I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I last blogged, but the gardener within me is still active! The MKG team and I have been planning, that’s all. Planning for another exciting and fruitful (veggie-ful?) season. We’ve ordered (and been delivered!) seeds and laid out a diagram for where we’re going to plant our spring crops and the big summer players such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Seeds are one of the most exciting and mind-boggling parts of gardening for me. Imagine, a little brown seed holds the potential to grow and produce so much! It’s wild! Yet this happens all the time. I think it’s important that everyone remembers this because it helps us appreciate the wonder and beauty of our food.
This season, besides the usual varieties of kale, Swiss Chard, greens mixes, snap peas, carrots, beets, etc., we’re also experimenting with some new crops. We’re going to try growing asparagus! Asparagus is a perennial plant, so we’ve chosen a permanent location back on the side of Quadrant C for it. We’re also trying out brussel sprouts and spring onions. I know that not all experiments are successful, but it’s fun to dream and take risks while gardening. Talk about living life on the edge!
Speaking of things that are exciting, next week we’re going to start planting in the greenhouse. On the list for things to plant, we have kale, Swiss Chard, basil, chamomile, leeks, and possibly other plants too (I just can’t remember off the top of my head what they are).
I just got sidetracked for a bit looking at pictures of our garden last year in spring. Ah, our garden is a special place.
Our Garden Last Year in May
I went to the garden last weekend to check up on things and see what’s still growing. I was surprised at how much is still alive! The broccoli, for example, is still hanging in there and tastes great. It has remained uncovered this entire season, and although it hasn’t been too cold this winter so far, I’m still impressed that it’s still alive.
The picture is a little out of focus, but here’s an example of our the broccoli heads look.
The wind had blown off our Frost Guard row covers again, so I fixed those. In a way, it was nice that the covers were off because then I could easily check and see how everything usually underneath them was doing.
Our dino kale under the Frost Guard
This news about the row covers though isn’t my most exciting news though. In fact, I have two bits of exciting news!
- Our garlic has sprouted and looks great! We tried a little bit of an experiment with the garlic. When we planted it, we peeled half of the bulbs and we didn’t peel the other half of the bulbs. It turns out that peeling them doesn’t make any difference from how they grow or how soon they sprout. I couldn’t tell any difference.
- Quadrant 4 is all plowed up! One of the Biology professors at UVa is doing an experiment with tracking sunflowers’ phototrophic movement throughout the course of a day. The sunflowers are first going to be planted in Quad 4, so now we can see all of that rich red clay soil. I am especially excited about the sunflowers because bees love those flowers! Good news for my bees!
This weekend, our MKG team is going to get together to pick and order seed varieties for this next season! This is always a fun time, full of possibilities.
Happy New Year, everyone! This year ushers in lots of changes for the garden and I. At the end of December, Michelle started a new chapter of her life and will be going to culinary school in Ireland. I will miss her a lot, but I am so excited for her as she begins this new adventure.
Next semester, I’ll be taking over some of the managerial roles for our garden. I’m quite excited and looking forward to it! We’ll also have a better formed leadership team, which I am so very excited to work with. We plan on meeting up the first or second week of school to pick and order seeds for the new season, but in the meantime I’ll layout an initial plant placement guide. What’s that? I’m sensing a spreadsheet or two will be in the works soon (spreadsheets hold a very special place in my heart).
A view down on our garden- notice the white Frost Guard row covers!
I last visited the garden a couple of weeks ago. Now that it’s colder, our plants aren’t growing too much and there isn’t a whole lot of work to do in the garden. Therefore, when I go to the garden, it’s for more of a visit than to work hard. This is a nice reminder for me that while gardening can be a time to get dirty and dig up soil, it can also be a time for observation , reflection, and simply being. For me, my December visits were a welcome break from the end-of-semester hustle and Finals. And so I came to appreciate morning dew and purple cabbage even more.
Hello everyone! I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving. I sure did, especially since my meal featured broccoli from this garden! November has been a month of ups and downs, weather wise, but our garden is still holding its ground (haha) with its greens growth. Last week the temperatures were all the up to the 60s and today its hovering in the mid-40s, go figure. Such is Virginia weather! Luckily, our Frost Guard row covers are doing a great job shield our greens from frost and night-time chills.
The Garden this Morning
While late November is a wonderful time to reflect and give thanks for all that we have and enjoy, I’d like to say that I’m thankful for our garden all throughout the year (even when it’s cold and my hands are stiff). I went out to the garden this morning to pick some kale and broccoli- I realized that I didn’t have much green in the fridge and was shocked, plus I just wanted to check on how things were doing and walk around the garden. Coming out to the garden is such a treat and joy for me. It’s more than an escape from the stress of schoolwork; it reminds me of the beauty of plants and the sky, and of how amazing and incredible the way that vegetables grow is. I am also very thankful for all of the help we’ve received from students and the workers at Morven who have helped keeping our garden growing, in both the figurative and literal sense. Ou garden wouldn’t be the same and nearly what it is today without you guys!
