And Just Like That, the Garden Is READY… Thanks to Our Neighborhood Friends and Supporters!

Did you know that 10 cubic yards of compost would equal somewhere around 120 wheelbarrow loads? Now can you imagine the backbreaking effort it would require to move all of that from the parking area at Arsenal Park through the grass to the garden?

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It is impossible to overstate how much two amazing neighborhood partners helped us out this weekend. For the second year, local landscaper Robert Sickle and neighborhood business partner Hoosier Tools have lifted our load immensely. Thanks to them, our gardeners who finished the job, and some beautiful weather this morning, our garden beds are now ready to be planted!

Please help us thank our neighborhood partners who made all of this possible: 

  • Huge thanks to Hoosier Tools, who for the second year in a row donated the use of a Bobcat, allowing us to move our load of compost from the parking area to the garden. They even covered the gas, which was incredibly kind. Thanks to Stephen Lee for this generous donation (317-466-5060). Hoosier Tools has all kinds of items available for rent, especially for all your spring garden and home projects.
  • Local landscaper Robert Sickle (317-224-8184) spent his Friday afternoon commandeering a Bobcat and moving 10 cubic yards of compost to the garden, which saved us from the backbreaking labor of moving it my wheelbarrow. Robert does beautiful work and provides free estimates – call him today! And thank you, thank you, thank you again.

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  • GreenCycle not only provided us with absolutely gorgeous (and slightly discounted) compost, but they also were gracious about our need to move our delivery date back a week due to weather.

We simply could not have created this garden without the help and support of people like Robert Sickle, Steve Lee at Hoosier Tools, and the fine folks at GreenCycle – not to mention the gardeners who came out this morning to get this beautiful stuff into all of our beds! What a beautiful way to spend the day. Thanks to all!

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GARDEN 101: Decode your seed packet and begin planning your spring garden

Spring has sprung, the grass is ‘ris. I wonder where the birdies is!*

It’s the first day of spring, and here in Central Indiana, the buds are popping out on the trees, and we are itching to dig in the dirt! But when should you start? What should you plant? And hoe? I mean, how?

DECODING YOUR SEED PACKET:
The secret to finding out when and how to plant your garden? The seed packet.

Here’s an example of the amazing amount of information contained in just one little seed packet. Key things to pay attention to:

  • Days from planting to harvest and recommended season (front of package)
  • Planting information (depth, spacing)
  • When to plant and recommendations for indoor seedling starting vs. outdoor direct seeding (really, this and the depth/spacing information tells you everything you need to know to get started)
  • Date packaged (the germination rate, or the number of seeds that will successfully sprout, decreases with age, but don’t chuck your seeds from the last season or two! Just plan to plant extra seeds)

For those new to gardening, sowing seeds directly into your garden beds can be such a beautifully simple, rewarding way to plant. You might be surprised at how many crops grow wonderfully just from dropping seed into soil (and actually prefer it), particularly some of the more cold hardy crops planted in early-spring or later in the fall.

Some of our favorites, which we will start seeding sometime in mid- to late-April:

  • Lettuces
  • Greens like kale, spinach, chard, and collard greens
  • Root vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips
  • Cabbage
  • Peas

THE NEVER-ENDING HARVEST
The cool thing about lettuces and greens: once they start growing, you can harvest them forever (or in the case of lettuce, until it gets too hot and the plants bolt, or go to seed). With lettuces and other delicate greens, just give them a “haircut” when harvesting, trimming off what you plan to eat and leaving the bulk of the plant and center leaves in tact. Come back a week later, and you won’t even be able to tell you trimmed them.

With greens like chard, kale, and collard greens, harvest the outermost leaves, breaking the entire leaf and stem off from the primary plant stalk. Always leave several of the innermost leaves in tact, and your plants will continue to grow and produce. These types of greens are cold hardy, but they will also last through the heat of summer!

(This is maybe one of the dorkier things I’ve ever searched for on YouTube, but if you’d like to see the technique for harvesting chard, kale, and collards, check it out).

BUT WHEN DO I PLANT WHAT?! MEET YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND, THE GARDEN CALENDAR
Okay, so we’ve identified some cooler weather crops above, but what about our heat loving plants, like tomatoes, squash, peppers, delicate herbs, and other more exotic plants?
The biggest thing: you’ll want to learn your average last frost day (in the spring) and your average first frost day (in the fall) to understand your growing season. Here in Indianapolis, we’re looking at the following:

  • Average last frost day (in the spring): Area C – April 26-May 5
  • Average first frost day (in the fall): Area F/G – Anywhere from October 6-October 25

Again, a good place to start is your seed packet OR check out the following amazing references:

ONE LAST THING…
One of the funnest things about gardening is uncovering your own gardening philosophy and seeing how it aligns – or differs – from what you consider to be “you.” 

For a beginning garden, consider purchasing some of your plant starts. And on that note, here’s your shameless self-promotion warning:

  • The Keystone-Monon Community Garden is hosting a seedling sale on 4/23 from 10am-4pm at Indy Urban Flea, 1225 E Brookside Ave, Indianapolis!
  • Come pick up a few of these beauties, grow your own food, and support the garden, a completely volunteer- and community-driven endeavor!

*Every spring, this pops into my head. It was one of my late, great grandmother Mildred’s favorite quotes each spring. Grandma Farm, as we called her, also had the most amazing backyard garden in the south suburbs of Chicago when I was a kid!