May Challenge: Start Your Garden

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” — May Sarton

The beautiful orange azaleas that somebody planted a long time ago in front of my office window inspire me and bring me joy. I challenge you to plant a garden for yourself and future generations.  In April I told you to be lazy and hold off on your spring cleaning to let the dormant creatures emerge out of their winter’s nap.  May has arrived and now it is time to plant that garden. Planting food and flowers nourishes the body, soul and grows independence.

As long as the sun still shines and the clouds still rain on us, we can find ways to provide for ourselves.  Just imagine yourself wearing your grungy pants, releasing the sweet smell of soil and the wiggly red earthworms as your shovel cuts the ground.  And then there it is, your canvas, a piece of soil that can become your living painting, a painting you can eat, a painting that will bring life to the soil, food for the pollinating insects, and joy to you.

When you need a pick-me-up, I suggest a healthy dose of weeding. Yes, that is right, weeding. There is nothing more satisfying than grabbing quackgrass by the base, following the root a couple of feet underground and then ending with a pile of “spaghetti” grass or getting into a tug of war with that redroot pigweed taproot and winning. Then comes the excitement of seeing your seeds germinating or your transplants taking hold and getting big.

Your garden will thrive because of your care and effort, not just to satisfy your imagined harvests or to fulfill your good intentions. If you are in the market for seedlings, stop by the farm this week during our Certified Organic Plant Sale & Farm Festival. There will be over a 100 plant varieties  to choose from and lots of experts on hand to offer advice.

Our landscape can be a source of positive environmental change. Plants can remediate toxic soil, attract beneficial birds, insects, bats and bees, prevent erosion, create habitat, reduce heat in the city, reduce utility bills and return nutrients to the soil. To attract beneficial insects to the garden arrange flowering plants near the veggies. Predatory insects will find nectar and shelter and then snack on the aphids that are eating your lettuce, beans and tomatoes. To attract birds, bees and butterflies to your garden plant pussy willows, milkweed, bee balm, peonies, asters and coneflowers. Plant with your neighbors and sow property borders with perennials and fruit trees to create a green corridor for wildlife and migrating birds.  A colorful diverse garden is a healthy garden.

Hope to see you at the farm this week, Monica

Visit our events calendar page for a full list of upcoming workshops, including:

Container Garden Workshop with former Crown Point Education Coordinator Lynn Gregor. This event is free to members during our Early Bird Plant Sale (and it’s not to late to become a member).

Ask the “Tomato Doctor” – Dr. David Francis, PhD from the Ohio State University will be on hand from 11-3 on Saturday, May 13th to answer questions about one of the most loved summer vegetables!

At Home in the Wild – Join us for this enlightening presentation bridging ecology and gardening! You will learn why native plants are crucial for the continued survival of wildlife, why non-native plants threaten diversity, and what you can do to attract a greater variety of birds, pollinators, and other wildlife to your gardens.

From the Farmer: Swales, Contours & Berries

Lately I have been thinking more and more about how my everyday choices will affect the livelihoods of future generations.  Will my great grandchildren be able to enjoy the beautiful Earth as I do today?  Or will climate change have altered our planet to one I would not recognize?

It is a scary thought, but also an empowering one. As individuals, we can support local farmers, eat animal products less often (and when we do, seek out pasture-raised cattle and organically raised poultry).  As farmers, we can make choices to help store carbon from the atmosphere in “carbon sinks” often through practices such as cover cropping, perennial plantings and no-till farming.

Recently Crown Point farm crew completed a swale and berm project aimed at reducing run-off and improving soil quality for our new gooseberry and currant plantings.  Swales are low depressions in the ground designed to encourage the accumulation of rain during storms and then slowly infiltrate into the soil Berms are raised beds that prevent water logging of plantings and can be used to direct water to swales. The process started with finding our contour lines using a simple A-frame structure.

Sam with our A-frame helping us measure our contour lines

This device allowed us to find the equal level of elevation across our field. After flagging this area we started digging trenches approximately 8 inches deep and 18 inches wide.  Keeping an equal depth of the swales is important to ensure an equal flow of water along the contour.

Next, we created the berm by piling compost on the downhill side of the swales and layering this with our removed soil.  We shaped the beds and prepared for planting our berries.  After planting the berries in a mixture of peat moss, compost, and soil, we covered with burlap and wood chips for weed control. Finally we filled our swales with wood chips to help with water retention.

Soon we will add the final touches by planting a cover crop between our six rows of swales and berms and planting a series of trees behind swales and berms to benefit from the excess water retention and help with infiltration.

Completed swales after last week’s storm.

