Patch, September 9, 2010.

Little Falls Varsity Football Team members help with harvesting at The Soul Patch, September 9, 2010. Front row, left to right: Matt V., Jordon P., Bob M., Ben N. Back row, left to right: Jake L., Mike A., Josh W., Spencer F., Brandon Z., Coach Brad Czech.

Thanks for your help, guys!

To date, including the veggies harvested by the varsity team, The Soul Patch has produced 2,136 pounds of food for the Morrison County Food Shelf. We have surpassed last year’s total of 2,009 pounds and the garden’s not done yet. This year’s total includes 843 pounds of tomatoes. That’s an AMAZING amount of tomatoes.

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The Garden Has Cracked 1,000

As of today, The Soul Patch has produced 1,255 pounds of produce for the Morrison County Food Shelf. Just thought you’d like to know.

And it’s chemical-free produce.

A gratuitous shot of a pile of yellow squash and zuchinni from The Soul Patch, August 2010.

A gratuitous shot of a pile of yellow squash and zuchinni from The Soul Patch, August 2010.

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Peppers as Teeth and Other Garden Oddities

We have a lovely crop of peppers in The Soul Patch. Several different varieties, including jalapenos, banana peppers, green bell peppers, purple peppers and some little hot peppers whose name I don’t know. These little hot peppers fascinate me. There have to be a hundred peppers to a plant and they grow point up, reminding me of a hundred snaggley green teeth.

Hot peppers in The Soul Patch, August 2010.

Hot peppers in The Soul Patch, August 2010.

Even more interesting is the fact that the peppers grow red starting within the lowest depths of the plants, rather than from the top.

Hot peppers turning red, August 2010.

Hot peppers turning red, August 2010.

I’m waiting to see all of the peppers on one bush turn fire red, but as we keep plucking the ripe ones, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. Erik has tried a pepper or two and he assures me they are very hot. Between the peppers, tomatoes, and onions in the garden, folks ought to be able to whip up a nice salsa.

Hot peppers from The Soul Patch, July 31, 2010.

Hot peppers from The Soul Patch, July 31, 2010.

The Soul Patch has also been producing some long beans. Volunteer Olivia demonstrates just how long in the following picture:

A green bean as long as a forearm, July 31, 2010.

A green bean as long as a forearm, July 31, 2010.

Joining the pepper teeth and stretch green beans are the hugging carrots, which Erik pulled up this evening.

Hugging carrots from The Soul Patch, August 9, 2010.

Hugging carrots from The Soul Patch, August 9, 2010.

These aren’t tiny, inconsequential carrots, either. This next picture will give you a sense of the scale.

Hugging carrots next to a shoe, August 9, 2010.

Hugging carrots next to a size 8 woman's shoe, August 9, 2010.

After today’s harvest, we’re up to 796 pounds of food for the Morrison County Food Shelf this year. This includes 86 pounds of tomatoes that Hubert harvested today. (Think of all the salsa!)

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Fence Disaster

Two tremendous deluge-y type storms rolled through Little Falls today, this morning between 7:30 and 8:30 and this afternoon between 4:30 and 6:00. I drove by the garden this morning, right after the storm, and nothing was amiss. In fact, Hubert was out picking peas and beans, literally RIGHT AFTER the storm (everything was still drippy). That’s dedication.

This evening, Erik suggested we stop by the garden again, just in case. When we got there, we discovered that the fence the peas and beans are on had fallen over. Of course they fell toward the side with the tomatoes, not toward the grass. We propped everything up as best we could, but Erik will be heading back tomorrow with stronger stakes.

Most of the rest of the plants looked pretty good, although the tomato leaves took a bit of a beating. While we’re thankful to have the rain, it’d be nice to have less force with it.

While at the garden, I noticed that the volunteer tomato plants that were growing on and around the compost heap have become so tall and numerous that it’s like having a second tomato patch. There are even tomatoes on these plants.

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Harvest to Date

Thanks to Hubert, the garden’s faithful daily volunteer, veggies from The Soul Patch are regularly being harvested, weighed in and distributed at the Morrison County Food Shelf. Cabbages, onions, peppers, beans, zucchini, radishes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and Swiss chard have been harvested to the tune of approximately 260 pounds to date. Peas should be ready for harvest soon and the tomatoes are getting that yellowish cast seen before turning red.

A few recent pictures for your visual edification:

The pea plants are thick with pods, The Soul Patch, July 18, 2010.

The pea plants are thick with pods, The Soul Patch, July 18, 2010.

The pepper plants, particularly the hot peppers, are thick with peppers, July 18, 2010, The Soul Patch.

The pepper plants, particularly the hot peppers, are thick with peppers, July 18, 2010, The Soul Patch.

The beans are growing long, July 18, 2010, The Soul Patch.

The beans are growing long, July 18, 2010, The Soul Patch.

One of the beans we picked this evening was at least 10 inches long.

Erik and Hubert examining the tomatoes and peppers in The Soul Patch, July 18, 2010.

Erik and Hubert examining the tomatoes and peppers in The Soul Patch, July 18, 2010.

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Growing & Harvesting

Over the past several weeks, plants in The Soul Patch have been growing and growing. The tomato plants never cease to amaze us. They are huge and bushy, just like last year, and started getting fruit on them by June 29th. We had to stake them up because they were getting too heavy to stand upright on their own. Because we have so many tomato plants, we had to do the staking in a couple of sessions.

