Summer is Wrapping Up: What’s Going on at Morven

Hi everyone, Julia here for an update. As we move into mid-august the garden is transitioning to welcome new crops and soon, new fall interns!  The summer interns will miss our summer at MKG dearly. Spending a whole summer outside learning to grow food sustainably has been a privilege. Steph (MKG manager) has been an amazing teacher and role model and we are all so thankful for her knowledge and expertise.

In the Garden

With mid-august approaching, plot A is under major transformation in order to prepare for fall crops! Plot A was planted in the spring which meant its production was highest in early summer with lots of kale, chard, lettuce mix, radishes, turnips, beets, basil, and beans, garlic, and scallions. The last few crops harvested out of plot A were slower-growing crops such as cabbage and potatoes. The rest of the week will be spent preparing the newly cleared beds for direct seed or seedlings of fall crops.

Plot B is currently at its most productive time of summer. This plot was planted by us summer interns in late May and early June with a few later plantings of winter squash in July. This bed is chugging out tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash, zinnias, and soon beans and winter squash.

Plot C has been under black plastic for most of the summer to allow for decomposition and moisture retention before planting for fall. In July we moved half of the black plastic over and began to prepare beds and plant fall crops. This plot is currently home to some young sweet potatoes, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and beets. This effort will continue in the next few weeks as we uncover the rest of the black plastic and plant the last of the fall crops.

CSA Update

The summer CSA will wrap up this week with week 10, but don’t fret – sign up for our 10-week fall CSA which starts in September! The signup sheet is available under the CSA tab on the website. The first week of the fall CSA is the week of September 13th.

Gazpacho in the Garden

Come see the garden at our annual Gazpacho in the Garden public event on September 6th! RSVP here : https://mkggazpacho.splashthat.com/

 

 

 

 

Weekly Update and Insect Pests at the Garden

Hi everyone! It’s Gabriel again with my last blog post for the summer, but don’t worry there will be more posts from our other interns. Next week is my last week at the garden and I am so grateful to have been a part of the garden for the summer! I had a wonderful time planting, caring for, and harvesting all the fruits and vegetables that we have at Morven and giving them out to people to enjoy.

This week was a relatively quiet week. More planting, weeding, and harvesting, so business as usual. On Monday the interns were left to care for the garden on their own as a test for this upcoming week, when their fearless leader, Steph, will be on vacation. They did a great job making sure that all the plants were watered and cared for and the garden was still standing at the end of the day. The interns visited Bellair farms again on a rainy Tuesday and stayed inside most of the time cleaning vegetables to get ready for their CSA. On Weed Wednesday, an official holiday at the garden, you guessed it, we spent time weeding. We weeded the peppers which are starting to come in nicely and they should be ready to give to our CSA very soon. We also planted some more squash and zucchini to fill in the holes where the plants did not seem to germinate. Thursday we prepared for our CSA by cleaning harvesting materials and deciding which vegetables we should give out that week. On Friday we harvested for our CSA and delivered the tasty fruits and veggies to our subscribers.

An update on plot B, the buckwheat is now fully grown!

While in my last blog post I talked about some ways we can control pests, with companion planting, row cover, and organic sprays, this week I am going to talk about specific pests in our garden, where to find them, and how we try to get rid of them. Hopefully this will help everyone better understand the insects we are fighting every day and give all the home gardeners a way to combat them too. If you are not familiar with plant families check out our post from two weeks ago where our intern Julia gives us an in depth look at all the plant families that are present at Morven, because I will use some plant family names.

Cabbage Worm – Pieris rapae

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: White rock shaped eggs they hatch in about 7 days.
  • Larval stage: Light green in color, about one inch long, they are in this stage for 2-3 weeks and feed on plants during this time, then go into pupa form.
  • Adult Stage: Emerge from pupa as a white butterfly with black splotches on wings, wingspan one to two inches long. These adults then lay eggs on underside of leaves.

Preferred Crop: Brassica family

Signs of Pest:

  • Holes chewed through leaves of the Brassica family.
  • Tiny dark green pellets (excrement).

