Eartheasy Article on Natalie’s Community Gardening Work

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Thank you to all the wonderful people I met from coast to coast who are creating community gardens and orchards. I am grateful for the time and information you shared with me.

See you in the gardens, Natalie

Art work by the Young Gardeners

Avery2Sometimes it is just so hot and humid that the young gardeners retreat to the shade of the pine trees adjacent to the Moreau Community Garden.

Sitting in the shade, cooling down and having a drink of water is always an option. Some days, some gardeners feel it is just too hot to be in the sun. For them, paper and crayons are always at hand.  All I ask is that the drawings be of the garden.

In the artwork above, Avery has captured the big tree and the raised beds where we grow carrots, kale, sugar snap peas, green peppers, green beans, yellow beans and purple beans, red Norland potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, spearmint, peppermint and lots of  herbs including sage, basil, oregano, parsley and thyme.

When I looked at these masterpieces recently, I loved the perspective.  You have all seen my photographs of the garden. Now enjoy the artwork of the youngsters that work in the garden, weeding, watering and growing vegetables.

That’s our scarecrow, Luigi. He watches over the garden.

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It’s a big job as there are many raised beds.Avery

In addition to vegetables, we grow flowers for the pollinators.

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This is a picture of a wooden crow that rests in our garden.

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And here is a picture of me, Natalie, in my yellow hat.

Thank you young gardeners — or, should I say — young artists for the drawings.

I especially love the drawing Hannah did of me and I appreciate the poem she wrote on the back. Thank you. It is a great pleasure teaching all of you how to grow food.

Natalie

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Hannah'snote

Our Abundant Harvest

Carrot harvesting was fun and a bit of a treasure hunt for the purple, white, yellow and orange carrots hidden beneath the soil.  We counted and compared the different color carrots and found purple were the most robust. The carrots were sent back to the community center where they will be served as snack.

Carrot harvesting was fun and a bit of a treasure hunt for the purple, white, yellow and orange carrots hidden beneath the soil. We counted and compared the different color carrots and found purple were the most robust. The carrots were sent back to the community center where they will be washed and served as snack. For the gardening record: approximately 80 carrots were gathered from one bed.

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We harvested so many beans...hundreds! The young gardeners picked the bed clean of purple, yellow and green beans. A large bag full was sent back with them but the young harvesters also sampled as they went.  What's better than a bean right off the vine!

We harvested so many beans…hundreds! The young gardeners picked the bed clean of purple, yellow and green beans. A large full bag was sent back with them but the young harvesters also sampled as they went. What’s better than a bean right off the plant and warmed by the sun!

The first time we harvested beans, one young gardeners asked what a bean looked like.  Now he knows!

The first time we harvested beans, one young gardener asked what a bean looked like. Now he knows!

We cleared the harvested bean bed back to the soil. But the beans we planted a few weeks ago are doing well.

We cleared the harvested bean bed back to the soil. But the beans we planted a few weeks ago are doing well.

The celery before the young gardeners harvested.

The celery before the young gardeners harvested.

Celery being trimmed of roots before being sent back with the young gardeners for snack.

Celery being trimmed of roots before being sent back with the young gardeners for snack.

The robust harvest was celebrated with strawberry lemonade, which is easy to make. Simply clean and trim a cup of strawberries and add them to a blender with 2 cups of lemonade. Pour this mix through a strainer and into a pitcher of lemonade.

“I don’t like it,” one young gardener said, teasing . . . “I LOVE IT.”

A pleasant way to end a good gardening day.  Happy gardening.

Harvested Bundles of Carrots, Potatoes, Basil and Started Cleaning Up

Harvesting in the garden is in full swing now.

The young gardeners all had a chance to pull carrots from the ground . . . a well loved activity.  Who doesn’t love a fresh from the garden carrot?

We also harvested basil, green peppers, and red potatoes. I can’t wait to hear what Laurie made with these.

GARDEN CLEAN UP

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Cleaning up the garden has begun.  Now that the sugar snap pea vines are turning brown, we can pull them up and throw the vines into the compost bin.  The young gardeners worked at this task and two raised beds were cleared.  This gives better air circulation for the tomatoes in the same bed. Tomatoes need good air flow to keep diseases in check.

It was a fine day in the garden even after one of the gardeners was stung by a yellow jacket. No one knew a hive had made a nest in the drain near the faucet.  If you do get stung in a garden, raw onion on the sting can help.

Stings unfortunately can happen in a garden.  Fortunately, the young gardener was able to shake off the experience after a short while. The recreation department heroes have destroyed the nests – there were two in the grate.

For refreshments, cucumber water was served.  The young gardeners enjoyed the water which is so easy to prepare.  Peel a cucumber, slice it and add the slices to a pitcher of cold water. Let it sit for an hour. That’s it.

The next two weeks will be busy ones in the garden. There is still so much to be harvested!  Come see!

