About six months ago David approached me with a job he thought I might be interested in. He manages Second Harvest Food Bank and has been getting donations from our farm for many years. David has a goal to be able to offer more fresh produce, and he had a plan.
Jess had recently purchased a big farm out on River Road and was willing to donate some land and resources to create a community garden. I met with David and his helper Becky, along with Jess and her helper Dustin. As I’d done similar projects before, I could give them a realistic idea of what it would take to grow an acre garden to give away at Second Harvest.
I revisited the farm a few weeks later and drove around the 300 acre property. We talked about mob grazing cattle, a deer fence around the garden spot, and the vision for the farm. Jess loves horses and envisions a community farm where teenagers can enjoy horseback riding. She also likes the idea of farm to families and exposing people to growing food.
Now that the project had the green light, I measured the plots, noting a wet spot in the middle. We checked out a nearby spring, and plowed four beds for the berry patches. Potatoes and corn were on our minds, along with a row each of cucumber, beans, squash, lettuce, tomatoes and a row of flowers.
On the spring equinox I stirred the biodynamic preparations and applied them over the whole garden area. I met Ken and Lucy from KDL Farms and looked at some old manure. It seemed composted enough and they graciously offered it to the project. Dustin hauled two 10 ton loads and soon it was incorporated. Meanwhile, we checked out two 140 Farmall tractors in Clarksville, before deciding to just fix up Dustin’s grandpa’s tractor.
Within the week we got the potatoes in. Second Harvest sent a crew over to cut 450 pounds each of Red Pontiac and Kennebec, and then dropped them into the furrows made with the tractor. We skipped over the wet spot, and the tractor straddled the rows to cover them up.
Ten days later I harrowed over the field, to prevent evaporation and disturb the surface weeds. Dustin helped me set out the berry patch, which are four different beds, 75 feet long. The Heritage Raspberry and thornless blackberry came from our farm, and Jess had bought 15 blueberry and 10 grape plants.
I dropped in a few weeks later to harrow the potato patch again. Frequent stirring of the soil keeps it loose, aerated and weed free. Another biodynamic preparation was stirred and applied, and I checked on our berry patch.
My new intern Chris joined me on May 8th to plant the rest of the garden. I chisel plowed and harrowed the field, and then laid off 26 rows. He dropped G-90 bicolor sweet corn into 16 rows, and Incredible into 4 more. I planted one row each of cucumbers (Marketmore and National Pickling), green beans (Blue Lake and Roma), summer squash (yellow prolific straightneck), zinnia (Giant Dahlia), four kinds of head lettuce (Freckles, Fenberg, Avenue and Nevada) and tomatoes (14 each of Cherokee Purple, Parks Whopper, Pink Girl, Big Beef, Tiren Paste and Bradley). A small patch of large leaf basil was sown at the end of the tomato row, and Dukat Dill with the cucumbers. I also cultivated the young potato plants.
Two weeks later I cultivated everything and hilled up the potatoes. The wet spot in the center of the garden had dried up, so we planted four rows of butternut squash there. I finished the day up with another stirring and application of the biodynamic horn manure.
On the second day of June I returned to plow out the garden and check on it. The soil is beautiful and everything was thriving. I’m planning a compost operation utilizing the daily cleanings from the horses somewhere near their barns, with the turning to happen as we move it closer to the garden area about six months later.
Within the week I came back to hill the corn, cultivate the other vegetables and plant a row of late summer squash below the tomatoes. David came and he got a tractor lesson and we made tomato cages.
On my 13th visit to the garden I staked up the grapes and felt they were getting ignored. I could see why, the garden is huge and starting to produce a lot of food. It will take more than just David to keep up with harvesting, mulching and weeding. As in other projects I’ve done, the summer squash did not get picked and became as large as clubs which are big enough to beat up the guy who planted all this stuff. I take it as a sign that my job is basically over.
The team made this garden possible. Dustin came through with the compost and tractor, David with the helpers, and Jess with the deer fence and beautiful land. My erratic schedule made it hard to organize an official educational day, although I believe we all learned a lot. We will soon be digging a bumper crop of potatoes, harvesting fresh corn, cucumbers, beans, squash and tomatoes, and enjoying the flowers, lettuce, dill and basil. I have high hopes that this is just the beginning of another great community garden, supplying tons of delicious produce to a wide variety of people.