CTG 2014 Week 3: May 17 to 22- First Potluck, Planting & Thinning Demos, & Adding Organic Nutrients

Topics:

  • Planting & Thinning
  • Cover Crops
  • Intro to Pests (TT)
  • Boosting Soil Fertility

Activities:

  • First Potluck!
  • Planting Radishes, Lettuce, & Potatoes (TT)
  • Adding alfalfa powder & kelp meal
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A plate full of goodness

Although this past week was ushered in by some chilly, drizzly weather, the CTG students, interns, staff members, and some guests were all smiles as we met for our first official potluck of the season Saturday morning at the Tommy Thompson site.   With delicious food aplenty, we gathered for brunch and each of the classes enjoyed meeting one another while sharing recipes and gardening interests.  There were certainly a plenty of ‘mmmm’s’ going around as we dug into dishes like Martine’s Strawberry-Banana Rhubarb Crisp and Alyssa’s BLT egg salad.  Kudos are in order for all of our students and their cooking abilities- I think it’s safe to say that everyone left feeling very satisfied and content.  For those of our students who couldn’t make it to our first potluck, we hope to see you at the next one!

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Decisions, decisions, decisions
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Looks like Denise has an idea!
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A parting gift for our potluck guests

Planting & Thinning:

With plot assignments occurring in the next week, Denise offered demonstrations on planting seeds on both Monday and Wednesday to help the students prepare for their individual plots.  Rows were dug in the communal beds at both the Ethan Allen and Tommy Thompson sites and the seeds of radishes and mixed lettuce were sown by the students under Denise’s watchful eye.  Some helpful tips to keep mind when planting seeds include making sure the soil is moist prior to seeding and that seeds should be buried at a depth that is twice as deep as the seed is long, or you  can always refer to a trusty seed packet for precise measurements.  Also, it is important to remember that seeds need constant water to germinate, and so its a good idea to watch the weather and/or give them a good, regular soaking once they’ve sprouted so they can take root successfully.   The Tommy Thompson group were eager as they also planted two varieties of potatoes, German Butterball and Desiree, from sprouted potatoes rather than seeds.  These were planted at a much deeper depth than the radish and lettuce, and Denise mentioned that new gardeners are better off  using seeds to avoid using contaminated potatoes and to reduce the possibility of fungal disease midst the starts.  In the weeks to follow, Denise will continue with a thinning demonstration on the radish and lettuce once they have sprouted in order to show students what happens when sprouts get overcrowded rather than thinned.

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Making rows
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Planting radishes

 

Cover Crops:

Midst the excitement of planting, some of the students at the Ethan Allen  Homestead noticed sprouts of what they assumed to be weeds, but were remnants of the Buckwheat that had been planted last season as a cover crop as the site laid fallow.  This sparked a brief discussion on cover crops, or crops that are cultivated when the given plot or field is not being cultivated with a cash crop (i.e corn, veggie gardens) in order to preserve and add to the soil’s fertility and organic matter. For more information regarding cover crops visit the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) website for an informative webinar at: http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Multimedia/American-Society-of-Agronomy-Cover-Crops-Webinar-Series/Cover-Crops-Seed-Selection-and-Planting

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Our peas have sprouted!

Brief Introduction to Plant Disease & Pests:

Wednesday’s class at the Tommy Thompson site also got a brief introduction on some native pests that will most likely be encountered (although we hope not) at some point this growing season.  While preparing the rows for the potatoes, Denise gave some information on potato blight, a common disease in the Northeast that impacts, as its name suggests, potatoes.   Also known as late blight, this disease causes grey-green spots on growing tubers and eventually turn an unsightly dark brown in hue.   Denise, with help from second-year gardening student Steve, also introduced flea beetles, another common pest in the Northeast that generally targets veggies found in the cabbage family.  These small black beetles received their title due to the way they jump like fleas when they are disturbed.  After identifying a few that had gotten to the sprouting radishes at another second-year’s garden, Steve showed the class the row cover he had developed to put over his arugula transplants.  Keeping starts and/or transplants covered is the  best method for excluding pests like flea beetles and while also keeping the transplants warm- a difficult task here in VT! A row cover can easily be made by hand with some fabric, some malleable supports, and stakes.  Check out Steve’s below!

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Planting potatoes at Tommy Thompson
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The leftovers from a flea beetle picnic
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Thanks for the tips Steve!

Boosting Soil Fertility:

Each group this week ended class by getting their hands dirty in not soil, but alfalfa powder and kelp meal.  Each of the unplanted beds received a hefty sprinkling of each of these organic fertilizers to give the soil a little boost before the students begin planting next week.  While the alfalfa powder adds to the soil’s organic matter, the kelp meal provides some essential micro-nutrients that the future plants will certainly be thankful for!

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Explaining the benefits of kelp meal and alfalfa powder
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Working at sunset
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