Week 8: June 25, 28

Topics:

  • Identifying pests and weeds
  • Noticing things that are unusual
  • Edible weeds
  • Green Mountain Compost

Summary of week’s activities”

  • Mulching the garden beds with hay
  • Potato beetle massacre
  • Weeding, weeding, weeding
It has been a pretty difficult week in the community teaching garden.
It is typical for gardeners to encounter pests and bursts of weeds at this time of year. As young plants begin to establish themselves, they must battle to survive against the competition against weeds and insects. In the CTG we found the marks of flea beetles on our cabbage family greens. These small beetles are common in early summer and feed on radish greens, mustard greens and other brassicas. Because of the profusion of flea beetles, we discussed organic remedies: mint, soap sprays and trap crops. A good preventative is a mixture of organic peppermint castile soap.
We also identified the yellow orange striped cucumber beetle. Cucumber beetles can cause extensive damage to leaves of young cucumber plants and serve as a vector for bacterial wilt, a serious disease of cucurbits. The larvae feed on roots, causing further damage. Management of cucumber beetles can be difficult as the larvae occur in the soil, and the adult are very fast moving.
The last major pest that gardeners are encouraged to stay on top of is the potato beetle. We found the orange clusters of potato beetle eggs on the undersides of potato leaves as well as young larvae, which we put into a jar with soapy water. If you are feeling especially vengeful, you can just squish the larvae, beetles and egg clusters, but sometimes the soapy water is a bit less gruesome. The best defense against these pests in a small scale garden is frequent inspection of the garden for pests, hand-picking and killing those that are found, and keeping an eye out for unusual holes in leaves or growth of your vegetables. Planting certain herbs and flowers around the perimeter can also act as a pest deterrent, such as basil, marigolds, onion/allium family vegetables. For more information: http://www.pallensmith.com/articles/pest-control-plants/
Students learned how to identify between weeds and young plants, harder said than done!
Gardeners also sampled the two most common edible weeds, purslane and lambs quarters.

On a more tragic and out-of-the-ordinary note, gardeners all around Vermont were struck by the unfortunate news that bulk batches of Green Mountain Compost are contaminated by an herbicide which may make vegetables grown in it inedible. Testing is being done to determine which herbicide is involved and concentration levels in the compost. This is the compost which we used in the CTG, and so we will have to wait to hear back from the results. When we surveyed the CTG, we did find plants with this distorted growth, gnarly tomato leaves and the edges of eggplants curled up.  Until more is known, the VT Health Department is recommenindg that no-one eat food from gardens where this compost was used.

More information can be found here, including pictures showing the growth deformation: http://www.greenmountaincompost.com/all-about-compost/compost-persistent-herbicides-fact-sheet/
Also, if you have used Gr Mountain compost in another garden, please let them know if you see distorted growth in that garden:  http://www.greenmountaincompost.com/contact/report-abnormal-plant-growth/
And a message from Denise:
I know that this is heartbreaking and frustrating, but FBG will find an alternate way to complete the gardening season, if the tests do indicate that we should not eat what is in our current beds.  Jess is looking into container gardens for the CTG.  Also, the peas, first planting of potatoes, garlic, rhubarb and raspberry beds did not have compost added, so those crops will be safe.
I think that this contamination is also thought provoking in terms of thinking about the societal acceptance of herbicides and pesticides in lawn care and the impact that it can have on food producers. In the CTG we are fortunate that we are not dependent upon the production of this food as our livelihoods, unfortunately other farms may not have been so lucky. I hope that our community can come together and find resiliency in response to this frustrating occurrence. Stay tuned and be strong, collaborative and hopeful.
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Grilled Green Chicken

I have a small container garden of peppers and herbs on my porch and this summer the herb are exploding. The mint has been particularly prodigious and I’ve been on the lookout for recipes that will help me make use of my bounty.

A friend recently shared the following recipe for Green Grilled Chicken and I absolutely love it. I’ve used the marinade on chicken, pork, steak and shrimp and it’s delicious on all of them.

I don’t follow a paleo diet and made a few modifications. I added oil to help prevent the grilled meats from sticking to the grill, I used whatever fish sauce I had in my fridge and instead of Aleppo I used 1/2 tsp of cayenne.

