Sunday, August 5, 2018

Spring & Summer Harvests 2018 at RWCEG

 by Evan Starnes

          We have had many successes and have learned a lot from the crops that were grown this spring and summer season. Thanks to the help of the RWCEG members and interested visitors, we were able to plant peas, peppers, and potatoes. These are crops that have grown well in the past, yield a lot, and are simple to prepare. I have had fun cooking the potatoes on a stove with olive oil. The peppers and peas however, can be be eaten straight once washed.

          A little latter in the year, I began to experiment with growing beans since I knew that the produce are shielded from bugs in thick pods. They are also heat resilient, making them a good choice for this climate. The beans that I selected where lima, kidney, black, and pinto. I soaked each bean seed that I wished to germinate in water for about 24 hours before I planted them in the ground. The black beans were a vine variety, grew very tall on a trellis, and yielded the most beans. The lima, kidney, and pinto beans that I grew were a bush variety and weren't as robust as the black beans.

          Unfortunately, the leaves of the plants were nibbled on by grasshoppers, and the extreme heat slowed down the plants productivity. The bean plants still were able to produce very nice bean specimens, even though the harvest wasn't as great as I had hoped. I plan to simmer the beans, so they they can be eaten! Next year I hope to plant event more beans, and plant them earlier, so they can start to grow when it is cooler.

          After The Rollingwood Fourth of July parade I was glad to have many different families wander down to the garden when they were done with the party festivities. Many people got to learn about what was currently growing, and kids got to help water the garden with watering cans. Around this time, Mustang Grapes were ready to be harvested off the vine which served as a fun attraction. The kids were also amused by the many rubber snakes that were placed around the garden with the intention of  scaring away birds.

Banana Bell Peppers
          Gardening this season was a blast! I hope that our Fall planting season will also be successful and will teach the people of Rollingwood important gardening skills. I wish for there to be more gardening participants in the near future who can experience the excitement of gardening.

Black Bean Vines



Fourth of July Expiernce
Harvested Kidney Beans

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Park Day Experience at the Community Garden

         Rollingwood Municipal Park hosts a biannual event, “It’s My Park Day”, to encourage neighbors of Rollingwood to take part in service projects that will benefit the landscape and beautification of the local parks. Through such participation, adults and kids learn about the importance of being conservation minded, and they experience the joy of spending time in nature. The time dedicated to improve the grounds makes a big difference to those who actively visit and tend to the park.

         During the Spring Park Day on March 3, 2018, the Rollingwood Community Education Garden (RWCEG) also sponsored a special family event with the support of Community garden members, Becky and Jessica. They helped several elementary school aged children construct simple bird feeders, and they had them plant sprouting fruits and vegetables in an available garden bed.

To help provide local songbirds with food, the kids created unique bird feeders. These feeders were pinecones covered in various bird seed held on by a sticky layer of peanut butter. These seeds included sunflower seeds, peanuts, nyjer thistle, and a choice blend. A piece of twine was attached to the pine cones so the feeders could be hung on tree branches.

To begin the gardening project, the kids uprooted the wild weeds from the garden bed. After that, they began to transplant and sow seeds of various spring crops in the bed after amending the soil with nutrient rich composts. These plants consisted of basil, chard, fennel,  peppers, strawberries, and peas. To finish the job, the kids watered the garden with rain water collected in the garden’s water cistern.

         These planting efforts at the community garden made a positive impact for the natural 
ecosystem. It also taught the kids an important lesson on how to respect nature, and it gave them a better understanding of the work involved in growing produce. I thank Becky and Jessica for leading and educating these kids on this special day. Also special thanks to the Rollingwood Park commissioners, Toni Hudson and JoAnne Parker, for helping organize and support the event. I hope we can have a large turnout at the next park day this Fall to keep the practice of gardening 

Since the planting on March 3, RWCEG Caretakers have continued to water and tend the plants. To date we have had a good harvest of strawberries, peppers, and peas.  Several Swallow Tail caterpillars have been witnessed on the fennel. We encourage this since these caterpillars will become butterflies that are useful pollinators for many flowering plants.

