CTG 2014 WEEK 8: JUNE 21 TO 26- TOMATO TALK WITH SPECIAL GUEST LEA SCOTT, WEEDING, HARVESTING, AND SECOND POTLUCK OF THE SEASON

Topics:

  • All things tomatoes
  • Weed maintenance: They are worse around the Summer Solstice because of the extended hours of sunlight!
  • Pest Scouting

Activities:

  • Tomato suckering demo (EA)
  • Weeding (TT)
  • Unveiling brassica row cover to check for flea beetles and weeds (TT)
  • Harvesting strawberries (EA) and snap peas (EA & TT)!
Tomato Class
Introductions at the Ethan Allen plot before a talk from special guest, Lea Scott

This week was full of special events and special guests, truly bringing the feeling of community that VCGN’s programs strive for. The week started, on Monday, with a talk given by Lea Scott, a student in UVM’s Farmer Training program. The talk was focused on anything and everything you need to know to successfully grow your own tomatoes, drawing in a handful of students from the Tommy Thompson plot. Students got the opportunity to connect with a community partner as well as other community gardeners like themselves, all of which was just a bit of foreshadowing for the amazing turnout we had at the second CTG potluck of the season this Thursday. Upwards of two dozen community gardeners, community partners, family and friends showed up to the pavilion at Ethan Allen this Thursday, with delicious, mostly garden-grown food in hand. This was another incredible opportunity for community-building for students and other community members alike.

Class Scene starring Mallory
Mallory in her garden

Tomatoes:

Lea gave students at Ethan Allen an extremely detailed and straight-forward outline of what it takes to grow delicious, garden-fresh tomatoes. She gave tips on watering, advising that tomatoes don’t like too much water, and they prefer consistency- pick a schedule of how often you want to water your tomatoes and stick to it! She described and demonstrated ways of trellising, such as basket weaving twine in between tomatoes and stakes to hold the plants up. Students learned that tomatoes are “diseasey” plants, and that if you see a few spots on the leaves of your plants its okay! Remove any infested leaves and try to keep as much moisture off of your plants’ leaves and stalks and you should be able to have a healthy crop. She ended her talk with a demonstration of suckering, which is a process in which you remove any growth coming up between a main leaf branch (a leader) and the main stem. The idea is that we only want 2-3 leaders per plant, in order to force the most energy into fruit production. A big thank you to Lea Scott for sharing her expertise with our gardeners! We look forward to using your tips and probably having a better tomato season than ever before!

Tomato Class #2
Lea demonstrating suckering a tomato plant

The Potluck!

An unbelievable turnout, delicious food, and perfect weather made for a magical evening! CTG students from both gardens, community partners, and guests from all across the board gathered for a night of food and mingling. Starting with a circle of introductions and a memo on what you made allowed for everyone to meet and also get inspiration from other local cooks on what to make with their garden produce! Once the introductions ended came the swarming of the food table, discussion on the beautiful dishes made, and then the eating! Eating was paired with the mingling of community members from a variety of backgrounds. Relationships were formed and CTG students hopefully were able to make connections looking forward towards their personal projects!

Pot Luck -- Jacob gets a bit excited sometimes!
Jacob thrilled about his filled plate

 

 

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CTG 2014 Week 7: June 14 to 19- DIY Trellises, Dealing with Pests, Thinning Demo Part II, & more planting and harvesting

Topics:

  • DIY Tomato Trellising
  • Pest Control: Colorado Potato Beetle
  • Thinning Demo Results

Activities:

  • Building bamboo trellises (Ethan Allen)
  • Planting sweet potatoes (TT)
  • Planting black-eyed peas (TT)
  • Harvesting strawberries & mesclun
  • Tool sharpening demo from Libby (Ethan Allen)
Strawberries
Yum!

It’s quite incredible to watch the continued progress that’s been going on in the Community Teaching Garden sites.  It seems like every other day a new crop has sprouted while another is suddenly ready for  harvesting.   We certainly overheard some squeals of excitement this week as our students arrive to class to find that there was several strawberries, mesclun greens, and radishes ready to be harvested.   It truly is wonderful to see how a bit of time, focus, instruction, and of course some tender, loving care can result in such beautiful gardens!

