Master Gardener Demo Beds at Mountain View Community Garden
The function of the Demo Beds at Mountain View Community Garden is to present to current and future gardeners the full breath, scientific possibility and joy of gardening in a raised bed. The approach to the Demo Beds changes from year to year as we look to new methods, varieties and purpose for the gardening experience. We share our research and experience with visitors and through classes. Through both our successes and failures we can provide some insight into what they can expect, how to approach a problem and what they can do with the bounty of their labor. This year we utilised woven fabric to show how it can be used to kill off the winter cover crops and weeds, create amendments to the soil and insulate early plantings
What Master Gardeners plant in the Mt. View beds changes a bit year to year based on the intended goals of a demonstration bed and also on what we have learned in the previous year. Last year in 2022, our beds were set up for areas designated to a simple four year rotation and areas for seasonal succession.We designated each corner of the bed as either fruit, leaf, legume or root to begin a four year rotation based on plant needs. We designated four center spaces in each bed for seasonal succession, where cooler weather crops such as leaf and root would be replaced with warner weather crops such as fruit and legumes. How did this work for us? A reasonably productive early spring crop gave way to a warm weather growing season in which we were plagued with Mexican bean beetles. This didn’t fit well with a rather new and important goal: for the garden to be a Giving Garden, providing produce for local food pantries. This requires that we boost our productivity and still serve as a demonstration space for other small scale, “backyard” gardeners.
To maximize the early spring crop this year, seedlings started in the VCE office were transplanted early into the garden and grown with the protection of woven fabric. When planning what would follow the early spring crops, we have chosen to remove legumes from the mix. The early spring leaf crop has been replaced with “fruit” (with “fruit” meaning the part of the vegetable that surrounds the seeds). To the tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, we have added coriander (cilantro) for its ability to provide some natural protection for tomatoes and peppers. We have also sewn quick maturing radishes as an interplanting to provide a living mulch. Although we may be eliminating tasty treats for the Mexican bean beetle, we must now be on the lookout for cucurbit pests! In line with organic gardening, we will physically remove insects and their eggs and apply deterrents such as diatomaceous earth, Neem oil or Spinosad. Staying on top of this requires that Master Gardeners' Community Garden Team members take turns monitoring and caring for the demonstration beds as well as a border of perennial wildflowers added in the spring of '22. One or two Master Gardeners sign up for a week at a time to water, weed and deter insects daily in hot, dry weather or every other day in cooler weather and maybe only twice a week in really wet weather. These folks are the eyes and ears who report what is going on, record what they have done, alert the rest of us to what needs to be done, and are the capable hands that get the work done.