Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Garden of the Month - Refugee Services of Texas (Fort Worth): Growing Hope

Since 2012, the Refugee Services of Texas  (RST) Fort Worth regional office has developed a community garden by which their clients can cultivate their own culturally appropriate foods. The gardens could not have been made possible without the help of Tarrant Area Food Bank, Tarrant County Public Health, dedicated volunteer support, and the Master Gardeners Association of Tarrant County, conveniently located next door.

Over the past 4 years the garden has reached a total of 33 growing plots with plans to add additional plots due to increasing interests expressed by clients. On November 21st, RST hosted a workday where all of the gardeners gathered to help with the expansion, clean-up, and beautification efforts. A special thank you is also in order for Community Cultivators LLC who came out to provide support.  

In addition to the workdays, one of the many goals of the garden program is to create opportunities for the greater Fort Worth community to get involved. Over the years in partnership with TCU, students have been able to complete service projects in the garden and this collaborative effort is something that RST would like to continue in the future.

The garden provides an important outlet that allows clients to get back to their roots and grow produce that they are accustomed to from their countries of origin. The cultural dynamism reflected through the plants makes the garden a truly magical place to be immersed in.

If you are interested in participating or contributing to this worthy project please contact RST Fort Worth at fortworth@rstx.org

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What We're Planting Now - December 2015

The first frost of the year claimed most of the remaining tomatoes and peppers left uncovered in the gardens of North TX. Brassicas, root vegetables and leafy greens remained mostly unharmed but most active planting has come to a pause.
It is time to put on another layer of mulch, organize our frost blanket, and start thinking about starting seeds for the spring.
Let's see what some of our local community gardens have been up to lately!

Testing out new seed starting shelves at The Learning Garden
I think we got it to work!

Kales, mustards, and herbs are usually winter-hardy in North TX
Herbs and Ornamental Kales have been added at TAFB's new Kitchen Garden
So many winter greens
left to harvest!

A thick layer of leaf mulch can
help protect against frost!
Harvesting beets and greens! 
Pick those green tomatoes before
the frost and ripen them inside! 
Fresh herbs are the best!
Keep up with the Tarrant County Food Policy Council and our Community Garden and Urban Agriculture working group here.

Check out these local events:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Garden of the Month - Planting Seeds, Growing Faith (Advent Lutheran Church Community Garden, Arlington)

For the past 5 years or so, Advent Lutheran Church in Arlington has been developing a community garden with the help of several community partners.  Currently there are 7 raised beds that have been built by local Boy Scouts and Eagle Scout projects.  Other school and youth groups have also contributed at various times.  There are 3 other growing beds, several fruit trees and a compost pile.  For the past several years there has been an ongoing relationship with the Tucker Head Start Center of the Tarrant County Child Care Associates.  Families and staff from the Head Start Center help to plant, maintain and harvest produce grown in the garden.  The produce from the garden is shared with the families at the Head Start Center.  This year Advent received several flats of seedlings including tomatoes, squash, peppers and broccoli through the Tarrant Area Food Bank which were shared with the Head Start Center.  The goal of this partnership is to offer an opportunity for pre-school children and their families to experience the planting, growth and harvest of fresh vegetables; particularly when they have a limited opportunity for this experience.

Maintaining a garden is a constant challenge.  There is a small group of church members who loyally weed and water the beds.  For more information about this garden or how you may help, please contact Karen Riley: kriley18@outlook.com.

Monday, November 2, 2015

What We're Planting Now - November 2015

The ever-elusive first frost date is approaching in the next few weeks and it is getting close to the end of the fall planting season. Check out what our local community and school gardens are working into the ground before it gets too cold!
Katie and Lauren re-seed some root vegetables and greens in raised beds at The Learning Garden (FW)
Many root vegetables and hardy greens do well over the winter in North TX - especially if you have the means to cover them when frost is predicted.

Surround your fall crops with onions,
garlic and herbs!
Snap Peas peeking up through the mulch!
Some fall veggies are already
starting to produce!

