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Children in the Saturday morning Sunflower Hour program made worm farms with master gardener Jay Ephraim last weekend.

Check out this article about the growth of Pitney Meadows Community Gardens in Saratoga Today by Marissa Gonzalez.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the last year, the community’s beloved Pitney Meadows Community Farm has made a lot of changes.

Since this time last July, the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens have become an official Monarch way station, created a large “Grandparent’s Garden,” started a reading and gardening Saturday program for children, increased the number of plots and now has more than 70 gardeners growing fresh healthy food in their gardens.

“It’s truly amazing. People who visit the gardens can’t believe it is only one year old,” said garden director Natalie Walsh, crediting the community of gardeners that has made the difference.

“They aren’t just tending their plots, but also are interested in learning organic gardening techniques, engaging children in the gardens, and extending a hand to each other and to the Saratoga community at large. It truly is a community in the gardens,” she added.

Last year the Community Gardens had 50 spaces available. This year, there are 72 beds.

“We are working to respond to what the community wants. When gardeners asked for bigger spaces, we offered them,” Walsh said.

Gardeners pay to lease the space for the season and the costs vary according to plot size.

In addition, Walsh added flowerbeds to draw pollinators such as butterflies, bees and beneficial insects. Of particular interest was offering habitat to Monarch butterflies whose populations have been in decline across the United States.

In the community gardens, a large garden was installed and planted with butterfly plants that have different bloom periods and provide nectar throughout the summer and into the fall. The milkweed provides the Monarch caterpillar with its only food source.

Engaging the community is a goal for Walsh, who traveled over 13,000 miles last winter talking to community gardeners across the country.


This year, the gardens offer programs for adults as well as children. “We were fortunate to have two community gardeners interested in working with children. One is Faye Mihuta, a reading teacher, and the other is Jess Clauser, an artist. Together they designed a reading program that meets once a week and is followed by an art or garden project,” Walsh said.

The reading program is free. The art or garden project costs $5 per child and includes activities including learning how to make jam, making art and learning how to plant and care for seeds. The program, which is held every Saturday morning starting at 9:30 a.m., has been very well-received as have the adult programs on topics such as growing tomatoes.

Also on Saturday mornings, Walsh will lead a gardening class for participants to walk around the gardens and discuss any issues, problems and receive tips from Walsh, who is a master gardener and holds a horticulture degree from SUNY Cobleskill.

The garden also saw the construction of a beautiful cedar pergola that was donated in memory of the late Charlotte Justin by her family and built by local craftsman Rich Torkelson and his son Arik.

The grandmother’s gardens were funded with a grant from the Soroptimists and multiple private donors who also purchased furniture for the space. In addition, the popular sunflower house has also been expanded. A sunflower house is an enclosed space that has “walls” of sunflowers.

Other organizations include the Waldorf school that illustrated signs for the butterfly garden, Saratoga Bridges who care for their own plot and help water others, Franklin Community Center, the Saratoga Senior Center, Saratoga Transitional Services, Saratoga Catholic Central, the Girl Scouts and the high school.

(Note: Sunflower measuring day and the Fall Fairy Gathering will be September 22 at 1 p.m. – this was left out of the article. Rain date September 23.)

That will also be the day the sunflowers in the annual sunflower contest will be measured for height and size of bloom. The biggest in each category will receive a prize. Last year, 26 people entered, this year there are 60 participants.

“There no doubt the garden is growing,” she added. “If you haven’t visited, come by on a Thursday or Saturday morning and I’ll show you around and tell you what we have planned for next year,” Walsh said.



We have done so much in one year!


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.


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

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


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


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.


NatalieintheGarden copy


Beautiful Beginnings….and a little trouble.


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

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.



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.

Family Gardening Program – Week Four

Copyright Natalie Walsh

Copyright Natalie Walsh

Great day in the garden.

The participants in the Family Gardening Program from the Moreau Community Center’s camp spent time putting down mulch, harvesting beans, sugar snap peas and nasturtiums, an edible flower.

Although I didn’t know ahead of time, there were plans in the works to make a garden salad with the campers later in the day.  How perfect that we had radishes, Swiss chard, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow summer squash, an edible flower, and bags full of green beans, some purple beans and some sugar snap peas to send back for the salad.

Just so you know, the harvest of the sugar snap peas was plentiful this year.  There were many for each camper…but they are very tasty and so well received that only a few made it into the bag.  This is one of the delights of teaching gardening. Eating right from the plant. Once you know how good it tastes, you want to grow sugar snap peas for yourself.  One camper kept repeating what they were to herself – “Sugar snap peas, sugar snap peas” – so she could remember and tell her mother later. “I like these,” was a common refrain.

The nasturtiums aroused curiosity. The more adventurous gave them a taste. And all were happy to add them to a bag for the garden salad that would be served later that day.

Harvesting beans always brings an enthusiastic response. The beans are easy to find, and easy to break from the plant. And then there’s the “How big a one did you find?” comparisons.  The campers measure the beans from their wrist to the edge of their longest finger and declare who had the biggest.

The older group learned how a bucket brigade worked as we  moved wood chips down the line and onto our new flower bed of day lilies.  I told them how historically a bucket brigade was used to move water and put out fires.  I can tell you that a bucket brigade made short work of mulch moving and the new flower bed was covered in chips in no time at all.  Thank you campers!

It was a hot and humid day, so I made mint lemonade for the 70 or so people in the garden. Earlier in the day I had prepared the recipe and it was good that I did. Many campers asked how I made it.  We talked about what they liked more, the basil lemonade I had made previously or the spearmint lemonade they were drinking today.   The majority said they enjoyed both but given the option of one over the other would choose the mint lemonade.

If you’re curious about the recipe, it is easy. Make your favorite lemonade. In a blender add a cup of mint leaves and a cup of water and blend. Pour this through a sieve and then add the liquid to the lemonade. It’s not only easy, it is very refreshing.

Just ask the kids!


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.


We Made A Scarecrow Today

You know the expression, it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it took a village to make this scarecrow.

Bob LeClair made the frame. The clothes came from the thrift shop. The houseplants we planted in the shoes came from my son,  Gina found the straw hat at a garage sale. The scarecrows’s stuffing was wood wool – packing material donated by Rocky Dale Nursery in Bristol, Vt.  and the buttons, felt and muslin came from the generous ladies in the craft room at the community center.  Thank you all.

The kids…about 60…  who are part of the Family Gardening Program participated in his construction.  It was a hot day but groups of kids worked hard to make him come alive. And, he looks darn good.

Here are some photos so you can see for yourself.

Here is the finished scarecrow.  That fine friendly face was made by Miss Nancy and her helpers.

Here is the finished scarecrow. That fine friendly face was made by Miss Nancy and her helpers.

We stuffed him with wood wool. It is easy to work with.

We stuffed him with wood wool. It is easy to work with.

We couldn't find boots so we laid his shoes with soil and planted two spider plants in them.

We couldn’t find boots so painted shoes purple,  filled his shoes with soil and planted two spider plants in them.

In the end he looked pretty darn happy.

In the end, he looked pretty darn happy and so did we.