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Blame it on the lethargy of our on again-off again spring, but things have been kind of quiet here from Hardacre Community Garden on the blog post and social media front. That’s not to say, however, that there hasn’t been a lot going on.

Perhaps the biggest news of the 2013 season thus far is that Mike Boyle was recently awarded the United Way of East Central Iowa Volunteer of the Year honor. Mike has been an integral component and driving force behind Hardacre Community Garden from the projects inception, and is actively involved in many other local causes. With this award, Mike will receive a $500 prize to donate to the charity of his choice, and he has graciously decided to put that money toward continued efforts with the garden and collaborating with local high school classes to combat food insecurity in our community.

We couldn’t be prouder of Mike for earning this prestigious honor (and must agree it’s very much deserved) and wish to thank all of you who participated in the voting.

Of course as this all came to pass our 2013 season, though a bit delayed by the weather, slowly but surely got underway. This will be the gardens fifth summer in existence, and this year we will work to maintain plots at both the historic Hardacre property on the west edge of Tipton, and at the Cedar County Historical Society museum just northeast of town. Our goal will again be to better the impressive marks we’ve established in years before. It will be quite a challenge to match the record 14,000 pounds of produce that we helped to distribute in Tipton and neighboring communities last year, but we’re eager to prove that we are once again up to the task.

Here are a few photos of our early season progress in the garden. Once again this year we will post images on this blog and on our Facebook page to share with our friends near and far.

If you would like to get involved this year, feel free to leave a message in the comments section below, or email us at hardacregarden@gmail.com

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To begin with this evening, let’s take a look at some photos from not so long ago…

 

These were some of the first pictures taken of the garden this spring. The time was early April. Our young onions were just beginning to sprout, and with shorter days we worked through the hours of dusk to get all those potatoes in the ground.

 

A few weeks later, on May 15, this was the scene at the Cedar County Historical Society’s Prairie Village…

 

In a demonstration of historical technique and an exercise honoring our agricultural heritage, volunteers and historical society members gathered to plant sweet corn the old-fashioned way, with draft horses and an antique planter.

 

Now let’s fast forward a few months (or several decades, depending on how you look at it) for some of our more recent images.

 

These shots were taken last Saturday morning, July 21, as a group of local volunteers delivered potatoes and onions harvested from Hardacre Community Garden, and sweet corn picked from CCHS Prairie Village to the Bread of Life Food Pantry in Tipton. The produce will be donated to needy families throughout our area, providing them with nutritious locally grown food while alleviating some financial strain and allowing them to further stretch their budgets.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, just a portion of the total offerings that will be made available to our neighbors this year. It’s sometimes hard to believe what a garden can produce in the span of just a few short months. Rest assured, a lot of hard work has gone into reaching this point; much commitment and dedication was needed to get us from then to now. However, the point of this reflection is to consider how those efforts started- with the care and compassion of volunteers who had the vision to put a few seeds in the ground.

Now the actions of those few will have a significant impact on the lives of many.

And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

 

July 21 Volunteers Pictured, bottom photo (from left): Mike Boyle, Mike Bixler, Trent Pelzer, Cindy Pelzer, Ken Reichert, Matt Pelzer, Scott Pelzer, Sandy Harmel.

 

Draft Horse Photos compliments of Mike Boyle… July 21 Bread of Life Photos compliments of Kris Clark.

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Well, that old rooster is crowing pretty early these days so I don’t have a lot of time for commentary tonight, but I do want to share a few photos taken around the garden last week. Despite the drought (and once again, this evenings storms hung to the north- though there seems to be something now brewing south of us) things are still looking pretty good thanks to tireless watering efforts by our volunteers. It’s getting to be harvest time for several of our vegetables, and the big project this week has been the digging of potatoes for distribution by the Bread of Life food pantry this weekend. These folks do wonderful work for our community, and this is the time when all of our toils pay off and we get to experience the joy of sharing in this worthy effort. Mike and the crew will be back out at the garden site tomorrow night (July 19) around 7:00 pm harvesting more potatoes and onions for this donation, and if anyone is interested extra hands are always appreciated.

