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.

 

 

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.

Kaelynart

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

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

Daphneart

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

Jillianart

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

NatalieintheGarden copy

Hannah'snote

Real Gardeners at Work

potato

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

Squash Bugs…Ugh!

SquashbugsLast season the squash bugs in the Moreau Community garden caused a lot of damage. Entire plants had to be removed, which is terrible considering all the effort we put into growing them and dreaming of the great meals we will make.

On Sunday, I spotted one of these pests in our garden.  Just as expected, since June is the month they begin to lay eggs.

Preferred Plants

If you’re growing melons, gourds, cucumber, summer squash, zucchini, pumpkins, winter squash, you will want to examine your plants closely and take action swiftly.

Squash bugs are sap-sucking insects that lay clusters of copper-colored eggs on the underside of leaves, often near the base. In garden plots like ours, hand-picking is very effective. Squish the eggs when you see them and put any adults in a jar of soapy water – jars are kept under the bulletin board. Be vigilant and check your plants each time you visit the garden.

Early action is imperative.

This is very important to do as left alone the eggs will hatch and dozens of squash bugs will begin feeding….this usually leads to plant leaves wilting and the plant dying.

The other thing to know is squash bugs will seek to hide in nearby weeds. If the pathway around your plot has weeds, remove them. This will help keep your plot healthy.

If you find you have squash bugs, an application of a 1/4 cup of Diatomaceous earth around the stalk of the plant does help. This treatment is permitted in Certified Organic vegetable production.

If you have other questions, leave them in the comments section of this post and I will answer them.

Natalie, Master Gardener and Coach for the Moreau Community Garden

Beautiful Beginnings….and a little trouble.

Moreau6.7.2015_2

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

Green Beans Experiment

Tomorrow  morning the ten to 12-year-old young gardeners will be garden scientists and conduct an experiment.

A farmer told me  if you cut the bush green beans down after an abundant harvest a second crop will grow and provide more green beans than if you just let the beans keeping producing on their own.

I love a good garden experiment so here’s what we will do:

Harvest all remaining green beans.

Cut all the bean plants back to five inches making sure to include some growth nodes. Fertilize and water.

If you want to know what happens, keep an eye on  plot #25.

 

What was in the Bug Jar?

There were two insects in the bug jar this morning.

The first was a leaf miner larvae.  It is a yellow larvae about a half inch long and, depending on the species, feeds on Swiss chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli raab, potato, bean, tomatoes, peppers and beets.

You know you have them in the garden if the leaves of your plants have squiggly paths tunneled into them. To control,  remove the infected leaf (insect is inside) and throw it in the trash.

For more information: http://plantdiagnostics.umd.edu/level3.cfm?causeID=266

The other insect was the larvae of a white cabbage moth, which attacks all brassicas.

The specimens in the jar were desiccated so I suggest you look online to find photos.

If  you see them in the garden, pick them off and discard.

Cool as a Cucumber

Family Gardening Program – Week Three

Here’s what we did today:

The five-year-olds watered the bean plants they planted a week ago and which are now a few inches tall. They were delighted. I let them sample green beans so they know what they are growing.

The older children watered the carrot bed and then thinned the plants, washed them and ate them. You always water carrots before thinning so you don’t disturb the roots of neighboring plants. It is work that needs to be done carefully and thoughtfully. And though it was a challenge at times with all the enthusiasm, I think the young gardeners enjoyed pulling the little baby carrots out  as much as they enjoyed eating them.

Swiss Chard, Kale, sugar snap peas were also sampled and most gardeners enjoyed them, especially the sugar snap peas. These are a big hit every time we grow them and will always be part of the children’s gardening program.  We harvested the above vegetables and sent them back to the Moreau Community Center for distribution along with some zucchini, radishes, turnips and cucumbers.

The biggest job of the day was trimming the wheelbarrow full of day lilies, leveling a planting area and getting every one of the plants in the ground. Special thanks to Delores for her help!

All that was done between 9:30 and noon by about 80 children who range in age from 5 to 10 years old.

Pretty impressive!

 

 

What is that beetle?

Jap Beetle

For the person who put the beetles in a jar asking for identification. These are Japanese Beetles.

An easy way to battle them without pesticides – which we don’t use in our community garden – is to get a pail of soapy water and put it directly under the plant being bothered. If you tap the leaf, the beetle drops into the water and drowns.

If you do this early in the day when the beetles are the least active, you will greatly reduce the number of beetles in short order.