Monday, August 03, 2009

Weeks 9 & 10 Update

Week 9

Week 10
(note the new compost area left of door, and new sign on door)

Hello All!

The harvest has been picking up these past few weeks. Snap peas, beets, pumpkins, bush beans, lettuce, arugula, dill, mint, nasturtium and various other veggies have been delivered to the dining hall. Tomatoes, potatoes and carrots are about ready to be picked. The straw mulch I laid a few weeks ago has been helping with the weeds, but many weeds are able to grow through it, especially the japanese knotweed. I talked to Jim Luce, Conn's Grounds Supervisor, and he proposed a weed-suppressing black plastic instead of the mulch. It is something to consider for next year, and after constant weeding I am willing to try anything. 

Another great haul!

Jim and I have also been discussing plans for a hoop house (instead of the greenhouse idea) as a place for Sprout! to start its plants and grow cold-weather crops throughout the year. This is a structure that looks like a cylinder sliced down the middle, with a row of PVC hoops covered by a plastic sheet. A 20'x50' house (adding 1,000 sq. feet to the garden!) would give us plenty of space to begin all of our crops, which would make the entire process of starting and transplanting crops more organized. In the past, we used the Arboretum's greenhouse, but space is limited there and things get complicated. I feel like a hoop house is a lower-cost option that can be conveniently placed directly west of the garden, with a slight hill as a NW wind buffer. Stay tuned for what happens next!

Unfortunately the groundhog problem has not been resolved, and he has eaten most of my beans. Here is a before and after shot of what they've up to:



As you can see, groundhogs prefer the tender young leaves at the top of the plant. I've been looking into an electric fencing system in addition to other methods to keep them out...

Hogs are shy and avoid humans, so hopefully a scarecrow will do the trick.

Insects continue to be a problem as well. I've noticed some defoliation on cucurbits due to japanese beetles and mexican bean beetles. I've noticed more and more japanese beetles, and less mexican bean beetles. Stinkbugs, striped cucumber beetles and root-boring insects (of which I have yet to identify) are also making an impact. Many turnips had been damaged beyond repair by these boring insects. They look like centipedes, are about an inch in length and are dark brown. I see them all over and they took out many turnips (which are all harvested by now).

Aside from basic garden management, I've made a sign for the garden's door, constructed a compost bin in front of the garden that will hopefully fill up a bit more and cleared the "pumpkin patch" as I've been calling it. This was an area overgrown with pumpkin plants that had started overcrowding everything else. College Relations also contacted me last week to make a short video about the garden for the college's website. I will try to post the video on the blog when it is available (or I'll post a link at least). 

The cleared "pumpkin patch" and the resulting harvest.

I've also been getting off campus a bit. I visited local farmer and author Peg Moran at her spread in Stonington, CT to see what she's doing. She cultivates only a 1/3 acre (a bit larger than our garden) yet operates a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with ten clients. She's writing a book titled One Acre Plus, describing her experience as a small farmer and how she does it. I don't want to say much more about it because I don't have any more details, but she's a fascinating person and hopefully Sprout! will maintain the connection. She spoke at an event this spring in Coffee Grounds.

I'm still working with New London Farm 2 City Coalition and FRESH New London, and I'll update you with any developments. That's it for now.