God Paid It Foward
God Paid It Foward

Garden for the Community

Community gardening can be defined as a "piece of land cultivated by members of a community, especially in an urban area".  I cite this definition, because it differs from a "Garden for the Community", which I launched in the spring of 2014.  This is not a new concept, but it is certainly something that has touched my heart in a very simple but profound way.

 

I was very pleasantly surprised how willingly people would accept free produce.  Friends, people I serve with, neighbors, etc.  It's not a big deal or tons of produce, but every little bit helps and the veggies are healthy and excellent.  It allows the opportunity to serve your neighbor, even if it is in a very small way.

April 2016

 

I have continued with planting and producing crops.  This season is starting off relatively well.  The tomato plants and actually, many of the plants as seen in the last blog post are still there.  I have of course trimmed the tomato plants on the left, but almost all of them survived well through the winter.  The next plan is to expand the greenhouse and move to the next phase.  That will be a work in progress for a while as I sort out funding.

June 8, 2015
The last week plus have been sunny and starting to get even warmer. We had a very rainy May, but even during that time, the plants have really been growing. Tomatoes are starting to ripen, jalepeno peppers are getting close to picking, chard is doing great and all the herbs are growing well - except for the cilantro which is trying to bolt on me. (go to seed)
April 25, 2015
Starting to get in the swing again this season. Have Swiss Chard that wintered over well, some lettuce that I planted in December that is doing great, some new tomatoes, peppers, herbs and what not. Coming along well. Brought all the goldfish and gambusia afinis (mosquito fish) out of the basement about a month ago and they are doing well. Will update again here in the near future.
September 26, 2014
It has been many months since I have put an update about the greenhouse and aquaponics system. I have run into numerous bug issues and have had mixed results dealing with them. Started with spider mites, which halted production of most every fruit bearing vegetable. (I know that sounds odd). Then grasshoppers eating away at some of the plants - primarily broccoli and the lemon bush. Then more spider mites, white flies, squash bugs, aphids and a few more grasshoppers. I have used numerous organic solutions - to that end, the fish are doing great, the plants have had mixed results and now - it looks like I'm getting some mold/fungus. It has been a very difficult road and I have had numerous successes and failures. All in all, we have eaten some of the fruits of my labor, given some away - but all in all, I believe that it has been a success - to finish out proof of concept. Curious success to say the least is a luffa plant, that grows like crazy and has now produced two luffas. Yes, the same one that so many people scrub their bodies with. I just picked the first two this morning. I'll update on that later. Now, going to start preparing for that next phase for the greenhouse - whatever that may be and God willing.
May 12, 2014
First tomato starting to ripen and have about a 5" banana pepper about ready to pick. Spider mites got into the plants and really took hold on the bush beans and knocked some tomato branches out (all in the greenhouse). I spent a fair amount of time speaking with the A&M extension service and appears that my assessment came out the same as theirs. They gave me some recommendations as to how to purge my garden of these pests. I came in with diatomaceous earth, an organic soap and some predator mites as of late last week. I still saw some spider mites even as of yesterday. The damage has slowed to a crawl, so I may have gotten ahead of them. The beans are still growing as is everything else. We'll see what's next. As far as the outside garden, it seems relatively unaffected by the spider mite infestation.
April 29, 2014
I cleared an area that I utilized last year for gardening and put in some 25, sweet potato slips in this evening, about 7:30pm or so, just before nightfall. I have not worked with sweet potatoes before, so this will certainly be interesting. I had seen a mittleider success story, which got me thinking. But, I am going to use only mother nature to test these out - rather than the box of fertilizers and nutrients. My neighbor and I cut down a rotted tree the other day and I buried many of the dead and dry branches along the rows of sweet potatoes. Should help with keeping water in the area of the roots.
April 22, 2014
Multiple updates at this time.
* Tomatoes were planted about 3 weeks ago. Tallest one is over 3 feet tall - grew 20+ inches since it was planted. Between 11 tomato plants, there are almost 25 tomatoes in various stages of development. The "New Girl" hybrid (indeterminate) are by far doing the best.
* Strawberries - Planted four 4" strawberries a couple weeks ago and there are a couple that are about to be ripe. Also planted some bare roots, nothing from those as of yet.

* Beans, potatoes, thai basil, brassicas and swiss chard are all growing really well in the main beds.