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Row cover over the plants.
  • Handpicking the pests off and killing them or putting them in soapy water.
  • Sprinkling rye flour or corn meal on the crops, waiting for the worms to eat it which kills them.
  • Spraying Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring soil bacteria, it is only poisonous to certain caterpillars and does not harm beneficial insect, animals, or humans.

Harlequin Bug – Murgantia histrionica

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: Resemble tiny white kegs laid on the bottom side of leaves, can hatch between 4-29 days depending on temperature.
  • Nymph stage: This stage consists of 5-6 instars (phase between two periods of molting) and they can take anywhere from 4-9 weeks before they reach sexual maturity. The head of the nymph can range from orange to black depending on what instar they are on. During this stage they feed by sucking the sap out of the plants.
  • Adult stage: In this stage they resemble stink bugs, but with red and black spots, the identifying feature of this bug is the X or hourglass shape on their back while they are at rest. They also feed on plants, but are the only stage to survive through the winter.

Preferred Crop: Brassica family

Signs of Pest:

  • White or brown spots on leaves of plants where the bug has sucked the sap out of the leaf.
  • Wilting and death of plant.

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Handpick bugs off leaves.
  • Row cover.
  • Weeding in winter time to get rid of cover for hibernating bugs.
  • Insecticidal soaps, but be careful it can also kill beneficial insects.

 Squash Bug – Anasa tristis

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: Small brown eggs on underside of leaves, egg laying usually starts early summer and goes to midsummer. They take about 1-2 weeks to hatch.
  • Nymph stage: About 1/10th of an inch long and spider like, they feed in groups on leaves. They have five instars and take about 6 weeks to become adults.
  • Adult stage: They are about 5/8ths of an inch long and have a shield like shape with a hard shell. When young they are a green or gray with red heads and legs, but as they get older they become whitish gray with dark legs. They overwinter and take shelter under dead leaves, rocks, and debris.

Preferred Crop: Cucurbit family

Signs of Pest:

  • Yellow and brown spots where the bug has injected a toxin when sucking the sap out of the plant.
  • Wilting, crispy black leaves, called “anasa wilt,” can resemble bacterial wilt caused by cucumber beetles, smaller plants may die while bigger ones can recover if feeding stops.

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Plant resistant varieties.
  • Hand pick bugs off plants at all stages.
  • Place boards on ground near plants with wilt, at nighttime they are used as shelter by the bugs so they can be used as traps to be collected in the mornings.
  • Row cover.
  • Organic insecticides.

Cucumber Beetles – Acalymma vittatum(striped) and Diabrotica undecimpunctata(spotted)

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: Unlike other insects we have covered, these lay their eggs in the soil at the base of the host plant and they take about 2-3 weeks to hatch.
  • Larval Stage: The larvae of this bug are small and white, they feed on the plants roots for 2-3 weeks before pupating in the soil.
  • Adult stage: The only stage of the bug we can see easily, the bugs are about 1/5th of an inch long and are yellow with either black stripes or 12 spots on their backs. They overwinter in protected areas and become active in mid to late May.

Preferred Crop: Cucurbit family

Signs of Pest:

  • Holes in leaves, yellowing and wilting leaves.
  • Bugs can spread disease called bacterial wilt which can spread through the bugs feces or mouthparts. The bacterium can cause blockage of vessels in the plants causing it to wilt and eventually die.

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Practice crop rotation with cucurbits and plant them in a different place.
  • Check newly planted cucurbits for signs of beetle, especially when plants are seedlings.
  • Use sticky traps to catch the cucumber beetles, could catch other insects that can be beneficial, but it is an effective way to slow down the cucumber beetle.
  • Pull up plants infected by bacterial wilt to stop the spread of the disease.
  • Could hand pick bugs off, but much harder than other bugs because they are very fast.
  • Plant nasturtiums next to cucurbits because they have shown evidence of reducing cucumber beetle populations.

