Thursday, August 23, 2007

Good Food, Great People

The Learning Shop's "Garden Challenge Support Squad" wrapped up an incredible summer's work with a cosy evening barbeque. We harvested delicious cucumbers, tomatoes, snow peas, onions, zuchini, broccoli, and carrots to put together an amazing feast. In the months to come the Garden Challenge will be in its final stage of harvesting, preparing, and preserving the vegetables, herbs, and berries that have grown all season long.

August has been a great time to share the taste of our fresh garden produce with the communtiy. At Hazelton's Pioneer Day "Iron Chef" competition, the demonstration garden's zuchinis, romaine lettuce, radishes, and tomatoes were put to great use in a showcase of local foods. The Hazelton Arts Showcase also took advantage of the fresh veggies.

Tomorrow is the youth team's last day, and we will soon running off to tackle a new projects at home and abroad. Looking back on all the different projects that we've worked on to promote healthy eating and active living, the Garden Challenge has truly been one of the highlights. We have learned so much from visiting everyone's gardens, learning on the fly to help troubleshoot weed and pest problems. We were constantly amazed by just how diverse the community's growing conditions seem to be. Plants that wilt in one spot, thrive in another, and we often feel like little garden detectives, trying to solve the mystery.

We have truly enjoyed learning alongside each Garden Challenge participant and look forward to watching the progress of Garden Challengers to come. A special thanks to all the people who have supported this summer's Garden Challenge and Food Action Projects. Bon apetit!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fresh Success

As we head into August, the Garden Challengers are just starting to taste the fruits of their labour. Spicy radishes and fresh lettuce make for a quick salad with dinner. As we visit each challenger, it is amazing to see the difference in the way that things grow from one place to the next. Different sun, soil, and moisture conditions produce vastly different gardening results. We were amazed to see tomatoes flourishing without the help of a greenhouse, and melons sprouting so easily from seed.
The berries seem to have ripened overnight too, saskatoons, currants, and raspberries are getting heavy on the branches, ready to be made into delicious jams and jellies. Watch for upcoming cooking and food preservation workshops!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Seeds of Change

It has been a cool and rainy last couple of weeks. At our demonstration garden, our seedlings have sprouted and transplants have recovered (some are even growing quickly!). With the Garden Challenge start-up complete, we are now entering a new phase in the Garden Challenge: Maintenance! Weeding, watering, fertilizing, and nurturing our plants. We will be checking in with each of the Garden Challengers next week and can't wait to see how everyone's gardens are coming along!

We recently did a soil test of the topsoil we have been using for the raised beds, and found that it could use a boost in nutrient levels (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash). When we do our mid-point visits with the challengers we will be bringing along a mix of great organic fertilizers to rejuvenate the soil and encourage healthier plant growth. It's a mix of composted lawn clippings, composted leaves, peat moss, wood ash, kelp meal and bone meal.

Helping start gardens in the community has been such an inspiring learning experience. Gardening seems to be very contagious. Once you start, you might just notice your friends and neighbours starting to pull up the weeds and plant some little seeds of change.

A lovely day at the demonstration garden.

This is a photo of us hard at work on our final start-up day for the Garden Challenge. It was a beautiful, dry day - perfect for transporting a load of topsoil.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Garden Challenge Kick-Off

It is mid-June and the Garden Challenge is in full swing! The youth team has been out to visit a number of participants, digging around in their backyards, delivering fresh topsoil, and helping families set up raised-beds. Word is quickly spreading that there is a team of young, hardworking green thumbs wandering about the Hazeltons lending a helping hand to aspiring gardeners.

The biggest challenge so far has been transporting topsoil. We never imagined that a little box of dirt could be SO HEAVY! After putting in a day sandbagging for the flood, the youth team had little energy to spare for shovelling. A number of participants are building Raised-Beds. We hosted a workshop at the end of May with Bob and Alice Smith to demonstrate a simple model. Bob, who runs a small mill was nonchalant about the workshop, saying that he had come to "show us how to nail four pieces of wood together". It was pretty comical just how easy it really was!

Visiting the participants has been really exciting and fun. Backyard gardening seems to be one of those things that everyone has on their to-do list, but never get around to doing it for one reason or another. Teaching our children about the land and getting them outside is another big reason that people are eager to dive in to the dirt. The next round of visits begin in mid-July, and it will be great to include all the young ones for some summer fun.