Archive for June, 2009

Why I’d like to just play a tune of many lettuces next year

Earlier this spring, I was a carbon copy of Dr. Frankenstein as I helped Tanya Olsen plant the arugula and kale, the carrots and lettuce and hon tsai thai. I worked a bit diligently, hoping my creation would come alive (Note: this is my first year of gardening ever, although I’m quickly realizing that yes of course, my ancestors did it and, so, like the salmon that swim upstream to spawn, I do likewise cultivating life in the soil). Trusting that my chard seeds will germinate to the surface of the Earth, and waiting that extra couple of days before reseeding a fallow spot was just one of this year’s lessons.

Anyways, I discovered yesterday that nothing had changed. I was the same carbon copy DR. F — I was tearing down my creation (due to the boltingness of arugula) in the interest of life, different lives in the plant community. It was easy to salvage what leftover small leaves hung from the plants–I ate them as I ripped the plants out of the ground and stripped some leaves for pesto. I’ll let everyone know how well wilted arugula leaf pesto turns out soon enough.

There’s more bad news for another fruit bearing crop. Right now we think the tomatos are serving a terrible life sentence due to Verticillium Wilt (follow link for the cold, hard science). Come to the farm to put yourself in the tomato’s shoes (and stripes). Here’s a photo, although in the early stages of whatever we’re seeing (fungus, pest, …) the leaves are not brown, but curled. It’s interesting, when I visited the Fifth Street Estates last week we noticed the same sort of leaf curlage but there were bugs in those leaves. There was little to no evidence, however, that insects at the farm were the “evil doers.”

The website says, should you ever have the V-wilt, part of the solution to the soil fungus lies in the chosen seed variety..some seeds are evidently more resistant. I’m going to do some research about which tomato seeds and report back, and with photographs. Until then, keep them Early Girl tomatoes in your thoughts! Love Ya, the BBF


Finding Our Niche

Yippee to every voter, email spreader, writer and every new gardener. Whether we win 10,000 smackers or not, we will continue to support Missoula’s burgeoning interest in all things Arugula, Chard, Pumpkin. The response has been overwhelming and it’s been an excellent week to talk to people about the project’s vision and how other people’s vegetable patches are fairing.

Polls end tonight (Tuesday), but the comments keep coming. This comment by rakasome may as well become our new gardener hoorah…

“And what a great way to bring the thread of community over the high fences between backyards. Mr. 1000Gardens, tear down this wall!”

Thank you’s go out to the NewWest‘s Amy Linn, jhwygirl at 4&20 Blackbirds, Michael Moore of the Missoulian, and all of the people who have new gardeners interested in becoming one of the 2010 greatest new gardens in the world! We’ll be organizing volunteers for you for the fall Dig Day. Oh, it’s going to be another post-modern event. To volunteer or stay in touch with the group’s growth, contact us at

And, OF COURSE, don’t forget to keep reading these excellent journal updates of this year’s new gardeners.

“Mom, I helped 1,000 New Gardens get $10,000 today!”

As we speak, 1,000 New Gardens volunteers are leading a campaign to mobilize Missoulians to support our vision. The word on the street (maybe you’ve heard it, maybe you should spread it, maybe you should open the window and yell it out loud) is that 1,000 New Gardens is one of eight ideas in the nation that could win $10,000.

Well, it’s true. And helping 1,000 New Gardens reach this goal is sooo stinking easy… Easier than picking out vegetable varieties to grow or simply picking a ripe cherry tomato. ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS VOTE HERE at the Ideablob homepage and let 10 friends know about this opportunity for Missoula to expand its nutritional capacity. Below you’ll find a sample email to send out to other aspiring gardeners!

Each project in the contest was told on Tuesday morning about all of the exciting ways to “Get Out The Vote” … about how some project organizers do not sleep during the voting period. We put our heads together and said together, “we can do this with sleep” and began brainstorming ideas for letting the community know about the vote. We’re hanging in there, but we need your help! Let’s encourage our neighbors to look over the fence at our project and provide a model for gardening together that other communities can employ.