 

 

Planting, Harvesting and Enjoying the Garden’s Bounty

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Today was a true summer day…hot and humid.

But this didn’t slow down the young gardeners at Moreau Community Garden.  Last week we “planted” seeds in clear cups with napkins and a few cotton balls. This week we talked abut how the seeds grew. How the seed swells initially. How a single root forms and then more form. What the roots looked like…and how a seedlings first makes cotyledon (or seed) leaves before true leaves that resemble the adult plant leaf emerge.

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Once we talked about the seedlings, we planted them in bed #37 (in case you want to go and check it out) in two rows.  In a few weeks we will be picking beans from this bed.

After planting beans, we harvested nasturtium flowers, which are edible and very colorful. We also harvested scallions and sugar snap peas. A big hit! So sweet and tasty!

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But the best harvest experience of the day was definitely the early red potatoes.

Early potatoes get harvested about the time you see their flowers blooming. The flowers started last week, so this week we began to harvest.  The gardeners dug up around each plant and there were a fair number of potatoes sent back to camp headquarters where Miss Laurie is known for her great efforts preparing the garden produce for the gardeners. Kudos Laurie and a sincere Thank You.

I was told that the rapini sent back the first day was washed, cut into bite size pieces and served with ranch dressing. The whole harvest “every bite” was eaten by gardeners, some of whom never tried this green before.

Today the gardeners tried mint lemonade, and loved it.  It was cool and refreshing on such a hot day. Here’s how it is made:

1 sprig of peppermint per gallon of lemonade

Put a cup of water in a blender and add washed leaves of peppermint. Blend well on high. Then pour the liquid through a strainer to remove the big bits of peppermint leaves.  Add the strained peppermint liquid into pitcher of lemonade.

It’s good. If you haven’t tried it, ask one of the gardeners. They’ll tell you how refreshing it is.

INSECTS

There are many Japanese Beetles in the garden.  Since ours is an organic garden, our best defense is to knock the beetles off plants and into a bucket of soapy water.  The bucket and soap are in the shed. These beetles are voracious and skeletonizing leaves.

We spotted them on bean plants, rhubarb and zucchini.

Real Gardeners at Work

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Today, the young gardeners did an amazing job in the Moreau Community Garden.

Among the activities were: spotting the eggs, larvae and adult Colorado Potato Beetles.   There were dozens of these in the garden.  The eagle-eyed gardeners noticed that searching around a chewed leaf usually yielded some results.  Good detective work.

Once the eggs hatch the larvae feed on leaves and for the most part stayed clustered together chewing, chewing, chewing. They can defoliate an entire potato, tomato and pepper plant.

Once the insects were found, the gardeners removed the insects and placed them in a  jar of soapy water.

All the gardeners had the opportunity to scout for insects and among the other insects found in the garden were ants, Japanese beetles, cabbage moths, squash bugs and a grasshopper.

Seed Cups

Another activity shared in by all was the “planting” of seeds in a cup.  This came about after last week when a gardener asked about how seeds grew and what did it look like.

This experiment will show how seeds form roots and sprout.

Here’s what we did: A clear plastic cup was lined with a napkin. Seeds were placed between the cup and the napkin, cotton balls were added to the center to hold the seeds in place. The cotton balls were moistened.  Next week will be examine them for germination.

The goal is to see how the different seeds we planted start growing. If all goes well, we will plant the sprouts in the garden.

Harvesting Watermelon Radish

Over the weekend I harvested most of the watermelon radishes and roasted them with thyme for everyone to try.  It is an easy recipe of chopping the radishes into bite size pieces, coating them with olive oil and a little thyme. Cook at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes.

In the garden today we harvested the remainder of the watermelon radishes and sent them back with the gardeners.  The watermelon radish is a pretty one with a bright pink interior….like its namesake.

We also planted two other varieties of radishes because I have a project in mind for everyone later in the season that involves playing with your food.  You will see.

Artists at Work

The young gardeners always have the option of drawing something about the garden in the shade of the pine trees, instead of working in the sunny garden.  Some chose to draw today but didn’t finish their masterpieces. Next week I will post the garden drawings here.

What else did we do?

We weeded and discussed what was happening in the different beds.  We planted Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. And we looked over the plants. We noticed the fruits on the tomatoes, the flowers on the potatoes, and how textured the kale leaves are.

Ninety nine percent of gardening is observation. And the young gardeners working with me this summer are great at looking over the plants and noticing when something isn’t as it should be. This is the work of real gardeners and these 60 participants are already showing great  skills.

Good Work Gardeners.

What a great day in the garden – Natalie

Beautiful Beginnings….and a little trouble.

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I was in the garden enjoying how fresh and lovely it looks. Flowers blooming. Seedlings sprouting. Moreau6.7.2015_5207

The garden is beautiful.

But I did notice a problem. Something ate the tops off tomatoes and a pepper plant. It also pulled some plants out of the ground. I suspect it was a deer . . . but I’m not 100 percent certain. It might have been a woodchuck. If you see a critter in the beds, please let us know.

