Category Archives: Plants

Ten Years at Freeway Estates

February 18, 2020

Volunteers who put in 20+ hours last year gathered recently to sip Chestnut soup and brainstorm. Good ideas flowed, including a suggestion to add a sign to the kiosk, summarizing our efforts during the past ten years. Below is the content created by the 20-hour club.

Freeway Estates Community Orchard (FECO) is located on Duwamish land. Today this 12,000 square foot plot is managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and leased to FECO.

In 2010, a small group of neighbors planted the first fruit trees and began transitioning the grass and invasive plants to planting guilds. In 2013, the City of Seattle awarded us a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant (NMF) to formally survey the neighbors about their vision for this space. We were unanimous in choosing one concept and created our Vision and Mission Statement:

Vision: Seattle residents have nearby access to a beautiful public space where they can learn and participate in food growing, connect with neighbors, and nurture the environment.

Mission: We are creating an inclusive, action-oriented community, excited about:

–producing organic food to be shared,
–educating ourselves and our neighbors,
–improving and beautifying this public space.

In 2015 we received a large NMF grant and, guided by our steering committee, volunteers built infrastructure which included: gravel paths, a shed re-build, two rain-water cisterns, plumbing for city water, and raised beds. Another small NMF grant in 2018 allowed us to implement a water conservation project.

Sat, Mar 7, 10-12 Work Party
Sun Mar 15, 2-4, Work Party
Mon Mar 30, 6:30-8 Fig Pruning
Mon Apr 6, 6-8, Work Party

All of our NMF grants required volunteer matching hours. We have always exceeded the requirement. To date, more than 150 volunteers have logged a total of 11,000 hours.

We grow all of our food in compliance with organic standards. We produce our own thermal compost. We continue to learn about urban agriculture and share our knowledge with each other and with other organizations. We sponsor workshops on fruit-tree pruning, compost production, culinary herbs, invasive plants, and pollinators. We regularly host grade-school children. Since 2011, we have offered an annual cider-pressing festival for neighbors and friends.

One of our major ongoing activities is growing food for the University District Food Bank. In 2019, from just four garden beds, we contributed more than 700 pounds of fresh produce for neighbors in need.

We have faced many setbacks in terms of theft and vandalism. It is challenging to work in such a public location. However, when a neighbor walks through and expresses appreciation and gratitude for what we are doing, we feel the rewards outweigh the disappointments.

For the near future, we are increasing our commitment to use resources wisely and to include all people.

FECO is a hub where neighbors and volunteers connect. We welcome everyone. No special skills are needed and we have tasks for all levels of ability.

Contact us at freewayestatescommunityorchard@gmail.com.
Support us at FreewayEstates.org

The 2019 20-hour club: Maxwell, Joan, Reid, Kate, Jennifer, Sue, Nancy, Allison, Michelle, Amy, Nora, Ruth, Arly and Brannon

Pathogen-Reducing Compost

January 14, 2020
© 2020

Benefits of compost are widely known: 1) enhances water holding capacity, soil structure, organic matter, drainage, and nutrient holding capacity of soil, 2) provides a source of beneficial microbes, 3) decreases both inputs (to your garden) and outputs (from your garden), a plus for sustainability, and, 4) reduces fertilizer and pesticide use.

However, did you know that well-made compost has the ability to reduce pathogens and enhance plant growth?

An extensive research study of 120 bioassays, involving 18 composts and seven pathogens, found positive disease suppression in 54 percent of the treatment combinations, a disease stimulating effect only rarely (3%), and no effect in 43 percent of the treatment combinations (Termorshuizen et al., 2006).

Other studies have shown that “backyard” compost is superior to the commercial product, possibly due largely to richer and varied starting materials, plus a more relaxed thermophillic phase (wherein temperatures are sanitizing but lower than those recorded in commercial composts). Backyard composting presented higher counts of bacteria, actinomycetes, and fungi. It also shows higher percentages of isolates producing extracellular enzymes which allow the breakdown of tough substrates, including polyethylene!

Although the studies show the efficacy of compost, no one has come up with the perfect recipe or management strategy to combat a particular soil pathogen. This is because the soil microbial community is so dynamic and complex. Quality control tools are also lacking.

