Week 8: June 24 to 29 – A Potluck and Potato Care

Topics:

  • Maintaining cucurbits

Summary of the Week:

  • Learned how to fight pests or diseases that can damage cucurbits
  • Hilled potatoes
  • Second potluck of the season
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Gardeners work quickly as a storm rolls over the Community Teaching Garden,

Another wet, buggy week with the constant threat of thunder was not enough to stop the Community Teaching Garden students from working away – weeding, potato hilling, and maintenance of the cucurbits. We worked hard to fit our weeding in before the thunder rolled in or the bugs ate us while also learning about the importance of hilling potatoes.

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Working hard on the potatoes.

Our shared potatoes are fighting potato beetles and wet conditions and it was time to start hilling our rows. Hilling potatoes after they have started to show their leaves above the soil ensures that the potatoes will be healthy and successful. We took the surrounding excess soil and hilled our potatoes around the stem and right up to the leaves to provide the potatoes with enough soil to grow fully and to keep them from reaching the surface. If the potatoes are exposed to too much direct sunlight they will be ruined. Hilling the potatoes also helps with rain drainage, which is definitely important for us in our garden this year. For more information on how to care for potatoes and why hilling is a necessary step in potato gardening, check out this website, http://www.garden.org/foodguide/browse/veggie/potatoes_care/571.

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Potatoes before and after hilling.
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Hilling potatoes.
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Weeding and hilling potatoes.

After learning how to hill our potatoes we also continued to maintain our cucurbits by giving the leaves a light spraying of baking soda and water. This week, one class also tried a milk and water mixture on their cucurbits. We will keep track of the progress of the plants and test each mixture to determine which one will work best in our garden to keep the cucurbits healthy. Keep watching your cucurbits to see if the solution you used is working!

After a busy week of gardening we rewarded ourselves with a delicious brunch potluck on Saturday morning. The clouds broke and it turned into a warm, sunny morning in time for our potluck, where a mix of students, staff, and guests gathered for some garden talk and yummy food!

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A table full of delicious food to share.
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Gardeners enjoying the food and sunshine.
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Week 7: June 17 to 22 – Mulching and Maintaining Garden Beds

Topics:

  • Mulching
  • Maintaining cucurbits

Summary of the Week:

  • Learned about supporting and maintaining our plants as they grow and fight pests or diseases
  • Planted
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Cucumbers
    • Squash

The Community Teaching Garden beds are nearly full and many plants are looking healthy while others are beginning to pop up. To ensure that our plants remain healthy as they mature we learned about the various ways to maintain our gardens through preventative measures against weeds, pests, diseases, or fungus. Mulching is a good method to use in order to help prevent weeds from surrounding your plants and taking over your garden bed. There are several different materials that can be used for mulching in your garden and around the bed such as newspaper, burlap bags, straw, and wood chips. For inside the garden bed, straw is a good option. Place a layer of straw around your plants and remember to leave the area around the base of the stem uncovered to ensure that your plant does not rot. When mulching with straw around your plants, it is a good idea to wait until June when the soil has been able to gain warmth.

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Mulching around plants in garden beds.

Another important aspect of garden upkeep we learned about was preventing diseases and mold from taking over our plants. The cucurbits are at risk and there is an easy, organic remedy to face this problem. We tried a mixture of baking soda and water as a potential solution. With a spray bottle we lightly misted the plant leaves to ensure that we did not add too much unnecessary water. Hopefully this will work as a preventative measure for our zucchinis and cucumbers.

After a successful sweet potato slip sale at Red Wagon Plants a few weeks ago, it was time to add sweet potatoes to our garden. Sweet potatoes are started from slips, which are produced from full-grown sweet potatoes. The shared sweet potato transplants were planted in hills similar to regular potatoes and the slips are planted on their sides with the stem bent to face upward. Sweet potatoes are a more southern crop and enjoy warmth, which is helped by the hilling process.

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Working together to plant sweet potatoes.
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Planting the sweet potato on it’s side with the stem facing up.
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Rows of sweet potatoes.
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The planted sweet potatoes.

If you are interested in mulching your garden at home, the Burlap Coffee Bag Benefit Sale is this Saturday, June 22 at the COTS parking lot at 95 North Ave. in Burlington from 9 am to 1 pm. The sale benefits the Vermont Community Garden Network’s educational programs. Also, remember that next Saturday, June 29 the Community Teaching Garden will be having the second potluck of the season!

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Some beautiful radishes were harvested.
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Planting cucumbers.

Week 6: June 10 to 15 – Braving the Bugs

Topics:

  • Trellises
  • Tomatoes
  • Potential leek pest and so far no sign of them at our site

Summary of the Week:

  • Buggiest nights of our lives
  • Prepared for the sweet potatoes
  • Planted
    • Tomatoes
    • Peppers
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Happy Gardening.

Groups of tough gardeners braved the many mosquitoes this week to keep up with weeding and make new additions their individual beds. There were many new plant choices to add to the gardens, some starting from seeds and others needed to be transplanted. Healthy tomato plants of various varieties were added and given lots of space in the beds. Once the plants grow and become big enough, a tomato cage, trellis, or other support system will be necessary to keep the stalk sturdy and the tomatoes from drooping to the ground. Along with new tomatoes, we also planted bell peppers, hot peppers, various beans, and other treats.

