Monday, December 08, 2008

Nearing The Big Cold

We're making our way through the transition to the cold season. We planted the rest of the garlic and lined the outsides of the coldframes with mulch for added insulation. Unfortunately, we had lost some arugula the week before when a cold snap penetrated the coldframes. Double-layers of plastic are in order, although they would have been too hot earlier in November!
Planning is in action to bring honey-bees to campus, and it's looking promising! On another successful note, we have received approval to sell food at Fiddleheads next fall!
In the interest of celebrating food, hard work and good company, we held a Sprout dinner for our own in Earth House. As you can see by the wide smiles a good time was had by all and we'll be holding another shindig next semester.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Garden Update

This Sunday we ripped out the last of the eggplants and the peppers. We also planted some more mizuna, spinach, and tatsoi (which we were so kindly given the seeds of from Tobacco Road Farm last weekend). We also set up three more cold frames, which are looking better and better each time. Bring on the frost!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Winter Growing Workshop at Tobacco Road Farm

Last Sunday, some of our sprout members had the wonderful opportunity to visit and be given an interactive tour of Tobacco Rd. Farm, which was sponsored by NOFA CT. It was an unbelievably beautiful and inspiring. We were not only given some seeds for our garden, but learned some incredible organic gardening techniques that we can apply to our garden. Below is a brief recap of some of the information we picked up:
  • use high quality compost with significant worm activity
  • when testing soil, one's best bet is to add nitrogen to the soil to improve its fertility
  • tilled beds with mulch filling are best for keeping a successful winter crop
  • when covering crops with plastic, use a double layer (if one layer is damaged, the other will protect it) and after it rains, recover and vent the ends
  • covering crops with a plastic tunnel can create an atmosphere that is 35 degrees warmer on a sunny day and about 5 degrees warmer in the evening
  • even when it snows, the plastic tunnel will survive the elements by becoming a quasi-igloo for the crops
  • chickens are wonderful for eating crop residue and providing nutrients for garden soil
  • bare soil is not good, it is best to cover it with mulch, greens, or cover crop
  • first cut hay has lots of grass seeds and cannot be used with slow growing crops (such as onions or leeks)
  • insects and disease are usually a product of the soil
  • lettuces are least productive over winter, it is best to seed in early December for a Spring Harvest along with beets and carrots
  • dandelion and garlic are great winter crops (low maintenance)
  • liquid nutrients include: raw milk, maple syrup, liquid kelp, and molasses
  • wasps aid in pest (caterpillar) control by feeding on flowering and killing caterpillars in the spring brassicas
  • to curb the flea beetle problem, over-wintered brassicas so they can become more resistant and save the seeds & don't seed when the plant should be flowering or the problem will be perpetuated
  • only seed broccoli or cabbage after the summer solstice
  • most importantly, keep crops in their natural system


This past Harvestfest weekend was quite a success for us. We sold Misha's home-made strawberry-rhubarb jam, Sprout! organic cotton t-shirts, tea & herb bundles from the garden, and baked goods to the Connecticut College community, making over $ 1,300! If you weren't able to make it, we will be ordering more t-shirts and selling our tea at the Blue Camel Café. Send us an email at if you are interested in ordering a shirt.

Monday, October 27, 2008


October 18th marked the first ever Brumalia, a fall festival organized by a collection of environmentally oriented clubs and organizations on campus, including REC, Spokespeople, SAVE, and SAC. Sprout! organized and prepared a local, organic, and delicious dinner for the event. The meal included soup from New London restaurant Mange Tout, grilled veggies and mashed potatoes from White Gate Farm in East Lyme, a pasta dish from Pauls Pasta in Groton, home-baked goods from Earth house, and hot cider from Clyde's Cider Mill in Mystic. Over 160 people were served at the event!

