Written by Janette Adams, Produce Assistant at The Well Community Garden

It’s Friday harvest day at the Well Fed Community Garden! There are many things that go into keeping an urban farm up and running, especially with the warmer weather settling in.

 

Let’s take a look at a typical day for our farmers:The sound of the rooster crowing tells us it is time to rise for another day — yeah, just kidding! First thing we do is scout to make sure no chickens have gotten out of the fencing, feed them, and make sure they have fresh water.

Chicken Water The garden chickens hanging around their coop

After watering the seedlings, the harvest begins! Warm Carolina temperatures in the afternoon force a sense of urgency to get all the harvesting done in the morning. Many of the greens become wilted in the humid heat.

basil harvest ​Freshly harvested basil

beets harvest Freshly harvested beets

Each veggie is then washed then dried and packaged for the Irregardless Cafe or community distributors.

Orache harvest Orache (also known as Mountain Spinach) in the salad spinner to be dried

Edible flowers, radishes and greens Edible flowers, Bibb lettuce, and radishes packaged up before heading to the Irregardless Cafe

After cleaning up the processing area, radish and buckwheat microgreens are seeded along with Bibb lettuce in the hydroponic cells to ensure a steady supply.

Microgreen Germination Recently germinated microgreen seeds

Bibb Lettuce Seeding ​Hydroponic Bibb lettuce seedlings

Lunch is a great time to catch a quick nap under the car port…

Bella the Farm Dog ​Sweet farm dog Bella resting her eyes

Depending on the needs around the garden, the rest of the day is filled with weeding the beds, cover cropping beds that are in transition, trellising tomatoes or pole beans, mowing the pathways around the beds, or checking plants for any pests.  As we transition from spring to summer, our beds also transition to the next season’s crop.
Mowing ​Mowing the lettuce down with the BCS walk behind tractor before cover cropping with cow peas

Every week the Garden hosts different evening events such as cooking classes, farm dinners, and volunteer hours (come to Wine and Weeds every Thursday night from 6-8pm)!

Wine and Weeds Volunteers at the weekly Thursday evening Wine and Weeds event

As dusk settles in, a quick check on the chickens is done before heading in for the night to ensure everyone is safe and sound. I think I can already hear the rooster crowing…

As we gear up for another busy summer, WFCG wants to talk about our lovely volunteers! You may already know that we get a lot of volunteers from around the area to help out at the garden. Activities range from weeding the pollinator garden, tending to our row crops, planting seedlings, and caring for our chickens. Our typical volunteers look something like this:

Wine and Weeds 2017

What if I told you that, every year, we have some volunteers that look something more like this:

Volunteer Gourd

This month, we wanted to highlight the lesser known volunteers we get on the garden – plants that we did not intentionally grow. Seeds may have fallen out of our pockets or gotten mixed with seeds we did not intend on growing, or even grown from the fruits that we ate and dropped on the ground once we were done. Here are the faces of our Summer 2017 volunteer plants and their stories:

Butternut Squash:

Among the compost turning one hot summer morning, we realized that the small vine that had been by the compost for a month or two had now become larger…and was growing something on it. Upon further examination, they were butternut squash! It seems that someone had bought a butternut squash from the grocery store, composted the seeds, and out popped a plant that multiplied the squash.

Compost Digging Butternut

Butternut Far Away

Butternut Closeup

Butternut Squash

 

Passionfruit:

These vines have been growing long before WFCG claimed its stake on Athens drive, and every year, they come back and grow wherever they feel like it. To be fair, when we eat these fruits, we spit out the seeds as far as we can, so that’s probably how they choose annual growing spots.

These passionfruit are different than the ones you’ll find at the grocery store. They are called May Pops and they stay green, but turn lighter and wrinkly as they ripen. The inside has little yellow jelly-like flesh with black seeds in the middle. The flavor is in-between a banana and a pineapple. You can eat the seeds or spit them out once you’ve sucked the flesh off of them.

Passionfruit vine

Passionfruit

Cherry Tomatoes:

Cherry tomatoes tend to grow in every nook and cranny of our garden. They’re tasty little snacks, and the best way to keep the plants healthy is by throwing down the cracked/rotten fruits to make room for the good fruit. Surprisingly, we found some tomato plants in our pollinator garden last summer.

Tomato Vine

We left these volunteer tomatoes for our volunteers to eat – but we had an abundance of tomatoes this summer, anyway. Here’s what an average harvest looked liked:

Tomatos

Large Gourd:

We still have not identified what type of gourd this is because its growth took us by surprise. Among our sweet peppers and cucumber trellises, this behemoth of a squash had grown. We think it weighed about 16lbs. We didn’t have the heart to cut into it – it looks so good whole!