Although we won’t receive a bountiful harvest from our berries this year, we have invested in our farm, and taken the first step to ensure our soil is improved.  This field will no longer be tilled.  We have aided in carbon sequestration and soil remediation through reduced water runoff.

As farmers we have the choice to care for our land so that future generations may enjoy the sweet fruit we have the privilege of planting. When you stop by for the Organic Plant Sale or to pick up your first CSA share you can check out our sustainable agriculture in person.

Hope to see you soon, Roni

 

Crown Point Earth Day 5k: Race Results

Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate Earth Day with us during our first annual 5K Trail Race and 1-mile Family Fun Run. There were runners of all ages exploring our fields, wetlands and wooded trails.

Click here to see race results: Race Times 2017 Crown Point Earth Day 5k

Thank you to all of our volunteers, especially, Connie Gardner, who volunteered to coordinate and time the event, and Alicia Thomas, who helped with capturing hundreds of fun photos. Below are a few highlights from the race, and you can check out all of the race photos here.

Some of our race winners pose with their handmade pottery

 

1-mile runner, Lauren Turos, with her seedling donated by RB Stout, Inc.

 

Banana Tent compliments of Mustard Seed Market & Café

April Challenge: Spring Procrastination

Don’t clean that yard just yet. 

April is a season of spectacular changes. Today is partly sunny and warm, and we walk outside without a coat to soak up the 60-degree weather. Last week, the blue Siberian Squill flowers at our entrance rose defiant against the wet snow. When the snow melts, we uncover bits of plastic that are buried and blown about by the winter winds. Go ahead, pick up that plastic – but don’t go on a cleaning raid. Leave alone the leaf litter and sticks that are stacked against the side of the house.

You don’t need to mow quite yet either, so leave the sticks on the mushy ground. Bumble bees like to make their nest in the soil in cavities or burrows.  You can spot the nests when you see worker bees flying in and out of the entrance, or perhaps you drive your mower over it and the very irritated bees will chase you and sting you, repeatedly.  Really, that mower is just not going to start and it is only going to make you mad, so leave the bumble bees alone and go back inside and finish your stupid taxes.

Leafcutter bee brood chamber in a rose cane (photo credit: OSU)

Pollinators in the garden aren’t fooled by the warm days. Their chrysalides are still clinging to last years dried sticks and leaves.  I know, you saw some bees flying around. There are some pollinators that come out early, but they still need cover on those chilly nights.  Last year’s leaf litter provides protection for both plants and invertebrates against late-season frosts.  The cherry trees bloom first in Ohio and the pollinator party starts, but wait until the apple trees are done blooming before you go at it with your itchy green thumb.   That way you will ensure all the late-to-emerge pollinating species also have a chance.

Some excellent resources on pollinator biology habitat can be found here:

Natural Resources and Conservation Services

OSU extension services

Header photo copyright: lianem / 123RF Stock Photo

March Challenge: Dispose of the disposable cup habit

It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world – Chaos Theory

We don’t often think of coffee and butterflies simultaneously, but for this month’s sustainability challenge, let’s make small shifts in thinking and small changes in actions – like thinking twice about the use of disposable cups. Tiny changes you make do make a difference. If millions of people make those tiny changes, the butterfly effect will help us reverse the environmental damage we have created, and we will have a cleaner healthier planet for our children and grandchildren.

Drink your morning cup of tea or coffee as if it were the first time in your life. Enjoy the smell of the roasted coffee being ground or the fresh-mown hay smell of the tea. Hold your cup, your favorite cup, the one that is made of clay, the one with the broken handle that allows you to warm your whole hand when you hold it, the one that says “World’s Best Dad”, the clear glass cup, the high-tech one, or the dainty grandmother cup on the daisy plate.   Sit down and sip, slowly, aware of the beautiful event that this is, every morning and every day.

And if you must travel with your coffee enjoy that too, but use a travel mug instead of disposable. The use of these disposable cups creates a typhoon of environmental consequences.  Billions of cups are tossed annually. And let’s see what it takes to make cups: Millions of trees, billions of gallons of water and the energy to power 50 to 100 thousand homes.   Every four paper cups equals one pound of CO2 emissions.  The number estimates vary between data sources, but we can agree the numbers are staggering. And coffee cups are hard to recycle, because they are often coated in plastic resin.

It might seem far away but choosing to enjoy your coffee in a reusable cup will keep the fluttering wings of beautiful, rare and pollinator butterflies in the coffee forests alive and well.

You can also visit us on Facebook and share your photos on instagram, when you catch yourself doing good. And please remember to tag us in your post!

Monica Bongue-Bartlesman, Ph.D.

P.S. If you missed our last two challenges, you can still participate and it’s easy to catch up! In January, we challenged our supporters to think about food waste. In February, we focused on using reusable bags while shopping.