* In-ground pepper plants are putting out flowers now. We'll see what they do soon.

Most of the plants planted into the outside garden have popped through and are starting to get some sunlight.

The in-ground aparagus is growing like crazy. Getting a good bunch, every two days and seeing about 8-12 inches of growth per day.

**Also, my compost area also seems to be doing well. Have 4 potatoes, a couple tomatoes and several squash/pumpkins... Really pretty funny if you ask me.
April 10, 2014
Tomatoes in the greenhouse are already starting to produce. Have mostly early girl, some beefmaster and a couple others. Also have some seedlings transplanted of Roma and Beefsteak.
The early girl plants, in 8 days as grown an average of 10 inches each. They are now between 24-27 inches tall now. Many of the other tomatoes have not had near the growth. I planted them from 2-4 inches deeper than the original root stock. More than a half-dozen tomatoes already starting to grow as well. Couple had been pollinated before they got into the greenhouse, but a majority since. Noticed a caterpillar on some of my leafy greens.. Will have to get busy with those.
April 8, 2014
Got the ground tilled up. Planted beans, squash, zucchini, potato, spinach and swiss chard. Took only a few hours and got it watered in. Also got another small area set up for cucumbers and a loofa plant. The cucumbers are in, the loofa seeds are still in transit. Looking good though.
April 1, 2014
Filled in and around the new line.
March 31, 2014
Saturday and Sunday did a great majority of the work to add in 10 bata buckets for veggies. This system is now connected to the aquaponics system. I split off from the main pump out of the sump fish tank, to run an additional line to the buckets. Each bucket drains back into a 1 1/2" pipe, reduced to 1 1/4" prior to entry into the main fish tank. The added system runs quite well. I utilized pea gravel in most of the buckets and used pearlite in 2 buckets (one with a Early Girl and one with a Beefmaster tomato). The idea is to see if one media performs better than the other. Next step will be to get 4 strawberries into the aquaponics system. Everything is looking good.
March 26, 2014
Update for the latest growbed in the green house aquaponics system. Planted a few corn, some beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, chard, potatoes and a couple other small plants. The beans are taking off already. Amazing how quickly seeds germinate in the aquaponics systems. 9 days ago, was when all of this was planted. We'll see how this run goes - looking good so far. Also added about 25, 3-5" goldfish to the system that the wonderful lady from Let's Be Koi, in Waxahachie gave away. She also mentioned that she was going to an aquaponics seminar to learn more about it.
So, currently, I have about 35 goldfish and 2, two pound tilapia in the system. The nitrites/nitrates are starting to actually show up. Haven't tested the ammonia yet, but I do know the system is finally through the nitrification cycle. Also introduced a few worms to one of the beds. Will add more soon.
March 15, 2014
This morning I moved some gravel into a new bed and got all the seeds in. System functions really well and looking to build up the next bed. figures to be about 32 more square feet.
March 15, 2014
Devon and I put in some more Jalepenos, bells and banana peppers later in the afternoon. Looks like we'll have some good stuff come in. Will follow progress.
January 10, 2014
Got in the cover over the tanks, glued in much of the PVC that runs to the 3 beds. All of that is running well. On January 6th, about 2am, the propane ran out the green house dropped to about 20 degrees F and appears to have killed all the tomato plants. Certainly another lesson learned. The two small grow beds growing Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, cilantro and several others, have just started popping up and are looking good.
January 2, 2014 (picture date)
December 18, 2013
Tanks in and leveled for the most part. Have the main filter in and will begin setting up grow beds for the water flow. The in-ground plants are now pruned way down, although a couple of pepper plants are still producing strong. Primarily the bells.
Re-did all the plastic and tarps on the greenhouse with a system utilizing an aluminum channel and wiggle wire. Much better set-up than the ties downs with grommets, etc. notes, the blue tarp is on the north side of the greenhouse... Working out well.
November 26, 2013
Got the two tanks in finally. About 300 gallons a piece and the final dimensions were 86" long X 50" wide X 44" deep. The first tank was put in with my neighbors help. The second, my 4 year old utilized a garden tool to hold the pipe back, while I lowered the tank in with straps.. Works out great.
Some of the next steps will be to put in the plumbing/sensors, then put in a sump tank - level it all out - etc.
November 23, 2013
Almost completed the hole, where the two fish tanks will be resting... So far about 6000 lbs of soil. What fun!!! My son hopped in and is shorter than the hole.. :)
November 20, 2013
Started working, to get some tomato plants cloned and working on the hole for the fish tanks. Figure about 360sq' of space in the greenhouse. A lot of work yet to do, but the plants are still doing well, despite the freezing temps.
November 13th, 2013
First freeze came in early this morning. Was able to get it completed last night with the help of my friend and neighbor (one in the same - Chris). My wife has also been such a great help as well. I also put a propane heater in the greenhouse, to make sure the temperature stayed over freezing.
Note, there is blue tarp on the north and west walls of the greenhouse to help with heat retention and collection. I have a 90'+ tall pecan tree on the west side of the greenhouse that shades the greenhouse in late afternoon/evening - so the blue tarp does not impact sun to the garden. I have clear greenhouse plastic on the roof, south wall and east wall - to maximize sunlight.

