Blueberry Jam, that is, at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens in Saratoga Springs
Diane Whitten, Cornell Cooperative extension nutritionist, came to the farm and taught everyone how to make blueberry freezer jam.
Children arrived at 9:30 for the Sunflower Hour reading program and heard Faye Mihuta, a community gardener and teacher, read “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey complete with sound effects such as the berries going “plink” into a bucket.
After story time, children and adults had the opportunity to make a freezer jam which was delicious.
Diane teaches many different classes on food preservation and nutrition including classes on fermentation, making jerky, canning salsa and tomatoes. Go to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s website to register.
She has offered to teach a class on pickling vegetables in the community gardens. If you might be interested, let me know and we will see what can be arranged.
Natalie Walsh, Garden Director – Natalie.Walsh@pitneymeadows.org
Check out this article about the growth of Pitney Meadows Community Gardens in Saratoga Today by Marissa Gonzalez.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the last year, the community’s beloved Pitney Meadows Community Farm has made a lot of changes.
Since this time last July, the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens have become an official Monarch way station, created a large “Grandparent’s Garden,” started a reading and gardening Saturday program for children, increased the number of plots and now has more than 70 gardeners growing fresh healthy food in their gardens.
“It’s truly amazing. People who visit the gardens can’t believe it is only one year old,” said garden director Natalie Walsh, crediting the community of gardeners that has made the difference.
“They aren’t just tending their plots, but also are interested in learning organic gardening techniques, engaging children in the gardens, and extending a hand to each other and to the Saratoga community at large. It truly is a community in the gardens,” she added.
Last year the Community Gardens had 50 spaces available. This year, there are 72 beds.
“We are working to respond to what the community wants. When gardeners asked for bigger spaces, we offered them,” Walsh said.
Gardeners pay to lease the space for the season and the costs vary according to plot size.
In addition, Walsh added flowerbeds to draw pollinators such as butterflies, bees and beneficial insects. Of particular interest was offering habitat to Monarch butterflies whose populations have been in decline across the United States.
In the community gardens, a large garden was installed and planted with butterfly plants that have different bloom periods and provide nectar throughout the summer and into the fall. The milkweed provides the Monarch caterpillar with its only food source.
Engaging the community is a goal for Walsh, who traveled over 13,000 miles last winter talking to community gardeners across the country.
This year, the gardens offer programs for adults as well as children. “We were fortunate to have two community gardeners interested in working with children. One is Faye Mihuta, a reading teacher, and the other is Jess Clauser, an artist. Together they designed a reading program that meets once a week and is followed by an art or garden project,” Walsh said.
The reading program is free. The art or garden project costs $5 per child and includes activities including learning how to make jam, making art and learning how to plant and care for seeds. The program, which is held every Saturday morning starting at 9:30 a.m., has been very well-received as have the adult programs on topics such as growing tomatoes.
Also on Saturday mornings, Walsh will lead a gardening class for participants to walk around the gardens and discuss any issues, problems and receive tips from Walsh, who is a master gardener and holds a horticulture degree from SUNY Cobleskill.
The garden also saw the construction of a beautiful cedar pergola that was donated in memory of the late Charlotte Justin by her family and built by local craftsman Rich Torkelson and his son Arik.
The grandmother’s gardens were funded with a grant from the Soroptimists and multiple private donors who also purchased furniture for the space. In addition, the popular sunflower house has also been expanded. A sunflower house is an enclosed space that has “walls” of sunflowers.
Other organizations include the Waldorf school that illustrated signs for the butterfly garden, Saratoga Bridges who care for their own plot and help water others, Franklin Community Center, the Saratoga Senior Center, Saratoga Transitional Services, Saratoga Catholic Central, the Girl Scouts and the high school.
(Note: Sunflower measuring day and the Fall Fairy Gathering will be September 22 at 1 p.m. – this was left out of the article. Rain date September 23.)
That will also be the day the sunflowers in the annual sunflower contest will be measured for height and size of bloom. The biggest in each category will receive a prize. Last year, 26 people entered, this year there are 60 participants.
“There no doubt the garden is growing,” she added. “If you haven’t visited, come by on a Thursday or Saturday morning and I’ll show you around and tell you what we have planned for next year,” Walsh said.
We have done so much in one year!
Master Gardener Kay Schlembach took gardeners through the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens last evening and gave them tips on when and how to harvest. Participants were able to ask questions about harvesting their crops and learned the best time of day to pick the vegetables.
Do you know when?
Morning is preferred. Evening when it cools is second best.
Kay’s class is part of the community gardens’ adult programming organized by Margie Ingram. The next two classes are:
Jam Making with Diane Whitten, which is open to adults and children. This class is tomorrow Saturday at 10 a.m. Space is limited.
The next adult class is being taught by Kim London and the topic is herbs. This class will be July 19 at 6:30 in the gardens. All are welcome.
Ed S. planted his garlic last fall and today he harvested.
The aroma was wonderful and wafted through the gardens to the delight of all of us working there.
Ed also collects the flowers of his squash that aren’t pollinated and fries them up for a meal.
If you’ve never had them, fried squash blossoms are delicate and delicious. You can stuffed them with ricotta and mozzarella, add basil and herbs. Lightly batter them, fry and add a little red sauce. Yum.
Brownie troop 3031 has a plot in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens and recently donated green beans to the Franklin Community Center’s food pantry.
Troop leader Jen Kirchhnerr has found that recycled plastic containers are a great way to deliver the beans and other vegetables to the pantry.
These are the sort of container that strawberries, blueberries and the like are typically sold in at the supermarket.
Kirchhnerr cleans and washes the containers and reuses them when harvesting for the food pantry.
“They are a convenient size for handing out to a family,” she said.
It’s a good tip. If any gardeners have containers like these and would like to share them, you can leave the cleaned containers in the garden shed. We will use them when harvesting and sharing.
Thanks Jen for your tip!
This has been the question this week as gardeners pulled out lettuces and peas that are past prime and wondered how they can utilize the space in their raised beds at Pitney Meadows Community Gardens.
Planting a Fall Garden
Our average first killing frost date (28 degrees) is October 15. But the weather is unpredictable so it is wise to add a buffer and think about the first killing frost as being Oct. 1.
On seed packets, it lists the days to maturity, which enables you to select the vegetables that have enough time to mature before the killing frost.
What can we plant now and in the next month?
We have 12 weeks until Oct. 1. about 80 days
We can direct sow beans, cucumbers, summer squash, Swiss chard, parsnips, rutabagas, cilantro, lettuce, spinach and radishes.
Some seeds are best started indoors now and transplanted outdoors in two weeks. This includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and kohlrabi. Why? Because these seedlings like to start off in cooler soil than what we now have in the gardens.
July 21 – 10 weeks before Oct. 1 – 70 days
Direct sow beets, carrots, collards, leeks and scallions, lettuce and radishes. Start peas indoors and put out in two weeks.
Early August – 8 weeks before Oct. 1 – 56 days
Direct-sow arugula, lettuce, radishes, turnips, spinach, mustard, pac choi, Asian greens.
Mid August – Direct sow spinach, mache, Swiss chard. – 42 days
You can extend the season with a row covers in the fall. So there’s plenty of time to grow many more vegetables.
Just remember that seedlings need lots of attention. The roots are small and you will need to water frequently until they are established.
Columbus Day weekend – plant garlic and shallots.