American Community Gardening Association Column for Community Gardeners

My first column for the American Community Gardening Association was published today in ‘The Cultivator.”

It is my hope that a dialogue will begin among the thousands of ACGA members as we share our experiences.

I hope you enjoy it.

Natalieprtraitshot

Ask Natalie

At ACGA we recognize that the collective knowledge of our members is our greatest asset.

And we know from your emails that you have interest in everything from the ground up, including issues such as soil quality, raising funds, supporting volunteers and building community.

There are concerns about what vegetables to grow, food justice, water purity and gardeners looking for tips on what makes a community garden sustainable in terms of the people involved, volunteer support, cost and garden practices.

To this end, we are launching this community gardening column.  The goal is to support each other by providing tried and true experience on what works.

Community gardeners can email questions and each month we will address different concerns, show you images of what other community gardens are up to, share successes and sage advice.

As a team we are supporting not only our own community but the network of community gardens that are our members.  We collectively have knowledge and know-how based on years of experience from all our garden members from Key West to Canada and from coast to coast.

As an organization, we are experts on this subject and can help one another. Each of us brings something to the table.

I am a journalist, horticulturist, Master Gardener and community garden creator.  In the past two years, I have traveled more than 15,000 miles from Maine to Hawaii talking with garden directors about their experiences.  I learned so much.

In the coming year, I’m hoping to share what I learned with you. Just as I am hoping you will share your stories with me.  How did you get started? If you were to start over again, what would you do differently? What tips do you have to share? What challenges have you faced? What do you consider your garden’s greatest success? Do you compost? Do you have any tips?

Even tips you may think of as small can have a big impact. For example, watering plots during the summer can be an issue. One clever gardener I met suggested that anyone who wasn’t going to be to able to water stick a blue colored stake in their plot to indicate they were away and asked their neighbors water for them.  It was a huge help to the gardeners. And an asset as neighbors helping neighbors builds community, friendships and trust.

I look forward to sharing dozens of other tips and answering your questions. Send your emails to: Natalie.walsh@communiygarden.org and look for answers in our monthly newsletter.

The actress Helen Mirren wrote that gardening is about “learning, learning, learning. That’s the fun of them. You’re always learning.”

This is an opportunity for us to learn from one another.

Thank you for sharing. I’m eager to hear from you.

Warmly,

Natalie Walsh, ACGA board member and an enthusiastic visitor of community gardens and orchards.

Deer Fencing Installed Around Gardens

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 6.59.45 AMYesterday we installed an electric deer fence to protect the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens. The fence is on a timer and will be turned on from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

If you come to the gardens and see the fence cording is still up across the front walkway, enter through the alley between the Gardener’s Shed and Bill’s Barn.

OR

If the timer is off, you can lift the handle and disconnect the cord from the barn and walk through.

If you are in the gardens in the evening, and the last to leave, please re-hook the cord handle to the barn.

If we work together, we should be able to thwart the threat of deer entering our gardens.

So you know, deer hoof prints were seen in the parking lot and deer have been in other parts of the farm – sweet potatoes and the event garden. We took this action to protect the community gardeners from loss.  Please help us to keep the fence up and running.

Thank you.

And thank you to the team who helped us to install the fence: Nora, Jim, Gus, Andy, Mark, Bill, Ken and yours truly.

Natalie

 

Participants Reap the Benefits of Harvesting Class

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Master Gardener Kay Schlembach took gardeners through the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens last evening and gave them tips on when and how to harvest.  Participants were able to ask questions about harvesting their crops and learned the best time of day to pick the vegetables.

Do you know when?

Morning is preferred. Evening when it cools is second best.

Kay’s class is part of the community gardens’ adult programming organized by Margie Ingram.  The next two classes are:

Jam Making with Diane Whitten, which is open to adults and children. This class is tomorrow Saturday at 10 a.m. Space is limited.

The next adult class is being taught by Kim London and the topic is herbs. This class will be July 19 at 6:30 in the gardens.  All are welcome.

Volunteers and Gardeners Make the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens Look Fabulous

The pictures say it all. Volunteers were at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens this morning weeding and watering.  Thank you all. It looks beautiful.

If you’d like to see the gardens for yourself come on Saturday morning when we will be having a reading program for children. This week’s topic is worms and the reading program begins at 9:30.

At the same hour, Natalie Walsh will give a talk on succession planting and walk around the gardens answering questions.  All are welcome.

Eradicating Squash Bugs

Hi gardeners – I just got back from the gardens and all-in-all things look good.

We discovered squash bugs this week.  Mary Beth shared this great image of them:
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These are the eggs they lay on the underside of leaves.
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If you find the eggs, remove them with your fingernail or with a piece of duct tape wrapped inside out around your finger. Take them out of the garden and discard.
The next step would be to spray with diatomaceous earth (DE).  I left two full spray bottles on the counter. Shake well before using and spray both sides of the leaves only. Not the flowers. We don’t want to hurt our bees.
What damage do squash bugs do?
This insect feeds by sucking the sap of plants and in the process infecting plants with toxins that lead to the plant’s demise. Our best defense is to stay on top of it, remove the eggs and use DE.
If you see something in the garden and need information, contact me.
Observations
A few gardeners need to get to their weeding.  And, a few others, who have let their plants go to seed, may want to pull the flowering broccoli rabe, lettuce or arugula and plant a new crop.  Once they are flowering, the taste is more bitter.
I will be in the garden Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. And I will be teaching another class Saturday morning at 9:30.
Hope to see you in the gardens,
Natalie Walsh, Garden Director

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

Cutworms Found after Chewing through the base of a Pepper Plant

cutwormWhen a gardener asked me to look at their pepper plant that had died in a day, I had my suspicions on who might be involved.

“It was growing nicely and the following morning was wilted,” he said.

Cutworms. These are the larvae of a variety of  different night-flying moths. And while the moths differ the modus operandi is the same.

A healthy robust plant dies overnight. Upon inspection, the stem is severed near the base.

Cutworms feed on a wide variety of plants including peppers, beans, lettuces, carrots, cabbage, corn or tomatoes. If you think your plant has been attacked, move the earth around the base and look for two things:

1 – A cut right through the stem where it was chewed at the base or just below the soil line.

2 – The culprit who did it. Cutworms don’t flee the scene and can often be found at the base of the plant hiding in the soil within a foot of the plant. Sure enough, the inch-and-a-half caterpillar pictured above was curled up in the soil.

If you find them, you can squish them or throw them in soapy water. But don’t leave them. They have pretty big appetites.

To protect your remaining plants from other cutworms, make a 4-inch collar from a toilet paper roll sliced open and place it around the base of the stem.  I stick it in the soil about an inch or so and let the rest circle the stem.

Another trick it to sprinkle coffee grounds, crushed egg shells bits or diatomaceous earth around the plants.

 

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