Went in this morning at 9am and the temperature in the greenhouse was 70 degrees. Temperature outside is 32 degrees. Wow, very exciting.

Next steps here, will be to build some grow beds and then get a tank for fish into the greenhouse. Will be combining Aquaponics into the garden for the Community. Very cool indeed.
November 11, 2013
A few days ago my neighbor informed me that it was going to freeze on November 13th, so I started preparing to build a greenhouse. This picture is what I was able to get completed yesterday evening. The peppers are still producing - this week I picked another 200+ which is the reason I want to try and save them.
October 18, 2013
Pepper plants are getting even larger and with the weather starting to get cooler, I'm starting to think about placing an enclosure on these plants, to keep them through the winter. Unknown what that is going to look like right now, but we'll see. They are however still putting off quite a few peppers. Greatness. The banana peppers are getting even large fruits right now.
Tomato plants are starting to have another set come in. Some plants are looking ok, but some are really struggling. Working on a new concept for those.
September 19th, 2013
The tomato plants have been hit pretty hard, with leaves and many of the lower branches dying. It's pretty clear that it is a form of tomato blight, where any lower branches that may have touched the ground, picked up a bacteria and then spread this to other branches - any that touch or get in close proximity. With the help of my neighbor, I have added in higher posts, to string the tomato plants up and have cut off nearly 90% of the branches - of which, were all affected. There were a low amount of tomatoes that grew this season and many of those were affected as well. A lot of lessons learned here.

The pepper plants have however flourished and continue to do so. This week - yesterday actually - I picked another 50-60 peppers and gave them away last night. A lot of new blooms are on the peppers, so it appears that they will continue on through the growing season.

I have contacted a landscaper to discuss the front yard expansion and he is currently working out details for design. I have also contacted a gentleman in town who is reported to be an expert tomato grower and he has bestowed upon me a lot of detail about not only establishing and planting tomatoes, but has also given me a lot of tips to avoid the mistakes I made this year to avoid loss. He is also coming by today with tomato cages that will be utilized in the upcoming spring. What a great man to speak with.

August 27th, 2013

 

More peppers than I can keep up with at this point.  Picked about 200 this past weekend and got them all into other's hands.  One gentleman works at the FD and he told me that those guys LOVE peppers, so got them about a gallon of peppers.  Great to hear and I hope they enjoy them.

August 6th, 2013
At this point there are dozens of tomatoes growing and have picked and given away over 150 various peppers. Growing like crazy. Funny how that works. A picture will be pulled shortly.
Side note: I have also started up an Aquaponics bed, to test the system and techniques and planted about 100+ seeds, primarily leafy greens, but also some squash and zuchinni about a week ago. Everything is coming up and looking good. Will introduce fish to the system here in the new future. This "may" be what I utilize for grow beds in the future, but for now, I'm still planning on setting up grow beds to place in front of the property in the spring of 2014.

