Summer Conditions 2009

Although we are still in a drought, the summer rains have come and as a result, the fire ban has been lifted from Gylnn County (the Hostel’s home county). The rains bring great health to our gardens. However, with the rain comes an exorbitant amount of mosquitoes and yellow flies. Along with the summer and its rains, a fresh group of faces have appeared in the gardens including, John, Bo, Lacey, and our good friend Mike-Joe. All have put a great deal of work into the gardens.

Lake Garden – The compost ‘lasagna’(layering of cardboard, leaves, fresh manure, 2 yr old manure and lake compost) created by Jeremy and the gang has been a major success, and the plants are growing and producing at an amazing rate. All the plants in the lake garden are now producing and are being harvested daily. The plants being harvested include cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, squash, zucchini, okra, and bell peppers. There has been a major success in companion planting in this garden, including with the horticultural trinity of the New World (corn, beans, and squash). While we have seen success in much of this garden, we unfortunately saw a failure in our soybean crop. The recently attached drip line irrigation system still has a few glitches, but has continued to water the plants well enough. The blackberries that were wiped out by the previous garden crew have sprung back to make sure we’re working hard in the gardens.

In the orchard by the lake garden there are Nectarines, Peaches, Granny Smith Apples, Loquats, a Fig tree growing, as well as, a couple Sugar Cane stalks near the shore. The tree orchard has enjoyed the recent rains and the trees are healthy even though they remain small. So far the sheet mulch in this area has been successful in holding back many of the invasive weeds.

Secret Garden – There are several harvestable plants in the secret garden (the main garden) including salad greens such as chard, kale, and lambsquarter. There has also been an abundant amount of squash and zucchini harvested that has found its way in to dinner for several weeks. Also growing in the garden are cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, strawberries, all sorts of peppers, and leeks.

The previous garden crew experimented with grafting different types of plum and pear on to our more conventional plum and pear trees. Unfortunately, none of the grafts have been successful, but we learn from past experiences to try again next season. On a brighter note, the pear and pomegranate trees are bearing many fruit. We watch patiently while our mouths water, for the fruit to ripen. We don’t have to wait long to satisfy our hunger, for the blueberry bushes have begun to ripen and large harvests occur regularly. We use the blueberries in all sorts of concoctions including, cakes, pancakes, meads, and salad dressings.

The flower and herb gardens continue to do amazing. We recently transplanted several basil plants out of the herb garden and into the main garden in order to allow them a bit more sun. Aside from that, the only problems in these gardens are the weeds and the occasional clumsy armadillo digging holes and knocking plants over.

Bees and Goats – The bees in the hive located in the Secret Garden have just given us an incredible quantity of honey; two and a half gallons worth. Tom’s son Ted runs a bee company in Savannah, Georgia taught us how to extract the fragile frames from the hive, and lent us the tools to extract the honey from the combs. With the excess wax retrieved from the garden, we plan to make our own candles. The bees also continue to provide a great pollination service to the garden.

Sadly we have not yet gotten our goats back from the breeders yet. Because the drought has been so intense in the past months, our supply of free oats has been cut off. With out any food we can not have any goats. But we’re hopeful that one day soon a supply of oats will come to us and the goats will be returned.

Garden Staff – On June 1st our good garden friends, Joey, Jeremy, and Nikki, made their departure from the forest. This left Bo and John in charge of a magnificent garden full of potential. Shortly there after Lacey made an appearance at the Hostel and made a serious contribution to the gardens with her extensive experience and a new garden notebook.

After Lacey left the hostel, our good friend Mike-Joe came in order to tend the sweat lodge fire and play in the gardens. Bo has also recently left the forest in search of new things and in hopes of starting a spiritual retreat center. This left Mike-Joe and John to take care of the gardens. But alas, Mike-Joe too made his departure from the hostel. A replacement gardener has been found who is hopefully coming on Aug. 1st. The hostel is searching for more intrepid gardeners to assist in the growing of plants.

Essential soil nutrient elements: – Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg). Nitrogen: produces above ground growth. Too much N: plants get lazy and fat. Too little N: yellowish color around edges of leaves (also a sign of too little water). Phosphorus: enable membrane activity, water and nutrient uptake, promoters flowering and roots. Too much P: is ok for the plants but not healthy as run off for streams. Too little P: bluing of the leaves

Note: there is a difference between total and available P (meaning how much is available to the plants) Any soil test kit will test for available P. Role of Ca and Mg: regulates Ph and makes P more available Potassium: enhances fruit size, flavor complexity, builds up plant resistance. General rule: Most plants prefer a neutral ph.