Children Make Worm Farms at Pitney Meadows Community Gardens

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 2.35.57 PMSunflower Hour at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens this morning began with story time and ended with children making worm farms to take home.

After the stories children held wriggler worms and set some free in the gardens. Those children who wanted made farms from empty soda bottles and layers of sand and soil.

Watermelon was added as worm food and dark construction paper wrapped the bottles to simulate underground conditions. Later this week, children can remove the paper and study the underground tunnels made by the worms.

Sunflower Team

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 2.41.30 PM.pngFaye Mihuta read the books. Retired teacher, master gardener and worm composter Jay Ephraim lead the hands-on worm program for about 10 children. And the team, both of whom are community gardeners,  worked together with Jess Clauser, also a community gardener, to create the worm farms.

It was terrific. The children were delighted and eager to participate.

Blueberry jam

Next week, the reading program will focus on blueberries and  the activity will be making blueberry freezer jam with Diane Whitten from Cornell Cooperative Extension. The jam class, at 10 a.m., is $5 which covers all supplies. The story time is free and begins at 9:30 a.m.

Please let us know if you are coming to make jam. The class is open to both children and adults. We will be purchasing supplies, and need a head count by Tuesday.

Thank you, Natalie Walsh

Garden Director, Pitney Meadows Community Gardens

natalie.walsh@pitneymeadows.org

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What a Great Morning in the Community Gardens

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 12.01.22 PMThere was a lot happening in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens this morning.

Faye Mihuta read books to about a dozen children as part of the Sunflower Hour held each Saturday in the gardens.

Then Jess Clauser helped those who wanted to plant flowers in the Children’s Flower Garden as well as in peat cups they could take home.  It was wonderful to see children participating in all aspects of gardening and exploring the plots.

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 12.01.35 PMAnd not everyone participated in the program. The sandbox, play farm and a toy excavator saw a lot of use much to everyone’s delight. Great photo opportunity for grandmother.

Compost Tea

We had the great pleasure of having Chris Cameron, an organic gardener and supporter of PMCG,  in the gardens this morning to talk about the benefits of compost tea and how to make tea at home.

Screen Shot 2018-06-30 at 12.17.39 PMChris explained how using compost tea improves the soil by promoting healthy bacteria and other microorganisms that nurture strong, robust plants.

Thank you Chris. Your enthusiasm is inspiring and your lecture was informative.

If you want a copy of Chris’ handout, it will be available in the gardener’s shed.

And if you see Chris on the farm, feel free to ask him questions about compost tea.  He has been brewing for years and can show you the positive results in the plants he has been treating in the community gardens.

I’m so glad Chris is part of the team!

Gardening Class

After Chris, my lecture for our Gardening class was about what to do to minimize damage done by the cucumber beetles, squash bugs, cabbage loopers and the cutworms we found in the gardens this week.

About 10 participants learned how to identify the insects, the different ways to apply diatomaceous earth as a control and all had access to the organic remedies to use. They also learned how to find squash beetle eggs on the underside of leaves and how to remove them.

Finally, we talked about fertilizing. It is now time to fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Check your bottle, for my gardens I use 1 ounce in a two-gallon watering can and apply it to the soil every week for robust vegetables.

My bottle has an NPK of 2-4-1.  If the brand you have as a higher concentration of nutrients, you can treat it every other week. Watch your plants and how they respond. They will “talk” to you with a rich, green color, strong stems and vigorous fruiting.

Our next class is next Saturday.  All are welcome. 

Like today, we will walk through the garden and discuss what is happening and what we can do to keep the garden strong and robust.

I will also be working in the gardens on Thursdays from 8 to 11. You can come and see me then about chores to do or any garden concern.

Thanks for making this place great.

See you in the gardens, Natalie Walsh

Composting Lecture in the Garden

MarciaMartin

Marcia Martin, master gardener, started our summer lecture series with a lively and informative talk about composting last evening.

The Pitney Meadows Community Gardens is composting its plant debris and will be collecting plant matter for composting in bins placed between the shed and the barn.

More lectures are planned.

On August 16, a class on Using Herbs to Make Our Food POP! with Kim London, chef and PMCF Board Member. Come hear how a local chef uses herbs to enhance favorite dishes.

