our garden journal

our garden journal

Friday, August 30, 2013

What difference does it make?

I wander around the Welcome Table Kitchen Garden  Park and make a mental note of how much work there is to do, what can and cant wait. What can I do today that will make the biggest difference?  Occasionally I make myself remember where we started and appreciate the beauty of a plant or a bed or a view or enjoy sitting on the deck or reorganize the shed a little. I keep thinking I will start weighing the produce that leaves the park with neighbors or with volunteers for the food pantry at the Welcome Table Community Center but I just can't seem to get started measuring the parks produce by the pound even though I know it will help with grant writing.  I measure the difference we make by counting cars that slow down so the driver can wave and yell "thank you"  or " I love your garden" or " I love what you are doing"  Counting double are the cars that pull over so the driver can get out walk up to the fence and ask about the garden.  If I can get them to come in look around understand this is a community garden with family beds and share beds and leave with at least a taste of something that counts even more.  The biggest difference the park makes is more intangible.  Will the children who garden with us have a better life because of  their time in the garden?  Will anyone who tastes the herbs and ripe tomatoes change how they cook and how they eat enough to make a difference in their longevity or energy? What about the students doing their volunteer time in the garden and the community service volunteers who sullenly or eagerly have worked in the park, what have they learned? How many gardeners will meet and become new friends? I expect as more neighbors plant family beds and our fruit trees are producing fruit to share we will more and more measure the increase in access to healthy food.  For now I think our biggest impact is that people don't avert their gaze any more when passing this corner, they don't feel discouraged by debris and weeds, they see neighbors gardening and a steady improvement in a block near home that was once simply a mess. Spirits are lifted.  That is our greatest difference.



Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fall Is A New Beginning

I am back again, trying to blog.  Everyone else in my family "has to" write.  Not me, if someone else will say or write it I am happy to sit back and let them.  But garden news in the Turley North Tulsa area must be covered!!!  The Garden Park at 6005 N Johnstown still has that "oh my you have a lot of work to do" look to it for newcomers and "wow you have accomplished a lot" for folks who saw the before pictures and or reality. I hope to entice more neighbors to garden with us, (nothing is better than fresh ripe organic food) and also to use the park as a place to play picnic celebrate relax commune with nature....what have I left out?  The bottom line is it is time to plan and plant your fall garden, let me know if you need seeds I have quite a variety to share.

Thanks to OU social work students for the before video


and for a fall garden guide


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let's begin at the ending....

As I walked into Bustani Plant Farm on my annual spring pilgrimage to find a new native plant for my prairie bed,the owner Steve Owen was potting up some plants and discussing inventory with an assistant. He looked up saw me and immediately looked very concerned. Wow, “what expression do I have on my face?” I wondered! I quickly gave him my best attempt at a smile and explained that last year I bought plants for Cherokee Elementary School and due to the school closing this year I would not be buying plants for Cherokee. I complimented him on some plants I had seen on the way in, made a weak joke and he was reassured and I went back to my shopping.

Grief is not usual at a garden center even though gardens are temporary art. I know gardens never last. I could be casting a statue in bronze or carving marble but I am not, I am a gardener. “My” art is very momentary. A perfect bloom in the perfect light with just the right butterfly landing for a moment, only with a camera can you come close to capturing that moment. But you won’t capture the wind, the bird song in the background, the sun on your shoulders, the fellowship with other gardeners that you find at Cherokee. Gardening is more like a symphony with nature as the conductor, the best I can hope for is first chair. But losing the Cherokee garden is like breaking up the symphony and shutting down the concert hall. I hope we can all continue to enjoy Cherokees garden regardless of what happens next on the site. Like a garden version of a musicians jam session. No matter who uses the building or if it is empty we should hope to be on the grounds watching birds and butterflies, growing food and picnicking. This will keep down despair which will keep down vandalism which will increase the odds that someone will want to put the building to good use and even keep up the gardens.