Tomato HornwormManduca quinquemaculata

Appearance and life cycle:

  • Egg stage: Spherical green eggs laid on the underside of leaves, laid about midsummer and take about 5 days to hatch.
  • Larval stage: This is the most harmful stage to the plants. They are likely to be the largest caterpillars you see in your garden and can be 3-4 inches in length. They are bright green in color with white stripes, false eyes, and a blackish red horn on its tail end. They have 5-6 instars and take 3-4 weeks to grow to full size. After this they burrow in the ground and go into their pupal stage.
  • Adult stage: They take 2-4 weeks to develop from the pupal stage and then make their way to the surface to mate and lay eggs on leaves.

Preferred Crop: Solanaceae family

Signs of Pest:

  • Stripped of leaves at the top of tomato plant.
  • Chewed fruit.
  • Droppings from the caterpillar look like dark green or black pineapples, if seen look directly upwards to find the worm. They are very difficult to find because they blend in very well with the leaves.

Preventative Measures and Removal:

  • Good to practice crop rotation because they pupate underground.
  • Handpicking might be the most effective way because they are so big.
  • Introducing beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps to help control the population.
  • Could use Bt spray for younger worms, but might not be enough to kill larger ones.
  • Rototill after the harvest to kill the overwintering pupae in the soil.

Thanks for stopping by to see what is going on at the garden and have a wonderful week!

Sources

Cabbage Worm: Source1  Source2

Harlequin Bug: Source1  Source2

Squash Bug: Source1  Source2

Cucumber Beetle: Source1  Source2  Source3

Tomato Hornworm: Source1  Source2

Help from the Office of Sustainability and other news at the garden

Hello! Michael here as I just finished up my third week as an intern at Morven Kitchen Garden (MKG). It has been an enjoyable few weeks. I have adjusted to working at the garden and have been learning a lot about agriculture and growing vegetables.

MKG is divided into three plots: plots A, B, and C, each consisting of multiple beds where different crops are grown. One of our main accomplishments this past week was preparing plot C for fall vegetables that we are planning to start seeding next week. We have begun growing various vegetables in the greenhouse to get them growing in a controlled environment before planting them outside. This helps them get over the first hump of germinating and leads to a higher survival rate. In order to prepare plot C for seeding we had to move a black tarp that was covering a part of it to the side and then till the land below it. We then used twine to separate the plot into beds and walkways (see picture below). Lastly, we placed straw in the walkways to help inhibit weed growth and put compost in the beds so we can begin planting new crops in them.

Plot C after we separated the beds and walkways with twine.

On Wednesday, we were lucky enough to have interns from the Office of Sustainability at UVA come to the garden and help us place compost in the beds in plot C as well as straw in the walkways of plots B and C. It was a lot of fun to have them join us and we definitely got a lot of work done in a short amount of time with their help, so a special thanks to them for coming out! Check out the pictures below of all of us! Other than prepping plot C for seeding, we have been doing lots of weeding and harvesting as per usual. Our grape tomatoes have started flourishing so we are expecting to get a lot of them in the coming weeks. We have also continued to get a plethora of squash and basil.

I hope everyone stays cool in the blistering heat and has a great weekend! Thanks for tuning in, until next time!

Plant Taxonomy and the Families of Morven

Hi there! Julia here this holiday week for a blog post on plant families! 

Plant taxonomy is the process of naming, identifying, and classifying plants. To classify plants they are sorted into division, class, order, family, genus, and species. The process of classifying plants into families is based on plant features that reflect the possibility of common ancestries such as the number shape and position of leaves, flowers, and petals and other characteristics such as how the stems and roots grow. The families common morphological features help us identify that family and understand the plant members relate to one and other. With a morphological understanding in place, farmers and gardeners are able to identify trends within the family such as preferred soil, heat, and water conditions, which also vary a lot by region.

Knowledge of the plant families is both helpful and necessary. The practice of crop rotation has derived from a knowledge of plant families. Crop rotation is a process of rotating the land used to grow each plant family year by year. It is best to give a plot of land a 1-4 year break from a plant family if possible. Crop rotation helps to prevent the spread of soil diseases, insect problems, weed problems and is vital to soil health.

Below is a list of the plant families that Morven is home to, some families are less represented than others but overall it’s a diverse bunch! All plant families end in aceae which derives from aceus in Latin and means belonging to or the nature of.