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Transplanting young tomatoes.

To keep moving and avoid the bugs as much as possible, we toured the other gardens and admired the no-till sites to learn more about trellises. There are many different ways to build or create a trellis for plants that need to climb or require support. Trellises can be in the form of wood stakes, wood structures, metal cages, twine, or you can get creative. We added tall, bamboo sticks for our shared peas in our garden. Trellises are functional but can also add to the aesthetics of the garden. As we saw with the no-till sites, some of the structures are the center or an integral aspect of the garden. If you’re interested in learning more about the many different ways to build a trellis, take a walk around Tommy Thompson when it isn’t quite so buggy and check out the functional and inventive ways that gardeners choose to trellis their plants.

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The Teaching Garden trellises, placed at the base of the peas.
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An example of a creative way to build a trellis.

On Thursday, with a breeze and other factors to help ward off the mosquitoes we were able to spend more time in the garden weeding and maintaining personal plots. We began preparing the garden for our sweet potato slips. Sweet potatoes are a southern plant that requires warm soil to be successful. To ensure that our sweet potatoes grow in a more northern climate, we created rows of mounded soil. By doing this to the soil, we are allowing the soil to warm up as much as possible before planting the sweet potatoes on the weekend and early next week. We did all of this work while watching a bright sunset that lit up the trees surrounding the site as a perfect ending to the day.

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Preparing the bed for sweet potatoes.
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Creating rows of mounded dirt for the sweet potatoes.

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A closer look at the mounded dirt for the sweet potatoes.

More inspiration for using your rhubarb

For any of you who missed our first potluck we had a fabulous mix of delicious dishes. One of the show stoppers was the Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp brought by Saben, who was kind enough to share the recipe with us. If you’re looking for a way to use up some rhubarb this recipe is definitely a great option! Be warned, it’s dangerously delicious!

 

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Strawberry (or Apple) Rhubarb Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 cups sliced fresh rhubarb or frozen rhubarb, thawed
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries or sliced peeled apples
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Vanilla ice cream, optional

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add rhubarb and strawberries or apples (I used a combination of strawberries and peaches since I didn’t have enough strawberries and it was delicious); toss to coat. Spoon into an 8-in. square baking dish.
  • In a small bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over fruit.
  • Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until bubbly and fruit is tender.

Serve warm with ice cream if desired. Yield: 8 servings.

**Note: If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.

Hope you enjoy!

Week 5: June 3 to 8 – Beetles and Brassicas

Topics:

  • Brassica family
  • Flea beetles

Summary of the Week:

  • Worked hard on individual beds
  • Planted cabbage, broccoli, and other plants from the brassica family
  • Learned how to take preventative measures against flea beetles
  • Made collars to keep cutworms from reaching and harming the stem
  • Planted squash
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Working hard on the individual garden beds.

The Community Teaching Garden students had their first experience with harmful garden insects this week after flea beetles started to damage the leaves of the brassicas we started last week. Flea beetles target leafy vegetables, such as those in the brassica family. Luckily, the bulk of our planting in this family had not started yet and we were able to save most of our plants before transplanting them into the individual beds. Flea beetles are small and can prevent further growth for seedlings. To stop flea beetles from reaching the cabbage, broccoli, or kale, both classes learned how to use garden fabric or row covers. The cloth is created for agricultural purposes, which allows sunlight and water to reach the plants while still protecting the area from flea beetles.  We covered the sections with cloth immediately after planting and lined the edges of the fabric with soil to ensure the beetles would not end up in the soil or on the leaves. For more information about flea beetles, check out this link: http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/factsheets/fleabeetle.html. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use row covers to protect your plants and their benefits, you can read more here: http://www.gardeners.com/Row-Covers/5111,default,pg.html.

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The damage left by flea beetles.
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Covering the brassica plants with row covers to protect against flea beetles.
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Fresh cabbages and more waiting to be transplanted.

Another garden insect that we learned how to protect our plants from is the cutworm. These garden pests can eat away at the stem of your plants but we learned a simple way to prevent them from reaching our cabbage and broccoli. Using newspaper, cardboard, or even plastic straws as collars are an easy way to ensure that cutworms do not ruin your plants. Cut strips of paper into about three-inch thick strips to wrap around the stem of the plant with about half below the soil and half above. If you are using newspaper, just remember to make sure the color ink is safe for your garden and if you are using plastic, remember to remove it before the end of the season.

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Planting with collars to keep cutworms out.

After working together to prevent flea beetle damage, weed group beds, and plant collective squash, everybody worked hard on their individual beds and filled their gardens with delicious vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, and onions. The beds are beginning to gain their own character and individuality as each student adds their favorite vegetables and marigolds as companion plants for insect control and a splash of color.

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Planting shared squash.
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The garden was busy, despite the rain on Thursday.
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Exciting new additions were made to the individual beds with cabbage and more.
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Serious planting.
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Planning which vegetables to plant.

Remember that this weekend is the Fifth Annual Champlain Valley Sweet Potato Slip Sale: http://www.burlingtongardens.org/sweet_potato_sale.html. Yum!