For now I hope neighbors and former students and those taking advantage of the summer feeding program (which will be at Cherokee again this summer from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm June 8 to August 3rd)will continue to grow food in the vegetable area behind the school. For now we have decided to use the Muhammad Ali Peace Garden materials we received as a grant to start a garden at the Community Center across the street from Cherokee (5920 North Owasso) where I hope students from Cherokee and Greeley and other schools will join us growing food. Many of the plants from this grant will be in the garden at Cherokee but the sign and the presence of the Peace Garden Spirit will also be at the center since it feels like the most “permanent” place right now. It seems unlikely that Greeley will be open for more than one more year. When it seems the elementary students have settled into a "permanent" school we can consider moving the Peace Garden materials (2 raised beds and tools and a sign) at that time.

Building community is also an impermanent ever changing art and a community garden can be a good tool. I hope we can continue to use the Cherokee grounds as a place for family friends and neighbors to gather and celebrate community. I hope the entry garden at Obrien Park Recreation Center will become more and more educational. I hope our Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park and orchard at 60th and Johnstown will be a bridge for all the neighborhoods surrounding it so they can grow food and community. I hope all the schools can develop a garden as a place to enjoy nature and our neighbors and I hope volunteers from Let Turley Bloom and A Third Place Community Foundation will continue to help students and their families grow food beauty and community together anywhere we can.

Sadly Cherokee and many other Tulsa schools are now closed but happily our community still has many opportunities to help our students and their neighborhoods. I propose this blog widen its scope and become a TNT garden blog for the Tulsa North Turley area. Please email me with garden news and blog ideas at bjashing@aol.com
Thank you all for all you do!



Monday, April 11, 2011

Sunscreen is for old people! So said my young assistants so I slathered on as much SPF 70 as I could and still turned a little pink but it was worth it to hang out with Cherokee’s fabulous students families faculty principal and Big Event volunteers. We tidied up the flower beds mulched the trees and planted cone flowers and sunflowers to feed birds and butterflies. We had the garden tilled to make room to plant corn squash and beans (the 3 sisters) or other crops that take a lot of space and weeded the raised beds so we can plant tomatoes peppers and other warm season crops. We added strawberries to the back yard of our playhouse of gardening and shared lunch in the courtyard. And as the crew from Channel 2 asked, we contemplated why. Why do we have a school garden? Obviously a vegetable garden can feed students all summer who rely on subsidized breakfast and lunch during the school year along with backpacks of food to help them get through the weekend. Even students with plenty of access to food will benefit from the added nutritional value of fresh organic produce. We all benefit from the community aspects of a community garden especially one that will be as diverse as Cherokee’s student body where we can swap recipes and learn to grow food endemic to another culture. Study after study shows that children are calmer less angry less depressed more healthy when involved with nature. That is reason enough to have bird and butterfly friendly plantings but the science and math we can learn and the color wheel lessons from these plantings are also worth the effort. Perseverance when weather does not cooperate, how to work out a disagreement about what to plant where, enjoying each other’s cultural differences, learning to look at things from a neighbors or butterflies or birds point of view, learning the history of plants…lessons in the garden never stop! McLain High School has reopened its green house and Cherokee could be the perfect feeder school for McLain. Another garden nearby (5 blocks away also a Cherokee partner) is competing to win an orchard and hoping to partner with McLain as it gets ready to set up vegetable beds. This makes the Cherokee area an ideal partner for the horticultural program at McLain. Why have a school garden work party when the school is expected to close on all three proposed plans? Obviously the plans are not final and I must wonder if we made it clear to the board that Cherokee is a school with passionate volunteers and a very productive outdoor classroom. We won a grant from the Muhammad Ali Peace garden, our bird banquet garden has markedly increased our bird population and I hope the students will apply for an Audubon grant next fall. As I arrived at the school Friday (to speak to the students about our Saturday work party) I paused with an arriving student to contemplate teaching the mockingbird in a tree near the entrance a new song. We planted a milkweed bed last fall and this coming fall will be the students first chance to watch the Monarch lifecycle in the school yard. I hope the students will file for designation as a Monarch Waystation. The Boy Scouts from troop one planted trees to celebrate their 100th anniversary in our bird banquet area last fall and we promised to care for them in their first hot summer and I will not let them down. The garden is in motion and should not stop. Books students desks and teachers can be moved to another school, this outdoor classroom cannot be moved. We can start another garden at another school but it will take time to grow in and attract wildlife and become part of the culture of the school............ An empty building in our community will grow despair and spark vandalism. A thriving garden will grow food soul and community. I vote for community. http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=946 .......... Also, Please go to this website below daily starting April 15th 2011 to vote for our garden near Cherokee School(A Third Place Community Foundation, The Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park 6005 North Johnstown) to win an orchard! http://www.communitiestakeroot.com/Plant/Index

Sunday, April 3, 2011

yes we will garden!

