Q: I've heard that the Master Gardeners are working on a new vegetable garden. I'd like to know more about it.
A: Yes, we are designing and building a demonstration vegetable garden at the Greene County 4H fairgrounds. It's being constructed right now. We hope to have seeds and plants in the ground soon-- if it ever stops raining long enough!
It's called a demonstration garden because we are showing different methods of gardening and a variety of different types of vegetables. Some of the features we are demonstrating are raised beds vs. in-ground planting, composting, till vs. no-till, the role of pollinators in the garden, and will grow over 20 different varieties of vegetables.
The garden will serve an educational purpose as we share gardening knowledge and experiences with others. We are currently communicating with community youth organizations and consulting on how we might engage youth in gardening.
The garden will be 20' by 40' and made up of 14 garden beds surrounded by 4 foot walkways for easy access. We began preparing the soil last fall using a lasagna gardening approach. We layered cardboard down on the turf and organic material on top. The layers included shredded leaves, manure mixed with straw, alfalfa pellets, green plant material, and smashed pumpkins! Over the winter, the mix has been composting with worms surfacing and helping the soil.
Four raised beds are being built this spring thanks to David Hughes. He is constructing the beds using wood and patio blocks. The design was borrowed from the Purdue Extension Service in Marion County. The beds will be filled with a mixture of the organic material described above, organic garden soil and composted manure. This should provide a quality growing medium.
In contrast, we will have 6 garden beds in the ground. We have completed a soil test, and are amending the soil to correct deficiencies using the organic material from last fall, composted manure and bone meal. The beds will soon be tilled and readied for planting. These beds are all 4' by 8' and will have 4' paths around them that can accommodate wheel chairs.
Compost bins have been constructed from wood pallets and will be used to demonstrate composting. A row of wild flowers have been sowed and will attract pollinators as the plants mature. An old ticket booth has been moved and is being renovated to become a tool shed for the project. The majority of the produce will be donated to community food pantries in Greene County.
Future plans include four more raised beds with vertical structures for plants that climb, a covered outdoor teaching space, a rainwater harvesting system, and perhaps a small greenhouse.
We have several people and organizations to thank for their support for this project. The 4H Council has allocated space on the property for construction of the garden. They have also been helping by donating a structure to be used as a tool shed, mowing, and encouraging participation of their members and youth. The Greene County Foundation has provided advice and financial administrative assistance in seeking grants. REMC has provided grant funds for tools and materials. The Master Gardener Association is part of the Purdue Extension Service who provide liaison with the community and expertise through publications and education materials.
A huge thank you goes to the Scott's Miracle-Gro Company and their GRO 1000 program. The Greene County Master Gardener Association was awarded a $1500 grant to help make the vegetable garden a reality. GRO1000 is a community outreach initiative to bring the benefits of gardens to neighborhoods, school and communities. Their goal is to support the creation of 1000 gardens across the United States. They are now at 790 gardens and counting. They believe that gardens and gardening has the power to transform people and places for the better.
Progress on the garden can be tracked on the Association's Facebook page. Search on Facebook for 'Purdue Master Gardeners of Greene County Indiana'. We are planning to have an Open House during the week of the 4H fair. Come on out and visit us there!
This month's question is answered by Lila Massa Greene County Master Gardener. This is one in a series of questions-and-answer columns from the Greene County Master Gardeners. Send your garden related questions directly to the Master Gardeners for consideration to be answered each month. Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org or send by mail to "Ask a Greene Gardener", c/o Greene County Extension, 4513 W SR 54, Bloomfield, IN 47424.