Despite some of the weird warm weather over the past few weeks, winter in really upon us. The gardens have been put to rest and its time it take a step back, enjoy all that we have done, and keep planning for the future.
It has been an incredibly successful second season with Growing Home. Naturally, the energy of the space changed a bit, as it was no longer brand new. There were not as many large workdays to bring everyone together. This year most of the basic infrastructure was in place, so there was less need for huge community times. However, we have kept our block parties and celebrations alive as a way to inspire and celebrate. Many families still talk about Mayor Nutters’ visit in the spring to our garden party.
This year we employed three garden managers from the community part-time to help do outreach and organize the project. This worked out very well and they took leadership roles, made sure everything was interpreted adequately, and really took in to account community input. Working with so many families (there are over 80 with plots now) is very complex, especially given all of the language and cultural divides. We continued to have meetings throughout the year to go over rules, organize committees, and work to train families in taking over all aspects of the garden management.
Together we grew thousands of pounds of fresh, culturally appropriate produce, which was all taken home free of charge. This year, using nearly the same space, we were able to increase our harvest by over 2000 pounds. This was a result of learning from past lessons and planning better. In our first year we were able to see what works and what doesn’t. Now, we know how to produce the most out of small raised beds. We have seen how much more mustard greens can continually produce than cabbage or other brassicas. Instead of just taking whatever plant donations we can get – we made every attempt possible this year to find and grow the varieties that our families really want. We are still learning as some need a very long season or are really susceptible to pests here.
As a result of our trainings and planning, our fall plantings still continue! We have used remay row cover to protect the greens and amazingly even into December greens were growing in the gardens and families were coming out to water and enjoy the outdoors together.
Our season officially ended with 4 hours of meetings with gardeners to again reflect on lessons learned and begin to plan for next year. It was inspiring to see everyone come out on the cold winter day and express their passion for continuing the gardens and working together to organize them as a community. Gardeners are already talking about what to plant for next year, so we will start right away to order seeds and dream of lush spring ahead!
Happy New Year to everybody!