Growing Peace at the Ped Mall

by on December 8th, 2015

By Scott Koepke, New Pioneer Food Co-op’s Soilmates garden educator

I work with a lot of school garden clubs in the corridor, and one of the most enjoyable moments for me  as a teacher is seeing kids discover the large amount of food that can be produced in a small space. Year four of our little 10×10 ped beds are a perfect example, having fed dozens of folks through Table To Table this summer, primarily with cucumbers, eggplant, carrots and potatoes.

Year five will be here before you know it. I can already see the plans blossoming for a focus on the Native American 3 Sisters design (sweet corn, pole beans and squash), and more natural trellising with cucumbers climbing sunflowers.

We also want to, each season, save more seed. Speaking of which, all plants produce their own seed for the following generation.  It’s so fun for kids to see self-seeding annuals; I like to call them Paradox Plants: perennial annuals. Like lettuce!  When allowed to bolt, it produces its flowers, in which is its seed for next year. The seed drops to the soil on its own time and, in late winter/early spring, begins to re-germinate. I didn’t’ have to do a thing.  Mother Nature took care of herself. (Tomatoes and dill have done the same thing in the past couple years in these beds.)

I’ve intentionally left some of the carrots in the ground and won’t harvest them until spring. They’re called Candy Carrots. They can over-winter and, as they take their Long Winters Nap, produce more sugars (hence the name). Who knows? Maybe next year we’ll be able to pickle some of them as well!

Now is the time when we’ve put the beds to bed with their winter rye cover crop and compost for soil conditioning. Remember that vegetable plants, especially, are pulling a lot of nutrients from the soil’s organic matter to produce their fruit, so we need to put back more than was taken in order to give next year’s crops a jump start. Let me tell ya, after four years, the soil in those beds is healthy! And that’s the essential foundation of everything else that follows.

Beyond food, what’s perhaps the most profound for me is that the City Plaza Children’s Garden is a community focal point for Nurturance. See you in Spring!

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