Friday, June 24, 2016

Dreaming in Garden

As we were watering this morning, Kristyn, Jess, and I talked about how we had all been dreaming about the garden this week. Kristyn remarked that when you understood a language really well, you dream in that language - so, it was only a matter of time before we were all dreaming in 'garden,' our own language of the inner workings of the permaculture site. This week has been a big week for the garden, and we were so happy to share our language with some welcomed visitors!

We have been setting up a drip-tape irrigation system down at the garden, and that is going to be a huge help for me and Jess as the summer gets hotter and drier. Drip tape irrigation is a system that pumps water from one of our spigots down at the garden and sends it through a series of tubes which get smaller and smaller as they approach the crops. In each bed, we will lay down thin tubes, or drip tape, which comes pre-perforated so the water can leak out into the roots of all the plants. This is a really wonderful system, and we are excited to have it completed soon! 

On Tuesday we had a stupendous group of MOVE volunteers come down to the garden for the last week of volunteering with the Accelerated Summer College program. We put drip tape into the beds of the hoop house, and covered three beds with landscape fabric. Then, we cut holes along the length of the fabric to plant some cucumbers and tomatoes - having this fabric down means that we can better control weeds. Take a look at our volunteers to the right -->

Jess and I had a really rainy harvest morning on Wednesday - good for the plants, a little chilly for the humans. But, the garden provided more than enough food to have a wonderful Salad Day that afternoon! We had around 20 people down at the permaculture site for Salad Day. Fresh salad harvested that morning, local bread, homemade butter, and a suddenly sunny day made for a wonderful time with some friends new and old. Please, join us for Salad Days every Wednesday at 12:30! Bring your own bowl and we will provide the lunch. This week we welcomed some veterans to Salad Day. The veterans have a plot of veggies and a couple raised beds in the permaculture site; below, Kristyn is sharing a kohlrabi with them. 

Another exciting new development in the garden: the orchard! This week we had a huge delivery of fruit trees and berry bushes, which will soon be planted on the northern incline of the permaculture site (the area to the left of the road as you walk down). The purpose of this orchard is to provide fruit in the coming years and also filter the water that drains down to the lower vegetable production area, a permaculture principle in action. 

A little nugget of wisdom: 
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." 
- Lao Tzu

This has been true for the past couple of weeks at the garden - a lot of projects to get done, and we are tackling them all in due time. Please come visit us soon. We have open garden hours every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 8:00-3:00, and we are always looking for more volunteers!

Wishing good vibes and good dreams about the garden, 


Monday, June 20, 2016

A Bountiful Beginning

Welcome to the 2016 growing season! 
We are this year's garden crew holding our new favorite vegetable, the kohlrabi:

Top: Jess Reid, '17
Bottom: Erin Buckley, '17

This summer, the garden crew is lucky enough to be gardening in the new Permaculture Site at Saint Michael's College. The Permaculture Site is located off of Route 15 across from the main entrance to the school, between the Robert E. Sutton Fire and Rescue Station and the Pomerleau Alumni Center. This location was actually the old Edmundite Hunger Garden, farmed by Rev. Stankiewicz in the 1980s. Rev. Stankiewicz used this site to grow veggies to feed members of the SMC campus and also families from the greater Burlington area in need of fresh, healthy food. In accordance with the traditions of service and sustainability at Saint Mike's, and as a continuation of Rev. Stankiewicz's work, we have also set out to feed our community.

Thanks to countless volunteers, our fearless leaders Heather Ellis-Lynch (Sustainability Coordinator - Assoc. Director of Facilities) and Kristyn Achilich (Academic Coordinator for the Garden Program), and some really wonderful soil, the maiden voyage of the Permaculture Site is under way. Here is what we have got in store:

Veggie Production: 
We have begun farming in both our field and hoop house areas. Our field is broken into 12 field blocks, which are roughly 30' by 30' squares with 7 beds in each. We have an entire block of garlic as well as beds full of kale, swiss chard, kohlrabi, radishes, scallions, and lettuce that we have already begun to harvest. Last Tuesday we covered our potato plants with straw with some MOVE volunteers - the straw will help maintain soil moisture and add space for the plant to grow in.

We recently planted a block of tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers outside as well. For our tomatoes we did some basket weaving trellising, and the picture below shows Jess' great work. The twine weaves in front of and behind of the plants down the line, with the main growing stem snuggly in the middle. As the plants grow, we will add more twine, supporting the tomato as it reaches up.