Still, we know from research that microbial organisms in compost are able to reduce pathogens my means of: direct antagonism (antibiotic production and direct parasitism), predation, competition for resources, enzyme production, and, induced resistance in plants – through signaling networks and hormones.

Sun, Jan 19, 2-4. work party
Sat, Feb 1, 10-12, Work Party
Sat, Feb 1, 1-3, PRUNING CLASS
Sun, Feb 16, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Mar 7, 10-12, work party

Note, compost is more effective as a pathogen prevention method than when used as a management strategy for some existing soil or plant pathogen. Elaine Ingham, veteran soil scientist, points out that compost and soil should be colonized with a sizeable and diverse body of microbes. “There are only so many seats at the table. If the good guys are already there, the bad guys are turned away.”

Image Credit: Zosia Rostomian & Jill Banfield, Creative Services, Berkeley Lab

Who are these microbial actors who play such a beneficial role in a garden? It’s bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes, none of which can be seen with the naked eye. There are millions of microbes in a gram of compost and hundreds of thousands different species. In fact, it’s the diversity of players that makes good compost a pathogen suppressor.

Commercial composts can differ widely in their suppressive effects and can vary as to which pathogens are diminished. However, commercial composts can meet the objective of adding organic matter to the soil. In contrast, the special compost that you can produce with backyard composting, using correct temperature, moisture, aeration and curing processes, will yield a compost that you can use sparingly as an inoculum throughout your garden. It will jump-start good soil biology and maintain nutrient cycling, creating an environment fostering pathogen-suppressive soil.

Next up – A template on making a thermal compost.
Also, watch the FreewayEstates.org calendar for a hands-on thermal composting class, coming in early May, 2020

Ruth

References:

Hadar & Papadopoulou, 2012 – Suppressive Composts: Microbial Ecology Links Between Abiotic Environments and Healthy Plants DOI: 10.1146/annurev-phyto-081211-172914

Vaz Moreira et al., 2008 – Diversity of Bacterial Isolates from Commercial and Homemade Composts. DOI: 10.1007/s00248-007-9314-2

Welgarz et al., 2018 – Microbial diversity and nitrogen-metabolizing gene abundance in backyard food waste composting systems DOI: 10.1111/jam.13945

Fayolle , L., 2006 –  Eradication of Plasmodiophora brassicae during composting of wastes
https://bsppjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/

Cangelos, G, 2014, Dead or Alive: Molecular Assessment of Microbial Viability
https://aem.asm.org/content/80/19/5884 DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01763-14

How to Guard Against Leaf Miners

November 16, 2019

Joan here. I have been volunteering at FECO since the beginning of time. Recently, in my writing class, the instructor charged us to write a set of instructions for how to do something. Here goes!

Leaf miner larvae were infesting the Swiss chard I was trying to grow in the FECO raised beds. They ruined the leaves, inserting themselves between skins of the leaf blades and laying their itty-bitty eggs on the backs.

“What to do?” I asked Sue Hartman, who had helped me plant the seeds in April. “Cover the

Sun Nov 16, 2-4, Work Party
Sat Dec 7, 10-12, Work Party
Sun Dec 15, 2-4, Work Party
Sat Jan 4, 10-12, Work Party
Sun Jan 19, 2-4, Work Party

Swiss chard with Reemay, a light cloth that lets air and water in,” she said, and showed me how to do it:

First, cut off all and destroy all the infected leaves. I lost about 1/3 of them.

Second, find five one-inch bamboo posts, four of the same length, and one slightly longer for the middle of the plot.

Then, so the posts don’t pierce the Reemay, duct-tape and secure eight-ounce yogurt cups upside down on each post.

Drive holes into the four corners of the plot, and one into the center of the plot to hold the poles.

Cut the Reemay generously and carefully lay it over the protected stakes.

Trim the Reemay where it gathers over the corners and apply two two-inch binder clips at each corner.

Set stones on the edges of the plot, so the Reemay won’t blow off. Presto: A leaf-miner-proof-plot!

Joan Davis

P.S. For more information on leaf miners, visit this website:
https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-insects/leafminers