What’s the Buzz?

Why it’s the bees of course.

Take a look at the bees and butterflies enjoying our pollinator plants.  Next year, we will create four pollinator beds filled with plants the bees, butterflies and birds find appealing.

If you want to be part of the buzz, let me know. We will need help planning, purchasing and planting seeds and transplants that have been donated.  If you have plants that are suitable for this endeavor, let me know.

We have two holding beds in the gardens with perennials that will be planted for the pollinators next Spring. But, we could use liatris, butterfly weed and echinacea to name a few.  Can you help?

 

Thank you Navy volunteers!

The Navy has been volunteering in the community gardens all summer. What a joy to have them come every week to rake, weed, move gravel, paint and more.  They are willing hands and much appreciated.

Last week, I wanted to send a little sunshine their way and told them to gather a bouquet of the sunflowers to take home with them. And, they did.

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One volunteer gave our scarecrow a sunflower for his pocket while picking some for himself.

Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 11.12.45 AM.pngThank you to all the volunteers who helped in the gardens.

You all contributed to the success and sense of community. Thank you.

Tucking in the Garden

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 8.36.00 PM.pngFrost is expected again tonight.  Jim M. and I covered as much as we could with the sheets and row cover we had but not all beds are covered.

If it matters to you, go to the garden and throw a sheet over your tender plants tonight.

BTW – Covering the beds with fabric and an upholster is good fun. He was pulling the cover, draping it like a pro, securing it here and there with an exaggerated care.

“Upholsterers don’t like wrinkles,” he said with a smile.

Made my day. I’m still chuckling. Thanks twice, Jim. Once for coming out to help and again for the good humor.

What Gardeners Need to Know About Tonight’s Frost Advisory

There’s a frost advisory posted on the National Weather Service for our area tonight.  The prediction is temperatures in the 30s.

What this means for gardeners at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens depends on what you’re growing.

Some crops are sensitive to a light frost and you’ll want to harvest them today or you can cover them with a sheet tonight to protect them and take the sheet off in the morning. Other crops improve in flavor when the temperatures dip and there is no need to hurry out to the gardens to get those.

Frost sensitive vegetables include bush and pole beans, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and melons. Very sensitive herbs include basil, marjoram, dill, borage and chamomile.

Vegetables that will survive a light frost are broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, cilantro, mint, thyme, oregano and rosemary. The vines of pumpkins and squash will die, but the vegetables are fine.

A light freeze is 28°–32°F, and a hard freeze is below 28°F. In our area, the first hard frost typically happens in mid-October.  I say typically because our weather earlier this month was anything but typical.

On September 1, we had a light frost touch some of the plants, particularly squashes and pumpkins. This left vines damaged and happened in the lower areas of our community gardens.

 

 

The Plus Side of Frost 

There are vegetables you want to be touched by frost. Some vegetables, like beets, carrots, and parsnips get sweeter and will keep, even when temperatures fall lower, especially if you mulch. Other vegetables and herbs that will survive a frost include: kale, cabbage, leeks, potatoes, turnips, chives, parsley, sage, garlic, onions and Brussel Sprouts. If  you’re growing these, tonight’s weather shouldn’t be a factor.

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There’s Something Magical in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens

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It started simply with an enchanting idea meant to engage children in the Pitney Meadows community gardens.

Why not a fairy garden, an outdoor dollhouse of sorts where buildings were made of materials found in nature such as acorns and shells, with flowering plants that needed tending, and where one’s imagination – and joy in gardening – could take root.

Fortunately, Jess Clauser, a Girl Scout troop leader at Dorothy Nolan school and a PM community gardener, agreed and created a fairy garden in one of the garden’s raised beds, an 8×4 plot, that exceeded all expectations. Her 10-year-old daughter, Charlotte, a creative force in and of herself, helped her mother in dozens of ways.

Fairy gardens are not a new idea. They have been around since the 1890s and became popular during the Chicago World’s Fair when bonsai dish gardens were introduced and the idea of magical residents captured people’s imaginations.

Jess, however, carried it to new heights and made it art.

To create her spellbinding space, Clauser brought in logs with mushrooms attached, slices of branches and cultivated little landscapes. She created delightful dwellings, alluring houses, and magical elements like reindeer moss, which, according to fairy lore, can grant wishes. There is a clothesline where the fairies hung their outfits to dry, mini terra cotta pots filled with succulents, swing sets, bridges and tiny lounge chairs, where butterflies have stopped to rest. These accessories made the space looked lived in.

Needless to say, the plot drew (and continues to draw) visitors and gardeners every day as they looked for signs of what the fairies are up to. Clauser, an artist, maintains she has nothing to do with the daily changes. “It’s the fairies,” she says with a wink and a smile.

And apparently, there might be some truth to that as occasionally “gifts” are found and little notes are left that read “from your fairy godmother.” The gifts are little trinkets, including a birdbath sized for the fairies, sparkling glass candy, a bowl of colorful ornaments and a tiny cooking pot.

pineshinglesIf you haven’t come to see the fairy garden, please do. And, stop to see the larger fairy village located in the flower border on the northern edge of the community gardens where the wide pathway ends and the field begins. The border measures 30 feet by 6 feet and has a flourishing row of colorful zinnias, cosmos, bachelor buttons, poppies, sunflowers and more.

It was big enough for a fairy village of about 20 houses the Girl Scouts decorated with natural materials: twigs, acorns, shells, moss and pebbles. The 7 to 10-year-olds worked steadily to make the areas around their houses “fairy friendly” with little patios, mini gardens of their own and in one case, a firepit and tiny Adirondack chairs.

