Harvest season

The Adventure Ed. class went to town on the garden today. Our mustard greens were getting too big, shading out the broccoli and cabbage, so we pulled them all out. Along with some lettuce, we got seven bags full for the food bank:

We also got the trellis built for the peas, and Corinne made our spring season garden map (click the thumbnail to see it full-size):

We planted two more rows of carrots, a bed of hubbard squash, and Jack be Little pumpkins along the fence – all of our beds are full for the first time! We still have some space to build another bed along the back fenceline, which we might do this summer. Thanks to all the students from Adventure Ed., the garden is looking great. Thanks to Margaret, our volunteer from the food bank, our harvests are getting delivered to people who need them. And thanks to the support group who envisioned this garden years ago, we’re figuring out how this garden will be sustained long-term. Thanks to all!


Spring officially over; Summer: “I rule”

Today’s awesome harvest consisted of all the rest of the mizuna, some baby pak choi, and most of our radishes. It also serves as the transition between spring and summer in our garden, in a few ways.

The hot weather over the weekend marked the end of our mizuna. It thrives in cool, damp conditions, and almost all the plants bolted in the past week. I’d say we got at least 10 pounds of the tasty stuff.

About half our radishes also started to bolt, partly from the weather and partly because we planted them pretty close together and they got all agoraphobic and stressed out. Still, they looked pretty tasty, a few of them were golf-ball sized.

Filling Up

We had to transition away from our rain barrel water supply today as well – the hot weather ran us dry! We only got everything hooked up on the barrels about two months ago, after the heaviest rain, so in future years we’ll probably be able to get into June from their supply. This year, we hosed in water from the school to fill up our tanks. Took about an hour to fill up all 8 barrels, but this should be enough for our thirsty plants for a month or so.

Tomorrow we’ll clear out the mustard greens; with all the clearing out, we’ll have several beds open for a new summer crop. Depending on how many kids come to help, we have a whole heap of things planned for Wednesday:

-finish a trellis for the peas

-make signs to send to the food bank about the various crops we’re sending over and how best to use them (demystifying pak choi)

-harvest all the mustard, thin the lettuces

-plant carrots, squash, and baby pumpkins

-make a map of the garden for spring, summer, and fall seasons

We’ll see how much we actually get done! I hope to get the map up here with our full crop list so you can see the different things i’m referencing.

One more sign of good things to come – I found my first ripe salmonberries on the walk home today:

For those outside the Pacific Northwest, salmonberries are blackberry’s tamer (but still wild) cousin. They’re not as thorny, not as god-awfully invasive, and ripen earlier. These ones were very early, i think, but still tasted delicious.

LACEP gets tasty

Every week a group of students from the high school come over to help in the garden during their LACEP (Leadership and Community Engagement Program) class.  They’re what this garden is about, and they’ve done a good chunk of the work in getting it up and running.  Today we harvested more mizuna (the stuff just keeps growing) and our first box of leaf lettuce.  We got the seeds for this variety, Mesher, from the Organic Seed Alliance located across the water in Port Townsend.  Check them out, they are all about promoting good stewardship of and access to seeds, especially heirloom varieties, and they donated a dozen seed packs to our project.  Let the harvest begin:

Our box of Mesher lettuce, ready for a wash and then delivery to the food bank:

Next week come the radishes! Get pumped!

Rabbit A-peas-ment

Ouch, that title was a little too much, i think. It is true, though, the rabbits around our garden must be pretty satiated, they’ve been clipping our peas down to the ground. At this point (over two months after planting them), we should have had flowers, maybe even some pods, but instead we’ve got runts. We have to step up our chicken-wiring to try and keep the demon bunnies out. Here’s a valiant pea, growing in spite of its missing shoots:

And the bigger picture:

The white row cover off the left of this picture was Anza’s experiment in rabbit proofing one section of peas, which may or may not be working.

Is it just me, or do pea leaves look like tiny lungs?

Rain Garden is Finished!

It’s been finished for over a month, technically, but we just put up the gutter pipe that will funnel the water through the creek bed and into the bed. If this doesn’t make any sense, check out our post The Rain Garden

for the beginning of the story. Here’s what it looked like on April 9:

And after a month of heavy rain, occasional snowfall, and other craziness, it looked like this on Monday:

These plants are livin’ it up in there. Must be the steer manure. We chose plants native to the northwest known not only for their ability to take up water, but also to survive through dry periods. The big plants are mock orange and douglas spirea, smaller ones are red twig dogwood and elderberry, and the ground cover that you can’t really see is kinnikinnick. Not only is it fun to say, it has a long history in these parts. Native American groups like the Swinomish and Snohomish used the leaves in place of tobacco.

Anyway, the rain garden is taking off, and we’re actively working to spread the word in the community about the ease, beauty, and benefits of installing one. We’re not the only people working on this – check out the Living Schools blog for some more examples of rain gardens and a wealth of other information about students, gardens, and community.

Let it rain

Our rain barrel system has been working out very well for us so far. We’ve got 8 barrels, 55 gallons each. They’re all hooked together to collect the water off of one half of our shed. The other half goes into the rain garden (more about that further down). Considering the area of the roof we’re collecting from is only about 60 square feet, we’ve gotten a huge benefit out of it – these barrels are our only source of water so far. They won’t be enough once the summer comes full force, but they will be a great help to us in reducing our usage and impact. Putting in a system like this or with one big cistern has great potential for Whidbey – if we can get this much from our little shed roof, just think how much water you could collect off of one side of your house! You can find a simple formula for estimating how much water you could collect from your house at Rainbarrelguides.com.  For the 64 square foot area these rain barrels collect from, we expect to get about 600 gallons of water a year.

our wall of water

These food-grade barrels used to hold olives, now they hold our garden’s water. All eight are connected along the bottom and routed to one common spigot.


The barrels are up on cinder blocks to give us some gravity help in getting the water out. The flow isn’t fast, but it’s enough for us.