Christ Church Youth Group Shows Bermuda Grass Who is Who Around Garden

March 29th, 2012

Christ Church Garden, City School, Austin, Texas – In an unprecedented show of force and might, The Christ Church Youth Group (1-0) defeated Bermuda Grass (30-1) 15 to nil this past Sunday night.

It was a beautiful late spring evening at Christ Church Garden and the undefeated Bermuda Grass came out looking pretty smug. There was even some talk of Bermuda Grass claiming Christ Church Garden as it’s new home field. But the Youth Group, a team full of rookies and with a few aging veterans sprinkled in, was taking no prisoners.

It was apparent in the first ten minutes of action that Bermuda Grass had met it’s match. The Youth Group spread out with rakes, hoes, hand spades, mattocks, gloves, bare hands and teeth. The beating Bermuda Grass took from all quarters was a sight to see and the rout was on. As soon as the Youth Group had defeated part of the Bermuda Grass team, they would cover the area with mulch, adding insult to injury.

For a brief moment, it looked like Bermuda Grass had found a way to stop the hemorrhage when it’s close ally and secret weapon, Poison Ivy, was called off the bench. But the Youth Group was undeterred, tromping through Ivy’s worst with little to no concern for personal well fare. Later this week, an injury report will be out to ascertain Ivy’s true damage to the team.

The game was called off when, with Bermuda badly beaten, the Youth pulled six cucumbers from the Garden. It was the first harvest from the Garden and showed who the victors were beyond any doubt.

Post game interviews from Bermuda included threats and promises to “be back, and in greater numbers”, but the Youth Group promised they would be there as well. Especially if there would be hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and cookies again next time.

A re-match is already scheduled for early next fall.


What Up With That April 23rd, 2012 edition

What has been –

This guy came out to help-

Ben Marsh, with sprayer

Look how happy he is. You can tell he read the “How to Fertilize the Garden” post and, filled with the knowledge that comes with reading the “How to” post, he is a confident and joyful garden worker. Thanks for coming out to help, Ben. I had a great time and enjoyed our conversations.

Brief Public Service Announcement – Working side by side in the garden is a great way to build a relationship, community and immunity (if you dig in the dirt and then put your hands in your mouth. It’s a benefit! I’m just saying). So get out there with your small group, loved ones, mortal enemies. You’ll grow from it.

Tomato plants are growing tomatoes! It is awesome –

Cucumbers are finally doing better and therefore will no longer be referred to as “those miserable little cukes”, at least not in their earshot –

Our first pest sighting! Sort of. We didn’t see the culprits, but the damage is characteristic enough –

Cabbage Loopers! Moths! (Distantly) Related to Mothra! We sprayed Bt to give the buggers a case of Caterpillar dysentery they will not soon forget. Or they will soon, because they will be dead. On the other hand, I believe Caterpillar cognition and mortality to be a bit beyond the scope of this blog, so forget the above. We sprayed Bt, and the Caterpillars will, uh, be discouraged with us and move on to a better life. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

What is yet to be –

The youth group is coming out this weekend! Yes! I have been especially anxious to have the youth out to the garden. Because they are young and have better backs and knees than the rest of you. We will be doing some serious weeding, mulch spreading and hopefully the garden can be a blessing to them as they build community and work in God’s kingdom. Thank you to Sharon Perry and Brian Murphy for organizing the troops.

To Do this week –

  • Weed the beds. The bermuda grass is not giving up. It seems to like all the water, fertilizer and love as much as the vegetables. The nerve of some plants.
  • Hand water the melon ring on Thursday


What Up With That, April 17th 2012 edition

What has been –

The garden was tended by those do-gooders, the Garvin-Brown small group! I have not heard yet what they found, did or where they went to lunch; but I trust they had a great time. When I have a report and some pictures, I will update this post.

What is yet to be –

No group is scheduled to work this weekend so far. It is not too late! Sign up here or email me. Otherwise it’ll be me and maybe Ben Marsh doing the same thing we do every Saturday, trying to take over (or save a small portion of) the world.

