Church Garden Update

The Church Garden (aka Love Garden) got off to a rocky start in 2011, but lately things are looking up. Here’s what has happened so far this year.

On April 7th, my wife and I planted potatoes at the garden plot. We had three 100 foot rows, with potatoes planted one feet apart and covered with 2-3″ of soil. That’s 300 seed potatoes we planted, which we managed to do in about an hour. When I checked on the potatoes about two weeks later, they were coming up through the soil and looking good.

The potatoes harvested from that planting, like all the food from this garden, were going to go to several area kitchens and food pantries. Last year we took food to the United Caring Shelter, Potter’s Wheel, Evansville Christian Life Center, and the Evansville Rescue Mission. That’s the whole purpose of this garden – to grow food for area charities so they can have fresh vegetables to serve for those who might not otherwise have access to them.


not a sign of the potato plants (click on any image to enlarge)

Then on April 26th, my wife got an email from the church secretary, whose family owns the farm where we have our garden plot. “Just wanted to prepare you that the farm is under water”, she said. What? Under water? I had no idea that land ever flooded. The farm is on level ground, several miles from any river or stream.


water got up almost to the top of these peonies that line the driveway

Or so I thought. Pigeon Creek floods regularly in that area, about every five years according to an article in a local newspaper. I guess 2011 was its year to flood! The garden plot wound up under about a foot of water for almost two weeks, and the potatoes rotted in the ground.


potatoes rotted in the ground

That’s not the first time we’ve had trouble growing potatoes for this garden project. Rewind to last year. We had cut about 75 pounds of seed potatoes, and spread them out on a tarp to dry in one of the meeting rooms at our church. Last year we had another spot where we were going to plant potatoes and sweet corn. It was, however, right on the Ohio River, and we found out it floods pretty much every year. Before we could get the taters planted, the river rose up out of its banks, and the field was under water. By the time the field dried out, we decided it was too late to plant potatoes.


the farm was a mess after the waters receded

Back to the present. The good news is that the waters have receded, and the garden plot dried out enough I could get it tilled yesterday. We have a planting session scheduled for Saturday morning. Weather permitting, of course! We have tomatoes, squash and cucumber seedlings ready to be planted. Next week we hope to get a row of sweet potatoes planted, and turnips are planned for a fall crop after the squash is done for.


garden is tilled and ready to go

We’ve now got a 30 by 100 foot garden plot ready for planting. Hopefully our flooding troubles are over for this year. If we can get the veggies planted, and get a little rain this summer, we should have a nice amount of produce to donate. We’re doing things a bit different this year. We’re going to trellis the cucumbers, skip growing green beans, and use some different short-vine tomatoes with our stake and weave training method. I’ll post more updates as the garden progresses.


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13 Responses to Church Garden Update

  1. Lynda says:

    So sorry to hear about the potatoes! I think your committment to grow veggies for charities is very commendable. I wish more people were willing to follow your example.

  2. More flooding! Oh dear. Sorry to hear about it and the loss of all those potatoes. What a lot of work you’ve put in to get things tilled and re-planted there, and what a great cause you are supporting and great way to give back. Here’s hoping that there are no more crop catastrophes and that you get a good harvest to donate! It sure looks great!

  3. Marcia says:

    Looks like you were able to make a quick recovery. Too bad about the potatoes.

  4. Daphne Gould says:

    Sorry you lost all your potatoes. Sometimes Mother Nature takes her share. But at least it is dried out and ready to go for the next set of crops. I hope you have much better luck with them.

    • Villager says:

      Daphne, it is amazing how fast it did dry out. To have been under water two weeks ago, and planted today is amazing to me.

  5. Mike says:

    And like a true farmer you simply replanted and started over. Maybe all those rotted potatoes will have added some organic matter and the latest crop will really flourish in that spot.

    • Villager says:

      Yep, a little organic material is what we got. Plus the exercise and enjoyment of being out in the fresh air! 😉

      You know as well as I do that you can’t let a little crop failure get you down. Things happen, especially flooding. And as I said earlier, our potato crop is nothing compared to all the headache and heartaches this spring’s flooding has caused.

  6. Katrina says:

    What a great idea to donate the produce to the local churches. I tried the stake and weave idea a couple years ago. It turned into an ungodly mess because I didn’t have enough supports along the 16 foot span. I hope you have better results. 🙂

    • Villager says:

      Katrina, we used the stake and weave method last year at the church garden and it worked well. We used a mix of metal t-posts and wooden stakes, with support every other tomato plant. That gave support about every 4 feet. I also tried it at home, using metal t-posts and bamboo stakes.

  7. Kelly says:

    All that flooding seems like a permanent threat every spring. Could you consider planting the potatoes later (like now) in future years to avoid any potential floods? It stinks to see good intentions, food, and labor go to waste. I hope you have a fabulous rest of the year in the church garden.

    • Villager says:

      Good question Kelly! I’ve never tried late planting potatoes. Conventional wisdom says they need to be planted early here so they can start growing before our hot summers take over. Sweet potatoes are a great crop here because they love the heat, and we can plant them as late at June 1st and still get a good crop.

      We’ll have to think about planting potatoes next year. Although I have to say, as determined as I am (or stubborn, some say) I will probably try them again!

  8. Shawn Ann says:

    If only you lived just a LITTLE bit closer, I would love to come and help. I would love to even start one around here, but it seems like such a daunting task for where I am at in life. Although the church I was going to has started having a basket for gardeners to bring in their extras to take to the food kitchen. Good stuff!

    • Villager says:

      The basket idea is a good one. At the food pantry/kitchen where I volunteer, people bring things in and put them on the “free table”. Everything there is free for anyone to take, usually edibles but sometimes other stuff.

      We’d love to have the help! The hardest part for me and the church garden was finding the garden spot. We had several false starts, but finally found a spot. It’s not perfect, but it’s worked out real well so far.

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