Today in Our Community Garden

It’s good to be back from vacation. Thank you to Margie I. for everything she did this past week. In spite of mid-week concerns, the garden looks wonderful and much was accomplished.

The issues that came up like the Septoria leaf blight and oriental beetles on leaves are common for this time of year and the weather we have had. And the cultural practices all ready outlined during the week are precisely what we should be doing.

Practices such as removing the diseased leaves, mulching under the plants (straw is in the shed), watering from the bottom are all good advice.  Washing your tools afterwards is prudent to prevent spreading of the fungus.

Pumpkin PatchScreen Shot 2017-07-15 at 4.44.54 PM

Today, gardeners created a pumpkin patch. Thank you Joanne K. for sharing the Jack-o-lantern pumpkins she started on July 5th.  They should be ready to harvest right about Halloween.

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 4.45.43 PMAnd thank you to Ed S. for roto-tilling and Margie, Kate, Chris, Anne, Jeanmarie, Sarah, Susan, Joanne, and Heather who raked, transplanted, and moved wood chips around the young plants to suppress weeds.

Take a look when you visit the garden.

The pumpkin patch just beyond the sunflowers.  This is a good location as some of the insects troublesome to pumpkins will be lured away from the pumpkins by the cheerful yellow of the sunflowers. This gardening strategy often used and, in this case, the sunflowers are the lure crop.  There are other plant relationships like this, such as nasturtiums planted near watermelons and other cucurbits to deter chewing insects. Or marigolds, especially  fragrant ones, planted near and around squash, pumpkins, melons and cucumber plants to keep beetles away.

Hot PeppersScreen Shot 2017-07-15 at 4.47.23 PM

There were hot pepper plants that didn’t find a home this past week, so we created a barrier planting at the Northwest corner that we hope will keep any unwanted animals from entering the garden. FYI – There was one plant in one bed that may have been nibbled. It could have been a broken branch. We aren’t certain.

While I look into solar fencing, the peppers will create a “barrier.” If they don’t, there are recipes online for a spray we can make from hot peppers that keeps wildlife away. We win either way. Of course, we can use the hot peppers to eat, too.

Jim F., pictured above, planted over 250 pepper plants. Thank you.

Tomatoes

The garden was buzzing today. Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 4.45.16 PM

Our Saturday morning gardening 101 class was about how to trim, train and care for tomato plants. We removed all leaves and branches at the base of the plants up about 6 inches from the soil line by cutting the branches off with a clippers or scissors. If any were infected with Septoria leaf blight they were thrown in the trash and the scissor/clipper cleaned.

Anyone who wanted to had the opportunity to practice trimming up tomatoes on the community garden plants we are growing for our tomato taste testing potluck. And then, with a little experience, they took care of their own plants in their own plots.

We also made certain the tomato stems were well supported and tied so they weren’t rubbing against the sides of the cages. This can cause damage to the stem. Our farm is windy and this could happen in a day, so keep an eye-out in your own plots. If you need to see what was done, look at the plots with tomatoes and marigolds that are close to the barn for an example. Those are the tomato taste testing plots.

I will be in the garden again on Monday from 8 to 11 and plan to fill the five new beds with soil and the pathways with gravel. Come if you can. I appreciate your help. Thank you, NatalieScreen Shot 2017-07-15 at 4.46.36 PM.png

 

Garden Tips

One of the observations our gardeners have made is how quickly our community garden soil dries out.

One solution to this is to mulch. You’ll notice some gardeners have placed straw or pine needles* around the base of the plants.

This is a worthy idea for a few reasons.

It will keep moisture down around the roots, weeds will have a harder time growing, and during rain storms the soil will not splash up onto the leaves which makes for healthier plants.

When you do water, water well to promote good strong root systems that go deep. This will help your plants be healthier and healthy plants are able to fend off troubles.

You can also plant flowers – like marigolds – around the base and carrots love to be planted near tomatoes. Beans are a worthy crop, too.

If you have other questions, let me know.

• Pine needles used around our plants as mulch will not impact the pH. The acidic level of dried pine straw (needles) is very, very low.

 

 

Community Gardens Morning Update

Saratoga Bridges came and five more folks entered the Grow the Tallest Sunflower Contest.

Then volunteers arrived to install the irrigation system and to help plant.

The irrigation system took top priority this morning as it needed to be put in place before more raised beds can be installed. Paul Arnold, Bill Pitney, Rick Fenton, Jim Gold and Rich Hart were setting posts and digging a trench this morning. Thank you.Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 11.49.52 AM.png

And while they were doing that Isabelle and Emma planted another row of sunflowers. Then they planted morning glories around the stalks of the 10-day-old sunflowers that are the “walls” of our sunflower house.  Our hope is the morning glories will grow, climb the sunflowers and be trained along twine strung overhead to create a “roof” of blooms.

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It’s a great day and it’s only noon!

FYI: I will be in the garden again from 3 to 5 pm today and tomorrow and again on Saturday morning from 9 to noon, weather permitting, so come and enter the contest. Seeds are free thanks to a generous donation from Sue Johnson.

Livestock Troughs as Planters

Anyone have experience with using galvanized steel livestock troughs as raised garden beds?

I’ve been pricing materials for raised beds and searching online for what other gardeners have used: the costs and designs. One idea that caught my eye was using livestock troughs as planters.

Online, I’ve seen 20 gauge galvanized steel livestock watering troughs measuring 3 feet by 10 feet, 24 inches tall for about $240.

Advantages: Less expensive than using some long lasting wood boards, ready to use, taller beds make gardening easier for all. The height of the bed should discourage rabbits and the bottom should keep voles and moles out. Lifespan: 5 to 20 years.

Disadvantages: Some websites posted concerns about zinc leaching into the soil. So I did what journalists do, I researched.

