The Little St. Simons Island Organic Garden is in full bloom with a wide variety of vegetables, cutting flowers, and kitchen herbs. We have completed the transition from winter production of collards, carrots, radishes, broccoli, beets, bibb lettuces, arugula, mesculun mix, and cold weather herbs. The summer garden production is in tomatoes (many varieties), peppers, squash, cucumbers, beans, sweet peas, okra, melons, cutting flowers, and a wide variety of kitchen herbs with a focus on sweet basil.
We use companion planting in our raised beds; this provides an advantage for flavor enhancement as well as pest reduction. For example, tomatoes like to be planted near basil, but not near beans. Marigolds will help keep aphids away; and nasturtiums planted with squash provide a “living mulch” and will draw out squash bugs.
We are focused on increasing the “life of our soils” in addition to growing more soils from our compost operations. In the winter garden we had great success with the use of “teas” made from our vermicompost (worm castings). These teas add to the biology and fertility of the garden and enhance soil moisture. Compost teas also work as natural insecticides to “coat” the plants and protect them from pests.
The certified organic garden got its humble beginnings with prep work in late 2007 and early 2008, and it's hard to believe how much has changed since then. Begun as a small project by former Naturalist Supervisor Jason Hunnicutt and former Kitchen Assistant Bonnie Denard, the garden has evolved to involve
many more staff members and it has significantly increased production. We have learned many lessons along the way, and are very proud of the outcome. We hope that guests visiting the island will look at our example and be able to bring composting and organic gardening into their own homes and gardens.
The certified organic garden at LSSI is entering its second year, and we are growing by leaps and bounds. We continued to harvest our winter crops of kale, collards, salad greens, arugula, carrots, broccoli, radishes, herbs, and flowers for use in guest meals. We are continuing to grow greens, and we are also beginning to put in new crops of lettuces, snap peas, and fresh salad greens. As February continues and March comes forth, we will be starting seedlings for Spring production.
There are some new changes to the look of the garden as well. We have constructed 5 new raised beds, so we are doubling the production area. This req
uired a massive transport of new compost brought over from the mainland. The cold temperatures of late encouraged us to also construct two cold houses to start seedlings in. We constructed a second three-bin system for composting kitchen scraps, in the hopes of producing even more soil.
Speaking of soil, our worms are producing excellent castings. We have coordinated a vermicompost workshop led by an expert in raising worms. The workshop will be held on Jekyll Island February 20, 2009. On February 21, he will come to LSSI to evaluate our worm systems and give us some pointers on how to expand our vermicompost systems.
With the high nitrogen levels in our raised bed soil mixture, which is part peat moss, part composted chicken manure, our winter greens are thriving! Thank you chickens! This month we have harvested chard, kale, salad mix, arugula, radishes, cilantro, oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary, chives, and parsley for our kitchen. We have also began collection for our future orchard with the purchase of three Meyer Lemons, Ruby Red Grapefruit, and Brown Turkey Fig trees.
The plants are LOVING the arrival of fertile growing soil and the cooler weather. Planted in the six raised beds are: Salad greens, spinach, arugula, chard, collards, kale, pok choi, broccoli, carrots, beets, radishes, onions, twelve different kinds of herbs, and edible flowers.
The tilled areas of the garden will soon be planted with a cover crop of rye to grow over the winter and provide fertility and water holding capacity to the soil for future garden or orchard plantings. They call this green manure. Meyers lemon, brown turkey fig, and ruby red grape fruit trees are also part of the garden now!