Click on the links below to see pictures of the event.

Article written by garden caretaker, Evan Starnes


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Troubles with a Garden Varmint

 by Evan Starnes

    (November 2017)

               During our winter crop season, my father Glenn and I noticed that many of the plants in the main garden bed had bite marks! The plants with larger leaves like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, and chard appeared to be nibbled on by what we suspected to be a rodent. With no real evidence of what type of rodent was creating the destruction, we guessed that a mouse or a rat was the culprit since these animals are small and could easily maneuver through the fencing around the three garden beads.    
               To catch the critter red pawed, my father and I set up a verity of contraptions that were designed to catch mice and rats. The first device that we used was a simple mouse trap that was spring operated and had a bar that would swing down on the mouse’s neck once triggered. After a few days of leaving the traps around the garden bed, we noticed that all of the traps had been triggered without catching anything. This led us to the conclusion that the critter was much larger than a mouse, so we began to invest in traps that were meant for bigger rodents.  
               After watching several YouTube videos on how to build a DIY rat trap, my father and I settled on a model that was comprised of a suspended spindle with peanut butter bait on it. If a rat tried to crawl across the spindle to get the bait, the rat’s weight would cause the spindle to spin. In the process of rotating, the rat would fall into a tall bucket were it would be trapped. Unfortunately, once again, to our disappointment, the bait was stolen without catching anything! Obviously our varmint was larger than a rat, so we set up a raccoon trap. This trap is a cage with a door that is weight triggered.
               Finally at last! After several false triggers on the raccoon trap, the garden varmint was captured. To our surprise it was a rock squirrel, which is a large type of a squirrel that burrows underground, and has a broad diet that includes vegetable crops. We gave the squirrel the name, Rocky, because of its species name, and the fact that it sent us on a “Rocky Road” trying to trap it. I liked looking at Rocky’s fur coat which was a mixed black and gray with several white speckles. My dad and his garden friend, Becky, later took Rocky to the Nature Center to be safely released off a trail that lies in a valley near a river bed.
               With Rocky in a new home, the plants that had been harmed began to recover. Unfortunately, they did not produce as well as they would have. Like we usually experience, we had a bountiful lettuce harvest. I was glad to not have to worry about the garden varmint any more, but I kind of missed Rocky since he was such a stunning creature. After this garden crisis, I was excited to move forward, and start planning for our spring season of crops. Hopefully no other rock squirrels will intrude!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

2017 RWCEG Spring Season Summary

A lot has happened at RWCEG this Spring Season. Below are highlights with pictures. Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge.

The Great Potato Harvest

In mid-February, my family planted six varieties of potatoes from tuber seeds (All-blues, Red LaSoda, Yukon Gold, Desiree, Kennebec, and La Ratte). On May 21, we had many people experience a wonderful harvest that felt a bit like an underground Easter egg hunt since many of the potatoes are a bit egg shaped and came in many colors due to their specific variety.

Newest Garden Member and recent high school graduate, Cydnie, holds up a hand full of recently harvested All-Blue Potatoes. (Once washed, these potatoes are a deep purple in color, inside and out!)

Cydnie helping grade school children that wandered over from a birthday party at RW Park harvest potatoes. Their parents were very impressed when they saw what their kids were doing. RWCEG can add an extra spark to any party!

Evan & Gina harvesting from the other side:

Pictures of some of the potatoes harvested. Note the interior of the sliced All-blue.


 The Great Pumpkin?

In March, we transplanted a pumpkin sprout that arose from a Jack-o-lantern last halloween. As shown below, it became a huge vine. The main vine did have a pumpkin growing on it, but unfortunately, a "forest friend" (probably a rodent) decided it wanted a piece of the action, and ate part of the pumpkin. We ended up harvesting it Memorial Day weekend.

