Preparing for the Big Till at New Beginnings

May 7, 2024 | Experiences

Preparing for “The Big Till” at New Beginnings Garden
by Tracy Bogard

SeedsThere was a lot of anticipation this year for the New Beginnings garden in Bernalillo.  The clients – from the TeamBuilders Behavioral Health Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) program – had made some requests for vegetables to grow (notably chiles!) and were ready to get started.  2024 brought a new crew of Teambuilders counselors and the Sandoval Extension Master Gardener project leads had worked hard to ensure that everyone would have an opportunity to contribute.

A helpful and knowledgeable team including Sheila Coneen, Bert Lamoreux, Sandy Liakus, Mary Lee Moeny, and Tracy Bogard walked the clients through the planning process.

Seed packageNew Beginnings has a variety of planting opportunities: from raised beds to concrete cylinders to a big field (the main event!).  The big field is out in the open (unprotected) area, so the first focus early in spring was preparing the early starter seeds and plants for the cylinders and raised beds which would provide some shelter for tender seedlings.

First: the preparation!  The master gardeners worked with the clients to clear weeds and debris from the concrete cylinders and raised beds.  New Mexico’s strong winds are expert weed-spreaders and we collected many bags for disposal.  Then the rich garden soil donated by Jim Peters was mixed into the cleared beds and containers to improve the soil quality.

Giving Gardening HandNow the planting!  Peas, beets, and Swiss chard were among the seeds chosen for the covered raised beds.  The arched trellises in the raised beds would provide a ready-made template for the climbing peas.  The beets and Swiss chard would also benefit from being tucked away safely under the protection of the bed covers.

New Beginnings Clients working with plants

Enthusiastic New Beginnings clients learn from master gardener Sandra Liakus photo: T. Bogard

The clients gathered around while the master gardeners demonstrated how to plant each kind of seed.  One client with exceptional dexterity took the helm planting the small seeds while the others mostly observed.  The master gardeners provided steady and softspoken coaching while she focused on planting each seed just right.

Now for the big concrete cylinders – first, hardy potatoes were planted somewhat low in the cylinders.  As they grow, the potato plants will be covered with additional layers of dirt – encouraging even more potatoes to grow!  Some of the open cylinders were topped off with straw to hold in moisture and provide protection from the harsh New Mexico elements.

Potato plants

Layering Dirt on Potato Plants Photo: T. Bogard

A couple weeks later, more cylinders were planted with circles of colorful green beans chosen by the clients.

MentorsWatering was accomplished with much teamwork since there is no readily available water next to the garden beds.  The clients and master gardeners patiently hauled water with watering cans.

But now – the big field’s turn!  It was due to be tilled and there was a lot to do! A plethora of weeds had to be removed lest they be tilled under – only to rear their unwanted heads again!  Rich gardening soil – donated by former project member Jim Peters – needed to be put into the containers and cylinders lest it all be engulfed into the field.  Manure had also been donated – and would be incorporated into the field via the tilling to create a rich compost.  On the day before the scheduled tilling, the clients and master gardeners worked together to pull weeds, move dirt into the containers and water the border plants embellishing the outside of the field.

Now  – time to till the field!

Working With DirtNext step: after “The Big Till” what is going to sprout?!  Check our Green Blog again for more on New Beginnings Garden.

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