Hoop House: 
In our new hoop house we have planted three beds worth of sweet potatoes. These plants are a little different from the potatoes we planted in the field, which sound similar but are actually in an entirely different family. We planted what are called sweet potato slips, which are the vine-looking sprouts that came from sweet potatoes from last year's harvest. These slips go directly into the ground, and have been growing slowly but surely in the warm soil of the hoop house. The hoop house generally runs above 100 degrees F during these sunny days, which is perfect for the heat-loving sweet potato. Also in the hoop house are our propagation tables, which hold all of our seedlings! To the right is a picture of all our cucurbits - cucumbers, melons, squash, etc. The new plants really thrive in the consistently warm air of the hoop house.

Raised Bed and Pollinator Garden: 
The raised bed area currently holds some herbs transplanted from the original organic garden. We put in sage, oregano, and thyme, as well as some beautiful cosmos. Jess remarked, as we planted the thyme, that our conversation had taken a more metaphysical turn: the question of how much more thyme we had left made us both pretty contemplative!

The pollinator garden is still a work in progress, but a lovely one. The plan for the pollinator garden was the outcome of Karla Clithero's (Class of 2016) Academic Internship with Heather Lynch this past year. She incorporated native plants into three different pollinator gardens to be planted around the permaculture site. The one we are working on now is located above the raised beds, and once planted will become a haven for pollinators that are a key part of our ecosystem. Thanks to Prof. David Heroux of the chemistry department, we are prepping the ground to be planted in the next couple of weeks.

That's all for now!
We are so excited to share the Permaculture Site and to learn about our local food system alongside each other. The Permaculture Site is open to everyone Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 8:00-3:00. Please come down whenever you are free to help out or to just enjoy the space! On Wednesdays 12:30-1:00, we will be having salad days. Salad from the garden, fresh bread, and homemade butter, bring your own bowl! In addition, there will be a self-serve farmstand in the Center for Women and Gender 9:00-4:00 most days. We will be having our big Farmstand every Thursday 11:00-1:00 outside Alliot, please stop bye and say hello (you may even get to taste a kohlrabi or two).

Thanks for everything! Best wishes and happy gardening,

Thursday, August 20, 2015

August: The Month of Abundance

August: the month of abundance as summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, and beans start coming on strong and all of our other veggies continue to produce as well. And we've planted our fall cool-weather crops like another round of spinach!

It can be overwhelming at times and I know that my fridge is overflowing with fresh food waiting to be either eaten up or preserved for the coming cooler months. VPR's program Vermont Edition recently had a conversation about what to do with all your excess produce which can be found at this link: Summer Cooking. The Intervale Community Farm is also a great resource for new recipes and ideas. Here is a link to that page on their website. Intervale Recipes.

Another great newly found resource is a cookbook put out by a local Vermont publishing company called Cooking Close to Home. The recipes in this book are not only catered to Vermont's seasonal foods but also look absolutely delicious.

At a recent farm stand, we experimented with some nontraditional baking and made a chocolate beet cake! Feedback from most people was that chocolate cake was now their favorite way to get a serving of veggies. That recipe can be found here: Chocolate Beet Cake.

As the season continues, we'll soon be expecting our first winter squash! But just by looking at the garden you'd think that frost will never come. The zinnias, sunflowers, and various vegetable and herb blossoms are adding tons of colors and places for pollinators to feast! Visitors as always are welcome during working hours (8am to 3pm most days weather depending). Also, we are always happy to hear about your favorite way to use produce. Feel free to share recipes in the comments section or when you come see us at farm stand!

Enjoy the fruits of our seasonal labor and soak up these late days of summer!

Monday, August 10, 2015

So Much Chard

Hey garden folks!
Here’s what we’ve been up to this past week!

This morning, we harvested and donated five buckets of chard to Alliot! We are starting to plant seeds for  our fall harvest, and we needed the extra bed space. Our alliot kitchen staff  is excited to incorporate our garden vegies into our meals this afternoon. With summer coming to a close, we recommend that gardeners start thinking about changes they should make to their gardens. For example, we plan on putting in one more round of lettuce, spinach, snap peas, beets, and beans. These crops enjoy cooler conditions and should be ready for harvest before the next frost. Other changes that we have made in preparation for the fall have been pruning watermelon flowers. These flowers are draining energy that could be better used by the melons we already have. Letting them bloom would be counter intuitive, and the smaller melons would not have time to develop before the frost.

