Monday, July 1, 2013

Parsons Garden: A New Look

What a week it has been! After kicking off with our first work party last Sunday and first pot luck on Monday (attended by over twenty-five people), the following days saw many additions to the garden. Two of the circle beds in Parsons were cleared out and expanded for... ASPARAGUS.

That's right. In just two to three years Williams will have its own asparagus forest. One reason asparagus had not been planted before is because it is a delayed perennial. It also requires trenches 6-8 inches deep for planting, which, given the amount of asparagus we planted, was a lot digging.

Then, on Thursday, our strawberries, blackberries and raspberries arrived. On Friday we began construction on our trellis, meant to serve both as a border, and new face for the garden. To do this, we imported black locust logs and forest managers from Hopkins Forest. In order to anchor the stakes we dug two foot post holes and surrounded the posts with crushed rock.
Construction on our berry trellis!
We then dug up the ground between them and transformed them into beds. Simultaneously, Lucy and a few garden interns from Mount Greylock High School, transformed a grown over bed into a strawberry patch. Now we must clear all of the dirt from the excavations and go back to the daily maintenance that is essential to all gardening.

Perhaps most importantly, our Facebook page (The Garden: Williams Sustainable Growers) is nearing 100 likes!!


Monday, June 24, 2013

First Work Party of the Summer!

Hello all!
The plants are enjoying all this sun after what seemed like gallons of drenching rain, though now we gardeners are experiencing the mild frustrations that come with watering time. One of our projects for the summer is restoring our drip irrigation system, as it is in an only semi-functional state. With a great new system at Mt. Greylock high school to look to, I think that we can make ours perform as we would like it to. And hopefully in the meantime the rains will return, as this is always a much easier way to keep the plants, and the gardeners, happy!
This past Sunday, Josh and I hosted our first community work party of the summer. We had seven intrepid volunteers venture out, even in the still-hot sun of late afternoon! Everyone was eager to help, and we were able to accomplish much more than Josh and I could ever manage by ourselves in an hour. This is especially true right now as I had a mountain biking accident last week that has left me with a banged-up, sore knee. I have been hobbling around as best I can, but most garden tasks are impossible for me right now, so it was great to have the help of our peers on Sunday. Josh has been wonderful about doing the work of both of us, but it's always helpful to have more hands (and legs) available! 

Our work party attendees helped us to wage war against the massive weeds that had overtaken the entire circle beds (see Alix with her spoils of war below) and to weed the overgrown garlic beds and cover them generously with straw mulch. The scapes are just starting to reach maturity, finishing their curly-Qs, and a number of us had a spicy taste-testing. We also pulled out the remaining chard plants from last season, giving us a nice view of the little babies that miraculously had sprung up underneath! All in all, it was a great gathering and I look forward to welcoming more new people to the garden as the summer continues!

Happy growing,
P.S. If anyone reading this is on campus for the summer, come join us at our first community potluck! Monday night at 7pm in Currier Quad.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We're On It

Hello everyone,

This last week has been hectic and eventful. Our main goal has been to get all of the gardens to full production mode and we are most of the way there! This process entails clearing beds covered with weeds (and those ungodly oregano plants), broad forking the soil (which mixes and aerates it), adding compost and then raking the beds.

The weeds from the Presidential Garden 
Only then can the planting start. As of today, the presidential garden is completely planted. Four long rows of transplanted cucumbers, zucchinis, squash, watermelons, and melons sit beside a row of tomatoes. On the other side, this morning we planted seven short rows of carrots, radishes, arugula and cilantro. This is in addition to the potato plants and peas that were there before. Finally we planted a variety of beans between the peas and the fence. For now, the presidential garden is full! Down in parson's garden, we have planted both seeds and transplants. In addition to the potatoes, beets, garlic, basil, peppers, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, kale, swiss chard (etc!), in the last few days we planted eggplant, more peppers, scallions, more beets, more basil, more lettuce, kale, parsnips, mustard greens, arugula, kohlrabi, carrots and bok choy. Even with all of these planted, a few rows are currently empty, waiting for the zucchini, brussels sprouts, peppers and okra currently sprouting in our grow cart. Up at Mount Greylock High School, we are still in the process of revamping some of the beds.
The Presidential Garden after a little work

However, we have planted beans are are on our way to perhaps planting another squash, zucchini patch. Lucy and I, (yes it is Josh writing, the mystery is solved) met with two of our high school interns (I am feeling pretty good about being an intern with interns) and they seem ready to get going. Back on the home front, we just placed an order for blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry plants, as well as asparagus crowns and rhubarb seeds. We are still looking for some grape vines. Williams growers, get ready for a new dimension to the garden: fruit!! Now, as the immediate planting gets completed we shall begin to look ahead to bigger plans that can be accomplished this summer. Stay tuned.