Check out these local events that can help guide you to a successful fall and winter garden:

REAL School Gardens (local office in Fort Worth) works to install and utilize learning gardens in schools with majority low-income students. The gardens are used for outdoor, hands-on learning that benefit all children. Check out what they have been up to this fall!

Teachers at Cannon Elementary in Grapevine make observations and take notes about how they can use the garden for their students!

This BEAUTIFUL garden at Kramer Elementary in Dallas will make a wonderful teaching and learning environment! 

Volunteers from Time Warner help to revitalize the beds at DeGoyler Elementary in Dallas! 

For more information about the Tarrant County Food Policy Council or our Community Garden and Urban Agriculture working group, visit our website!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Garden of the Month - The Learning Garden (TAFB), Fort Worth

The Learning Garden, a program of Tarrant Area Food Bank, truly has something for everyone. Visitors will immediately notice the variety of beds at the demonstration site, including in-ground, raised, and container beds bearing a variety of leafy greens, eggplants, tomatoes, okra, herbs, broccoli, kale and more. You can see traditional farmer’s rows and raised beds as well as permaculture models, such as keyhole and hugelkultur beds. The garden utilizes organic practices and plants native or heirloom species as much as possible. Tarrant Area Food Bank believes that teaching people from all walks of life how to garden—and to share the excess—can make a significant difference in alleviating hunger in our community. Further, the skills developed, along with improved access to resources, also benefit hungry families that participate in the program. While the garden exists to support the surrounding Ridglea neighborhood, ultimately, the goal is to inspire and support social service agencies, faith-based organizations, and families in starting their own community and backyard garden projects.

There are many ways to enjoy The Learning Garden. We recommend starting with a tour of the garden. Currently, tours are available on Fridays from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm, excluding holidays and private tours are available by request. The garden began offering training for adult beginning gardeners in January 2015. Upcoming topics for adults include Cover Crops & Winter Gardening and Protecting Your Plants from Frost. In the coming months, additional tracks for organizations, families, and children will be offered. Tools, including a Tool Lending Library, and planning resources are available to leaders of community garden projects and the Seed Bank is open to the public. Community members are always welcome at Work Days held on Tuesdays and select Saturdays from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.

Tarrant Area Food Bank is very grateful for Ridglea Christian Church for providing the property and facilities, water and electricity, and leadership, as well as for Archie’s Gardenland for providing materials, plants, expertise, and labor. These relationships are key to the continued success of The Learning Garden. For more information and to volunteer, please visit www.tafb.org.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What We're Planting Now - October 2015

The daytime highs are finally starting to stay below 90 degrees and the nights are getting cooler. That means it is time to start planting fall veggies! Fall and winter can be the most productive seasons in a North Texas garden. Diseases and pests are less of an issue than in summer and fungal issues are not as problematic. 

Let's take a look at some of the veggies that are being planted in our local gardens right now!

Many nurseries sell larger plants 
than can help your garden get a 
head start on winter!
Herbs, broccoli and kale make fantastic additions 
to any fall garden!
Mulching lettuces with straw can help
 keep the soil moist, keep your leaves clean, 
and protect the plants from the elements!
Volunteers at TAFB's The Learning Garden in 
Fort Worth plant Swiss Chard and Kale
 in their Hugelkultur beds! 
Katey Rudd (TAFB) is getting ready to 
plant dill and other herbs to attract good bugs
 and keep away the bad ones!

Many fall vegetables prefer to be planted from seed. If your beds aren't quite ready to make a great home for seeds, you can make seed tapes! At The Learning Garden, volunteers use a cornstarch/water glue and paper towels to create their seed tapes. These tapes help protect smaller seeds from washing away, create an easy system that ensures proper spacing and can be a great activity for days when it is too hot to plant or too rainy to be outside. Follow these instructions to make your own seed tapes today: http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Your-Own-Seed-Tapes/ 

Elaine and Becca make carrot seed tapes using a
square-foot gardening template, paper towels, and a cornstarch/water glue.

Seed tapes are easy to make and can be stored in the fridge until it is time to plant!
     Stay tuned for more updates on our local North Texas vegetable gardens! For more information or to be a part of our Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture working group, please visit http://www.tarrantcountyfoodpolicycouncil.org/

Happy Gardening!