This week at the garden

It has been busy few weeks at the garden and much has happened since our last post. Harvesting and moving onions indoors took priority last week. Three tables, once full of garlic, now hold several garden beds worth of onions spread out in a single layer for their tops and skin to dry.

As one crop comes to an end, other crops are just beginning. It is the perpetual dance of the garden. Beds that grew an earlier season crop (like this year’s onions and garlic), get tilled and prepared for the next crop waiting “in the wings” or in this case the greenhouse.

Trays of broccoli, cabbage, chard, cucumbers, basil, and flowers are growing strong in greenhouse trays. Over the next few weeks they will be planted out in the garden.

Crops planted earlier this summer have been tended too. Tomatoes were staked and trellised. Keeping the tomatoes growing upright makes for easier picking and helps with disease management. Insect netting was removed from the pepper beds and now covers the recently seeded winter squash beds. We are looking forward to a bountiful fall harvest.

Happy summer! Stephanie Meyers, MKG Farm Manager

This week at the garden: Garlic and Potatoes

It has been a busy and productive week at the garden! The week started with harvesting the remaining half of our garlic planting. Garlic is dug with shovels and moved indoors to dry for several weeks. We had a great yield – filling 3 large tables with overflow being hung above.

Last week’s rain made for good tilling this week. Many beds in our front two plots were tilled in preparation for upcoming crops.

The week ended with planting two beds of fall potatoes! When our seed potato order arrived in March during Covid disruptions, we opted to bump the potato planting to June.

We stored the potatoes in a walk in cooler at 50 degrees. Two weeks ago, the potatoes were removed from refrigeration and placed on trays in a light filled room to encourage sprouting.

Today the potatoes went into the ground! The variety we are growing, Cheftain, is typically 60-75 days to harvest. This will put the fun activity of harvesting potatoes in early September when students are back for UVA’s fall semester.

Potatoes are a cooler weather crop but can be planted in June heat. After planting, the beds were hooped and covered with shade cloth (black netting in photo above) to help keep the ground cooler. We will remove the shade cloth in a week or two and hill or mound more soil over the potatoes and then mulch with hay.

Happy summer! Stephanie Meyers, MKG Farm Manager

This week at the garden: Tomatoes

Two beds of tomatoes went into the garden this week. The countdown to harvest has begun!

“Days to maturity” are usually listed on seed packets and in seed catalogs. When you start the count – from seed or from transplant – varies by crop. For tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, you begin counting “days to maturity” from the date you transplant – when you put the plant in the garden. The four tomato varieties we planted this week will mature in 66-78 days. This means we should start seeing our first ripe tomato around August 18.

In the photo below, the two tomato beds are on the right side. We plant tomatoes into black plastic mulch to help with weeds. In the next two weeks, we will add wooden stakes to the tomato beds and began trellising. The two hooped beds on the left are peppers we planted last week.

Yarrow, a perennial flower started blooming last week (see pictures below). This is part of our “farmscaping bed” – a bed we have planted to attract, feed, and support beneficial insects.

More flowers were added to this bed today: calendula, nasturtiums, and zinnia’s as well as culinary cilantro and basil that we are growing here for their flowers. Insects we hope to see visiting the flowers this summer include: honey bees, hover flys, lacewings, lady bugs, and parasitic wasps,

Happy gardening! Stephanie Meyers, MKG Farm Manager

This week at the garden: Peppers

The big garden task of the week was planting peppers  At MKG, this starts with bed prep.  Compost was spread on the beds, irrigation tape was placed, and black plastic mulch was laid.  The mulch adds more heat and controls weeds.

The garden now has  two ninety foot beds of bell and sweet peppers planted!  If all goes well we will begin harvesting in August.  We hooped and covered the beds with insect netting.  While the nettings main purpose is insect control, the hope was it would also provide some shade and relief from this week’s heat.

Lettuce heads planted in early May are off to a good start. You can learn more about how to grow lettuce in our latest gardening video.

Happy Growing!  Stephanie Meyers, MKG Farm Manager

This Week at the Garden: Sweet Potatoes

Planting sweet potatoes was a key garden task this week.  We preordered slips from a farm in North Carolina  in February and they arrived mid week.  Slips are shoots that are started from a mature sweet potatoes.   As the picture below shows, they are predominately a green stalk with some leaves and no roots.  They often look rough but will thrive when planted.

 

 

We plant our sweet potato slips into black plastic mulch.  The mulch adds more heat which sweet potatoes love and helps with weed control.  Sweet potatoes vine and spread 3-6 feet so it is helpful to have a good system for weed control.

Over the past few seasons, we have found hooping and covering the bed with shade cloth helps get the plants established and off to a good start.  This technique is especially helpful on hot sunny days as the plants leaves are often laying on the hot plastic mulch.  We remove the shade cloth after the plants have taken root and are starting to grow.

It appears our fixes to the fence last week have been successful at keeping  the geese out of the garden!  Yeah!  In the early morning hours, the geese family with their gosling enjoy walking and exploring beyond the pond.  Wanted to share another goose family photo.

Happy Spring!  Steph Meyers, MKG Farm Manager

This week at the garden: rain, garlic scapes, and geese

It was a week of overcast skies and rain.  Despite all the wetness, things still moved forward at the garden.  Early in the week before the heavy showers, I was able to till several sections in prep for next weeks plantings.

