The Dirt Febuary 2011

Good Day Farmers,

This is our third monthly newsletter and we are looking for an Editor. If you would like to become a critical part of the new organization and and have time each month to organize a newsletter, please contact me:
Blake Caldwell (598-5365 or 404-964-8409) .

This Saturday!!!!!!

Gate-Opening Celebration
Saturday, February 5th (Rain date Feb 12th )
Music at 1:30
Remarks at 2:00 PM
In the Garden – McWhorter Road
Refreshments by Cha Bella
Hester and Zipperer and Olde Savannah Gardens
will have vegetable plants for sale


Schedule of Events:

People have been asking so I thought it worthwhile to write this for those of you who are interested. After some remarks from our VIPs we will proceed to the drawing. There will be separate drawings for organic and non-organic plots. Gardeners will line up with those renting 2 plots in front. You will pull a flag with a plot number from the bucket and we will record it in our data base. After everyone has drawn a flag we will open the gates (with fanfare) and all gardeners will enter to find their plots. Paid members who did not draw(are absent from the opening) will have their plot flag drawn by a third party – ideally a local dignitary I can persuade to help us.
For gardeners who pay on the day of the opening: We will have a separate drawing after the pre-paid gardeners and most likely from a different garden quadrant. Questions and comments always welcome.

Lots of Work Parties:

The Farm as a Work in Progress Over the past month there have been many opportunities when our farmers have come out to lend a hand. So much Gravel to Rake!

Honey Bees!

We have a beekeeper for the Farm. Mark Bradle who is active in the local chapter of the GA Beekeepers Association and the beekeeper at the Cha Bella organic garden has bees on order for our farm. They should be installed in April and will be located in the back left corner of the garden. Mark has agreed to do educational programs about the bees.

Children’s Garden Update:

Planting seeds (figuratively) is our goal while waiting for the optimum soil temperatures and some gentle sunshine. We are sowing seeds. Our hope for the Children’s Garden area, adults and children together, will discover and produce a new passion for the process of growing vegetables. We are in the business of fertilizing hearts and minds.

On Saturday we are expecting to meet and greet the Moms and children that have signed up to participate in our pilot project. A donation from the Green Thumb Garden Club has enabled me to provide a wonderful publication with lovely illustrations and practical instructions for visualizing the development of a tiny seed. Also purchased, are a variety of seeds that prefer the coolness of very early spring. They include: spinach, radishes, lettuce, carrots, herbs, and sunflowers for fun and fancy. This donation insures a large enough plot area to plant for an abundance of learning and enjoyment. We hope to welcome more children between the ages of 4 and 8 years of age. We have 3 volunteers who will be helping on “planting day” in the near future. See you at the farm; it has taken shape and structure. Our children are the future gate keepers for the Garden.

Pat Barry, Children’s Coordinator


Organic Gardeners Corner:

They aren’t here for their beauty or as a cash crop – they are a key pest control strategy down on the organic farm.”
They’re talking sunflowers – wild sunflowers to be more specific. The following article is from The New York Times dated November 29, 2010, entitled, Farmers Find Organic Arsenal to Wage War on Pests. Mark Van Horn is the director of the student farm at the University of California. They have planted wild sunflowers around the edge of a field of tomatoes and sweet corn.

The article reads as follows:

Research here on wild sunflowers, he says, shows they are home to lady beetles and parasitic wasps, which are good bugs that kill bad bugs. “The sunflowers help us provide a bed-and-breakfast for beneficial insects and keep them going year round,” he said. “And native sunflowers are a lot better at it than domestic. There’s a lot more insect biodiversity in wild sunflowers.” …there’s a growing understanding among organic farmers of ways to harness natural systems as part of what is called integrated pest management.

Natural enemies are key to the organic approach. Eric Brennan is the lone full-time organic researcher for the Agriculture Department, and he works in the Salinas Valley, the so-called salad bowl of America, where some 80 percent of the country gets its salad greens. One of the most difficult pests is the lettuce aphid.

The treatment of choice for commercial organic lettuce is to plant an ornamental flower called alyssum among lettuce beds, taking up 5 to 10 percent of the total field. Hoverflies live in the alyssum and need a source of aphids to feed their young, so they lay their eggs in the lettuce. When they hatch, the larvae start preying on the aphids.
“If you were an aphid on a head of lettuce, a hoverfly larva would be a nightmare,” said Dr. Brennan. “They are voracious eaters of aphids. One larva per plant will control the aphids.” Dr. Brennan is studying the most effective configuration of lettuce and alyssum beds.

Organic researchers are also studying the role of soil fertility in pest control. Some studies show nutrient-rich soil may enhance the plant’s immune system and increase natural resistance to insects and pests, or provide a home to natural enemies. Organic soil in potato fields that Dr. Crowder studied, for example, has higher levels of a fungus that kills potato beetle larva than conventional fields.

REMINDER: If you have not ordered yet, but are interested in having access to compost (the same that Bethesda uses) the price will be $50.00 a yard. Our plots are 10′ wide by 20′ long. You might want between 1″ to 4″ of compost. Here is a website to help you calculate how much. Example: 10’x20′ at 4″ would be 2.5 cubic yards, at $50.00 a yard = $125.00. If you would like to have the compost spread on your plot for you, there will be an additional fee – details to follow.
For orders, email me,– You’re welcome to call me if you have questions. 349-2370 or 655-7716

Janet Waldie – Organic Gardeners Corner Coordinator

Capital Fund Update:

The construction of the Farm is nearly complete and we have Paul Kurilla of TLA and Chris John of Valley Crest to thank for the remarkable job they have been able to accomplish in their free time after regular working hours. We also have many of our gardeners to thank who have responded to calls for manpower help in recent weeks. As we celebrate this accomplishment at our Grand Opening on February 5th, we ask you to remain mindful that we are still short of our goal to raise the $80,000 necessary to cover the construction costs of the farms. We still need $30,000 to finish the job and repay some debt!
In upcoming weeks and months, the Skidaway Farms Development Committee will be asking for your financial support by attending fun and educational fund raisers in the garden and also, at any time, will gladly accept any tax-deductible donation you care to make. These can be made to Skidaway Audubon @ 600 Landings Way South, Savannah, GA. 31411. Share the Farm with your friends and neighbors, too. Let them see what a wonderful amenity this is for our community and maybe they will write us a check, too.

Costal Gardening Know How:

Hester and Zipperer as well as Herb Creek have nice selections of vegetable seeds. In addition, here are a few of the well-known seed companies. If others have favorites to share let me know and I will add them next month.

Soil Facts:

Top soil in the coastal south is primarily sand and silt. It is easy to dig but has little organic material and does not hold nutrients well. Amending/improving your garden plot will probably be the most important thing you do for your vegetables the first couple of years. We have begun the process by adding purchased top soil, lime, rotted horse manure, and finely ground wood chips (except in the organic quadrant). However, be aware that building good soil takes worms, appropriate bacteria, and time. You can hurry this along by adding additional compost to your plot.