I’m Moving out of Belmont

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I just bought a house in Oakland, so I’ll be leaving our wonderful community garden this fall :(  A fellow gardener will be upgrading his plot to mine, and a new gardener will take his old plot’s place.

Would anyone like to take over as garden coordinator? Or perhaps form a committee of 2-5 people? Please leave a comment if you’re interested.

I’ll keep this blog domain up and can add people as authors. I figure I will still post every now and then, since our climates are still pretty similar :) And I have lots of space in my yard for my very own garden!

I will miss everyone!!

Squash Bugs: How to Get Rid of Them

Squash bugs are officially in full swing. We’ve seen then in a lot of plots, but we can still keep them under control! For future updates, enter your email in the box to the right of this post!

Squash bugs mating

Why are they bad?

They multiply FAST and feed on the sap of squash plants (summer squash, pumpkins, etc). If left unchecked they will affect the quality of the squash as well as the yield. And it is not uncommon for them to completely kill a plant if they aren’t kept under control.

How do you find them?

You might look at your plant and it seems fine. That’s because they hide at the base and blend in with the dirt. But they are very easy to find: soak the base of the plant and they will crawl up the plant to the leaves. They are slow and very easy to catch. I squish them between 2 wood chips.

Do this every time you water! Last year I would find 5-10 bug each time I watered – I couldn’t seem to fully get rid of them (perhaps they migrated from other gardens, perhaps they were just clever little buggers). But if there are only a handful on your plants at a time, your plants will be perfectly healthy. Let it go unchecked for even 7-10 days and you’ll get squashing dozens.

Check the leaves!

Squash bug eggs

Check the underside of each squash leaf for copper colored, oval eggs. Smush them with your hand. There aren’t that many leaves on a squash plant, so it’s fairly quick and easy to check.

You’ll also want to check each time you’re in the garden so those eggs don’t hatch!

Are there organic sprays?

Honestly, finding and squishing them is the easiest and most effective method. Since they are so slow they are easy to catch when they crawl up the leaves from a watering.

More info:

Check out this thread on gardenweb for more information.

At The Farmer’s Market: March

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Rhubarb is in season now throughout summer. Look for bright colored stalks. To store them, wrap in a damp paper tower and put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (lasts up to 3 weeks)

Strawberries won’t be in season for another month, but when they are, a strawberry-rhubarb crisp or pie with a granola crust would be delightful.  Or expand your rhubarb horizons and make a rhubarb-mustard sauce for fish or chicken.

 

Asparagus is in full swing! The season lasts from February through May. The smaller spears will taste better. If the ends are moist they’ve been recently picked. To store, wrap in a damp paper tower and put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator (lasts 4 days to 1 week). Roasted asparagus with olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese is always a favorite. Or think outside the box and make a bowl of roasted asparagus soup.

 

Last of the season: brussel sprouts, blood oranges, and mandarins will be out of season in a few weeks. Pears will be in season through April and then they are done too.

Compost Soil Test Results

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Hey everyone, I got the compost tested so we knew what kind of nutrients it had and could plan out any adjustments that might be needed. When reading labels on products, most have instructions on what to do for 100 square feet. Our large plots are 20 x 6 feet, so 120 square feet.

I calculated all suggested amounts below assuming that your plot is 1/3 of the new compost and 2/3 of original soil.

pH could to be lowered a bit (more acidic)

The pH of the compost tested at 8.9. Tomatoes (and other veggies) ideal range is between 6.3 and 7.1. The soil regularly found in our plots tested at 6.7, so that is spot on. When mixed together that’s about 7.4. If you added a lot of compost, you might want to apply 6 lbs of sulfur (at 30% concentration) to your plot.  I used 1 bag of this product, which is in stock at the San Carlos Home Depot. It’s also available at Amazon. Note that 6 lbs should lower your pH by about 0.5 points, which is just perfect. See product directions here.

Add a little Calcium and Nitrogen

The Calcium and Nitrogen tested well. However, the Potassium is very high (see next section), so the soil test results suggest adding Calcium and Nitrogen to even out the ratio. Adding about 2 lbs of Calcium (gypsum) and 1-2 lbs of Nitrogen (14-0-0) should be sufficient.

