Tucking in the Community Garden for Winter

mcg10The sky was clear. The temperature perfect for working and many gardeners turned out today for the cleaning of the beds at the Moreau Community Garden and a harvest lunch to celebrate our successes.

It’s true the many hands make light work and there were many helpful people on deck to clear out what remained from this season’s garden and amended the soil with cow manure to prepare the beds for next year.

Thank you to everyone who participated and to Town Board Member Todd Kusnierz, who raises cows and saw to it that we had plenty of manure to spread on the beds. This will really enrich the soil and make our garden healthier.

And to Town Board member Gina LeClair who went above and beyond to support this garden all season long. We couldn’t have done this without her.

Again…Thank you to all the gardeners and everyone else who made this season a success.

Here are some photos from today to enjoy.MCG44

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If you are interested in gardening at the community garden next year, sign up by filling out an application available at Town Hall.

Not Even This Humidity Can Dampen Gardening Spirit

I checked the humidity before I headed into the garden at 6:45 and saw it was 88 percent. Ugh.

Motivating to do physical work when it feels like this is near impossible.

It’s just too hot and sticky. If you must do some chore, keep yourself hydrated, keep it simple and keep it short. I lasted 22 minutes, managed to rake one small area of mulch smooth and felt like a winner.

Now, I’m inside, drinking an iced coffee and looking at the photos I took yesterday at the Moreau Community Garden where we are growing pumpkins, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, carrots, dill, rosemary, basil, tarragon, green beans, snap beans, rhubarb, zucchini, summer squash and more.7MCG8

Moreau Community Garden

The area I am responsible for is approximately 20 plots that are part of the Family Gardening Program, an initiative funded by a $2.1 million dollar Carol M. White PEP Grant that was awarded to the South Glens Falls school district to promote fitness and nutritional programs over a three-year period. The Family Gardening Program is part of this grant and designed to teach nutrition and a healthy style of living to children and their parents by growing food organically.

As the Garden Coach, I’m doing that and more because I’ve opened the garden lectures to all Moreau gardeners interested in learning to vegetable garden successfully. All community members are welcome to come, ask questions, bring samples of their garden problems – in a sealed plastic bag please – to be identified and remedies discussed. And each week, community gardeners have attended and asked questions about their plots in the community garden and their home gardens.

Learning how to garden builds confidence, teaches cooperation, caregiving and discipline and gets you outside in the fresh air, bending, stretching, lifting, digging, raking, weeding . . . in other words exercising as part of an activity you enjoy. This is the best kind of exercise because when you enjoy what you do, you will do it again and again.

It’s not work if you love it, right?

As part of the experience we do:
Math – For example: we divided our garden plots into equal squares and within each square evenly spaced a predetermined number of seeds depending on the future size of the plant.
Estimating – For instance: We will have a contest this week to see who can guess the correct number of seeds on the average strawberry.
Science – We are continuously identifying insects and what they do, their lifestyle and whether they are good for the garden or not. We do the same for weeds and had a wildly successful weed scavenger hunt. These gardeners know their weeds from common crabgrass to red-root pigweed and the edibles: purslane, lambsquarters and dandelion leaves.
Language skills – Example, we review labels and learned how to read a seed packet for the information we need about disease resistance, days to harvest, plant requirements, etc.

We are going to need a recipe for Bok Choy soon!

We are going to need a recipe for Bok Choy soon!

Food, Fun and Friendships

Our garden is social. When we need a break, the picnic tables under the trees offer a place to sit in the shade, share stories and sometimes food from the garden. We’ve had lip-puckering rhubarb lemonade, Fran’s home-made salsa, and as the vegetables mature we will have a tomato taste test of the different varieties we are growing, pasta sauce, a salsa making demonstration, and at least four more variations of lemonade using the herbs we are growing, including mint, rosemary and basil. This week, because strawberries are at their peak, we will sample strawberry lemonade and I will read aloud a Native American legend about the first strawberries.

