Thursday, April 23, 2015

Family Gardening Festival Preparations 4-21-15, 4-22-15, and 4-23-15

Putting on any event requires a good deal of work, especially the week preceding the event.  With a hands-on station on square-foot-gardening in our vegetable garden, our team worked hard getting the area ready for Saturday’s big event.  The event as we have mentioned earlier is the Family Gardening Festival. It is on Saturday, April 25, 2015 from 10 am to 2 pm.  It is free and will be a lot of fun. 

Below are just a few of the chores we undertook before the event. 
In this photo, one of our volunteers is working on tearing up a section of our other top performing cover crop, Austrian Winter Pea to prepare the area to plant on Saturday during the Festival. In a larger area, we would mow it down or disc it in. However, in our small plot, a bit of human power is necessary. With our drip irrigation system sometimes hidden, we decided it was best not to take out the tiller.  
 The plan is to cut down the pea, leaving the roots, with their nitrogen rich nodules, in the ground. Then with the upper section of the Austrian Winter Pea, we will work it back into the soil as a green manure. 
For the festival, we only worked in a small section of the Austrian Winter Pea so we can plant our bush watermelon seeds. Yes, you read that correctly. We will plant a watermelon that does not besiege our entire garden. We will post more on our special watermelon later.  4-21-15

Austrian Winter Peas (Pisum sativum subsp. arvense) “are top N [nitrogen] producers, yielding from 90 to 150 lb. N/A, and at times up to 300 lb. N/A.” We have written and photographed our crimson clover much more, maybe because of its red flowers, but the Austrian Winter Peas is an impressive cover crop. 4-21-15

 Read all about this winter pea in Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education’s publication of Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 3rd Edition

Here is another volunteer performing the same method described previously with the crimson clover. She is heaping the flowering crimson clover in a pile outside of the bed for others to chop with hoes before working it into the soil.  4-21-15
Here is another volunteer working the crimson clover into the soil. As described earlier in this post, on a larger scale we would do this process differently. 4-21-15

After working the crimson clover cover crop into the soil, we will be ready to plant on Saturday. Notice the wonderful green manure that will break down and add even more nutrients back into our soil. This area will be the home to our tomatoes. 

Notice the Wall-O-Water in the corner with the tomato we planted mid-March.  
Who does not appreciate a dressed up scarecrow in their garden? Today, we caught our scarecrow napping on the job. Even scarecrows cannot work unsupervised anymore! 4-22-15

Scarecrow Damage
All joking aside, it is important to remember that when fully dressed, gusts can blow Mr. Scarecrow onto your crops, causing damage. We overlooked this possibility. Luckily, our scarecrow did not cause any major damage except for crushing a few onion stalks and beet greens. It could be worse.  
Here are some herbs such as oregano and tansy that were dug up elsewhere in our Demonstration Garden for us to replant around the perimeter of our vegetable garden. Since the herbs are close to the vegetables we will plant, we must be cognizant of what we plant.  

According to the publication mentioned below, “…most gardeners today consider it [tansy] an excellent companion plant for use in warding off insects.  It is said to ward off potato beetles if planted near potatoes, to keep cucumber beetles and blister beetles away from cucumbers and, according to an old time use, to ward off borers from attacking peach trees.” Another Extension website, says tansy is excellent against fleas. 4-22-15

In this photo, we are watering our inoculated shiitake mushroom logs to entice another flush of our mushrooms for the Family Gardening Festival on Saturday. Recall when you see mushrooms in nature. It is after a good soaking rain in the cooler months. By watering the logs, we are mimicking those exact conditions.  Our fingers are crossed! 4-23-15

Here is a shot from outside our garden before the big festival!  

Groundhog Invasion: For us, They Are Here to Stay 4/23/15

So far, our traps are empty.  However, our groundhog (Marmota monax) issues are not over, and we will continue trapping.  Read below about the rules and regulations regarding groundhogs after looking at the North Carolina map of the groundhog invasion. Notice the Virginia map. Could the residents of Virginia have shared their groundhog problems with North Carolinians?   