Gourd Volunteer

Volunteer Gourd Size

Gourd on Table

Volunteers come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. We welcome all to the garden!

Interested in volunteering? Join us every Thursday for a volunteer day from 9:30am-12pm or 6-8pm for Wine and Weeds!

Written by Morgan Malone

This spring, the Well Fed Garden has been all about greens. We have microgreens, salad greens, and even purple greens! By far the most abundant green is our salad greens. We harvest 40 lbs a week of these tasty greens during the peak season.

A bird’s eye view of our lettuce fields this spring

During the spring and fall, peak lettuce season, all of the salads you eat at Irregardless Cafe are coming straight from our garden. All of the extra greens go to either our wonderful volunteers or we donate to Urban Ministries.

Salad greens mix

This yummy mix of greens includes green oakleaf, red oakleaf, green romaine, red romaine, lollo rossa, and red leaf lettuces. This combination of salad greens provides a complex texture, taste, and nutrient content that everyone will love!

Every variety of green in this mix has unique health benefits that work together to make a balanced mix of healthy and yummy goodness.

In a study published in the June 2008 issue of Food Chemistry, red oak leaf and lollo rossa had the highest antioxidant activity among the tested varieties. These deep red colored leaves are also rich in carotenoids which your body converts into Vitamin A and promotes eye health.

Apprentice Hannah harvesting salad greens

Romaine lettuce is high in minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. Plus you don’t have to worry about E. coli in our greens! We use Good Agricultural Practices to ensure all of our produce is safest and healthiest it can be.

 

Written by Evan Embree

Last Thursday, a friend of mine and I decided to roll up our sleeves and participate in Wine and Weeds at our very own Well Fed Community Garden.  I was unsure of what to expect, but it was even better than I had imagined. A cute little house sits on an acre and a half of land, with a beautiful variety of flowers, foliage, and fruit trees planted in the front yard.  This area is beautifully landscaped, with a circular brick path leading you through the lush space. There is ample parking space for volunteers, and we catch the attention of the dog that lives there almost immediately. Her name is Bella, and her bark is much more intimidating than she could ever be.


After walking through the gated fence that surrounds the property, we were immediately greeted with a friendly welcome from Morgan, the professional gardener that lives on and tends to the farm full time.  We also met Hannah, another member of the household, who is studying Sustainable Food Systems for Global Health at North Carolina State University. After signing in, we poured some wine into mason jars, grabbed some gardening gloves, and headed to the rows of cilantro waiting to be weeded.  It was certainly work, but the weather was beautiful and we had great conversation with Hannah and Morgan about college finals, healthcare, backyard chickens, and our opinions on cilantro (which I personally dislike with a passion).

Being a lover of farm animals of all types, I took a couple breaks to spend some time with the chickens.

In the end, fun was had by all and it was great to experience firsthand the growing phenomenon that is urban organic farming.  With the common weekly trips to the grocery store, it’s easy to ignore the source of the food we eat – and commercial farming can have a huge impact on the environment, as I have written in my previous articles.  It’s important to get down to the “root” of our meals and to be sure we are spending our money on responsibly-sourced products, such as those from the Well-Fed Garden.

Spring is almost here and it is time to start planning your garden! Here at the Well Fed Garden, we have been busy all winter prepping our soil and planning for spring and summer planting. Here are some tips that we have learned over the years.

Good soil:

Healthy soil is the key to a healthy garden. Your plants will get the nutrients they need to grow into healthy fruits and vegetables from the soil. Make sure that your soil has all the essentials by getting your soil tested through the NC Agronomic Services (http://www.ncagr.gov). Healthy soil is made up of lots of living organisms. Make sure you add lots of organic matter through compost and cover cropping to keep your soil healthy.

Water:

Your plants will need water, and lots of it! It is cold now, but NC summers can be hot with little rain. Before you plant, think about where your water will come from and how will you get it to your plants. Think about ways to conserve water, such as water catchment tanks and drip irrigation. Adding natural mulch such as leaves and twigs can also help you conserve moisture in your garden bed.

What to plant:

Plant what you eat. Do you eat a lot of salad? Plant lots of greens. Do you hate tomatoes? Don’t plant tomatoes. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste – make sure you are planting what you will use. If you accidently plant too much of something, consider donating it to a local food bank that collects fresh fruits and veggies. If you have extra space in your garden bed, plant a row for the hungry with the Inter Faith Food Shuttle.

