Fruitful Friday’s!

One of the many jobs we have as the North Woods Stewards, and one of my favorites, is to help out in the Skidmore Community Garden. This summer we have been spending our Fridays, what we call “Fruitful Friday’s”, assisting the garden manager, Eli, with several different projects.
Our first task was to help complete the new permaculture bed in the garden. Permaculture is design method that utilizes growing patterns found in natural ecosystems. When productive, this bed will be packed with layers of plants, tall blueberry bushes creating shade for leafy greens and lanky dill plants nestled next to potatoes. Permaculture is NOT typical practice as there are fewer regular rows and spacing, instead the plants are intended to complement each other, from their soil chemistry to their shade/sun needs. It’s often a dense growing style that looks more “wild” than the typical symmetry of long monoculture rows. We helped by adding the final layers of compost and wood chips to the top. Underneath the layers we spread, there is first a layer of cardboard, then straw and finally soil. The bed must rest and lay fallow for a season before being suitable to grow crops. Once the bed is ready, Eli’s plan is to plant lots of perennials in it as well as try a paw paw fruit tree.

Next, we helped to install the drip irrigation system throughout the garden. Drip irrigation is an irrigation technique that uses a network of hoses with small holes throughout the garden beds that drip water directly into the roots of each of the plants. This method allows for a more efficient use of water in the garden. To install the system, we cut the pipes in strips so that they were the length of each row in each bed. Then we laid them down so that they touched the stem of each plant and either connected the pipes or closed them off at the end.

One of the big projects Eli was working on that we were able to help out with was creating an herb spiral. An herb spiral is a vertical garden that helps to maximize space, conserve water and creates diverse microclimates to allow for the growth of many different herbs. We had to stack and place large rocks to build the spiral. It was a difficult task to find rocks that not only fit together, but were the right size needed to create the desired elevation and shape. After two weeks, the herb spiral was finally completed and ready for planting!

We also learned how to build trellises for the cucumber plants to give them something to climb on as they grow. We build these structures using recycled wood and string. While building the trellises, the cucumber plants were new and very small. Now, a weeks later, they have grown so much and have started using the trellises!

Last Friday, we helped Eli do a large harvest. We harvested three different types of kale; curly leafed, dinosaur, and red Russian. We also harvested collard greens, two types of chard and New Zealand Spinach. After harvesting, we washed the produce, tied them into bunches and weighed each bunch before delivering them to the dining hall. The food from the garden helps to support our goal of having 25% sustainable food in Dining Services by 2025. Working in the garden is such a fun experience that I have learned so much from, and there are plenty of opportunities for all students to get involved! Garden work parties happen every Sunday during the academic year from 3-5pm. Join the Skidmore Community Garden Group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/skidmorecommunitygarden/ to learn more! I hope to see you in the garden this fall!

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