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.

Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 11.13.12 AM.png

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 11.52.36 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-06-29 at 11.52.20 AM.png

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.

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

Compost Cleaned Up

photoHolly and Susan spent hours redoing the compost boxes.

The photo shows all the large chunky plant debris that was stuffed into the bins and had to be removed. It would take a long time for such big pieces to decompose.

“Please only put soft material and food scraps (nothing from animals except egg shells). If we all
add this material to out side boxes we will have great new soil next spring,” Susan wrote in an email.

The way our 3 compost bins work is that we add plant debris and scraps to the two outer bins. These get turned throughout the season and the finished compost will then be turned into the center bin.

Let’s keep the compost bins working.

Thank you to Susan and Holly.

New Compost Cover

Photo by Susan Bokan

Photo by Susan Bokan

Many thanks to Michael Belanger for creating a new and easier to use cover for our compost bin.

You’ll notice there are three lids/three bins. The two end bins should be used for active compost. The bin in the center should be where we shovel the finished compost from the two end bins.

Any gardener who is able can hurry the process of decomposition by turning the compost in the end bins bringing the material on the bottom up to the top. This would be a help. Thank you.

If we all do a little something, our garden will thrive.

We Couldn’t Have Done It…

without John.

Unfortunately, John missed the harvest dinner and the award presentation.

This morning, Susan and I met with John to give him a Silver Trowel pin, an award for his helpful service to the community garden.

John has been involved in the garden from the beginning. He helped with the construction of the  raised beds.  He watered and weeded for absent gardeners all summer. And, today he was tidying up the plots.

Thank you, John. We appreciate everything you have done for the community garden.

– Natalie Walsh, Master Gardener and Blogger

Have an Idea for the Garden?

As the season draws to a close, we are looking to those who gardened at SSCG this year for ideas on how we can improve.

If you have a suggestion, we really want to know. Please write your ideas in the comments area below this post.

Here are a few of the ideas we have heard thus far:

Signs for garden plots where a gardener can ask for assistance. There could be different signs such as “Please water. I’m away.” or “Help yourself to a few tomatoes.” or “What’s this disease?” etc. Any ideas for other signs?

Leaving “available for the taking”  produce on the picnic table.

Supply all gardeners with a list of names of other gardeners. Should we share emails or phone numbers within the group?

A start-of-the-season meeting held in early Spring for all gardeners to discuss organic fertilizers and the pesticides that are OK to use in our organic garden.

A bulletin board in/on the shed for sharing information on site regarding the garden.

Vacation watering?

We would like to come up with a way to help gardeners who – for a legitimate reason –  can’t do weeding, watering, etc. Any ideas? Perhaps a sign-up sheet where a gardener can ask for help?

Thanks so much.

It is the gardeners who have made this a great season and wonderful experience.

Your commitment has been appreciated. —  Natalie Walsh

Master Gardener Program

I know you are interested in gardening but have you ever thought of becoming a Saratoga County Master Gardener?

If you think this would be fun, exciting and help you grow the plants you want, you’re right. Applications for the 2013 Master Gardener Training program are now being accepted.

For more information about the Master Gardener Program visit the Cornell website:

If you decide this is something you would like to do,  call our local Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Ballston Spa at (518) 889-8995 for an application. Classes are held in Ballston Spa and begin in January.

Our Compost Bin Arrived

A new compost bin made by Saratoga Springs master carpenter Chris Bennett has been placed in the garden and is located near the new pergola. Thanks, Chris.

Remember to put only disease free plant debris in the compost bins. Anything with a fungus or other disease should be tossed in the trash.

Harvest Dinner

Susan Bokan sent this email to all gardeners. Did you get it?

If not, the email we have for you needs updating. Please let us know.

“We are very excited to invite you to the first annual Saratoga Springs Community Garden at Wesley Harvest dinner.  It will be at 5:30 October 8th in Embury Common Dining Hall (the tall building  just to the side of our garden).  All our gardeners and their spouse or partner are invited to join us. It will be great fun! At 5:30 we will have a delicious half hour cello concert by the excellent and well-known musician Andre O’Neil, who happens also to be a master  gardener.

Your job is to bring a side dish or finger food to share that would feed 8-10 people and to not forget it when you leave. I have asked certain folks to make desserts so that’s covered.  Dinner will be ham and or turkey, beverages, great music, dessert and coffee.

I would appreciate it if you would let me know ASAP if you can come and whether there will be one or two of you so I can buy the appropriate amount of other items. Wesley is graciously hosting this so we will appreciate help in leaving the place as neat as we found it.

This will be a great opportunity for all the gardeners to be in one place to celebrate our great first year success as a community garden and also to meet many of the benefactors that made this nifty place a reality.  Feel free to call with any questions or problems.”

Susan Bokan 584-8142