Start early:

Make sure you get the most out of the growing season. Use row cover to start spring crops such as lettuce or bak choi a few weeks early. Many warm weather plants, such as tomatoes or peppers, you can start early indoors. Plant your seeds in small containers in a warm sunny spot inside. Transplant them outdoors after April 1st.

Check out this great guide through NC State University for planting dates in our region: https://pender.ces.ncsu.edu/files/library/71/VegPlantingGuide.pdf

Happy Gardening!

 

Written by Morgan Malone, Farm Manager

After a summer of growing sweet potatoes, the fall harvest was much anticipated.

We started on a crisp Saturday morning around 9am. As we got to know each other, the excitement for the treasure hunt was emanating. This year we had volunteers from Jamie Kirk Hahn (JKH) foundation day of service, NCSU Agroecology, and the community to help with the bountiful harvest.

Bella Pepper, resident farm dog, keeping an eye on the winding vines during the summer while the sweet potatoes grew beneath the soil.

Here is a peak into our Great Sweet Potato Harvest:

We started off by cutting the vines back and rolling them up to expose the sweet potatoes that had been so patiently growing all summer long with no interruptions.

We had an assembly line going, and those that were not cutting were gathering the greens and moving them into our compost pile.

Then we used a broadfork to loosen up the soil around the sweet potatoes.

“One small step for man, one giant leap for sweet potatoes”

How rewarding it is to find a large cluster of sweet potatoes buried beneath the surface of the soil!

But sometimes, you will take time to dig for your sweet treasure, only to find that it is a rock. The excitement was still worth it.

We found friends along the way

Many hands make for light work

And in the end, we had an ample harvest

“Sweet potatoes for miles and miles”

Finally, we crowned our Sweet Potato Queen!

 

Written by Lubana Lanewala, Garden Apprentice

Just in time for the shorter days and cooler nights the Well Fed Garden has come out with a new selection of local teas. We have grown, dried and packaged all the herbal teas at the Well Fed Garden. They make the perfect evening cup of tea after a meal at the Irregardless and are a great gift for anyone.

The Process:

Step 1: the herbs

All of our herbs are grown organically at the Well Fed Garden. We use sustainable practices to produce a variety of healthy and tasty herbs for our teas.

Step 2: harvest

Here is a sample of our oregano harvest. We aim to harvest all of our herbs when they are in peak freshness. Rosemary, mountain mint, and cilantro are examples of cool season herbs. Tarragon, basil, and chamomile are warm season herbs. Some herbs like oregano and sage are available almost all year.

Step 3: dehydrate

We dehydrate the herbs to preserve them all year. We dehydrate each herb separately to preserve their unique flavor and scent.

Step 4: the blend

We have a unique selection of home-made blends.

Our Lemon Tulsi is a calming blend of lemon verbena, tulsi, and tarragon flowers.

Our Lavender includes the buds and leaves of the French Lavender plant known for its aromatherapeutic qualities.

Our Garden Mist is the newest blend of mountain mint, oregano, and thyme. It is a refreshing pick me up for those winter blues.

We are continuously creating new blends. Find more of our blends at the Irregardless Cafe.

Step 5: Enjoy

There is nothing better than to steep a warm cup of tea after a cold morning working on the farm.

Written by Morgan Malone, Garden Manager

Here at The Well Fed Community Garden, we use a lot of compost to grow our produce. We can’t produce as much as we need just yet, but we gather as much food waste from our community as we can manage to turn into soil. Here is our recipe for compost that grows beautiful produce for us:

Ingredients:

  • Veggie scraps
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Leaf Mulch
  • Shovel
  • Sweat and Muscles (for turning the compost)
  • Compost area (preferably enclosed to keep away unwanted critters)

Directions:

1.) Add veggie scraps (we get ours from Irregardless Cafe and Catering and from our volunteers)

2) Let the chickens eat some of the scraps…they add fertilizer to the compost anyway!

3) Mix up some coffee grounds (we get ours from Déjà Brew that a our volunteer Joe brings)

4) Add in Leaf Mulch from your local leaf mulchery. Capital Mulch Company, Leaf & Limb and City of Raleigh Yard Waste Center are some sources.

5) Fold the ingredients to combine

6) Cover and let it bake! This will ensure that the ingredients will be getting the heat it needs to decompose. Depending on how much heat, rain and worms are in your pile, it can take 3 months to a year to get a complete compost.

Be sure to turn the compost once or twice a month until ready. Your compost should look like moist, dark soil.

If you don’t want your own compost pile or do not have the ability to have one – bring your extra scraps and coffee grounds to us! Located at 1321 Athens Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606 – you can stop by anytime and drop off your scraps.

Written by Lubana Lanewala, Garden Apprentice