Week Eight: Brunch Potluck – Followed by days of rain & vibrant colors

06-25-16 CTGTT Brunch spread
A gorgeous breakfast spread at Tommy Thompson – a start to week eight by displaying creative uses of week seven harvest!

To the far right on the bottom of the photo are muffins made by student, Haley. She sent the recipe shortly thereafter:

Love Muffins

Ingredients:

(wet)

1 tbsp ground flax seed (mixed with 2 tbsp water)

3 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 15 oz. can of white beans, drained and rinsed, or the same amount prepared by you and not from a can

(dry)

1 cup of your favorite flour (can be wheat or gluten free blend)

1/2 a cup of sugar or something sweet you like

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

Possible garden additions: strawberry slices, raspberries, chopped up lemon balm

A savory garden option: replace half of the sugar with a handful of chopped up savory herbs and a bit of garlic or cheese

How to:

-Preheat your oven to 350 and lightly grease your muffin tin with oil.

-Mix the wet ingredients plus 3 or so tbsp of water in a blender or food processor.

-Mix the dry ingredients in the bowl.

-Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, stirring as little as possible. I had to add more water here– if it is very clumpy, add some in!

-Mix in additions

-Bake for 20-26 minutes

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Icecubes from the potluck with Johnny Jump Up flowers frozen inside

 

Also known as violas or pansies, these flowers may almost obnoxiously take over garden beds but they sure do taste lovely when melted into an iced drink on a hot day.

 

Below are photos of flowers, peas, and a peaking tomatillo, all replenished and grateful for the on and off days of rain..

 

 

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california poppy opens up

 

06-21-16 CTGEA Strawberry red, a summer harvest!

Strawberries from Ethan Allen

Week 7: the rise of the Colorado Potato Beetle and the resilience of the garden.

It sure seems as if the growth of our potato and tomato plants has been matched by the arrival of the Colorado Potato Beetle. These pests, distinguished by their zebra-striped backs and hearty size (relative to the three-striped beetle that is) have made camp on our potato plants, unafraid to visit the nearby tomatoes.

07-02-16 CTGTT Potato beetles in hand
Two adult Colorado Potato Beetles with a fairly large larvae between. The larvae, hatching from a bright yellow-orange egg, begins its life as a dark red (nearly black) speck. It eats and eats and grows and grows, becoming plumper and lighter in color, eventually developing the markings shown here. Because the larvae must begin feeding as soon as it is born, simply wiping the eggs off of the leaves of the potato (or tomato) prevents the arrival of the next generation. It’s certainly more efficient to target the non-moving eggs!

Contrary to their name, the Colorado Potato Beetle is an invasive species that arrived here from Mexico. In Mexico however, the beetles are not pests because they are controlled by natural predators and distinct environmental conditions. In Vermont, we the gardeners are tasked with the predator role.

Our primary method of control has been careful, daily picking. I quite enjoy the act. It provides the opportunity to tune into each plant, touching its leaves and giving it a good once-over from above and below. I tend to carry a jar of soapy water and gently drop the adults, larvae, and eggs into the jar as they appear on the plants. Picking beetles is time consuming and, despite our best efforts, has not noticeably reduced the population. In fact, it appears to be growing – which makes sense as each cluster of eggs represents the beginnings of 10-30 beetles.

We’ve decided to introduce a foliar spray, hoping to get ahead of the problem and protect the potatoes growing below. We’ve begun an experiment of sorts – spraying a homemade garlic-chili repellent on one-half of the crops (recipe below), and using a store-bought Neem Oil on the other half. Results to follow…

07-02-16 CTGTT Cpb larvae on leaf.JPG
Neem Oil is an insecticide that can control the Colorado Potato Beetle in its egg and larvae stages, while also providing healthy enzymes to the plant. Said to be most effective on young plant growth, neem is used to manage over 200 species of chewing + sucking insects.

As I said, pests are matched by growth and growth allows for bountiful, colorful harvest:

06-30-16 CTGEA Gems of the earth - radish up close
The vital red of the radish
06-30-16 CTGEA Chrissy holds the bundle of greens
Spectrum of ‘greens’ from purple to red to blue
06-29-16 CTGTT Amy in a rainbow of cut flowers
Not to mention the oranges, yellows, bright whites, and pinks!

And the recipe for the garlic-chili spray:

·         5 garlic cloves

·         2 Tbsp hot pepper flakes

·         3 cups water

·         ½  small onion

·         1 tsp liquid soap

Put all the ingredients (except for the liquid soap) in a blender. Blend well until the solids are broken down. Transfer to a container and mix in 1 tsp of dish soap. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Strain through a sieve and discard the solid bits. Use a spray bottle to evenly distribute the liquid over the foliage in order to deter the beetles from laying eggs.

Week 6: An introduction to integrated pest management and the leek moth

This week brought the arrival our first guest teacher, Vic Izzo. Vic, an evolutionary ecologist, offered a new framework for pest management that begins with careful observation.

6-18-16 CTGTT Our first guest, Vic, with his wildflower bouquet.JPG
Evolutionary ecologist, Vic,  with a wildflower bouquet cut from the Beneficial Insect garden on the north edge of our plot. The full and colorful bed does not only attract important pollinators, but also those insects that are natural predators to the unfavorable pests.

Evaluating whether or not a pest poses a threat is the second step in Vic’s framework. It is not always clear what presence and/or damage is within the tolerance of a given plant. The flea beetle, for example, will leave brassica leaves covered in tiny holes but cause no damage beyond the cosmetic imperfection.

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Flea beetles leave their mark on brassicas without affecting the health of the plant.        These greens are nutrient rich and fine to eat (though they may be a hard sell at market).

