Hey Everyone! This is Eli, the new garden manager for the rest of the summer. I apologize for the blogging dry-spell, but I did not have a camera until now. The garden is coming along, and there has been plenty of sunshine in the past two weeks so everything is really taking off.
It has been a very busy two weeks for me. I tilled the areas where weeds had taken over and planted all sorts of vegetables. The area near the tree is now growing kale, mizuna, dwarf peas and pole beans. I've also planted beds of nasturtium, amaranth, purple beauty pepper, dwarf sunflower, spinach, carrot, oregano, parsley and cilantro in places that weren't producing much. My goal is to bring 80% of the garden up to cultivation, with 20% fallow (where we will plant late-season cover crops later in the summer). I've been laying "Mainely Mulch" all around the garden. It's a sterile mix of straw and hay that will suppress weeds, retain moisture and fertilize the soil. I don't think I want to keep up with the weeds manually, so this will be very helpful.
The newly planted area of the garden. Herbs in the foreground, vegetables behind.
Speaking of weeds, I've started a campaign against the weeds surrounding the garden. With the help of a machete, a hedge trimmer provided by the wonderful Arboretum staff and old carpeting, the inexorable advance of invasive japanese knotweed has been temporarily broken. Groundhogs, mexican bean beetles and japanese beetles have been the major pest problems, but hopefully I'll get some good prevention tips from New London agricultural extension agent Susan Munger in a meeting on Friday.
Improvised weed suppression.
My ultimate goal for the carpeted area is to plant some native shrubs and groundcovers to keep the knotweed out. I've also been talking to a few student sculptors at Conn about some outdoor sculptures in this area, which could happen at any time. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in this project.
I've also planted four berry bushes and two fruit trees; blueberry, blackberry, two raspberry, a semi-dwarf granny smith apple and a semi-dwarf peach (semi-dwarf means that a dwarf tree was grafted onto a non-dwarf stem, therefore making a hybrid that will grow to about six feet). Hopefully these plants will attract insect-eating birds and provide delicious fruit.
(Left to right: Raspberry, Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackberry)
Aside from work in the garden, I have been working with local groups that share Sprout!'s goals of providing local, organic and healthy foods to New Londoners. I have been volunteering at Fiddleheads Food Cooperative in New London, working with FRESH New London on their one-acre farm in Waterford and attending New London Farm 2 City Initiative meetings to represent Connecticut College as a stakeholder in the New London food system. These organizations are all doing great work in New London. Stay tuned for more updates!