Monday, September 26, 2016

Late Summer Season

Welcome back to school everybody! We are so happy to have students back on campus.

These past couple weeks have been full of new and old friends coming down to the garden to see all the progress that was made over the summer. We have started our late season crop succession, planting arugula, turnips, radishes, and lettuce out in old onion bed. The onion bed was cleared of food then covered with opaque plastic for a couple weeks to keep the soil warm and block and sun that would allow weeds to grow. We had a group of volunteers help to uncover these beds, and prep them again for more food by putting more compost in and raking the beds flat. Then, it was ready for late season planting! Arugula, turnips, radishes, and lettuce like the cooler weather, and are really enjoying the foggy mornings we have been having. We planted kale, kohlrabi, swiss chard, and beet starts in the old onion plot as well, which are also end-of-summer plants.

For the rest of the farm, we are beginning the final harvest. The tomatoes are coming in strong, but as the weather continues to get cooler we will have smaller and smaller harvests. We are also in the prime of squash harvesting, looking forward to more butternuts and acorn squashes to come!

In other farm news, the orchard is well on its way. Thanks to many volunteers we were able to plot out the locations of all the trees and berry bushes, dig their holes and rows, and plant them all. The upper field is now covered in fruit trees and bushes, ready to rest over winter then come back strong next summer. With the planting of the orchard comes the final component of the Permaculture Site - the orchard ties together the whole site. The trees and bushes were placed in the upper field very intentionally according to permaculture principles. Rain water will travel down the slope and through the roots of the orchard, which will filter out any contaminants, before it goes into the veggie production plots at the base of the slope. These trees will hold the soil in place in the field and also provide a natural filtration system, allowing us to fully utilize the landscape to grow healthy food.

If you are interested in getting involved with the permaculture site, there are numerous opportunities! We have open garden hours on Monday from 1:00-4:00. Harvest will be happening every Wednesday 8:00-noon, so join in if you would like to learn the process of harvesting, washing, and packing food for our campus. Outdoor Volunteer Efforts also has service days Thursday and Friday from 3:00-5:00, sign ups are outside the MOVE office. This is especially helpful if you have not been down to the site yet and want to join in with a group of volunteers! On Wednesdays in September we will also be having Salad Days, where we provide free salad, homemade butter, and fresh bread down in the garden at 11:30 (Bring your own bowl). If you are interested in buying food, we have our Farm Stand outside Alliot every Thursday 11:00-1:00, and a self-serve Farm Stand on the Center for Women and Gender porch every day. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Colors of the Garden

Another growing week in the garden, this time featuring more varieties of veggies. We had our first harvest of string beans this week, as well as a couple peppers peeking through the leaves. In addition, our first eggplant ripened and was sold at farmstand. The colors of the garden are spreading as August begins to wind down.

Yesterday we had the women's soccer team come down early in the morning, and they were a huge help. They constructed a component of the compost bin system, a cinder block bunker intended to hold carbon material (like dried leaves) to add into the compost pile. They also helped to sand down the picnic tables to ready them for stain, cleaned onions, and harvested basil. We had a large harvest of three types of basil - large Italian leaf, purple, and sweet thai. Sweet thai basil was a favorite. It has more of a licorice scent, and is really great to cook in soup or with chicken.

As the season goes on, the plants are producing more and more fruit. Notably, our tomato plants are thriving, but we have noticed that a lot of the fruit on our heirloom plants have rot. End rot is common to heirloom tomatoes, but this rot extended to the whole fruit - after doing some research, we concluded that the rot was due to a calcium deficiency. We purchased lime, which is rich in calcium, to make a slurry (lime and water stirred together in a bucket until lime is dissolved) to water the roots of the plants with in hopes of some healthier tomatoes soon. Our sweet potatoes are starting to bloom, too! The sweet potato is in the same family as a morning glory, which is especially noticeable when the sweet potatoes bloom.

We have also noticed that someone else likes our watermelons, too - we found two baby watermelons completely hollowed out by a critter. We were thinking a skunk, any other thoughts?

Thank you for all who helped in the garden this past summer! We are so excited to have more students and faculty back on campus. Note: there will not be a farmstand this week, but look for us the first week of classes on Thursday 11:00-1:00 in front of Alliot!

- Erin

Friday, August 12, 2016

The First Flowers

The summer is wrapping up, and we have begun to pick the first flowers. This week we were able to do a huge chunk of an ongoing project, the Pollinator Garden. We put in close to 70 plants and we have just one variety of flower left until the garden is complete. During this dry spell, we have been sure to keep a sprinkler running for as long as possible so the freshly planted flowers can settle into their new home. Already we can see pollinators, especially honey bees, stopping by for a visit. We are all excited to see the garden in full bloom!

Though we have spent the majority of the summer at the permaculture site, we have not forgotten about the original Organic Garden (located below the View off route 15). Jess and I went down early Monday morning to sow buckwheat into the beds of the garden. Buckwheat is a mid to late summer cover crop; a cover crop is a sustainable agricultural practice that we have been implementing throughout the year in both sites. Cover crops serve many purposes, foremost being their benefit to soil health. As plants grow, they take up nutrients from the soil. Because we harvest our vegetables so we can gain energy by eating them, the soil does not gain those nutrients back - putting a bed or field in cover crop allows the soil to rest and replenish its stores. Because we will not harvest buckwheat as a crop, after cutting we can leave the plant on the beds to act as a 'green manure' which will break down and put even more nutrients back into the soil. Cover crops like buckwheat have other benefits as well, including preventing erosion, maintaining moisture content, and attracting beneficial insects. For more information, see Cornell's guide to buckwheat here.