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May 302014

Today was Work Day or Open Day at the Common Garden in the Służewiecki Dom Kultury. The “Wspólne Ogród” is still in its infancy and it hasn’t been easy to attract local residents to participate. Today, however, a great guy who has been helping a lot lately, Wojtek, stopped by with a new part for the hose. He helped move some dirt and some giant rocks. Hurray!

There has been a big pile of muł (pronounced “moo”), that is to say silt, just sitting in the path for weeks. It came up from the bottom of the beds. Up until just now this very moment, I thought it was “ił” (pronounced “ew” as in yuck or gross) because someone told me so and I never looked it up. I looked it up. Muł is SILT. Ił is LOAM. But  “muł” also means “mule” and ił is just muł with sand…. This is it:


After discussing with Wojtek what we could do with this pile of muł (throw it over the fence, spread it around a little here a little there) I suddenly got the idea to mix the silt (maybe about 60 liters) with the acid peat that was donated by Plantico. So that’s what we did: 180 liters of peat with 60 liters of silt. Starting to look like SILTY LOAM. Don’t ask me what THAT is in Polish. This is silt with peat (muł z torfem):


I also made some beautiful balls:


The garden is looking good. Each bed is its own universe of experimentation!


1 – Veges and herbs (mostly brassicas)
2 – Veges and herbs (mostly tomatoes and peppers)
3 – Nothing yet. A dirt-holding bed
4 – Double dug, and then soil over a “Permaculture bed” (grass, straw, woodchips)
5 – Compost bed
6 – Double dug and planted with a couple of pumpkins so far
7 – Lupine and alfalfa (łubin, lucerne)8 – Lupine and alfalfa (łubin, lucerne) with 4 tomato plants planted into the green manure
9 – A woman planted some cilantro and radish here!
10 – Mustard and Lupin (Gorczyca, łubin) plus 2 fennel and some wild mint



May 242014

Two years ago I made Elderflower wine. I can’t say it was a complete success. Making elderflower cordial, however, always succeeds! There are many recipes online — the ingredients are approximately:

30 flower heads – flowers removed
2 liters of boiled water, cooled
1 kg sugar, honey, agave, etc.
4-8 lemons

I like to add ginger and mint, too.

Some people like to put everything in one pot. Some people like to steep the flowers and then add the rest. Others like to make a syrup and then add it to the flowers. I have made it all the different ways & find they all work just swell.

pixxe_eldercordial01_IMG_1210 pixxe_eldercordial2_IMG_1229 pixxe_eldercordial3_IMG_1230 pixxe_eldercordial04_IMG_1232

Apr 062014


Today was the first big workday at the new SDK Community Garden. We started it with a quick lesson on Soil biology, texture, structure, acidity, and nutrition, then moved on to the big work of the day: fixing the poor-draining garden beds. One participant did it all in bare feet!!

First we removed all of the top soil — about 10 or 15 cm. The layer underneath is very heavy.

Next we dug a few holes with the amazing dirt driller:

The wholes were about 8 cm wide and 1 m deep.

These we filled with landscape fabric “socks” filled with gravel.

The finished drains looks like a cute bow tie:

Next we broke up the hard clay layer as much as we could and mixed it with wood chips. A nearby stadium donated a huge amount of horse poop and straw. They even delivered it right into the compost bins:


We added the straw-manure mixture:


We decided to leave this and let the organic matter break down a bit. We’d like to build raised beds here…


This is what it looked like when all was done — a bit of a mess!! That’s a work-in-progress.

Apr 042014

We gathered samples of the top soil and the substrate for texture tests.

First we remove all visible rocks and organic matter, spread the samples on newspaper, and let them dry for a couple of days. The next step is to pulverize the soil. You can put it into plastic bags and crush it with your hands or a rolling pin, for example. Remove any additional organic debris or rocks.


Then we put the soil into a jar (500 liters or a quart) until it’s about 1/4 to 1/3 full, add water until the jar is about 3/4 full, and add 1 tsp of castille or dish soap, something that doesn’t make too many suds. Typically, the recommendation is to use dishwasher detergent, but that is very expensive here in Poland. Shake for 10 or 15 minutes and set somewhere where it won’t be disturbed.



Within a few minutes the sand settles to the bottom of the jar. Within a few hours the silt settles on top of the sand. Within a few days the clay settles on top. That’s the theory. In practice, the results are not always clear. For the Pixxe Garden’s soil, the results were quite clear. For the SDK garden, this is what we found:

GARDEN BEDS have a Sandy Loam:

sdk_soil_texture_bed_results_IMG_0756 sdk_texture_results_bed_triangle

SUBSTRATE has either Sandy Clay or Sandy Silt — only two layers were really discernible:

sdk_soil_texture_substrate_results_IMG_0756 sdk_texture_results_substrate_triangle

Apr 012014

sdk_IMG_0748What is Soil?

Before we sow seeds and plant seedlings we need to find out what sort of soil we have and what it needs to help foster the life that will support the plants in our new garden. On April 6, 2014, we will be conducting tests, as well as sharing the results of lab tests, in order to learn more about the soil — its biology, texture, structure, drainage, and nutrients. More importantly, we will start the hard work of preparing and repairing the ground. Plan to get dirty.

We will be doing some “citizen science” today — looking for organisms which live in the soil, checking to see how much sand and silt and clay we have, checking to see how quickly the soil drains, testing the pH. Come and join us and learn more about this fantastic UNDERGROUND WORLD.

WHEN: April 6, 2014 12.00 – 15.00

WHERE: the NEW Służew Dom Kultury

* Note — the new SDK is not officially opened yet. If you want to participate, please sign up at



Zanim zasiejemy w ogrodzie nasiona i posadzimy sadzonki, musimy się dowiedzieć z jakiego typu podłożem mamy do czynienia – gliniastym, ilastym, piaskowym? Czy teren ogrodu to teren podmokły? Czy gleba jest kwaśna czy zasadowa? Czy jest właściwie odżywiona, posiada wystarczającą ilość makro i mikroelementów?

Podczas najbliższego spotkania spróbujemy się dowiedzieć czegoś o glebie badając w dłoni teksturę i strukturę ziemi, przyglądając się organizmom, które można w niej znaleźć, testując pH, przyglądając się wynikom przeprowadzonych przez nas wcześniej testów laboratoryjnych.

Przed nami także sporo pracy fizycznej – kopanie, przerzucanie ziemi i kompostu, wiercenie! Trzeba wykonać czynności, które w przyszłości pomogą nam uzyskać jak najlepsze plony.

Warsztat poprowadzi Jodie Baltazar we współpracy z Pauliną Jeziorek

Mar 242014

Where am I?

Today I traveled very far, by bicycle and train, to reach the soil testing facility located west of Warsaw. I got terribly lost. Here is a picture of my lostness:



Eventually I chased a mailman (by bike, so it was a bike chase) about the address, which I mangled the pronunciation of to be sure. He replied that there was no such address. Eventually he was persuaded that it did exist — the address was in the next district over. Eventually, I found it.