2019 Letter to PPCG Members

Hello Gardeners,

I always say this, but once again, I can’t believe we are already planning another season at PPCG. I hope we are getting out our 2020 contracts early enough so that we can catch any of you who head off to warmer places for the winter.

The 2019 season marked our 10th growing season at Perkins Park. I’m trying to

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remember who has gardened here since our first year, and I think we have a few, including Joe M., Jun W., Ed K., John and Christine S., me (Suzanne B.)…anyone else? In any case, thank you to everyone for all of the work you put into making our 10th year a successful one.

 

  • In early June, we partnered with Gardin in Braintree, who provided us with over fifty basil, tomato, and cucumber seedlings to pass out at Sustainable Braintree’s table at the farmer’s market.DSC_2526 (2)E
  • A lot of garden fences went up this year, and as a result, most of us were successful in keeping out the deer. I do want to mention that a Swiss chard-loving deer was able to get into John and Christine’s garden by wiggling through a weak corner. Once they figure it out, we have to keep one step ahead of them.
  • The flower bulbs we planted for early spring food for our bees came up, but sadly the bees didn’t. Our beekeeper lost his colony last spring and did not return with a new hive. We’ve been contacted by another beekeeper, Andy Rice, who would like to put a hive on our property next year.
  • I’m hearing a lot about the threat of mass insect extinction–not just bees–worldwide. Aside from keeping poisons out of the garden, another way to support insects and other wildlife is to care for the native plants in our space such as burdock, goldenrod, chicory, aster, blackberry, and sumac.

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    In the spring/early summer, we pulled a bunch of garlic mustard, an invasive plant that outcompetes natives. And we’ve given room for native plants to grow around the edges. There’s always a balance to be achieved between the wild and cultivated portions of our space, so especially for those of you on the borders, if you are finding yourself cramped by wilderness (!), let us know. Gary always likes to keep at least enough space to pass comfortably with the mower. Similarly, the mint that’s taken over a large portion of the garden is enjoyed by a wide variety of pollinators, so we’ve resisted taming it. Next season we can reclaim some of that space if we have other herbs we’d like to grow.

  • We kept up John and Christine’s garden and grew lots of potatoes, Swiss chard, green beans, lettuce, and radishes. The tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers struggled all summer, so we had the soil tested, which found super high levels of phosphorus. I’m mentioning this because I’ve had this problem in my garden, too, and it’s a good reminder that even compost and organic products can be overdone. High phosphorus causes problems because it can bind with important nutrients such as nitrogen and calcium, which are then not available to your plants. There’s no way to get rid of the phosphorus, other than to wait it out. I put on a light application of blood meal and planted peas and oats as a cover crop to fix more nitrogen, which seemed to help.
  • We started a new policy asking gardeners to cover their plots for the winter season. IMG_20190427_110744510This practice is an easy one that will make a big improvement to long-term soil health. It’s up to you to choose what materials you’d like to use. Leaves and tree debris and healthy crop residue are free for the taking, but shredded mulch, straw, etc., and fall cover crops are other possibilities. Also consider leaving behind garden plant roots in the soil (or even leave the whole plant intact if it’s healthy) and limit your digging. I know the end results looks a bit messy if you are used to and evenly-raked clean garden bed, but these methods will build healthy soil.
  • Gary and I presented at Sustainable Braintree’s annual meeting with an overview of ten years of organic gardening practices at PPCG. I will work on getting that presentation up here on our blog; it’s interesting to think about how we’ve moved from a primary focus on excluding toxic chemicals to include other principles of organic gardening, such as the soil health practices I just mentioned above.
  • Let’s talk about food waste, please. We’d hoped to be able to donate unwanted veggies to local food pantries that accept fresh foods, but we ran into a couple of difficulties. 1) We had only dribs and drabs. 2) Gary and I don’t like entering into even gardens that appear to have been abandoned. So…that means we all have to keep an eye on our gardens and make sure we’re not wasting produce. Check on your gardens at least once per week, pick your produce, and/or offer it to other people if you can’t use it. And as always, if you find yourself unable to care for your plot, please ask for help or relinquish it for the season so that someone else can use it. You are always welcome to put your name back on the list to try again another year.
  • One more quick reminder: Our height limitation for garden structures and plantings is 6 feet to avoid casting shade into adjacent gardens.
  • After 10 years, the shed finally has a white coat of paint over the primer. Many thanks to Peter W. for doing a beautiful job. The shed looks ready for the next ten years.IMG_20190427_111133846 (1)E
  • More thank yous to:
    • Amanda and Leo H. for donating a beautiful 10th anniversary cake from Amanda’s business, Lucy’s Cupcakes and Confections.
    • Marie H. for tending to the pergola and herb garden every week.
    • John S. for taming the wisteria beast on the pergola.
    • The mystery gardener(s) who kept the garden mowed while Gary was away and repaired the hose at the shed.
    • I’m sorry if I missed anyone. Please let me know!

2020 Contracts are now available for returning members. Have a happy New Year and an easy winter, everyone!

Suzanne & Gary, Co-Managers

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