Dreaming in Green, A midwinter’s update from our Garden Coordinator, Rachel Lyn Rumson

Posted on Wednesday February 25, 2015

Our Opportunity Farm Gardens
The goal of the garden project last year was to greet the incoming class with a thriving garden full of pumpkins. The garden thrived! The soils however did not support a healthy pumpkin crop. When the students arrived, fall harvest was underway. Staff were making sauces and pickles in anticipation of the students arrival. Harvest season was warm so the harvest rolled on so long no one in New Gloucester wanted to see another tomato.
wheelbarrow

The garden was a buzz with life and activity all summer and Fall. It yielded a variety of annual vegetables, perennial edibles, flowers and eggs. We produced over one hundred pounds of tomatoes, fifteen pounds of potatoes, a bushel of green peppers, six bushels of green beans, a bushel of beets and one of turnips, fifteen pounds onions, celery, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, a few pumpkins, a variety of greens, corn, oats and herbs.

spindly chard

This bounty was a collaboration of Wayfinder Schools Garden project Class of 2014 and the following friends and organizations:

Senior Fare

Grant Rascoe and the Notre Dame Alumni Association

Bettie the Bus Initiative

The Resilience Hub

Thompsons Orchard

Trafford Construction

Maine Heritage Orchard Project

Diversified Communications

Garbage to Gardens

Donna’s Garden Center

Foundation Grants

Students have been engaged in the landscape through the garden project and Green Initiatives curriculum. They collected soil samples, harvested crops, collected material for the grape trellis, decorated their home with flowers, and tended the slug-eating ducks.

Molly

Rachel Lyn, the Garden Coordinator, has begun to teach the students about permaculture, an ecology-based farming and homestead design science. Students will continue this learning with an ecology lab this Spring. They will learn the process of ecological garden design, collecting data and analyzing the systems of their garden and designing some new systems to maximize the ecological capacity of it.

daisies

Lessons learned in the garden this year are 1) mulching works well, 2) plants are susceptible to pests, 3) the soil needs some amendments and 4) the winds are severe at times. The technique known as sheet-mulching that was used in the raised beds was super productive, fertile, moist and required no weeding (really, none at all), while the other beds that were traditionally tilled and hoed, were endlessly in need of weeding. All the plants were protected by our slug-eating duck family (Molly, Dolly and Duke).

Our squash and cucumber crops were decimated by pests, which has a lot to do with the health of the soil. After a soil test, we learned that the soil is depleted of several trace elements including, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, boron, manganese, copper, zinc and cobalt. Soil amendments will be the best defense against pests this season. They will boost plant health and the nutrition of the food we grow.

Corn!

Using an Aerometer we recorded winds of 55 knots this past Spring. The winds are so strong out in the garden that it is not a safe to plant the heirloom apples that were donated by the Maine Heritage Orchard Project. Windbreaks will be needed to protect the trees as well as the crops from both from Northeasterly winter winds and predominant winds from the West. The apple trees, which are securing the biodiversity of apples in the State of Maine, are currently healed in to the center of the garden.

Plans for the start of the season are to amend the soil, finish the grape trellis, acquire, haul and spread six more yards of wood chips, build a new bed for garlic, dig a small pond and line it, design a windbreak crop using agroforestry techniques, plant the heritage orchard and planting a class crop. The ducks are Wintering at a the home of the farming family to return the in Spring as well for slug patrol. It might also be fun to design a new tool shed and wash station in the garden, out of cob, an earthen material that holds up well and is fun to work with as a community.

outdoor classroom

We have a unique Farm to School opportunity at Wayfinder; as an institutional system tapping into local farms we can produce homestead-scale food system on campus that distributes the surplus to food insecure families, Passages students, and generate some cash in the marketplace through a community supported agriculture program, farm stand, and supply local restaurants. We have a lot of land to work with establishing small areas of edible landscape outside of the garden fence too. This will put us in play with a thriving local food movement.

In order to scale up production some planning needs to be done. If a CSA is allowed to run on campus some infrastructure is needed including a washing station, refrigerators, irrigation systems and season extension. To keep the science in place, soil thermometers, brix meters and maple tapping tools are needed as well. That is no small list of wishes, but dream big I say. Thank you to everyone who had their hands, head and heart in it!

faith's flowers