Source One

Alana Hochstein, a corrosion Engineer with the American Galvanizers Association noted in an emailThe Food and Drug Association (FDA) has approved the use of galvanized steel for food preparation and conveyance for all applications with the exception of foods that have a high acid content, such as tomatoes, oranges, limes, and other fruits. For more information, see our website:

https://www.galvanizeit.org/hot-dip-galvanizing/how-long-does-hdg-last/contact-with-food

Source Two

The National Gardening Association (https://garden.org/about/intro/president)

I emailed NGA President David Whitinger about whether zinc was a concern. He wrote: “Plenty of people use galvanized containers for gardening and I’ve never heard of anything to suggest that it’s not safe.”

I also noted online that community gardens and restaurants are using galvanized steel as beds. Still, I needed more information.

Third Source

I looked for data from Cornell University. Cornell soil extension agent Robert R. Schindelbeck emailed: “The zinc can leach from the metal object into the soil. Generally this is OK as zinc is relatively “safe.” He referred me to this link titled Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities:

http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/Metals_Urban_Garden_Soils.pd

Excerpts follow.

“What levels of metals are acceptable in garden soils?

“There are no standards protective of public health specifically for metals in garden soils in NYS, but there are guidance values developed for other purposes that gardeners can consider.”

Zinc is naturally occurring. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the NYS Department of Health developed guidance values. The guidance values for zinc are 2200 parts per million (PPM). Levels found in NYS soils in rural areas were 10-140 ppm and in urban areas 64-380 ppm.

“Human health: Small amounts of zinc in the diet are essential for good health.

“Plant health: Zinc is an essential micronutrient for plants, but it can be toxic to plants at higher soil levels, even below those that are a concern for human health.”

That begs the question: What are the zinc levels for soil in a galvanized trough? This question gets answered by the fourth source: Rodale’s Organic Life article written by Deb Martin, November 13, 2014

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/when-sheet-metal-meets-soil

Is it safe to use galvanized sheet metal to build raised garden beds? —Susan Taylor, Monticello, Utah

Over time, compounds used in the galvanizing process will leach from galvanized metal into surrounding soil. Climate and soil conditions such as moisture and salinity affect the rate and the amount of leaching. While the by-products of corrosion are unlikely to occur in amounts that pose any risk to human or plant health, gardeners who are considering growing in galvanized containers or metal-framed beds should be aware of the potential for zinc and other materials to transfer into the soil.

Zinc, the main ingredient in the galvanizing “bath” used to prolong the life of steel, is an essential micronutrient that occurs naturally in North American soils at an average background level of 0.07 milligrams of zinc per gram of soil. For the sake of comparison, the Daily Value (an approximation of our dietary need) for zinc established by the FDA for adults is 8 to 11 milligrams.

While studies of zinc levels in the soil next to galvanized structures have found increased amounts of the element, those levels often are comparable to background levels and within EPA guidelines, says Dan Barlow, a corrosion engineer with the American Galvanizers Association.

Zinc does not migrate readily through soil, so elevated zinc levels tend to be found only in the immediate area of a galvanized container or structure. Soil pH, organic matter content, and other soil characteristics affect zinc’s ability to be taken up by plant roots. As much as 90 percent of zinc in soil may be unavailable for uptake by plants.

Due to zinc’s limited bioavailability in soil, there is little chance of ingesting too much zinc through plants grown in proximity to galvanized metal, says Eric Van Genderen, Ph.D., manager of environment and sustainability for the International Zinc Association. “You will likely never get even your recommended daily allowance from your produce, much less too much,” he says.

Because galvanized metal corrodes faster as pH decreases, Van Genderen says it’s probably not the best container material for plants that require acidic conditions.

Other corrosion by-products may show up in the surrounding soil, Van Genderen says. He notes that levels of other metals found in galvanized surfaces, such as nickel and bismuth, typically would be “so low that you’d probably never see a difference in the amount coming from the galvanized metal versus the background levels.”

The health of beneficial soil microorganisms that are exposed to galvanized metal is another consideration. “There is no question zinc can kill some of the soil’s microbes and that others love it,” says Jeff Lowenfels, author of Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Timber Press, 2010), and Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition (Timber Press, 2013). “I am willing to let the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi take up excess zinc, feed the plants what they need, and hold the rest,” Lowenfels says. His research has convinced him that “any damage done to the soil food web [by excess zinc] is quickly corrected by it if the soil food web is a healthy one.”

Troughs in the Garden

Want to see more? 

If you search Google, you’ll find dozens of examples of troughs that have been painted and made pretty.

The nicest I’ve seen is at http://www.nwedible.com/the-most-attractive-veggie-garden-ever/. Check it out.

Tips on Painting a trough: https://www.gardenista.com/posts/steal-this-look-water-troughs-as-raised-garden-beds/

Tips on making a trough self-watering.

http://www.insideurbangreen.org/2011/07/galvanized-horse-or-cattle-troughs-make-cool-looking-planters-but-ive-never-seen-them-converted-for-sub-irrigation-aka-erro.html

 

 

 

 

Spring dreaming

This time of year, some people think Spring cleaning. Not me, my thoughts are on dirt all right.  I’m Spring dreaming.

I’ve taken out the seeds leftover from last season. (It’s OK to use these as long as you stored them in a cool, dry space). I’ve added the seeds purchased new this year, and I’m deciding what to grow where.

Using a 10 by 10 plot as my guide. Here’s my early summer plan. As produce is harvested, different plants will take their place. I’ll show that plan later in the season.

Also, I grow more produce in containers: Brussels sprouts, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 11.39.48 AM

 

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.

Kaelynart

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

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

Daphneart

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

Jillianart

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.

Natalie

NatalieintheGarden copy

Hannah'snote