After the dinner, an amazing evening music, fire-juggling, step-dancing followed. Thanks to everyone who helped make Brumalia such a success!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Preparing for Fall & Winter Crops

This week we cleared the back quadrants of the garden (harvested 20 pounds of remaining potatoes) and planted winter rye for cover crop. We also harvested the tomatoes, which are struggling as fall approaches. The tomatillos are fairing a bit better, and we except to have a few more tomatillo harvests. We also placed Irish Spring Soap on the garden fence and sprayed a concoction egg, spoiled milk, and cinnamon around the garden periphery in hopes to deter curious and hungry deer from entering the garden. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

Garden Update

We had another beautiful day in the garden on Sunday. Things are looking much changed from only a couple weeks ago. We've been pulling out many summer plants and putting in new ones for the Fall and Winter. We are planting many lettuces and cover crops for the colder seasons, expanding on our selection from last year.

Though it may be officially Fall, we are still harvesting Summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, and many others. We've been delivering to Dining Services and also to Catering for events that they have been holding this school year.

We've got many other projects on the horizon. Stay tuned right here for updates.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

4th Annual Sproutfest! featured on CC webpage

Click on the title above to see an article about Sproutfest! on the college's webpage. Stephanie Blennerhassett '11 is featured in the article about our event this past Thursday.

The event was a tremendous success. Many faculty and staff attended. It was orchestrated by Steph, a chair of Sprout, and she was aided by many Sprout members eager to help cook.

All attendees greatly enjoyed the hors d'oeuvre offerings, many asking for recipes. After eating, Misha Johnson, Eric Dooley-Feldman, and Steph gathered attendees to tell them about Sprout. And afterward a tour of the garden was given.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

September is in full swing!

Greetings. All is well here at the Sprout! In the first two weeks, weeks since the beginning of school we have done a tremendous amount in the garden and are now working on a host of different projects outside of the garden. Students are showing up in larger numbers and with more  interest than ever. We had almost 50 people at our first meeting last week and almost 20 at our workdays, which is tremendous. We are now working to form into subcommittee/work-groups to better tackle all of these projects that we have.

In the garden we've been doing a lot of weeding and harvesting. And now we are going to start pulling plants and putting more emphasis on Fall and Winter crops such as peas and lettuces. Luckily Hurricane Hanna wasn't as bad as predicted this past weekend, so there was no severe damage to crops. The majority of the damage came to the sunflowers.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Workday #1: What a great day!

Today was incredible to say the least. We had a great crew come out for the tour and garden workday. We worked for a couple hours and harvested over 40lbs of vegetables (our largest amount ever), and we were able to weed and organize many other areas of the garden. We did so much in just two hours. It makes a huge difference when we have a large group out there. Great work!

If you weren't able to make this workday, have no fear. We have workdays multiple times every week, and I'm usually out there every day of the week, if you want to stop by. We'll keep you updated through emails about wordays etc.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to School Update!

Welcome back Sprout!

The garden is in full swing at the moment. We're harvesting more than ever. Almost every day we've been delivering some assortment of tomatoes, squash, basil, parsley, and cucumbers with MANY MORE fruits on the way! We're still going after the woodchucks, insect pests, and powdery mildew, but the garden looks very happy!

We have many events lined up including one today. A Learning Lunch hosted by Sprout!, Dining Services, and the Health Peer Educators. It is at 12:45 in the 1973 Room in Harris. Come to learn about your resources for food on and off campus as well as tips for eating healthy. There will be more events like this coming up this semester.

The New London Farm-to-City Initiative had its second meeting last week. With another great attendance we were able to keep our momentum going. We have set up a website and now a Google Group to serve as a central point for our information gathering and communication. If you would like to get involved or have questions about this initiative please email

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New London Farm-to-City Forum #2

The initiative will be having our second meeting this coming Wednesday at 6pm at the New London Public Library. We had a tremendously successful meeting in July and we're very excited to keep this momentum going into our next meeting.

