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The Seedling - June 2019- Vol 1, No 4

Welcome to The Seedling, the Community Gardens of Tucson's monthly email update for our growing community of gardeners. In this and future mailings, we will be keeping all of you updated on things that are going on with the organization. Thank you all for your support of Community Gardens of Tucson. 

Board Chair's Corner
Water Matters

You gotta love it and you gotta hate it! Water that is…

We’re not as smart or as devoted as the Hopi or the Tohono O’odham, who plant deep and wait for the monsoon rains to moisten the ground enough for the seeds to sprout and the plants to flourish. We love broccoli in December and greens in March. And we get them courtesy of Tucson Water, the CAP, the Green and Colorado Rivers, and the snow in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. So we gotta love it. But we gotta use it wisely.

At Community Gardens, water is our biggest issue. Why? Well, gotta have it!! And, it’s the biggest ticket in our budget. We are always working to reduce our water bills with better drip irrigation lines, better timers, shut-offs when it rains and now at a few gardens, rain water harvesting. But we still have to pay for our water at most of our gardens. And all of our gardeners should be working on conserving water, whether we are paying for it at that garden or not.

That’s why we ask all gardeners to quickly fix leaks in their drip lines, notify other gardeners and their Site Coordinator of any leaks and help with maintaining our gardens, using as little water as possible to successfully grow our plants. But let’s face it, we are growing non-desert plants in the desert. We are borrowing water from other places to make it possible to live in Tucson and to grow a large variety of vegetables that are not native to the Sonoran Desert. Most of us are not native either, but we get to live here and we get to grow our veggies here. Maybe not perfect, but way better than buying veggies from California or Mexico or ???? SO show your love to your garden water!

But, you say, what’s this about hating water? This month I hate water because a pipe leaked in my house while I was out of town and soaked the walls and studs in several rooms before anyone noticed. I’ve had fans and dehumidifiers and air cleaners noisily running 24/7 for a week. The walls are all cut up. The house is a mess, a lot of books and papers are in the trash and all because of a tiny water leak. Water 1, Me 0. Water won.

We all know the immense force of flash floods and the power of water in the wild. But we need to respect water in the garden and at home too. Our whole culture depends on water, but just enough, not too much, and only in the right places, like the garden or in keeping you hydrated, or at home in pipes.

So please do your part in conserving water in the garden by mulching your plants with alfalfa or something similar and helping control any leaks. We’re interested in any ideas you may have about reducing our water bills while maintaining our plants. Please let me, Jessica or your Site Coordinators know your thoughts. We’re desert dwellers. We’re water users. We’re looking for balance. Help us balance the love and the hate.

Bruce P
CGT Recipes
I'm planning to include a recipe for a cold summer vegetable soup in July that can take advantage of all the great veggies we should be producing. Gardeners, if you have an interesting vegetable focused recipe you would like to share, please let us know. It doesn’t have to be vegetarian but focused on vegetables.

Chef Harry Crane
Jessica's Corner
I get many emails and calls over the summer about concerns regarding water in the garden. The way that drip tape works, the surface of the plots often looks dry. But if you dig an inch or so down the soil is damp to the touch.

Garden plots can be more successful with management of surface evaporation. In our arid environment, evaporation from bare soils results in considerable loss of moisture, which can hurt your plants. Over the last 4 years we have been encouraging gardeners to use mulch to protect their plots in the heat of the summer. Adding up to 4” of mulch can greatly reduce water loss by evaporation. CGT delivers bales of alfalfa to the garden sites to help provide for healthier plants while making better use of our precious water resource.

CGT buys the second cut to keep alfalfa seeds to a minimum. If you do have alfalfa from mulch growing in your plot, just mix it back in to give your soil a burst of nutrients. It is a good idea to put your drip lines under the mulch, and to also water well before applying the layer of mulch. Just move the mulch aside when you are adding planting to your garden plot. Thanks to all our gardeners who are doing what they can to reduce our water usage and conserve this precious desert resource!

What to Plant
Here's what we recommend planting this month
(S = sow seeds, T = transplant, ST = sow seeds & transplant):
  • Black-eyed Peas (S)

  • Chinese Pole Beans (S)

  • Cucumber (Armenian) (ST)

  • Eggplant (T)

  • Melons (ST)

  • Okra (ST)

  • Peppers (ST)

  • Spinach (NZ & Malabar) (ST)

  • Squash (Summer) (ST)

  • Squash (Winter) (ST)

  • Sweet Potato (T)

Gardener's Corner
“Gardening Adventures in the Sonoran Desert From a Newbie Desert Gardener”
~nisha gnanamuthu

It’s been about two years since I’ve been in Tucson, and in January of 2019 I joined the Gregory School community garden, and planted my first seeds and starts…desert style, that is.

Before coming to Tucson I was (community) gardening in Berkeley, California, where in my most recent growing season I didn’t even need to water my plot because my garden was nearly rain-fed for most of the winter season. My garden flourished, and other than powdery mildew, and the neighbor’s cat who liked to poop in people’s plots, those were my biggest issues! Fast forward to gardening in Tucson and boy, do I have a lot to learn!

