Fall 2018 Garden Report

2018 has been another fruitful year for us at Everybody Grows! We have continued to focus on our most successful inspiration gardens, while also developing and refining how we perform community outreach and organizing. In this report we will look back on our progress in 2018 with each of our active projects.

To stay abreast of our ongoing work please follow us on instagram and facebook. Please consider donating at everybodygrows.org/donate-today/ to support our mission to inspire and equip people to grow fresh, healthy food by bringing the home garden to everybody, wherever home may be.

ST. GABRIEL’S CATHOLIC CHURCH

Everybody Grows started a new collaboration during the Spring of 2018 with the Green Team at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest DC. The Green Team, many of whom live in the neighborhood, sought assistance from Everybody Grows in turning a vacant area behind the church into a thriving community garden for church members. With our help, more than a dozen parishioners built seven large raised bed gardens in the spring and thereafter, with a little coaching, successfully grew a variety of vegetables and herbs. With our assistance, the Green Team hopes to expand the garden in 2019 and to inspire members of their ethnically and age diverse community to grow something at their homes.

FORT STANTON RECREATION CENTER

For the second year, Everybody Grows has supported a vegetable garden at the Fort Stanton Recreation Center on Erie Street in Southeast, DC. The garden is enthusiastically led by Louis Jones, an employee of the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation, and assisted by seniors who live in the neighborhood and regularly attend programs at the recreation center. The garden successfully produced a variety of vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, potatoes, kale, chard, greens) and herbs that are primarily used by the seniors attending a lunch program at the recreation center.

Late this past summer, Everybody Grows expanded our relationship with the Fort Stanton community by holding garden-related activities for groups of younger children attending summer camp at the recreation center. These learning experiences took place both in the garden and in the classroom, where the children were exposed, some for the first time, to the joy of growing their own food. Everybody Grows hopes to establish a weekly garden learning activity with the summer camp participants in 2019, thereby expanding its commitment to this neighborhood.

SCOTLAND RECREATION CENTER

2018 marked the third year we have been working with the children and staff at Scotland Recreation Center.  The recreation center is located in a low income apartment complex in Potomac, Maryland. We have continued to work with this community every other Friday afternoon through the growing season, to tend their garden together and to foster a stronger connection to nature and to healthy, fresh food. 

We made significant improvements in the garden’s infrastructure this year. We build a third raised bed with the children. We created a durable, tall fence to protect the garden from deer. We led an art project where children painted CD’s and hung them on the fence to deter birds and beautify the space. We also mulched the paths, to suppress the grass growing around the beds and created more of a garden classroom environment.

Harvesting food for cooking projects continued to be a regular feature of our programs. We harvested basil that we turned into pesto, rainbow chard that we stir fried, greens for a salad, and steamed string beans. The garlic we harvested from this garden in the early summer was a key ingredient to many of these recipes.

This fall, we are refocusing on our nature program. We have scheduled a training for the staff on the wild plants around the center and in neighboring Cabin John Park.  This will support a half-day nature program we are leading together for the children on November 6th. We will share about wild plants, primitive skills, and practices for observing and interacting with more wild environments.

DC FIRE STATION ENGINE 26

Our partnership with DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services continued in 2018 and was centered around our garden at fire station Engine 26 at 1340 Rhode Island Ave, NE. We continued to expand our garden at this fire station in 2018, as well as growing our outreach to firefighters and the wider community. We made notable infrastructure improvements by replacing three aging beds and constructing two additional new beds, bringing the total number of garden beds to ten. This work was undertaken with us by volunteers from Sidwell Friends Middle School. The new beds and our drip irrigation system contributed to make this the most productive year of this garden. This fall we are planning to mulch all the pathways with volunteers to improve aesthetics and prevent weeds.

In order to make use of the large yield of produce, we harvested with firefighters, shared recipes, and checked in regularly on how they were using the food. We led projects indoors with them including pickling cucumbers and peppers as well as braiding garlic from the large garlic harvest this site produced.  

