Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Putting the garden to bed; garlic and blueberries for next year

November 2020

We have finished putting the garden to bed. We did this by adding some lime and Azomite to each of our beds, then covering with compost and finally with burlap sacks. The lime adjusts the pH of our beds from acidic to more neutral. Winter rains leach out the nutrients that balance the soil pH. Azomite is a product that adds back in trace minerals. Compost will continue to break down in the soil and covering with burlap keeps the microorganisms in the soil active throughout the winter. When we uncover the beds in early spring we will add nitrogen, phosphate and potassium. If we were to add these in the fall they would just get leached out by the winter rains. 

It is important to note that our beds were not made on native soil, but mostly from Tagro that was brought in. Native soil that contains clay would have more of the minerals we need.  We test the soil in our beds to find out what they lack, and our advice to readers of this blog is to get your soil tested so you know what you are working with before you start adding supplements. Warning: An excess of nutrients (i.e. applying what you don't need!) works its way into the Puget Sound water supply and damages the environment. Thanks!

We planted garlic in October to harvest in the spring. We prepared the bed with some fertilizer as well as lime and Azomite since the garlic will grow over the winter. Then we covered in straw and finally covered the whole bed with row cover to keep the squirrels out.

Our other preparation for next season was the potting up of blueberries. We found a supplier of early, mid season and late blueberries and had them shipped to us. They had been in small 4" pots and were shipped in wood shavings. We potted these up in gallons to sell next season at our plant sale.

We will not meet regularly at the garden site until March. However, the stewards will stay in touch over the winter online to discuss seed starting and tending young plants at our homes for our spring sale. Our plan is to sell from our parking lot again with a wide range of vegetables from early season to summer, including the blueberries and flowers.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Planting Garlic, Putting Garden “To Bed”

 Saturday, 10/24/20

After taking two Saturdays off because of rain, stewards returned today to begin the process of putting the garden to bed. A week ago several stewards planted garlic cloves in a prepared bed, adding a small amount of fertilizer, minerals and lime. Then the bed was covered with compost, straw and a floating row cover to keep the friendly squirrels from digging up our hard work!

Today’s task was to cut off tomatoes, peppers, squash and eggplant, chop the stalks (except mildewed squash leaves went in the trash), and then return these as a cover for the soil. Next week we will add some minerals, lime, oak leaves, and straw. Finally we cover beds with burlap. This method of putting the garden to bed allows the soil bacteria to continue to work over the winter to break down nutrients and make them available for plants in the spring.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Fall Garden Prep, October 3,2020

 Today we began preparing one of our beds for winter planting and the rest for “going to bed” for the winter. We did a deep soil loosening and added rabbit poo in the bed which will be planted soon with onions. For the rest of the beds we began pulling out dead stalks and weeds. We plan to sweeten the soil with lime before covering with straw and burlap. Northwest soils tend to be quite acidic, which is why we add the lime. In the early spring we will add fertilizer. It is best to add fertilizer in the spring because water soluble nutrients like nitrate and phosphate will leach out with winter rains and be lost. Final harvests this week included summer squash, figs and tomatoes. A heavy blanket of straw and burlap will keep down weeds and add organics to the soil as they decompose over the winter. Next week we will harvest our winter squash. Steward Deb is a dynamite weeder and harvester!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Extending the Season for Summer Squash

 September 26, 2020

After a week of rain, the Gallucci Garden was looking quite soggy. However, summer squash was still growing and producing. The Lemon summer globe squash was particularly vigorous. We decided to extend the season by trimming away mildewed leaves and opening the plants to light and air circulation. The squash is planted above a south facing wall and is growing into the plaza. This exposure gives plenty of sun and the masonry also holds the heat, both advantages. All mildewed leaves were trimmed away as were extra leaves along the stalks with only the growing end leaves remaining. 