 

The garlic is starting to put up scapes which are the flower stalk of the plant.  Scapes are edible, with a green onion texture and a nice garlic flavor.   We will remove the scapes  so they do not pull energy from the bulb.

 

 

The pond by the garden is home to many animals, including geese.  Several times this week,  I have spotted a young gosling walking around with their parents.   In the photo below, a small brown baby is well hidden in the grass to the left of the front goose.

Geese provided  more excitement this week when eight of them breached the electric fence to explore the garden!    With less human activity due to covid, it appears the geese discovered and took advantage of an unintended opening in the fence.  Luckily it Is an easy fix!

Happy Spring!  Stephanie Meyers, MKG Farm Manager

 

 

This week at the garden: second week of May

Here in Central Virginia, we had a cold spell last weekend with night time temperatures in the thirties. All our plants survived, and use of floating row cover helped us to protect more sensitive crops.  It is exciting to walk into the hoophouse and see not only lettuce mix growing but blooming colorful flowers too!

Last year we planted nasturtiums in one of the hoophouse beds.  Those plants dropped seeds last fall which have yielded  new “volunteer” plants this spring.  Nasturtiums are an edible flower and we grew them to add to our lettuce mix and to wholesale to Boar’s Head Inn.

 

Below is a flashback photo from 2019 summer CSA with nasturtiums added to the lettuce mix bags.  The flowers add a zesty pepper flavor and a burst of color.

 

Our onions planted late March-early April are growing well.  Weeding the onion beds is on the list for next week’s garden tasks.

 

MKG was excited to donate lettuce mix again this week to Cultivate Charlottesville’s Urban Agriculture Collective.  We harvested twenty seven pounds of lettuce mix  (55 individual servings of 1/2 pound bags) and delivered the produce today.  We look forward to donating more to UAC this spring.

Happy spring!  Stephanie Meyers, MKG Farm Manager

This week in garden photos – first week of May

Our three beehives have been active this week!  Photo below captures a honeybee collecting pollen from overwintered kale that has gone to flower.  Notice the yellow pollen basket on her hind leg.  This is where the bee stores pollen to take back to the hive.

 

Garlic has grown dramatically in the last seven weeks!  Photo below was taken March 17.

                               

 

Check out the garlic as of yesterday, May 7!  Typically we harvest garlic for drying late May/early June.

 

Below, flowering chamomile near our Wash and Pack.  Last fall we planted  perennial herbs yarrow and chamomile in a partial bed.  This planting is part of our “farmscaping” – an intentional planting of flowering plants to provide  food and habitat for beneficial insects (insects that either help pollinate or help control garden insects that are damaging garden crops).

 

Potting up of tomatoes and eggplant plants. Earlier this week, small seedlings were replanted into individual pots or larger celled trays.  Repotting gives the plants space and room to grow bigger while they are in the greenhouse.

Happy Spring!  Stephanie Meyers, MKG Farm Manager

Latest garden news – Lettuce Mix!

Seeding lettuce in the hoophouse was the last garden task spring interns did before leaving for spring break on March 6.  The plan was for this lettuce mix to be sold to UVA Dining for use in meals during Earth Week.


Fast forward to this week, April 29, and lettuce is growing well and ready for harvest!


 

From a small space an exciting amount was harvested – 23 pounds!


The lettuce mix was bagged into 45 individual servings (half pound bags) and boxed for delivery to Cultivate Charlottesville who through their Urban Agriculture Collective program will distribute it to families in public housing. It was great to meet and catchup with Michael James, Operations Manager at the UAC warehouse in Charlottesville.

 

We are excited that UVA student grown produce can be part of an effort to feed our community. We look forward to having more harvests for Cultivate Charlottesville this season.

Happy spring! Stephanie Meyers, MKG Farm Manager

First half of spring semester in photos

Despite the garden’s spring season being cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, MKG students were active before spring break leading workdays and planning events.  Below are some of the visual highlights from the start of the semester.

 

MKG SPRING BRUNCH -February 2

Each year MKG kicks off the garden season with our Spring Brunch.  Students gathered in the Food lab the first Sunday in February for good food and community. An annual brunch tradition is the recording of student suggestions  and votes on crops to grow.  Big thanks to MKG Exec, our Student Leadership team who organizes and hosts this fun event.

 

 

 

MKG SPRING 2020 INTERNS


   

Spring interns: Elza, John, and Leah learned and worked at the garden for six weeks before classes went online. They assisted in lots of gardening tasks including laying out garden beds and preparing a new garden area for planting by dismantling wooden beds and laying out silage tarp to speed decomposition of the grass.

 

BEE WORKSHOP

Kimberly from local bee shop, Scottsville Supply Company leads a workshop on beekeeping.  We were excited that 18 students joined us for the workshop!

 

VOLUNTEER WORKDAYS!

UVA student volunteers from APO, Madison House, and  open Saturday workdays joined us in the garden this spring..  They assisted with many tasks including rolling up drip tape, clearing the bee yard of weeds, and  adding straw mulch to garlic beds. Thanks to all our great workday leaders who led volunteers in the garden!

 

DANA ELZEY’S DESIGN THINKING CLASS

    

 

For the second year, Dr. Elzey’s Design Thinking Class was held at Morven over four days during spring break.  MKG was excited to have his class join us in the garden for a few hours on two days.  The class seeded 30 trays of plants and assisted in bed prep from pulling up mulch to adding and raking compost!

Thanks everyone for helping get MKG off to a great start this spring!