Thursday, October 22, 2009

Orchard Plans

Hi everyone!

We've got a major change coming to the garden soon, so I thought that this would be a good time for an update. The garden is transitioning from summer to winter well, and as the summer plants die off and produce less and less, the winter crops that have been plagued by bugs and excessive heat all year are healthier and leafier than ever. It's hard to watch the mainstays go- particularly the okra and tomatoes- but it's also good to see the plants for the next season develop. We've prepared for winter, though, and mulched the beds and set up stakes so that we can extend the life of the annuals by protecting them from minor frosts with sheets of fabric and plastic.We've been in touch with groups and individuals on campus for selling our produce, and soon we'll have a final harvest of summer plants that we'll sell to those groups and on the plaza.

The anticipated selection of crops for the winter is: Kale, Collard Greens, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Leeks, and Swiss Chard.

The major plans for the cold season are already at our front door. We've ordered 44 fruit trees and berry bushes that are coming in time for a volunteer workday on Sunday. We'll try to get them all in the ground, but may also have to dig a trench to place them in if we can't finish by the end of the work day. Essentially, we can dig a trench deep enough for the plants, place them at an angle within it, cover them with soil and water them regularly, and they should be ok until we are ready to plant them.

The trees and bushes we are planting are:
4 Improved Kieffer Pear Tree 4-5'
2 Fuji Apple Tree 3-4'
2 Braeburn Apple Tree 3-4'
2Tanenashi Persimmon Tree 1-2'
4 Italian Everbearing Fig Tree 2-2.5'

1 Eastern Seedling PawPaw Tree 4-5'
1 Collins Select PawPaw Tree 4-5'
8 Tifblue Blueberry Plant 1-2'
8 Briteblue Blueberry Plant 1-2'
4 Brightwell Blueberry Plant 2-3'
4 Austin Blueberry Plant 2-3'
2 Golden African Banana Plant Mother Bulb
2 American Elderberry 4-5'

We are, needless to say, very excited about these new additions! Their addition will be the first of a long series of winter projects including landscaping, working on the terrace, managing seedlings, and building a perennials bed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We've been doing a lot of interesting projects in the garden lately. If you visit the garden, you'll see some squares of cinder blocks in a corner. These are beds for potatoes. It's common to use tires to grow potatoes, as they will constantly push up through new soil and send out new roots that can grow more potatoes. you can just add another tire and fill it with soil when the potato plant is tall enough. We don't have tires, so we're using cinder blocks for our new levels instead.

We have also started building an herb bed on the terrace. First, we dug out the grass behind the terrace and lined the rock with the newspaper to prevent weed growth and covered them with Carolina grit. Then, we laid down weed fabric on the borders of the bed and put the blue and red rocks on it, making a nice border for the bed. We filled one section with topsoil and another with some of the loose dirt from the excavations below the terrace; as this is going to be a perennial herb bed, we need sections for herbs that need either nutrient-rich or poor soil. I've bought echinacea and rosemary to go in it already, and am starting lavender and spearmint as well.

We'll be throwing a garden party early in the school year, and part of the planning for it is already visible in the back of the garden. We'll be giving away seedlings of herbs, and they're sprouting in the back on a pallet. The ones covered in plastic wrap are the herbs more difficult to sprout. Similarly to or program with the beans, the recipient will hold onto the plant for the winter and have the option of bringing it back to the garden in the spring or keeping it.

The plants are all coming along nicely. The snap peas are coming in just in time for the school year, the arugula is well-established, and the summer squash is producing well. The squash has really been a great producer for the summer, up there with the tomatoes, edamame, okra and NZ spinach- I recommend that we plant these all again next year!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 21, 2009

A lot of things are just starting to grow in the garden. I've thinned all of the new vegetables I planted, so they should start to develop fairly soon. The tomatoes are coming in quickly, and the broccoli is finally starting to grow heads. This is big news, as I wasn't sure if it would sprout in the summer heat. Broccoli will continue to produce side heads after the main head is harvested, so it should be fairly productive.It is really important to control the cabbage worms now, as they could destroy the crop.

