Things are moving quickly in the two community teaching gardens. In the past week or so we’ve gotten a good amount of rain, warm weather, and ample sunshine. Many of our heat-loving plants which were lagging behind are now taking off. This week in the advanced course, we did a review of harmful and beneficial insects, worked with our compost and planted our sweet potatoes. The beginner gardener class welcomed their first guest teacher of the season, Vic Izzo, an entomologist who works with growers in the area.
This season, the advanced class has been especially focused on producing viable compost to restore our garden at the end of the growing season. We visit our compost bin each week to assess the quality of the compost we are creating, and to vigorously turn the compost by transferring it from one bin to the next. In the process, we take a multi-sensory approach to examining our compost: looking for beneficial insects, smelling for positive or negative signs of decomposition, and feeling for heat. Students are encouraged to bring plant-based food scraps from their homes to add into the mix we have created of scraps, straw, and already prepared compost. This week, we added nitrogen-rich comfrey from our garden to increase decomposition rates.
On Thursday night, Vic Izzo joined the beginner gardeners at the Ethan Allen Homestead. His hands-on lesson focused on two common pests in Vermont, the Colorado potato beetle and the leek moth. During his visit, students learned how to identify these pests and the damage they cause in the garden. Potatoes and eggplant are susceptible to Colorado potato beetle, while onions, leeks, and garlic are attacked by leek moth. Vic suggested strategies for managing these pests using integrated pest management. Specially, he suggested monitoring the flights of leek moths and covering your garlic and other attractive crops while leek moths are in their larval stage. When it comes to Colorado potato beetles, the most affective approach is often removing the beetles by hand and crushing their eggs before they hatch.
Students will continue to implement these strategies and more as new pests appear in the garden. We look forward to sharing what we learn with you!
This week students in the Community Teaching Garden advanced course made their first formal exploration of the land surrounding the teaching garden. Our mission was to identify wild harvestable plants while reviewing plant botany. Using our handy plant identification guide as well as a few field guides of local plants, we worked with our teacher, Carolina, to identify some of the wild edibles just steps away from our garden!
When ripe, elderberries can be used to make a healing syrup for colds and flus. Motherwort has a wide range of medicinal uses, particularly in support of women’s health. Among other uses, nettles and garlic mustard make delicious early-season pesto. Yum!
This week also marked the first official meeting of the two Community Teaching Garden classes. Students from both classes gathered at the advanced course site at the Tommy Thompson Community Gardens for an evening of exploring gardens and sharing food.
After touring the advanced course teaching garden, we gathered together for a potluck dinner. It was a delicious way for the students in the two classes to get to know one another, and we are looking forward to meeting (and sharing our recipes with you!) throughout the season.
What is your favorite potluck dish? Let us know in the comments– we’d love to hear from you!
It’s been an exciting couple of weeks in the Community Teaching Gardens. Despite cold, rainy, and gloomy weather, the Advanced Course has had surprisingly bright and beautiful weather for our class nights, and we have been able to make a lot of headway both in our individual plots and in our shared plots. We have now planted our brassicas (like kale, cabbage, and broccoli) our solanaceaes (like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant) and most of our cucurbits (like cucumbers and squash). Our communal beds are filling up with tomatillos, ground cherries, winter squash, potatoes, and a wide variety of flowers, berries, and herbs. Even though the majority of our plants are still in the seedling stage, there is a sense of abundance in the garden which is very exciting. Students are continuing to consider design and production as we integrate more plants into our plots, and we are now harvesting rhubarb, broccoli rabe, and what appears to be the last of our asparagus.
As we have brought new plants into the garden, we have been joined by new pests. While flea beetles have mostly tapered off for the season, the rainy cool weather has created an ideal environment for slugs. Many students have removed the row clover they were using to protect their brassicas from flea beetles so that birds will have easy access to the slugs which are very interested in our cabbage and lettuce. We have found that many of our seeds have had better germination rates this year when covered by row cover, and at this point most students are just covering the freshly seeded areas of their plots. Along with slugs, we have started to find Colorado potato beetles on our potatoes, eggplant, and tomato plants. We are working diligently to remove the beetles as we find them (usually tossing them in a glass of water with a couple of drops of soap) and crushing the bright orange eggs they leave on the underside of our plants.
While the work of manually removing pests may seem time consuming and tedious, it is one way to ensure the health of our plants for a bountiful harvest.
What pests have you seen in your garden so far? What strategies do you use to manage them? We’d love to hear from you!