By Master Gardener Nancy Dowling
Satisfaction to this gardener is coming back to the Organic Vegetable Garden in March after a 4-month break and seeing beds filled with green foliage. We did absolutely nothing to this garden after we put it to bed in November 2016. Yet, here in March, everywhere you look you see growth. See our harvested baskets: spinach, three kinds of kale, arugula, broccoli, and cabbage for the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). A generous crop! Our carrots and beets, planted in late August-September, are looking healthy. And our cover crops are ready to cut. I’m including pictures, so please enjoy the show.
Some of you may remember that Judy Salveson researched an oil radish seed to plant in our Phytophthora-infested bed last fall that we hoped would be beneficial and in addition help reduce nematodes. Well, the radishes composted in place, as expected, and the soil is luxurious. We plan on planting beans in this bed this summer, which should further enrich the soil. Next year, it might even be ready for tomatoes!
We started planting on March 1 with peas, radishes, and cilantro. These seeds can withstand some freezing temperatures as long as the soil is above 50 degrees when planted. Using a digital soil thermometer, we measured the soil at 52 degrees. We have to start our radishes early to insure they are ready to harvest for the May 6 Potomac Overlook Regional Park May Day celebration. Children come from all over Arlington County with their families to take part in the May Pole dance, pick our radishes, pick up free seeds, and learn from other Virginia Cooperative Extension representative as well as other nonprofits and nature related businesses that the Park Ranger pulls together for the day. It’s a joyous, educational and otherwise wonderful day in the Park for families and we (VCE/MGNV) try to cooperate with our State Regional Park partners to make it as special as we can.
At our second work party, on March 8, we cut down cover crops in several of our beds to soil level to ready them for sowing in the next four to six weeks. We avoided planting more vegetable seeds that day due to the forecast of coming freezing temperatures.
One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve browsed through the garden beds is how much improved our soil is since I first came to the OVG (circa 2010). It’s amazing what continual use of cover crops, compost, and hard work will do for a garden. Here’s a heartfelt thanks to all of our volunteers. The success of this garden is a testament to your hard work, care, and willingness to do whatever needs to get done. Thank you from both Judys and me!
All photos © 2017 Nancy Dowling
Editor’s Note: Nancy Dowling, Judy Johnson and Judy Salveson are the coordinator of the Organic Vegetable Garden for MGNV.