Cracked Irrigation Spigot
In other gardening news, two of our drip irrigation spigots have cracked. Water froze in them over the weekend and the PVC piping cracked, which caused a mini pond to form around them. The main line has been turned off to our garden, so they are no longer leaking, but we will need to fix them before springtime. Other than that, the garden is looking good!
Here are some more pictures from the past month:
Our shed is clean! Thanks to the folks from APO, the co-ed service frat at UVA, we now can find things in our shed.
Tilling in a Row for Winter
A Workday with GDO (Global Development Organization)
An Early Morning
**I know my writing may sound odd and poetic today, I had a full cup of coffee earlier.
Our garden, with more of the rows tilled in
Yesterday was the last day of our October CSA session and thus the end of our CSA for the year. I must say, our past two CSA weeks have been really good. Last week, we pulled out and harvested sweet potatoes! I was so excited for this, I should be devoting an entire blog post to it. While I seriously love all root vegetables, sweet potatoes are one of my favorites, not to mention I was incredibly curious as to how to harvest them. All you really need to harvest them are:
- a pitchfork; and
- a willingness to get dirty.
That’s pretty much it! Since our sweet potato vines had spread out all over, the first task of digging them up was to find their central stems. Once we located those and pulled out some of the outermost vine parts, we used the pitchfork to dig around the plants’ roots and lift them out of the ground. And lo and behold, there were sweet potatoes in the ground, just hanging out. It turns out they grow similarly to potatoes after all, even though they aren’t in the same family. While the plants didn’t yield as many sweet potatoes as I thought they would, we still had plenty for our CSAers and some extras for us to enjoy as well.
Ready for Halloween
It’s almost the end of October- what?? I’m having a hard time believing that we’ve already reached that point in the season, but with the leaves almost all down from the tulip poplars, I suppose it’s time. That’s not to say that our garden is all turned over for the winter! In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
As you can see from the picture, we have broccoli! Isn’t it gorgeous? Our lucky CSAers got some in their shares yesterday, and guess what they also got? Pumpkins! Our pumpkins have been hanging out on the vines for quite some time now and are ready just in time for Halloween. I think pumpkins are one of the happiest vegetables.
It looks like we’re going to miss getting hit by Storm Sandy (I suppose she’s not a hurricane by now), but we are supposed to get lots of rain in the coming days. No complaints here! I could use a few good rainy days and I don’t think our plants would mind either.
Guess the vegetable!
Gardeners, I have a confession to make: I overslept on Friday morning! That’s right, I woke up on Friday, looked at my clock, and saw that it was 7:30am. It took me a few seconds, but I suddenly realized that I had completely overslept going to the garden. I was really looking forward to going to the garden again because I hadn’t been in a week. However, I did wake up in time to go on Monday morning, and I absolutely fell in love with the weather.
As I thinned the beets and little dinosaur kale sprouts, I kept looking up and marveling at the sky. I watched the clouds moving quickly across horizon, sometimes dark heralding rain, other times bright with the rising sun. The whole landscape was very poetic.
There’s exciting news in the garden too: the broccoli plants have tiny florets! When I peeked down into the center of the big leafy folds of the broccoli, I could see bright green florets just beginning to grow. Here’s to our fall crops!
See the little broccoli floret in the middle of the plant?
Bright Lettuce Greens
Fall Mornings in the Garden
While it’s been a few weeks since we last posted, we’ve still been keeping busy in the garden! We all almost all the way in fall mode, with our okra and green beans still hanging in there. A couple of weeks ago the PVCC (Piedmont Virginia Community College) Horticulture class helped us pull up all of our tomatoes (it was time). Last Friday we pulled up all of our eggplants and pretty soon our okra will go too. The green beans are going strong though!
Our Garden, minus the tomatoes
As the weather fluctuates between 80 degrees and 50, our summer plants are leaving and our fall plants are thriving. The lettuces are pristine and the beets and carrots have sprouted and are growing past their delicate phase. The broccoli leaves are robust and expansive, and I keep checking for those tiny florets to appear. Maybe not too much longer!
CSA October Shares, Week 1
Nasturtiums in this week’s salad mix- they look beautiful but they’ve got lots of kick!
In other news, we’ve started our October CSA session. We have decided to try a different model: this time, we are requiring our CSA members to come out to Morven to pick up their weekly share of vegetables. I really like this approach because it encourages our CSA-ers to have more interactions with our garden and how their food is grown. Last Friday three of our CSA-ers helped us out in the garden and picked and put together their ow bags for this week. So far, our new CSA model is going well.