You will notice in these photos a few examples of our continued effort toward sustainable practice at the garden; in this case through the reuse and reclamation of scrap materials. See if you can pick out and determine the purpose of these items. There’s a little further explanation in the July 2012 album on our facebook page, and watch for a blog entry with a comprehensive look at these efforts coming soon.

Speaking of which, thanks to the generosity of garden friends we’ve managed to gather some steel posts with more to be picked up soon. However, if you have any that you would like to donate we are still definitely interested. Also, we’re still looking for old hay or straw bales that people may wish to get rid of, which we will use for mulch. Leave a message here in the comments or on our facebook page if you can help or have any questions.

Enjoy the photos, try to stay cool, and keep praying for rain!

The south garden, home of sweet potatoes, mini pumpkins, cucumbers and other vining plants.

Also in the south garden… sweet corn!

Green beans.

The flower garden is just exploding with color right now.

Overview of the east garden.

(Soon-to-be) Red Bell Pepper.

The area Mike has dubbed “Cannery Row.”

Almost time!

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Well it’s been awhile since I’ve offered an update to either the blog or our facebook page, and I apologize for that. I’ve been pretty tied up with work and school, and as we all know time has a way of slipping by. So it goes. However, as we also know, nature works on it’s own schedule, and life in the garden goes on rather we’re paying attention or not. Fortunately Mike and other volunteers have kept dilegently on task out at the Hardacre farm, and things are coming along nicely. 

Without further ado, here is a look at the garden heading into the final days of June…

 

One concern we’ve had in Eastern Iowa this season is precipitation, or lack thereof. It’s been a really dry summer so far, and heat and high winds have further threatened crops with borderline drought conditions. Even when there has been rain in the area, it seems the last couple of storms have found a way to skip past Tipton without offering more than a few drops. That wasn’t the case last Sunday morning, though.  About six a.m. a strong cell seemed to settle overtop of us and we got upwards of two and a half inches of rain in just a couple of hours. While we needed the moisture, we certainly didn’t need it like that. The diluge brought some flash flooding to the garden, as can be seen in these photos taken by volunteer Ken Reichert.

 

 

The flooding further justified the decision made this spring to change the property layout, adding a new plot to the east of Crooked Creek while shortening the field (behind the welcome sign) to the west. Still, this was a rather extreme storm and we again sustained a little bit of damage and crop loss, so there’s certainly some question to how beneficial this rainfall actually was. In the end, it did provide some much needed moisture, and compared to our neighbors in Northern Minnesota last week, the current conditions in Florida, or to the other extreme the dry conditions and fires in Colorado we can’t complain. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of those dealing with weather extremes and natural disasters. In comparison to what they are facing, we will humbly be grateful for what we get, and make do with what we’ve got.

 

It didn’t take too long to dry out after this weekends storm, and the vegetables seem to have done well with what moisture the ground could soak up from the passing flood. Exploring the garden last night, I found a new contender pushing for attention as one of our most photogenic plants. Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard is a fascinating specimen, and one of the heirloom varieties that was donated to us by Seed Savers Exchange out of Decorah. Also known as Rainbow Chard, this plant looks kind of like rhubarb with multi-colored stems. Currently, red, yellow and orange stemmed plants can be found in our garden, but apparently pink and white are common as well. The plant is a native of Australia and was marketed in the U.S. through the 1970’s and ’80’s but diminished in popularity and disappeared from the American market when colors began to decrease. A true five colored variety was later again found in Australia, and has recently been reintroduced in the States. The leafs can be cooked just like spinach, or the stalks can be eaten raw like celery. I’ve yet to try either, but with vibrant colors it sure is a cool plant to photograph.

 

Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard

Yellow and Red Stemmed Plants.