Very exciting, 2 months in on this pilot.
This is one of the jalepeno pepper plants, with more than 10 currently growing. These things are growing incredibly well and they are quite good. All the praise to Him.
July 18th, 2013
Retrieved the first run of peppers, about 40 - bell, japeleno, banana and serano peppers. A lot of grass and weeds growing around the bed, but has been working out very well. Installed an inline fertilizer for organic materials to go out into the bed every other week or so.
July 6th, 2013
Walked out to the garden and have started to see quite a few peppers, but no tomatoes as of yet, however seeing a LOT of flowers. The peppers are growing in large numbers and more than half the pepper plants have fruit.
June 19th, 2013
A little more than two weeks has passed and the plants are doing very well. Only a couple of pepper plants at this time are producing and the tomatoes are starting to gain height pretty quickly. This was a late start to begin planting, but I have faith.
June 1, 2013
Mikey, the young man who procured all of the plants from his horticulture teacher, his dad Mike and the rest of their family, my neighbor and the rest of my family completed the transplant of about 150 tomato and pepper plants on this day. It was a great day and had quite a bit of fun doing it as well.

Pre-June, 2013

Part of the inspiration:

Driving along 183 in Bedford, Texas, I have seen many times over the last couple of years, just a random garden actually behind someone's fence - between the fence and the feeder road to the highway.  The first time I saw it, I had to do a double-take and was impressed just with how creative someone was to utilize what I can only presume was city property to grow about 1400 sq feet of veggies.  I have not yet stopped to see what their motivation or use of the garden is, but it sparked a thought for me.  For about the last 4 years I have been keeping a garden in my backyard and I have come to really enjoy it.  What about creating a space where people can walk by (I have quite a bit of foot traffic of people walking to the store at the end of my street) and I thought, what if people walking by might want to pick a tomato, a couple ears of corn or maybe some herbs for tonight's dinner.  I know we have farmer's markets in town where the prices have always seemed very reasonable, but what about an invitation for those in need, where they could pick their own meal, straight from the plant.  The entrance to the area will have a sign, with something like - "Shared from the Lord's abundance."  Still working on that verbiage, but it's really only to glorify God - to share what He provides.

 

So, I discussed this concept with several men in my bible study and one of them went to speak with his horticulture teacher (he's in high school) about what it is that I am doing and the teacher suggested that he donate over 100 tomato and pepper plants.  On June 1, this young man, his father and family came over, in addition to one of my neighbors and we planted a total of about 90 tomato plants and 40 pepper plants in the back of my property and this led to expanding my existing garden another 200+ square feet.  With this many plants and with it being in my backyard, it will not be accessible to the general public, but as the plants start producing, I will start handing out produce to the neighborhood and anyone at church that may be interested.  I don't know exactly how this will work out, but that really isn't the point.  I know the answers will be forthcoming when they need to be.  It was an awesome experience, to have friends and family come together like this and spend most of a day together in fellowship.  His will, will be done in this house.   

I contacted Haltom City's permitting department on June 7th and told them what my plan is and the gentleman that answered gave me quite a bit of information about proper use of property and the guidelines that the city has it's citizens follow.  He informed me of some creative ideas and even suggested that I go look at the yard/garden of the former mayor of Haltom City, who lives just up the street from me.  

 

The next day, Saturday, I did just that.  My boy hopped into the car with me and we took the 2 minute ride up the street to his house to get a look from the outside of his property.  As "luck" would have it, just as I pulled up, the former mayor was passing through his fence, where I was able to get a confirmation as to who he was.  

 

He was such a gracious host and gave me many ideas about gardening in general, water considerations, ground cover options and utilizing Texas native plants as well as suggesting some resources for gardening which he relayed to me.  Bill also gave me a quote, "Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime" - Neibuhr.  Certainly very insightful.  I very much enjoyed speaking with him and I look forward to speaking with him again at some point in the near future.

 

I will be meeting with one of the city employees in the near future to go over the plat layout for my property and investigate the what and where that I will be able to build up.  Once I get the guidelines clear and once permitting is completed (if required), the garden will be built in the front of my house and I imagine it will be partially fenced in (chain link) and about 20ft by 20ft - about 400 sq feet, which is a little less than the amount of space I have in my current garden.  This would be the space for spring of 2014.  We will see how it grows/goes, but I have about 40ft X 70ft area that the garden could be expanded to.  I have started up a rough list of veggies and herbs that will be grown up front, we'll see where this takes me.  This is very exciting..

What an amazing opportunity it was to evangelize in Germany.  The trip may be over, and we may be back at it, with "life" but God moved in amazing ways and is continuing to do so.

God is so good!!!

Read about the trip: 

"Germany Mission"

If you have any questions Click here.

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