To-Do –

  • I can not believe we have been pest free so far. We are do for big (or little) trouble. Be vigilant.
  • Hand water the melon ring and plants by the fence post Wednesday or Thursday
  • Weeding – are we tired of weeding yet? Only 33 more weeks of weeding left this year!
  • I will run the drip irrigation on Saturday.

How to Fertilize the Garden

And so we delve into deep (and contested) botanical waters. While everyone can agree that gardens need water, and compost making is so entrenched in the organic garden ethos that it has moved right past accepted and on to celebrated,  fertilizer can rile up the faithful. Yes, that fertilizer! The one where we evil humans force feed our plants, while simultaneously polluting our ground water and supporting the petrochemical industry. Right? No – there is a better way.

We have many organic options that are made from real dead stuff that is not so long dead as to have been turned into oil. And if used according to the label instructions, it is not going to run off into our streams (remember, even organic is bad if overused). We use a seaweed solution that was given to us by Steven and the gang from Genesis Gardens. A garden just isn’t a garden if it doesn’t smell like the fish counter at a 1970’s Safeway, or maybe that is just me. But hopefully you’ll agree soon.

The step by step –

  • Try to fertilize as early in the morning or late in the evening as possible. These events are signified by the sun being lower on one horizon or the other.
  • Open the plastic tub onsite and ….
  • Get out the 1 gallon pump sprayer
  • Get out the one gallon jug of fertilizer
  • Do NOT dump the one gallon of fertilizer into the sprayer! Are you crazy?
  • Instead, add about two caps of the fertilizer to the sprayer
  • Add water up about 3/4 of the way full
  • Screw on the lid and start pumping the, well, pumpy thing
  • when you hear air hissing, it is fully pressurized and is about to explode, please run for your life (kidding, not about it being fully pressurized, just the explosion)
  • Start to spray all the plants and beds. Soak the entire plant and soil around the plants. You will have to re-pump the sprayer several times.
  • I find it takes about two sprayers full to get the whole garden, for now. My current hypothesis is that when the plants get bigger, it will take more. Don’t you love science?
  • Rinse out the sprayer – don’t waste that water! Throw it on a tomato plant or something, thank you.
  • Stand back and smell that stinky air! You did it!

What Up With That, April 9th 2012 edition

What has been –

A big thank you to our City School parent gardening team – Michele Riffee, Terri Fisher and Christine Warner. Your during the week checks are keeping the garden alive and thriving. You folks rock!

Thank you also to Ben Marsh for coming out to work on Saturday. When not suggesting I use the sea weed emulsion as a topical treatment for my balding head (thanks, Ben, but I’ve already tried), he was pretty good help. We watered with drip irrigation, fertilized with sea weed (plants only, no pates), added soil to bed #5 (potatoes only) and mulched all 5 beds – thanks again for the mulch Trina.

We have this – 

Lil’ tomatoes! Oh, man, we are on our way. We need to keep the watering even to avoid blossom end rot, that bane of mater lovers everywhere.

What is yet to be –

During the week to do list –

  • hand water the newer seedlings in the melon ring and by the fence post on Wednesday or Thursday
  • Weed
  • Look out for hook(horn)worms – you know what to do

Also , big news – our first small group work day! The garden will be tended this weekend by the intrepid, green thumbed members of the Garvin – Brown small group.

This Saturday’s To-Do list –

  • Run the drip irrigation, start it right when you get there and run it at least two hours – don’t turn the hose on more that 1/5 a turn or else you will have a geyser in your face (trust me) – see “how to water the garden” post
  • fertilize with sea weed emulsion – check later this week and I will have a “how to fertilize the garden” post
  • bring compostables  – see “how to compost” post
  • weed – kill that grass – especially around the sides of the planting beds and around the melon ring by the sign (see last weeks “what up with that” post)
  • Build community and then ….
  • Go to lunch!


