Boys and Girls Club vegetable garden update

Garden update–Boys and Girls Club vegetable garden
Mother’s Day–It was time to check on the garden at the Maple Street Boys and Girls Club here in lovely Rome, Georgia.  The garden is a project of the Three Rivers Garden Club and is sponsored by the Rome Federated Garden guild. I have been involved in the the project from the design stage a year ago. So far, this garden has produced food for hundreds of people and has served as a learning experience for children and adults alike.
New gazebo and entrance arbors

New gazebo and entrance arbors

The garden design from last year called for a gazebo and for entrance arches. They are almost finished.  The kids are going to love this gazebo.  They already love the garden.

start with a picture of a gazebo

start with a picture of a gazebo

Mr. Barry Webb , who is the construction instructor at Georgia Northwestern Technical College was able to take a picture (above) and turn it into a reality.    The crew had started around the first of April and have almost finished the job.

The sign on the pick up truck was a welcome sight

The sign on the pick up truck was a welcome sight

The sign on the truck door announced the arrival of the building crew.

laying it out just right

laying it out just right

laying it out just right

The floor for the gazebo

William James and I took a walk around the garden.  He is kind of new to gardening and wanted to know exactly what needs to be done next.  I wanted to know all about what has happened with the kids, the staff, and the produce.

Mr. James was really proud of the strawberries.  There is a bumper crop coming on and a few days ago the boys and girls were able to have an afternoon snack with strawberries from the garden and some bananas that had been donated from a local organization.

Beautiful strawberries just starting to come in.

Beautiful strawberries just starting to come in.

These beautiful strawberry plants are loaded with little almost ready berries.  Love that compost!

These beautiful strawberry plants are loaded with little almost ready berries. Love that compost!

I liked this, also–earlier this spring, we got the kids in the garden and cleaned out the beds.  To make room for lettuce and spinach, the kids harvested over a hundred pounds of turnips and turnip greens which were donated to the local community kitchen.  Is that cool or what?  One organization growing produce for another.  At any rate, the produce goes where it is needed.

The lettuce likes the raised beds, also.

The lettuce likes the raised beds, also.

Mr. James told me that the children had had a number of afternoon salads from the garden with their own lettuce, onions, radishes, and spinach leaves.  He told me that the staff started sending “salad makings” home with the parents.

Now we are getting ready to plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and lots of other veggies for the summer season.  Below is a picture of the almost finished gazebo with William James and Diane Harbin.  Mrs. Harbin is a member of Three Rivers Garden Club and has directed the garden project.  She knows how to get the job done.

Mrs. Harbin and Mr. James are proud of the progress on the gazebo

Mrs. Harbin and Mr. James are proud of the progress on the gazebo

Every time I visit the garden, watch, and interact with the children, I come away with a happy feeling.  It is an amazing project.  It helps people to laugh, work, learn, eat, and above all share.

This garden provided food for over 200 members of the Boys and Girls Club last summer and fall.  It provided learning for children and adults alike.  It is an amazing project.  I am proud to be a part in it.

Mrs. Harbin and Mr. James are proud of the progress on the gazebo

A strawberry plant blooms in the sun.

To visit the original article on the garden, click on the link below:

Raised beds for a vegetable garden


Lenten Roses, planting grass seed, and the early spring vegetable garden

Getting gardens ready for the early spring growing season.

The week before the vernal equinox was a busy one.  The gardens were calling.  I walked into a back yard and enjoyed seeing a section of the beautiful meditation garden that was highlighted by the Edgeworthia and the Lenten roses.  I love Lenten roses (helleborus species) because they are true to their name, blooming without fail for Lent.

A meditation garden with Edgeworthia and Lenten roses

A meditation garden with Edgeworthia and Lenten roses

I studied the various colors of the Lenten roses and then carefully moved some of the leaves that had been left from the fall to find exactly what I thought would be there.  The seedlings from last year’s blooms were up and thriving.  Helleborus will often make a beautiful colony if it is planted in the proper location.

I love seeing the little Lenten rose seedlings up from last years blooms

I love seeing the little Lenten rose seedlings up from last years blooms

Lenten rose seedlings may be left to mature and become hardy.  Fall is usually a good time to carefully lift the baby plants, separate them, and move them around the garden.  They grow rather slowly and they seem to abhor the confinement of pots, but transplanting and thinning will give them room to grow and show off.  If you ever end up with too many Lenten roses, they make a wonderful gift for a friend.

Lenten rose, one of the first flowers of the new year--and long lasting.

Lenten rose, one of the first flowers of the new year–and long lasting.

