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: http://www.harvesteating.com/public/928.cfm. 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.