The collards this year have been wonderful. They did not mind the hot summer days or the rain and cool temperatures. They did not appear to be stressed with limited water. To harvest collards just break off leaves along the stalk, keeping the top growth to continue. Collards can be cooked in soups and stews, used instead of cabbage to bake for cabbage rolls, or even eaten fresh as rollups. They are still going strong at Gallucci.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Squeaky Squirrel Sneaks Sunflower Seeds

 September 19, 2020

Stewards gathered to continue fall harvest, relieved the smoke has finally cleared and Tacoma has had rain. There were still many tomatoes, but this may be the last weekend for harvest. One of our favorites is Indigo Rose, a purple cherry tomato with a red bottom. We are still getting summer squash and will cut back mildewy leaves to try to extend the season. We will leave our winter squash on the vines until the weather turns colder. This gives them a stronger outer skin for better storage. One of the stewards harvested a basket of hops that he wants to try for brewing.

Our resident squirrel enjoyed sunflower seed harvest from an upside down position. We call him Squeaky Squirrel, and he appears as one of the characters in our children’s book, “Winona and Walter Worm Explore the Community Garden.” Come to our children’s garden in spring of 2021 to see Squeaky! All families with children will receive a free copy of the book.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Smoky fall harvest, sharing Pink Banana Squash, coffee and conversation

 Stewards joined together on this smoky Saturday to do a quick harvest, share vegetables, catch up with each other and return home before the wildfire smoke that has drifted into the Puget Sound became too bad. As always, we had a fresh pot of coffee for all to enjoy. 

We broke open our first Pink Banana Winter Squash and cut into pieces so all could try it. Notice the orange chunks on the table. The freshly opened squash smelled delicious. The seeds are large and beautiful so we decided to harvest and dry them to plant next year.

Our collards greens have been consistent performers adapting well to hot and dry or cool and wet conditions. We have started another batch of collard plants to grow in the off-site hoop house for our wintering gardening project. The tomatoes continue to ripen and stewards have taken large quantities home for salsa and pasta sauce. Eggplants are producing well. We are preparing a bed in the Gallucci garden for growing winter onions.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Fall 2020 Project for High School Volunteers

 Once we have harvested our potatoes and winter squash, we would like our high school volunteers to ready the area to the west of the plaza for new beds. To do this we need to: 1) move the cement blocks to the plaza and stack them, 2) move the wire arch to the plaza, 3) clear out the weeds back to the first terrace, 4) clean out plastic and other trash and pile in the plaza for taking to the dump. After the area is clean we will work together to make new beds for our squash arch and other plantings.

Late summer garden challenge: Powdery Mildew

As we move into cooler nights, we notice the leaves of our squash and cucumbers are beginning to be covered with powdery mildew, especially those close to the ground. One of the gardeners has addressed this problem in her own garden by trimming away older leaves, trimming away overlapping leaves, and growing the plant up a support. All this improves air circulation. We will explore this and other methods in our garden next season. Our hope is to extend the growing season for these crops. Although one strategy is to spray, we do not use chemicals at Gallucci.

Here is a link to the WSU Hortsense page on this problem:

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Saturday, August 29, 2020: Tomato Tasting Event

This year the Gallucci Garden stewards planted over 20 varieties of tomatoes that included slicers, paste, and cherry types. We have been keeping notes on which varieties grow well and produce abundantly in our Puget Sound climate. On Saturday we held a tomato tasting event to decide which ones taste the best!

 Our winners for this year are:

Best taste: 

    Black Krim (slicer)

    Beliy Naliv (slicer)

    Bumble Bee Sunrise (cherry)

    Chocolate Cherry (cherry)

    Hungarian Heart (big slicer)

    Indigo Rose (purple cherry)

    Mexican Midget (currant type)

    Old German (slicer)

    Sungold (cherry)

Most vigorous:

    Fourth of July (very early and productive)

    Little Napoli (determinant paste type)

    Slava, Stupice, and Butcher (European cold climate varieties)

We will have all of these varieties available during our 2021 spring plant sale.

Friday, August 28, 2020

 See a video of the garden. 

 Welcome to the Gallucci Learning Garden in downtown Tacoma. 

Our mission is to grow vegetables, fruits, berries and community through cooperative gardening practices.

We extend a special welcome to students at Mt. Tahoma and Oakland High Schools. We look forward to partnering with you for the 20-21 school year.