According to legend, fairies have the power to bring happiness. Considering all the smiles I’ve seen on the faces of adults and children as they explore what is in this little village, I think the legend’s true.

The fairy garden will be on exhibit weekends until October 8th, which is the Pitney Meadows Community Farm’s Family Fun Day from 1 to 5 p.m.

And bring a camera, children or your own sense of wonder. You won’t want to miss this.

sweet

 

 

 

Black Beauty Tomato, Worth the Wait

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.22.31 PMThe color alone is a good reason to grow this tomato. The skin is a solid blue black that is a stunning contrast in a salad of yellow and red tomatoes.

What makes it black?

This tomato has a very high anthocyanin content. This is the same antioxidant found in blueberries and blackberries.

All tomatoes were slow to ripen this year, but Black Beauty was very slow. I kept testing to see if the skin gave a little to indicate it was time to pick and finally, yesterday, it was.

When I cut into the it, the meat was green, blushed red.  The taste was rich, savory, slightly acidic and complex. I liked it.

At the National Heirloom Exposition, Baker Creek’s Dave Kaiser, a tomato connoisseur, called Black Beauty the best tomato he had ever eaten. It’s good all right. And I love the wildly different color for adding pizazz to a plate.  

But I’m not calling it the best. I’m holding out for a truly great tomato.

Any  recommendations?

Progress Made on Shed and Barn

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Notice what’s different on the barn?

The big barn door is back on and it slides easily to open.

Thank you to all who were involved.

The photo also shows the area that will be graded for parking spaces and handicapped access to the barn, which will be used for workshops and classes.

Shed

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 10.16.05 AM.pngAnd, check out the shed. Rich Torkelson has made the shed exterior come back to life and Jim Gold has been tireless with priming, spackling, caulking and painting.

Other volunteers worked on cleaning windows, sweeping, priming. fixing window boxes and more.

Thank you all.

The results are a building that went from worn to wonderful.

She looks pretty now.

Someone asked me how I know it’s a she. Because it’s a SHE d.

See you in the garden.

Natalie

Egyptian Walking Onions

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 3.44.53 AMA Vermont community gardener shared a handful of Egyptian Walking Onions with me when I was in his garden plot recently. I added them to our community herb garden yesterday.

Do you know this plant?

The scientific name is “allium proliferum” which gives you a hint about their nature.  As the name suggests, they are prolific. Next season and for as long as we grow them, community gardeners will have these mild flavored little onions to add to meals.

Walking Onions are a top setting onion and hardy, emerging in the spring often through snow.  The leaves are a bluish-green, hollow and grow about 3 feet tall.  After the first year, a cluster of bulblets will form at the top of a leaf stalk as the summer progresses.

When the bulblets mature, they become heavy and bend the leaves to the ground where the bulblets take root. That’s how they get the name walking onion. If left to their own devices, they will “walk” across the garden.

Fortunately, they have a good flavor and are easy to keep in check by harvesting the bulblets, which can be up to an inch in diameter. They are tiny but tasty.

Thanks to all the great help in the gardens yesterday, a lot was done in preparation for the photography, art and fairy houses exhibit this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m.

This Saturday at 2:15 the entires in the sunflower contest will be measured and a winner announced.

Hope to see you there.

 

Making Pickled Beets the Easy Way

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 10.08.40 AM.pngIn a week, two pickle-loving people near and dear to me will be visiting.

I’m getting ready by making one of their favorites…pickled vegetables. You can pickle many vegetables including carrots, cucumbers, beans, cauliflower, radishes and more. I’m starting with beets.

This is an easy refrigerator pickling recipe that is simple to make. If you have your own recipes to share, please do. I’ll pass it along.

Beets

Wash the beets and scrub them lightly to clean off any soil. Don’t worry about peeling them, once they boil, the skins come off easily with the rub of your fingers.

Place the scrubbed beets in a pot of boiling water and boil for at least 40 minutes. Check them, bigger beets take longer. They are ready when a knife slips into them.

Let them cool. Then trim off the roots and use your fingers to pull off the skin. Slice them and set aside. Take one onion and slice it thinly if you want to add it to the beets. This step is optional.

Making the Brine

You’ll need 2 cups each of apple cider vinegar, water and sugar, a tablespoon of salt, and 3 tablespoons of pickling spice. I’ve also seen recipes that add a stick of cinnamon, or bay leaves or additional allspice. You decide what your family would like and experiment.

Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Pour over beets and onions. When cool, place in jars, cover and chill in refrigerator.

Rumor has it they last several weeks in the refrigerator.  I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had them last that long.  They’re delicious.

Experts also recommend resisting tasting for a week.  Good luck with that. 🙂

 

 

Community Gardens Tools and Shed Report

Screen Shot 2017-09-02 at 5.59.19 PM.pngThis morning, Judy B. painted the handles of the community gardens tools a periwinkle blue.

They look nice. Thank you, Judy.

The handles are painted blue so we know where they belong.  Other parts of the Pitney Meadows Community Farm will paint their handles different designated colors so we will always know what part of the farm the tool belongs to and what shed to return it to.

Rich T. was out at the farm this evening working on the shed, where all the tools will be stored.  It is coming along and it won’t be long before we are organizing the interior.

Thank you, Rich.

P.S. I’m happy to report, the pigeons have taken up residence someplace other than the garden shed.