Garden Journal: Week of 9/5

Howdy! My name is Lily Cartwright, and I am a first year from Port Aransas, TX, now, a proud intern at the TJ Demo Garden!

I enrolled in UVa’s School of Engineering and Applied Science with the goal of becoming an environmental engineer. Why work in a garden if I could be doing technical engineer-y work all day long? Well, besides the fact that digging your fingers and toes into the rich soil and encouraging plants to grow rockets up levels of well-being, I hope this experience will help me to design large-scale, sustainable, holistic farming methods that enable big agribusinesses and livestock companies to reduce their unhealthy environmental impact.

Toto, we are not in Texas anymore!

One of the big environmental scares of the modern world is the excess of nitrogen on Earth. Luckily, there are plants that naturally counteract this issue! Peanuts and clover are two plants in the TJ Demo Garden that farmers popularly use as rotation crops because they act as nitrogen sinkholes. These “green manures” take nitrogen out of the atmosphere and fixate it in the soil, enriching that soil for whatever grows there next.  (The website http://www.n-print.org/N-Calculator was created so you can calculate your very own nitrogen footprint!)

Clover, happily consuming nitrogen.

One of the most surprising things that I utterly adore about Virginia is the abundant, almost excessive, even massive(!) amount of rain that falls here. In the first week of school, Charlottesville had already had what felt like 5 times the rain I’ve seen in Texas over the past year! While this explains why everything is so verdant, recent rainfall has washed out some of our nicely mulched garden pathways. Thus, Saturday was full of wheel barrow-ing our delightfully musky mulch down the hill to the garden and spreading new pathways between the beds.

Lots of mushrooms have popped up, thanks to all this rain!

Oh! Even more exciting news!

Have you ever seen a plant and wanted to know its name? Or known of a plant, then wondered if it was useful? Well, your days of longing will come to an end should you saunter through our newly labeled garden! We were so excited to finally dig into the moist beds and install our new slate signs, which list each plant’s Latin name, common name, and uses. Oh, the beauty of knowledge!

That's me, installing our beautiful signs.

A new sign for a new nasturtium plant.

Our workday culminated with calendula dead-heading, and we gave a tour to some Hereford residents who had just returned from a morning trip to the downtown farmer’s market, where they purchased local, organic produce for a cooking demo that night.

Calendula: the flowering herb that keeps on giving.

All in all, a grand performance for a sunny September Saturday! Cheers to many more!

~Lily~

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