We're going to start collecting newspaper for weed control. It's a cheap alternative to weed fabric, and a great way to do some small-scale recycling. If you come out to a work day, please bring newspaper or cardboard with you!

We have a couple of plants in the garden that aren't very popular. I think they're delicious, and they're highly productive and nutritious. These are kale and collard greens, and I thought I would show how they can be cooked. There's a lot of interesting ways to cook them, but one really tasty recipe is sesame kale. There's a receipe here: Essentially, you just chop up the leaves and then stir fry them with some shallots, soy sauce and sesame seeds. It sounds tasty!

Pest Control

As many of you have probably noticed, we have a couple of pests in the garden. The number one complaint so far is mosquitoes- which are tremendously bad for the area. We're doing a number of things to get rid of them. Matt has put up a bat house- this should start attracting bats next season, which will eat the mosquitoes. I've planted pennyroyal in various places around the garden. The herb is a strong bug repellent and will hopefully keep mosquitoes away from us.

One of the most obvious things in the garden- that I've gotten a lot of questions about- is all the holes in the leaves. These are caused by a common pest, the cabbage worm. It feeds on vegetable leaves, and as you can see, many of our plants are affected. The pest is a white moth that flies above our crops, periodically laying eggs on the plants. The larvae hatch and gnaw holes in our leaves. I'm using a couple of methods to control them. For starters, I planted chamomile everywhere. The flower is aromatic, which means it will attract a non-stinging wasp that lays its eggs in the larvae. While I wait for those to grow, I'll sprinkle corn meal on the affected plants- larvae that eat it will bloat and die.

Another problem is visible on the tomato plants. Something is causing the tomatoes to go from looking like this :

To this :
This is not caused by a mold or insect, but instead by a mineral deficiency in the soil. Calcium is not being properly delivered to the fruit. This could be caused by a couple of things- it could be that there is simply not enough calcium in the soil or that there is a pH imbalance inhibiting delivery. An ideal range for tomatoes is 6.5. When I tested the pH of our soil it came out to be 7.0, so the problem isn't its acidity. I sprinkled a minimal amount of garden lime around each plant to try to improve the soil's calcium content. I've also mulched around the tomato plants, as the problem can be caused by uneven water supply. The mulch will help keep the roots constantly damp.

These are the things that are plaguing the garden. We also had our first rabbit attack yesterday- they stripped two collard plants. Hopefully, they won't come back, otherwise we might have to put up a fence.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 2009

Hi everyone!

Things have been progressing well at the garden, and it looks absolutely beautiful right now. Last week, we started digging the perennials bed and planted a section of it with the strawberries. It looks great, and there's still room for more- twelve plants in total. Our plans are to include two more beds for asparagus and rhubarb, but those need to be planted in the early spring so we have some time before the beds need to be finished. We may dig some temporary herb beds above the terrace as well and establish some perennials there.

In the meantime, I have replanted the recently harvested beds with some new crops- bok choi, spinach, arugula, brussels sprouts, collard greens, and summer squash. I'm looking forward to the latter, as they should be highly productive fairly soon. Brussels sprouts are a good choice for this time of year, as they will produce their least bitter crop towards the fall. We also planted the new trellis with indeterminate sugar snap peas- those'll be good producers for the rest of the year.

With the garden planted for now, we'll be turning our attention to some other things. First off is weed control- we'll be weeding fairly regularly; we've already finished one side of the bean terrace that was almost overgrown. We'll do the same thing in and around the raised beds this week. This will prevent the weeds from seeding our beds any more than they already have. We also need to mulch the squash and tomatoes; this will give the frequently thirsty plants a more constant water supply. We'll also harvest regularly and dig new areas.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 09, 2009

Yesterday's work day went really well! Thank you, everyone who came out! We finished the trellises for the tomatoes, harvested the beans, picked some NZ spinach and lettuce, and finished planting and laying the bricks in the second bean trellis.

Our tomato trellises are made out of found materials and have a how-to on this website:

Earlier yesterday, Nate and I dug up the potatoes, which turned out very nicely, and the last five carrots. I'll also be picking and digging up the soybeans very soon, so we will have a lot of room open in the garden. If anyone has an interest in those vegetables or requests for what to plant, please leave a comment.