Some of you may be wondering if we will still be working in the Cherokee garden this weekend considering that Cherokee is listed as closing on all 3 initial plans put out by the Operation Schoolhouse task force. The short answer is YES! I expect our big day to work on Cherokee will be Saturday,April 9th 2011. We will also be picking up trash around town and weeding the bed at the Welcome To Turley sign during the weekend of April 8th 9th and 10th. The long answer is I will be meeting with Cherokee teachers Monday to discuss the garden/outdoor classroom and with students Friday to discuss the outdoor classroom as agreed upon before the plans were revealed. Because our outdoor classroom (every inch of the school grounds!) is relatively new the school board has not had time to realize what an asset it is and it is up to us to make this clear. Teachers students and books can be moved from building to building but the garden is impossible to truly move and slow to recreate at a new site. This garden approach to the school landscape also makes Cherokee an ideal feeder school for McLain High School where the horticulture program and greenhouse have been revived. This was the first winter for our bird banquet and even though only one mockingbird eyed me warily from the roof the day we hung the bird feeder several birds of several species can be found eagerly looking on when you stop by now to fill the feeders. Last summer we fed the community with radishes tomatoes and other crops the students started in the vegetable garden and this summer will be the first season to watch the life cycle of the Monarch and other butterflies in the milkweed and nectar gardens we planted last fall. The trees the boy scouts from troop one planted last fall seem to have made it through the winter and are ready to provide nesting sites and food for wildlife. The foundation plantings will be lovely and I am ready to add groundcover plants to make care of the foundation plantings easier. I have showy evening primrose plants and blue fescue seeds and would welcome donations of sedum or native groundcovers to plant this weekend at the base of the shrubs in front of the school. We also have a mountain of mulch to move, weeding and planting and tidying up in all areas and I had hoped to extend the prairie this year and add hummingbird friendly plants to the south fence. The surviving boxwood in the courtyard needs to be shaped, I picture it carved into a bookworm. We also have Star of Texas Hibiscus seeds to share. So yes we will have our annual spring garden work festival and continue to celebrate the Cherokee Elementary School Outdoor Classroom. If we can effectively articulate what an asset this school is to the Tulsa Public School system, I will see you at our fall garden party as well! http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kwgs/news.newsmain/article/0/0/1782856/Local..and..Regional/Project.School.House.The.Turley.Impact

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wish List


Our next big garden work party will be Friday Saturday and Sunday April 8 9 and 10,2011. Times to be announced or let us know when you can work and what you can do. If you see this post after those dates be assured we will still need your help just call 9186913223 for details. As always we are ready to do whatever the teachers and students need us to do!

In the Bird banquet area south of the school
Plant a cone flower bed for finches and or a hummingbird bed or other bed to attract a particular bird butterfly etc
Plant native wildlife friendly vines (such as native honeysuckle) on the south fence (behind the trees on the ridge south of the school)
Add birdhouses baths and feeders to the garden
Write grants to buy benches plants seeds tools binoculars and field guides etc
Mulch the bird feeder area to minimize mowing around the feeders and trees and benches
Build a bird feeder pavilion to house several types of feeders, extra feed, water etc
Strip turf, dig new beds for coneflowers sunflowers and hummingbird plants. Let Turley Bloom can help with seeds.
Add benches for birdwatchers.
Cut out bird shapes and paint or supervise students painting them then mount them on the south facing wall as an outdoor field guide, repeat with butterflies and flowers. See the barn behind the county extension office for an example.

In the Nectar and color garden at the southwest corner of the school
Build and install a strong trellis with a seat on the south west corner of the building so the wisteria can climb it and students can watch butterflies from the seat
Add painted wooden butterfly cut outs to the walls for an outdoor field guide (see above under bird banquet)

In the Front foundation plantings
Plant groundcovers under the shrubs along the front of the school preferably low maintenance, native, wildlife friendly plants that will choke out weeds. Let us know what plants you can donate or ask us what plants we can supply.