Feeds 4-6 people

  • 1 medium sweet onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup packed cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 1/4 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup packed mint leaves
  • 4 tablespoons of  Red Boat fish sauce
  • 3 peeled garlic cloves
  • zest of 1 lime
  • plenty ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup or 2 tablespoons of apple juice (I used apple juice)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds of chicken drumsticks or thighs

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Add chicken to a 1 gallon zip top bag or bowl and pour the marinade over it.

Seal or cover and let marinate for at least an hour and up to a day.

Grill the chicken and enjoy!

Week 7: June 18, 21

Topics:

  • Differentiating between carrots and grass
  • Mulching
  • Why we hill potatoes

Summary of week’s activities:

  • Watered entire garden
  • Planted most of the transplants
  • Direct seeded kale and swiss chard
  • Hilled potatoes
  • Second potluck

Weeds were becoming plentiful in the garden. Unsure of which plants were crops and which were weeds, the class was taught to identify the difference between baby carrots and grass. It is surprisingly difficult! The trick is to look at the shoots coming off of the stem. If they are alternating, or staggered, it is a grass, and if there are two branches coming out of the same part, making a “V”-shape, it is a carrot. This is particularly important to be aware of when thinning out your carrots.

National Gardening Association: Gallery of common garden weeds:
http://www.garden.org/weedlibrary/

One common technique to reduce weeds is mulch. To mulch a garden gardeners use straw, hay, black plastic, and even newspaper or burlap sacks. We will be using hay to mulch the community garden. The difference between hay and straw is that the hay might still have some seeds in it, which you want to be careful about. Mulching prevents weeds from germinating, adds organic matter to the soil, and holds moisture. Mulch should be laid after the soil has warmed, otherwise germination of seeds and growth of plants will be slowed. Although much should be placed around plants, it should not directly touch the base of plants to reduce fungal disease and access by certain pests.

The class also learned about hilling potatoes. “Hilling” is a technique of piling soil up along the base of the potato plant. This technique is used to increase the productivity of potatoes. Our botanist garden teacher informed the class that a potato is in fact a modified stem, not a root as we often think of it. In addition to increasing production, hilling potatoes prevents the potatoes from being exposed to sunlight and turning green. Gardeners should hill two or three weeks after the potato plants germinates and continues piling the soil until the first flower appears.

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Other exciting news from the garden is the appearance of garlic scapes. Stiff-neck garlic sends out a stalk from the center of the bulb, called the scape. If you allow this to continues growing, the bulb will not grow as big, and so it is recommended that gardeners nip the scape. Scapes are delicious added to vegetable stir fry, rousted, grilled, pickled, or made into garlic scape pesto. This is a recipe from the website veganyumyum.com:

Garlic Scape Pesto
Serves Two

1/2 lb Fresh Garlic Scapes
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Large Pinch Salt
Black Pepper
1/3 Cup Pine Nuts (or other nut)
2 Tbs Oil
Lemon Juice, to taste

Chop the scapes into 1 inch long pieces. Add 2 tbs oil to a heated pan and add the scapes. Add salt, pepper, and pine nuts and saute for a few minutes over medium high heat until the scapes begin to soften and the nuts turn golden brown. Add immediately to the work bowl of a food processor and add remaining oil. Blend well until a smooth paste forms. Taste and add more salt or some lemon juice to brighten. This will coat 1/2 lb. of pasta.

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Also, the second year community gardeners have been working steadily and quietly on their own beds, here are a few inspiring images:

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This Thursday is the second Community Teaching Garden Potluck, where first and second year gardener will have a chance to swap ideas, stories and suggestions over delicious foods!

Happy summer solstice everyone!

Week 6: June 11, 14

Topics:

  • Planting instructions for different transplants and direct seeding
  • Thinning
  • Watering

Summary of week’s activities:

  • Continued work on individual beds
  • Watered entire garden
  • Thinned one row of demonstration radishes in group bed
  • Dug berms for sweet potato beds

After a few days of sunshine, the new plants are doing well, but in need of water. The garden needs a good watering every other day at least, so if there is no rain, this means that we will turn to the hose and watering cans. Especially if you have newly planted seeds and transplants, it is a good idea to give them a good soaking. Lettuce and carrot seeds are very small and have a tendency to get washed away by heavy rain, so it is a good idea to directly water them, or else you may find a rogue lettuce a few rows down! Gardeners gently watered the base of new young plants with watering cans to promote growth and plant health.