Such beautiful color.

 

Along with the Swiss Chard, many other vegetables are coming on strong. Beets are always a crowd pleaser, and we’ve had a lot of people claiming their share for pickling. Our tomato plants are looking good, though we still need stakes for cages if anyone can offer them. It won’t be long until they’ll be producing their bounty, along with several other garden favorites.

 

Bulls Blood Beets.

Amish Snap Peas.

Lots and lots of tomatoes.

 

Thanks to a generous donation from our local Theisens store, we’ve also been able to add a fresh dose of color to reinvigorate the flower bed our THS landscaping students started in the spring. Something tells me there will be a lot more flower pictures showing up here in the weeks to come…

 

Purple Coneflower.

Day Lily.

Moonbeam Coreopsis.

 

And finally, here’s a look at our plot south of the Hardacre house, which is beginning to burst to life. This was planted a little later than the rest, but we’re in good shape still with plenty of growing season left.

 

South garden.

Young sweetcorn. It might be a little later than a lot of that you’ll see, but hey… we’re Iowans… we know what we’re doing!

 

That wraps up our look at June, but keep checking back here for future updates and our facebook page to view additional photos.

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We hosted our open house this past Saturday, June 9, at Hardacre Community Garden and were absolutely thrilled to have so many friends and neighbors stop by the farm for a visit. It was a lot of fun to be able to show our guests around the grounds and then sit in the shade enjoying conversation, fresh garden snacks, and that nice country breeze on a warm summer day. In the spirit of sharing all the garden has to offer, many of those who came by were also sent home with radishes, cauliflower, onions, broccoli, and cabbage; picked right before their eyes. It’s probably safe to say that these folks also left with a smile.

Of course the true gift of the day was in being able to introduce new people to our community garden and letting them know what our efforts are all about. The reactions received were more or less universal, as guests echoed each others sentiment with a resounding “Wow…” Most hadn’t realized the scale of our project and all seemed impressed by the beautiful condition of this years crops. It was also encouraging to hear so many ask, in that straight forward Iowa manner, what they could do to help.

As we suddenly find ourselves right in the thick of June, we’re definitely coming upon some busy times in the garden. There is still some planting to be done, and there are always weeds that need pulled. Some of the early vegetables are already due for harvest. The tomatoes are getting big enough that they’re ready for their cages and we’re still asking for stakes to help hold those in place. And though we got a nice little shower early this morning it’s shaping up to be a very dry summer here. Watering might soon be a duty of critical importance, especially when we’re looking at hot, windy conditions, new transplants trying to get established, and full weeks between forecasted rain. We’d be very grateful to have assistance with any of these tasks, and even if it means stopping by for an hour some evening, an extra set of hands can make all the difference in the world.

Thanks again to all who attended our open house. We hope you enjoyed the visit and that you’ll spread word of our work with others in the community. To those of you who were unable to make it this weekend, we’d still love to see you and invite you to stop by the garden anytime it’s convenient. Or if you’d prefer, just leave a message in the comments below, on Facebook or by email at hardacregarden@gmail.com and we can arrange to meet sometime for a little tour.

Hopefully many of you will be able to make your way out to the garden soon, but until you can please enjoy a few photos from this weekends event, and visit our facebook page to see more…

 

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May 30th delivered a beautiful evening here in eastern Iowa, and the perfect opportunity for a handful of neighbors to join and tend to some gardening detail. After a group of dedicated volunteers worked hard over Memorial Day weekend to weed our potato patch, several more of us met last night for what was dubbed a “Potato Hilling Party.” The idea was pretty simple. Now that the rows had been freshly cleaned, we would pull loose dirt into mounds around the plants. This serves several functions including increased protection for the developing potatoes from the sun, moisture conservation, and better suppression of weeds.

At the time of this work, it had been pretty dry, (though we got a nice, much-needed shower today) and in turn the ground was pretty hard. So to make the task easier, garden director Mike Boyle ran a tiller up and down between the rows which allowed the rest of us to easily rake the loose soil into hills around the plants.