Planting Sweet Potatoes
Planting Sweet Potatoes at Tommy Thompson
Black Eyed Peas
Planting black-eyed peas

DIY Tomato Trellising:

While some time was spent discussing the purpose of trellising a couple weeks ago, it was time this week to apply it to the growing tomato plants that will surely start producing fruits soon.  Denise provided a guided demonstration on how to utilize bamboo stakes, an extremely durable material for trellising and other building projects, and some twine to create triangular structures to support the tomatoes.  The bamboo stakes were joined at a point with the twine, and then inserted into the ground so the tomato plants were fully encompassed.  Some more twine was then wound loosely from the stakes around the stem and back to provide some flexible support.   Aside from bamboo stakes, tomato cages and pre-manufactured trellises can be purchased online or at locations like Gardener’s Supply, but they can be costly and take up a lot of storage space.  Tomatoes can be quite finicky in terms of their cultivation, and so it is always a good idea to utilize a trellis to keep the plants supported, prevent the tomatoes from touching the ground where they will surely rot, and to increase air flow to reduce the rate of fungal diseases.  Many of our tomato-loving students are excited to hear from UVM Farmer Training Program student, Lea Scott, next Monday as she gives a talk on everything tomatoes!

Talking about trellis'
A demo on trellising
Shelly
Shelley improving her trellising expertise

Pest Control: The Colorado Potato Beetle

This Wednesday, a student approached Denise at the Tommy Thompson site to mention that there seemed to be some pest damage on the  potato plants and Denise replied with an, ‘Ah, yes…’ as if she knew it was inevitable.  Thus, a lesson on controlling the infamous Colorado Potato Beetle and its even more destructive larvae was in order.    Colorado potato beetles are small, ovular insects with distinct stripped markings.  Once they are identified it is important to check the underside of the given plant’s leaves to see if its bright yellowish-orange eggs have been laid.  These eggs, along with their parents, should be immediately removed and disposed as they will undoubtedly wreak havoc upon the plant’s leaves once they hatch.  It is important to continually monitor your potato plants on a regular basis to keep this pest under  control.  Denise advised that the students should check the potatoes any time they stop by the garden so that they may have a fighting chance!

Potato Beetle
The notorious Colorado Potato Beetle
CPB Eggs
Potato beetle eggs
Snails
Diane found some snails…

Thinning Demo Results:

During our first couple weeks of the CTG program, Denise had the class plant radishes in the communal beds at both sites in preparation of a thinning demonstration.  One section of the radishes were thinned as they began to sprout while the other was not.  This week, radishes from both sections at the Tommy Thompson site were harvested and the results were just as expected; the thinned radishes had plump, developed roots while the others were quite minuscule and underdeveloped.  These results were to show the students that without thinning, many seedlings will attempt to outcompete one another leaving less of a harvest in the long-run.  Thus, to get the most out of your crops keep an out for the smaller seedlings as those should be the ones that are thinned out to allow the proper conditions for more desirable crops to flourish!

Thinning
To thin or not to thin

This week was certainly full of beautiful first harvests and weather, and we are excited to continue watching our students and gardens grow together throughout the rest of the summer!

TT- overview
Tommy Thompson

Rhubarb Custard Bars

With such a plentiful amount of rhubarb at the Ethan Allen site, it’s hard not to feel your inner chef getting a little inspired.   That being said, I dug out a recipe for Rhubarb Custard Bars from my mom to make a sweet, deliciously chilled treat that’s quite nice to indulge in on a hot summer day.  As promised to the Tommy Thompson group, I am posting it here for reference- they’re super easy to make and little preparation of the rhubarb is needed!  Enjoy!

 

Rhubarb Custard Bars: 

Yield: 30 bars

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Ingredients: 

For the crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cold butter or margarine

For the custard filling:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 5 cups finely chopped fresh rhubarb (may use frozen- thawed & drained)

For the topping:

  • 2 packages (3 oz each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Steps:

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour and sugar for crust, then cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. Press mixture into greased 13 in x 9 in x 2 in baking pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350°.
  3. While crust is baking, combine sugar and flour for filling in a bowl.
  4. Whisk cream and eggs into filling mixture, then add chopped rhubarb
  5. Pour filling mixture over crust and bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes, or until custard has set
  6. Let cool
  7. For the topping, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth; fold in whipped cream
  8. Spread topping over cooled custard, then cover and let cool
  9. Cut into bars and store in refrigerator

CTG 2014 Week 6: June 7 to 12- Sweet Potatoes, the TT Herb Spiral, Weeding Tips, and harvesting

Topics:

  • Planting sweet potato slips
  • The Herb Spiral: A Permaculture Concept (TT)
  • Weeds vs. Seedling Sprouts

Activities:

  • Mulching beds with hay
  • Harvesting Alpine Strawberries
  • Making seed tape with organic paper towels (Mini-lesson from Chandra)
First Strawberry
Martine & her strawberry!