Please remember my rule for giving plants to “mature” ladies (see, Mom, one more time I didn’t say “old lady”)—if you are going to give plants to someone, it helps to plant them also.  Sometimes a gift of plants creates a burden on the recipient.  At any rate, the gift of Lenten roses will always be appreciated.  They grow best in loose dirt in the shade and deer don’t seem to eat them.  What a plant!

Enjoying the seedlings made me think of the reason I had come to this garden in the first place.  I needed to patch up a little piece of fescue grass that had not performed properly.  Here’s a picture of the problem.

March is the perfect time to fix bad places in seeded lawns

Apparently some of the grass had washed out over the extremely rainy winter.  At least, I think that’s what happened.  One never knows.  The usual practice is to aerate and over seed cool season grasses in September, but if it doesn’t turn out quite right, an early spring patching job will usually suffice.  In my much younger days I tried just spreading seed on the ground but nothing ever came up.  Later, I learned how to do it.

Clean the area so the seeds will not have to compete

Clean the area so the seeds will not have to compete

Starter fertilizer, turf-type fescue seed, a potato hoe, and a rake--that's all you need

Starter fertilizer, turf-type fescue seed, a potato hoe, and a rake–that’s all you need

The important part of the process is to chop up the ground just a little so that the seeds can be covered just a bit.  I like to use what Granny called a “potato hoe”.  This is one of my favorite tools.  I use the potato hoe to chop into the ground in the bare spots.  It’s kind of like painting a floor and not ending up in the corner.  You don’t want to walk over the chopped up ground until after the seeds are in.

A potato hoe is ideal for the preparation

The next step is to spread the seeds and fertilizer over the chopped up places.  I use a starter fertilizer with high phosphorous which should get the roots moving fast as the seeds germinate.  After spreading the seed and fertilizer, I cover it up by running a leaf rake over the area.  You may think this will rake up the grass seed, but it won’t.  The raking will wiggle the seed around and down.

Rake the soil after putting down the seed and fertilizer.  Bring the seed into contact with the ground

Rake the soil after putting down the seed and fertilizer. Bring the seed into contact with the ground

Finally, it is good to tamp the ground and pack it around and over the seed.  You can rent or buy fancy equipment for this, or if you are lucky, you will have some size thirteen shoes to work with like I do.

The cheapest tool to tamp the seeds and dirt down.

The cheapest tool to tamp the seeds and dirt down.

I started carefully walking on the grass and got bored, so I backed the truck up and found just the right music to dance to.  I spent a delightful fifteen minutes dancing all over the grass while the cd player cranked out the song by Friends of Distinction:


I started dancing and waving my arms and grinning at the coming of spring and the fact that it was a beautiful sunshiny day.




And off to the vegetable garden. I figured that it would rain in a day or two, so instead of watering in the seed as I usually do, I headed out to the Boys and Girls Club.  The early spring veggies needed planting.  The kids had cleaned out the left over turnip greens and were able to donate somewhere around 200 pounds of greens to the Community kitchen.  I thought that was a neat twist!!

We planted sugar snaps peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and beets in the beds.

Planting early spring veggies.  My first time for beets.

Planting early spring veggies. My first time for beets.

And this was funny

I had also ordered sets for potatoes—French fingerling and Yukon Gold.  The trick is to cut the potatoes up and plant them so that the eye can grow and make plants.  Some of the kids were astounded to learn that we would plant potatoes to grow potatoes.

The ten year old never knew that potatoes were planted to grow potatoes.

The ten year old never knew that potatoes were planted to grow potatoes.

One of the youngsters found a piece of hambone in the dirt—just a little circle like you would get with sliced country ham.  I don’t know how it got there, but I couldn’t resist when he asked me what a ham bone was doing in the garden and I told him, “We put that in there so we could grow us a big ol’ hog.”

The boy just shook his head and said, “Man I sure did learn me a bunch of stuff today.”

To read a previous article about the Boys and Girls club garden, go here:


These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the Plant man on our Amazon page:

For the ebook edition, click here: or for the print edition go to:

What to use for an early spring garden

Planting an Early Spring Garden.

I had been wondering about the right time to plant for early spring at the Boys and Girls club’s vegetable garden.  That was when I ran across my friend Farrell the painter.  Farrell is one of those careful craftsmen who can do things like paint trim without masking tape or a drop cloth and end up with a perfect job.  I have always respected true craftsmen.

mmmmmmm.  English peas

mmmmmmm. English peas

I guess I’m a craftsman of sorts, also.  I spend a lot of time keeping up a few gardens for people who ask for attention to detail and for an overall distinctive look in their landscapes.  At any rate, I have been fortunate to meet a number of people up here in north Georgia who take pride in their work and who do outstanding work.  Farrell is one of them.