While the main intention of this garden in past years has been to make a meaningful contribution to improving firefighter health, we learned that the yield is often larger than the firefighters can use in any given day. We will be seeking a community partner such as a food bank in 2019 to make use of the extra food.   

The compost system has seen light usage in processing food waste from the fire station and the neighbors, and we are currently using it to process garden waste and produce compost for next year. We recently added upgraded signage that we will hope will become an invitation for more firefighters to successfully use it.

In early October we worked with Edmund Burke Middle School to clear the summer crops and are in the process of planting winter vegetables in beds and winterizing others with cover crops.

 

Everybody Grows 2017 End of Year Report

Everybody Grows 2017 End of Year Report

2017 was a year of significant progress for Everybody Grows. We expanded our reach by helping a group of neighbors living on 31st Street NE to start and maintain their own personal vegetable gardens. We significantly increased the learning opportunities for the children in the Scotland community through our Scotland Recreation Center garden program. We established new gardens at both the Fort Stanton Recreation Center and Dorothy Day Place.  Through our successful partnership with DC Fire and EMS, we taught gardening skills to numerous volunteers, and demonstrated how to grow and eat a variety of fresh produce throughout the spring, summer and fall.

With your assistance, we hope to continue our success in 2018.  If you feel inspired to donate to support our work, please click here.

We invite you to read this brief report on each of our activities in 2017 below.

1. Individual Gardens

It has long been our goal to connect our knowledge of gardening with individuals interested in growing something to eat for themselves. Through our friendship with Janie Boyd, a long term food advocate in DC, we were able to help individuals living on 31st Street NE, to plant and maintain their own personal gardens. These individuals grew tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs for their own personal consumption, and ornamental flowers that beautified their yards. There is a high demand for gardens. We are raising funds and hope to expand our presence in this neighborhood in 2018.

Community organizers Janie Boyd and Brad Ogilvie have been instrumental in developing the backyard garden program with us

2. Scotland Recreation Center

2017 marked our second year of programming at the Scotland Recreation Center, located in the Scotland subsidized housing community in Montgomery County, Maryland. Our first year was supported by a grant from the Whole Foods’ Whole Kids Foundation. Our activities complement a dynamic after school program at the center that takes place mostly indoors.

Cooking the produce we grew was an important part of the Scotland Program

Steve shares his 30 years of gardening experience with children at Scotland

This fall, we continued gardening with the children and also added the new elements of nature awareness and woods exploration, with great success. We had a long growing season due to a warm early fall, and were able to continue harvesting peppers, tomatoes, marigolds, and squash into November. The children especially loved finding the giant squash hidden among its leaves, tasting the hot peppers, watering the garden, and picking flowers to decorate the community center. We also taught some awareness games to play by the garden, and brought the “nature museum” – a box with bones, antlers, feathers, and other cool nature objects – which was a huge hit. Once the plants began to die back for the winter, we pulled everything out together and planted garlic in one bed and cover crops in the other. The children were able to see and experience a full cycle of the garden.

Everybody Grows works with naturalists Andrew Shofer and Tori Heller on the nature program for Scotland. They are constantly finding new wonders and projects that amaze and inspire the children.

We also created a space in the woods behind the community center for nature programs. Over the course of several weeks, Everybody Grows staff cleared a circle in the forest. We cut down trees, built a rock fire pit, and raked a path with the kids. Every time we showed up at Scotland, they were so excited to go into the woods. Once gardening was done for the season, we journeyed back to our circle and began building a shelter, climbed trees, and wove a grass mat together to go inside of a shelter. We also demonstrated fire-by-friction, and let the children have a try on a bow drill kit. It was amazing to see them so excited to get their hands dirty and engage with the natural world.

Our first group trip down to Cabin John stream at Scotland. Many of the children had never made the short walk down to this beautiful area, which made this even more special.

With the help of a generous donation from Christopher and Lauren Mead, who introduced Everybody Grows to Scotland, we will continue growing edibles and exploring nature with our Scotland gardeners in 2018.