ALLIACEAE – The Onion Family

Currently living at Morven: Green onions and Garlic

Past visitors: White and Red Onions

Characteristics:

  • Mostly biennial or perennial
  • Require good drainage and loose sandy soil
  • Most store nutrients in swollen bulb underground
  • The fruit grows in a capsule, long thin leaves shoot up from the bottom
  • This family likes cooler weather and can start early and grow late

Other family members: Leeks and Chives


AMARANTHACEAE – The Armanath Family

Currently living at Morven: Beets, Swiss Chard, and Pigweed (common weed)

Characteristics:

  • Does well in cool weather – best planted in spring or late summer
  • Bolts in hot weather
  • Deep roots that break up soil and recycle nutrients – need well-drained soil
  • Amaranths such as pigweed are hardy and drought tolerant and need lots of sun

Other family members: amaranth, quinoa (Amaranthus), lamb’s quarters
(Chenopodium), spinach (Spinacia), cock’s comb (Celosia).


ANACARDIACEAE – The Cashew Family

Currently living at Morven: Poison Ivy! Not in the garden of course, but in the surrounding land you are likely to come across it.

Characteristics:

  • Trees, shrub, lianas, or perennial herbs
  • Plants in this family tend to have toxic sap called urushiol, an oily chemical compound with allergenic properties.
  • Most of the family is native to tropical areas but a few including poison ivy and poison oak are found in the colder regions of North America

Other family members: cashew (Anacardium), sumac (Rhus), poison oak (Toxicodendron), pistachio (Pistacia), mango (Mangifera), pink peppercorn tree (Schinus).


APIACEAE  – The Carrot Family

Currently living at Morven: Parsley

Past visitors: Carrots

Characteristics:

  • Members with edible portion underground need loose, deep, and well-drained sandy soil.
  • Most direct-seeded.
  • Colder weather planting, best six to eight weeks before the last frost.
  • Can also be seeded in late August. 
  • Flowers arranged in umbels, hollow stems, leaves alternate and are often dissected
  • Slow germinating seeds, can cross-pollinate.

Other family members: caraway, celery, celeriac, chervil, coriander/cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, parsnips, root parsleyon


ASTERACEAE – The Aster and Sunflower Family

Arriving soon: Lettuce mix, Sunflowers, Yaro, Mugwort (common weed)

Past visitors: Chamomile

Characteristics:

  • Fast growth period
  • Some members have sensitive roots; best if direct-seeded or transplanted a few weeks after starting
  • Common for the flower head to be a composite of many small flowers forming a disk
  • Lettuces do best in cool-season and shade
  • Need lots of organic matter in the soil
  • Attracts beneficial insects

Other family members: artemisia, cardoon, chamomile, chicory, chrysanthemums dandelion, endive, escarole, globe artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, lettuce, marigolds, safflower, salsify, scorzonera, shungiku (edible chrysanthemum), tarragon.


BRASSICAEAE – The Mustard Family

Currently living at Morven: Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale, Collards, Turnips, Radish

Past visitors: Kohlrabi

Characteristics:

  • Herbaceous plant growth, alternating leaves
  • Cooler season crop
  • Does not need loads of water, the skin has a waxy cuticle that helps retain moisture.
  • Fruit a capsule with an inner wall
  • Frost sweetens plant taste
  • All above-ground parts of Brassica plants are edible
  • Cabbage moths lay eggs on Brassica plants and the caterpillar eats leaves (to identify: small white moths eggs become a light green caterpillar; caterpillar poops dark green pellets on leaves)

Other family members: white mustard (Sinapis), garlic mustard (Alliaria), horseradish (Armoracia), brussels sprouts, kale, collards, rutabaga, canola, black mustard, turnip (Brassica), arugula (Diplotaxis,‘rustica’ type), mouse-ear and thale cress (Arabidopsis), yellow rocket (Barbarea), radish (Raphanus), woad (Isatis), watercress (Nasturtium).


