Archive for March, 2010

Volunteering with Green Corn Project

This weekend we got our hands dirty with Green Corn Project (GCP), a volunteer-run organization we learned about through the Citizen Gardener program. GCP’s mission is to help Central Texans grow organic vegetables by installing beds for elderly, low-income, and disabled people in the community as well as for elementary schools and other community centers throughout Austin. What’s cool about GCP is that it uses the biointensive method and double-digging for planting vegetables, the same practices we use in our own backyard.

Saturday’s project (aka dig-in) consisted of us heading out to Lady Bird Lake and working on GCP’s demonstration garden. The garden was actually in great shape, so we just spent a few hours cleaning it up; loosening the soil; adding in compost; and planting spring and summer veggies like tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, and a variety of herbs. Whole Foods actually waters the garden on a regular basis and, in turn, harvests some of the veggies.

As a bonus for volunteering, we got to take home a few turnips and sprigs of marjoram. We also learned a cool tomato planting tip from our dig-in leader, Alissa. If you plant a tomato on its side, you can actually cover more of the stem underground to give the plant a better root structure. The plant will still grow upright with a tomato cage. We tried this when planting our east bed tomato plants today. (P.S. The entire east bed is now finished!) 

If you live in or near Austin, consider volunteering with GCP. We had a great time!

Green Corn Project logo


Sorry, neighbors

All this work in the backyard is making an unsightly mess. Chicken wire, rocks, shovels, pots, you name it — it’s all over the place. So, to our neighbors, we are very sorry that you have to look into our backyard at this mess. We’ll get it under control soon, promise.

The backyard mess

The sun sets on our backyard mess

Good news is that today’s sun brought some warmth and some courage to get outside for most of the day. Blair finished double-digging half of the east bed. With a few more evenings in the yard this week after work, it’ll be ready for planting. While Blair dug…and dug…and dug, I planted…and planted…and planted. The west bed is completely full now; it was just missing the broccoli and cabbage that had been hanging out in a seed flat.

West bed labeled

The west bed finished and labeled for your viewing pleasure (click on image to enlarge)

I also prepped a raised area that we’ve been planting in for a few years by tilling the soil and adding compost; egg shells; and turkey manure, which I managed to get all over my pants. This area is what I’d like to call the “control group.” The biointensive/double-digging method is the experiment, but if it doesn’t work, we’ve at least got a few plants in an area that we know works. Which plants? Brandywine and Costoluto Genovese heirloom tomatoes, rosemary, cilantro, onions, garlic, and lots of random flowers from soap containers and pieces of paper that claim to be infused with seeds (been saving these up for a while now). Other than being the control group, some of these plants just honestly didn’t fit into our ground-level plots. 😉

The "control group" of plants along the west side of the house

And tonight, we’re dipping down to 31 degrees (perhaps the last spring frost?). Have no fear, the plants are covered (literally).

Our spring crop

Blair here…

Like I said several weeks ago, we’re attempting to grow biointensively this year using How to Grow Vegetables as our guide. The book covers all kind of topics, from the best ways to compost to companion planting. But one of the coolest things in my opinion is the in-depth “mini-garden” plans that provide blueprints for what to plant, how to plant it, and when to plant it. There are several plans, but we chose the one-person, six-month, 100 sq. ft. plan. You can actually check out the list of plants and when to plant them here, thanks to Google Books. The suggested layout is on the following page (p. 128), which isn’t available on Google Books’ preview.

We actually ended up modfying the plan a little — from 100 sq. ft. to 64 sq. ft. (two 8 x 4 beds) — and we chose a few different veggies. We decided that 100 sq. ft. was a little too much for our first try with this; we didn’t want to get discouraged and give up on it. Plus, we’re still planning to plant a few other random things in other parts of the yard, so we’ll have plenty to keep us busy. Check out our fancy layouts below. Not quite the work of an architect, but close. (You can click on the pictures to enlarge.)

West garden bed East garden bed
Bed No. 1 (west bed) Bed No. 2 (east bed)


We got the west bed prepped and mostly planted a few weeks ago. We still need to get in the broccoli and cabbage, which are still growing in their second seed flat.

Seed flats

Seed flats staying warm in the mini greenhouse

Double-digging in our crappy soil is tough! In fact, I’m planning to devote a whole post to my experience with double-digging in the rocky Edwards Plateau soil. We’re hoping to get the east bed prepped soon so we can stay on schedule with the rest of the plants. Unfortunately, the first day of spring isn’t bringing us much nice weather to work with today. Maybe tomorrow…

Biointensive gardening

Mixing in more compost after double-digging first plot