Thursday, November 16, 2017

You can still sign up for Grow

Our new group gardening programs, "Grow" and "Emergence" have started, and we're having a great time so far!

Part of our group: Mike, Ali, Courtney and Megan

Each day starts out with a lesson about native or edible landscaping before we start our hands on activity.

Building beds for lavender, which we'll plant in late spring.

Re-establishing beds taken over by invasive vegetation, which we've solarized with plastic.

Preparing a bed for native perennials.

Composting area and vegetable beds are in the background.

"Sheet mulching" new orchard area, which means layering cardboard and organic materials for decomposition over winter.

Through Emergence, Flint is moving from years of working in conventional landscaping to more healing aspects of gardening.

A peek behind the chestnut tree

We wrap up the day with a harvest.

Gigantic parsnips and salsify!

Chinese cabbage and collards
Wash station

Weekly basket - Fall offering

Grow participants cut their own bouquets of cooked greens.
Wrapping up - packing salad mix
If you're interested in applying, set up an appointment with Megan by calling 828.333.4151. If you sign up by mid-January, we can catch you up on all that you missed during fall and winter. We currently meet Tuesdays at 3:00 or 4:00, depending on sunset time, for two and a half hours. Read more about the program in Laurel of Asheville and Mountain Xpress.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Intrigued by Grow? Go for it.

I’m excited that “Grow,” our year-long gardening program held here at the farm starting October 24, is half-full with a great mix of people of all ages and backgrounds. A few others have expressed interest, but are concerned that they won’t have the time or the funds. This is my advice based on years of focusing on creating a lifestyle that deeply fulfills me:

If Grow is something you really wish to do, then go for it. You may feel like you don’t have time at the moment, but if you set your priorities, then events and logistics rearrange so that what you truly want slides into your life.

M R Gardens
If you’re worried about the cost (a total of $600 for 36 sessions), consider that you are essentially paying up-front for your produce for a full year. I can’t guarantee the weekly basket of veggies, herbs and/or flowers will supply all your needs, but certainly much will be met during the key growing months. And all with high quality organically grown foods that you helped grow.

If we factor in the investment it takes for a program like this to get started—the established gardens, greenhouses, equipment, tools, land, not to mention what the teacher (that’s me) brings—16 years of experience, education, and lessons learned through trial-and-error—the value of this program is immense. But I’ve kept the program at a cost similar to a CSA share because I really want people to give this model a try. I understand your life is packed, and I am very appreciative when you can prioritize being a part of growing your own food.

When determining if your budget can handle something you love, it’s often best to ask—“Is it feeding my soul?” If it is, then usually no monetary value can adequately illustrate the amount of joy, health, education and motivation it brings into your life. Proactive, positive energy carries over to other parts of your life, providing fuel that you didn’t have before.

And remember—if financial limitation is honestly the only barrier holding you back from participating, please inquire about scholarships because funding may be available.

What is Grow?

M R Gardens is offering a new opportunity for clients to be involved with the growing of their own food at our two-acre farm in the Oakley community. Called “Grow,” the program meets for a full year on a nearly weekly basis, starting October 24 with building the soil for the following spring. Grow participants learn how to cultivate food in diversified, ecologically sound gardens, and then take home the bounty, dividing up the harvest of vegetables, fruit, flowers and/or herbs.

M R Gardens is now interviewing potential students. To confirm that the program is the right fit, applicants go through a simple application process. Candidates can contact me (Megan) at 828.333.4151 to set up a meeting at the farm. The main requirements are an interest in a unique ecological way of landscaping, excitement about the work of gardening, the ability to help create a conducive learning environment for all in the group, and acceptance to others of different backgrounds and belief systems. Applicants should express interest as soon as possible, and the first payment is due October 20.

Grow offers education not only in the specifics of growing each particular vegetable and fruit, but also in creating a healthy system to support the crops. That includes beneficial microbes that convert the nutrients in the soil into a form that plants can uptake; beneficial flowers that attract pollinators as well as predators of garden pests; and native plants that are key elements of the food web. Participants also learn about naturalized landscaping, ground covers in place of grass, medicinal herbs, and seed starting in M R Gardens’ passive solar greenhouse, which is climate controlled by design with no additional heating or cooling.

The goal is to create ease and fun in growing food. When farming is concentrated in the hands of a few, it can become drudgery. On the other side of the coin, home gardening can be frustrating if the knowledge and the group structure isn’t in place.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fall plants for your garden

M R Gardens in the Oakley community opens its greenhouse to the public on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. September through October 21 or until supplies last.

We're now offering fall plants for half-off! 

Three types of kale: Vates, Winter Red and Lacinato
Fall plants that are available include broccoli raab, Chinese cabbage, cilantro, collards, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, pak choi, as well as herbs and native perennials. Most varieties are pictured here:

You can reserve your plants on the Square site, and you only pay the upfront deposit rather than full price. If you can’t pick up your plants Saturday, we can arrange another time.

We aim for as sustainable as possible, which means not only using organic growing methods but also growing in a passive solar greenhouse heated entirely by solar gain and cooled with manual vents.