CONVOLVULACEAE – The Morning Glory Family

Currently living at Morven: Sweet Potatoes

Characteristics:

  • Herb or shrub having climbing tendencies
  • Native to tropical or temperate areas- woody shrub in drier areas, climbers with long trailing stems in tropical areas.
  • Virginia climate – best to plant in late May or early June and keep until the fall
  • Do not survive the frost

Other family members: morning glories


CUCURBITACEAE – The Gourd Family

Currently living at Morven: Zucchini, Cucumbers, Zephyr Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Butternut Squash

Past visitors: Melons

Characteristics:

  • Fast grow time
  • Thrive in moist soil- best to use compost
  • Sensitive to transplanting, direct seed or transplant when only a few weeks old
  • Risk of mildews and blights when grown on the ground – trellis to avoid
  • Cucumber and flea-beetles threaten plant health

Other family members: cucumber, gourds (angled luffa, bitter gourd (balsam pear, bitter melon), hard-shelled gourd, smooth luffa, snake gourd), melons (cantaloupe/muskmelon, casaba, honeydew melon, watermelon), squash/marrow (acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, cheese, crookneck, delicata, golden cushaw, hubbard, kabocha, pumpkin, scallop, spaghetti, zucchini/courgette), west Indian gherkin


FABACEAE – The Legume Family

Currently living at Morven: Green Beans

Characteristics:

  • Vine plant growth
  • Fruiting a legume that splits open with seeds on one side
  • Roots form a symbiotic relationship with a type of bacteria that coverts’ atmospheric nitrogen into a type of nitrogen that plants can intake, this process is called “nitrogen-fixing”
  • Sensitive roots; transplanting will decrease nitrogen-fixing abilities; best to direct seed and thin by pruning not uprooting

Other Family Members: alfalfa, beans, clover, cowpea, fenugreek, lentil, Lupin, peas, peanuts, tares/vetches, trefoil


LAMIACEAE – Mint Family

Currently living at Morven: Basil, Lemon Basil, and Cinnamon Basil.

Characteristics:

  • Herbaceous
  • Leaves opposite at 90 degrees to each other
  • Mostly perennial
  • Drought tolerant
  • Not picky about soil
  • Extensive root systems

Other family members: mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender, sage, and cat nip


POLYGONACEAE – The Buckwheat Family

Currently living at Morven: Buckwheat

Characteristics:

  • Simple toothless leaves, swollen nodes on the stem, small flowers with colored sepals, and no petals
  • Many have triangular seeds
  • Great cover crop, attracts beneficial insects

Other family members: rhubarb (Rheum), buckwheat (Fagopyrum), smartweed, knotweed, pinkweek, persicaria (Polygonum, Persicaria, Fallopia), sorrel (Rumex).


SOLANACEAE – The Nightshade Family

Currently living at Morven: Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers, Eggplants

Past visitors: Tomatillo

Characteristics:

  • Herbaceous in temperate areas, often woody in tropics
  • Fruit in the form of a berry, drupe, or capsule
  • Best in rich damp soil with lots of organic matter — plant in warm soil after frost
  • mostly perennials, but commonly grown as annuals
  • Toxic greens (leaves), potatoes exposed to the sun while growing turn green and become toxic
  • Should be started as seedlings before the last frost; all members except potatoes need warm soil to be planted
  • Tomatoes can be planted with lower stems submerged- stems will become roots
  • Potatoes must be hilled, stems or greens submerged will become potatoes

Other family members: garden huckleberry, peppers (Caribbean red hot peppers, chili pepper, habanero, hot paper lantern, sweet pepper), paprika, tobacco, tomatillo/husk cherry


SOURCES:

For biological specifics on each family:link1  link2
For gardening specifics on each family:link1  link2  link3
History of plant taxonomy: link
Defining plant taxonomy: link
Crop Rotation: link
Modern applications of plant taxonomy and the evolving field: link

BONUS: Cooking suggestions with CSA veggies

Vegetable filled quiche

Quiche above has roasted potatoes and sautéed kale, carrots, shallots, and garlic scapes.

Chard wraps: repurpose your wilted chard!

Leaving chard in the fridge unwrapped achieves the perfect texture for a wrap.

Zucchini or Zephyr Squash Bread!