The Grow Cart keeping our transplants happy

A beet plant


A garlic scape almost ready to be harvested

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Welcome to Summer

Hello garden followers!
This is Lucy and Josh checking in, the garden managers for the summer. This is only our first day on the job, but we are already busy planning lots of projects to expand and improve the garden plots. There are many things growing in the gardens right now - garlic, wheat, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, peas - and plenty more to come. It has been very wet for the past few weeks so everything is a bit swamped right now, but it's nice not to have to water!
We are looking forward to pursuing a number of infrastructural projects this summer in addition to the vegetable-growing that we will be managing. Some of the possibilities that we are brainstorming right now are building trellises for berries and beans, cold frames for some of the raised beds, a hardy compost system, planting perennial crops such as strawberries or asparagus and evaluating and potentially updating our drip irrigation system. There are lots of options for what to do and we are excited to get to work!
In addition to taking care of the Williams gardens, we will be overseeing the student garden at Mt. Greylock High School along with four student apprentices. It will be great to be able to collaborate between the two schools and hopefully develop a connection that can continue throughout the school year.
Here are some photos of the garden right now:
Everything's looking very green!

Potato plants are thriving.

Lots of lettuce.

Swampland between the beds.

Peas taking over the trellis in the Presidential plot.

Josh is very excited about documenting the garden through photography, so expect many more photos to come!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What’s that alternative media doing in this suburban house?!

This spring, the Williams Sustainable Growers published the third issue of our zine, Germination. This issue’s theme was ‘identity.’ It addressed topics of gender, sexuality, race, favorite foods, and future careers, among other things. And it included everything from poetry to doodling, surveys to various rambling, mixed-media articles. 

As the zine’s editor, of course I am partial to this particular type of publication, for the purpose of self expression alone. But I have to say that I think the theme of ‘identity’ is especially well suited to a zine. As a self-published, anti-consumerism media, I think it makes a space to really represent pieces of our identity on the printed page.

Almost by definition, zines have small print runs. They are often distributed through informal networks. I  gave a copy to my parents. When I came home from school last week, I found it--in its bright purple glory-- displayed next to the telephone. I couldn’t help but feel proud to see Germination and everything that I like to think it stands for (creativity, self-determination, food justice...) sitting there for all to encounter. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Great Garlic Giveaway of 2013

Garlic has been one of our best storage crops for the past two years: we plant in the fall and yield enough to save more for planting the next year as well as plenty for events like Garlic vs. Vampires and the occasional dinner. Garden produce is always available for anyone who volunteers at work parties, but this year we had enough left over that we decided to go public with our distributions. Lucky students who happened across the right corner of Baxter Hall last week went home with their very own head of super-local garlic!

Carrie Tribble '13 was kind enough to share a photo of what she and Zoe Grueskin '14 did with theirs:
"Whole wheat with roaster garlic loaf" ...looks yummy!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Seed Starting on a Sunny Sunday

After a long winter indoors, on Sunday, March 10 the Sustainable Growers began their spring season in beautiful 50 degree weather under cloudless skies. To prepare for the upcoming growing year, about fifteen students gathered outside of Dodd House to seed start vegetables for the grow-cart. We sat outside planting, talking, and enjoying each others' company in the warmth of the afternoon.

The Growers planted cold-hearty kale and broccoli to be transplanted in mid-April when the threat of frost still persists. In addition, we started later-season varieties such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants that require longer time to grow indoors. 

Although the garden is still covered in remnants of the last snow, the warm and dry Dodd Basement provides a great environment to nurture the seedlings. For the next two months, we will tend to the trays and most likely add more as the season progresses. Each day a member of the garden will water the plants, check on the grow lights, and prepare the vegetables for their transplantation into either the Parsons Garden beds or the Presidential Garden.

By 1:30, the group had planted hundreds of seeds. Proudly surveying the rows of future plants on the grow-cart, the Sustainable Growers looked forward to a bountiful season!