In theVegetable garden
Prepare the fruit and vegetable area for spring planting, generally tidying up.
Also the vegetable area could use soaker hoses laid out in a user friendly manner, a “faucet” set up so it is easy to run a hose to the faucet on the building and easy to loop the hose on a hose holder inside the garden when not stretched out to the faucet
Compost bins
Tool storage shed
Prepare more vegetable beds either raised beds or lasagna gardening
Greenhouse and or potting bench as part of the tool shed
Prune overhanging branches
Cover concrete area with a wooden table
Repair and or build benches trellises birdhouses

General Help we can use in the Cherokee Elementary School garden
Write or purchase a curriculum
Put together a book of projects such as how to build a bird house etc.
Help with signage including a map of a self guided tour of the landscape and plant naming signs
Organize and lead a wildlife census on the school property and or Audubon Christmas bird count, backyard bird count, butterfly count etc
Lead garden celebrations such as cookouts, harvest festivals, wildlife celebrations, garden tours, plant sales, seed swaps and propagation days
Prepare a bed and seed more of the prairie garden (north of the school east of the courtyard)

Adopt a bed
Let us know which area of the Cherokee garden you or your family or organization would like to adopt to care for this summer or indefinitely

Throughout the garden
Add edging and mulch for existing beds. Edging can be just digging a trench and weeding along or around a bed or adding a metal wood or other type barrier to keep weeds out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


All of my art is subconscious, from tiling the bathroom to the Cherokee garden a theme my subconscious has been working on will gradually emerge. As I was sorting my photos of Cherokee and pulling in other photos to supplement where something has not yet happened at Cherokee that I expect to happen this summer I realized it is all about food.

I started with the bird banquet, wanting to plant 88 sunflowers in honor of a friends’ 88th birthday and inspired by her daughters donation of $88 to the Welcome Table Community Center and gardens. I found photos of cone flowers we can put in a bed for seed eating birds like goldfinches near the bird feeders. I organized photos of Boy Scout Troop one planting trees to celebrate their one hundredth anniversary thinking about how many animals eat acorns and other food provided by the trees they planted. I found photos of milkweed to show what will grow where we planted swamp milkweed plants and other milkweed seeds last fall and how monarchs will use the plants during their amazing migration. I moved on around the corner to show the color garden which holds a lot of nectar plants to fuel the butterflies for flight then on to the vegetable garden where we grow food for ourselves.

Beauty is food for the spirit. Watching a caterpillar consume “your” plant and transform into a butterfly is food for compassion and generosity. Watching a beautiful sunflower brown and droop its head in the fall then feed birds all winter feeds our ability to see beauty in the entire cycle of life not just the first flush of bloom. Leaving the seed heads of cone flowers in the garden all winter instead of “tidying up” the garden feeds our ability to look at things from someone elses point of view. Is it a mess or is it lunch? Watching a mockingbird mock and a blue jay scold and a hummingbird dart feeds our sense of wonder at the diversity of life and surely grows our curiosity.

Starting plants from the garden to share with others (with seeds or cuttings or divisions) can feed the students sense of their own ability to give, to make a difference, to be a citizen of their neighborhood.

In our own vegetable garden at Cherokee integrated pest management causes us to provide a home for the toads and frogs we find there so they can eat some of the insects that may eat some of our human food. Charity asks us to donate 10% of our produce to the food pantry or a community cook- out and feed our neighbors. The earth asks us to feed back to the soil what we take in the form of last year’s tomato vine and this year’s cucumber peel. The earth will be hungry if all we do in our vegetable garden is take and not give back, the soil will become depleted and it will be harder and harder for us to feed ourselves if we don’t feed our soil. It is all about food! Feed your own soul, body family and community spirit.

Come garden with us! Our big weekend will be April 8, 9, 10 when we will be gardening all over our area; we need folks to come for as long as they can to help and learn and share. Come see all the opportunities we have for you to grow food for yourself and your family. Free food will be provided for volunteers. Also check us out on Saturdays; call 9186913223 to find out where and when we will be at Cherokee or the Welcome Table Kitchen Garden Park or the Welcome Table Community Center or our other sites here in far north Tulsa and Turley. Let us know if your neighborhood needs some plants or wants to start a “Let it bloom” organization, Let Turley Bloom will help get you started. Check back here for more to come!