Zephyr or any summer squash can be substituted for zucchini in a zucchini bread recipe. The bread above was made with zephyr squash.

Quiche Cookoff and Other News At the Garden

Hi everyone! It’s Gabriel with another weekly segment of the news from the garden with a little extra this week from Bellair farm.

john-westrock-682923-unsplash.jpg

Bellair Farm

We have had a relatively quiet week at the garden.  While we did get a lot done, it was not as hectic as last week with the film crew, garlic harvesting, and the first week of the CSA.  The garden might have been quiet because the interns took a field trip to Bellair Farm on Tuesday. Bellair Farm is a certified organic farm located about 7 miles from Morven Farm.  Bellair farms about 50 acres of land but only plants about 10 acres each season to give each plot a rest. This visit gave the interns a look into larger scale organic farming, and an introduction to raising livestock like chickens, rabbits, and pigs. Bellair farm also has a CSA that runs for 22 weeks and if you are looking for a place to get locally sourced chicken, pork, and eggs to eat with the fresh veggies we supply, this would be the perfect place to go.

I already enjoyed two delicious farm fresh eggs

Speaking of farm fresh eggs, the interns were lucky enough to get a dozen from Jamie, the Bellair Farm manager, for their hard work. John and Julia decided to have a quiche cookoff, or a quicheoff if you will, to determine who was the superior Chef. Using ingredients from the garden, both chefs labored over their meals the night before and brought them in for us to enjoy. Our farm manager, Stephanie, was the judge of this competition and relished every last bite of each competitor’s dish. In the end she decided that both of them were winners.  How could anyone lose while making and eating such great food?

img_2707-e1561082403302.jpeg

John and Julia with their dishes

QUICHE! While many think its origin is from France this savory dish hails from Germany.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides field trips and eating, we’ve worked a lot too. This week we are tilling beds and seeding crops to get ready for the late summer and early fall. We recently seeded one bed with three varieties of lettuce, which take about 50 days to grow to maturity; another bed with radishes, which take less than 30 days to grow to maturity; and two other beds with butternut and spaghetti squash, which take about 100 and 88 days respectively to grow to maturity. Along with all of these, we plan on planting sweet potatoes as well as sunflowers next week.

John seeding buckwheat next to the butternut squash

When seeding or transplanting, it is always a good idea to grow other plants next to your crops to help with pests and pollination. This is called companion planting. One example of companion planting we are currently implementing is the pairing of our winter squash with buckwheat. Despite buckwheat’s name it is not related to the wheat or grass family, it is actually the seed of a flowering fruit which makes it a great gluten free alternative to wheat. The biggest pest problems that squash tend to have are viruses transmitted by aphids and white flies. By planting buckwheat in the beds adjacent to the squash we are hoping to attract beneficial insects that use the buckwheat for nectar and pollen. These insects can be predators to the aphids and white flies and can pollinate our squash as it grows. Many other organic methods can be used to control pests such as organic sprays, row cover, and sticky traps.  All these methods can be used in home gardening.

 

Flowering buckwheat

Beds getting seeded with squash and buckwheat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of pollinators, the interns were lucky enough to be invited to suit up with our resident beekeeper, and past summer intern, Kaitlyn Elliot. She was generous enough to give us a tour of the colonies and let us watch her handle the bees.  We had a great time and learned a lot about bees and beekeeping. While I thought that blowing smoke on the hives made the bees sleepy, it actually tricks the bees into thinking that their hive is burning. The bees then retreat into their hive to eat all their honey to store up on energy so they can go and create a new hive before their current one burns down. While they are panicking for their lives inside, the beekeeper can handle the frames without getting stung too much while checking on the honey production and the overall health of the bee colony.

The interns all suited up

Kaitlyn checking on the bees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was great to meet and deliver food last week to all of you signed up for our CSA.  We can’t wait to do it again this week! If you would like more information about Bellair Farm here is a link to their website.

Bellair Farm

 

Blockbuster hits? Vampire safe rooms? This week at Morven!

Hi everyone! John here!

