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.

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

Family Gardening Program – Celery Harvesting and Tasting

CeleryThis was a busy, busy morning in the garden. The young gardeners pulled weeds, trimmed the herbs, moved mulch, harvested green beans and then trimmed the plants for the experiment. See previous post for more on the experiment.

They also tied tomatoes to the support stakes, removed spent flowers from a plot and collected Batchelor’s Button seeds for next year’s flowers.

But that’s not all!

Every group harvested celery. It wasn’t easy to pull from the ground but all ages showed teamwork and strength and got the plants out, shook off the soil and placed them in a wire basket.  Next, we trimmed off the roots, washed the stalks and ate them with a yogurt based ranch dressing.

Almost everyone agreed that this was good tasting celery. It couldn’t have been any fresher and it certainly had better flavor than the pale stalks we buy at the supermarket.  Even gardeners who thought they didn’t like celery, tried it and found they did.

Some of the young gardeners ate multiple stalks with and without the dressing.  The rule in the garden is you can take a small bite of a vegetable and if you don’t like it, you can politely spit it out.

“But if you are adventurous enough to try something new, you may be surprised you like it.” That is what I say every time a new vegetable is presented.

We also added freshly harvested and chopped parsley to the yogurt dressing and that also meet with approval. The willingness to try new things is terrific.

This was a great day.

I’m looking forward to next week…I’ve got something unusual planned.

 

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Cool as a Cucumber

Early Morning Meeting in the Garden

I will be in the Moreau Community Garden at 7 a.m. Friday morning. If you want to talk about your plants and what’s going on, come by and ask questions.

Hope to see some early birds tomorrow.

Natalie Walsh, Master Gardener

Right Place, Right Time, Lucky Find

I was driving home from the supermarket and saw a pick-up truck loaded with large pieces of cardboard heading for the dump.

Just the night before, I was thinking how if we could rake back the wood chips on the weedy pathways, put cardboard down and then add fresh wood chips, we could eliminate the weeds that are taking over in some areas.

So I did what any gardener would do. I followed the pick-up into the dump and put the cardboard in my car. They are the height of patio doors and twice the width each! Perfect. (Isn’t it amazing what can make you happy!)

Let me know if you want a piece for the pathway around your bed. It is important to keep the weeds out of the paths as weeds harbor both insects and diseases. By smothering the weeds, we eliminate the issues.

See you in the garden later today.

Natalie, Master Gardener

Cucumber Beetles Spotted

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Striped cucumber beetle adults have arrived in our garden plots. If you are growing squash, cucumber, zucchini or other cucurbit you should be looking for eggs under the leaves closest to the soil.

The eggs are oval and yellow to amber-colored. If you find eggs, remove and destroy them.

The beetles – which are yellow with black stripes – are currently feeding on leaves. Soon, if not already, female beetles will lay eggs. Once the eggs hatch the larvae will feed on the roots and pupate in the soil. Come August, the cycle will be complete and what are now eggs will be adults.

What Damage Do They Do?

They eat leaves and roots. Mature cucurbits can handle some damage. If beetle numbers are high the damage can mean reduced yields. A secondary problem with cucumber beetles is that they are vectors to a disease known as bacterial wilt. If you notice leaves turning a dark green, wilting and then dying, this is a symptom of bacterial wilt. Some plants – such as pumpkins – are more susceptible than others to this disease.

How Do I Know if My Plants have Bacterial Wilt?

Cut a section on the stem. Hold the stem together and then slowly pull it apart. If bacterial wilt is present the sap will appear string-like between the cut ends.

How to Control and When

Striped cucumber beetles are most active evenings and through the night. Since it is most effective to spray the beetle directly this would be the ideal time to apply a spray of Neem Oil. If you find beetles on your squash apply neem oil in the next two weeks. In addition to aiming at the beetle, be certain to spray under the leaves at the base of the plant where eggs and larvae are likely to be located.

A labelled spray bottle of Neem Oil will be placed in the shed in the next few days for everyone to use.

Never, Never, Never spray in the heat of the day. This can kill a plant. Wait until evening and aim for contact with the beetle.

If you have questions, leave a comment below.

Scarecrow Construction and Costume Ideas

I’ve started working on lesson plans for the Family Gardening Program at Moreau Community Garden. Not only do we walk through the gardens weeding, watering and looking for anything out of the ordinary, we also take steps to keep our garden entertaining, safe and looking good.

And I can’t think of a better source of fun than a scarecrow.

Scarecrows have been used for centuries to keep crows from the crops. Our garden might not need to scare off crows, but a scarecrow will be a friendly addition sure to bring a smile.

Since I’m new to scarecrow construction I went to the internet, did some research and found a suitable sturdy form. It has two legs for support and then the typical cross shape for the torso, arms and head. Once the stakes are in the ground, our scarecrow should stand strong. Here’s my drawing, which is open to suggestions and revisions. Scarecrow

I have collected a shirt, jeans and was offered burlap for the head. I have buttons for eyes. And someone offered me a fake mustache. We still need gumboots, gloves, a hat, a belt and maybe a bandana. What do you think?

If possible, I’d like our scarecrow to have a change of clothes….for example, a team shirt, a Hawaiian print shirt, a jacket for special occasions, a cowboy outfit. Something that will make people laugh when they see our “dapper” scarecrow. Ideas are welcome.

Research on scarecrow “inners” determined that straw was the material of choice and stuffing plastic grocery bags with the straw made stuffing the scarecrow easy for children to handle. It also keeps the center dry.

We will first fill bags with straw, tie them closed, then stuff the shirt, pants, etc. I will need to collect plastic bags and if any gardeners have some to spare, please bring them to the garden and leave them in the shed. Also, if anyone wants to donate a bale of straw, we would appreciate that.

This should be fun.

Once he is made, we should have a contest to come up with a name! Send in your thoughts and we can take a vote. The person whose name gets the most votes, names the scarecrow.

Thank you all.

Natalie

Amazing Peach and Rhubarb Kuchen Recipe

Peach Rhubarb cakeThe recipe for this wonderful kuchen can be found at: http://www.organicgardening.com/cook/peach-and-rhubarb-kuchen

Credit belongs to Edward Lee as this is his Peach and Rhubarb Kuchen Recipe.

I have to admit, I like kuchens. In the fall, I often make an apple kuchen that is a family favorite with apples, coconut and nuts. So when I saw this rhubarb kuchen recipe, I had to try it.

Turns out, it is delicious and the perfect not-too-sweet cake to serve with tea or coffee.

The only change I made was in using canned peaches. There were no fresh, ripe ones at the market.

The cake came out very well. I served it to friends and family and it was devoured…yes, I mean devoured… quickly. Poof. Gone in a day.

That’s a sign of a good recipe.