First Night in the Garden!

In one of the most anticipated classes of the season, this week the students in VCGN’s Teaching Garden Advanced Course had their first night in the garden! Our focus for the evening was on orientation, preparing our beds to transplant our seedlings, and on examining some principles behind nutrient-dense gardening. In the garden, we were greeted by warm weather, some early spring blooms like the Johnny Jump Ups below, and the sight of a single fox meandering to and fro.

Johnny Jump Ups
Johnny Jump Ups!

After getting rained out the previous week, we were delighted to be in the space where we will working intensively over the next several months. While about half of the students in the course had their plots at Tommy Thompson Community Garden last year, the remaining students came from the community gardens at the Ethan Allen Homestead. After going over the general layout of the garden and looking over some of the shared spaces, we joined together to set intentions for the upcoming season and passed a smudge stick around our circle.

Smudge Stick
Our smudge stick surrounded by clover and some early season wildflowers.

Our homework for the night was to read an article from Mother Earth News on restoring soil nutrients as well as review a chapter on nurturing vegetable-friendly soil from The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible. These resources were intended to get us thinking about how we can support nutrient-dense soil and encourage happy, healthy plants and a bountiful harvest. After reviewing our readings, we divided into groups and compared some soil tests from our shared gardens and students’ home gardens. Finally, we created a nutrient rich blend to integrate into our soil including: Pro-gro organic fertilizer, bone char, green sand, k-mag, compost, azomite, copper, zinc and boron.

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Our final task of the evening was to begin preparing our beds. Over the weekend, we have been slowly hardening our cold-hardy seedlings by introducing them to cooler weather, wind, and other outdoor elements. We are eager to get these plants in the garden next class, and there’s a lot of work to do preparing the soil! Students added 10-15 buckets of compost to their plots and used lots of muscle and grit to integrate it into the soil. Students whose beds had cover crop over the winter will return to the garden several times this week to make sure their beds are thoroughly hoed and that the cover crop is broken down and well-integrated.

Our garden got some additional love this weekend thanks to the hard-working team of volunteers who attended Day in the Dirt! They cleaned out our communal beds, installed a fence to keep deer out, and mulched many of our pathways. A great time was had by all and our next post will focus on some stories from VCGN students and volunteers.



A Night of Transplanting, Good Eating, and Community

This week the gardeners in VCGN’s Advanced Course had a slight change of plans as we were greeted by some very cool, very rainy weather on our regular class day. Our hope had been to begin work on-site at our plots in the Tommy Thompson Community Gardens. However, rainy weather would not have been ideal for the initial tasks we needed to do and especially for working our soil. Better to visit our seedlings at the UVM Greenhouses and see what needs transplanting!

It was wonderful to be reunited with our warm season seedlings and to observe the growth of some of our neighbors’ seedlings as well. Some unique plants popping up in the greenhouse include artichokes, fennel, and castor beans. We focused on transplanting our seedlings which need a bit more space like tomatoes and peppers. For many of us, our basil and flowers are still just poking a delicate sprout out of the soil and are happy to stay in their smaller containers for a bit longer.

After class, many of the students joined at Bluebird Barbecue for a community night to benefit VCGN. It was wonderful to connect with our garden pals while enjoying some delicious food! Thanks to Bluebird Barbecue for their support.

Bluebird take 2.JPG

Next week we are looking forward to getting into our gardens and getting our hands dirty! Wishing a Happy Earth Day to All!



Transplanting Seedlings and Composting with Worms

It was an exciting week in the Community Teaching Garden Advanced Course! We were back at the VCGN offices in Burlington’s Old North End to transplant the cold-hardy seedlings we planted two weeks ago. We also had our first guests of the season– worms! They came in to teach us first hand about some of the advantages of using a worm-based composting system. We also learned many interesting facts about worms from our dear teacher Carolina, including information about their very unique reproductive habits.

worm reproduction
Birds do it, bees do it, even composting worms do it!

