Thursday, August 08, 2013

SPROUT Garden Update, week of August 5th


A perfectly healthy and beautiful eggplant
Things have begun winding up as the season is nearly in full swing. The turnips, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, and many others have begun to fully mature. All of them taste incredible, to our delight. The tomatoes are sweet and flavorful, as they are vine ripened rather than sprayed with chemical solutions as you'd find in supermarket tomatoes.  There really isn't any comparison. Also, the eggplants are
Purple string bean flowers
giant and pristine—also no chemicals! Honestly, the thing we are most proud of is the fact that we produce all-natural organic foods. The microbiology of the soil and the booming insect population take care of most of the 'issues' for us.

Awhile back, a passerby asked if what we grow in the garden is exclusively vegetables. Not anymore! We officially have cantaloupes the size of softballs growing throughout the garden. Their vines are spilling outside of the enclosed beds as if they weren't even there. That's the same story for the squash, zucchini, and cucumber. Their vines extend outward inches a day. It's really quite impressive.

Cantaloupe vines sprawled out everywhere!
In other news, the hoop house has been fitted with new raised beds, and other greenhouse furniture is in the works. The greenhouse plastic is also soon to be fitted, but more on that to come! From all of us, we thank you for your continued support. Swing by the garden any time to see our progress!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

SPROUT Garden Update, Week of July 22nd

A bee pollinating a cantaloupe flower
Greetings! Last week the blog was left unattended, due to there not being anything particularly exciting to report.

Last week we (the gardeners, not the plants) suffered the intense heat wave. As expected, however, the plants didn't mind. Everything grew to some extent despite chronic dry soil and a constant need for watering. We've noticed a steady increase in the bee population in the garden, which is quite exciting. Pollination has been one of our long-term concerns.

The eggplant plants, which have been producing gorgeous flowers, have now begun growing eggplants, to our delight. Similarly, our hot peppers have begun growing pods, and our sole pumpkin plant has begun growing pumpkins. It is an exciting time for the SPROUT Garden—to finally see the fruits (quite literally) of our labor.

Today, for sale, we have beets, scallions, swiss chard, cherry tomatoes (our first harvest!), basil, broccoli, hot sauce, and pesto—homemade with organic pesto basil from the garden. If sales are sufficient today, we will breach $1,000 in earnings so far this summer. That is an achievement in itself.

Our collection of sale items for today

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

SPROUT Garden Update, week of July 8th

The sun shone bright this past week, which fueled up the many plants in the garden. Growth has been staggering. We've been forced to move some plants as a result.

Bell Pepper
Good news! The cucumbers and squashes are vibrant and rapidly expanding. There aren't any signs of disease or pests, either. We expect a massive fall harvest—thanks to the 90°+ weather and blue skies we've been having lately. In terms of current harvests, though, this week we're selling beets, scallions, red lettuce, basil, dill, and Mosshead's local hot sauce. Today we also sold long white radishes, however those went rather quickly. More of those on the horizon...

In other news, the hoop house (the steel-framed greenhouse in the garden) is set to be furnished with new hard plastic sides, which will better resist wind damage than the original plastic we had used before. This is in attempt to extend the growing season into the fall and winter, where we will be able to continue to output organic produce to the public. We have high hopes for late this year and early next year.

Mature Long White Radish... and Kristina!
Until next week...

Monday, July 01, 2013

SPROUT Garden Update, week of July 1st

Sweet Potato
Last week we had a fantastic harvest that included fresh dill and basil. We have high hopes for the future with these herbs—organic homemade pesto is on our agenda.

The weather has been improving (well, not for us particularly), and the plants have been thriving. Our cucumber seedlings have popped up and look happy as ever. The sweet potatoes and bush beans are similarly looking rather fantastic. As mentioned in last week's post, we aren't seeing many invasive pests, and so the plants are free to grow as nature intended them to.

In last week's article we talked briefly about what cold crops are—sadly to say we have had to part with another cold crop: snap peas. Yield from the pea plants was not as high as expected, unfortunately. Plus, they really don't like the heat. Nevertheless, the pea plants will be reborn in the fall, when we will most likely dedicate much more space to growing and harvesting.

Cherry Tomato
For sales this week we plan to have more herbs and lettuces. I know, not particularly 'diverse' from what we've been selling all of summer break thus far, but most of our crops are late bloomers. Our variety in sales is limited. But we expect massive sales to erupt come fall. We have, as such, begun planting our fall crops. Be prepared for August, September, and October, for those months will probably be the apex of our sales.