A lot of these people (especially those around my age of 64) seem to have a common background that I don’t share—they grew up in the country and on farms during the 1950’s and the early 60’s.  They moved to town when making a living in the country became rather difficult if not impossible.  Now, they make a living with trades that have been passed down for generations—painting, carpentry, electrical, earth moving, and the like.  Their common bonds are that they are caring and meticulous, patient, proud of their work, and that they grew up in the country.

A wonderful meal coming on--carrots and beets

A wonderful meal coming on–carrots and beets

Farrell was painting the garage at the estate where I was pruning the English boxwood.  He took a break, got his sandwich and a cup of coffee and walked down to where I was working.

Farrell said, “hey, John.  You were telling me about the importance of lime on my garden and I’ve been watching it and now I have moss just like you said I would.  How about telling me what to use and how much?  Is it too late to lime the garden?

I explained that it was not too late to lime the garden if he used pelleted lime instead of the white powdered lime (which is better but slower) and we talked about how lime is important.  Then I asked him what his early spring plans were for his garden.

Farrell thought about it for a moment and then started out, “well”, he said, “There comes a week around the end of February when it gets nice and dry and you kin work the garden.  That’s when I get ready and plant”.

I pushed him for details.  Farrell started talking about his gardening and I said, “Hold it right there, Farrell, while I go get my notebook”

ready for a spinach and radish salad?

ready for a spinach and radish salad?

When I got back, Farrell started up again.

The best early crop is English peas The English peas come in two kinds, bush and climbing.  The bush peas are a kinda new development and I think you get better results from the climbing kind.  It’s easy if you drive up two fence posts and run a piece of dogwire in between.  You can plant the seeds and they will come up as soon as the weather is right.  They won’t freeze, neither.

“And then there’s carrots.  If you got some loose ground, and plant them early, you’ll get a bunch of carrots.

“And you can plant seeds for radishes and lettuce and beets.  Man, there ain’t nothing like fresh beets from the garden and I love a radish sandwich—you slice the radishes and put them on toasted light bread with a little mayonnaise.

You can harvest your own taters

You can harvest your own taters

“And then the first of March you can plant potato slips.  You can get these at the feed store most of the time.  Then you wait about a week and you can plant cabbage plants.  These will grow quick.

“One of my favorites is spinach.  Spinach don’t like heat too much but you can plant the seeds and have a nice stand for early spring.  Mmmmm.  I cain’t wait to get me a spinach and radish salad.

I asked Farrell where he got his seeds and he told me that he had always gotten good service from Park Seeds but that there were a few other catalogues.  He said that he remembered both his father and his grandfather sitting up on cold January nights going through the ‘seed books’.

So, now I have the list for the Boys and Girls club garden and you know what?  I think I’ll try it myself.

You must remember that Farrell lives in north Georgia and that you will want to modify your planting dates to fit your own location.

If you want to read more from johntheplantman, check out Requiem for a Redneck. It is available as an ebook on Amazon at

Or, you may enjoy reading the reviews on Amazon

Requiem for a Redneck

A most entertaining book

Raised beds for a vegetable garden

Building a raised vegetable garden

I have a jar of peppers on my table that makes my eyes water even though I haven’t opened it yet. I’m going to tell you about raised vegetable gardening and a wonderful project on Maple Street. You’ll find out about the peppers at the end of the article.

A packed turnip patch in a raised bed –almost ready to harvest.

We are coming up on the perfect time of the year to get your vegetable garden ready for next spring.  Over the years of building gardens for myself and others, I have found that the very best way to grow things is in raised beds.  My feelings were reinforced this past spring when we helped the Three Rivers Garden Club build a vegetable garden for one of the Boys and Girls clubs in Rome, Georgia. You may use these tips for your own garden.

In my opinion, raised beds are the only way to go for a vegetable garden.  There is no need for a tiller, maintenance is relatively easy, and the results are amazing.  Raised beds give you all of this and no mud

I was first asked by the garden club to donate a design for the garden.  After a bit of thought, I drew out a design that consisted of a series of raised beds with gravel walkways that would offer not only a growing system but also a walk-through “meditation garden.”  After designing the garden I was, of course, asked to build it.  I was amazed at the results.

We decided to use treated landscape timbers for the frames.  These timbers are easy to work with, and if you use the right techniques it will look really, really good.

