Black Bear Composting Field Trip!

This week, the U.Va. Community Gardeners took a tour of Black Bear Composting with our friends from Hereford Garden! Black Bear accepts food scraps and waste from universities, restaurants, food processors, and residents in Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, and Central Virginia, transforming it into nutrient-rich, biologically rich soil amendment for organic gardeners. The U.Va. Community Garden has had a relationship with Black Bear since the latter opened about five years ago – the University sends its back-of-house compost from the main dining halls and other dining locations to Black Bear, and Black Bear donates finished compost to the garden each spring. We had a fantastic visit with Eric, Black Bear’s founder, and learned about the inner workings of the facility and its microbial manpower!

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Love + The U.Va. Community Garden Leadership Team

Carvin’ in the Garden!

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting chillier–it’s getting to be that time of year.

So, to herald the end of the beautiful Virginia autumn, we had our annual Carvin’ in the Garden this past Sunday!  And. it. was. a BLAST!  There was pumpkin carving, biscuits from J.M. Stock Provisions, local apples, and even some chicken friends!  We played music, we ate, we carved & painted pumpkins (thanks Studco!) and just all around had a good time.


The attendance was amazing–a ton of people showed up!  We are, after all, on the list of things to do before you graduate.  Not only did a lot of people show up, but the event was clearly a popular choice for familes–a couple people brought children (there was even a dog!)

If you weren’t there to join in the fun, be sure to stop by to our workdays Sunday from 3-5 and help us plant!  Stay warm, Hoos!

Molly + U.Va. Community Garden Leadership Team

Fall happenings in and out of the garden

Hey garden fans, see below for some photos of fun fall times! A few weeks ago we took a field trip to Chile’s Orchard to pick apples just as the trees started working their orange magic. Today after our workday we drank cider crafted by Jared from those very apples!

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Also this month, we partnered with Greens to Grounds for a workday! After selling our herbs to the student-run nonprofit that offers produce boxes based on the CSA model, we decided to get together in the garden and see what it takes to grow! We also received a return visit from the bearded silky chickens, Stella (the rooster), Wanda, and Angus.

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Want to join in on the fun? Come out to the garden’s annual fall festival! Carvin’ in the Garden happens next Sunday, the 25th from 3 to 5, and we’ll be offering pumpkins to carve, biscuits from J.M. Stock Provisions, local apples and other goodies, and lots of good times!! Anyone is welcome to come – students, faculty, staff, family – and if you’ve never been to the garden before, this is a fun day to make a visit. Check out the Facebook event, and we’ll see you in the garden!

Love + the U.Va. Community Garden Leadership Team

Freedom by Design in the U.Va. Community Garden

We’re excited to announce a huge project for this winter in partnership with Freedom By Design! Freedom by Design at U.Va. is a chapter of a national organization that brings architecture students and community groups together to create design-build projects that improve wheelchair accessibility, and we’re working with them to add a wheelchair ramp and an accessible bed in the garden.

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The group, out of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, is currently in the process of designing a number of components for the garden, including a ramp from the sidewalk to the garden, a patio, a wheelchair-accessible raised bed with built-in swivel bench, and some updates to the master plan of the 4 (2)photo 2 (4)photo 5 (2)

The U.Va. Community Garden, Freedom By Design, and the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity will work together in November to build out these beautiful designs as well as reconstruct our 2009-era wooden garden beds! Keep an eye out for build day announcements if you’d like to trade your green thumb for a hammer and nail and get involved!

Love + U.Va. Community Garden Leadership Team

Black eyed peas – and what to do with ’em!

On Wednesday, we rushed to harvest the beautiful zebra-striped black eyed peas before the rain recommenced. Planted as a cover crop by our summer interns, black eyed peas (also called cowpeas and southern peas) became a staple of the Southeast after being brought from Africa by slaves, according to Ira Wallace of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in her book Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast. Despite their name, black eyed peas are actually beans. Not only do black eyed peas reinvigorate the soil with nutrients by fixing nitrogen from the air, but when allowed to dry on the vine they can be plucked and stored for a year or more! In the South, black eyed peas are often eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck.

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So, what to do with them now? Some of us were a little worried about the preceding days’ rain and resulting humidity – Did the beans get too wet already? Is it simply too damp in the air to dry them now? The answer is, nope – beans are resilient and drying them is easy! Just shuck the beans from their pods, (compost the pods – feel free to bring them to the garden), and lay the beans out on a tray overnight. Once they’re dry to the touch they’ll be ready to store in an airtight container for months on end!

When you’re ready to eat your beans, plan ahead for best results. The day before you want to cook them, soak them in enough water to cover them for eight hours or overnight – right on the counter is fine. In book-nourishing-traditions-fronther book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends soaking legumes such as black eyed peas in water plus two tablespoons of pastured whey. Drawing upon the ancient knowledge and practices of traditional societies across the globe, Fallon explains that soaking legumes in water and the acid found in whey neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors so the nutrients in beans become readily digestible and easily assimilated.

Now, for cooking! Bring equal parts beans and water to a boil in a pot. After it begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it go for 40 to 60 minutes, or until the beans are tender – just test it by picking out a few with a spoon and tasting (after letting them cool off for a moment!).

Want to jazz up your basic black eyed peas? Check out this recipe for Black Eyed Pea Cakes with Collard Greens and Sweet Potatoes by Nourished Kitchen, or this recipe for Black Eyed Peas and Kale Soup by Nutrition Stripped – and take advantage of the lovely dinosaur kale trees in the garden!

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Aloha from the U.Va. Community Garden, brought to you by dinosaur kale.

Cultivating crops and cross-garden friendships (+ more chickens)

Last week, the U.Va. Community Garden got to meet some new friends and see some new scenery. We’re a member of Cultivate Cville, a group of urban farmers and gardeners across Charlottesville that meets once a month to tour each other’s sites and start a conversation. On Sunday, we got to host a tour of the U.Va. Community Garden and visit Piedmont Virginia Community College for a tour of their beautiful community garden.


We loved seeing how another grower makes good use of a small space. The PVCC Community Garden rescued recycled window frames and cinderblocks to build their beds, and we admired their buffers of native plant species – including the seemingly exotic passion fruit, which we promptly split open and nibbled! Many of us also had fun playing with Wild Hen, the Rhode Island Red, and we all enjoyed a wonderful array of afternoon snacks. Thanks for your hospitality and enthusiasm, David and the PVCC Community Garden!

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Welcoming students back…with pie and chickens

As the plants grow tall with life in the final days of summer sun, the U.Va. Community Garden has welcomed the return of student life to Grounds! We hosted around thirty volunteers new and old on our first Sunday workday, including undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and family. We had a blast showing everyone around with garden tours; watering, weeding, and helping people participate in the tasks of the garden; harvesting kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and sun jewel melons; sharing snacks and goodies grown by our neighboring farmers; and – the best part – getting to know each other!photo 3 (1)

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And on our Wednesday workday, we had some special guests – CHICKENS! Kate brought her three baby bearded silkies – Stella, Wanda, and Angus (the runt). They were the stars of the show.

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As a reminder, our workdays for the semester are held from Wednesdays 1-2 and Sundays 3-5 – come and join the fun!

Love + U.Va Community Garden Leadership Team