Turning challenges into opportunities

Spring crops at 6th Street

Spring crops at 6th Street

During this is the time of year, we find ourselves more often outdoors than in front of the computer, hence the lack of website and Facebook updates, as of late. We will wrap up our spring series of market days within the next two weeks. The lettuce is already done, and the last of the beets and turnips will come out this week. All that will remain of the spring crops are lots of really nice looking carrots and some cabbages that we’ll harvest and hold for later distribution. We have a good stand of potatoes and onions over at West Street and a very large planting of sweet potatoes at Friendship Court. We’ll likely host some end of season market days and hopefully a community meal to celebrate the hard work of the many volunteers who have helped this year.

Spring market day basket

Spring market day basket – scallions, beets, turnips, radishes, and lettuce

The season has treated us well so far, though the past few months have presented some new challenges for UACC. Just as the 2014 growing season was about to begin, we came to the hard realization that we would have to scale back our production this year due to a lack of funding. For the first time since breaking ground in 2007, we will not be running our usual summer season. This means no market days and no cooking classes. While this is disappointing, it is also necessary for the long-term survival of the organization, and it has led to some other interesting opportunities.

Planting sweet potatoes at Friendship Court

Planting sweet potatoes at Friendship Court

We grow pretty intensively, producing a lot of food in very little urban space. This is great from an efficiency standpoint, but it means we ask a lot from the soil in the gardens. By not growing our usual array of summer crops this year, we have the unique opportunity to plant a long-term cover crop in the majority of the Friendship Court garden. This gives the soil a chance to to rest and rebuild in preparation for future planting.

Preparing for summer cover crops and a community orchard at Friendship Court

Preparing for summer cover crops and a community orchard at Friendship Court

Back in 2008 we started a really big strawberry patch at Friendship Court. It was where the sweet potatoes are planted this year. For a few years, the strawberries were very productive. Rather than trying to do any sort of controlled harvesting, we just told folks to dive in and pick as many as they could eat. After several years, the weeds began to take over, the yields diminished, and our need for more space to grow vegetables increased, so we decided it was time to till under the strawberry patch. The kids have never forgotten it, though, and every year they ask if we’re going to plant more. This year, we’re hoping to do one better. In collaboration with The National Housing Trust and Piedmont Housing Alliance, co-owners of the Friendship Court property, and with financial and volunteer support from BB&T Bank, UACC is preparing to start a community orchard on the steep hillsides that surround the garden.

Along with perennial fruiting plants like blueberries, bush cherries, thornless blackberries, and plums, we’ll be planting native perennial flowering plants. Often overlooked and under-represented in the urban landscape, plants like mountain mint, butterfly milkweed, and bee balm are not only beautiful to look at, they also provide crucial habitat for native pollinators and other beneficial insects. Our goal is to create a productive and colorful landscape on the hillsides around the Friendship Court garden that is inviting to everyone from the local kids to the birds and bees.

Potatoes hilled and in full bloom at the West Street garden

Potatoes hilled and in full bloom at the West Street garden

While we won’t be picking tomatoes and squash this summer, there will still be plenty going on at UACC. From finishing construction on the passive solar greenhouse and harvesting the potatoes and onions, to testing crops on our new permanent raised beds and preparing the hillsides at Friendship Court for the new community orchard, there are plenty of ways to get involved with UACC this year. Our Wednesday evening volunteer days will continue through September, and we’ll likely tag on a few in the fall, as we start planting the orchard. Check out our volunteer page for more information or just drop us a line through our contact page. Of course, your financial support is always appreciated and allows us to keep doing good work. Please go to our donate page for more information on how to contribute. Thanks for your continued interest at support!

Janet wishes Kenneth well as he sets off to deliver vegetables

Janet wishes Kenneth well as he prepares to make another delivery to Crescent Halls residents

 

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