Monday, July 20, 2009

Week 8 Update: 7/20/09

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 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.

Frost Peach

Granny Smith Apple

(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!


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Fourth of July Update

The plants really appreciated that there was finally some sun this week, although of course it still rained a lot!
There are so many flowering squash plants. And, some baby zucchini, as well. The corn and tomato plants have really grown since last week; the sun did them a lot of good. The pepper plants also seem to have finally started growing, although they are still pretty small. Some more beets, chard, and arugula have sprouted as well.

Beets, Scallions, and a a flowering nasturtium

The peas and beans are still struggling after having been mostly eaten by a woodchuck which chewed through the fence. I've put up some metal fencing along the areas where it chewed through the most until we we can buy fencing to go around the whole perimeter.

Squash beetles and cucumber beetles are still the biggest problems in terms of bugs in the garden. However, they haven't done any really serious damage, and I have gotten many of their eggs as well.
I have seen the bees buzzing all around the garden, pollinating all of the squash flowers that are now blooming. I also have spotted many butterflies.

We are going to start getting coffee grounds from Catering, which will be great for composting and the soil.
The rainwater collection on 360 is on a temporary hold because I could not find one place that sells rain barrels in the New London area. Instead, Kristiane is going to look for two barrels up where she is and bring them down next time she visits.


And after today, Eli will be taking over for me. I''ve really enjoyed all the time I've worked in the garden, and happy Fourth of July!