VOLUME 12 GROWING PEOPLE NEWS—FALL 2006 PAGE 3
Down On The (Garden) Farm:Our Livestock
by Carolyn BushMost of you know that Heifer International is an organizationdedicated to ending world hunger andsaving the earth by providing poor families around the globe withlivestock, such as cows and water buffalos. When GICD received a grantfrom Heifer as an Urban AgricultureProject, we agreed to use some of themoney to purchase “livestock.” Of course, as community gardeners the best livestock in any garden are beesand earthworms.Our BeesWe bought materials to make severalhives for the bees, and volunteersquickly painted and assembled some of them so as to be ready. The first twocolonies were purchased in 2005 froma local beekeeper and very carefullytransported in back of a station wagon.One hive was set up at Our Saviour Community Garden and one hive atDon Lambert’s home.During that first year there were some problems to overcome. One hive wasnot very good at defense, and intruder bees from another colony took advantage of their weakness. Theseintruders robbed and carried off all thehoney and stored pollen, and the colonysuffered from starvation. We added areplacement colony this spring by mailorder from Weaver Apiaries of Navasota, Texas.While our two hives each have their own unique personalities, both have proven to be very welcome gardenguests. The honey bee’s mostimportant work is pollination, and thishas brought about a definite increase inthe size and numbers of squash,tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, andcucumbers harvested. The bees atDon’s house are a bit more docile andfriendly and seem to almost welcomeDon and Tiah working with them.While some gardeners have beenconcerned that there is a risk of stingswhile working in a garden with somany bees around, the bees are justintent on their work of gathering nectar and pollen, and pollinating flowers. Infact, Don and Tiah have put a basin fullof water right outside their back door from which the bees drink. Sometimesthey say, in the heat of the summer, theentire rim of the saucer will have beeslined up around it.Honey bees are social insects that willdefend themselves if intrudersapproach close to their hive, and willdefinitely sting if touched. Sometimes people are stung when theyaccidentally trap a bee inside a flower,or instance. If you love flowers, andfruits and vegetables, you must have anacceptance for bees as well. Flowersand honey bees, including some other kinds of wild bees, are necessary partners. People who want to avoid bees need to stay away from any areawhere flowering plants are growing.To make sure that our human gardenvisitors know about the bees we postwarning signs near the hive area.Even with last year’s problems, between the two hives, over 22 poundsof delicious honey were produced.This year we are still caught in a multi-year drought. We need early fall rainsto stimulate flowers with sufficientnectar so that bees can store food for the winter and hopefully make enoughhoney to share. While we expect theselittle worker bees to be well worth their keep, that may take some time.And WormsThe other livestock raised by GICDfarmers are worms. And like championcows, these are not just ordinary gardenworms but redworms or compostingworms (
), the type of worm that is bred especially for makingcompost out of organic material.Our Saviour Garden has a large worm bin, we call it our “worm farm,” towhich Rebecca Smith addsapproximately 15 pounds of vegetablescraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. per week. In return, the bin becomesfilled with the worms’ nutrient richcastings (worm poop), a wonderfulfertilizer and soil conditioner.GICD gardeners grow superior healthyseedlings using a soil mix with wormcastings. The resulting herbs,tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, aresold at GICD’s annual plant sale, andtransplanted into the plots of our fivecommunity gardens. The castings arealso used as a “tonic” for any sick or under productive plants in the garden.Maybe it’s the “yucky factor” or that itis fun to get one’s hands in the dirt, butinvestigating the worm bin has provedto be one of the most popular activitiesfor children when they tour the garden.The kids, and even adults,enthusiastically dig up worms, look for their eggs (cocoons) and actually seehow the worms can “eat the garbage.”This year Rebecca Smith, our Educational Assistant, is invitingteachers and school groups to come tothe garden to learn about wormcomposting. She will be teaching themhow to set up worm bins in their classrooms. Others may want to learnabout keeping worms in their homes or offices. If you know of any schools or groups who might want to visit our worms, and learn about vermiculturecomposting, please contact Don or Rebecca. You can help GICD “pass onthe gift” of Heifer’s livestock.
We have been quite blessed in recentmonths to have received somewonderful and much needed gifts.These have included donations of seeds from
donated his dad’s used, but in excellentcondition, Troybilt garden tiller. Agroup of volunteers, the
group,in addition to helping with gardenchores, donated wheelbarrows, forksand rakes. The
gave ametal greenhouse frame. And, wereceived a free land boundary surveyfrom
In the past four yearsGICD communitygardeners havedonated over 17,000pounds of freshvegetables to localfood pantries.