Next week's goals will include digging a new bed for perennials, finishing the bean trellis, and possibly digging beds for herbs.

The work day times are going to change slightly, due to popular demand- the Sunday time will now be from 6pm-8pm, just like the Wednesday one. Keep in mind that this trades heat for mosquitoes, so come prepared. I recommend long sleeved shirts and long pants, or bugspray, if you prefer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 07, 2009

Please come out to the workday tomorrow from 6-8pm. We did not hold the Sunday workday this week because it was raining. Wear long pants if you plan to come out; the mosquitoes can be vicious at night.

The tomatoes are beginning to ripen, and the okra is coming in the second bed now. I've been going out to pick it every morning- the pods get tough and hairy if you wait until they're longer than 2-3 inches to pick them. Soon we will have a large amount daily, if someone is interested in having the vegetable. Personally, I'm not a huge okra fan because of the texture, but I tried to experiment with a recipe for sauteed okra and red peppers that I found online and it turned out quite well. It gave the okra a nice crunchy texture that distracted me from the sliminess. The recipe can be found here:

There are several suggestions online for ways to prepare okra to reduce the slimy texture. The most practical seems to be slicing it thinly and then leaving it to dry overnight. One day I'll have to give it a try...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July 02, 2009

We are going to start having regular work days again! They will be every Sunday from 9am-12pm and Wednesdays from 6-8pm. Next week we will be working on a trellis, weeding, and harvesting beans, spinach, okra, lettuce, cilantro, and parsley.

The okra is coming in nicely, and the squash vines have reasserted themselves in their new paths just fine.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1 2009

Today I picked the remainder of the beans to ensure that production continues. I have more beans than I can eat as a result! It also takes a very long time. This is something I suggest we do at workdays so we can split up the time and harvest as it will have to be done 2-3 times a week! If you wait too long, the beans develop and the pod gets tougher. Unfortunately, we've already got some of those in this harvest. The beans have to be picked when the beans inside are just starting to plump up.

Furthermore, about half the first trellis has yet to start producing. Many of the plants have begun flowering:

We planted a nice mix of beans, so we have a combination of green, yellow and the occasional purple, which I find very attractive, almost ornamental. They are all of course, edible and can be cooked the same way. Here's an image of the purple plant flowering; it's a nice accent to the trellis and the harvest:

In addition to this, I trimmed around the box of NZ spinach, once again producing more food than I can eat. I picked off the leaves to save for later.

I moved the squash vines so that we can walk the paths more easily. One of the vines took some damage- squash vines have a surprising tendency to already be weak and split down the middle. So you have to be careful! I watered the squash after I was done; I expect that will take care of any damage.

Finally, I picked the first okra pods today, as they were about three inches and would get tough unless picked. The plants flower continuously, so we will have to pick frequently, about every other day.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30 2009

Yesterday I picked a lot of the beans, hoping to stimulate later growth. There are so many!

I also pulled up the remaining five beets and picked a row of edamame to see at what stage of ripeness their flavor is best. I cut about seven branches of NZ spinach that were sticking out around the bed. I weeded a bit and pruned one of the broccoli beds, trimmed back the cilantro that had started going to seed, and pulled up some of the salad greens that had already bolted. My boyfriend and I picked off the tops of some of the lettuce that looked like it was getting to bolt; we ate it for lunch as a salad.

Today I get to cook all of that. My boyfriend is doing the cooking; he also helped me in the garden yesterday and today. He's a wonderful cook. I picked and washed the spinach leaves. They look delicious.

The leaves are more fibrous and have a much stronger flavor than regular spinach- we sauteed it with onions, lemon and garlic to complement the flavor. We also baked the beets- we wrapped them in tinfoil and put them in oven at 400 degrees for an hour. We sliced the beets and put them over the spinach, and ate them with pan-seared chicken marinated in a soy sauce mix.

We also did some work in the garden today. I bought some seeds for the garden from Home Depot, and we planted them! In the spaces left from the plants I picked, we planted radishes, bok choi, and sweet and genovese basil. We also planted two frames of the new trellis with a type of long bean good in stir fry. We decided to give the potatoes one more week to finish producing and then pull them up and replant the bed.