I’m excited to announce that Steph and the interns at the garden have started the filming for our full feature length movie. Packed with drama, excitement, and as much farming as our producers would allow, expect this 3-hour cinematographic masterpiece to be coming to a theater near you!

Our camera man and film crew. Who knew that being a star would be so hard?

Just kidding! We did, however, have a full crew of about a dozen men and women come and film the four of us harvesting, digging, and scaring caterpillars. Apparently, UVa is planning on adding our beautiful garden (and faces) to a big video showcasing a bunch of different people and groups around the university. While I’m disappointed that I didn’t get a personal hair and makeup crew, we all had a lot of fun showing off the farm for the big screen!

In other important news: we had two beds of garlic to pull up this week. This meant a lot of pulling up bulbs and hanging up stalks. When you harvest garlic, it’s edible right away, but it’s way wetter (and a little stinkier) than you’re used to seeing in stores and farmers markets. To get that papery wrapping that we’re all familiar with, the bulbs have to stay up somewhere dry with constant airflow. While filling up the nice and clean food lab with our pungent harvest might’ve been fun for a couple days, we decided to find a barn with a little less nose traffic to stash our produce. Using two old greenhouse tables, a ton of trellising twine, and a little bit of ingenuity, we managed to spread out and aerate almost a thousand garlic bulbs. Without further ado: I’m very proud to reveal the world’s most vampire-free horse barn.

I’m also very relieved to reveal that Julia and Gabe are now confirmed to not be vampires

While we’re on the topic, I’d been increasingly curious about the links between vampires and our favorite cloven crop, so I took it upon myself to do some digging. A variety of different factors coming together can point to the defense associated with our tiny bulb friends. Firstly garlic has been used in a variety of different cultures as a natural insect repellent: it can still be used today as a natural (albeit reeking) solution! Garlic is also known to have antimicrobial and antifungal properties (like many other plants!) that many people in early history associated with benevolence and purity. In addition many people growing their own garlic plants would end up hanging their crop near doorways and openings in order to maximize air flow, leading to a natural association of the plant with guarding the entrances. The combination of these small things could’ve been the reason that superstitious individuals found solace in their garlic bulbs.

While you won’t be getting any bulbs in this first share, our summer CSA does starts this week! Be on the lookout for chard, radishes and some other fun surprises. We’ll be sure to keep you updated with any new garden (and vampire) information next week!

 

Beginning of the Summer Season at MKG

Beginning of the summer season at Morven! (Julia here)

In the past two weeks, a lot has taken place. In the garden, we now have three out of the five summer interns along with our fearless leader Steph. You can see us interns in the picture above (Gabriel left, John middle, Julia right).

The garden as a whole is in three main phases right now; beds that are very close to harvest time or ready to harvest, beds that have just been planted, and beds that have phased out and are decomposing. The beginning of the summer season has consisted of preparing beds, planting beds, weeding, and harvesting. The image above shows the techniques we have been using to plant this past week. The black plastic bed covers we use are great for plants that thrive in heat such as tomatoes and peppers because it harnesses heat beneath the surface, this technique also helps to keep the weeds to a minimum. Our tomatoes have been staked by using a combination of wooden stakes and twine weaved between them. The white row cover  on the left allows for young plants to become stronger without as much exposure to weeds and insects, right now squash is growing underneath. 

In addition to the necessary garden tasks, there has also been a lot of great conversation and learning taking place about bugs, weeds, and plant life. The pictures below show some of the edible weeds we’ve seen at Morven and lesser-known edible part of a garlic plant.

                  

This week’s garden snacks: wood sorrel, purslane, and garlic scapes. Wood sorrel looks like a heart shaped clover and has a yellow flower, this weed has a lemon-like flavor. Purslane is an edible succulent and also a prevalent weed, the leaves have a very mild flavor. Garlic scapes are the flower buds or stalks of a garlic plant, these have the same pungent flavor as garlic with a different texture. Removing the garlic scape allows for more of the plants’ energy to go towards the bulb, meaning harvesting the scapes are great for the plant and can be used for cooking. 

The end of this week will consist of more weeding and planting to prepare the garden for the beginning of the CSA next week!