With the end of our sixth week of the Community Teaching Garden program our students have really started to see the ‘fruits’ of their labor appear, quite literally.  Both classes were able to harvest some juicy, red Alpine Strawberries, and the Tommy Thompson group was elated to see that some cilantro and corn, recently planted in the Three Sister’s Garden, had sprouted.    Our second-year student/mentor, Steve, also has some fine-looking peas!  It’s safe to say that we will certainly have some delicious, garden-fresh ingredients available for our next CTG potluck!

Beans
Hello, beans

 

Planting Sweet Potatoes:

This past Saturday and Sunday (June 7-8th) was celebrated with the 7th annual Sweet Potato Slip Sale, a VCGN fundraiser, at Red Wagon Plants in Hinesburg.  Thus it was no surprise that planting sweet potatoes, a plant of tropical origins, was on the agenda this week.  Denise guided the students in the proper way of planting the slips, which are sprouts that originate from a mature spud, beginning with creating small mounds for planting in.  The slips were then placed into the prepared mounds about 1 ft apart and the roots and stems buried, leaving only the leaves above ground.  Remaining conscious of spacing when planting sweet potatoes is important, as they generally require a lot of space to continue their growth.    Some delicious sweet potato recipes are sure to come once we are able to harvest these copper-colored beauts!

Sweet potato slip lesson
Sweet potato slip lesson

The Tommy Thompson Herb Spiral: A Permaculture Concept

If you have ever wandered into the CTG site at the Tommy Thompson Community Garden, you have most likely noticed the large stone spiral that lies slightly behind the welcome sign.  This striking example of stone masonry doesn’t only provide some aesthetic appeal, but also serves a more practical purpose, which was discussed during Wednesday evening’s class.  Herb spirals, inspired by permaculture practices, represents a low-maintenance approach to growing herbs in a space-concious and bio-diverse manner.  A variety of herbs may be grown within an herb spiral as it provides appropriate microclimates for each: the top provides well-drained soil and direct sun, and the bottom allows for more moist soil and shade from the sun.   For more information as well as a guided construction plan, visit: http://www.foodproduction101.com/blog/how-to-build-an-herb-spiral-part-1.html

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A basic herb spiral plan

Weeds vs. Seedling Sprouts:

As many of our seedlings have sprouted, it is not surprising that some pesky weeds have started to surface alongside them.    As has Denise has mentioned several times, it can be difficult for beginning gardeners to decipher between weeds and seedling sprouts, which can cause some obvious consequences when one is eagerly weeding away.  Thus it was important that she provide our students with some tips on telling weeds and sprouts a part.  Weeds, specifically grasses, have leaves that alternate and overlap one another up the stem.  Seedling sprouts on the other hand, have two leaves, also known as cotyledons, which sprout from a singular point at the top of the stem.  As Denise stressed, if you are  in doubt you should leave the plants to grow another week so that they are more easily identifiable, or ask a gardening expert like her!

Shelley
Shelley’s looking pleased with her sprouts!
Peas-1
Trellising peas at Ethan Allen

After rounding out  class with some hay mulching at the Ethan Allen site and a mini-lesson on organic seed tape from Chandra at the Tommy Thompson, our sixth week together has come to an end.  We are thrilled and inspired by the consistent effort and optimism being put forth by our wonderful group of students, and are honored to assist them in meeting their gardening aspirations!

Oscar
Oscar dutifully supervising

P.S.- A huge thanks goes to CTG student Lynne Cardozo for the photos this week- they’re beautiful!

CTG 2014 Week 5: May 31 to June 5 – Planting Starts Round 2, Trellising Demo, & Starting a Three Sisters Garden

Topics:

  • Planting & care for tomatoes, peppers, & curcurbits (Curcurbitaceae)
  • Trellising
  • Three Sisters Garden (TT)

Activities:

  • Planting starts- Round 2
  • Planting leeks (EA)
  • Trellising communal beds
  • Planting corn
First radish harvest!
First radish harvest!
Radishes = smiles
Radishes = smiles

With week 5 of the 22-week Community Teaching Garden Program coming to a close, our students have completed the first series of planting and have begun to excitedly watch their garden plots’ progress.  We were fortunate to have some excellent weather this week, which certainly raised spirits midst the onslaught of the pesky mosquitos that seem to have taken up residence at the garden sites.  Our furry friend, Oscar, even joined us for Monday’s class at the Ethan Allen site to check out the sprouting results of our students’ diligent work.