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In the group bed we have planted two rows of radishes. One row, we thinned the radishes, the other we allowed to grow as is. Thinning is a practice used for growing vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, and radishes, where gardeners pinch out some of the plants in a row, to give space for the vegetables to thrive. While it seems counter-intuitive to kill plants that you seeded yourself, it will pay off come harvest time. To thin radishes, you space the plants enough so that the size of a radish can comfortably grow, about half an inch or so. Radishes, carrots and lettuce are all secession plants, which means that we will be able to plant several rounds because they come to ripen within a month or so.

Lastly, we prepared two of the group triangular beds for sweet potatoes! To prep the beds we dug U-shaped berms, or trenches and mounds, in the soil. On Thursday, we hope to plant the sweet potato slips. Slips are cuttings from a parent sweet potato vine. Sweet potatoes grow best in a loose, sandy or silty soil that drains well.

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Week 5: June 4, 7

Topics:

  • Planting individual plots
  • Plant spacing and varieties
  • Insects in the garden: pests vs. beneficials

Summary of week’s activities:

  • Planting from starts and seeds
  • Work in individual plots
  • Planted another bed of group potatoes
  • FBG sweet potato slip sale this Saturday!

Gardeners set to work this week planting their individual beds. We purchased transplants, or small plants which were started earlier in the season by seed in a greenhouse. Because the growing season is relatively short in Vermont, warm season crops like tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers must be either started indoors several weeks before the last frost date or purchased as starts. Starts need to be hardened off, or acclimated to outdoor conditions, before being planted outside. Methods of hardening off include setting plants outside for increasing amounts of time during the day to get them used to the wind, sun and temp changes, using a fan to simulate the wind, and setting them in an open window to get them used to the sun.

The starts that we got into the soil included three varieties of tomato- cherries (Sungolds!), sauce and slicers. Each variety has it’s own niche and use for preparation. We planted cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, brussel sprouts, leeks onions, cucumbers, and more!

Some common garden plants are at risk of damage from cutworms, so students were shown how to place cutworm collars around transplants when setting them in the ground. Cutworm collars can be made of newspaper, short plastic straws split up the side, or other materials, and are wrapped around the base of the stem until the stem becomes hardy enough to withstand cutworms. The Brassica family of garden plants are especially susceptible to the cutworm.

Companion planting, or planting two crops that are mutually beneficially next to each other, was also discussed this week. One example of companion planting is the classic “three sisters garden” where corn, beans and squash are planted together. Other examples of companion planting include planting shade loving plants under tall plants, placing plants that repel pests near other crops, and trap cropping. In trap cropping, a less valuable crop that strongly attracts a pest is planted next to a more valuable crop. This protects the crop, by drawing pests away from it. One pest deterrent that we planted at random in the garden by seed is marigold. Some pests that we know are in the garden are cucumber beetle and squash borer. In the shed we have a laminated information guide which will show which bugs we want in the garden and which we want to kill.

Also, this Saturday is the Friends of Burlington Gardens sweet potato slip sale! For more info, http://www.burlingtongardens.org/sweet_potato_sale.html

Week 4: May 31

Topics:

  • Compost!
  • Assigning individual beds

Summary of week’s activities:

  • Added 6 buckets of compost to each bed

With Monday’s class being cancelled we had a lot of work to do on Thursday! The class worked hard distributing a huge pile of compost throughout all of the beds. We used 5 gallon buckets to measure out the compost so that it was evenly distributed, about 6 buckets for each bed. We then used wide toothed forks to turn the compost into the soil and gardeners used rakes to level out the beds. It is always beneficial to add compost to a garden to add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. Here is a website to read up more on why compost and organic matter are important in the garden: http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/organic-matter

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You can see the color difference between the dark rich compost and the soil that was previously in the garden

Other exciting garden updates for the week:

The radishes are up and the strawberries are ripening!

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