Thank you.

This is what the damage looked like. Anyone have experience to know what troublesome varmint feasted in our garden?Moreau6.7.2015_3

Companion Planting

One of our gardeners asked me about companion planting. That is, planting two plants near one another for the benefit of one of the plants.

I’m always interested in keeping insects away and so I do some plant planning with this in mind.

For example, onions are planted in rows between carrots to repel carrot flies.

And the nasturtiums – in addition to being colorful – are next to the beans to repel bean beetles.

And if you are wondering what is planted down the middle of the potato patch…it is a row of beans which are said to repel Colorado potato beetles. Horseradish is also a good beetle repellant.

Onions are planted around the cabbages and tomatoes to ward off insects. And the radishes near the carrots and beans are said to do the same.

You will notice I plant lots of flowers, too. The sunflowers, salvias and zinnias are planted to attract hummingbirds because these birds eat whiteflies. And the scent of marigolds confuses some other insects pests, so plant them where you can.

I’m always open toweb ways to garden organically without chemicals.

Happy gardening, Natalie

Grateful it’s Raining!

I’ve been working in the garden for more than a month nonstop.  And, If it wasn’t pouring rain I’d be out today!

There is still so much to be done at the Moreau Community Garden. But there’s a lot that has been done and it is looking lovely.  When I look at the raised beds, I smile. The promise of the season lies before us and it is full of carrots, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peas, beans, potatoes, onions, sunflowers, zinnias, salvias, nasturtiums and more … much more.

A huge, heartfelt thank you to Lena’s Greenhouses, Hewitt’s Garden Center and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Saratoga Springs for their donations of plants. What a different it makes….and it is very much appreciated by the gardeners. Right now, there are tomato plants waiting for adoption in the wheelbarrow nearest the bulletin board. Gardeners, they are free.

Insects

We have already seen cutworms and grubs in the beds.  The grubs are likely Japanese beetles. There are many in the park and later in the season we will likely put out traps. If you find a grub…small whitish, curls into a C when touched — squish it.  If you aren’t sure what it is, leave a sample in the bug jars under the bulletin board and drop me a note. I will identify it for you. Cutworms can often be found in the soil. If the tops of your beans are chopped off, they are likely the problem. Dig around the plant they have just devoured. See if you can find it. If you do, you know what to do. (Hint: Squish.)

Frost

We had a little frost damage in the garden.  Frost turned the tips of tomato leaves black.  Lets hope that cold temperatures are behind us now.

Be Aware

In years past, we have had trouble with squash bugs in the garden. If you are growing cucurbits, keep an eye on your plants and use Neem if you spot these insects in your bed. The Neem is in the shed and can be mixed in the container left alongside it and sprayed on the plants. Sprayer is there as well.

Remember ours is an organic garden and all methods of controlling insects must be organic. If you aren’t sure, get in touch before you spray any chemicals.

Mondays

Every Monday through mid-August, gardeners are invited to gather around noon under the pines and talk about the garden (or anything else), share experiences, seeds and just get to know one another.  I will also be available anytime to answer your garden, insects, plant disease questions. You can reach me here, through the blog, or on Facebook or you can leave a note for me on the bulletin board.

Bulletin Board

The bulletin board is also the place to ask for help from other gardeners. For example, if you are going on vacation, you might post a note asking for a volunteer  to water your beds while you are away.

Thanks. I hope to see you in the garden, Natalie

Family Gardening Program – Week Seven

3week7This was the last session for the young gardeners. We harvested carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and those vegetables that weren’t eaten on the spot went back with the gardeners for snack. We also picked bouquets of flowers and tried cucumber water.

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It was a marvelous season. There were about 80 young gardeners participating and they were very interested in learning how to grow food.

Over the course of the summer, we planted seeds, and learned about insects and diseases that threatened the harvest. Older gardeners who were interested learned about propagation of spearmint….which they enjoyed in lemonade. The gardeners also tried vegetables fresh from the garden – such as celery, sugar snap peas, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, purple beans and broccoli.

And were treated to recipes using fresh ingredients they harvested…such as the kale chips and herbs such as basil in lemonade. And a very delicious chocolate zucchini cake! and muffins!

The enthusiasm was wonderful. There was curiosity about insects, how to save seeds from one season to the next,  and diseases on their plants. We talked about organic gardening and how to keep garden troubles away through good gardening practices such as weeding, mulching, providing air circulation and improving the soil.

It was a wonderful experience all around.

Kudos to the all the young gardeners and Miss Vicki, Miss Laurie and Miss Nancy.

Thank you, Natalie

P.S. Cucumber water is simply slices of cucumber in water. Let it sit about an hour before serving. It is a non-sugar drink that is very refreshing. Those young gardeners that liked it, really like it and asked for seconds, thirds and fourths.