3. Fort Stanton Recreation Center

We began our work in the Fort Stanton community by gardening with the Ladies Auxiliary at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. Unable to sustain that garden in 2017, we ventured down the street to the Fort Stanton Recreation Center, where Mr. Louis Jones, who runs a variety of programs for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), was interested in reviving a defunct garden. Everybody Grows, with the help of volunteers, cleared the site that was overgrown with weeds, and enriched the soil with Bloom, a soil amendment produced, and offered free-of-charge, by the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant. The garden was a tremendous success. It provided hundreds of pounds of produce for use by community members attending learning and health-related programs at the recreation center. We hope not only to repeat our success in 2018, but to involve many more people who use the services provided by the center.

The garden at Fort Stanton was highly productive this year thanks to the efforts of the recreation center director and the local senior community.

4. Dorothy Day Place

Dorothy Day Place is a single adult transitional shelter that functions as a crucial bridge between homelessness and permanent housing for both men and women. In 2017, Everybody Grows planted a vegetable garden in eight large garden pouches located just outside the front door of the Dorothy Day Place building on Marinelli Road in Rockville, Md. We were not sure who would actually benefit from the lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and variety of herbs that we planted – the geese nesting nearby, the pedestrians walking up the street, or the residents (or all of the above). As it turns out, with the help of several residents including one experienced gardener, the garden thrived and the residents were able to supplement their diet with food they grew for themselves. Everybody Grows plans to double the size of the garden and to expand the variety of produce grown in 2018.

Staff and residents helped tend the new garden with us at Dorothy Day Place

5. The DC Fire and EMS partnership

We had our biggest harvest ever this year at E26

We continued our fruitful partnership with DC Fire and Emergency Services (DCFEMS) by focusing on our largest fire station inspiration garden at Engine House 26 (E26). In 2017 at E26, we expanded food production, worked with a diverse set of volunteer groups, and started an onsite compost cooperative in partnership with DC Parks and Recreation. We began the year by constructing, filling, and planting three new raised beds with volunteer groups from Howard University and Sidwell Friends Middle School. Everybody Grows staff installed a new irrigation system that watered all eight beds automatically. The garden was highly productive, yielding an abundance of sweet potatoes, okra, tomatoes, greens, cucumbers, strawberries, culinary herbs, and other crops that we harvested with the firefighters, children from the neighborhood, and volunteer groups including the DCJCC. The produce was consumed primarily by the firefighters at E26 as part of our efforts to improve firefighter health, with portions of the yield also returned to volunteers and community groups. Our new compost system and cooperative began operation, with firefighters and a handful of engaged community members adding food and garden waste to the bin in order to grow soil for next year’s garden.

 

Earth Day 2017: EG Soil Event

Update 4/22:  This event has been postponed to Sunday, April 23rd at 3-5 PM due to the weather.  All other details of the event remain the same.

There aren’t many better ways to spend Earth Day than getting your hands in the soil and learning about gardening at a community farming project. Join Everybody Grows and DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services on Saturday April 22nd from 3:00-5:00 PM for an open volunteer session at the fire station farm at Engine 26 at 1340 Rhode Island Avenue Northeast DC (don’t forget the northeast part!).   This is an all ages event and everybody is welcome!

The main tasks of the day will all be soil related.  We will be adding garden soil to our new raised beds we constructed with Sidwell Friends Middle School students.  We will also be amending the older beds with compost and worm castings.  All soil is locally sourced from Veteran Compost.

While we will be providing a limited number of tools, we encourage you to bring your favorite bucket and shovel, especially if you are bringing young children.   Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty!  For any questions email jake@everybodygrows.org and jonny@everybodygrows.org

See you in the garden!

 

 

Israel Chicken Habitat Compost System Report

Introduction: Urban Master Composter Certificate

I had the privilege of taking the Urban Master Composter course in Washington DC this past fall.  I highly recommend this course to anybody interested in urban agriculture or composting.  The class provides a great overview of many techniques to make compost and covers the science underlying these processes.   It also provides hands on experience at some of the best urban farms and compost systems in the DC area and access to the innovative leaders and teachers that run these projects.  You can learn more about attending this course and other workshops through DC Parks and Recreation by clicking here.

