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The Learning Garden “Lasagna Garden”

by OCMGA Master Gardeners Barb Dorzweiler and Janet Carlson

True to the name “The Learning Garden”, my team and I learned how to build a lasagna garden in the summer of 2014. We had never built a lasagna garden before, but we were definitely interested and we were up for the challenge. Far from being an expert, but knowing how to find information, I researched a little on the subject before we set out. I referenced the UW Extension publication, A4021 “Making and Using Compost in the Garden.” Yes, there is a science to this. I also referenced another helpful article, “How To Create a Lasagna Garden” by R. J. Ruppenthal originally published in the May/June issue of Urban Farm. First of all, a lasagna garden is a no-till method of building a garden by adding layers of organic materials that will cook down over time not unlike what happens in your compost bins. It can also be referred to as “sheet composting”. We had a designated plot in The Learning Garden and our first step was to dig up two inches of the topsoil on our plot to set it aside for the topmost layer so we could plant right away. The plan was to alternate layers of “green” and “brown” organic materials. Brown materials are rich in carbon and include dry leaves, shredded newspaper, straw, and even shredded toilet paper rolls. Green materials are rich in nitrogen and include green leaves, green grass clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells, fruit and vegetable scraps. Our building happened over two different dates in May in part to give the bed time to cook and because the spring weather was not as warm as we hoped. On May 2nd, we started the bed with a brown layer: straw, compost from the UW-Ext bins and newspaper. The second layer was a green layer of vegetable waste and coffee grounds. The third layer was brown with sawdust and shredded dry leaves. We covered this with a black landscape cloth and left it to warm up for a couple weeks. On May 19th, we added a layer of newspaper and watered it immediately with the garden hose to keep it in place and make it easier to work with. Then again more layers of brown and green materials: dry leaves, grass clipping, coffee grounds (free from Starbucks), and newspaper. Then we added back the topsoil as the topmost layer to use as the planting medium. The lasagna bed was now about 10-12 inches high. Our initial planting was one tomato plant and two rows of lettuce. We labeled our rows with cut venetian blind labels. In later weeks, another tomato plant was added along with carrots, radishes. As expected, the lasagna garden cooked down and lost some of it height. This told us the organic materials were being composted into a fertile, fluffy soil. With the heavy rains this summer, some of the material was washed away, but the mulching around the garden beds helped hold its borders. We were able to harvest bountiful lettuce, tomatoes and the other vegetables. We had concerns that the lack of green grass clippings would slow down the decomposition, but the “green” materials (kitchen scraps and coffee grounds) we used were sufficient so this wasn’t an issue. As we cleaned up for the fall, this wonderfully fertile, loose soil can be spread and used over the adjacent garden plots or added to for another lasagna garden. It’s definitely a sustainable way to keep your organic material out of the landfill and improve your soil at the same time. I definitely recommend this process. On to next year’s plans; what will the next team do? It was a fun and learning experience for us!

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

 

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The Learning Garden “Seed Tapes”

by OCMGA Master Gardeners Becky Hengel and Linda Adams

We started out by planning various beets and their companion vegetables and/or herbs. Another goal was to do successive plantings. Next, we made seed tapes from newspaper strips and alternately planted a lettuce/ radish and a type of beet, spacing the beets 6” apart, with some nasturtiums and marigolds for eye candy. The rationale was to pick the lettuce and let the beets get larger. The seed tapes were time consuming but easy to furrow a line and cover the tape. Overall, the seed tapes are not worth the trouble. The arugula got too big, some seeds fell off the tape and some did not germinate leaving gaps. The first beets were good but few. The corn lettuce was mild and interesting. The cylinder beets never got too big and the gourmet beets also were small or did not mature. What went wrong? As you remember the winter was brutally cold and long. Linda, not having lived in Wisconsin for 40 years decided that she would put something already growing immediately in the garden and as soon as possible. She planted four tiny marigolds and four small Brussel sprouts. They looked nice while nothing else was coming up, BUT took over and instead of going straight up, laid down and covered the second plantings. Ugh!! Well, it’s a learning garden. The cherry bell radishes were particularly good. We also had many friendly tomato plants emerge from previous years which also shaded the garden. So many plants, so little space; but it was fun!

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

The Learning Garden “Asian Garden” and “Herb Garden”

Asian Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Anne Anderson and Tom Wentzel

Tom and I did the square garden with Asian veggies. What I learn from the square garden is how much you can plant in one square. It’s amazing if one is limited on space how square gardening would be beneficial. The only problem was after the garden started to grow I was not sure what were weeds or the growing vegetable. Asian vegetables to me, looked like weeds or maybe they were! LOL!!! What I would do different is if there is more than one square with the same veggie, I would not have put them next to each other. Lastly, I should have brought my cats to clean up since watching them chase the mice would have been so entertaining!

Herb Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Mary Learman, Sue Mings, and Maureen Flanagan-Johnson

We continued the original theme by planting the more common herbs used in Greece, France, Italy and England. Since most herbs do not like wet feet, it took a little while before we saw any real growth. Then they did not stop. We framed each of the four plots with marigolds and made a Marigold Henge in the center. A couple of notes for next year will be to not to over-plant, plus to harvest more often. It actually needed little upkeep apart from the occasional pruning. But with schedules and the vagaries of the weather, they were not harvested often enough. One unexpected problem turned out to be that the voles had built a metropolis under the herb garden and it collapsed in several places. They also ate some of the roots. Ninja tactics will be employed next year.