The greenhouse is at 441 Onteora Blvd. Contact Megan at 828.333.4151 or with questions. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Unlock the bottleneck–Move one car, the rest follow

Group garden coaching programs 'Grow' and 'Emergence' help get you unstuck in these transformational times

First, an aside
The recent total solar eclipse generated a lot of new attention for astrology, which happens to be a hobby of mine. Since it’s essentially the study of the seasons, I can’t help but to interweave it with gardening articles on occasion, especially as the sun enters the constellation of Virgo—which is associated with healing the Earth—where it remains for a month.

M R Gardens
Two years ago, I wrote about Virgo in the garden, and how if we use Virgo’s tendency to plan out our growing season and think through next steps, we’re more likely to have a successful garden. But Virgo is not just about planning — she has a lot of other healing and grounding attributes that create beauty and bounty. Ever since the transformational eclipse, my understanding of the planets, specifically Mercury which is associated with Virgo, is expanding, so while I don’t take back anything that I wrote two years ago, I’m also recognizing new phenomena arising which makes planning ahead simply hard to do.

Sometimes the world, and our lives, are changing so rapidly that planning one week ahead let alone several months in advance seems nearly impossible. Yet we still are compelled to move forward. There’s a bottleneck of ideas and to-do’s and dreams, and if we could just get one car out of the traffic jam, then the rest would flow.

Get unstuck - The garden is waiting for you 
M R Gardens’ new on-site “Grow” program is well-suited for those in the bottleneck – for new gardeners who would really like to get going, but the details seem so overwhelming that they don’t know where to start. All that Grow participants need to do is reserve about one afternoon a week and essentially “show up” at my farm in the Oakley community of Asheville – excited about gardening and supportive of others learning how to garden. I’m surveying applicants about the best times to get together, but envision the group meeting one weekday from 4:00 to 6:30 three times a month, although less than that in the colder months. We’ll spend between 30 minutes to an hour each class discussing a new skill, and then we’ll put the discussion into practice by gardening the remaining of the time.

Vegetable garden
We walk through all the steps entailed in growing vegetables, and perform tasks multiple times so that new skills sink in and participants can ask questions. Since each crop has its own needs, participants not only learn how to create the system but also see how each individual plant is best grown in that system. Students go home with written information so that if and when they want to try it at their own home, they have the guidance to do so. In addition, by just being in the gardens on a regular basis, and becoming inspired by the plants, you begin to uncover the vision of your own garden. Since you’re moving some of cars out of the bottleneck, you start to feel your dreams progress.

The Grow program is also well suited for folks who want to take part in the growing of their own food but don’t own a space that is sunny or large enough, or even for long-time gardeners who are open to trying out an ecologically inspired style of gardening that I like to call "Microbe Rich." In some ways, Grow is a miniature version of a participatory Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) venture, except with an emphasis on education. In the M R Gardens model, participants get a say in which vegetables we grow, and we adjust quantities based on the group’s needs. We also have unusual fruits, such as nutritious jujubes and chokeberries, that would not be in a typical CSA box. At the end of each workday, we harvest any vegetables, flowers and/or herbs that are in season, and you take home just the quantities that you can use.

Natives garden
On this established ecologically designed site, there is much to learn about — including fruit trees in a holistically maintained orchard, medicinal herbs, beneficial flowers, native plants and ground covers in place of grass. Participants can absorb what they are able to take in at the moment. Or for those who wish to learn a lot in a short amount of time, that opportunity is here too. Students can make this educational experience into what they want depending on the amount of independent study they initiate.

Budding ecological horticulturists, who see themselves one day making an income from gardening, should consider the parallel program, “Emergence.” Participants meet alongside the “Grow” students, and in addition volunteer at the gardens each week. When the time is right, Emergence students may start working with M R Gardens off-site clients. Fees are the same as the Grow program. Read more here.

Owner/Teacher Megan Riley
More on astrology
The total eclipse was an important one for Virgo. The eclipse happened at the edge of the Leo constellation, just before Virgo starts, and was also in-line with the Regulus, a multi-star system 79 light years away from the sun with a diameter more than three times the sun. For thousands of years (some sources say 2,000; others say 4,000), Regulus was in Leo, but just recently moved into Virgo, where it remains for the next 2 to 4,000 years. Since Regulus symbolizes regality, it could represent leaders in our communities.

When the moon moved in front of our sun August 21, for a brief moment in time, this regal star system in the constellation of Virgo could be called our “sun,” and so some astrologers might say, Virgo became “queen,” yet with the heart of the lion (Leo) backing her. That is fitting as we enter a time of healing the Earth, which Virgos do best. Those of us who have committed to taking small steps over a long period of time to hone a craft for the benefit of all are finally starting to feel a payoff—and how rewarding that payoff feels after so much time spent honing the craft. Those who feel like they are at the beginning of their Virgo journey, experiencing a bottleneck from all the details, are rest assured that now is the time to move forward — to let one car out of the jam, so that the rest can soon follow.


To apply for Grow or Emergence, contact me (Megan) at 828.333.4151 and we’ll set up an appointment to talk in the gardens. The main requirements are a love for the work of gardening, a collaborative spirit capable of creating a good learning environment for others, and an acceptance of others’ backgrounds and beliefs. References might be checked to ensure students have a proven track record in group learning environments. This program is mostly suited for students who learn by doing, but most learning styles are addressed. If you like to share recipes with fellow students for both food and medicinal herbs, then that’s a bonus! Please apply as soon as possible. The first payment is due October 20, and we'll meet soon after to start building the soil for next year's garden.

Squash garden