As part of the Urban Master Composter certification, you are are required to complete volunteer hours at community compost sites.  Below is a report to the other members and teachers of the DC Urban Master Composter Class about a compost project I worked on in Israel.  I wrote it for an advanced audience, so I do apologize if the references are obscure or the language is too technical.  I am currently editing a video about this project that will be more accessible to everybody.

Chicken Habitat Compost System Report

Dear Master Composters,

I had great experience last month getting a Permaculture Design Certificate at Kibbutz Lotan Center for Creative Ecology in the south of Israel.  I want to share with all of you about a compost project I helped design and implement.

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The Ecovillage at Kibbutz Lotan

 

I was recruited by a staff member, Merav, to help with their combined chicken habitat and eight bin compost system. The system was inspired by the chicken tractor of Geoff Lawton that we saw in a video during Christian’s class. The first part of the process is to first give vegetarian food scraps, garden waste, straw, and nitrogen fixing plants to the chickens, who eat it and shred it and add manure.  All of these actions occur in an area connected to the chicken coop.20151227_141554 20151227_141605 compost chickens

 

Then the combined materials go into open compost bins in the system along with other added materials. During the entire process the chickens are nourished by eating the insects that are part of composting.

When Merav came to me, she was wondering why the piles were not heating up and why it was taking so long to make compost. Fortunately for her, she had a DC urban master composter available to help her.  The first issue I identified was that the pile was much too dry. Based on the piles’ appearance, smell, and cool temperature, I also guessed that they were too high in carbon, and would benefit from added nitrogen.

After I wrote  down my initial evaluations and ideas, we tested a pile with much more nitrogen than they had been including. We used sources such as goat manure and food scraps. Carbon came from the ground of the coop and buckets of straw. We used about a two to one ratio. We also thoroughly watered every layer as we built the pile. The next day, this pile gave us a 67 degrees celsius (153 F) reading, so we knew we were on the right track. The dryness of the desert air there made watering an essential task.

Remaining issues included that the compost system was hard to turn. Unlike the removable walls of the compost knox system from Urban Farm Plans, the walls of this system were fixed in place. This meant turning the pile was much harder and less efficient than the piles we turned during class at Wangari Gardens for instance. The lack of insulation from the floor and other piles also caused frequent mixing with materials from the ground, from the trees above. and with other piles. Another issue was that the current system was not so convenient for the farm manager to take compost from, so we sought to better align the curing pile with the door to the coop.

Merav and I developed and constructed a new system that addressed these issues. We reused the pallets as a base of the pile and found wood boards from a constructions site to be the floor and walls.
compost floor20160125_113200

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a wide drill bit, we added holes to the floor of the bottom of the system to help with drainage and aeration. By creating slats in the back walls with a jig 20160125_141026saw and fixing blocks of woods to the floor, we produced removable doors between the piles.
The space for the final pile has a removable back wall so the farm manager can remove cured compost easily without having to enter into the main area of the system that is fenced off and locked. There is space designated to add a compost sifter into the system before the last pile, and the staff at the kibbutz will construct it once pile is cooked enough to require sifting.

 

My last day on the kibbutz, Merav and I filmed a video about how to use the system. Once I edit the clips we filmed together, I will be sure to share it with all of you.

I am happy to answer any questions and receive any feedback about this project. I look forward to seeing all of you this spring in DC.20160127_153700

EG Tour of Blue Plains

Far too few people have any idea of what happens to water after we use it.  Before you read this blog, ask yourself the question: what happens to the waste we flush down the toilet, from your shower or sink, or that gets washed into storm drains?

My answers to these questions recently became a lot more detailed and accurate.  On November 19th, I organized a tour of the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility.  If you live in Washington DC or in several neighboring counties, your water ends up at Blue Plains.  This massive and impressive facility has the important job of processing 370 million gallons of water per day before releasing it back into the Potomac River.   The facility uses a complex, multi-step process to remove or reclaim everything other than water from our sewage.