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

The Learning Garden “Veggies”

by OCMGA Master Gardeners Peg Ebben and Lynn Coffeen

We worked together in a traditional garden plot approximately 8×10 ft and wanted to focus on growing veggies we had not grown before. We decided on several heirloom varieties. Our trail of Gold Marie pole beans did well as did the Cour Di Bue ox heart cabbage which was very tender. The Sweet Dumpling winter squash was very tasty. We also liked the round (pool ball) zucchini. But the squash would have fit our space better if we had grown them on trellises. Our choice of two heirloom tomatoes produced well, but grew too large and took over a large amount of our space. Our patio tomato did well (but produced less) and was a better size choice for the space we had. One of the best things we tried was the Lincoln leeks. They needed to be started indoors, but were relatively easy to grow and were delicious! Our over-all perspective was don’t be afraid to try new things, as most did very well, were great tasting and we were able to save seeds from some of the heirloom varieties. One important lesson we learned was to be more conscious of the space you have. Pick varieties that fit your space and or utilize more trellising. In all it was a very positive learning experience!

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

OCMGA Learning Garden #1

The Outagamie County Master Gardener Association is located on the grounds of the University of Wisconsin – Extension in Appleton. In 2013, we built a Learning Garden with the idea that we could experiment with different growing methods, provide hand’s-on learning for our Master Gardener classes, and hold educational classes for the public. Because this is one of our core projects, I’m hoping to have ongoing updates about our efforts.  Today, we’re going to reprint an article that appeared in our 2014 newsletter, written by OCMGA Master Gardener Mary Learman.

This was the second year for The Learning Garden. The purpose of the garden is to be able to demonstrate what can be done in a small space. There are four distinct plots, any of which could be used in a small urban landscape. Next year we’ll be adding a fruit tree espalier and grapes. Not only is this a space to teach others about gardening, it is also a space for us try something new.

IMG_1916The first lesson for us was how to manage a project like this. It is a fairly large space, 35’ x 26’. That is an intimidating amount of space to plan, plant and maintain. Last year, it was a struggle to keep on top of things. This year an adopt-a-bed program was initiated. The area was divided into five different areas, and a call went out for volunteers willing to take care of one plot. The response was gratifying. Teams were formed for each of the areas. Each team planned, planted and maintained a plot. We did cross check with each other to minimize duplication. Also a watering schedule was established. Twice each week, people were assigned to water the entire garden. No one person needed to be on “watering duty” more than twice through the season. One of the big learnings for us this year was that breaking things down into manageable segments is key to making the project a success.

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A big change that will make our life easier next year will be the installation of an irrigation system. We’ll have two rain barrels in place and soaker hoses that will have the option of using those barrels or city water. Another big change for next year will be using the garden as an educational tool. It will become a part of the level 1 training program. We’ll also be conducting public classes on the site.

For more information on one of our experiments (Soil Temperature Experiment), visit our previous blog post here.

Columbus School Plan for 2016

by Master Gardener Shirley Martin

 

We started classroom sessions in February on the morning of the 25th with the 5th grade. Our schedule is coordinated with the teachers from Columbus and Appleton Bilingual School.

-Planning the Garden using charts from last year.

We used old gardening catalogs for students in each grade to construct a new garden for the upcoming year by cutting out pictures and pasting them on new a new Garden Chart. Master Gardener volunteers came to each classroom that participated and gave a constructive critique of each chart thus helping the students to determine the final layout of the garden. We introduced the concepts of rotating the crops and companion planting.

During the months of March and April, we introduced sessions on:

-Proper care and management of the Garden:

Weeding, Watering, Stepping Paths

Beneficial insects, mulching, soil testing and amendments

Some of the future tasks will be to move two large cold frames this spring and use some sort of soil barrier to be installed across the backs of the garden beds that line the fence. I am thinking that composite lumber or an attractive corrugated metal cut to size would be nice.

We’re always looking for volunteers to help with the gardens!!

 

Kentucky Bourbon Trails “Black Secret”

by Bev Kindschy

Last fall we moved our daughter to Louisville, Kentucky to finish up her college training in Radiation Therapy. This move was exciting, since it presented many new learning opportunities including the culture of Kentucky.  One of our first learning experiences was the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which is a program of nine Kentucky distillers that promote the bourbon industry.  Kentucky produces the majority of all bourbon made world-wide, because of the limestone water supply.  Since our family is a fan of wine and beer tastings, we decided to expand our taste buds and start bourbon tastings/tours on the trail.IMG_2189 orig1

On a walking tour of the historic Jim Beam distillery, I couldn’t help but notice that the buildings were all black. As I looked more closely I noticed the trees were extremely black and looked like they had their bark blow-torched.  I learned that it is because the trees and warehouses have been tainted by Baudoinia compniacensis, a unique whiskey fungus, found near distilleries.  This particular type of black fungus is common near distilleries because it uses ethanol as a source of energy for growth.  During the whiskey maturation process (expanding and contracting in and out of the barrels’ oak panels), at least 2% of whiskey escapes from the barrel as ethanol vapor. It is this airborne ethanol that stimulates fungal germination and provides some additional heat protective proteins to the organisms. Since ethanol is denser than air, when it meets the slightest bit of moisture (limestone water supply) you get whiskey fungus all over the place. At an eyeball distance it appears as a crusty coating. At a greater foot distance, it appears like ink staining.

 

One final point in case you plan to participate in a bourbon tasting, Makers Mark has the best bourbon balls at the end of their tour and you get to sample four types of bourbons!