One major point to remember is to ask permission before relocating a groundhog. Not many homeowners, or landowners for that matter, will graciously accept a potential problem that destroys gardens and leaves potential leg breaking holes for cattle and horses to step in. It is also illegal to release groundhogs “on state or federal properties, such as state parks, gamelands, state forests, wildlife refuges or national parks (Source: see second NC Wildlife resource)."

Imagine the conversation. “Hello neighbor, do you want a varmint that decimated my flowerbeds, vegetable garden, and was the cause of my horse’s broken leg? I just hate the notion of exterminating this adorable groundhog. Oh look, I think Gary the groundhog sees your young broccoli transplants! ”

 It is crucial to understand what a groundhog is and is not. Groundhogs are rodents. Do folks relocate mice or rats? No, rodents are poisoned or trapped and killed.  Finally, we ask you to think conscientiously about what you decide to do with the groundhogs you trap.  

Source: NCWildlife.ORG 

          Source: NCWildlife.ORG

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Groundhog Traps are Out and Set 4-20-15

Trapping season is open for groundhogs and any other critter that decides to take a tour of our garden. 

Here are our two traps for this task. 

 This trap is positioned outside of our fence where something appears to be entering. 

We hope our treats are enticing enough. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mushrooms, Crimson Clover Flowers, and a Mint "Problem" 4-18-15

Here is the mushroom harvest that April showers bring. 

Do you see any mushrooms in this picture? The hardest part about harvesting mushrooms is locating them. Some are easy and grow off the tops or the sides of a log. While others, like to hide under logs and require the harvester to lie down in order to do any harvesting. In our case, our logs are under holly trees, which as one can imagine, are painful to lie down in. However, that is the plight of a shiitake mushroom harvester to find that perfect shiitake mushroom. It is always worth it!  4-18-15


More crimson clover flowers are blooming. Recall from our last post on when we want to work our cover crops into the ground. We need to wait until “late bloom or early seed set” in order to get the most nitrogen from this cover crop. 4-18-15

Mint has its lovers and its haters. Many gardeners complain that they cannot get rid of their dang mint. Yet, those same gardeners sometimes go out and buy mint tea at supermarkets. 

Mint propagates easily. Just look at the rhizomes coming off what looked like just one plant. Instead the plants were all connected.  By chopping up the rhizomes and potting them, as seen here, one can have fresh mint for roasting meat, garnishing dishes, enjoying in teas, and in countless other ways. 
Instead of considering mint as a delinquent in your landscape, think of all the ways you can use mint in your kitchen. Since mint is a perennial in Guilford County, you can enjoy it all summer and fall until a hard frost kills it back. 


 Here is an example of freshly potted mint. 4-18-15

Here is an outside view of our garden. You can see the Wall-O-Water in the corner above the herbs sign. 4-18-15

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Rainy Week and the Start of Crimson Clover Flowers 4-16-15

The week of April 13, 2015 seemed like a wet week, but we are not nearly as wet as last year.

 According to the National Weather Service Forecast Office, as of April 16, 2015 we have only had 1.50 inches of rain for the month of April and 8.90 inches for the year. Last April, we had 3.56 inches by April 16, 2014 and 14.14 inches since January 1, 2014 by this time. We need this rain and much more. 

Besides the old saying, April showers bring May flowers. For us in the Demonstration Garden, April showers also bring shiitake mushrooms. Seeing our stacks of logs wet, means that soon we will harvest mushrooms, which are much tastier than anything you can buy in a supermarket.  Already, a few have begun to form. 4-16-15

Here is one of our shiitake mushrooms. 4-16-15

Our cover crop, crimson clover, has also begun to flower, which is very important. As you will read, once the flowering begins, it will be time to till the cover crop into the soil to get the most nitrogen as possible.  

We need to wait until “late bloom or early seed set.”

If we do not wait, we will still get the benefit of a green manure once we mix the cover crops into the soil. I should add that when we do till both the crimson clover and the Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum arvense)  into the soil we need to be cautious of the irrigation pipes buried in those beds.

