Friday, November 16, 2012

Sprout Harvest Celebration!

In Earth House this evening, Sprout celebrated the season's harvest with a wonderful meal and a discussion about farming and spirituality with local farmer, Bob Burns. Bob runs a local farm that produces just enough food to satify local buyers and break even. Bob places a huge emphasis on the spiritual connection between humans and the earth. He stressed that the most radical thing that someone can do is to have their own garden, and grow their own food. The meal consisted of locally harvested foods and homemade dishes including soups, salads and pie! It was a night filled with good food, great people, and inspiring conversation.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sprout Gardeners Against Monsanto

On Friday September 7th, Bob Burns, ex-marine turned Buddhist organic farmer and sustainability activist, came to Connecticut College to share his knowledge with the class of Cultivating Change, an Anthropology seminar taught by Professor Cole.  He invited the class, and anyone who wanted to come, to join him for a rally against Monsanto, a company selling genetically modified seeds around the world and doing their best to cover up their trail.

On Saturday September 15th, members of the class and members of Sprout journeyed to the Monsanto headquarters in Mystic, CT to rally along side Bob and his crew of organic farmers, organic food vendors, and supporters of the fight against Monsanto.  The cry of the people was for truth.  Monsanto has been hiding the truth by not including the poisons they’re putting into our bodies on their labels.   We need to be informed about the food choices we’re making.  The group motto was: “Label today, ban tomorrow!”

There was an impressive turnout for the rally of up to 72 at its peak and about 40 steady.  The group consisted of people of all ages, including toddler organic farmers-to-be helping by coloring in the letters of signs (See photo above).   Bob pointed out that education of the next generation is what will make a difference in the future of farming.  A number of people, including Bob, spoke about the truth and what we can do to add to the fight.  According to Bob, “The most radical thing you can do is to start your own organic garden.”  Well Sprout is already on it!

An additional speaker was former congressman, Rob Simmons.  He observed that, “We label everything in this country.  We even label ourselves!  Why not label our food?  We deserve truth in advertising and the right to know what’s in our food so we can make the choice.”   He encouraged us to become “smiling pests” to government officials and the press and urged us to all write letters to the editors of local papers, then “There you go.  You’re an activist!”

After the rally, we were all invited to come back to Bob’s farm, Aiki Farms in Ledyard, CT, for a sprouting seminar, tour of the farm, a Zen tea ceremony and an organic feast.  What a gracious farmer!  After a reception in his living room, a beautiful open space with thick wooden beams and a swing in the center of the room, we headed down to the basement for a detailed demonstration of how to grow sprouts (See photo below).  We each got to bring home a sample of the pea sprouts, which are a delicious snack!

As we were thanking Bob, he expressed that he wants his connection with our Sprout Garden to be a permanent relationship.  He wants to help us in any way he can with sharing knowledge, supplies, and support.  He even said he would come double dig and plow our land!  We look forward to the growing relationship with Bob. 

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Spinach Recipes

For those of you readers who are in New England, this is the time of year to enjoy fresh spinach from your garden or your local farmer's market.  Check out these easy and delicious spinach recipes by Mark Bittman in the New York Times.
Spinach Recipes

Monday, April 02, 2012

Quick Update: Early season crops

Yesterday (Sunday April 1st) Sprout members planted our early spring cold-tolerant crops, spinach, chamomile, mixed greens and potatoes.  We used the trench method to plant potatoes.  We dug a trench 12 feet long, four feet wide, and 1.5 feet deep.  Then we planted the seed potatoes at the bottom of the trench, under two inches of loose soil.  The seed potatoes used were blue potatoes saved from last year's harvest, and white potatoes from Maine that a sprout member kindly contributed.  We piled up the soil dug out of the trench along the sides of the trench.  As the potato plants grow, we will fill in the dirt to cover the stems of the potato plants.  When the stems are underground, they will become rhizomes which produce the potatoes.  The deeper the potato plants are buried, the longer the rhizomes become, and the more potatoes they produce. 

Potatoes can be planted when the forsythia bushes flower.  This is an example of phenology applied to gardening.  Phenology is the study of the timing of biological events.  For more about phenology, check out this document

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Seaweed in the Garden

Seaweed as a mulch has many benefits to an organic garden. It has been used traditionally in nearly all coastal regions to improve the fertility of the soil, although Ireland and Scotland are especially famous for their traditional use of seaweed in agriculture. Some of the benefits include:
The salt and the sharp edges of dried seaweed repel slugs.
The seaweed also forms a barrier to prevent loss of water by evaporation from the soil, sealing the moisture into the soil.
It blocks weeds.
Seaweed supplies mineral nutrients in an easily absorbed chelated form to the plants
Low in fiber, seaweed breaks down quickly to add organic matter to the soil, loosening compacted soil

Luckily, the Sprout garden is located conveniently close to the shore, so we have access to an ample supply of this beneficial mulch. At our last workday, a group of students went to the beach to gather seaweed and brought back many bags of it to the garden. If you are not near the coast, concentrated kelp emulsions are available in most home gardening stores, so that you too can benefit from applying seaweed to your garden.

Learn more about seaweed for gardening at Eartheasy Blog.

I hope all of you located in New England have been enjoying the beautiful and unusually warm March weather. Here at the Sprout garden, we have been taking advantage of the warm weather by cleaning out our garden and preparing it for spring plantings.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Planning for 2012!

Above, a picture from the 2011 growing season of a cat basking in the summer sun in the Sprout garden.

The days are getting longer and spring is just around the corner. Sprout has begun preparations for the 2012 growing season. We cleared out the garden, which still has abundant kale, due to the hardiness of this crop and an exceptionally mild winter (for Connecticut). We turned over our compost pile and found it nicely decomposed.

At our most recent meeting we ordered seeds for the garden. We also have some seeds saved from the past growing season. We ordered the Snowdown collection from horizon herbs, a collection of crops selected for their ability to withstand the cold. Planted in late summer, the crops will continue to produce through the winter with heavy mulching and protection from a cold frame or hoop house.

Sprout is also beginning the planning and implementation of a relocation of the garden. The new area will provide us with more space, and convenient location near the new sustainability center on campus. More details to come in blog post soon!

Below is the list of crops we will grow in 2012:







Rosemary – we already have in the garden

Peppermint – we already have in the garden





Fruit vegetables:





Ground cherries

Tomatoes (for fresh eating)

Paste tomatoes for tomato sauce

Cucumbers – from saved seeds, also bought a packet


Five kinds of hot peppers

Delicata squash

Sugar pumpkins

Sugar snap peas

Green beans – from saved seeds

Hard shell gourds - from saved seeds

Green Leafy Vegetables:

Collard greens


Swiss chard

mixed salad greens







Seed Vegetables:

Soup beans – from saved seeds

Pumpkins (the kind grown for the seeds, not the flesh)

Anasazi sweet corn

Root vegetables:

Blue Potatoes


Snowdown, a collection of seeds for the fall/winter:

Beet, Touchstone Gold

Broccoli, Green Sprouting

Cabbage, Chirimen Hakusai

Carrots, Scarlet Nantes

Greens, Collard, Champion

Greans, Creasy (Winter Cress)

Kale, Vates

Leeks, Bandit

Lettuce, Winter Density

Peas, Snow (Mammoth Melting)

Radish, Daikon, Miyashige White

Spinach, Winter

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Inspiring Story

I thought that this article was very inspiring. It's about a man who observed the rain runoff patterns in the street and used harvested runoff rain water to grow a garden in the city.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Interesting Story About Sunflowers

I thought that this story about Sunflowers on NPR was very interesting. Check it out.