Calcium: I bought a 40 lb bag of gypsum at Home Depot for $6 (it was all they had). It’s in the new ‘tool chest’ that showed up over winter. The combo for the lock is the same as the gates. Please use it, because I sure don’t need all 40 lbs!

Nitrogen: I used a bag of Blood Meal from Home Depot that was 12-0-0 NPK. (see the section below, you do NOT want a fertilizer with Potassium (K)).

Potassium is very high, do not fertilize with ANY Potassium this year

The potassium in the compost is about 5x higher than normal. So if you use any fertilizer, make sure there is no Potassium in it. Remember that the K in NPK stands for Potassium. So a 10-10-10 fertilizer for example has potassium.

When Potassium is high, it can inhibit the uptake of other nutrients, which is why the soil testing facility advised increasing the levels of Calcium and Nitrogen just a little to even out the ratios.

Garden Fundraiser:

I’d like to raise money for garden uses (and cover some of the costs I have made when buying extra shovels, etc). I’m raising a bunch of really fun organic heirloom tomato seedlings right now. If you’re interested in the seedlings either leave a comment or send me an email. I’d love it if you bought them from me instead of Home Depot (I’ll offer them for the same price as Home Depot). This way, the money goes back into the garden! Let me know how the following:

  • Number of tomato plants (so I can ballpark how many seedlings to keep around)
  • What kind (cherry, beefsteak, sauce tomatoes, etc)
  • If you’d like Herbs, summer squash, or anything else. I have a lot of seedlings, just let me know.

Lastly, if you shop on Amazon, please click this link first. I set up an affiliate account so we can collect a small percentage of sales to put back into the garden :) $1 here and $1 there helps, and costs none of us extra money!

Spring Fundraiser!

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You may have noticed, our garden tools are getting a little shabby, and we seem to have a few less than the past few years. I’d like to host a little fund raiser in spring at the garden so we can buy some more tools. I’ll call the newspaper to get it publicized, post on craigslist, etc. If you’re interesting in participating in any way, please let me know!

Here’s my idea for the event, please feel free to add your ideas as well. It would be 100% donation based. We can have the following things to offer the community:

  • Seedlings of all kinds! I grow a lot of heirloom tomatoes that you can’t even find at nurseries. I’ll also grow extra basil and some other herbs, along with a bunch of fancy sunflowers.
  • Farmers market guides (what’s in season & when, along with how to pick and store). Would need to get these printed and laminated
  • Information! If anyone would like to show up and share their gardening expertise, I’m sure that people would love it.
  • Crafty things: if anyone is crafty and makes cute pots, garden decor, or anything like that, great!

Where I need help:

  • Growing seedlings! I can tell you how to do it for almost $0.00 if you are interested.
  • Promotion: if anyone is friends with local business owners (sandwich shops etc), we can accept sponsorship on the farmers market guides. It’s much better when coming from someone they know, than a random walkin like me!
  • A laminater: If I get farmers market guides printed, it would be ideal to get them laminated.
  • Other ideas!

Goal: $500! If we can get 100 families to stop by and donate $5 each, that would be $500. And if we can get some business sponsorships on the farmers market guide, that’s another good source of funds. We can have a little get-together afterwards to decide how to spend the money.

Compost Delivery

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About the compost (see brochure).

Alright everyone, the compost will be here Thursday afternoon, Jan 23 Friday around 4pm, Jan 24. We only have 1 working wheel barrow (and a 2nd one with no wheel!), and it looks like only 1 good shovel. So we might want to pre-plan our garden times since it looks like only 1 plot can load up on compost at a time :(

If you want to leave a comment when you will try to be at the garden and coordinate, go for it! But it’s obviously not needed.

I will be leaving a sign in the compost to let people know it is NOT free. When you are done with your plot, please let me know. If there is leftover, I will let people know they can use it (or you can bag it up for any garden use at home).

