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

Our Garden Today

camper7There’s plenty of great stuff going on at the Moreau Community Garden….and there are also some insects and diseases that need to be addressed.

Let’s start with the good.

Today gardeners in the Family Gardening Program harvested handfuls of cherry tomatoes, the last of the green beans and peppers, fistfuls of baby carrots and some sweet basil.camper3 campers2

camper1 Most of the harvest went into bags to go to the community center where they are eaten as snacks, but a few green beans were enjoyed right on the spot. YUM!

Tomato Taste Test

The gardeners also tried two different varieties of tomatoes in a taste test to determine which was better…Moskvich or Opalka. The children liked the Moskvich, a very meaty tomato.tasting

Garden Detectives

We also walked around the garden discussing problems. The gardeners looked at examples of Septoria Leaf Spot and Early Blight under a magnifying glass. I discussed the symptoms and what to look for on the plants. Once they knew the symptoms, I asked them to diagnose the problem in their plot of tomatoes.

It is like being a detective looking at clues.

They got it right, early blight had infected the plants. We cleaned the plants out of the plot and will do more to be certain to remove all plant debris, even the roots so it can’t overwinter.EarlyBlight2

We also spotted several parasitized tomato hornworms much to everyone’s amazement and, in some cases, horror. Certain wasps belonging to the Braconidae family lay eggs on the tomato hornworm. That is what those white eggs in the photo are. As the eggs hatch and develop, these wasps eat the tomato hornworm killing it.
hornworm1
We also saw Japanese beetles and squash bugs. If you have these in you garden, clean them up. Thank you.japbeetlesSquashbugs

Squash Bugs . . . Yikes

I don’t know when I’ve seen so many squash bugs in a garden then what we are experiencing at the Moreau Community Garden.

Last Thursday I pulled between 20 and 30 out of one plot. And I didn’t get them all because there were some that saw me coming and flew off.

This is bad news for the zucchini, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and some melons as squash bugs carry bacterial diseases that will kill these plants. Please check your plot carefully. They tend to congregate near the base of the plant and the underside of leaves.

How to Control

I use a yellow pail filled with soapy water and knocked the squash bugs into the liquid to drown. Then I hand-pick the copper-colored eggs from the leaves and finally I spray with neem oil, which is in the shed.

You can’t just use neem oil. It has to be a three-prong attack.

Please stay on top of this. Otherwise there will be yellowing and eventually wilting of the entire plant as these bugs carry bacterial diseases that are deadly to the plants they infest.

If you have questions, leave a comment below.

We Accomplished A Lot in the Garden

It was a hot day but gardeners were busy and we crossed many chores off the list.

To begin, the children who are part of the Family Gardening Program harvested cucumbers, the last of the snap peas and the first flush of green beans. Some of these vegetables went back to the Moreau Community Center to be eaten at snack time and others were consumed by the young gardeners on the spot. Delicious. And very satisfying to eat vegetables from the plants you have been tending.

The next chore was to thin the carrots. Carrots like between 3 and 4 inches between plants and ours were tightly packed. Using the thumb and pointer finger, I showed the young gardeners how to pull out the plants leaving the proper spacing between the remaining plants.

I think the gardeners were happily surprised to see the tiny carrots that were at the other end of the greens they pulled up. Not all the plants had a mini carrot on the end but enough did to add them to the bag of goodies that went back with the gardeners to the community center.

Bok Choy went back, too. One of the gardeners said he had never tried it, never even heard of it.
“But I will try it,” he added. I smiled at his sense of adventure.

Gardeners also identified the squash bug and squash bug eggs on their zucchini plants. There were quite a few – between one and two dozen bugs – and hundreds of eggs. I cleaned the leaves of the cooper colored eggs and sprayed with neem oil. Hopefully this will bring the problem under control.

If you find copper colored eggs take them off the leaf and crush them. I noticed a little wilting of the plant, this is the damage that squash bugs do. I will check back in a few days to see if the plant responded to today’s care.

If it wilts, it will have to be pulled out.

Next week, we will do more harvesting and tasting from the garden. Perhaps, you’d like to join us and see our garden?

FRAN – the damage at the base of the squash you showed me was done by a squash vine borer. There is a fact sheet on this insect posted on the community garden board.