As I mentioned, I planted my seeds and some starts in late January (not the best timing to start my seeds, but I had just joined the garden and was eager to plant). I came to the garden almost daily to make sure my seeds were getting watered and within 7 or so days I saw them popping up. Things were all going well and I was feeling more confident that I can garden in the desert. The sun was shining, and my plot was getting watered, life was good. Then the temperatures dropped and we had some hard freezes and even a little bit of snow! I am totally and completely inexperienced with gardening in the snow, but I bought a cover for my plot and covered up my new seedlings and wished them well. After the freezes were over I was very surprised to see that all my seedlings made it through and were actually doing well once Tucson’s spring arrived! My purple mizuna, sugar snap peas, purple kohlrabi, carrots, parsley, chives, rosemary, lettuce, and radishes all did really well for a first-time desert gardener. In the future I’m excited to grow things that didn’t do well in Berkeley, such as eggplant, okra and melons.

I have learned a lot about gardening here. First and foremost, soil health! I had amended my soil prior to planting, but the soil in my current plot was not nearly as rich and nutritious as my Berkeley plot. I will definitely be building up my soil as I continue to garden. It’s nice that the community garden has automatic daily waterings and sometimes I will water with a hose if needed. I haven’t had too many pest issues as of yet, and I have not endured gardening in the long Tucson summers either, but I look forward to planting this fall and learning and growing more and more! Growing my own food is an important passion of mine, and having a connection to plants and nurturing them along the way keeps me well balanced. I am very thankful to have found my new community garden home. Thank you, Community Gardens of Tucson!
Photo Of The Month
Jessica working with some kids in the garden from The Boys And Girls Club of Tucson
We want your photos for next month's email! Send them to us here
Treasurer's Corner
This is Treasurer‘s Corner #4 since the launch of The Seedling in March 2019. The first issue offered a financial overview of the Community Gardens of Tucson to the point that this is a really skinny organization (revenues and expenses about $60,000 per year) that does a whole lot to provide the organizational structure – gardens with plots and water and tools and support through Site Coordinators and CGTs paid staff. Issue #2 gave a specific shout-out to the volunteer site Coordinators whose work is quite literally the difference between CGT being in and out of business. Issue #3 attended to the benefits to CGT and its garden communities from the strong efforts and excellent results CGT’s paid staff: Gardens Manager Jessica Paul and Assistant Gardens Manager, Mikayla Williams. Jessica and Mikayla - quite literally as well as rhetorically - do the heavy lifting to assure that there is a functioning structure on the garden for gardeners to grow their crops and reap their harvest.

Each of these issues also made sure to raise the point that CGT does cover about 75% of its annual costs (about $45,000/$60,000) for water and employee compensation and ‘stuff’ (which includes both services and things) from plot fees paid by gardeners. CGT relies on fund-raising to make up the annual difference. There is a program for fund-raising that is managed by the CGT Board. There are multiple approaches to this task.

CGT participates in the state-level Arizona Gives Day program in April and the Giving Tuesday event in November. There is a year-end mailing that is sent to folks who have made donations in the past to CGT. Now and again there have been small infusions of grant funds.

And CGT fund raising includes direct appeals to the CGT garden community. Some summary estimates were offered in Issue #3 of The Seeding: What if one-half or 200 of those 400 gardeners would add another $10 to the semi-annual plot fees. The result: $4,000/year systematically added to CGTs coffers. What if the other half of the remaining 200 CGT gardeners or 100 gardeners would add $5/month by systematic additions via bank draw or credit card charge (which CGT can show anyone how to do). Voila: $6,000 in added funds.

Well, what if? There is no expectation that anyone contributing to CGT would be doing so from their substance. CGT is interested in ‘surplus’ and –honestly – the doing of it of any donor is both appreciated and helpful. Gifts can be made at the CGT internet site (click through on the link below). Gifts can be any time and pretty much in any amount greater than the overhead to CGT to process a gift which is something more than a couple of dollars. One convenient approach would be to add a few dollars–definition of ‘a few’ left to the donor – that the semi-annual plot payments whether done on line (easier of CGT to process) or by check by mail. CGT really encourages participation in the Sustainer Program to make automatic payments monthly or according to some other pattern whether by checking account debit or by a credit card charge. Automatic sustainer giving is the most predictable form of giving which is a benefit to CGT in budget planning. Please advise by email or telephone if you have ANY questions.

But however, whatever and whenever you can help CGT to fill the 25% gap between plot fees and budgeted expenses your commitment to building the gardening community of Tucson and enhancing the experience of CGT gardening will be very real and very well appreciated.

By JMH - 06/09/2019
Consider making a donation to Community Gardens of Tucson
Community Gardens of Tucson has a proud 35-year history of voluntarism and self-effort that has introduced thousands of Tucsonans to ‘The Joys of Gardening.’ With more means CGT can broaden and deepen its reach. Please consider helping. If you are a gardener please consider clicking agreement to cover the costs of processing your plot fee payment. And could you perhaps add $5 or $10 or more to your payment? Donations are gratefully appreciated from non-active gardeners of whom many have generously contributed to CGTs work over the years. Contributions above plot fees may be tax deductible. Please consult your tax advisor for details.
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