Bonus Garden, you say? What's that? The Bonus Garden is what has kept Ayn and I (and others, thank you!) busy for the past month or so. Hence the lack of posts (but beware, this one is a long one!). If you follow the pathway to the left of the big greenhouse you will see a large cleared area with a lettuce patch right up at the front. That is the bonus garden!
Last year the bonus garden (aka auxiliary garden) was a place to grow left-over plants from our plant sales. We ended up a whole lot of tomatoes and a little bit of everything else. This year we tripled the size of the garden (Thanks Peter and Cade!) and we tried to plant at least one of everything. Since we had a bunch of tomatillos left, we planted a bunch of those, too! To date we have the following planted: lettuce, garlic, beans (for dry beans in the fall), cucumbers, melons, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, winter squash, summer squash, tomatillos, and three batches of corn.
At this point you are probably wondering why on earth we have such a huge garden with so many plants. Lots of reasons!
Primarily, the produce from the bonus garden will be harvested and donated to various free meal programs and the food pantry here in town. Unfortunately fresh produce is not something that is consistently and readily available to everyone in our community so it is really appreciated when it gets donated.
We also planted the bonus garden with you in mind! If you are a plot holder with us, you are welcome to harvest from the bonus garden. Last year we sent out emails when a particular item was ready for harvesting and that seemed to work well. We'll probably do that again but we might have some restrictions on which days produce may be harvested. That way on donation days we have enough ripe/ready produce to harvest. As stuff starts ripening we'll come up with a game plan and let you know what to do. Right now the lettuce is ready to go! Try harvesting from the thickest patches first, please.
Lastly, the bonus garden is used as a trials garden. We want to know what works well with our climate. Obviously having such a short warm season, we can't grow everything we want to. This year we are experimenting with luffa, which is a 100 day crop. If we actually manage to get anything out of it we'll be giving them away during the Yreka Night of Lights! Keep your fingers crossed for us, please.
In addition to figuring out what grows well here, we want to know what is good to eat. We get a lot of donated seed from various companies and individuals and sometimes there is a good reason they are giving it away. It is our job to figure out what we like and don't like. For example, I think it is safe to say we will NEVER grow Green Sausage Tomatoes ever again. Yuck! However, we did find that Chocolate Cherry and Black Sea Man Tomatoes are absolutely delicious. We grew and sold more of them this year for our plant sales. Apparently our customers agreed because they sold out really quickly!
Companion planting is something else we are trying out this year. Ayn has a little "three sisters" circle in the very back of the garden. Do a search for it online if you are interested in learning more about "three sisters."
Finally, we like to experiment with different irrigation methods. Last year we did a lot of furrow irrigation. This year our big thing is soaker hoses. Potable water is a precious resource, so using less of it is something we strive for. Hopefully the soaker hoses will help us out with that.
If your are interested in helping with harvesting, donations, or maintaining the bonus garden, please let us know. It is a lot of work and we would love to have your help. If you have a plot with us at the garden, one of the easiest things to do is harvest your excess produce, clean it and put it in the donation coolers on donation day. We'll keep you posted on which days are donation days.
Don't forget what else is behind the greenhouse! This year we have a wonderful butterfly garden (horseshoe shaped garden), which will be getting benches and shade trellises for your relaxing pleasure. The teepee will soon be planted with green beans, and the sunflower house will be grown in with the willows this year. The resource center kids will be planting it tomorrow, and word on the street is that it might be a maze instead of a house this year.
New in the back this year is an area for people who want to plant crops that might not fit in their regular garden bed; like cucumbers, melons, and squash. It is the "finger" of the bonus garden, near the rocks and blackberries. If you have a plot at the community garden, then you are eligible to claim a square. Just like your regular bed, you will be responsible for planting, watering, harvesting and otherwise maintaining it. There are six squares marked by bamboo corners with a pathway down the middle. Once you have planted your square, please take a stake (ask me if you can't find one), and write your name on it so we know who had "homesteaded" each square. There is a large permanent marker in the big greenhouse, or get creative and come up with something fun! The spaces are free this year and are available on a first-come basis, but there is a very limited number available. We might be able to squeeze in a few more squares if the original six get filled, so email me at email@example.com if you want one but they are all taken.
Back up at the front of the garden, Ayn will be planting a perennial herb bed along the fence by Newton Park. If you have a perennial herb you'd like to donate to the cause, please let her know by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The circle garden, in the middle of the plots, has been adopted by the Methodist Church! They have made a lot of changes because they want it for flower production. Once stuff starts blooming, they will be harvest flowers to use during their services. However, there are still lots of strawberries up for grabs. If you see a ripe one, pick it and eat it before the birds and bugs beat you to it!
Speaking of strawberries, the strawberries along the fence by the parking lot are also free for the picking. Help yourself, and help your kids help themselves too!
Also new this year, the Yreka Garden Club has planted a little demonstration garden in front of the mural. If you run into Peggy or Mary Jo at the garden, have them tell you what all they planted.
To end my rather lengthy post, remember that we are a community garden. But within our community, we are individuals. Individuals who all garden a little bit (or a lot) differently than each other. If you are new (or even a seasoned regular) to gardening, you might have had a lot of different people giving you advice, trying to help you out. It is okay to politely smile and nod and then completely disregard what they told you. It is your plot, garden the way YOU want to. Specifically, water when you think your plants need water. Just because someone told you that watering your plot every single day, or only once a week, is the best way doesn't mean you have to listen to them. The other thing I've heard is being told is that tall crops, like sunflowers or corn, aren't allowed in your bed. Not true! You can have whatever tall crops you want... as long as they aren't shading your neighbor's plot. The caveat to this is that you do have to listen to your garden mentor (Rachel, Ayn, or Molly). If one of us tell you to weed, water, or get rid of a certain plant you actually do have to listen. Smiling, nodding and disregarding just won't work with us. :)
Have a great season, it looks like it will be a great one!