River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation

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Garden & Compost

January 2016 Gardening for Justice Scope

RRUUC Garden 2016 Scope bringing learning and justice together in a hands on way.

Starting seeds indoors. On  Sunday January 24th at 930am, the middleschool RE group will start seeds indoors under grow lights in the library. Then they will move the  plants out in March 6, and harvest them for Shepherds Table Shelter on May 8th.  We offer a session for adults who want to know how to do this on Jan 24th at 1230pm  as well.  This year, edible sprouts?.

Composting. We have three  composters near the garden, one open for garden waste and two closed for kitchen waste.  These require turning and adding extra sawdust as to increase the brown matter.  There is also learning about what is appropriate to put in the bins, both from the RRUUC kitchen and from congregant homes. Twice a year, we move the finished compost to the garden beds.  All Ages love to look at all the critters which appear like magic in the compost bins.

RE  in the Garden. In April and November, all  kids from the RE program spend a full session in the garden.  In April we plant seeds and harvest some of the spring crops which are ready. In November, we plant garlics, onions, and spring flowering bulbs.  We also collect seeds from milkweeds to spread for monarch butterflies.

Rain barrel and drip watering.  In 2016, we have plans to collect water from the roof into a rain barrel and install a drip watering system in the garden.  Installing this and getting it working properly will be a big project in the first half of the year.  At the same time, the Environmental Task Force (ETF) will be helping interested members install rain barrels in their homes.

Native Plants and pollinators.  We have a bed for native flowering plants to attract pollinators, and last year added milkweed to support monarch butterflies.  We have some houses for native bees. We want to continue and expand this.

Crops for Shepherd’s Table Shelter  Once a month, we harvest what we have in the garden and donate the produce to Shepherd’s Table.  We coordinate this with the RRUUC congregants of all ages and those  going to Shepherd’s Table to prepare the meal each month.

Summer RE.  In summers past, the RE kids come out to the garden each week for 15 min.  We pick what is ready, plant a few seeds, look at the bugs, and explore.

Preparing food.  Last summer we had  sessions where Summer RE learned how to make salads and other foods from the garden.   This was a great hit, and we want to expand this to congregants of all ages.  

Planting crops.  We have spring, summer, and fall crops in the garden.  Most of these are seeded directly into the ground, but some are started indoors and transplanted out.  

Organic farmingThe garden is all organic.  We need to control bugs using organic methods. Mark Israel, the organic farmer at Query Mill Farm came and talked to us last year.  We send soil samples for testing  and fertilize the soil with compost and other amendments.  This is a great opportunity to learn about organic practices.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  For the last several years, members at RRUUC have had weekly organic vegetables delivered to the church by Mark Israel, the operator of Query Mill Farm in North Potomac. This is another great opportunity to learn about organic farming, eat great quality vegetables, and support local agriculture. We need help in signing up CSA members for 2016.

How the Garden Got Started!

During summer, 2009, RRUUC's Children's Religious Education Ministry piloted a new curriculum focused on Unitarian Universalism’s seventh principle "Exploring the Web of Life", respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  As part of this program, students spent many a Sunday morning outside exploring the grounds and learning about nature in its many different forms.

We now grow crops from March to December. In January and February, we start seeds indoors. The kids do most of the planting of seeds and the harvesting. This year we have grown peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, green beans, arugula, beets, and swiss chard as well as a few cucumbers, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and one pumpkin. We grow without pesticides or fertilizer.

On the second Sunday of every month (Harvest Sundays), people of all ages are invited to pick as much as possible. For years, a group from RRUUC has cooked dinner at Shepherd’s Table (a local organization that supports individuals and families in need) on the second Tuesday of the month, so they take our produce as a donation for the meal. On other Sundays, the kids are encouraged to take produce home to their families if it needs to be picked.

RRUUCers are invited to bring in harvest from their home gardens on Harvest Sundays to add to the Shepherd’s Table contribution. Just label the bag of veggies/fruit with “Shepherd's Table” and place in the left or center refrigerator in RRUUC’s kitchen in the Fellowship Hall.  There are lots of other ways to get involved with the River Road Garden throughout the year.  There's often a representative from the Garden Committee who is happy to direct you if you'd like to water, weed, mulch, or plant (or just nibble!)  

The Garden Committee also began a compost bin located next to the garden.  All are invited to contibute regulary using the composting guidelines. Bring a gallon zip-lock bag with your composting goodies on Sunday before each service.  Show it to the Compost Constable and then empty it in the compost bin.  Wash the bag and use it again the next week.

If you are interested in learning more about our garden and compost, please contact Walter Weiss.