Mike runs the tiller while Ann and Ronnie “hill” dirt around the potato plants.

Judy, Ann, Ronnie, and Mike working in the potato patch.

Working to add a little extra protection just as the first potatoes are starting to blossom.

With such wonderful help, and the lion’s share of the project (pulling weeds) already done, it didn’t take long to finish the job. Our thirteen rows of Kennebecs, Russets and Yukon Golds are in good shape; well protected as we enter the warmer months and set to yield another bumper crop. And it’s probably worth noting that this was all done through traditional gardening methods- which to put it bluntly means relying on elbow grease instead of chemicals. 

At Hardacre Community Garden we don’t use synthetic herbicides or pesticides, and nutrients are spread through compost and organic fertilizers. It might mean a little extra work from time to time, but we’ll take it in order to provide healthy, natural foods and to fulfill our obligation as stewards of the land. The results are quite favorable, if we don’t say so ourselves…

Some beautiful looking cabbage. All of our vegetables are naturally grown, without the use of harmful chemicals.

Once the potatoes were finished our attention turned to the radishes, many of which are prime for the picking.

Ronnie, Mike and Judy picking radishes.

Mike with a nice bundle of radishes.

All in all, a job well done. Once the work was complete, we got a chance to visit and catch up on progress with the rest of the garden. Mike led us across a makeshift bridge to have a look at the new plot on the east side of Crooked Creek. Here he has been hard at it, having recently planted sweet potatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, onions, tomatoes and more. This will also soon be the site of several rows of delicious Iowa sweet corn.

Volunteers enjoying a chat. The chance to socialize with neighbors is just one of many perks that comes with working in the garden.

Mike gives a tour of the new plot east of Crooked Creek.

This truly was a great evening in the garden. A gorgeous night to get a little exercise and fresh air, to visit with neighbors and even learn a thing or two. (Did you know pickles can be made from watermelon rinds?…  How about limes? All news to me!) Of course, even greater benefits will come in a couple of months when the harvest is shared throughout the community.

And that’s what Hardacre Community Garden is all about.

Sound like something you’d like to get involved with? We have a pretty informal structure when it comes to volunteering. We don’t ask that you make appointments or try to set a schedule. We know people are busy, and plans can quickly change. Instead, we simply invite anyone who wants to lend a hand for an hour or two to stop out at anytime. Generally, someone will be working at the site in the evenings and on weekends, so come by when you’re available- there’s always something to do. And you don’t need to be a green thumb to help out. In fact, we love showing newbies the ropes. One of the many aspects of our garden that makes it such a wonderful asset to the community is the educational opportunity it provides. Rather just a beginner or a seasoned pro, we’ve got a place for you.

There is also an opportunity coming up to stop by and see things for yourself. On Saturday, June 9 we will host an Open House from 9-5. This is a chance for the public to have a look around the grounds, ask questions and share in some fresh garden snacks. The event is being held at the same time as Tipton’s city-wide garage sales, so if you’re out making the rounds be sure and plan to visit.

Additional questions can be left in the comment section below, or on our Facebook page linked in the menu to the right.

Thanks for your interest, and we hope to see you at the garden soon!

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We’re sort of in awe at how far the garden has come along in recent weeks, and how wonderful things are starting to look. Of course this is only the beginning of what we think could turn out to be our best season yet! Here are a few photos from the evening of May 30 to show how things have grown…

Our lettuce cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower has really taken off.

A couple nice rows of carrots.

Garden volunteers working in the potato patch.

Baby broccoli.

Young cauliflower starting to take form.

Get a load of that cabbage!

The kids are back! This year, Hardacre farm will once again host the Tipton High School FFA Market Goat Project. These fine looking little critters are a lot of fun to have around!

For more photos have a look at our Facebook page, and stay tuned to this blog for new posts coming soon!

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