Updates from the Learning Garden

Posted on July 21, 2012

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In front of the farmers' chard and beans

I think it’s safe to say that we have reached the midpoint in our growing season here in Greater Boston. The fields and beds are filled and crop by crop, we are beginning to harvest what was started months ago. But the journey hasn’t been easy-breezy, and the fight for a victorious harvest is not yet over.

Baby bunnies I found nested in the LG last summer

First it was a late start on seed trays due to circumstances beyond my control. Then it was the bunnies. Or should I say then it was that we still don’t have a fence around the garden, bringing about the demise of several spring-planted crops, including celery, fennel, onions, sunflowers, and beans. Some things could be replanted due to surplus trays from the farmers (onions) while others could be reseeded… and reseeded… and again, reseeded. Like the sunflowers and beans. Thank goodness for two-month maturity rates and floating row cover (“out of sight, out of mind” seems to do the trick, at least in Waltham). At this rate, we should have sunflowers by October. Kidding… sort of.

Zucchini and its blossom

So just as I felt like I’d FINALLY figured out several successful means of working around my bunny issues, bacterial wilt hit the garden. Which is awesome considering about one third of my beds are (…errr, were) filled with cucurbits. For those unaware, once a plant has wilt, there is no going back; the disease basically prevents water from circulating around the plant, which then kills it. It’s spread by bugs, namely cucumber beetles, of which my garden has no shortage. Between the lemon cucumbers, slicing cucumbers, Mexican sour gherkins, Waltham butternut squash, cantaloupe, Charentais melon, zucchini, and summer squashes, it seems that the lemon cukes and zukes are taking the hit. Every day we have one or two, sometimes three, plants to pull out; we harvest what we can from these goners, and then haul them out to the woods to hopefully prevent disease next year.

Green cabbages

It wouldn’t be summer without a nice drought. We finally had some rain come our way on Wednesday after several weeks without a good soaking, which was great! ‘Cept it decided to pour down all at once, causing rampant flash flooding in this area and, from what I witnessed on the weather radar, presumably many other regions along the eastern seaboard. Luckily, the Learning Garden was generally unharmed by the event, though several plants were a bit slumped over after the 10-15 minute downpour. My late June and July duties as facilitator have mainly consisted of (reel) mowing, weedwhacking, and watering, which combined easily takes up several hours my time. My workshare contract indicates about four maintenance hours per week is expected of me throughout the growing season, but I put in far more hours than that between maintenance, online correspondence (which includes communicating garden chores for program participants to education staff), and blog publishing. I see my work at the farm as a unique opportunity, and so I’m trying to do as much as I can while I figure out my next big move.

The first of the sungold cherry tomatoes!

As we enter the second half of the season, I am feeling mighty positive about the months remaining and extremely excited about the possibilities for food growing in my future (more to come on THAT front). For now, I leave you with a long overdue photo tour of the Learning Garden and some surrounding plant life. I couldn’t get a picture of everything (should have packed that second memory card, grumble grumble), but these shots cover most of what we’ve got rockin’ in the beds. And as my boss and I aim to solidify our planting schedule over the next week, I’ll soon be back to share with you our plans, with diagrams and all. Like a true food systems geek. Annnnd I totally need to write up about the farm-to-restaurant fundraising initiative I started. Yet another post for another day.

Growth in the Learning Garden: July 2012

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