SPRING CONDITIONS – The spring has been as equally allusive as our winter, never willing to commit to one temperament. While the overall condition has been warm, we have experiences several nights in April and May that have dipped down into the 30s & 40s. Some of our early planting suffered as a result. Despite a few light showers the drought continues on. As a result, our neighbors in Waycross (west) and the Okefenokee Swamp (south) have endured several months of fires ravishing hundreds of thousands of acres. Due to the drought and fires Glynn County (the hostel’s county) has issued a ban on all recreational fires. Luckily most nights now have clear skies and the moon can guide us around without trouble. Another positive perspective is that we’ve been virtually bug free. No yellow flies, no horseflies, and there are only a few mosquitoes buzzing around after an occasional shower.
LAKE GARDEN – The lake garden seems to be growing larger with each passing hour. In our new no-till garden we’ve created a “Lasagna” of compost (layering of cardboard, leaves, fresh manure, 2 yr old manure and lake compost). Into this we’ve directly planted cucumbers, celery, strawberries, potatoes, corn, okra, squash, tomatoes, and peppers. We group planted companion crops (those that serve a purpose to each other in bettering their productivity). Plants form natural guilds to complement one another, providing each other’s needed nutrition, structure, protection from elements, pollinators, biodiversity and more. Example: Corn, Beans, Squash. Known as Three Sister Planting, the corn takes a lot of nitrogen out of the soil and its stalk provides a climbing pole for the beans. The beans give nitrogen back to the soil for the next season. The squash provide living shade cover to keep moisture in. This is a Native American tradition dating back to the Iroquois. Other examples of companion planting are listed at the bottom of the update. Additionally, in the large bed next to the “Lasagna” rows we’ve planted soybeans. Our hope is to make Tempe (fermented soybeans) from them after harvest.
We have recently attached drip line irrigation to the lake’s solar powered water pump. The lake water is now gravity fed from the holding tanks down onto the garden via soaker hoses. This method will greatly assist in watering during the drought.
In our lake garden’s fruit orchard we have planted additional trees such as Nectarines, Peaches, and Granny Smith Apples. Next we’ve laid down cardboard to prevent excessive Blackberries from overtaking the young trees, and then covered that with mulch. The area is now very clean, making for an attractive walk around the lake.
On the other side of the lake we’ve placed teepee poles made of downed cypress trees from the property. Then a canvas (given to us by a dear friend of the hostel) was wrapped around those poles. Also, the growth of old Blackberries has been shaved down in that area.
New Blackberry growth will be teeming with fruit in the Spring of 08. By that time the new fruit orchard will be starting to hold its own shade.
SECRET GARDEN – In the secret garden (main garden) we continued with companion planting. Some of the crops we’ve planted or are harvesting include tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peas, soybeans, corn, cucumber, strawberries, grapes, eggplant, peppers, chard, kale, salad greens, lambsquarter, dill, leek, sweet onion, and garlic. All of our winter greens are flowering and we will be hand tilling them into the earth to provide bed space for our spring/summer starts. In the secret garden’s fruit orchard we have grafted Pluot scions onto our Plum trees and Asian-Pear scions onto our conventional Pear trees. If they take we hope to increase the variety of fruit these trees provide. The Hostel’s 26 year old Blueberry briars have been thinned, spread with compost and mulched. Little berries can be seen on their branches, some already juicy enough to eat. The Flower Garden and Herb Garden are both doing fantastic. New growth is coming up everyday.
BEES AND GOATS – Behind the secret garden is where we keep our bees and goats. Throughout the spring the bees have generated a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They fly about the gardens carrying large sacks of pollen back to the hive. This in turn boosts pollination and productivity. Our clan of lady goats include Brown Sugar (recent mama), Goatrude (her sister with the horns), and Panda (an orphan whose coat is as soft as silk… if you can catch her). They are currently visiting a neighboring farm to be breed. They will be back this summer and we all look forward to their return.
MUSHROOMS – Last winter we ordered 250 mushroom spores that were then planted into various oak, gum, and maple logs found on the property. The logs had holes drilled into them and then the spores where hand screwed into those holes. They were then laid down behind the flower garden and covered with damp sheets. In Aug. we will stand them up and by Fall and Winter we should see growth. There are several varieties of mushrooms including Shitake, Oyster, Maitake, Lion’s Mane and Chicken of the Woods.
GARDEN STAFF – For the first time in the history of the Hostel, we’ve created a full time garden staff. Jeremy, Nikki, Joey, and MikeJoe made up the team. MikeJoe left us in April and June 1st is the planned departure date for the rest of the crew. A special thanks goes to this incredible group of gardeners! Replacements have been found for two positions during the summer. The garden crew always enjoys extra hands from the guests and will need help throughout the season!
Other examples of companion planting methods:
Asparagus – Parsley, Tomatoes
Beans (Bush) – Beets, Carrots, Cucumbers, Marigolds, Potatoes
Beans (Pole) – Marigolds, Radishes
Brassicas – Beets, Celery, Corn, Dill, Nasturtiums, Onions, Sage, Sunflowers
Carrots – Lettuce, Parsley, Tomatoes
Corn – Beans, Cucumbers, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Squash
Cucumbers – Beans, Brassicas, Corn, Peas, Radishes
Eggplant – Beans
Lettuce – Carrots, Cucumbers, Onions, Radishes
Onions – Beets, Brassicas, Lettuce, Tomatoes
Peas – Beans, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Radishes, Turnips
Tomatoes – Asparagus, Basil, Garlic, Marigolds, Parsley