It has been a busy week with Memorial Day activities, finishing three planters, planting tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans and several varieties of peppers (oh my).  I have a long laundry list of To Do’s and blog posts that I have been meaning to write, but I will warm up with some stories and links that I find interesting.

Walking in Minneapolis

Target Field and Target Field Station - 5/29/2014

Target Field and Target Field Station – 5/29/2014

Even with all the planting this week, I also had my real job to attend to, and it has been a busy week with meetings, documents and even more meetings.  What fun!  After a big meeting tonight, my colleagues and I walked around the new Target Field Station in downtown Minneapolis.  Target Field is where the Minnesota Twins play and where the Baseball All Star Game will be held this year. Target Field Station is a transportation hub where commuter rail (Northstar Commuter Rail Service) and Light Rail Trains (Blue and soon-to-be-opened Green Line) connect to Target Field.  The new station opened on June 17, 2014, and this was a chance to “inspect” the completed project.

The Station area includes a 1,000-seat amphitheater and green space along with the boarding platforms.  The green space consists of a large grass area in the middle of the station, and the grass rests on a sand and peat medium, which is on top of shredded tires (which actually drains quite well).  I walked on the well-manicured grass, and it was growing VERY wellnd is very plush.  This “grassy knoll” faces a jumbo screen that will broadcast the game, so people can watch games in the station area.

What is also interesting about the Target Field Station is that the facility has a snow melt system under all the pavement areas, and all rainwater is collected and recycled.  The rainwater is collected and sent to the Hennepin County Recycle Center located next door to the stadium.  At the same time, excess heat is piped underneath the pavement, which makes for a shovel-less environment at the Station. It is a very interesting way to use resources at the station.  The station was a Hennepin County project with Metro Transit, MnDOT, FTA and Twins funding.  M.A. Mortenson Construction (http://www.mortenson.com/) was the contractor on the project.

US Drought in the West; Has the Dust Bowl Returned?

Oklahoma Dust Storm in January 2014 - Photo courtesy of: Cimarron County Conservation District; OCS Mesonet Ticker

Oklahoma Dust Storm in January 2014 – Photo courtesy of: Cimarron County Conservation District; OCS Mesonet Ticker

Not to beat the panic drums, but I have been watching the drought situation in the West and the corresponding rising food prices.  There were a couple of articles that addressed the drought conditions, and while I do not want to be a prophet of doom, it is important to realize that all of us could be facing drought conditions at some point.  We need to be ready to adapt accordingly.  Here is what is going on out west:

Seven States are Running out of Water – Seven states are running out of water, and they are listed in this order (listed from dry to most dry): Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, and California. This will impact food prices across the country, particularly with the sheer amount of produce grown in those states.

Has the Dust Bowl Returned to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas – Dust storms have been sweeping across Northern Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and this sounds eerily like the Dust Bowl days.  We need to be mindful of what we are doing with our soils, vegetation and trees, especially as this drought affects the center of the county.  Again, as gardeners, we need to focus on creative growing and water conservation.

Water Conservation and Gardening

So, what can we do about dry spells and droughts?  There are creative ways to continue to garden in the heat and dry conditions.  Just doing some quick brainstorming, I came up with a few links and ideas.  I would like to continue to develop a warehouse of ideas, so any feedback and ideas you might have, please comment below.

Larry Hall’s Rain Gutter Grow Systems

Photo Courtesy of Ron Canter in Arlington, Texas and the RGGS FB Group

Photo Courtesy of Ron Canter in Arlington, Texas and the RGGS FB Group

Even though I live in the Lane of 10,000 Lakes (and 10 billion mosquitoes), I have started gathering resources for readers who are living in drought-stricken areas.  One potential method to grow vegetables in drought areas is by implementing self-watering garden systems.  Larry Hall (from Brainard, Minnesota – more lakes and more mosquitoes) has developed self-watering gardens using rain gutters/PVC pipe, float, grow bags/buckets, net cups and an organic soil mix.  He has coined the term Rain Gutter Grow Systems (RGGS), and while he does not have a website that I can find, Larry does have a Facebook site, YouTube site and a Pinterest site.

Why would RGGS conserve water?  Since you are potentially closing the system to the sun (PVC system) and allow plants water themselves, you would not lose water through sprinkling and evaporation.  True, some water would evaporate off the top layers of soil, but water continually wicks up from the gutter or PVC pipe system for plants to use.  Of course, as the plants’ root structure grows, the roots eventually get down into the bottom of the bucket or grow bag and into the water, and the plant can take as much water as it needs.

Rain Barrels

Rain Barrels - Photo Courtesy of Phillip Harris and the RGGS FB Group

Rain Barrels – Photo Courtesy of Phillip Harris and the RGGS FB Group

I have seen a lot of folks using rain barrels to water their gardens, and I think that is a smart concept.  Why not use the water that nature is giving freely instead of wasting it on the grass in one event?  Even though we are not experiencing a drought here in Minnesota, we usually go through April and May with plenty of rain, and then it gets hot, humid and dry in the mid-summer months.

My father-in-law just purchased a rain barrel and installed it, and I will be posting pictures and specifications on how the Old Trapper installed his rain barrel and how it’s working out for him.  I am mulling over rain barrel options for my own gardens, but I am a little gun-shy since I rent the house.  I have a feeling the owner might get a little testy over the modification of a downspout and installation of the barrel.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, there is a voice that says, “Ask forgiveness rather than permission…..”

If you really get creative, and I know some of you are creative and handy (dangerous combination), you can try something like this…. http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-a-3-drum-rain-collection-system-better/. As an engineer, however, I worry that something of this magnitude would be too top heavy for sloping ground and “normal” locations (read: not flat asphalt lots).  Increasing your water storage (safely) is something to consider, however.

3 Drum Barrel System, Courtesy of http://www.instructables.com/

3 Drum Barrel System, Courtesy of http://www.instructables.com/

 

Shade Loving Plants

Some of our vegetables actually can grow in the shade, so why not exploit it?  The 104 Homestead Blog has a handy list of vegetables and herbs that will grow in the shade, and looking at the list, I know I have some rhubarb, lettuce, Swiss chard, onions and spinach that need a planter or a place to sprout roots (rhubarb will not go in a planter).  Thanks to the Prepper Times (http://www.thepreppertimes.com/) for the links!

 

It’s Your Turn

I am open and interested in your ideas.  Feel free to comment, and I will continue to build a database of ideas and concepts.

 

 

 

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