2015 Season Successes and Reflections: Harvest Increases and Extra Growing Space for Next Year

2015 was an outstanding year for tomatoes.
2015 was an outstanding year for tomatoes.

Despite the heat and drought this summer, starting in June and extending through August, the Good Cheer and Bayview Gardens have produced over 8,600 pounds of food for the food bank this season: over 2,000 pounds of greens; 1,500 pounds of summer and winter squash; 1,300 pounds of tomatoes; and 1,100 pounds of carrots.

At Bayview Garden, we increased production by over 50% compared to 2014: over 1,050 pounds of produce has been harvested and recorded, not to mention the three remaining beds we have to harvest from through the winter.

In looking to increase production even further in 2016, we gave the Bayview Garden a little makeover, involving herb beds and concrete slabs, a covered bench, and rototilling.

The Bayview Garden gleams in sunshine before its big makeover.
The Bayview Garden gleams in sunshine before its big makeover.

On a sunny October morning, we disassembled three herb beds surrounded by concrete slabs in order to lengthen the beds on the west side of the garden. Along with a veritable pile of rocks, we also managed to shuffle a covered bench outside of the garden to make even more space.

That afternoon, Camille tilled up the Western half of the garden, (not without any issues from our finicky walk-behind rototiller, of course), while Anh transplanted lavender from the freshly disassembled herb beds next to the covered bench they had shuffled out of the garden just a few hours prior. Planning for narrower paths between the beds, we expect to be able to fit 20 beds in the same space where there were 14, an anticipated increase in growing space of nearly 45%.

Camille Green, Good Cheer Garden Manager, with our season's first beets.
Camille with our season’s first beets.

One of our biggest goals this year was not only to increase seasonal distribution of produce and ensure there is fresh produce in the food bank during shoulder months, but also to have a more consistent season. Through careful planning and planting, we increased harvest yields by at least 30 pounds per month from January through May; were able to harvest at least six crops 10 or more days before their earliest donation date, including bok choy (4/8), beets (6/3), peas (6/3), carrots (6/10), zucchini (6/11), and tomatoes (6/26); and have late season and overwintering beds in the ground.

Donated produce has also been pivotal in supporting the food bank’s Fresh Food on the Table Program: over 11,000 pounds of produce from home gardeners; 6,300 pounds from local farms and the Bayview Farmer’s Market. We are especially grateful for the Gleeful Gleaners, who captured over 3,200 pounds of food, and Deep Harvest Farm, Ebb Tide Produce, Greenbank Farm, Pam’s Place Produce, Quail’s Run Farm, Willowood Farm, Bur Oak Acres, Plum Hill LLC, Mutiny Bay Blues, and SkyRoot Farm for donating nearly 4,000 pounds of excess produce this year.

The garden has benefited and grown from the help of over 940 volunteer hours this year and we are truly grateful for our incredibly dedicated volunteers and the many organizations and groups who have come to lend a hand harvesting and bagging produce, transplanting seedlings, prepping and planting beds, weeding, removing Himalayan blackberries and other invasive species, as well as repairing fences. A special thanks to the Master Gardeners, local Girl Scout troops, Windermere Real Estate, and students from University of Washington, Greenbank Organic Farm School, Bastyr Center for Natural Health, Seattle Waldorf 9th grade class, South Whidbey Academy, and Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies for their service in the garden this year!

apprentices-april2015_7509
Apprentices and Mentors in the CGLT: Anh Bui, Camille Green, Cary Peterson, Halley Shriber, Margaret Pickoff, and Abigail Lazarowski
anh and chinese cabbage
Anh with some beautiful purple chinese cabbage
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Nicole watering starts to give away

Anh Bui focused her time at Good Cheer, and did an incredible job moving into a leadership role at the Bayview Garden. For the first time ever, we also hosted a UW Senior Capstone student. Nicole Bergman spent two months on Whidbey helping to develop our seed and starts giveaway program.

We’ve had such a wonderful season and it is no doubt due to the helping hands and support of the amazing volunteers, community members, and local farms we at Good Cheer Food Bank and Garden feel are family. Thanks to all for a great season and see you in the spring.

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