Garden Update 07

WINTER CONDITIONS Thanks to global warming this past winter has followed in the warm footsteps of last winter. Here at the Hostel we only experienced two freezes, resulting in practically no produce casualties. Due to the rise in temperature we will begin planting an early spring garden soon.

While the weather proved kind to our winter garden we continue to linger in a drought. The few showers we had did not bring our water table up to its normal level. This predicament has given us a stronger awareness of how precious our water is and we are making extra efforts to conserve.

LAKE GARDEN When expanding the new Lake Garden we decided to pull water from the lake itself instead of putting added strain on our well. The lake sits on a natural spring and its water contains a yummy organic scum that helps amend the new garden’s soil. We constructed a solar powered water pump that lifts the water up from the lake and into three 35 gallon holding barrels which sit on a platform, 10ft. above the ground. Water from these barrels, is then gravity fed, flowing down through a hose and is manually sprayed onto the beds by a gardener. Our next course of action is to install drip irrigation hoses that sit directly on the soil. In doing so we save time for the gardener while avoiding both evaporation and wetting the leaves of water temperamental crops like the tomato. Read more about the Lake Garden Solar Pump here.

When expanding the Lake Garden we experimented with two separate methods of farming. Half of the garden is tilled earth (a method commonly adopted in this area). On this plot we’ve spread lime and 2 year old horse pucky (manure) on top, planting cover crops of fava beans and extra greens directly into the resulting mixture. This spring we will plant soybeans on this plot for making our own tempe.

The other half of the Lake Garden was a dead blackberry patch that we cut down. Next we used a method described best as Lasagna (no till). We put down a layer of cardboard, then raked up leaves and forest mulch and piled it high on top. We proceeded to spread a layer of fresh horse pucky, and then a second of the 2 year old horse pucky. This was done in following a theory that when planted the seedlings will sit safely in cool, aged compost and then when the roots sprout down they will find a hot boost underneath in the fresh compost. In that plot we will soon be planting a variety of corn, beans and squash. This selection of crops is based on a method known as Poly Culture or 3 Sister Planting, designed planting of specific crops that benefit one another. Thanks to the love and dedication of many green thumbs working together, our Lake Garden is off to a nutrient rich start.

THE SECRET GARDEN Then there is the not so “Secret Garden”, the Hostel’s traditional garden space. The soil of this garden has been handled by hundreds of loving green thumbs during its 10 years of providing us with spray free produce. This year we continued to amend the naturally sandy acidic soil by spreading lime and 2 year old horse pucky on all of the beds. We moved the old clothing line to a less fertile spot, creating new beds in its place while expanding other older beds. Then we cleared out some of the overgrowth behind the garden to provide more sun exposure. For siesta time during the hot hours of the afternoon we built a hammock pavilion out of the small trees cut for extra sunlight. Our efforts paid off as this winter the Hostel was able to produce most of its own seasonal produce. Our vegetarian dinners have become a rich spread of garden goodness every evening. While continuing the Hostel’s tradition as having “the best salads ever”, our cooks have worked hard in coming up with creative ways to fill almost all of our dishes with fresh garden variety.

BEES Behind the hammock pavilion and the new clothing line we have placed our new bee hive given to us by Tom’s son Ted Dennard, owner of Savannah Bee Company. Upon giving us the hive he warned that “this used to be the meanest hive in America”. Luckily the bees have since replaced the temperamental queen with one more passive. They fly around the garden on warm days and pay us as much attention as say a pilot pays the mountains while flying through them. Their activity around the garden will boost pollination and in the future we hope to harvest Hostel honey.

GOATS This fall we welcomed into the forest a pair of 1 year old sister goats who we’ve named Brown Sugar and Goatrude. They are extremely affectionate with all the folks who’ve come out to the garden space to visit. And the girls have done a wonderful job of eating the overgrowth around the Secret Garden. After Thanksgiving we sent them to the nearby Critter Farm to breed with a billy goat. During this time Critter Farm asked us if we would care for two 3 month old goats after they lost their mother to a dog attack. When our girls came home in mid January we discovered that Brown Sugar (who we’d previously percieved as pudgy) was obviously within a few short weeks of giving birth. On January 31 she gave birth to two beautiful billy goats. At present several of us here at the Hostel are enjoying our first experience with milking (including Brown Sugar). It is tricky but the milk is wonderfully creamy. Once we collect enough milk the kitchen hopes to experiment with make farmer’s cheese. We assume that Goatrude was impregnated at Critter Farm and will be due at the beginning of the summer. Also we’ve chosen to keep the female sibling we were babysitting. Her name is Panda.

Thank you for visiting our 2006-2007 Winter Garden Update. Check back with us in the upcoming months to see photos and hear more stories of the gardens.