Click here to check out our newly constructed website for more information about this initiative and our next meeting.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jiǔcài (Garlic Chives)

On Monday, Aug 4, 2008, I planted Garlic Chives, also known as jiǔcài, Chinese chives, Chinese leek, and ku chai. The scientific name is Allium tuberosum. The plant has straight thin leaves that are some where between garlic and onion leaves. It gives off a very distinct smell, and in its adult hood tends to be very fiberous.

Jiǔcài is used in many chinese dishes, dumplings, soups, chinese pancakes, fish, chive pockets, fried dishes, because of its distinct flavor.

David Wu
Assistant Gardener
Enviromental Sustainability Intern
Goodwin-neiring Center

Friday, August 01, 2008

Week 9 Update

The garden is looking great right now. We finally had strong rains this past weekend. It probably totaled a handful of inches. I haven't had to water all week.

The woodchucks are not gone. I found another one in there yesterday eating the kale, which had been starting to recover. The traps are still set and I also have the surveillance camera still set up to see when the animals come in, and if there are deer.

Vegetables now going to Harris: radishes, turnips, tomatoes, watermelon, peas, beans, cucumbers, summer crookneck squash, zucchini, basil, parsley, and nasturtium flowers. More coming soon!

Clockwise from top left: purple podded peas, a sunflower and potatoes, cherry tomatoes, onion.

The New London Farm-to-City Forum on Wednesday night went very well. We had over 30 people show up from all of the stakeholder groups that we were hoping for. We had very productive discussions and advice from CitySeed as well. We will be posting more information including a video of the meeting soon.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

3 Squirrels, 4 Skunks, and 4 Woodchucks: Pest Update

Things are going better in the pest management department...

Big Critters: as you see from the title I have been catching larger critters, that have been voraciously eating the garden. Now things are starting to grow back quickly...I have also been generously loaned a motion-sensing camera from the Arboretum so that I can catch a picture of any animal eating night or day. I have a theory that there are deer eating the garden but have yet to find tracks. Image above of woodchuck in a Have-a-Heart trap.

Insects: While there are many beneficial insects in the garden, there are also many non-beneficial insects. While the Cucumber Beetles, Colorado Potato Beetles, and Flea Beetles are very few in number because their eggs were gotten rid of before hatching. Stink Bugs and Bean Beetle larvae are the worst right now; they have hatched over the last couple weeks and aren't doing any permanent damage, but need to be taken care of before they take over...They love the Curcurbits (cucumbers, pumpkins, squash). See images below: large image is some of the worst damage, then below on the left are newly hatched stink bugs, and on the right a bean beetle in larva form.

New London Farm-to-City Forum

Time: Wednesday July 30th at 6pm
Location: 1941 Room in Cro
Questions to:

Re-New London Council, a New London-based non-profit, and Sprout!, the sustainable food initiative at Connecticut College have partnered to provide a forum for the creation of an alternative local food system for the New London area.

This is a preliminary meeting. No commitment is required from any of the attendees.

At this meeting we will be discussing different ways that we might achieve a more local and sustainable food system for the greater New London area, including Connecticut College. We hope that many farmers, institutions, businesses, restaurants, consumers, and any other groups or individuals interested in this goal will attend and be able to contribute valuable ideas and advice on how we might proceed.

CitySeed of New Haven will also be speaking on their experience at this event.

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Week 7 Update: Harvests, Pests, and Sunshine

Harvests are starting to move into full swing at this point. I've been making deliveries several times a week for the last couple of weeks. I am now delivering: kale, amaranth, basil, and nasturtium flowers. See picture below of today's delivery baskets...(clockwise from top: kale, basil, amaranth)

Many more things are going to be coming soon. Cucumbers, zucchinis, beans, peas and tomatoes are all coming along very rapidly. The weather has been very dry for the last few weeks. I don't think we've gotten a really good soaking in quite a while. Luckily we have irrigation, so as you can see in the top photo, things are still green and flourishing...But it is always good to keep in mind the rains. In my mind, nothing is as good as a strong rain.