(I can tell you the strawberry lemonade is very good, having made it yesterday. But I can’t tell you the average number of seeds on a strawberry until after Tuesday. Wink.)

Every week we begin with a garden talk led by yours truly. I show people the insects currently in the garden, the damage they do, and how to get rid of them without the use of harsh chemicals. We have had sessions on knowing when and how much to water and setting a fertilizer schedule using organic products such as fish emulsion. Everything we do is organic.

There’s an “Acceptable Garden Products” information sheet posted here on this blog and also in the garden on the bulletin board showing what can be used in this organic community garden.

I teach how important observation is in the garden. When you look closely and know your plants, you spot things before they become big issues. If I had to say what one thing makes one garden successful over another, that would be it. Look, really look, and you will notice small things like holes chewed in a leaf when it’s just one bug doing damage and not an entire army of bugs.

Bulletin Board and the Blog

The goal is sharing information. In the garden, attached to the Recreation building, is a bulletin board and under it is a wicker window box. On the bulletin board are sheets updated weekly with information on insects, diseases and weeds to help the gardeners. There is also a plastic container in the window box where gardeners can trap insects they can’t identify. When I come to the garden I identify the pest, print out a mug-shot and what needs to be done to remedy the problem if anything. There are good bugs, too. And we welcome those.

The blog’s goal is to reach all the gardeners and review what is happening in our plots. My goal is simple: I want everyone to build their gardening skills, have a successful experience growing nutritious, healthy food and enjoy the many different ways vegetables and herbs can enhance a meal.

Gertrude Jekyll once said: “The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”

I believe that.

I hope to meet you in the garden, Natalie Walsh, Master Gardener

Cucumber Beetle Combat and Control

Since finding them in the garden, I’ve been researching striped cucumber beetles and how we can control them organically.

The Facts:
Cucumber beetles are troublesome on cucumber, squash, melons, and pumpkins.
The one I’ve spotted in our garden is the very common striped cucumber beetle but there is also a spotted cucumber beetle in New York that has a yellowish green body and 12 spots.

In addition to the damage these beetles do to leaves, they carry bacterial wilt which, as the name implies, causes the plant to wilt and die.

Attractive Nuisance

Adult striped cucumber beetles are tiny (about a quarter of an inch long) and have a black head and black and yellow striped body.

The adults lay pale orange-yellow eggs near the base of the plant and the larvae feed on plant roots. This is when they are the most destructive and do the most damage.

What to Do

This week, check your crops for beetles early in the day when they are slow and can be knocked into a pail of soapy water and drowned.

Neem oil also works and can be purchased at the big box stores and applied according to label instructions.

Also check near the base of plants for the eggs and remove any you find before they emerge and the larvae go into the roots.

Observation is really the best defense in a garden. Trouble found early can be addressed before issues develop.

Squash Bug

To the person who left an insect in the plastic container. It is an adult squash bug. Handpicking is a good method of keeping them out of the garden as there aren’t many organic controls otherwise.

Moreau Gardeners Met Today

We had a garden meeting today and talked about good and bad insects. In the next few days look for information on these insects on the bulletin board hanging on the recreation building near the garden.

In the garden we have discovered aphids, flea beetles, and cabbageworms. Right now Imported Cabbageworms (Pieris rapae) are present and creating small irregular holes on the leaves of cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. These holes are larger than the holes flea beetles make.

Cabbageworms are the caterpillar stage of the cabbage butterfly, which is a white butterfly with black spots. You may have noticed them in the garden. The butterfly deposits off-white bullet-shape eggs on the underside of a leaf and in a matter of days, the green larvae appear. Check your plants thoroughly. The eggs are small.

Once the larvae are present their appetites are enormous. They eat both leaves and will chew into the head. They will continue to grow – and eat for the next two to three weeks and then they will form a cocoon and when the butterfly emerges and the cycle begins again.

