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?

Setting Intentions for the New Season

Just two weeks ago Burlington, Vermont, received its second largest snowfall on record. Not to be deterred, the humble gardeners of VCGN’s Teaching Garden Advanced Course are already hard at work planning their gardens for the 2017 season. This cohort of 15 students, all graduates of VCGN’s Teaching Garden Program, will be digging deeper this year. We’re excited to share the journey with you as we take on new challenges, like starting all of our plants from seed, and old challenges, like battling some familiar garden pests.

Tommy Thompson covered in snow
The site of the advanced course, Tommy Thompson Community Gardens, as seen from the Intervale cross-country ski trails. 

Our approaches to planning have been as diverse and varied as the students in our course. While some students have preferred an old-fashioned pencil to paper approach to plotting out their gardens, others have explored online programs like GrowVeg. A number of students attended or volunteered at VCGN’s Seed Swap hosted at the Fletcher Free Library earlier this month.

Kane dressed as pea
Advanced Course student and volunteer, Kane, dressed as a pea at VCGN’s seed swap.

Regardless of our approaches, we are all excited about what the new season brings. We hope you can join us at Day in the Dirt! 2017 on April 29th, as we work together to prepare community gardens around Burlington for the upcoming season.

What are you doing to plan for your garden this year? We’d love to hear from you!

2017 gardening season

Registration is open for participating in the 2017 Community Teaching Garden course.

We will be running one class for first-year students at the Ethan Allen Homestead on Monday and Thursday evenings.

And we are very excited to begin an advanced level course (CTG.2) for individuals who have completed the first-year course.  Advanced level gardeners will meet at the Tommy Thompson garden on Wednesday evenings.

For more details on the course, please visit VCGN’s webpage.


Week 22: We celebrate a season of Growing Together

We could say so much about the wonders of growing food together and about what we have learned after spending 22 weeks in the garden!

We celebrate all the plants that were our teachers this season, particularly our beloved sweet potato:


#No filter.  Sweet potatoes in an orange TubTrug bucket actually look as beautiful as this!  After a season of growing potatoes and sweet potatoes, there is a unanimous agreement among students to embrace the amazing sweet potato – they are easy to grow, require minimal tending, pests are not attracted to them, and their high nutrient profile make them the ideal fall harvest.

When we use our organization’s tag line of “Growing Together”, we of course celebrate all the nutritious food we grow in the Community Teaching Garden.  And we also celebrate the new friendships and connections cultivated in the garden.  During our final class, we had a closing ceremony to share words of gratitude for all that we have learned by Growing Together.

An offering of fall-colored calendulas, marigolds, and nasturtiums decorated our garden for our last class.

Students, friends, and family gathered for one last potluck during our graduation celebration on Saturday, October 8th.  We exchanged gifts, sweet words of gratitude, a chronological slide show of photographs, and enjoyed a garden-inspired feast.

With certificates in hand, students strike a pose.  Hooray for our graduating class of 2016 Community Teaching Garden students!

Students share their thoughts on the Community Teaching Garden course:

“It is amazing to see all of the progress and growth that occurs over the span of 22 amazing weeks.  Not only did the garden transform, but so too did all of us.  From bare soil and weeds, to prolific vegetables and herbs; from inexperienced students, to knowledgeable community gardeners.”                      – Morgan Rainville, 1st year student

“Being at the garden for two summers has shown that a city girl can become a gardener, can grow her own food and flowers, can learn and fail big, and re-connect with nature weekly with other like-minded and wonderful people.  I’m grateful for all VCGN does for communities throughout our state and the impact it has on our lives.”                            – Andrea Olson, 2nd year student

Meeting twice a week with the same group of individuals and knowing that I would be outside was really mentally helpful for me.”                                                                                 – Anonymous

“I loved everything!  But if I had to pick out one (highlight): I really like learning different ways to use herbs and vegetables in ‘atypical’ ways (like fire cider, salve, herbed butter, canning, sauerkraut, and drying herbs).”                                                                                                    – Anonymous

“I will look back on this summer as a landmark year; this course developed skills and cultivated a passion I will utilize the rest of my life.”                                              – Bill Wooden, 1st year student

“I appreciate food even more now, because I have learned how much work is actually behind all our foods. I value the work of all the people who work in growing food, I now make even more and better informed decisions on what I eat, where I eat and if I eat at all. My conscientiousness and consciousness have been more sharp now, and I share my very well informed opinions all the time. I made new friends, I spent quality time outside with Willy Wonka (dog) who was part of the group too! I made a greater connection to mother nature and the actual real values in life!”                          – Ute Monsen, 2nd year student