Hoop House Update
“When humans make plans, the gods laugh.”

Well, the garden gods must have had a good chuckle Wednesday afternoon, when our hoop house was inadvertently left closed up for an hour or two. When I found it, the temperature inside was an impressive 160 degrees. The inhabitants did not fare well: cucumber, edamame, lima beans and some of our seedling flats were cooked through and through. Tomato plants were all but dead.

Our lovely hoop house produced beyond expectations through the fall, winter and spring. For the last couple months, we’ve been planting our summer crops. They were coming on fast and strong. Much of our budget for this year was based on the high yields that are attainable from a hoop house environment. In the space of an hour or two, we lost 2-3 months of that income.

Anticipating a good summer crop from the hoop house, and from our new plot of cut flowers, we were making plans to hire a part-time assistant farm manager, to relieve me of some of my overtime hours and reduce the number of balls I’m trying to keep in the air.

So now what? After a day or two feeling completely disheartened, I counted my many blessings and took stock of what we can learn from this experience. For starters, it made crystal clear my need for that assistant: We have a lot of work ahead of us just to replant the hoop house, and someone else—with fresh energy—had best take that on.

Our team has put together a GoFundMe page to raise money so we can hire a part-time assistant farm manager for the next few months, in light of the loss of summer income. If any of you reading this would like to pitch in a few bucks, we’d be mighty grateful.

I’m ready to put my focus this summer on growing the cut flower part of the farm, step back and be in a support role for the vegetable part of the farm, and have time for a long, calm breath before planning and planting the fall garden.

My thanks goes out to all of you who have already offered a listening ear, free seedlings, funding ideas, a good laugh.

In our big wide world, there are a whole lot of crises and a whole lot of hurt. Curiosity, imagination, affection, delight and gratitude are our allies. And good food, from the good earth. And community: After all, we’re all in this together.—Lia

Garden School: Wild About Birds

Saturday, June 10
11 am to noon

CommonWealth Urban Farms,
3310 N. Olie, OKC

$5, payable on site

Bring the family and let’s have fun learning about some of our wildlife neighbors with whom we share the outdoors.  We’ll discover how birds are different from other animals, plus make bird feeders and do some bird watching. Join us and explore the fascinating world of birds.
Instructor: Jody Lesch. Jody is a long-time gardener, native plant enthusiast and CommonWealth’s “Bug Lady.”

Coming Up:
Herb Gardening for Beginners
Saturday, June 24, 11 am to noon

Check out other upcoming Garden Schools on our website.

Garden UP!

I’ve had the distinct privilege of getting to help develop and implement the first full season of the Garden UP! youth program. A joint effort between CommonWealth Urban Farms and Closer To Earth, Garden UP! aims to build community through starting small front yard vegetable gardens in the Central Park neighborhood.

Local youth are trained in basic gardening skills, which they then teach to community members who are interested in learning more about growing their own food. Both high schoolers and community gardeners experience nearly a full season of vegetable growing in the three-month-long summer program. It is our hope to expand this program into spring and fall sessions.

In addition to learning more about growing food and the importance of taking care of the environment, participating youth also gain job-readiness, communication and leadership skills while creating positive change in their community. This year, five students graduated from the program. They built, planted and maintained gardens in the yards of four home gardeners.

I am excited to continue working to expand this program as I feel that there are more students, schools and home gardeners who are eager to get involved. For more information about getting involved in the Garden UP! program, feel free to contact me at jennathepowerful@gmail.com—Jenna

Meet our Volunteers: Harriette Porter

Harriette Porter’s daughter, who has a big vegetable garden in Utah, was visiting her mother here in Oklahoma City. She suggested that Harriette, keeping a busy schedule teaching pediatric medicine at OU Medical Center, could plant a few vegetables amidst the flowers in the beds around her house in Mesta Park. Every year since, she’s expanded the vegetable plantings and when she ran out of sunny spots in her backyard, she took her daughter’s further advice and planted vegetables in her front yard.

Now her entire front yard is planted to vegetables. “My neighbors are happy,” says Harriette. “People come by and look at what’s growing. People giving tours of Mesta Park stop by. Mothers heading to the park detour to my front yard. I always give the kids veggies.”

Harriette, who volunteers two mornings a week at CommonWealth, is an enthusiastic proponent of urban farming. “Awhile back, I wanted to learn how to eat foods in season and I went to the big grocery story and wondered, well, what’s in season!? It’s all here all the time! Gardening in our own place gets us in touch with the seasons.”

She has become aware that “people get so detached from the food we eat. I watched a chef on tv hold up vegetables for children to identify. They didn’t know what a potato or a carrot were. All they know is mashed potatoes.”

Harriette first came to know CommonWealth by joining the CSA/Veggie Club. Now that she grows her own vegetables and has more time since retiring from medicine a year ago, she started volunteering at CommonWealth to learn how to overcome the problems she’s encountered in her own garden. “I’ve learned how to prepare a bed for planting, set up a water system, use row covers and I’ve learned a lot about plants: how to plant, when to plant, how to take care of the plants and how to harvest them. And I’ve come to appreciate farmers.”— Pat