Cutting all angles of the timber with a miter saw to a 22-1/2 degree angle keeps you from having ugly square corners

The first step was to cut 22-1/2 degree angles with an electric miter saw and lay out a pattern for the beds.  The pattern was laid out to check for accuracy.  Notice the corners of the frame-a 2 ft mitered joint gives the impression of roundness.

checking for shape and accuracy

The prototype is laid out. After this comes pre fabricating all of the parts. The grass and weeds have been sprayed with weed killer.

After getting the prototype cut and adjusted to exactly what we were looking for, we prefabricated the rest of the frames, cutting all of the parts to exact dimensions so that the beds would all be the same.  A few beds are smaller to fit the design, but the corners are the same.

The corners are put together in place with the use of an electric drill and “Deck Mate” screws.  This is the easiest and most effective way of putting them together.  We checked to make sure that the frames were level and square.

Putting it together with screws

We put the joints of the timbers together with “Deck Mate” screws using an electric drill

I am fortunate to have found Mike Hutchins from Menlo, Georgia, who makes compost from manure, cottonseed waste, and wood chips. In the picture below the beds have been constructed, filled with compost, and the gravel walkways are under construction.  Note that the pea gravel is being installed to the top of the bottom timber.

Installing gravel walkways

The garden should always be designed to accomodate a wheel barrow

On June 15, the garden was ready to plant. The compost had been raked out and topped with a mulch of cypress chips.

Raised bed ready to plant with walkways and cypress chips

Raised bed ready to plant showing walkways and cypress chips. Note the absence of mud and weeds.

Planting the garden was fun.  We were on a fine time line with this one as it wasn’t finished until June 14, and we had decided that the latest date for planting the summer garden was June 15. Right on schedule, on June 15, Bud Sims came to show the boys and girls how to plant.  They planted tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and other summer garden plants.  A drip irrigation system was installed to allow watering from the soil level and to provide good water conservation.

We bring in my friend Bud Sims for gardening instruction

Bud is a character in “Requiem for a Redneck” and also a wonderful gardener and teacher. He shows the kids what to do as a Rome News photographer records it.

The plants grew rapidly, and here’s what we had a month later on July 15.

One month after planting it is almost time to harvest.

July 15–Organically grown vegetables performing well. This picture is one month after planting

When we started the garden for the Boys and Girls club, I had my doubts as to the effectiveness of the project, but my doubts were proven to be groundless.  In August, I talked with Carrie Edge, the director of the B&G club.  Carrie told me that the kids would go out in groups each morning and each afternoon to harvest.  She showed me boxes and baskets of tomatoes, peppers, and other produce from the garden.

Carrie told me that the garden provided a snack for close to 200 kids every day and that many days the kids had a handful of goodies to take home.  Parents and staff members started noticing the snacks and would bring freshly baked bread or a roast of beef to supplement the meals.  The entire community became involved. The results of my talk with Mrs. Edge made me choke up a bit.  It reminded me of the fable, “Stone Soup” which deals with sharing and has always been one of my favorites.

For the winter garden, the children cleaned out the frost damaged vegetable plants and planted onion, collard and cabbage plants.  Then they planted seed for radishes, turnips, and other greens.

Turnips ready for winter and fall harvest

And now we have a “winter garden” with turnips, onions, cabbage, and collards

All of that brings me to the jar of peppers. The garden club ladies were involved with the project and helped the children preserve part of their produce.  I was presented with a mason jar of pickled peppers that was beautiful, moving, and touching.  Every time I look at it, I get tears in my eyes.

My jar of peppers looks like one of these.  These were entered in the fair exhibitions and won several ribbons.  All done by the children at the Boys and Girls club.  What a learning experience this has been!!

My jar of peppers looks like one of these. These were entered in the fair exhibitions and won several ribbons. All done by the children at the Boys and Girls club. What a learning experience this has been!!

You may not want your personal garden to be quite as large as the one we built, but the principle is a good one.  If you don’t have someone to furnish you with compost as I did, you may make your own by using screened topsoil, peat moss, ground bark, home compost, and such.  If you use a lot of organic material, be sure to add lime. I will write more about composting in an upcoming article.  I love compost.

You can read more from John the plant man in the hilarious and sensitive book REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK. Now available on Kindle.

p.s.  When we were planting for summer, I asked one of the kids if she had ever planted anything before. She replied, “No, we live in an apartment and there ain’t no dirt around nowhere.”

Happy gardening

John Schulz.

Blog Stats

  • 341,525 hits


Now available as an ebook at Amazon–read it on your Kindle

Requiem for a Redneck--A novel by John P. Schulz

Check out more adventures of John the plant man in this hilarious yet sensitive award winning novel

Grown Man Now

Billy Schulz, Grown Man Now

My favorite blog by Dr. Jane Schulz and Billy

February 2019
« Jun    
%d bloggers like this: