Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Visit to an Urban Farm

One way we become better gardeners is by learning from others who do it well.  Last Friday the Junior Master Gardeners' Club got to do just that, taking an after-school trip to Hollygrove Market and Farm. The site, located in the Hollygrove neighborhood just a few miles from school, includes a small urban farm, a community garden and a produce market that gets all its vegetables from small farms in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Scholars and Dreamkeepers tour the grounds at Hollygrove Market and Farm
A friendly and knowledgeable Hollygrove staff member took scholars around the farm showing us their rows of irrigated crops, state-of-the-art aquaponics system for vertical and soil-free growing, and their chicken coop.  Scholars were already familiar with some features at Hollygrove including the compost system, drip irrigation, and the varieties of produce growing in the ground.

Hollygrove's soil-free aquaponics system

Just like the Dreamkeeper Garden, Hollygrove shows that it's possible to grow healthy food sustainably in an urban environment.  It takes a little space and a lot of hard work, but it's so important to grow food that nourishes us, brings people together, improves our local food economy, and makes New Orleans just a little more beautiful.

Chickens and their coop

We hope our trip to Hollygrove gave our scholars some good ideas to take back to the Dreamkeeper Garden.  More importantly, we hope that scholars will become leaders in imagining what a better food future might look like.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Open Garden Day!

This past Saturday, March 3rd the Dreamkeeper Garden hosted its first Open Garden Day of 2012!  On Friday night the weather report warned of morning thunderstorms that could have forced us to cancel, but Saturday we awoke to forgiving skies and a milder morning forecast.  Open Garden Day was on.
Volunteers from Tulane InterDisciplinary Experiences Seminars (TIDES) and Notre Dame Mission Volunteers Americorps (NDMVA) began trickling in around 9 AM and within a half hour were well underway.

Some volunteers grabbed spade shovels, garden forks or metal rakes to add a thick layer of stable sweepings to the top of our lasagna layers.  Compacted rows grew into fluffy mounds of sawdust and manure, arching upwards as if taking a deep breath.  With any luck, this most recent layer will build enough soil to have our rows ready for planting by the start of the next school year.

Others grabbed ladders, brushes and sealant to add a waterproof coating to our shed and to our new KaBoom! benches.  Light browns darkened with each stroke, a gradual guarantee of protection for wood against rain.

Even without thunderstorms the elements tried our resolve.  Cold winds blew throughout the day accompanied by the occasional drizzle, drawing shivers from the spines of volunteers.  Sweatshirt strings drew tight and scarves wove spirals around goosebumped necks.

Some volunteers avoided unfavorable conditions by making signs inside

As time tiptoed towards noon we began to see real transformations.  Light brown benches took on darker, earthier hues.  Rectangular raised beds shed their wood and cinderblock exteriors, reformed in the shapes of kidney beans and bordered with terra cotta tiles.  The chicken coop, once crooked and gapped, now stood straight and enclosed.

Lunch overtook cleanup time like the sun drifting above stormclouds, bringing joy and relief to all who gave their time and energy.  The spread provided by Langenstein's included a beautiful greens salad, a variety of finger sandwiches, orzo with shrimp and vegetables, and fresh strawberries for dessert.

Wind, rain and cold could not stop this Open Garden Day!  As always, the Dreamkeeper Garden owes a very special thanks to all volunteers, scholars, Dreamkeepers, and sponsors who made today possible.

A first grade LHA scholar braves the elements in purple flannel