Gardenworks Gathering

Yesterday morning I attended the first informal gathering at Schlafly Gardenworks in St. Louis. I posted about this garden before: it's where I attended a gardening talk that got me inspired a month ago, and where I got the sacks of coffee grounds to use as fertilizer. There was so much interest at that talk that they decided to start meeting monthly out in the garden, earlier in the year than they would have normally considered.

Jack and Nolan are the gardeners in charge of this urban plot, and they just spent an hour or so talking about how they keep this garden producing restaurant-quality produce pretty much all year long.


It was informal, relaxed (except for the weather-related shivering -- it was chilly this morning!), and a crowd of 25 or so gardeners of various experience levels absorbed info about late fall planting, winter and spring sowing, sun chokes, how awesome kale is, and lots of other micro-topics.

Beets overwintered fine this year. Mine didn't even need
the row cover that they used here.

I got to feel for myself the difference between a basic (cheap) stirrup hoe that you'd find at Home Depot or Lowes (like the one I have) and a higher-quality version. The verdict: I may be picking up one of the more expensive ones sometime this year -- there's a big difference when using them!

The danger of inviting a crowd into your garden early in the morning.

Jack had also arranged to have a local ranch deliver a load of aged manure for attendees to bag and take home for free:

Since there were quite a few people here that hadn't gardened before, a lot of the discussion was on basics. Some of the info I got this morning was just a sentence or two overheard while somebody was asking a question, or while Jack or Nolan were just having a conversation.

I've talked to Jack a few times already this winter, so pretty much left him alone for much of the morning -- I wanted to let those with more questions than experience get their time. Once the group broke up to bag some free manure I felt okay asking a few more specific questions, and got some great ideas. 

The main tip I got: if you have limited planting space, minimize the plants that need to be in the ground for a long time. Brussels sprouts for example need to be planted in spring, then harvested in fall. They plant kale here instead, which is the same species (Brassica oleracea) as Brussels sprouts (also broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and cabbage) but can be harvested through spring, summer, and fall. As Nolan put it, "they have the same nutritional footprint, so I grow the one that I can eat all year". Good advice!

They were pushing the free manure, and since I was one of the last attendees hanging around I ended up with six bags that easily weighed 50 lbs. each. Good thing I hung around!

Another thing I would have missed out on if I had left earlier: Nolan found something unexpected in the manure pile:

A hibernating five-lined skink! Somehow it was dug up, loaded into the truck, dumped here -- with no visible injuries! Good thing Nolan was paying attention with the shovel.

Oh, how I wish I had these in my garden... perhaps someday. I think I've almost got all of the habitat they need, except I may have too many raccoons visiting my yard for a skink population. Sigh.

Another inspiring visit to Schlafly Gardenworks! Time to get the veggie beds into shape again...

(All images taken with iPhone 4, with a little post-processing)


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Anonymous –   – (March 5, 2012 at 4:47 PM)  

That skink is cool! The blue tail is beautiful!

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