What Gardeners Need to Know About Tonight’s Frost Advisory

There’s a frost advisory posted on the National Weather Service for our area tonight.  The prediction is temperatures in the 30s.

What this means for gardeners at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens depends on what you’re growing.

Some crops are sensitive to a light frost and you’ll want to harvest them today or you can cover them with a sheet tonight to protect them and take the sheet off in the morning. Other crops improve in flavor when the temperatures dip and there is no need to hurry out to the gardens to get those.

Frost sensitive vegetables include bush and pole beans, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and melons. Very sensitive herbs include basil, marjoram, dill, borage and chamomile.

Vegetables that will survive a light frost are broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, cilantro, mint, thyme, oregano and rosemary. The vines of pumpkins and squash will die, but the vegetables are fine.

A light freeze is 28°–32°F, and a hard freeze is below 28°F. In our area, the first hard frost typically happens in mid-October.  I say typically because our weather earlier this month was anything but typical.

On September 1, we had a light frost touch some of the plants, particularly squashes and pumpkins. This left vines damaged and happened in the lower areas of our community gardens.

 

 

The Plus Side of Frost 

There are vegetables you want to be touched by frost. Some vegetables, like beets, carrots, and parsnips get sweeter and will keep, even when temperatures fall lower, especially if you mulch. Other vegetables and herbs that will survive a frost include: kale, cabbage, leeks, potatoes, turnips, chives, parsley, sage, garlic, onions and Brussel Sprouts. If  you’re growing these, tonight’s weather shouldn’t be a factor.

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Do You Know When to Harvest Onions?

I was recently asked this question in the garden.

If you know the clues,  onions tell you.

When onions are mature, the tops yellow and naturally fall over.

When most of the onion planting has flopsy tops, harvest. To harvest dig around the bulbs, pull them up and cure them by spreading them on a surface where there is good ventilation. I have found using an old window screen as a shelf in the corner of the garage works well.

Let them dry for two to three weeks. You know they are ready when the tops are dry and the outer skin is paper dry, crisp to the touch.  Trim off the roots and tops.

If your harvest was abundant and you want to store some for winter, place them in a container with good air flow. Some people use mesh bags but a cardboard box with some holes cut through works too.

If the onions are kept cool, around 40 degrees, and away from sunlight they can last for months.

Gardener’s Tip: While you are harvesting onions, try not to bruise them. They will last longer.

 

 

Cucumber Question Answered

Gardeners have asked about yellowing cucumbers.

There are some varieties that are yellow skinned not green. For example,  Chinese Yellow Cucumber or the heirloom Lemon cucumber. We are not talking about those.

We’re talking about when a green skinned cucumber turns yellow. Most often, this can be attributed to a cucumber that has become over ripe.

Yellowing can also be the result of a nutrient imbalance or virus.

How can you figure out what is up with your plant?

If  your plant looks healthy, but the cucumbers are turning yellow, first suspect the most common problem, which is over ripening. A cucumber that is a little bit yellow is all right to eat but the more yellow it is, the more bitter it is and not fit for consumption.  You can tell a cucumber is ready to pick when it is firm, green, crisp and generally about 6 inches in length.

If the entire plant doesn’t look healthy suspect a nutrient deficiency.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed some of our vegetables needed fertilization and recommended using Plant-tone (organic).

If the application of fertilizer didn’t alleviate cucumber yellowing, please let me know. There are viruses that cause yellowing of cucumbers and leaves. Generally it is pretty obvious that something is seriously wrong. If you’re not sure, get in touch. We can figure it out together.

 

Good News, Not So Bad News, Bad News

The good news is our gardens are looking good.Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 11.09.55 AM

The not-so-bad news is there is still some septoria leaf spot and powdery mildew, so we need to stay on top of it.

Bad News

Multiple masses of squash bug eggs were found (see image below) on the underside of a patty pan squash leaf but they also will go after winter squash, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons. Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 11.06.21 AM

These need to be removed promptly before the squash bugs hatch.

I take a tissue or paper towel and scrape the eggs off the plants.  Look for clusters of reddish eggs on the undersides of leaves and often close to the ground, but not always. Be thorough. Squash bugs can be a real pest to gardeners. They are aggressive feeders and will cause a plant to blacken and die.

If you find one cluster, examine the entire plant. There are likely to be other clusters.

Thank you, gardeners. By acting quickly, we should be able to control this pest.

 

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.

 

 

Composting Class This Week with More Classes Planned

On Thursday, Aug. 3 a Composting for Sustainability class with Marcia Martin, Master Gardener will be held in the community gardens.

Composting is a sustainable activity that we’re doing at PMCG and you can do at home. Learn how to make healthy, living soil by recycling and rotting your kitchen and garden waste.

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.

MurrayPenney2017

Later in August, Murray Penney, seen here with two juicy tomatoes he picked off his plants Saturday morning, will lead a class on tomato growing. The date for this class is August 23rd at 7 p.m.

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? with Pattie Garrett RD and Nicole Cunningham, RD

Join us to 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 around the picnic tables in the Community Gardens. No registration necessary.

 

More adult classes are planned for September including creating pollinator gardens, non-alcholic botanical drinks and gifts from the garden.

For the Kids: FREE ART CLASSES

Art classes for children age 6 to 14 will also be held on August 12, 19 and 26th.

On August 12 and 26, children will be able to draw and paint flowers and bugs in the garden with artists Martel Catalano and Nancy Hicks. Adults are expected to stay during the program and are welcome to join the fun which will run for an hour starting at 9 a.m. Supplies will  provided, but if you would like to bring your own, that’s fine too.

On August 19th, children will be able to create huge sunflowers out of paper with Judy Brunner, a retired teacher and local artist.

The artworks created can be entered in the Community Gardens Art Show on Sept. 16.

 

 

 

 

After the Rain

The gardens after the today’s rain are a satisfying place to be.

They are filled to the brim with beauty.

Every plant has bathe in the moisture and are the better for it. We gardeners water but rain has a special magic.

The tiny sunflowers on the west side have poked their little plump leaves up through the soil. They germinated in only six days and now the rows of half-inch tall plants hold the promise of cheerful, yellow blooms on tall stalks later in the season.

Walking about, the zucchinis are flourishing and the Swiss chard, kale and lettuce are ready to be harvested. Basil looks like it enjoyed the rain and the frilly tops of tiny carrot seedlings carpet certain beds.

Many plants are showing their fruits and colorful combinations.  More promises of good things to come.

Tomorrow, I will be working in the garden.

I hope to see you there, Natalie