The real problem at the moment is that there is an animal(s?) eating a bit of almost every plant in the garden. This problem has been persisting for a while. I believe I first mentioned it in the last blog post. No plant has died, but many are now stunted. I now have two Have-a-Heart traps set, and so far I have caught two squirrels and one skunk with apples and peanut butter. My encounter with the skunk was little unnerving, but as you'll see below, I put it under a sheet so it could not spray me (advice from Jim Luce).

I've been shoring up the fence to make sure deer and others stay out. It's a difficult task (I wish I had a surveillance camera with night vision so I could see what keeps eating at the garden).

That's all for now. I will soon be posting about projects I'm working on outside of the garden.

Be well,

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Week 5 Update

Things are looking great in the garden. We had a period of cooler weather with rain almost daily for a couple weeks and that really helped a lot of the plants get going. The plants are all thriving. Even the flea beetle-attacked eggplants are coming back to life. The number of insect pests seems to have subsided, though I think some larger critters are starting to find the garden, so I'm in the process of inspecting the fence.

David Wu, a rising sophomore, started last week as the Summer Sustainability Intern through the Goodwin-Neering Center. He will be helping me a few days a week in the garden. Last week We emptied both Earth Tubs and brought the compost over to the garden to cure. The compost is looking much better than the first two batches. We are definitely getting better at making compost, which is great news. Compost is ESSENTIAL to sustainable agriculture...Speaking of which, I've also been spreading the horse manure that we received around the garden to fertilize plants.

Weeding is constant in the garden. Since much of this area is virgin soil, there are years and years of weed seeds that have built up here, so I'm constantly cleaning things out. But as our plants have grown in size and volume it has become less of a problem because they can now outcompete (for light) the small weeds.

I have also been delivering kale to Dining Services. It is our first ready vegetable this year, and soon we should have others as well. I have noticed a few cherry tomatoes that have popped up and will soon ripen, and many others are on their way.


Outside of our garden I have been working on many things. I'm working with CC Curtiss, to create an educational campaign for the Fall around food and nutrition. I've also been working with Professor Sue Warren of the Biology Department on a Freshman Seminar that she is teaching entitled "Healthy Choice."

I'm also working on ways to bring more local, organic, fair trade, and healthy foods to the campus. I've been meeting with community members, farmers, and Dining Services to work on this. I will keep you updated on any progress.

I went and worked at the FRESH New London Garden at the Waterford Country School this Sunday. They have a beautiful campus and farm that I recommend you all to check out. FRESH is growing quite a lot and gets help from community volunteers. They can always use more help though, so if you're in the area or perhaps when you return to school, ask me and I can put you in contact with them. You can also check out their website here.

That's all for now. Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

CC Alumnus visits garden, brings horse manure, and dryer drum method

Below is an account of Rob Freeman '95's visit to the garden. Included in the end is some general advice from him about farming and/or buying local produce in your area. He also recommends some readings and places for further research. This dryer drum method of his was recently featured in NOFA's newsletter as well. It was a pleasure to have him come visit and bring valuable advice about farming in this area as well as some delicious and nutritious horse manure!


On June 21st, 2008, Rob Freeman CC '95 who is now an organic farmer in Plainfield, Connecticut, brought a truckload of horse manure and a dryer drum to the garden.

Rob showed me his "dryer drum" method of making raised beds.  A dryer drum is a bottomless barrel salvaged from dead clothes dryers.  It is a method for doing French double digging in a 
more efficient way.  It was also partially inspired by the old Thanksgiving 
story about Squanto teaching the Mayflower Pilgrims how to grow corn, squash and beans in the mounds with the fish buried in the mound. It begins with digging a hole that approximately the diameter of the dryer drum, only about 3 to 6 inches below the ground.  Shovel the dirt into a wheelbarrow or into a pile next to the hole.  Put the dryer drum in the hole, and refill the drum with a mixture of the native soil and horse manure, or whatever soil amendments you may have.  Then stand on the filled dryer drum to pack it down, as Rob is doing here:

Then pull the dryer drum off:

At this point you have a mound.  You smooth out the mound, and you can make a water trapping "bowl" if you like:

And then you have a very nice planting mound.  Here I am planting kohlrabi seeds that Rob brought.

