On September 23rd, we had a special presentation from our guest artist, Ari Kletsky. He educated us about the unconventional use of traffic islands. Did you know that..
- …islands were developed before cars? Very ironic, because we think of them today only as traffic dividers.
- …islands are considered to be the freest place in the American city? There is a twist to this. Although they should be protected by the First Amendment, they have a very peculiar standing in the Constitution. Since islands are a free public space, you would think you could do almost anything on there right? Wrong. In Santa Monica, you can walk or run over a traffic island, but you cannot simply stand there.
- …the city considers the appearance of traffic islands a trivial issue? This should not be the case. As citizens, it is our duty to make sure we do the best that we can in order to make our neighborhood look nice. Guerilla gardening is not exacly encouraged–get permission from the city first. Be a good citizen and transform your traffic island into a piece of art.
Back to the Garden
It is our turn to be good citizens and care for our little community garden. So far, we have been doing a good job, but Florence Nishida returned and gave us some more tips to ensure that we have the healthiest garden possible.
- Add organic fertilizer. The soil appears to be drying out because of the hot weather we have been experiencing lately. Remember that aside from water, plants need plenty of nutrients to grow healthily. Also, keep in mind that the fertilizer concentrates in certain spots. It is very likely that the plants growing in areas with more amounts of fertilizer are growing much better. In order to ensure that all of our plants can be healthy, we must make sure the fertilizer is uniform throughout the garden.
- It is definitely best to maximize our production. Right now, we have our plants growing in separate rectangles, but it’s okay to spread them out in a nonuniform manner. This way, instead of wasting so much space on borders, we can grow as many plants as the space in the garden permits.
- Tie up plants with long stems. If we leave them hanging, they will shelter smaller plants, thus blocking them from sunlight.
- Some plants in the sun are dying because they are not receiving an adequate amount of water. when watering, we have to be sure they are getting more water than the plants in the shade because the moisture will evaporate more quickly out in the sun.
- We have recently been discussing transplanting. Florence has recommended that we wait until the plant’s true leaves have grown. The plants in the sun are at this stage already, but the ones in the shade still have their heart-shaped (seed) leaves. Once the longer set of leaves has grown in, we will know the plant will survive if it is transplanted.
- When transplanting, selectively pinch the plant with your fingernails or a pair of scissors. Be careful–don’t damage the roots! We already know that without roots, the plant cannot survive because it will starve.
- Increase space between the plants in case something goes wrong. That way, you won’t have to pry them apart once they are done growing.
- Although it appears as if the plants in the shade are doing much better, the opposite is true. The plants in the sun are smaller because they are receiving adequate sunlight. If you notice, they do not have as many seed leaves as the plants in the shade. However, the plants in the shade have to stretch in order to receive solar energy, which gives them a larger appearance. So, even though they look a lot healthier, they really aren’t.
- Be careful when stepping on the garden bed! You don’t want to destroy the environment needed for the plants to grow adequately.
- You don’t have to wait till the plants are huge. In fact, picking and trimming the leaves will be better for it.
Hope this was helpful!
Things to avoid:
- animal scraps/bones–these may attract rodents into our compost pile
- feces–there is a risk of disease and/or bacterial transfer
- plastics–these won’t break down in time for us to use
Items used for compost should be close to the target ratio of 30 Carbon-1 Nitrogen. Some common compost materials include:
- cardboard 350 C-1N (bad)
- corn cobs 75-1 (ok)
- fruit 35-1 (excellent)
- leaves 60-1 (ok)
- newspaper 175-1 (not too much)
- peanuts 25-1 (good)
- coffee grounds 20-1 (good)
- grass 20-1 (good)
- vegetables 25-1 (excellent)
- egg shells (good because of their Calcium Carbonate shells)
Compost should be watered once per week because the invertebrate living in the compost need water. Before watering, mix the compost thoroughly, then water for about 5 minutes. The compost should feel moist and spongy.
The key ration of fertilizer is Nitrogen-Carbon-Phosphorus. Our fertilizer has a ratio of 7-4-5. Before we mixed the fertilizer into the soil, we tilled the soil with the spade fork and the hand cultivator. In total we used 15 cups of fertilizer.
Some Good Planting Techniques
There is a big difference between planting seeds and seedlings. When spacing seeds in a garden, you don’t need to waste too much space spreading them apart; it is extremely inefficient. Instead, estimate how wide the diameter of each plant is going to be so that adjacent ones do not merge together. Even if this occurs, it is not a big deal; all you have to do is cut them apart with a knife after they are picked.
Some things to keep in mind if you are planting a seedling or a potted plant:
- Do not aggressively tug the plant out of the pot. Doing so may result in root damage, which will severely shorten the plant’s life. The correct approach is to handle the roots with intense care and make sure they are harmed as little as possible.
- It is really important not to let roots dry out. Keep in mind that the roots are the ones taking in the water and nutrients from the soil. Without the roots, the process of mineral uptake is nearly impossible, and plants will be unable to photosynthesize because they are not receiving anything that can be converted into glucose (aka expendable energy).
- When planting a potted plant into the soil, make sure you dig the hole as deep as the soil mold of the pot. The surface of the soil of the potted plant should line up with the surface of the soil in the garden. This way, the plant will have a better time adjusting to its new environment, and the roots will continue to grow.
Watering the Garden
Aside from using compost and fertilizer on top of the garden bed, one of the most crucial elements of attaining a healthy garden is to water consistently. Here are some tips and information to ensure that you water not only efficiently but also correctly.
- Many people are not aware of the fact that the amount of time that plants should be watered depends on what time of day it is. The sun will cause a lot of the water to evaporate, so it is probably best to water the garden more during the day than at nighttime.
- Temperature is a direct function of seed germination. Make sure that your seeds are receiving as much sunlight as possible. If not, they will never receive the signal to start growing.
- In order to ensure proper plant growth, water consistently (morning and evening). Forgetting to turn on the sprinklers is one of the biggest reasons that plants die prematurely.
- During the day, plants use their water to carry out photosynthesis. It is crucial that you water enough so that there will still be enough moisture after evaporation takes place. At night, keep in mind that you do not have to water as much because it will not evaporate as quickly. However, make sure that there is enough water in the soil to last through the night.
- It is important to know that water goes directly down into the soil, so make sure you are watering directly above seeds and their roots. If you water next to the seeds rather than on top of it, you lessen the chance that the roots will properly receive the water.
- Over-watering is another factor of plant death. Normally, in Southern California gardens, it is so dry that this is not really a problem. One of the few times that over-watering causes premature plant death is in houseplants. The soil in the pot gets so wet that there is no space for oxygen. Fungi start to accumulate and rot the plant roots. Again, since we will be dealing with an outdoor garden in a dry climate, this should not be a problem.
If we keep all of these things in mind, we should have no problem maintaining a healthy community garden throughout the semester.