Winter Watering in Times of Drought

(Our beautiful new Middletown Community Garden)

In Lake and Mendocino Counties we are blessed with a climate that allows winter gardening. Greens, onions, garlic, and root vegetables enjoy and even excel in cooler fall and winter weather here. While usually we enjoy a wet winter that allows us not to water our crops, this year we have so far seen very little rain but cold nights, an issue for drip irrigation users. Why? Drip irrigation, and the pipes that the water is delivered through, can get damaged and broken if there is water in pipes during freezing temperatures. For that reason The Gardens Project turns off the water during the winter, however in years like this one where there isn't much rain, how do you ensure your plants get adequate water?


Growing Resiliency

Over the past decade, the Gardens Project has been growing more than just delicious, local produce. We’ve built 47 community gardens to grow resiliency in our community.


Take it from Lorindra Frances, a member of the brand new Middletown Community Garden. “The whole fire thing this year was really scary since I lost everything in the first one. But to have a garden again makes my heart really really happy,” Frances remarked as she watered her raised bed, beautifully adorned by a variety of vegetables. “I left during the evacuations and those that didn’t, watered my area while I was gone. What better way than with the earth to unite a community with so much devastation.”

Community gardens have the power to transform grief, daily annoyances, and hardships intobeautiful friendship, resilient community, and organic produce. The garden represents the cycle of life, and with the new growth comes the recycling of last season’s nutrients. Two of our beloved community gardeners have passed on this year, as many more have celebrated the birth of new loved ones. Seasoned gardeners have passed on their knowledge, tools, and saved seeds to newer gardeners.

Village Circle at sunset

It’s been a year of growth and renewal. In 2017 alone, we’ve held 20 food production workshops on topics ranging from seed starting and transplanting to compost production to edible wild plants. Over 3,000 community gardeners are currently growing organic produce to feed their loved ones on land that was previously vacant, underused, or paved over. We’ve built 4 new community gardens, and laid the groundwork to complete a fifth by early next year. We celebrated a decade of empowering community, with family, gardeners, and friends, and of course garden-fresh cuisine. Along the way, we’ve enjoyed countless garden potlucks, marveled at the sweetness of fresh spring strawberries, and rallied as our communities were hit hard by this year’s North Bay Firestorm.

Invest in a more resilient food system in your community. Support the Gardens Project this #givingtuesday.


Fall is here!

In the last few weeks fall weather has finally come to Lake and Mendocino Counties - cooler nights and shorter days mean that some of the summer vegetables are slowing in production and it's time to start planting new crops like lettuce, favas and onions that prefer cold weather. In Lake County we had a great workshop about fall gardening taught by Lake County Master Gardener Coordinator Gabrielle O'Neill you can read her guide on fall gardening here!

With the shut down of summer vegetables in the garden there is a new season of vegetables to enjoy cooking and growing! Here are some great recipes that highlight fall vegetables:


Growin' in Lake County

My name is Taylor and I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA with NCO Gardens Project in Lake County. This is my first ‘real’ adult job and to be honest I really couldn’t think of a better one. Every day I get to help people become empowered to grow their own food and become capable of providing vegetables for themselves and their families.

At the beginning of my term of service I wasn’t really sure what to tell people I would be doing this year. When family members asked before I moved down here I would tell them I would be building community gardens to help address food insecurity. I wasn’t wrong – but I definitely wasn’t sure about the details or what exactly that meant I would be doing on an hourly basis. AmeriCorps VISTA members are capacity builders for the nonprofit projects they work for – but what did that mean? I had a good feeling about this position, and community gardens are one of my passions so I accepted the job without ever having set foot in Lake County, California.


Strides Made at the Middletown Community Garden

For the past year we have been working to put in a community garden in Middletown with the generous help of Calpine Corporation. We are finally on the final stretch with hopes to be completely done by early June. We were featured last week in the Lake County Record Bee!

To read the rest of the article click here!


Why kids should play in the dirt!


Gardens are not just good for food! Gardens are a great place for families and children and offer many benefits including peace of mind, health, science and math lessons. Vegetables are never better than when you grow them yourself; a sun-warm tomato will always beat out the one found in the grocery store. Studies have shown that kids who grow up with vegetable gardens are more likely to show interest in trying and eating different vegetables. When kids are involved in the growing process they are more likely to want to try the vegetables they are growing. Studies have also shown that kids that play in the dirt are less likely to get sick, because the friendly exposure to different germs boosts their immune system for later in life.


Enchanting Chard Recipes

Rainbow Chard

By Alex from Ithaca, NY (Swiss Chard Rainbow) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When I worked at the farmers market this past summer in my hometown one of the kids favorite things to pick up was rainbow chard, it has beautiful colors that can make kids excited to eat vegetables! On the flip side chard is an interesting taste as a part of the beet family it tastes earthy with a spinach like texture. Chard is nutritious but does have oxalic acid which can inhibit iron intake and should be avoided by people who have kidney or gallbladder problems. To learn more about chard click here.

For people who like the earthy taste of chard it can be eaten raw in salads, however my favorite way to eat chard is sauteed with plenty of butter and garlic. I'm not super picky so I often use chard the same way I would use kale in cooking, with the stem removed, sauteed with pasta or cooked down with garlic, salt, pepper and lemon for a side dish. Chard can be tough to know what to do with so here are some great chard recipes:


Willits Earth Day Garden Workday

Read all about our Willits Earth Day Workday in the Willits News and the Willits Weekly

Middletown Community Garden Updates!

After over a year of planning we have finally broken ground at the Middletown Community Garden!

In the past month we have dug post holes, set our fence posts in the ground, and dug trenches to lay irrigation. Along the way we have had to fight against the rainiest year in California since 1895, and super rocky soil (as you can see from the picture) to get everything done. We've had great help from our volunteers particularly Jeff Regan and Mel Bullock in getting the fence posts set. During a workday on April 14th we were able to set the bottom boards and tack up the hogwire and on Friday April 21st we held an Earth Day Workday to finish nailing down the hog wire panels and get the top boards up. It finally looks like a garden now!


I know less than I thought

Guest Blogger: Holly Ordinans

She also has her own blog which you can read by clicking here.

Born and raised in Wisconsin, my experience with growing my own food is quite different compared to someone raised in California, specifically this northern region of Mendocino and Lake County. Before moving to Ukiah, I thought I had a pretty solid knowledge base about gardening—and I did! Gardening though, not farming, and not gardening to the extent that exists here. Growing up, my mom always had a backyard garden, and my sister and I learned a great deal from her about planting, watering, weeding, picking, etc. We always spend the summers eating what we grow. However, this is not at all common in Wisconsin. And it’s even less common to grow your own food year-round since the winters are so cold.



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