Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Baby Beet Greens

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Yesterday we tackled the daunting task of thinning the beet plants. After three weeks of nurturing the baby plants we knew we had to remove about half of the young healthy plants, so the largest of the plants would have space to thrive and hopefully develop beet roots. This is an anxiety ridden task that must be done carefully by hand. Luckily we had several volunteers show up to assist.

We chatted and thinned. One of the volunteers who lives caddy corner to the garden was a first time gardener. She was a huge help and promised to join us next Saturday! Another volunteer, a fourth grade teacher, said he would join again before school starts and will work to integrate the garden into his classroom.

The result of the thinning was lots of beautiful baby beet greens. Last night after several washings we feasted on roasted beet greens and local hand made rice noodles from China Boy at 817 Sixth Street NW (just blocks from the farm).

Roasted Baby Beet Greens
Heat oven to broil.
Place beet greens on a sheet tray. Lightly season with grapeseed oil salt and pepper.
Broil beet greens until just wilted.


Community Garden Event Today At Whole Foods P Street

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2010 at 12:28 am

Daniel Thaeler from Whole Foods P Street gave four local gardening organizations the opportunity to share their stories today, right out in front of the store on a busy Saturday. We were honored to be represented in the same company as City Blossoms, DCPR and Washington Youth Garden. Walker Jones Education Campus principal, Melissa Martin (far left in the photo), and then assistant principal, Collin Hill, were both excited to see the vibrancy of the local gardening efforts from our neighbors under the tent and grateful for the interest and support voiced by lots of neighbors who stopped by to chat.

As if the opportunity to connect with the community were not enough, Daniel, working with Fadia from the Georgetown store, worked to make our first fruit orchard dreams come true today. When we arrived at WF to set up this morning, Daniel let us know that he had thirty fig trees on hand to send over to the farm immediately. Over the top excitement ensued! So, as Melissa and Collin engaged the community, volunteers back on the farm started digging holes while the baby trees took a shower in the sprinkler. Pop over to our Twitter account to see the photo of those beautiful cradles (otherwise known as holes in the ground). Many thanks to all involved in a wonderful day for the farm!


In Uncategorized on August 7, 2010 at 12:49 am

As we spend time on the farm, weeding and feeding, we spend much of our time observing the plants and soil. We realize that farming without pesticides necessitates an extra level of observation. As we observe aphids, mildew and other issues arise with plants we reach out to advisors like Coach and our farm designer Melina to tackle these issues and find ways to help the plants to be more successful. Our use of garlic spray and biodynamic preparations are ways to aid plants and move towards a healthier farm.

As we talk to Coach and Melina, we are anticipating what future challenges that may be presented. This type of farming does not allow for waiting for a shock or blight, but requires constantly working with the soil and plants. In discussing possible future issues, Melina brought up a potential concern with cabbage pests given that we have planted a 1600 square foot bed of collards and plan a 1600 square foot bed of kale. She said to ask local farmers about their experience and it seems like we that it should be okay given our climate. However, we may further delay planting kale to allow for cooler weather and less of a threat of potential pests.

As we anticipate potential challenges and successes, Melina warned us not to put too much pressure on ourselves and the soil. The process of creating strong soil and a vibrant garden will not happen overnight.

Our desire for a vibrant educational farm, has us anticipating issues and working hard toward producing the best food possible. Farming is a journey that will include successes and failures and we anticipate that the best learning lessons will come from being open about what does and doesn’t work as we face the reality of farming at Walker Jones.


In Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 at 12:16 am

As sprouts are getting bigger and we are getting a sense of the prospects of a bountiful fall harvest, we are also trying to focus on the the long-term strength of our soil. Two of our four homemade compost bins are full of dead grass, cardboard and coffee. When we dig into the piles a small wave of smoke emerges warming our hands, which reminds us of being a child and seeing how long you can keep your hand in the oven. The heat generated is cooking the pile and using the “brown” of the dead grass and cardboard and the “green” of the coffee grounds to create rich compost.

We plan to create new compost by the end of the fall that we can use in our compost tea. While one visitor mentioned the controversy around compost tea, we have learned from CalRecycle that it is only controversial when simple sugars like molasses are added to expedite microbial growth. The problem is that it can also foster e. coli and other harmful microbes. That is why we are sticking to a simple recipe that just uses compost, water and an air pump as Coach suggests.

Overall, we want to keep improving our efforts to strengthen the microbial content of the soil and cannot wait to add four more compost bins to the farm next week to make sure we have space for school paper, coffee grounds and grass clippings!

Beet Seeds

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2010 at 6:29 pm

The beets are up and firmly above the straw. They our are favorite thing to show visitors and we are amazed at the sheer amount of red-stemmed plants (there is serious over crowding in some rows). We recently learned that beet seeds are tiny fruits that have the potential to create multiple seedlings. The vast number of seedlings is forcing us to face the harsh reality of thinning. Most blogs and experts recommend thinning to every 3-4 inches. While creating space for growth make sense, pulling out the seedlings we have worked to support and that have the potential of being adult beets is nerve wracking. We are slowly building up the courage to start thinning and enjoying the tart yet bright flavor of fresh baby greens.


In Uncategorized on August 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

It is clear that The Farm at Walker Jones has the potential to be a key component of the school and the neighborhood. However, to reach its true potential, the farm will grow and prosper based on the strength of its volunteers.

Yesterday we had a dynamic cast of first time volunteers and visitors who helped weed, feed and care for the farm:

Mike and Amy spend Sundays working with Eco Friendly Foods at the Dupont Farmers Market and have founded local school garden projects. They saw WJ farm, and stopped by on a whim and realized that they knew John and Sidra from on an event at their house. Mike has promised to look into the possibility of catfish farming at the farm.

Ylene is a long-time friend and doctor who spoke of new ways that physicians are fighting obesity. Ylene is also connected with Gonzaga, a high school around the corner and is going to help us explore volunteer connections.

Jessica, a college friend of Braden’s on a bike ride– the farm it turns out is a great destination for bike rides and many volunteers have incorporated a drop by on their weekend bike rides.

Abby a photographer friend who dropped by on her way to the beach.

Laurie is going to bring us pumpkin plants from her house that were about to be destroyed because of impending construction.

Kelly came over from Virginia and is coming back today!

Rachel brought a great perspective on city politics and a love of the farm.

Aisha was working at the Northwest One library and is going to come by next week and get her hands dirty.

Garland works across the street at the senior center and will be a long-time friend of the farm. Garland said, “This reminds me of my family’s farm I grew up on in South Carolina. All schools should be doing this.”

With all these helping hands we were able to intensely feed and weed. Each volunteer carefully weeded crab grass that was growing between the beet sprouts and applied compost tea to the emerging sprouts with spray bottles. Happy baby beet plants, tomorrow we will concentrate on the baby chard.

We hope more people will drop by to help create an awesome educational farm for Walker Jones’ students and families.