It’s All About Community

This morning, a group from Saratoga Bridges ACE program came by the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens to tend to their plot, which by the way is growing nicely.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 9.20.39 AM.pngTiny bean sprouts have started to poke their heads through the soil.

Saratoga Bridges is an organization that enables people with disabilities to live enriching lives.  After taking care of their raised bed, and watering the sunflowers, the group agreed to help harvest vegetables for the Franklin Community Center’s food pantry.

With brown grocery bags in hand, we went around the garden and harvested basil, which everyone smelled, and Swiss chard and kale, which some tasted.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.08.00 PM.pngIn total 7 bags were filled and went to the Franklin Community Center’s food program where each week people in need share in the free harvest.  Julie Slovic, Food Program Administrator with FCC, was pleased to pick up vegetables for her clientele who she said enjoyed having delicious, fresh produce. In addition to the harvest from the community gardens, yellows beans, herbs, chard and radishes were also donated by the farm.

In the next few days, arugula and lettuces will be planted in the now harvested spaces in the raised beds. And, when ready, share with the food pantry.

We also took a photo by the sunflowers.

They are glorious. If you want to see them or take a photo, come to the community gardens, which are located at 233 West Avenue in Saratoga Springs.  It’s a beautiful sight.Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.25.09 PM.png




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.


First Donations to the FCC Food Pantry

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Early this morning, two large bags full of chard, lettuces, peppers and kale were harvested for the Franklin Community Center’s food pantry.

Julie Slovic,  FCC’s Food Program Administrator, picked up the produce and was given a tour of our 50 bed Pitney Meadows Community Gardens where some raised beds are growing food for food pantries in Saratoga Springs.

In addition, several individual gardeners have expressed an interest in sharing their bounty of fresh produce grown in their own raised bed gardens this summer with the food pantries as part of Plant a Row for the Hungry initiative.

Thank you all.

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


Good Morning in the Garden

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 12.49.37 PMIt was a very pleasant morning in the community gardens.

Bailey and Esmee came to water and weed.  Jessica and Margie thinned annuals and transplanted along the edge of the sunflower garden.

Margie anchored the pumpkin patch sign Judy made into the ground. Paul did the last bit of the irrigation on the northwest side of the community gardens before going to work on the high tunnel.

Tom and Jim were busy nailing siding to the barn and Chris C. painted at a steady pace. George drilled drainage holes in an old trough and then planted it with flowers. He also help with the making of the scarecrow as did Judy B., Bailey and Esmee. Bill came over and gave us a pair of jeans for the scarecrow to wear.

All the while, gardeners came and took care of their plots; weeding, watering and saying hello. They shared ideas and tools. Some folks – like Kim and Karen – helped to water the newly planted sunflower area and the cosmos bed along the back of the garden.

There was community in the garden today. You got to love that.

Is It Too Late to Plant from Seed?


greenbeanNot at all.

What can you plant now and in August?

The answer is quite a bit. Here goes:


Bush beans are easiest as they don’t require staking. Try planting seeds of a different variety each week and do a taste test to determine what you like best. Stop sowing beans seeds in early August.


If you plant now, you will harvest a fall crop.

Again, I would select a bush cucumber plant because space tends to be at a premium in a raised bed. If you have the room, go for a vining cucumber. Chefs tell me they are tastier.


In mid- August sow lettuce seeds for a fall crop. I have plenty of lettuce seeds available in the community garden shed. Look for the days to harvest to determine what lettuce seeds are best to grow.


From mid-July through mid-August plant seeds of kale for harvest in the fall.


Spinach likes it cool. Start from seed in mid to late August.



The harvest will be modest for August planting green peas and sugar peas. But, if you have the room, go for it. Did you know Thomas Jefferson use to compete with his farm neighbors to see who could harvest the earliest peas? The winner hosted a dinner serving (what else?) some peas.


This is a quick growing vegetable. They are ready to be harvested in a month.

Anyone have some good radish recipes?


Volunteers Make it Happen!


It’s only noon, but in the last three hours so much has happened.

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The area was graded so it won’t flood. Gravel was leveled and stone dust put in place.

The Navy volunteers came, nine strong helpful people, and they put down gravel and stone dust for us, dug a trench for a water line, and removed stake fencing and plastic.

And it only took them a couple of hours!

These were heavy, hot jobs. They made it look effortless. Teamwork is a wonderful thing. Thank you all. And thank you to Leading Petty Officer Richard Keitz for sending them our way.

Also sincere appreciation to those volunteers who provided drinks, snacks and lunch. It was hot and humid out and having refreshments was very helpful indeed.

Saratoga Bridges

This morning Saratoga Bridges visited the garden. They are regular visitors and entered the “Grow the tallest Sunflower” contest. Today, they watered their entries and we walked around the garden. Some were willing to taste Ruby lettuce that was ready to be harvested even though they weren’t sure they would like “salad.” Some did.

Charming Mini Farm

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The fences are made from clothespins and popsicles stick. How creative!

Garden volunteer Judy Brunner made this dollhouse barn to the delight of everyone. You have to look at this.

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Judy setting up her mini-farm for all to enjoy.

Judy, a retired Saratoga Springs teacher and artist, designed a mini farm with little animals, outbuildings and pasture. She remodeled a dollhouse into a barn and created silos. It is a work of art.