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I was joined by Gail, a few old friends, and eight members of the DC Park and Recreation’s Urban Master Compost Course I am currently enrolled in.

Heide: “Here is the principal concern I took away from this visit:  how to educate the public, AND change the labeling on such things a ‘wipes,’ so that people become more responsible in disposing of them, or even better, how to convince manufacturers to move toward biodegradable products that can then be truly flushed.”

Maria: “In DC the issue of littering is also huge. I already hate it aesthetically but now I realize how much more important it is [because litter is washed into the wastewater system and causes problems]. I found myself looking around for street littering this morning! It was a fantastic tour and I hope more people take it. I will try to spread the word”

Maya: “I was so impressed with the whole process. My thoughts are that we need to recruit more people for our awesome classes with Josh. If each one of us bring one person to the next program in the summer and in the next composting class, we will have almost 10 people. We can also provide a sort of mentorship.  We need to educate more people and organize a cadre of community leaders on environmental issues (gardening, composting and others).”

Gail talked to me about how she sees the change in these areas as requiring policy and economic solutions, citing the plastic bag tax that we learned on the tour made such a huge difference reducing the massive quantity of bags that inundate the system at Blue Plains.

I reflected after the tour about how no matter who you are or what you do, if you are one of the millions of people in our area, your water and waste goes to Blue Plains.  There is something deeply connective about experiencing Blue Plains when I take that perspective.  I find the idea that as a regional community we compose this giant organism that creates coordinated stream of water into the Potomac River to be awe-inspiring.  As are the incredible engineering and scientific solutions people have come up with to process that massive continual flow.

A big thanks to our excellent tour guide Yanique Richards.
I highly recommend this tour to everybody.  20151119_120914

Sheet Mulching at Engine 26

A common question that arises in raised bed gardening is what to do when you have a bed completely overgrown with weeds and grasses.  Josh Singer, the urban garden specialist with DC Parks and Recreation, recommends sheet mulching the bed.   Sheet mulching is great because it kills the weeds and grasses and improves the soil, while using just recycled and natural materials.   We put this permaculture technique into practice on Saturday at Engine 26.  I was aided by a new firefighter at the station named Henry, and Everybody Grows volunteers Joel and Liat.

Henry and I started by cutting down the tops weeds and grasses.20150829_120510

We cut back most of the weeds, particularly where they had gone to seed.  Next we added layers of cardboard.  Most shipping cardboard biodegrades safely.  It also forms a sturdy weed block.20150829_121409
We stacked the multiple layers cardboard so the overlapped to cover gaps, and we cut back the weeds that protruded from the sides.  After the cardboard, it was time for a layer of compost.  We used Leafgro compost.  Joel and Henry poured the compost directly on top of the cardboard.20150829_123106


The last layer we applied was mulch.  I got a good deal on some Earthgro Red Mulch, which is what we used here.  Even though it has coloring to make it red, it is a wood mulch and safe to use in a vegetable garden.  I expect it to work well. 20150829_133522 

By getting an early start on this process for next year, I am intentionally leaving plenty of time to adjust it or supplement it.  I will report back on our sheet mulching experiment in future blogs, so stay tuned!

 

Getting Started with Garden Composting

As our summer gardening finishes and we begin the transition to fall, now is a great time to start a garden composter to reuse your garden’s organic materials.   We are using a geobin composter at my school garden, which is a low maintenance, inexpensive composter designed for garden waste and a few other materials such as vegetable scraps, fruit peels, shredded cardboard, and coffee grounds.  If you use the geobin correctly, it produces no strong odor and does not attract pests, it will produce rich compost for your garden by the spring.  I definitely recommend it for a first attempt at composting if you have a small home garden.   

Not every weed or plant can go in the composter successfully.  This article gives a great overview of how to incorporate leaves in your composter and what plants to avoid.   A few quick tips from the article are to not put weeds that have gone to seed in the composter or plants that are diseased or insect infected.

Happy composting!