Resources for Starting a Faith Based Community Garden – 2013

George Fox students help out in the Mustard Seed Garden

George Fox students help out in the Mustard Seed Garden

Each year, as you know I like to update my resource lists. Here are the best sites and suggestions I have come across since I posted my list last year. I have already written some comments on the topic of community gardens this year:

Creating A Faith Based Community Garden – Much to Reflect On

And if this does not provide enough reading for you, you might also like to check out this list of resources for urban farmers:

My Top 10 Urban Farming Books

My Favourite Urban Farming WebSites

Note: This is partly reposted from last year’s list with some additions and deletions where links have changed.

Resources for Creating a Faith Based Community Garden

Some resources from my friends at ARocha Canada

And from England

  • Grow Zones – a community growing resource started by Earth Abbey in the UK, that brings people together locally to help one another grow fruit and vegetables in their own gardens. Participants are supported by the Grow Zones Kit, which is designed to make the prospect of growing fruit and vegetables a less burdensome, more enjoyable prospect and overcome the obstacles to ‘growing your own’.
  • Earth Abbey

As well as my own book To Garden with God, you may also find the following books on spirituality and gardening helpful

Resources-Curricula for Churches / Faith communities

From Catholic Community Gardens

Some of these ideas are a little repetitive but I also loved: 

And of course there are dozens of seed calalogues and websites which also often include very helpful newsletters and videos on how to grow vegetables.  My favourites  are:

This year I have taken Seeds of Change off my list (see explanation here)

 

 

 

 

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Which Seed Catalogues Can I Trust?

Catalogues galore

Catalogues galore

I mentioned yesterday that the seed catalogues have started to arrive. This is a great time to curl up by the fire and drool over all those wonderful photos in the seed catalogues that in your saner moments you know won’t grow in your climate zone but which you just can’t resist when it is too cold to grow anything. This year I have done some research on who owns our seed companies and which we can trust to have organic non GM seed.

I always like to buy from those companies that specialize in heritage and organic seed like:

Seed Savers Exchange

Bountiful Gardens

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply 

or those that are based in the local Washington area

Territorial Seeds

Raintree Nursery

I also cannot resist a couple of big company catalogues like the English classic  Thompson and Morgan and Park Seeds which have products I can’t seem to find anywhere else.

Unfortunately I discovered recently that many of my favourite companies are owned by Monsanto or Mars.

Seeds of Change – I love their seeds but someone told me recently that they are owned by MARS  incorporated, one of the largest food conglomerates in the world. So though Seeds of Change itself provides ethical seed, non GM products, its parent company has a different philosophy. As Tim Stanton who alerted me to this commented: They present themselves as a warm, inviting, environmentally conscious company, but Seeds of Change has a money-hungry corporate core.  Tim goes on to say:

Even though Seeds of Change signed the safe seeds pledge (pledging to not sell genetically modified seed), Mars. Inc. spent almost 400k to defeat Prop 37 (which would have required the simple labeling of GM food so PEOPLE could make informed choices). Seeds of Change had been a New Mexico based company since the beginning (since it started out small and independent) but Mars uprooted it from original place of operations in New Mexico and moved it to Los Angeles, leaving almost their entire faithful New Mexico crew jobless. They even abandoned their warehouse cats in the process –

So if you want to get away from any seed company that is associated with Monsanto, here is a very helpful list that documents some of the companies owned by Monsanto who may be using GM food. Unfortunately I notice some of my other favourites (including ones listed above) are on the list. It also contains a list of those that sell safe seed even though they have not signed the safe seed pledge.

So you may also want to check out this link to where you can research seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge,

I would love to hear your comments on this. How do we decide which seeds to use? Should we be concerned about who owns the seed companies?

Time to Plan Your Garden

Time to plan the garden OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are like me, and you live in the Northern Hemisphere, now that Christmas is over, you are probably dying to get out into the garden even though here is snow on the ground.  And the seed catalogues that start arriving the moment the Christmas frenzy is over certainly don’t help. So if you can’t get outside (or even if you can but just don’t want to go sloshing through the rain and mud, here are a couple of websites that you might like to check out to at least to give you the feel of being outside.  They are great planning tools.

BBC’s Virtual Garden – it has a fun 3D function on the site and is free

Kitchen Garden Planner – part of the gardener’s supply website which is one of my favourite places to look for seed starter supplies and self watering pots.  This is also free.

Better Homes and gardens also has this free planner – not so helpful for vegetables though.

Plangarden.com This website has some great hints for gardening on it.  The garden design function costs $20/year

I really like the look of this garden planner  that Mother Earth provides. It does cost $25/year after the first month’s free trial (which I am about to try) but it looks far better than the rather limited free versions above and I am always ready to pay for good advice.

Getting Ready for the Garden Season

One of the things I love about the new year is the daily arrival of all the latest seed catalogues.  Browsing through these highly coloured booklets with their mouth watering array of new vegetables and dazzling new flowers is a great cure for the post Christmas blues.  The only trouble is that the temptation to purchase more than we could grow in the next ten years is huge.