I saw an awesome thing at the Genesis Gardens main garden last Thursday. A maggot bucket. Whhaaatt? You don’t like buckets? Oh, it is the maggots that have you down. Check it out – 

No maggots in there just now, ok, a few dead ones, but this is not in use just yet. It is a Soldier Fly Farm. Here is how it works –

  • You get a bucket like this and a piece of plywood
  • You put something with high nitrogen (I’ve read about people using wet grits?) in the bucket without a top on it yet
  • Soldier Fly maggots appear (magically?) – they are a longer and greyish maggot vs. just small and white like normal, no good maggots
  • You put the plywood on top and start dumping in any and every foodstuff
  • You wait and stand outside and can actually hear the little buggers eating and rummaging around in the refuse
  • When the maggots are old enough and ready to become flies (pupate? I don’t care enough to google it, even. Isn’t that saying something) they line up on the rims on the edges of the bucket and march to the only source of light – the small, downward facing hole on the top left of the picture.
  • They get to hole and fall out and …..
  • ….into the waiting mouths of happy chickens! Based on my chicken interviews, in a chicken run, a soldier fly composter is generally considered to be vending machine from heaven.
  • you harvest the compost (soldier fly maggot poop) for your garden

Told you it was awesome! And that is why it is posted here, because awesomeness is kind of our thing.

Mustard Seed Cafe Visit (or The El Paso Invasion)

As some might know, I work in the Equine (that’s latin for horse; yes, we are a pretty uppity blog, here) industry. I see equine athletes every day and while they are all amazing, there are some that I always get a kick out of – the hidden gems. The ones that don’t look like super stars, but are. The ones that surprise everyone with their heart, moxie and prowess. You’ve read (or seen) Seabiscuit – that kind of horse. What kind of person can’t get behind a horse like that? (safety tip of the day –  try not to get directly behind horses, it can be dangerous back there. I meant metaphorically “get behind”)
I met some people that reminded me of those hidden gem horses last week. Normal people. Like me, like you, like our church is full of. But they are doing something incredible – they have heart, moxie and prowess that surprises people. Here is where they are different from those favorite horses of mine (besides the obvious 2 feet versus 4 hoofs, et al. Stick with me, people!) – it is not by their own might or power that they are incredible, but by the Spirit of the Lord! He moves with power in them, urging them on to an amazing undertaking, specifically this – to love and serve their fellow man by starting The Mustard Seed Cafe.
The group responsible came from El Paso to see our garden and use it as a model for a garden to include with their cafe, and to meet with Steven Hebbard of Genesis Gardens to learn more about gardening and serving the poor.
I must admit, I was more than a little excited to show our garden off. And more than a little prideful that we had done something here that others wanted to see. But my unwarranted pride quickly faded into humility as I stood in awe of what they are doing, what Steven is doing, how little I know about poverty, how little I know about humanity, how little I know about God. For some part of the day I started to wonder what we are even playing at, thinking we are serving the homeless with our postage stamp garden that will feed three people with undersized tomatoes on a good day. Is it merely serving our (mostly my) ego?
But, as you know, God is good! I needed to have my eyes opened. I needed to see what is out there to be done, what people are doing and I needed to again, over and over, every day, be reminded that it is by God’s Spirit that we have the love to do this. When my eyes were opened to that fact, I saw also where our garden is part of his plan – to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, “we are doing what we can, with what we have, where we are.” It is good. But it isn’t enough and it isn’t all we are going to do. Led by God, through his Spirit, we can and will do more! We can be normal people and doing wonderful things, just like they are at the Mustard Seed Cafe!
That is what I learned last Thursday and, I’m sure you can tell, it kind of (ok, really) blew my mind. I hope the kind folks from El Paso learned a little bit about gardening and starting a community garden in exchange, but I’m pretty sure I got the best of the trade.
Special Thanks to those normal, amazing folks from El Paso – Christi Brown, Patsy and Trey Burdick, Shelley and Terry Speicher