Recently, we also had our third and final garden day! This time around, the kids got to enjoy the presence of some garden wildlife! The day featured snails, butterflies, and of course, toads. We had a few intense toad races, where Rebel the “frog” performed exceedingly well. Following this, we ate some sorrel and experimented with red maple seed pods. A great day! 

As always, we had a wonderful farm stand on Wednesday. Feel free to come join next week! We will be around from 11:30 to 1:30, and it will be Jess and Jack’s last. Well, that’s all for now.
Garden Crew. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Welcome August

As August rolls in, we're getting new crops in the garden as well as replanting for fall harvests of cool weather crops. Below are pictures of our zinnias and the first of our tomatoes to ripen this season. Both the zinnias and tomatoes should be exploding within the next couple of weeks so come check out our farm stand Wednesdays from 11:30 to 1:30 in front of the Chapel.
gorgeous garden zinnia almost fully bloomed

Pink Bumblebee variety tomatoes

Our farm stands are a great opportunity for members of the campus community to come and meet the garden crew, ask questions about produce and cooking ideas, or get advice on whatever is disrupting your own garden. We also love hearing from others new ways to use the vegetables and herbs we produce or how much they've been enjoyed. If you would like a large quantity of a specific item, you can email Heather Ellis Lynch to make sure that we have enough of what you'd like. Next week we should be adding tomatoes, summer squash, watermelon, eggplant, and beans to our list of delicious produce!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

More Garden Fun

As always, we've been having lots of fun in the garden since our last blog post. We hosted a Garden Salad Social where members of the Saint Michael's community came down and shared a delicious lunch of fresh food from the garden with us. While it is gratifying to see the seeds you've planted produce fruits, it is even more gratifying to see people enjoying the literal fruits of your labor.
We enjoyed not only the kinds of things you would expect to find in a salad (lettuce, radishes, snap peas, etc.) but also were able to include some wild treats like sour clover and black raspberries! We also gave people the opportunity to mix up their own salad dressings. This is not only a tasty way to accommodate everyone but also helps to engage people in experimenting with their food.

The salad social was such a hit that we plan on having more of them so keep your eyes out for an invitation from the sustainability listserv! If you're not already subscribed, you should be! It's the best way to keep up with what events are going on with sustainability all around campus.

We've also begun having our weekly farm stand in front of the Chapel Wednesdays from 11:30-1:30. Visiting the farm stand is a great way to learn about new veggies, ask questions, and get recipe suggestions from the garden crew! We also love getting to meet people and talk about what we're so passionate about. Come early and come often as our selection is always changing with the season and some things sell out fast, like snap peas. This week, we sold three days worth of snap pea harvesting in the first hour.

If you can't make it to farm stand or you'd just like to see the garden for yourself, we are always happy to have visitors and give a tour. We love to show people the cool things that we're doing and answer questions, as well as brag about how well our peppers, tomatoes, and watermelons are doing.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Attack of the Swede Midge

The garden is popping these days with tons of produce ready for picking and eating! We're harvesting beautiful kale, lettuce, snap peas, radishes, herbs, rainbow chard, and much more. Our tomatoes are on the way with bushes loaded with green fruits and we just can't get enough of the colors.

There are really the days when our long hours of hoeing, weeding, and planting are paying off. The peas, squash plants, and bush beans have especially impressed us with their rate of growth. 


Unfortunately, we still have to stay on our toes and watch for any signs of attack on our produce. This past week we lost our entire broccoli patch to relatively new pest, the Swede Midge which is a pest of all the brassicas. Signs of damage include puckered and crinkled leaves, distorted growing points, leaf and flower galls, brown scarring, blind heads, and plants with multiple small heads or shoots. Below is a picture of one of our brussels sprouts. The scarring around the base of stems is a sure sign that the swede midge is here. The only thing to do seems to be to pull infected plants asap and keep all others tight underneath of an insect net. The Cornell reference page has other helpful information.

We've also started seeing an influx of japanese and rose chafer beetles. There isn't much that we can do about them but we're hoping that some of our companion planting experiments will help to distract and deter the beetles before they cause too much damage.

As always, we welcome questions, comments, volunteers, and visitors any time!