On the flip side, there are some pests (known as nectar-robbers) that can show up and appear to be causing no damage at all. While they may not be affecting the plant’s appearance now, they can use their sucking mouth parts to extract pollen from the plant, which, in turn, will cause the plant to be passed over by important pollinators. Without pollination there will be no fruit.

As a beginning gardener, the identification of pests, along with the determination of their harmful or non-harmful nature, requires a dependable resource. This is true of long-time gardeners gardening in a new region too. At the Community Teaching Garden we use two:

UVM Extension & Cornell Extension

A pest that has been successfully identified and determined to be a threat to the overall health of the crop can be managed in several different ways. In this third stage (management), Vic offered the Integrated Pest Management pyramid as a structure for decision-making.

IPMPyramid.jpg
There are several methods that fall within each layer. Pest management strategy begins at the bottom and works its way up, as the tactics falling within the bottom of the pyramid will tend to be less invasive to the garden system as a whole.

Vic’s focus for the summer is on the leek moth. The leek moth is a pest of Allium crops with a hierarchy of dietary preference: leek, onion, garlic. We have no leek plants and only a few onions interspersed throughout the brassica sections of our garden. We do have a big and mature garlic bed right there in the center and, sure enough, Vic was able to point to the significant leek moth damage on the scapes of our garlic crop.

leekmoth2
The leek moth is relatively new to the region. The pest begins its life as a yellowish caterpillar, will experience a cocoon phase, and, ultimately, grow into the adult moth (about 1/2″ long).                  For more information, visit Cornell Extension

Pest identified and determined to be a threat to the crop. What to do next?

Choosing not to plant leeks, onions, and garlic could prevent the arrival of the leek moth. Too late! Cultural management often involves the strategic shifting of the physical location of a plant. Because the leek moths can fly, the garlic would not be helped by a move. In the case of the leek moth, intervening on the physical level is the best bet and, because the moths were feeding only on the garlic scapes, we decided that it was time for a harvest!

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Known as the scape, the flower bud of the garlic plant has a concentrated garlic flavor. Harvesting the scapes should help to manage the leek moth and support the continued development of the garlic bulb (to be harvested in late July).

Week 5: Cucurbits – melons and winter squash

As the Lead Teacher for the Community Teaching Garden, I have the joy-filled responsibility of selecting plant varieties to grow in shared garden spaces within each CTG site.  Week 5 is dedicated to direct seeding plants in the cucurbitaceae family, including cucumbers, squash, and melons.  Students are allowed to plant cucumbers and summer squash in their garden plots, while I select winter squash and melon varieties to plant in shared garden spaces.

My mouth waters at the thought of cutting into a sweet, ripe, and juicy melon.  So way back in February, I looked around for melon varieties best suited to grow in Vermont’s short summer.  Thus, I ended up ordering seeds from the Solstice Seed catalog, an extraordinary seed saving project maintained by Silvia Davatz.  Last year I attended one of her seed saving workshops and made a mental note to buy seeds from her this year.  As Silvia writes in the introduction to her catalog: “Thus began my quest to seek out, rescue, and maintain rare, valuable, interesting, and irreplaceable varieties for our tables, pantries, and root cellars. My current seed collection encompasses about 290 distinct open-pollinated varieties, selected for flavor, beauty, suitability to growing here in the Upper Valley, disease resistance, cold tolerance, ability to be part of our year-round food supply, historical interest, geographic specificity, or quirkiness of name, to list a few of my criteria.”  (To receive a PDF version of the Solstice Seed Catalogue, send an email to Silvia Davatz at sdav@valley.net)

solstice seeds

I chose Eden’s Gem, described as a petite, green-fleshed, netted melon weighing in at about one pound each, developed in 1905 at Rocky Ford, Colorado.  Sweet and spicy flavor.  Very productive and well-suited to the small garden.  In early May I started the melon seeds in a greenhouse, and then by week 5 of the CTG course, it was time to transplant the melons into the Ethan Allen CTG site.  We currently have four lovely Eden’s Gems growing on top of a compost pile, with plenty room to ramble and the warmth of the compost mound to encourage their growth.

For winter squash varieties, I decided to plant both bush and vining varieties for students to appreciate different growth patterns in similar plants.  I chose Bush Delicata Squash, described by High Mowing Seeds as “Compact, tidy plants with sweet, oblong fruits. Delicious smooth, nutty flesh with hints of butter and brown sugar. Skin starts creamy white with green stripes and flecks, curing to striped light yellow. Compact plants spread only 4-6 feet”.  Delicata happens to be one of my favorite winter squashes because its thin skin is edible, and sometimes I choose what to grow at the CTG sites simply because I enjoy eating those varieties!

delicata

At both CTG sites we planted Honey Nut Mini-Butternut Squash as our vining variety of winter squash that will share a trellis with peas and nasturtiums. These seeds also came from High Mowing and are described as “Adorable serving-sized mini butternut with dark tan skin and great sweet flavor. Simply cut in half and bake! Delectable squash is smaller than Ponca with more uniform butternut shape. Green unripe fruits; early planting is recommended for tan color. Field resistance to powdery mildew”.  I also decided on planting butternuts because they are resistant to common squash pests such as the squash vine borer and squash bugs. Other resistant varieties to take note of include ‘Early Summer Crookneck,’ ‘Improved Green Hubbard,’ and ‘Royal Acorn’.

May your gardens, and especially your cucurbits, grow abundantly this season!

In community,
Carolina Lukac
Garden Education Manager and Lead Teacher for the Community Teaching Garden course