We, of course, want to stop the cycle and the damage. To do so use an organic product containing Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). Bt works on all insects that ingest – chew or suck on – the plant.

For images and more information look at the Cornell website: http://nysipm.cornell.edu/factsheets/vegetables/cruc/icw.pdf

WIREWORMS

One of the gardeners told me that the garden had wireworms last season. If your plot had them, now is the time to bait the plot. Here’s what you do. Take a potato and cut it in half. Bury it a few inches into the soil and mark its location. Come back the following day and see if you have wireworms in the bait potato. If so, discard the infested half potato in the trash and rebait. Repeat as needed.

For images: http://web.entomology.cornell.edu/shelton/veg-insects-ne/pests/ww.html

BUG CONTAINER

For learning purposes, there is a large plastic container in the window box beneath the bulletin board. If you find an insect you don’t know in your garden or notice a damaged leaf, put a sample in the container and I will identify it and post the findings on the bulletin board.

We also talked about what gardeners need to know about watering. You can find information on this on a recent post.

The gardeners will meet again on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

I hope to see you then, Natalie

Gardeners Learn New Skills, Enjoy Salsa and Sunshine

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We accomplished so much in the garden yesterday and had fun too.

In addition to the usual chores of weeding – so easy with the stirrup hoe – I taught the gardeners how to thin Swiss chard, beets, cucumbers and how to trim tomato leaves to create healthier plants. We also transplanted at the proper spacing for continuous harvest throughout the season. Thank you Roger for your input.

I also planted a giant pumpkin. It doesn’t look giant now, but it was planted in a mix of composted cow manure and soil and I have high hopes. 3-mcg

The trellises for our vining plants were made by Bob and Gina LeClair and painted in bright colors. Thank you. They are sturdy and colorful. Soon they will be dripping with tomatoes, tomatillos, cucumbers and other climbers. 5mcg

Bill was there building teepee trellises for his tomatoes. Basically, you take three sticks and tie the tops of them together to form a support for all the juicy, red tomatoes we will have in the months to come. Bill MCGbill2mcg

Fran brought a jar of home-made salsa. Yummy. The ingredients came from her garden last season and she made and preserved the salsa. It was delicious. And best of all, Fran has agreed to teach us all how to make it when peppers, tomatoes and tomatillos ripen. Believe me, you won’t want to miss that demonstration.

The insects we covered in the lecture were aphids, flea beetles, squash bug and squash vine borer. Aphids and flea beetles are in the garden. If you find aphids in your plot – look on the underside of leaves – use a spray of water to dislodge the aphids. This should do it.

Flea beetles can be dealt with by knocking them into soapy water, spraying them with water with a drop of dish detergent added, or using a spray of tomato leaf water which is made by shredding two cups of tomato leaves in an equal amount of water and letting it sit overnight. In the morning, remove the leaves, and add a second cup of water. Strain into a spray bottle. I have read this works because tomato plants contain alkaloids in their leaves. When this compound is released through shredding and added to water, the spray becomes effective in flea beetle and aphid control.

Squash bugs and squash vine borer are more difficult. We haven’t seen them in the garden but mid-June is when they show up, lay eggs and do their damage. Be observant. If you find eggs near the base of squash, pumpkins, etc. remove them with your fingers and throw them away. It is the best way to keep our garden healthy.

If you don’t know these insects, come to the next meeting!

The group will meet next Thursday at 4 p.m. PLEASE NOTE Starting June 25th, we will meet at 11 a.m. Tuesdays since school will no longer be in session.

All community gardeners are invited to attend the lecture and work alongside other gardeners. It is a wonderful opportunity to ask questions of a master gardener and learn how to grow food.

I hope to see you next Thursday at 4 p.m.

Natalie

Fertilizing Tomatoes, Eggplants and Peppers

Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are the garden’s equivalent of teenage boys in that they consume a lot of food while they are growing.

