We have been able to expand the garden with the addition of a new site - the Coopers Cove Extension Garden. Over 2 tons of produce have been sent to the local food pantry at Lake Christian Ministries this year. The garden continues to be a model and resource for local groups and developing giving gardens in nearby counties in conjunction with the Franklin United Way and Go Healthy West Piedmont under the Henry - Martinsville Health Department.
With extra funding this past year, we have been able to install a tool shed and purchase tools that stay in the garden rather than carrying them back and forth during each garden session. In addition, we purchased a small greenhouse for starting hundreds of tomato and pepper seedlings.
What challenges did or does your project face?
Our biggest challenge this year has been the weather - too much rain followed by heat and drought conditions. Even with the use of floating row covers, Mexican bean beetles and Japanese beetles were a major problem.
How are you working to overcome them?
We are increasing our use of mulch and are looking into a better irrigation system with drip/soaker hoses in some beds. This is a challenge with 44 beds and potential water pressure issues.
Staying with organic principles, we continue to hand pick bugs off the plants.
What did you or your project learn this season that might be useful to others as well?
We have been testing the use of red plastic under tomato plants in the Coopers Cove site. One row had plastic under the tomato plants and one row did not. Tomato plants in the row with red plastic have done considerably better - the plants are larger, healthier and more productive than the tomato plants without the plastic. Our plans include using red plastic under all tomato plants next year.
We also increased our use of "spoiled hay" as mulch and to enrich the soil - based on Ruth Stout's book "No-Work Garden Book". With challenging weather conditions, it has helped keep moisture in the soil and we have been able to work the old hay into to soil to enrich it.