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Archive for the ‘School Gardens’ Category


On gardening and leeks

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Weather Report:  Last night’s low 35.9 F.  Today’s high: 81.4 F.  Precipitation: 0.

 What a glorious day!  Sunny, warm enough but not too warm, and I got to spend most of it gardening.  This morning was “garden club” at my children’s school. 

Several years ago, the school asked me to create a planting activity for a holiday celebration.  “Sure,” I said, “where’s the garden?”  Where was the garden indeed.  Seems that in the original plans for the school (this is a private school), there had been a garden, but by the time construction happened, the garden had fallen by the wayside.

Six years and hundreds of volunteer hours later, the school has a 5,000 square foot (more or less) garden that includes a butterfly garden (of course!), an herb garden,  raised bed planters for the lower school children, a greenhouse, a raised bed in the shape of California planted and replanted each year by the fourth graders as they study about the state, and so on. 

Everyone is invited to work in the garden on the first Sunday morning of the month.  This month being January, we gathered on the second Sunday.  Several adults and a bunch of kids showed up to weed, prune, water, and rake.  Once a month is never enough to keep the garden as clean or weeded as I’d like, but that’s as much time as I have.

That was the morning

The afternoon was working in my own garden, something that I seldom have time to do these days, between giving talks, teaching classes, scouting gardens for articles and TV shoots, writing books, designing gardens and the kazillion other things I do. 

I’m pretty excited, though, because for our next episode of A Growing Passion, my TV show, we’ll be focusing on home vegetable gardens.  One segment is on building raised beds and for that, we are going to build three new beds for my garden.

Most of the beds in my vegetable garden are nearly 15 years old.  Though my husband built them of redwood, they are now paper thin.  I found that out when, for the first time, a gopher got into one of the beds this past summer. 

I assumed that the wire mesh that lines each bed had rusted away, until I started digging out the tunnel to see where it went.  Much to my surprise, it went sideways (!) right through a piece of wood that sat just below the soil surface.    Clearly the bed had lived a good life that now, sadly, was over.

Replacing the beds, of course, means that I also have the opportunity to update the layout.  The entire vegetable garden is surrounded by a perimeter fence to keep out bunnies and, in the early years, kids, balls, and toys.  

The kids are teenagers now, but the rabbits are still here, so I still need that fence.  The space measures 24’ on each side and I’ve often regretted not making it larger. 

Because the rest of the garden grew up around the vegetable garden, I can’t really expand its size of, but by playing with the length and arrangement of the beds, I can just about double my planting space.  Now that’s exciting!

So, in preparation for tearing out the old beds, I had to empty them.  One of the 4’x 8’ beds were was filled with self-seeded leeks (if you grow leeks, leave one to go to seed and you’ll have leeks for years to come).  They were going into a big bed (4’ x 11’) built a few years back for a show on the DIY network.  

Digging and planting, digging and planting.  Two of my three favorite activities (the other is pruning).  

As the sun went down, I finished mulching the leeks with a thick layer of aged straw.  Funny thing, the leeks that took up about 4’ x 4’ self seeded expanded to just about fill the larger bed!

I can’t wait until the leeks are big enough to harvest.  When they are, I’ll make my family’s favorite leek recipe, braised leeks with lemon.  Yum!