It’s mid-June in the Yankton community gardens. Most garden plots have seeds germinated, showing what is planted so far. It’s too early for much produce, so the gardeners have to gain satisfaction from staying ahead of the weeds. Gardeners who happened to be working at their plots are asked to share about their garden so far. Thanks to these who are willing to visit with us.
• Sherri Oswald: I have had a community garden for years. One thing I have learned is that less is more. I am able to enjoy the garden and process, if I plant what we can eat / share and not what the garden has space for.
• Lori Steffen: Gardening is healthy. I like getting my hands in the soil. It’s a great mindfulness activity — not to think about the stressors. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved fresh tomatoes. (She recently planted several tomato plants and other plants.) If two or more make it, I’ll be in good shape. Then if more grow, there’s more to share.
• Dan Friedenbach: (He recently took over another plot that had been abandoned after the flood last year. He could see that the plot was covered with abundant weeds.) Any (transplants) you buy, an easy way to grow them here is to put a weed barrier down. It’s easy to clean up in the fall. I don’t use weed barrier with beans or corn. (He’s using from a 300-foot roll that can be found at a local farm store. He thinks it will last him a couple of years. The barrier is water permeable. He uses plastic stakes to hold the layer down, as it is rolled over the weeds.) I put the (transplants) in the row and roll the weed barrier beside them. I cut slits for the plants in the barrier and then stake the barrier down. When people plant a grove of trees in the country, it’s the same principle. (Watermelon, squash and sweet potato are growing quite well now with the barrier. It’s warm and moist there. That’s what plants need. I farmed 35 years in Nebraska and crossed the river. I went from big scale to little scale farming. You still have every kind of bug and different plant issues. For when we planted, I am happy about how the season is going. I basically push the seeds in the ground and hope for the best.
• Jim Rembold: (He’s just completed hoeing one plot and is working on another.) Basically, after you plant, you want to keep the weeds out. So, what you do, is, you water individually by the plants you planted and not the weeds. I use a water can. If you water the weeds, more come up. When the weeds come up and they’re small, knock them down. Keep doing that and you won’t have giant weeds to deal with. I use a standard broad hoe and scratch the ground, removing the weeds. (He uses a triangular hoe for precise hoeing near the vegetable plants. He also likes a double-action stirrup-shaped hoe for general weeding that skims back and forth, cutting just below the soil surface. It’s found locally at hardware stores.) You go over it and over it again because the weeds take the moisture. It also looks better. If you have grass clippings you put them on to keep the weeds down too. That will improve soil quality over time.
• Maria: (Maria and Rodney have other produce growing in other plots but here they are growing watermelon, cantaloupe and squash. Mounded soil, each with a plant, are widely spaced. Each mound has a moat built of garden soil that surrounds the mound.) This is my dad’s idea. When you build rings around the plants and fill them with water, plants get moisture and you don’t have to water them every day. I never thought about this until my dad came a couple of years ago. He said to water the plants, not the weeds. Did I want to harvest vegetables or weeds? It takes time and practice. (She put in the plants and her husband built the circles to hold water.) You could make the ring bigger to start or make a larger ring as the plant spreads out. (This is their first trial of watermelons. She noticed that some gardeners threw away watermelons last fall and she wonders if they will mature in time before the garden closes.) We are fortunate that the community offers these plots for anyone who doesn’t have a garden area. For the price, it’s really worth it. We walk around the plots and get ideas.
• Rodney: (Rodney has been hoeing the watermelon, cantaloupe and squash plot and it’s almost free of weeds. Earlier they planted some additional seeds that disappeared among weeds and ones that moved with heavy rains.) To me, it’s relaxing here. We came out a week or so ago and looked for basil we had planted. We pulled weeds and couldn’t find the basil. We had forgotten to mark the row. Same thing happened before with cilantro. After the big rain we found our zucchini growing by the tomato plants.
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