The Master Gardeners came out last week to listen to our star Urban Farmer, Colleen Owen, bestow her wisdom on how to utilize a green house year-round. Colleen participated in the Master Gardeners programming this year through Oregon State University. During this time, Colleen was also running the Urban Farmer classes by the Sustainable Learning Center at Pringle Creek Community. Long story short, all of these brilliant classes led to a meeting with Michael Johnson, a Fellow Master Gardener. Michael was giving a lecture through the Urban Farming class on fruit tree pruning, and he was impressed by how great the vegetables were doing during the winter months. This began the idea of giving a Master Gardener Talk to Pringle Creek Community’s urban farm, to become better educated on how to make the winter months in a greenhouse more fruitful.

Master Gardener Educational Tour and Talk

In the future I’d like this continue to be a place where people from all around the community come and look at the greenhouses, regardless of the season, and gain inspiration for what to grow in their own gardens. – Colleen Owen, Urban Farmer

About 35 Master Gardeners showed up for the educational talk with Colleen. They wandered the greenhouses, also impressed with the tomato plants that are now almost up to the greenhouse ceiling, with stalks that are beginning to resemble tree trunks. Some of the questions raised were about the type of soil used, pest management, and plant varieties.

Master Gardener Educational Tour and Talk

Our urban farm uses compost to minimize the amount of organic fertilizer that needs to be used. The compost is made from grass clippings, twigs, garden leftovers, and no animal bi-products. Colleen joked saying that the compost sometimes comes with a chestnut or two that likes to sprout up every once and awhile. Compost is usually added from season to season in between summer and winter plantings.

Pest management was another key question for how to get the most out of your greenhouse garden. Colleen uses insects like ladybugs, praying mantises, and lace wings as a part of pest management. She gets ladybugs by the gallon and releases them into her greenhouses. The most important part is that when she releases them, her greenhouses are closed for at least 72 hours. This makes it so the ladybugs mate and the larvae that hatch from the eggs stay. The ladybug larvae are voracious eaters, and the ones you want to stick around for awhile to munch on aphid problems. Praying mantises are great, but also indiscriminate eaters. This means, they may not just eat your pesky aphids, but also digest a ladybug or two. Lace wings are also insects that eat aphids. The plus-side with lace wings, is that they don’t fly very far, so they usually remain fairly close to where you place them within your greenhouse.

Master Gardener Educational Tour and Talk

Other ways of managing pests are to place covers over leafy greens such as lettuce and kale, to help keep off the cabbage moths. Interplanting is another strategy. Insects don’t usually like the smell of garlic and onion, so you could plant a row of those types of plants in between your broccoli, and it may deter the inspects from hopping on over to munch on your delicious greens. You can also plant Marigolds, which may either help deter plants from wanting to come to near other plants, or they may serve as a diversion, so that the bugs only want to eat the Marigolds and forget about the rest of the plants. Nasturtiums also operate as a “trap crop,” meaning the insects tend to feed more on them than the surrounding plants.

Plant varieties are important to think about with seasonal changes. Colleen switches from warm season lettuces in the summer that are slow to bolt (go to seed) and replaces them with a different lettuce in the fall that can take the cold better. She also changes up her crop and begins planting cauliflower, kohlrabi, bok choy, and winter peas.

Who doesn’t love a giant zucchini?! – Colleen Owen, Urban Farmer, Talking about her favorite plants to grow.

Colleen’s dream of the future for the urban farm is that she wants it to continue being “a place where people from all around the community come and look at the greenhouses, regardless of the season, and gain inspiration for what to grow in their own gardens.” With the greenhouses and orchards bursting, summer season is in full swing at Pringle Creek Community. If you’re looking to be inspired by our urban oasis, you’ve come to the right place. Come take a gander (No, we don’t have geese…), and see all the other amazingly healthful and sustainable things happening at Pringle Creek Community.