Rob has collected a half dozen dryer drums and he fills several at once in a line, and then rakes the mound into a raised bed.
Rob has found that using a rototiller or a tractor makes for "disturbed" soil that doesn't hold moisture as well and requires more frequent additions of soil amendments.  Soil is a living thing, and running over it with machines and "beating it into submission" reduces it's quality and sustainability.  French double digging with dryer drums is a slow process, but it only needs to be done once every few years, and after the first time you get all the garbage and roots and rocks out.  The dryer drum method is a good way to fold in amendments such as horse manure while turning the soil.  Be sure to have walking paths in between the raised beds, and to put hay or grass clippings on the beds once the plants are established.  A mulch of hay or grass clippings suppresses weed growth and holds in moisture.

If you decide that you want to grow your own food, Rob says you need about 2000 square feet per person.  He recommends fingerling potatoes, kohlrabi, heirloom winter squash, heirloom tomatoes (save the seeds!), beets, bush beans, pole beans, pickling cukes, peppers, eggplant, hazelnut bushes, grape vines, paw paw trees, Asian pear trees, gooseberry, currant, blueberry and blackberry bushes and strawberries, and onions and garlic.  The garlic can be started from bulbs, the onions work best when started from started plants.  He gets his onion plants from

Rob feels that one should get to know farmers in your area by buying stuff from them, even if it's just a dozen eggs or a bale of hay.  Also you can join the organic farming association.  Here in New England it's NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association which is at Horse farms usually want to get rid of their horse manure.  It helps to have a pickup truck or know someone who does, but if you don't, Rob recommends renting a dump truck for a weekend and make several manure runs.  Also he recommends collecting your neighbors' bagged leaves and pile them up, and put a layer of horse manure on top of them and let it sit a year.  The leaves will heat up under the manure and rot into a nice, reddish soil.  After this, you do the double digging method with the dryer drum and mix the amendments with the native soil into nice mounds and/or raised beds.

Lastly, Rob feels that growing your own food is a way to get people out from their televisions and organized for political activism that we can all agree on, whether left wing or right wing.  Few people would be in favor of genetically modified "terminator seeds" or poisoning and eroding millions of acres of Midwest topsoil or seeing people suffer obesity and diabetes from the corn syrup ingredient that is part of most food.  A good reference for all this would be a book by Michael Pollan, such as "The Botany of Desire" or "In Defense of Food," or Eric Schlosser's groundbreaking "Fast Food Nation."

So gardening and preserving food and becoming self sufficient is the way to get people in your community organized and talking, and the next step is to organize political activism.  This Stan Goff article
expresses that next step very well.

Rob hopes that you will check out these links. If you have questions about local agriculture, the dryer drum method or anything else you can get in touch with him at

Monday, June 16, 2008

Week 3 Update

Hello Sprout! Week 3 is here and a lot more is happening in the garden. After last week's rain and heat wave the pests came out. We have Colorado Potato Beetles, Cucumber Beetles, Flea Beetles, and one other pest whose name I don't know.

The flea beetles are the worst at this point. They have really been going after the eggplants (some of which, I'm sorry to say, may not make it). I'm working hard and learning how to manage them. It's organic farming so it requires more time spent picking off bugs. I've been doing a lot of companion planting, and I've also been making garlic to spray on plants popular with pests.

Since last week many of the crops have started to take off such as the potatoes, peas, melons, and radishes, and more. It's very exciting to see the garden coming alive. I have also been working on the herbs and flowers in the garden. I've planted many culinary and tea herbs as well as edible flowers and berries. All of this should help bring in many more beneficial insects to the garden.