While it would be fascinating to spend an entire post exploring the reproductive lives of worms, much of our lesson focused on how worm-based compost systems work and what some of the benefits are. We learned about how to start a worm compost system, how to support worms in the system, and how to harvest the “black gold” they leave behind. Curious about how to start your own worm-based compost system? One classic and much-loved resource is Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.

Freshly transplanted and watered planties
Our beautiful seedlings after being transplanted and watered.

It was a pleasure to see how much our seedlings grew in the past two weeks. After our exciting lesson on worm compost, we focused our attention on transplanting our seedlings to larger seed starting trays. We started by identifying any seeds that grew poorly or did not germinate, and then carefully examined our remaining plants to determine which seedlings were highest priority for moving to larger cells. While most of our kale and lettuce was quite comfortable in the original, smaller seed starting trays we used, our cabbage, broccoli, and some of our flowers were ready to move into larger spaces. After carefully transplanting our seedlings and gently watering them, many students found that they had a few extra seedlings. These seedlings were shared with peers, and extra seedlings were enjoyed as a light snack– our first harvest of the season!

broccoli rabe
Delicious broccoli rabe micro greens. Yum!

Next week will be our first week out in the garden! We’re looking forward to preparing our beds for the upcoming season.

How are your seedlings coming along? We’d love to hear from you!

Starting Warm Season Seedlings

Warm and summery greetings from Burlington! This week the students in VCGN’s Advanced Course started their warm season seedlings like tomatoes and peppers at the UVM Greenhouse Facilities. It was a great way for us to experience a different growing environment, meet some fellow gardeners from the Burlington community, and to see what other gardeners are using the space for.

As we continue to plant our seedlings, our plans for our gardens are evolving, and many students are working on updates of their plans to try to get a clearer vision of what their gardens will look like at different phases of the growing season. Our focus for planting this week was mostly on solanaceaes like eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. Students were delighted by the wide range of varieties available and we’re looking forward to growing and tasting some new and old favorites this year. In addition to our solanaceaes, some students started basil, zinnias, and tomatillos this week. We would like to thank High Mowing Seeds, American Meadows, and Gardener’s Supply for their generous seed donations.

Plan and Seeds
A student garden layout and some of the seeds used for their garden.

Back at the VCGN offices, the cold-hardy seedlings we planted last week under a three-tiered grow light system have already taken off. Next week we will be back at the office to transplant our cold-hardy seedlings into larger seed starting trays and to monitor our seedlings progress.

What have you planted so far? Do you have any warm season seedlings you are excited about this season?

Starting Cold-hardy Seedlings

This year, the students in VCGN’s Advanced Course are taking advantage of two opportunities to start seedlings: at the VCGN office in Burlington’s Old North End and at the UVM Greenhouse Facilities. By utilizing these two spaces, students will be able to compare the impact of different growing environments. We will be using a 3-tiered grow light system at the VCGN offices. The slightly cooler environment here is ideal for starting cold season brassicas and leafy greens. We will start our warm season crops like tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse, where controlled warmer temperatures and higher humidity will encourage their growth.

Students Look at Seeds.JPG
Advanced Course students examine lettuce and flower seeds.

Many students had their gardens planned down to the inch and were eager to find the exact varieties of seeds they had planned around. Others followed an intuitive approach, planting whatever struck their fancy with the intention of redesigning according to what felt like a good fit. Some adjusted their plans according to that night’s lesson, which focused on seed starting and the tools and environments we use to support young plants. We also discussed some resources on succession planting. Regardless of the approach, there was a palpable excitement as students got their hands back into the dirt after a long winter.

Advanced Course Students.JPG
Our first class photo! Meet the Advanced Course gardeners and some of their favorite seeds.

Some favorites planted this week include Swiss chard, tulsi basil and broccoli rabe. We are excited to start some of our warmer weather favorites at the UVM Greenhouses next week and will be sure to keep you posted.

Have you planted your cold-hardy seedlings? What are you most looking forward to?