Parts that she couldn’t find, she made out of clay.  Little ducks sit on a pond, a flock of chickens wander a little pasture, there are horses, pigs, sheep and cows. And even a green tractor like the one on the farm.

Look at the fences. Recognize what they are made from? Clothespins and popsicles sticks. This is a wonderful addition to the garden for children to play with. And it wasn’t set up for more than 30 minutes before it was field tested by a boy, who said he liked it very much. And began to play.

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The first visitor trying out the new mini-farm play area.

I will next be in the garden on Saturday morning from 9 to 11. Come talk to me if you have a question.

If you are in the garden and I’m not there, please water the newly planted sunflower area. And the troughs, the cosmos in the back and the pumpkin patch all need lots of water. It’s been hot and dry this week and everything (and everybody) appreciates a tall, cool drink on a day like this.

Thank you all, Natalie

Powdery Mildew and What to Do

Coffee in hand, I wandered the gardens very early this morning.

I looked for animal tracks near our beds, there were none.

I checked on the tiny pumpkin plants. They are still a little droopy but coming around. They will be fine.

Then I walked the pathways checking on the health and well being of the plants growing.  All was well but one.

A single zucchini plant has powdery mildew. While this is not surprising because of the wet weather, it needs to be tended to at once. I removed the diseased leaf and will connect with the bed’s gardener to let her know.


This photo is from another garden, but shows what PM looks like. The plant at PMCG was not heavily infested. 

What is Powdery Mildew?

The name is appropriate as the leaves and stems develop a white, powdery fungal growth that is made up of asexual spores called conidia. Conidia are airborne, can travel long distances and can reproduce rapidly under favorable conditions such as the high humidity we have been experiencing. The length of time between infection and visible symptoms is 3 days to a week, which is not long at all.

PM typically begins on leaves that are tender, the undersides of a leaf and lower leaves.  In short time, the infected leaves develop white areas that some say look like a plant was dusted with flour.

In the future, if you are buying seed or plants, look for varieties with genetic resistance. Resistance doesn’t mean the plant won’t get fungal issues. Think of it like humans having a strong immune system. Those with a strong immune system are better able to fight off maladies.

 What to Do Now

If you are growing susceptible plants such as zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and other cucurbits. The same copper fungicide that we used for septoria leaf blight works for powdery mildew and should be applied every 7-10 days. Spray even the undersides of the leaves. Inspect your garden plants every time you are in the garden and be quick to get in touch if you think something is wrong.

The most critical time is when the plants begin fruiting. If you are growing the plants mentioned above, you may want to apply a fungicide or a home-made brew now.

Home-made PM Fungicide

Baking soda is an effective control but beware how much you use and what it is mixed with. Research at Cornell University found that baking soda mixed with horticultural oil “almost completely inhibited PM on heavily infected pumpkin foliage. Baking soda without spray oil was ineffective, and a 2% (wt./vol. of water) solution of baking soda damaged the leaves.” So follow the recipe. More is not better.

In one gallon of water, mix

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon oil (horticultural oil is thought best, but vegetable oil works, too)
  • 1 or 2 drops dishwashing liquid

Shake well and keep shaking between sprays. Apply to plants being diligent to spray leaves near the soil and the undersides of leaves.

Never apply any fungicides when the temperatures are above 80 degrees or in direct sun.


If you are curious about PM and want more information visit the Cornell University website:



Tomato Taste Testing Potluck Plan


For several years, I held a tomato taste testing garden party. Guests would try different varieties, compare the attributes and select the one they liked best. The following year, I grew the “best” along with new choices and repeated the event.  Everyone loved to be in on the fun.

So why not do it again? This year, I spoke with chef Rocco Verrigni, one of our supporters, and he’s on board to help host a tomato taste testing potluck when the tomatoes ripen. How great is that!

There are more than a dozen different varieties of tomatoes in the community gardens for our future dining pleasure.

Following is a brief write-up about six of the tomatoes. I’ll write about the other six in the near future.

Fourth of July – one of the earliest varieties of non-cherry tomatoes. Matures in 65 days or less and produces many fruits. Flavor is considered better than average. Some people commented online that the skin is thick. We can see what we think.

Black Beauty – Very dark in color, almost blue-black heirloom. It is meaty, fleshy and reportedly very tasty.  Online commenters said this was a great tasting tomato with a rich, smooth earthy flavor.

Berkeley Tie-Dye –  I can’t wait to you see this heirloom. In photos it looks tie-dyed with dark wine red and green stripes. The flavor of the 8 to 12 ounce fruits are reportedly very sweet and rich.

Abe Lincoln –  Mother Earth News said, these “tomatoes are large, meaty, flavorful heirloom tomatoes. There are many exceptional heirloom tomatoes, but ‘Abraham Lincoln’ consistently produces huge crops of extra large, meaty fruit.”

San Marzano – This is a well-known and well-regarded Italian cooking tomato. Long fruit filled with thick, dry flesh and few seeds make this a good choice for sauces or canning.

Defiant – This tomato has three things going for it right off the bat. It ripens early, it is disease resistant and the flavor is good. If you research this one, you’ll find it is resistant  to late blight, early blight, fusarium wilt, and verticillium wilt. Impressive.

Brian Wilson from Trak Rentals you’re invited to the potluck. Thank you so much for the use of the auger to get our raised beds in place.

Special thank you to Murray Penney and Robert Curry. They started these tomatoes early in the season and provided transplants to us and all the community gardeners.