Later in August, Murray Penney will lead a class on tomato growing. The date for this class is August 23rd. The lecture will be followed by a tomato taste testing with Chef Rocco Verrigni.

On Aug. 31 – Your Garden is a Sensational Success…. Now What?  Pattie Garrett RD and Nicole Cunningham, RD will discuss familiar and some unfamiliar ways to prepare and preserve your bounty. There’ll be taste testing and recipes to enjoy.

All lectures start at 7 p.m. and will meet at the Pitney Meadows Community Farm. No registration necessary.

 

 

Is It Too Late to Plant from Seed?

 

greenbeanNot at all.

What can you plant now and in August?

The answer is quite a bit. Here goes:

Beans

Bush beans are easiest as they don’t require staking. Try planting seeds of a different variety each week and do a taste test to determine what you like best. Stop sowing beans seeds in early August.

carrotsCarrots

If you plant now, you will harvest a fall crop.

Cucumbers
Again, I would select a bush cucumber plant because space tends to be at a premium in a raised bed. If you have the room, go for a vining cucumber. Chefs tell me they are tastier.
lettuce

Lettuce

In mid- August sow lettuce seeds for a fall crop. I have plenty of lettuce seeds available in the community garden shed. Look for the days to harvest to determine what lettuce seeds are best to grow.

Kale 

From mid-July through mid-August plant seeds of kale for harvest in the fall.

Spinach

Spinach likes it cool. Start from seed in mid to late August.

 

Peas

The harvest will be modest for August planting green peas and sugar peas. But, if you have the room, go for it. Did you know Thomas Jefferson use to compete with his farm neighbors to see who could harvest the earliest peas? The winner hosted a dinner serving (what else?) some peas.

Radish

This is a quick growing vegetable. They are ready to be harvested in a month.

Anyone have some good radish recipes?

 

Garden Tips

One of the observations our gardeners have made is how quickly our community garden soil dries out.

One solution to this is to mulch. You’ll notice some gardeners have placed straw or pine needles* around the base of the plants.

This is a worthy idea for a few reasons.

It will keep moisture down around the roots, weeds will have a harder time growing, and during rain storms the soil will not splash up onto the leaves which makes for healthier plants.

When you do water, water well to promote good strong root systems that go deep. This will help your plants be healthier and healthy plants are able to fend off troubles.

You can also plant flowers – like marigolds – around the base and carrots love to be planted near tomatoes. Beans are a worthy crop, too.

If you have other questions, let me know.

• Pine needles used around our plants as mulch will not impact the pH. The acidic level of dried pine straw (needles) is very, very low.

 

 

Starting from the Ground Up

 

MCG-May2014

Get seeds off to a good start by knowing your soil and how to enrich it organically.

I’m often asked, “What does in mean to grow food organically?”

At its most basic, organic gardening means growing your crops without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. And, not using herbicides in the garden.

Even if you have never tried growing this way before, you can begin this season.

How?

In the garden, everything starts with the soil.

The organic gardener’s goal is to have a soil rich in nutrients and microbes that will nourish strong, healthy plants able to resist pests and disease.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be some issues that arise. What it does mean is your plants will be more robust and able to survive setbacks.

To begin, learn about your soil.  Have it tested for pH. Know the soil’s composition. Is it sandy? Clay? This is your starting point.

Enriching the soil

Organic growing nourishes the entire ecosystem through sustainable gardening practices that start with the soil. There’s a reason gardeners call compost “black gold” for it provides a wealth of benefits throughout the growing season.

Compost can be decomposed plant material, food scraps (no meat, bones, dairy), thoroughly decomposed animal manures and bedding.  You want your compost to be healthy and weed-free so if you make your own, you wouldn’t add diseased plants or weeds with seeds.

Here’s a link: Earth easy on starting a compost pile. It is easy to do and well worth the effort. The key is to balance carbon and nitrogen-based materials. The rule of thumb is two-thirds brown (leaves, egg shells, peat moss) and one-third green (grass clippings, kitchen scraps, manures).

As the weather improves in Spring, add compost to the existing garden beds. This amending of the soil improves it by increasing the moisture capacity, making essential nutrients in the soil available to the plant roots and supporting beneficial soil microbes. Soil microbes are what turn organic matter into food for plants – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

Next time, I’ll write about organic fertilizers.