Besides all of the vegetables, I love the mist in fall. In the early mornings our garden will sometimes be blanketed in mist and it will slowly rise and evaporate off as the sun rises and warms up the air. By the time I leave the garden, all of the mist has gone, but the dew still clings to the kale. Fall is a wonderful time of year!
Looking down on our garden from the hillside
After all the working getting ready for Gazpacho, it’s been nice these past two weeks to focus on other matters in the garden. For the most part, right now in the season we’re just concentrating on caring for our plants and harvesting whatever’s ready to go (for the squash and zucchinis, this means daily). We have planted a couple of crops recently though. Last week we planted beans and snap peas where the cabbages used to be in order to put nitrogen and other nutrients back in our soil. Also, the pumpkins we planted a couple of weeks ago have all come up and are growing well.
Our summer crops are coming in, with the glaring exception of our tomatoes. We would have had a fair number of big, ripe tomatoes if not for a very hairy problem: groundhogs. Groundhogs have been munching on our tomatoes as soon as they begin to turn red on the vine. So rude! Last week we set up a Have-a-Heart trap, but no luck catching them.
The Have-a-Heart Trap
However, this week we asked the guys at Morven for help, and they stepped in with a plan. They set up a trap outside of our garden off in the woods a little, and the trap kills on impact. Since they set up the trap on Tuesday, we’ve caught a groundhog every day this week. While it’s sad that three groundhogs have already died, we don’t have much mercy when they’re eating our carefully grown crops. This morning I picked a tomato off the vine that was red and untouched- finally!
This Week’s CSA: look at all of that squash!
This was the last week of our second summer CSA session. Despite the groundhogs also eating 14 of our melons, we were able to give our CSA-ers a half of either cantaloupe or watermelon. As another surprise this week, we also had some okra which people could take handfuls of. I calculated the total poundage that we’ve given our CSA-ers this summer (8 weeks of the CSA in all) and it totalled to almost 575 pounds! What a great season! We’re excited to start up our Fall CSA in September. Let me know if you’re interested in joining (email@example.com)!
The corn ears are coming in!
We picked some zinnias!
Even with all the hubbub of preparing for Gazpacho, we still had a great CSA Day yesterday. As Michelle mentioned in her post earlier this week, we now have eggplant! Each of our CSAers got an eggplant as well as another new surprise vegetable this week: cucumbers! These guys just snuck up on me and suddenly we had over 15 of them. The vines are covered in flowers and bees, so we are looking forward to more coming in soon.
We picked a Carrot Woman too when we harvested the carrots for the CSA.
The CSA shares this week also included squash, zucchini, carrots, beets, Swiss Chard, cherry tomatoes, a bag of purslane, and assorted herbs. Our setup was full of colors as well as healthy vitamins and nutrients!
The CSA Spread
Tomorrow is the big day: Gazpacho in the Garden! With about 70 RSVPs, we’re preparing lots of Gazpacho and other foods. All this week, we’ve been sprucing up the garden and I have to admit, it’s looking really good. All of our rows are mulched with straw and weed-free, our plants have yummy compost around them, and our veggie washing station is so clean.
Our Garden this Morning
Michelle, Libby, Marie, and I have been checking the weather today constantly, looking for the latest update on the rain status for tomorrow. Although I really really want to have Gazpacho in the Garden actually in the garden, we luckily have a cozy and rustic rain site in Barn 3 at Morven. Only time will tell what the weather will be like!
Amongst other things, gardening is about patience and sudden surprises. Our bush beans are blooming, but I have not yet seen any beans. The bumble bees are all over the flowers though!
A Bumblebee on a Bean Flower
Bean Flowers are so Funky Looking!
The corn is another example of when patience comes into play. Although it seems to grow each day, I can’t wait to taste our own Morven corn. It is almost knee-high, and some of the pole beans and squash that we planted last week are sprouting. I’m interested to see if the Three Sisters technique will work this year for us.
Even though I’m waiting for some of the vegetables to be ready to harvest, some of the other ones suddenly surprise me and are ready to go. This week we harvested eggplants and cucumbers for the first time! Although we didn’t have enough to give to our CSA, we did sell some eggplants at our Farm Stand this week!
The CSA Setup this Week
Speaking of the CSA, this week we started our second summer session. We have some returning members but also a lot of new faces. We also have the biggest group we’ve ever had: 16 people! We still had plenty of vegetables for everyone and had quite a spread this week. The share included squash, beets, carrots, cabbage, radishes, cherry tomatoes, a bag of purslane (an herb), Swiss chard and kale, and a bunch of mint. What a great start to the new session!