Strawberry Youth
‘Strawberry youth’
DSC03830
Libby made an appearance!

Planting & Care for Tomatoes, Peppers, & Curcurbits:

After missing a class last week due to the holiday, the Ethan Allen Homsteaders had some catching up to do in terms of planting starts, and so the first order of business this Monday was getting some gorgeous tomato and pepper starts into the soil.  The starts included two types of slicing tomatoes, a variety of cherry tomatoes called Sungolds, serrano peppers, and Carmen sweet peppers.  Denise was careful to explain the importance of spacing the starts at least 1.5-2 feet a part, which is key to prevent the spread and exacerbation of fungal diseases, like late blight, by permitting better air flow.   In addition to the tomato and pepper starts, Denise provided some curcubit seeds to be planted in the northernmost quadrant of each garden.  Curcurbits, an abbreviation for Curcurbitaceae,  are plants that are a part of the gourd family that include cucumbers, summer squash, and zucchini.  The seeds of the curcurbits are intended to be planted in hills, although these do not always have to be raised depending on how local conditions affect drainage.   To round out the lesson on this week’s starts, Denise offered a quick demonstration on planting leeks, a member of the onion family, in one of the communal beds.  There’s already been talk of some Potato Leek Soup!!

CTG Leek Lesson 1
Lesson on Leeks
photo-10
‘Carmen’ sweet pepper starts from Red Wagon Plants

Trellising:

With many of their starts and seeds already planted, the Tommy Thompson group began class on Wednesday with a hands-on demonstration of trellising in one of the communal beds with bamboo stakes (thanks, Libby!). Trellising is a great technique for keeping vegetables and fruits off the ground while supporting their upward growth, increasing production, and freeing up usable space within the garden.  Several of the students grabbed some bamboo and twine and assisted with setting up trellising for the sprouted beans that were planted in the first week of class.   Trellising is a very useful and popular practice within the gardening world and can employ a variety of materials, including sticks from your backyard!  To learn more visit: http://www.hobbyfarms.com/crops-and-gardening/trellis-fruits-vegetables-saves-space.aspx

DSC03827
Bamboo stakes are in!

 

DSC03829
Adding twine
DSC03841
The finished trellis

Three Sisters Garden (TT):

This season, per Steve’s well though out request, the Tommy Thompson site and class will be working on developing a Three Sisters Garden by planting corn, beans, and squash together.  The Three Sisters Garden, also known as la milpa in Spanish, is  a traditional planting system that was used here in the Northeast by Native American tribes, like the Abenaki, and is continued to be used by various indigenous groups of people in Southern Mexico where corn was domesticated thousands of years ago.  Although planting depends on regional conditions, the crops of a Three Sisters Garden are commonly planted in hills together to maximize the amazing symbiotic relationships they establish.  The corn provides a natural trellis for the beans to grow upward, the beans as leguminous species fix atmospheric nitrogen for plant use, and the squash’s large leaves offer shade that deters the growth of weeds.  This Wednesday, Steve led the way in creating some pretty perfect hills for planting and the students worked together to plant some sweet corn seeds, which had previously been soaked in water by Denise.  We are thrilled about this developing garden, and we can’t wait to see how it progresses.  In the meantime, if you’d like more information and history on the Three Sisters Garden, check out the Intervale Center’s informative online brochure on the Abenaki Heritage Garden at: http://issuu.com/jesshyman/docs/abenakigardenbrochure-2010

DSC03845
Kudos to Steve on the hills!!
DSC03834
Planting corn

With our first series of planting done, it’s only a matter of time before our students’ gardens begin to really shine!

DSC03831
Action shot of the clover patch’s haircut
 

Rhubarb Lemonade!

Hey everyone,

As promised here is the link for the rhubarb lemonade recipe in case you are looking for a refreshing treat and something new to do with all the rhubarb we have been harvesting!

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http://www.marthastewart.com/343703/rhubarb-iced-tea?czone=food%2Fspring-produce&gallery=275393&slide=343703&center=1009726

I guess Martha calls it ice tea, but I find the taste to be much more similar to lemonade.  Also I didn’t find 1/3 cup of sugar to be necessary but that will depend on how sweet you like things!  Also I found it fun to experiment with different sweeteners like honey and agave nectar and raw sugar rather than white granulated sugar.

Perfect for a hot summer day 🙂

-Melanie