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Updated: Mar 25, 2020

OLI Garden Season 2

Our second year of OLI gardening included two adjoining plots at the Naperville Community Gardens.  As challenging as our inaugural year was in 2018, this year proved to be even more challenging. We hoped to please our food pantry customers by growing what they requested, lettuces and greens.  So we planted a huge section with Red Sail Lettuce seeds in April.  Torrential rains washed away almost all of the dozen long rows of seeds.  Realizing that almost nothing was able to germinate, Fred ordered more seeds and we replanted.  Within two weeks, monsoon-like rains of more than 5 inches poured down and repeated the washout. Sadly, we had to throw in the towel on the lettuce and switch to other crops.

We planted collard greens, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, eggplant, radishes and okra. Many of the plants started out well but then began withering.  We knew it was not from a lack of moisture, because when it didn’t rain, Fred diligently watered.  We concluded it was the heavy clay, poor nutrient depleted soil.  Under Marilyn’s oversight we amended the soil.  Some of the plants rebounded and some did not.  The collard greens and radishes suffered, but the green beans, peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, and okra recovered enough to provide some decent produce to deliver to the food pantry. We are still somewhere on the learning curve with community gardening, but we now have more confidence going into planning for the next season, with better strategies to address the challenges we have experienced.  It has been “1st year weep, 2nd year creep, and 3rd year LEAP!! So, what did we learn!  The climate is changing on a yearly to daily basis.  The seasons are changing in respect to length and intensity.  Soil can be good one year, but poor the next year due to erosion and depletion of nutrients.  Yearly, soil amendment is critical.  In addition to placing crops directly in the soil, mounding, raised beds, and raised gardens (waist high) are good ways to improve the survival of your drop. Just watch us LEAP in 2020!

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