Evan and Gina standing next to the Great Pumpkin Vine. Note the large fan shaped leaves and yellow flowers that bud into the pumpkin squash.

Evan holding up the prematurely harvested pumpkin. Note the chunk eaten out of it. We had planned to cover it up to protect it but we obviously did not do this soon enough.

The Indian Garden

   In mid spring the Gullapalli family became RWCEG members and planted a crop of Okra, Beans, Spinach, and Cucumbers. The seeds planted originated from India! They initially filled up Garden Bed 3, but recently transplanted some the plants to the remains of Bed 2 to prevent overcrowding. Although they had a late start with planting, the plants appear to be doing well as of Memorial Day weekend. It is wonderful to have something growing in all three beds again (although Bed 2 needs to be rebuilt soon).

A proud Kiran Kumar Gullapalli inspects his thriving crop of okra and spinach.

Fabulous Fennel

  On Memorial Day weekend, Evan harvested fennel. The stem and bulb of this plant strangely tastes like licorice!

Educating the Educators

  The RW Garden is a Community Education garden. So Becky and I were pleased to discuss the origins and purposes of RWCEG with Graduate Student, Aaron Niznik. Aaron studies Environmental, Political, and Economic Sociology at Brown University. His research interests are centered on identifying how grassroots environmental movements such as community gardening are developed. His dissertation work compares the socio-political structure of the urban gardening movements in Boston, Massachusetts and Austin, Texas. Special thanks to Becky who is not only the Garden Treasurer, but our Historian as well. She brought an iPad full of pictures and the "RWCEG Book of History" to supplement the discussion. We wish Aaron well with his research efforts and look forward to reading his findings.

Aaron and Glenn discussing the history and purposes of RWCEG with help from Becky!

Blog posted by Glenn Starnes, RWCEG Caretaker.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Vernal Equinox 2017 at RWCEG

Happy Vernal Equinox RWCEG! I hope all have been enjoying the recent Spring weather. The recent crops planted in Bed 1 are presently thriving. If you haven't been to the Garden for a while, I hope you stop by in the near future to check things out. Below are a couple of pictures I took this week.
As usual, I will be at the garden at our current Community Time: Sundays 4-5pm. I hope you can join me so you can learn more details about what is growing. My kids and I will likely be planting tomatoes, peppers, and fennel this weekend.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)
What's growing: varieties of lettuce, spinach, chard, onions, snap dragons, violas, and a large patch of potatoes (All-Blues, Red Lasoda, Yukon Gold, Desiree, Kennebec, and La Ratte)

In the back of the garden bed, peas are growing up the trellis. A couple of pumpkin sprouts have also materialized.

Growing Potatoes and More from MorningChores

I recently received an email from a representative of She came across our Community website and wanted to share information about growing potatoes from a blog entry. I read the article and found it very interesting. It covers potato varieties, growing tips, harvesting tips, pest mitigation tips, and finally a lot of potato based recipes. Refer to the link below for the article. Morning Chores also covers many other DIY and "self-sufficient living" topics.

The potato article:

Morning Chores home page:

How to Grow Potatoes for Beginners

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Keyhole Garden Designs

I recently had an interesting discussion with Mary M. about the rebuild effort for Bed 2 at RWCEG. During our discussion, she told me about an innovative garden design known as a "keyhole garden". In short, a keyhole garden in a raised garden bed with a circular shape. In the center of the garden bed is mesh tube or basket in which compostable matter is periodically dumped. There is usually a notch in the bed shape to allow easier access to the compost basket. The idea is that as the compostable materials decompose, rich nutrients will leak out of the compost basket and spread throughout the garden bed for the plants. Below are simple diagrams and links to videos and articles for such designs. I am not sure yet whether this is a good design idea for RWCEG Bed 2, but I think it is a clever idea that many can make use of in their backyards; especially if you are good about composting!

Image result for keyhole garden design

A good place to see Keyhole gardens is on UTUBE…just UTUBE it!    Texas Country Reporter   Utube