Erik staking tomato plants in The Soul Patch, June 29, 2010

Erik staking tomato plants in The Soul Patch, June 29, 2010

The big, bushy tomato plants in The Soul Patch, June 29, 2010

The big, bushy tomato plants in The Soul Patch after first session of staking, June 29, 2010

Tomatos in The Soul Patch, June 29, 2010

Tomatos in The Soul Patch, June 29, 2010

Tomatos in The Soul Patch, July 5, 2010

Tomatos in The Soul Patch, July 5, 2010

    Tomatos in The Soul Patch, July 10, 2010 - The tomatos are growing in clusters, with easily 17 to 20 tomatos on each plant.

Tomatos in The Soul Patch, July 10, 2010 - The tomatos are growing in clusters, with easily 17 to 20 tomatos on each plant.

The cabbage, for the most part, has grown to be large and beautiful. (There were a few that had bug holes on the outer leaves.) Thanks to our volunteer, Hubert L., about half of the cabbage has been harvested – about 40 pounds’ worth.

Cabbage in The Soul Patch, June 29, 2010

Cabbage in The Soul Patch, June 29, 2010

Cabbages in The Soul Patch, July 5, 2010

Cabbages in The Soul Patch, July 5, 2010

First cabbage harvested from The Soul Patch, July 5, 2010. The stalk is cut with an "X" in order to allow four mini cabbages to grow.

First cabbage harvested from The Soul Patch, July 5, 2010. The stalk is cut with an "X" in order to allow four mini cabbages to grow.

The beans and peas have been steadily creeping up the fence over the past few weeks.

Beans & peas creeping up fence at The Soul Patch, June 29, 2010

Beans & peas creeping up fence at The Soul Patch, June 29, 2010

Beans & peas making serious headway up the fence at The Soul Patch, July 5, 2010

Beans & peas making serious headway up the fence at The Soul Patch, July 5, 2010

Beans & peas 5 days later, July 10, 2010

Beans & peas 5 days later, July 10, 2010

See what I mean about everything growing and growing? Erik found pea pods on the pea plants today. Soon we’ll be picking peas at an amazing clip, and the beans are sure to follow fast.

The first crop of radishes have been harvested and another crop planted by Hubert. Our onions and peppers and coming along marvelously. Peppers should be ready for harvesting soon. The squash and zucchini we thought were not going to make it have suddenly exploded, with Erik discovering some that were ready to be picked today. (Why did we doubt these plants?)

Pepper plant with peppers at The Soul Patch, July 10, 2010

Pepper plant with peppers at The Soul Patch, July 10, 2010

Erik standing by suddenly explosive squash. To his right are the bush beans. July 10, 2010

Erik standing by suddenly explosive squash. To his right are the bush beans. July 10, 2010

It’s great fun to see how the garden this year differs from last year’s garden. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve been pleased with the results both years.

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Replanting Zucchini & Squash

Work in The Soul Patch has been fairly quiet over the past few weeks. Hubert, one of our dedicated volunteers, tilled up the weeds one day, which has kept things looking very neat. He also harvested seven pounds of radishes. Seven pounds! Can you believe it?

We’ve had a lot of rain and cool weather, which has prevented us from doing much in the garden, but we’ve been checking in and managed to get some necessary work done this evening. The tomatoes, peppers, onions, cabbages, green beans, peas, and radishes are doing well, but we’ve had some trouble with the lettuce, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and carrots. The lettuce, cukes and carrots are coming in very slowly; the squash and zucchini decided not to make an appearance at all. In discussing this with Al Jabs, a founder of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) “The Farm of Plenty,” this is not unexpected. Cool weather prevents squash and zucchini seeds from sprouting and excess rain makes them rot in the ground. We decided to try again and planted more zucchini and yellow squash this evening. We mounded the seeds this time, rather than planting them in rows. We also put in extra onion sets.

Al gave us a bag of organic fertilizer to try, so we decided to experiment by adding some to the new onions we planted and to half of the peppers.

Of course, we have pictures so as to monitor the progress and show off the veggies.

An overview of The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

An overview of The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010. Cabbages in front, tomatoes & peppers toward the far back.

Cabbage in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

Cabbage in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

Tomatoes in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

Tomatoes in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010. Tomatoes always seem to do well. These are in need of staking.

Volunteer tomatoes in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

Volunteer tomatoes in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010. These have sprouted on their own alongside and on the compost heap. We threw a lot of squishy tomatoes here at the end of last season.

Fresh mounds of yellow squash & zucchini in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

Fresh mounds of yellow squash & zucchini in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

Erik planting onion sets in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

Erik planting onion sets in The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

Training the peas at The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

Training the peas at The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

A lovely radish from The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010.

A lovely radish from The Soul Patch, June 19, 2010. (It tasted good, too!)

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Beans & Peas Are In

Last Sunday, Erik and Dave (with a little help from me, Mary) put up a fence for the peas and beans to crawl up and then planted the peas and beans so that they’ll get right on that crawling.

Erik spent an evening watering this past week and noticed that the radishes and lettuce are starting to come up.

Dave & Erik installing the fence for peas & beans, The Soul Patch, May 23, 2010.

Dave & Erik installing the fence for peas & beans, The Soul Patch, May 23, 2010.

Dave planting peas (or are they beans?), The Soul Patch, May 23, 2010.

Dave planting peas (or are they beans?), The Soul Patch, May 23, 2010.

Bean seeds, The Soul Patch, May 23, 2010.

Pea seeds, The Soul Patch, May 23, 2010.

Erik's technique for covering seeds, The Soul Patch, May 23, 2010.

Erik's technique for covering seeds, The Soul Patch, May 23, 2010.

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