Garden books often call them “heavy feeders.” So once you’ve planted the crop and are watering regularly, you will need to know how to fertilize — not only what to use but how often is necessary.

What to Use

For tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, I use Tomato-tone once a month and fish emulsion every two weeks.
In my experience this keeps plants healthy and harvests abundant.

I begin to fertilize about a week after I have settled my plants in the ground, which is amended with compost every Spring — another form of fertilizing. And, I continue throughout the summer as long as the plant is producing.

How to Use it

Starting with the Tomato-tone I sprinkle one and a half tablespoons in a circle around the plant about 4 to 6 inches out from the stem. Don’t get fertilizer on the leaves, it will burn the plant. Next I scratch the fertilizer into the soil gently. I use a small claw tool meant for houseplants that gets in between and around the plants easily. You can use anything, even the tip of a trowel. Don’t go too deep. You can damage the roots.

Next I mix one tablespoon of fish emulsion into a gallon of water and circle the plant the same way. This product isn’t pleasant to smell, but all my vegetables seem to thrive with it.

Finally, I water. If you can time your fertilizing to coincide with a rainy day and let Mother nature water, that’s even better.

The last step is to note in your garden journal the date and what you used. Good records help you keep track of maintenance.

A common error is to add too much fertilizer. I think it’s the “If some is good, more must be better” syndrome. Too much fertilizer will produce lush green-leafy plants with little vegetable production. That’s not the result we want.

Our goal is a thriving, productive garden.

Moreau Community Garden Plans, Plants and Progress

MCG-3Gardeners from the Moreau Community Garden met Thursday for a garden seminar and hands-on planning and planting as part of the Family Gardening Program aimed at teaching parents and children how to grow food and flowers.

The Family Gardening Program is funded by the South Glens Falls Central School District which received a Carol M. White federal grant to promote fitness and nutritional programs over a three-year period. One of the programs is the Moreau Community Garden allocation of 15 plots to be used by families and their children. MCH4

The goal is to teach children and their families how to garden under the guidance of Garden coach Natalie Walsh, a master gardener and the writer of this blog. Each week, Natalie has been answering questions and coaching gardeners on organic methods of growing, disease and pest control.

For example, yesterday we discovered aphids on pepper plants. These appeared as small white specks on the underside of the leaves. This pest can usually be dislodged and discouraged with a strong spray of water. The proper way of fertilizing tomatoes, eggplants and peppers was demonstrated and proper watering techniques were taught. All of these things together are vital to healthy plants and an abundant harvest. MCG.6.6.13

In addition, the group weeded and reviewed the techniques of square foot gardening, a method of gardening that is especially helpful to new gardeners and gardeners with disabilities as each square within the bed has a specific number of plants allocated to it depending on what vegetable or flower is planted. This helps gardeners with plant spacing, air circulation around plants, fertilizing and weeding.
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In the beds, gardeners have planted tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, lettuces, endive, spinach, beans, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers as well as zinnias, sunflowers, cleome, and marigolds. These colorful flowers will attract beneficial insects. Summer plans include growing and then using vegetables in healthy, child-friendly recipes such as salsa, pizza toppings, refreshing drinks and a tomato taste testing in August when the tomato crop ripens. MCG5

There are still a few plots available. If you are interested click on Moreau Community Garden Application tab in the menu bar, print it and mail it to: Recreation Director, Moreau Town Hall, 61 Hudson Street, Moreau, NY. The program is free for residents and each Thursday in June at 4 p.m. there is a lecture and hands-on activity in the garden, which is behind the recreation building at the Moreau Recreational Park off Jan Avenue.

All Moreau Community Gardeners or any gardener from the community is welcome to come and listen to the garden lectures. Bring your questions.

We also invite you to follow our progress through my blog
“WhatsNatalieDoing.wordpress.com” where I will be chronicling the garden.

Natalie Walsh, Garden Coach