As well as beginning to plan the garden for the coming year, I am also working on a schedule for spirituality of gardening seminars.  Most of these will be in the Pacific Northwest but I am delighted that I have an opportunity to hold one in New York and possibly also Connecticut this year.  If you are interested in other locations let me know and I will see what is possible.  With the continued growth of the community garden movement this is a great way to inspire our faith in conjunction with our garden experiences.

Cultivation of the land and gardening are woven through the Biblical story.  Genesis 2 says that God “planted” a garden.  God didn’t speak it into being in this case but knelt in the ground and literally molded it out of the mud and dirt.  Is it significant that God planted a garden for humans to live in—a garden that we were commanded to cultivate—instead of a self-sustained wilderness or a prosperous city?

The garden has seemingly unending lessons to teach us about the character of God and what it means to be a person of faith.  Do you struggle to connect to the story of God through morning devotions and Sunday worship ? I believe one reason people are moving away from Christianity at time warp speed is because we have divorced our faith from the glory of God revealed through the natural world. Nothing makes me more aware of this than working in the garden. I read about the death and resurrection of Christ in the Bible, but I experience it every time I plant a seed and watch it burst into life.  I read about the faithfulness of God to Israel but I experience it every time I watch the rain fall and nourish the seeds I have planted.  I read about the miracle of the fish and the loaves but I experience a miracle every time I am overwhelmed by the generosity of God’s harvest.

In the spirituality of gardening workshops we will discuss the wonderful ways that God is revealed through the rhythms of planting, growing and harvesting in the garden. Come prepared to get your hands dirty as we will spend some time in the garden or in the greenhouse if the weather is inclement.

So save the date for the event closest to you:

February 5th – Mt Vernon WA (full day)

March 5th – Mustard Seed House Seattle (full day)

March 25th – St Albans Church Edmonds(half day)

April 30th Hood River Oregon (Full day)

May 1st – Portland Oregon (half day)

May 7th – Connecticut (tentative)

May 14th – New York

 

 

Virtual Gardening

If you are like me you are probably dying to get out into the garden – even though for some of you there is probably still snow on the ground.  So if you can’t get outside here are a couple of websites that you might like to check out to at least give you the feel of being outside.  They are great planning tools

BBC’s Virtual Garden – it has a fun 3D function on the site and is free

Kitchen Garden Planner – part of the gardener’s supply website which is one of my favourite places to look for seed starter supplies and self watering pots.  This is also free.

Plangarden.com This website has some great hints for gardening on it.  The garden design function costs $20/year

Better Homes and gardens also has this planner – not so much on vegetables though.

Of course this is also a great time to drool over all those wonderful photos in the seed catalogues that in your saner moments you know won’t grow in your g=climate zone but which you just can’t resist when it is too cold to grow anything.

I always like to buy from those companies that specialize in heritage and organic seed like:

Seeds of Change

Seed Savers Exchange

Bountiful Gardens

or those that are based in the local Washington area

Territorial Seeds

Raintree Nursery

Unfortunately I also cannot resist a couple of big company catalogues like the English classic  Thompson and Morgan and Park Seeds which have products I can’t seem to find anywhere else.

Strategies for Planning the Vegetable Garden

growlights-and-seedstarting-kit-2288x1712

Last week I planted the first seeds of the season – peas – not outside but in seedstarters on the front porch (enclosed).  This afternoon Catie, Ricci and Gabriel helped me plant Asian greens = some of our earliest crops for the season.  Hopefully over the weekend I will get lettuce, cabbages and cauliflowers as well as the absolutely essential green onions started.  I was delighted therefore to come across this great garden guide 7 Strategies to Plan Your Vegetable Garden thought to be honest I employ a method the article does not talk about.  It is the what do I have time for at the moment approach which I have found to be the most effective method of all – and the overall effect makes me the queen of what I call the messy gardener approach.  With any luck we will finish cleaning up from last year’s garden before we start planting outside this year.

As far as I am concerned gardening is meant to be fun and if I get obssessed with what should and should not be growing then I miss the fun.  However I do love to harvest beautiful vegetables too though it took me about 10 years to build the soil up to an adequate level to produce really spectacular cauiflowers and carrots.

So what are my strategies that I would like to add to the list above

  1. Enlist help. I never enjoy gardening as  much as I do when Ricci and Gabriel and Catie are there planting seeds too.  Catie, who is six years old has her own garden journal as well as her own garden.  A couple of years ago she started us growing celery which is something I never enjoyed before.  But homegrown celery is wonderful.  this year she is starting us on radishes and we are all excited to see the seeds sprout
  2. Plant some unusual, fun varieties – like purple cauliflowers or green tomatoes.  They are great conversation starters.
  3. Share with neighbours. I always start far more tomatoes, cauliflowers and squash than I need and have found that one of the most effective ways to get to know my neighbours is to share either the seedlings or the produce with them.
  4. Don’t take yourself too seriously.  As I said I am the queen of messy gardens.  I love to sit and enjoy the flowers and the fragrances but if I worry about the fact that there are still weeds around the strawberries and snails on the lettuce then it is not nearly as enjoyable.  p1010004-1