Today, Sean and I went to the gardening festival called Rooting DC. This was the 6th annual gardening forum held by this group but last year was the first time I had ever heard of it. I wasn't able to make it last year but this time around it was held at Woodrow Wilson High School, which happens to be where my Beanie One goes to high school.
As you walked into the high school, there were a number of groups set up with tables in the atrium. I gathered a lot of information - more for Emma since she needs to come up with an idea for her Gold Award for girl scouts and I thought she could contact some of the gardening groups for possible projects. Community Forklift had a table (we love this place!) and I discovered that they have a small grant program for community gardens. I will be following up to see if I can get garden tools and wheelbarrows for my Friendship Gardens.
Rain chain made with materials from Community Forklift
I talked to among others, folks from the Anacostia Riverkeepers, DC State Fair, DC Field to Fork Network and the Neighborhood Farm Initiative.
The workshops presented information on a wide range of topics from composting to square foot gardening to cooking to beekeeping and canning.
The first workshop we attended was an introduction to canning. Why you ask since I already know how to can? I don't know! I thought I would learn something new but alas, I did not. The woman who led the session was an experienced canner but amateur public speaker. I walked out saying to Sean that I could have taught the class better (he replied, of course you could have honey). The presenter did hold her canning tongs differently than me so maybe I have been doing that wrong all along. I think I will contact the organizers and see how I can get on the schedule!
Canning tongs. I have been holding them by the red end and grabbing the tops of the jars with the black ends - the presenter today held them by black handles and grabbed by red parts! Have I been doing it wrong all these years?
The second workshop was on succession planting and it was led by two lovely young women who were farmers - Their slant was more for the large scale gardener who would do several plantings of a vegetable in order to have enough to sell at the farmer's market or CSA. It was interesting to see all the different kinds of charts they presented to keep track of your plants. This is where I definitely fall down on the job. I have tried and failed over the years to figure out a way to keep track of my plants and how they do. I have tried online tools, a notebook, taking pictures - I start but never finish. I just remember in my head where I had planted everything the year before and try to do crop rotation. It's a full time job to just keep records and my energy wanes. I will look at some of the resources they provided, especially from Johnny's Seeds in Maine. Last year I tried the garden planner from Mother Earth News but alas did not follow through. The other problem I have in my garden is managing the space better - so when the peas are done, what can I plant there? Barbara Damrosch has a good chapter about this in her Garden Primer book. I did learn from this workshop that if you have a bed that will be empty for just a month or so, you can plant buckwheat as a fast growing cover crop. I will give that a try this year.
The third workshop was on how to build a raised bed structure. It was led by a the executive director of Groundwork Anacostia River DC. He talked about his group and how they help out community gardeners with bed design and building. There were a few high school interns with the group who put together a raised bed. Simple and easy and the cost not much if you used reclaimed wood (Community Forklift!). I don't have raised beds in my community garden (building them with wine bottles, pictures to come) but this workshop made me think I (or more likely Sean) could build a couple of small beds for my backyard.
These are beds the Groundwork Green team helped to build at a community garden in Ward 7. Notice how the boards are joined in the corners. Very clever.
I had a fun time at the forum and Sean is always a good sport about coming with me.