Peas, 1kng Missoula

Sample Email


Peas, 1000 New Gardens

1,000 New Gardens Missoula …

  • Could win $10,000
  • Is one of eight ideas in the nation accepted at
  • The winner is chosen by online voters
  • You can help us win, it’s as easy as voting online


1)Register at

2)You’ll receive a confirmation email

3)Vote on the homepage

4)Recycle this emailpass it on to friends, family, Missoulians!


What is 1,000 New Gardens Missoula?

We think it’s time to provide communities with a model for gardening together using the spirit of neighborhood potlucks, the Victory Garden Movement and Americorps. 1000 New Gardens is a volunteer-led project that aims to promote organic household vegetable gardening in Missoula, Montana, by sharing resources, techniques and information.

How will we use $10,000 if we win?

1000 New Gardens plans to focus grant money on community outreach and financially supporting the gardening ambition of low-income households. In order to create a community-based body of knowledge about local gardening, the group created and maintains a web-based interactive blog where local gardeners express ideas, questions and other information. If awarded the grant, 1,000 New Gardens will also use it to improve and increase content about gardening techniques and information. The group also understands the importance of face-to-face interaction. Part of the funding will propel “local agriculture” by establishing neighborhood tool and canning libraries, plot sharing, volunteer labor to start new gardens, seed-ordering and vegetable harvest potlucks, and garden workshops.

The group helped 12 new gardeners this year organize volunteers to remove sod, bring in manure from local farms, use tools from the MUD tool library, and reuse materials from Home Resource.

Would you like to be one of the 38 new greatest gardeners in the world in 2010?

Email us:

And see what vegetables you’re getting into at the blogsite:

success and failure

As a first-timer with almost all of these veggies, I didn’t really know what to expect, and there have already been some hard lessons.  One thing that keeps coming at me from all directions, from gardeners who have been doing this for 40 years and from ones who have done it for 4 years, is that there is usually one thing that doesn’t do well.  And it never seems to be the same thing two years in a row.  And for every failed attempt, there is some wild, unexpected success that leaves you baffled and happy.

My success so far:

  • my raspberry and strawberry transplants all made it and are leafing out like crazy.  I have flowers on the strawberries too!
  • all of the frost bitten plants I picked up at the Ace nursery for free are thriving. brocolli, cauliflower, cucumbers.
  • my spinach grew into a crazy, green monster that I could barely keep up with. I have a big bag to take to my coworker tomorrow to exchange for some lettuce.

Which brings me to my failures:

  • most of my lettuce didn’t germinate and the stuff that did hasn’t really grown.  I am going to clear out the spot and try again.
  • only about 6 of my beets germinated. They are growing fine, but i would like to have more.  I will try again in the fall.
  • my peas did nothing…nothing.  They are all about 3-4 inches tall and have stopped there.  I think I am going to just pull them out and try something else.

As someone who hates to fail at things, it is reassuring that this happens to everyone and its not the end of the world.  I will try again next year!

sunflowers by the coop

sunflowers by the coop

Kinda Sorta

So I’ve decided that next year, maybe I just won’t start seeds at all. The plants that I started from seed either haven’t made or are barely holding on by a thread. Maybe I started them too late this year? Maybe they needed another month? Maybe I wasn’t consistent enough with my watering? I think next year, I will start melons (canteloupe and watermelon) only, since they need a longer season, and just make do with seedlings. Or veggies that have enough time to grow when direct-seeded.

garden-june 001

happy peas

On the plus side, I used legume innoculant on my pea seeds this year, and holy cow! What a difference! The first batch has flowers and the second sowing (about 3 weeks later) is coming right along too. I also used it on my green bean seeds (1st time veggie for me) and they’re looking pretty happy, too.

garden-june 006

happy beans

And although the deer ate my raspberries down to nubs over the winter, they look pretty fat and happy too. AND I discovered the first smiling red, almost-ripe strawberries this morning! When I told the boys, they were speechless with delight and anticipation. They’ve been out there poking around the bird netting this week, itching to get their hands on some berries.

garden-june 004


OK…I’m feeling a little less like a garden moron, and a little more like it might be worth it. 🙂

Garden From The North Country

Today I feel inspired to write… Inspired by the rain, really. While the view of the many-ridged Mission Mountain Range tempts my gaze, most of the seconds I spend North of Misoula in Moiese, Montana, are dedicated to the top 3 inches (0r less) of sandy loam at my giant feet.