Again, we thank any and all support faculty and student at Conn have given us. Keep reading!

Monday, June 24, 2013

SPROUT Garden Update, week of June 24th

To our delight, the weather has been improving. Many of the plants in the garden have exploded with growth. The past week has offered us much in terms of sales as a result. In essence, the garden is coming together, piece by piece, both in functionality and in beauty.

Last Tuesday and Thursday we sold an abundance of leafy greens, including tuscan kale, red leaf lettuce, and mixed lettuce. We also began to harvest snap peas which have been slowly growing since the garden's spring inception. Unfortunately, we weren't able to sell a large, significant amount. That is indeed indicative of our constraints. Our aim for the growing season is to produce a wide variety, and in doing so we limit our capacity for large harvests. Nonetheless(!) our pea plants are happily producing new pods daily, and so on each selling day in the near future we should have at least some to give away.

As of today, we've finished harvesting the last of the kale. Kale is typically a cold crop, meaning it produces best in spring and fall. From our understanding, this is due to the plant having to withstand colder nighttime temperatures. In doing so, the plant produces sugars which lower the freezing point of the vital water inside. Sugar creates a better tasting leaf. If we were to leave our kale to grow throughout the summer, the leaves would become progressively less sugary, bitterer, and less palatable. As such, kale is off the charts until the fall.

Cucumber seedling
In other news, we've been noticing a good amount of beneficial insects that have assisted us in pest management. Ladybugs appear to be frequenters in the garden—they take care of our aphid problem. There are also an abundance of spiders which we see gobbling up small bugs. The soil is rich with tiny insects as well which help with soil cultivation. All around there are very few bugs that are causing significant problems. 

Join us this Thursday for another harvest sale... 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Crozier-Williams. Until next week....!

Monday, June 17, 2013

SPROUT Garden Update, week of June 17th

Greetings from the new SPROUT Garden! So far the season has been exciting. The plants, especially the broccoli and kale, have grown to be quite large. Even in the past few weeks alone we have seen a tremendous amount of growth. Sure, there are some pests that seem to be enjoying munching on a few leaves, but overall this hasn't stunted progress.

The season began with harvests of radishes, chinese cabbage, and lettuce, all of which sold out almost instantaneously at our harvest sales. Demand was much higher than expected. Even in the weeks following we sold nearly all our produce. Kale and more lettuce followed the first harvests, but again these sold out immediately. Since then, we've sold more lettuce mixes and cabbage, red lettuce, arugula, and some local hot sauce and hot pepper plants. But this is just the beginning!

In terms of what we have been growing thus far, much of it consists of spring lettuces, kale, and broccoli. (In the coming weeks we will be harvesting and selling a steady supply of lettuce and kale to indulge local interest.) Other than that, we have beets, carrots, peppers (both bell and extremely hot varieties), snap peas, bush beans, fall lettuces, sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, eggplants, sunflowers, and various herbs.

Snap Peas
As mentioned, the kale and broccoli have blown up quite nicely, as have the snap peas (which will be on sale next Tuesday!). The lettuces have also been thriving. Everything else seems to be in good condition aside from the various squashes we have planted. The entirety of the original squash, cucumber, and zucchini crops all died out early likely due to rapidly changing (and cold) weather conditions. We replaced them with young plants from a local nursery, but even those have been struggling to hang on. There are a multitude of factors that could be contributing to their suffering—we're keeping our eyes peeled. We're praying to the weather gods to be kind.

We will be keeping this blog up-to-date, detailing the garden's progress, throughout the summer, so make sure to follow and maintain interest! We duly appreciate the amount of support that faculty have given us in the first month so far. We will not disappoint!

...until next week!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Soup and Sustainability!

On Friday Sprout! hosted a Soup and Sustainability campus-wide dinner in Coffee Grounds with fresh soups and bread, salad and pies! Arthur Learner FRESH New London came to give a talk on sustainability and the importance of getting involved in the food security movement. Many of us are already getting involved by supporting the GMO labeling bill in Connecticut and by attending workdays at FRESH New London. The event was a huge success and we look forward to hosting more dinners in the future. As spring approaches, we will be starting our work days and getting outside to work in our new garden site! There is a potential plan for weekend Farmer's Market here at Conn this spring where we could sell our vegetables. Keep an eye out for a Farmer's Market on the Larabee Green this spring!