Killing. Its simple taproot makes crimson clover easy to kill mechanically. Mowing after early bud stage will kill crimson clover. Maximum N is available at late bloom or early seed set, even before the plant dies naturally. Killing earlier yields less N—up to 50 lb. N/A less at its late vegetative stage, which is about 30 days before early seed set (342).

Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum arvense)
Peas are easily killed any time with herbicides, or by disking or mowing after full bloom, the stage of maturity that provides the optimum N contribution. Disk lightly to preserve the tender residue for some short-term erosion control.
The downside to the quick breakdown of pea vines is their slimy condition in spring if they winterkill, especially in dense, pure stands. Planting with a winter grain provides some protection from winterkill and reduces matting of dead pea vegetation.

Here is a publication on the benefits of cover crops in case you want to read more:

Notice how the crimson clover is matted down. Also, notice the missing leaves on our broccoli transplant. 

One of our dependable sources informed us that a groundhog, yes a groundhog has been visiting us!  As you can read in the below PowerPoint by Penn State University, besides greens such as broccoli and cauliflower, groundhogs feast on clover, which is exactly what we have. We have planted a groundhog buffet. 
(Source: PSU: Groundhogs – The Good, the Bad and the Funny See slide 27 for the mention of clover)

Here is our newest tomato. It is a Heinz Classic Heirloom Tomato.

 According to the  Bonnie Plants websote, “Heinz Classic Heirloom plants bear fruit all season long, but ripen the heaviest portion of the crop in summer. Stake these vigorous plants for best results and easiest harvesting. Space plants 36 inches apart in conventional rows, 24 inches in intensive gardens. Tuck one plant into a half whiskey barrel or similar size large pot. Resistant to verticillium wilt (V) and fusarium wilt (F).” 

Stay tuned for updates to see if you might want to add this tomato to your garden in the future. 

Our radishes are doing well, as radishes often do. In between the radishes, we planted carrot seed, which is just starting to germinate. In a way, the radishes worked as row markers for the carrots. 

The following pictures are shots of our garden. Everything is growing well, even if slower than we want. With this time of year, the gardener is perpetually impatient. Soon, we will be overwhelmed and hope our garden to slow down, but it will not. 

Here we have several varieties of lettuce and various greens such as mizuna, a mesclun mix, and kale among several others greens. 

Asparagus  4-16-15

Sugar Snap Peas 4-16-15

Red, Yellow, and White Onions 4-16-15

 Greens, lettuce, cilantro, dill, parsley, cauliflower, broccoli, and more

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sugar Snap Peas and Crimson Clover 4-13-15

The sugar snap peas have put on some major growth since last week. Perhaps, we will get to taste their sweetness soon. 4-13-15

Look at how thick the crimson clover, our winter cover crop, behind the cinder blocks, have grown. If only our other crops could grow like that!   4-13-15

Even after being harvested last week, the lettuce still looks great. To the right of the lettuce is where we planted other lettuces and greens. If all goes to plan, we should have a succession of lettuce for the weeks to come. 4-13-15

The broccoli and cauliflower are struggling and have not put on much growth in weeks. 

 Here is a closer look at the problem.  

This is one of several shiitake mushrooms growing on our logs. 4-13-15

The Lettuce Harvest and Mulching 4-8-15

The lettuce looked too good. These women harvested the outside leaves and left the rest. In a week or so, they can harvest more. 4-8-15

The asparagus is thriving. It is a heavy feeder and does not compete well with weeds. If all goes well next year, we should have plenty to harvest. 4-8-15

This juvenile snake was living in the mulch.  It seemed friendly enough. 4-8-15

Mulching is always an important task, yet it is simply hard work. Luckily, we have some enthusiastic folks on our team to get the hard work done.   4-8-15

Here is how the garden looks post mulch.   4-8-15

We even mulched the paths. 4-8-15

Because the tips on the broccoli and cauliflower have vanished, we tried blocking some of the possible entrances with stones and bricks. Unfortunately, the gap here is too large to stop anything.   4-8-15