Willing hands at community garden

By: Dee Pigneguy

The community garden in Manly was buzzing earlier this month with a new group proving that you are never too young to get your hands into the soil and start learning the simple craft of gardening.

A local home-schooling group looking for a garden to help, work and learn in spent the morning of May 3 exploring the gardening site they will help to develop.

Healthy soils produce healthy plants with strong immune systems, while feeding and sheltering beneficial soil life. A good look at the soil in the community garden convinced the children that there was plenty of work to do.

It was decided we needed to gather home-made compost, animal manure, seaweed, and the ingredients for making more compost. The worm farm was examined and found wanting for lack of household scraps and the need for more worms. I will be expecting buckets of kitchen waste to be delivered soon.

After an examination of most of the vegetables growing in the beds it was decided that although some of them looked alive, they were definitely warm season crops and would not flourish in the coming months with the onset of cold weather.  The decision was made to pull them out and plant winter vegetables.

As the children wanted to sow seeds, we decided that carrots, beetroot, daikon and parsnips would be good choices and time was taken to prepare a bed for seed sowing. Both the daikon and the parsnips have seeds available for gathering which will help the children to understand plant lifecycles.

We all went on an insect hunt to see if there were any insects that would damage some of the winter vegetables already growing. Except for a few leaf miners and slugs we decided that either the cold nights had killed most of them or they were hibernating, waiting for the warm spring weather.

The garden has barrels for making liquid manure and the children will be gathering seaweed, fish waste and cutting comfrey to make a nutrient rich water supply. Grass clippings are in abundance and will be used for mulch.

A pile of wood chips provided the children with the material to start upgrading the paths between the raised beds. A thick layer will keep the weeds under control and paths dry over winter.

Each young gardener took home a handful of pea seeds to raise for planting as soon as we source bamboo and make climbing frames.

Note: Currently this community garden is not seeking more workers. The children hope to eventually set up a facebook page about the garden and that will be made public in case anyone else wants to lend a hand.

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