Compost Delivery for 2014

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I’m organizing compost delivery to the garden for $35 per cubic yard. If you’re interested in compost, email veronica@vtegen.com with the amount of compost you want by Monday, Jan 13, end of day. I’ll follow up with payment and delivery details.

REFERENCE POINTS:

  • The large garden plots that we have are 20’ x 5’9”. That 115 square feet.
  • Most of our plots have side boards that are 9-12 inches tall. A lot of plots appear to be 3-5 inches short of the top of the boards.
  • How many inches deep do you want compost?
    • 3 inches deep (recommended for most plots) = 1 cubic yard
    • 6 inches deep (good if your soil is very low) = 2 cubic yards
    • For reference, here is a soil amendment report I got from a soil test a few years back. There is a section where they recommended quite a bit of compost.

ABOUT THE COMPOST:

It’s made of horse and chicken manure with wood chips, leaves and a few other things mixed in. It’s from a farm in morgan hill.

 

Fall Garden Meetup!

I’d love to get together again! I got some good feedback on the best times to get together and it seems like the weekends might be best. How does Saturday, Nov. 2 work out for everyone?

It was fun to meet everyone and socialize, so let’s do it again. And this time, I’m going to sneak in a small agenda too!

  • Winter plot makeovers: I know a lot of people need more dirt, new dirt, compost and all sorts of things to get their plots ready for next year. I’d like to organize this and see if we can either get dirt and compost dropped off, or get some volunteers together to pick it up. I know one of the members said he has access to all of the horse manure we could use, we just need to rent a truck and do the work.
  • Seed exchange: The seed catalogues start coming around the Holidays, and most seed packets have 50+ seeds in them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need that many. I’d love to organize some group seed sharing :)
  • Soil testing: I’ve gotten my soil tested professionally a couple times in the past and it’s incredibly helpful. I want to share that information with everyone and find out who’s interested in a test this year. We get a group discount which ends up being $17 per person for the basic test for nutrients and organic matter. There’s a more extensive test you can order as well if you’re trying to diagnose a problem.

Let me know if you can make it. If you can’t let me know what general days/times work for you. And if you have anything to add to the agenda, let me know!

Fall Recipes: Soups

So I love fall cooking and have been trying all sorts of new soup recipes. A note for vegetarians/vegans and people with lactose intolerance, none of these soups require the heavy cream as stated in the recipe. I’ve omitted it in all of them that call for it and the soups are still delicious (and don’t tell anyone, I don’t notice the difference!) The vegetables in the soup are enough to make a thick, creamy soup without the added cream.

Here are the ones that turned out really well:

Carrot Ginger Soup

I love ginger and usually have a heavy hand with all of my seasonings. However, I actually cut back the amount of ginger in this recipe or it over powers the carrots. I definitely recommend tasting as you go, and add more ginger as you see fit.

 Garlic Potato Soup

I love the flavor of this soup. It has a subtle garlic taste that really stands out when paired wit the garlic chips (yes, even after adding BOTH heads of garlic!). I like a creamy potato soup so I just puree the whole thing together and it turns out lovely. Also, there is no real need for the cream unless you want the additional richness. And those garlic chips are well worth it! (recipe)

Roasted Parsnip and Apple Soup

The flavor of this soup was fantastic and had a lot of depth. Wouldn’t change a thing… and it might be the star ‘starter course’ for my Thanksgiving, it’s that tasty. (recipe)

 Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Hazelnut

This is an excellent base that you can season any way you’d like. I didn’t used hazelnut oil instead of coconut oil. I also made candied squash seeds as a garnish and they were excellent though got chewy as they soaked in the soup. I might try t candy hazelnut pieces next time instead. (recipe)

 

 

Garden Get-Together: Thursday, Aug 1

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Since produce is coming in, I thought it would be a good time to have our first get-together!

  • When: Thursday, August 1 from 4:30 to 6:30
  • Where: At the garden :)
  • I’ll bring some snacks and refreshments
  • Friends and family are welcome

I’m thinking we can do this on the first Thursday of every month. But the day and times are open, so let me know if you’d like to suggest a different day or time!

See you soon!