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Helping our families learn together about gardening, nature and cultivating friendships

October 10th, 2016

This week we asked Ann Philips to do a feature of everything that has been going on and growing in the garden this summer.

Ann Philips is the Lead Gardener for a team of 20 University of Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener volunteers who care for the Secret Garden. Ann leads a weekly Family Garden Program to help our families learn together about gardening, nature and to cultivate friendships.
Through the generosity of Kohl’s Cares grant we are able to fund the supplies for a vegetable garden! This is growing season we have four beautiful new Cedar raised vegetable beds. Beginning in April we, UW-Extension Master Volunteers, planned and planted our crops with our guest families and staff in Family Garden Education.

We follow Square Foot Gardening, SFG, practices from the book by Mel Bartholomew. Our soil is 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss. It is light, weed free, and nutritious for vegetables. Since the beds are raised, we never walk on the soil giving better air circulation and making it easier to work. The beds are 3’x5’ and 4’x5’ so even our littlest people can reach the center to plant and harvest.

We used string to make a grid of one foot squares in each bed. Following SFG principles we planted the recommended number of seeds or plants in each square. We also planned for cucumbers to replace peas, lettuce and radish to replace harvested potatoes, and more spinach, rainbow chard and kale as space allowed. In our four beds we successfully grew and are harvesting peas, green and yellow bush beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, patty pan squash, zucchini, cherry and Roma tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, carrots, radish, peppers, onions and kohlrabi. We grew containers of strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic chives, mint and oregano. We had a Jack and the Beanstalk tower of green beans and our Ketchup and Fries plant, a tomato grafted onto a potato plant. AND we dedicated one bed to herbs for use in cooking. We have basil, parsley, cilantro, stevia, pineapple sage, nasturtium, rosemary and thyme.

Every Thursday we garden together, enjoying the simple pleasures of being outside, harvesting what we have nurtured and being a part of nature. We read books about the garden (and write our own), play garden games, raise monarch caterpillars and learn about the many birds we see. This is our families’ back yard, they can pick ripe vegetables anytime and use them in their family meals. We also take our vegetables and herbs up to the kitchen for general use. Every day in the garden is an adventure!

We are growing gardeners, cultivating friendship and harvesting hope.

-Ann Philips


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