Whoever tells you an organic farm or garden is the most pure, tranquil, utopian existence is wrong. It is and it isn’t. I’ve killed to protect plants under cultivation…

“See pests, pick them off or hose them off. That’s about it, but it works. Healthy plants don’t have too many insect problems, to tell the truth. Bugs and diseases move in on a plant when it is already going down, the same way you’ll catch a cold when you’re stressed” — from The Urban Homestead.

…mainly potato beetles, although we’re also attempting to rid the bok choi of its aphidsoi with an organicide. In these patches of murder by liquid and “the two rock crunch”, I’ve also found a kill-deer nest of 3 dotted egges. ‘Life and death’, I say, as I weed patches of their mallow, their pigweed, their chickweed, and toss the “weeds” into the compost and the pigweed into my evening salad. The killed in the garden contribute to the life of everything else in quick albeit meandering ways.


In any case…the chard, kale, hon tsai tai, three lettuces, radishes, tomatoes, eggplant, fava beans, and peas seem to be growing well. My cohorts and I forgot to put the starter solution on the favas before we planted them 2 inches down…and yet they came up. The watermelon and pumpkin are in the ground as of Sunday (perhaps not recommended for the colder Missoula climate just yet), and the bok choi, kale, cucumber, and potato plants are the only ruffians that seem to be strugglin’.


Feeling very disconnected from the outside world. Comforted by the fact that at a time when the commentators can’t be separated from the chicken littles, it’s nice to be able to put up a tippee and create a life where you can be made to feel like you’re in control (even though can’t shake the fact that you never really are in the garden).

Wonder Weeds

As Sandra Perin says, don’t weed, mulch! But of course there is a lot of greenery growing beside the organic weed wompin mulch (Whitney Farms) in my garden. Mulch won’t stop weeds if they’ve already sprouted. I learned today that Ace won’t carry this mulch any more (something to do with gluten composites) but I’ve had great luck with it. Putting a lot of bark (like from shaved teepee poles, etc) seems to take some of the moisture out and I’m reluctant to turn wood and bark into the soil in the fall.

I can always tell if I’ve got a weed by the throat: it’s really easy to pull off the top leaves. And the ones that come up easy and give you a sinking feeling in your stomach? Yep, that was a pea! And probably the only one that germinated on that side of the fence. Still, there’s something satisfying about weeding close to the crops I want to flourish and even if I only get the tops of some of those tap roots, I know I’ll get another chance at it in a week.

If I can’t tell whether it’s a weed or not (planting carnations for the first time this year, I let it grow and watch it. For example, I wasn’t always sure which were flower seedlings until I imagined the color of the adult stocks. The exception, of course, are greenerys like pigweed and bindweed. Plus that little critter that looks like a thistle, but splays itself flat to the ground like a ninja. These little buddies get harder to pull as they get bigger. Clover’s easy to i.d., of course. They’re also great to get while their young and before they establish a bee working colony in the middle of your best soil. I love the garlic, dill(weed), calendula, lettuces, chard, onions and johnny jump ups. A farmer once told me that mother nature likes to cover herself and I figure if not with these perky volunteers, it will be something less tasty, so I let it all go until I can plant, then weed and plop in the tomatoes in the old weed holes. I shake out the lettuce plants I let bolt and in the spring I have early salads–really yummy.

Hope you’re having fun weeding tonight after the rain stops–best time’s when the soil’s fluffy and wet.