 

MKG in April

As we had anticipated, the start of the month has been eventful at Morven Kitchen Garden.

This past week we hosted field trips for 4th and 5th graders from Stone Robinson Elementary. The kids rotated between four stations in which they planted kale at the garden, engaged in a compost activity, went on a garden scavenger hunt, and made salad and salad dressing for lunch in our food lab. It was really fun showing the kids our garden and they exhibited tons of enthusiasm about being there.

SRE compost activity.JPG

This past weekend, we had a Madison House Big Event. Volunteers came and raked compost onto five beds, planted kale and scallions after adding compost to the beds, and then they weeded the hoop-house. A lot was accomplished that day!

file1.jpeg

file3.jpeg

As far as thebees go, we had two bee packages arrive earlier this month. We set up two hives at MKG and put the bees in their new homes. We are very excited to have new bees in our MKG family.

IMG_7473 (1).JPG

Now that Earth-week is upon us, we are about to get seriously busy. Keep an eye out for our newsletter!

 

Primavera Time

March has been a teasing month, it started off really cold and every now and then it starts to warm up. The weather still requires us to bundle up a bit as we work in the garden, but spring is definitely in the air.

This month we were occupied with a plethora of things: the bees, seeding in the greenhouse, laying out irrigation drip lines, fixing the pipes of the hoop-house, weed control in the garden… it’s been eventful to say in the least.

Sadly, the bees in our beehives were not able to survive the winter but they did leave behind some honey. We are planning on getting more bees soon and continuing our beehive collective.

The trays in the greenhouse are all seeded. We are growing eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes this season. Hopefully it gets warmer sooner than later so we can see these veggies sprout.

Professor Dana Elzey’s Design Class design class came out a few times at MKG during spring break and prevented the lull that slows down production when students are gone. A class of 20 students helped us clear some beds and put out compost for seeding. They were able to complete the kale seeding for UVA dining for Earth Week, clear three beds in the hoop-house, and lay out a big plastic sheet to control weeding on our other beds. The sheet will capture heat and efficiently kill the weeds under it so that we can clear up the space and continue seeding. Thanks to them, we came back from spring break ready to transition into the spring season.

The hoop-house structure is looking good. It was difficult to re-position the pipes and add a new plastic over, but we managed to do it. Now we are seeding in the hoop-house!

As we continue with the hard work, we look forward to the sunnier days ahead of us. April is going to be a busy month with all the Earth Week preparations. We’ll keep you updated with our weekly newsletter.

This Week at Morven Kitchen Garden

Hi all it’s Sarah from MKG! This past week at Morven Kitchen Garden has been a busy one. With the luck of fair weather, we were able to continue our work towards rebuilding the hoop house. Our hoop house is important because not only does it serve as a place to plant crops, but it functions to create a warmer environment to allow for extended harvesting seasons. As seen in the pictures included below, this past week we finished putting together the poles that create the foundation for the hoop house and worked on putting the tarp back on that encloses the structure. Reconstructing our hoop house means that very soon we can start seeding for the Spring!

 

With spring and summer months in mind, we are thrilled to take the next steps towards preparing the garden for our summer CSA. This includes tilling and seeding in the hoop house and outdoor beds. CSA members from last fall (2018) will soon be receiving a survey that welcomes feedback on CSA experience and invites past members to share any ideas they may have for future additions or innovations to the program. Spring is an exciting and busy time because we get to spend more time outside working in the garden on tasks ranging from seeding to beekeeping. We are looking forward to warm weather and sunny days in the garden!

In addition to preparation for our CSA program, Earth Day is just around the corner and without a doubt will be a busy time for the garden! Morven Kitchen Garden is proud to participate in Earth Week, a week-long series of events that serve to celebrate our earth and promote an appreciation of the natural world. In the past, MKG has participated in a farmers market at the University and has sold potted plants, such as herbs, that were cultivated in the garden. The farmers market is just one of multiple events that MKG is usually involved in during Earth Week, and more details on these events will be available soon as we near spring. For more updates on the garden, and Earth Week as we approach it, stay tuned to MKG newsletters and blog posts! No matter the season, there is always something to do at MKG.