Saturday, May 12, 2012

Garden Steps: May

The High Street Veterans Community Garden started three years ago in the High Street Veterans Public Housing Apartments. With advice and funding obtained by Bountiful Brookline and support of the Brookline Housing Authority, volunteers without previous gardening experience turned a brick and concrete terrace into a lush, productive garden that now serves 10 families. In this column HSVCG volunteers share step-by-step what they do each month to grow food in their garden at the top of the steps.

Growing in a community garden is more than just putting seeds into the ground and saying “Grow, Damn it!”.  The process involves planning, organization and sharing of knowledge.  One of the first tasks is to assure healthy, rich soil for planting.  At the High Street Veterans Community Garden we start out the season with a garden preparation day that includes delivery of compost.

Before getting to the happy activity of planting our seeds, we send a sample of soil to the U. Mass extension service for testing.  The test results tell us if the soil needs amendments to provide essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium or to improve the pH . Based on these results, we have only had to add compost to our raised beds.  Our beds are 12” in height and filled with good quality top soil which we enrich each year with a 2” layer of compost.  One can buy compost at stores in plastic bags but we choose to order in bulk from Boston Bark.  A formula on the company’s website allows gardeners to calculate how much they need.  When delivery comes we are ready with our plastic tarp, wheelbarrow, cart, buckets, shovels, rake, trowel and watering can.

The compost is dropped off in a location accessible to the truck, and we spread a tarp to avoid losing valuable material and not leave a mess.  Wheelbarrow, buckets and cart come in handy to transport the compost to the garden.  We divide the compost up into clean five-gallon buckets so all our gardeners get their fair share (four buckets each) for their beds.  Then using shovels we fill our raised beds with the compost.   Using a rake or trowel we spread the compost evenly across the plot, mixing it with the pre-existing soil.  Finally, we water the beds to complete mixing and prepare for seeding.

Kathleen Nichols, Garden Committee
Michael Gould, Garden Coordinator