Monday, July 6, 2015

Charm City Farms and Clifton Park Food Forest

In November 2014, Eric Kelly of Charm City Farms, with the help of many volunteers, began to plant Baltimore's first public food forest. What's a food forest? In the words of Charm City Farms:
A Food Forest is a collection of fruit and nut trees, vines, berry shrubs, fungi, groundcovers, and herbaceous perennial plants, such as herbs, ferns, and edible greens, all growing together like the plants in a forest do. In a food forest, however, each plant has been selected for the many uses it offers to human life, whether as food, medicine, or material for building or making useful items such as baskets & dyes.
Check out their most recent blog post, "The (under) Story of the Juneberry and More Fruit Tree Care," and while you're on the website, click on the other links that explain this fascinating project and how you can help and learn from it. The above quote is from the page "Why Create a Food Forest?" which gives much more explanation of the concept. Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rain Gutter Grow System Update

Back at the beginning of the month, I posted about a new growing method that I am using. You can read it here if you missed it. I thought I would give you an update on how things are growing.

I couldn't be more pleased with this set up. I had two harvests of the biggest, most beautiful collards I have grown in the ten years I have been growing food. Here's a little video of one of my harvests:

I was really impressed that I got this harvest because we have had such extreme heat rather early in the season. The collards have now been replaced with corn and so far they are doing really well. Here are some pictures of how the garden looks now. 

The row where the orange bucket is have tomatoes and carrots. I actually had to cut back the cherry tomato plant because it was really getting crowded. Since air circulation with tomato plants is really important, and my garden space is limited, I had to sacrifice a few branches. The blue buckets used to be the collards. It will be interesting to see how the corn does now. So far it has grown quite a bit and they have only been planted for about a week or so.

Here are my tomatoes and cucumbers. You may remember that they looked like this initially:

Well, now it looks like this:

You may notice that the tomato plants are not in the middle rain gutter anymore. That's part of the beauty of this setup that I really love. The cucumbers and the tomatoes were really getting quite bushy and crowding each other. So I took the peppers and the one carrot plant that were on the right and switched them to the middle gutters and put the tomatoes to the far right. Now everyone has enough space. If the plants were in the ground, I would not have been able to do that. 

Here are some more garden pictures for you. This was my first harvest of cucumbers. I plan on making some relish with this batch and maybe a few dill pickles if I have enough left over after I make the relish. 

I finally see some red on my cherry tomatoes:

I think peppers are my most favorite thing to grow. I love catching pictures of them in their different stages of plant life. This is a Chinese Bullnose variety, which is a sweet pepper. 

These are Mexican Gherkin cucumbers. They look like tiny watermelons. I will probably pickle these as well. They are only about an inch or so long right now. I had to try one before they were ready and I have to say they taste pretty good. They taste like a cucumber with a bit of a lemony flavor added on. 

I have been regularly picking blackberries in small handfuls and they are SO delicious. 

I finally noticed one lone zucchini on my huge zucchini plant. 

My apple tree is FULL of apples despite the little brown spots all over them. I haven't been able to find out what is affecting the apples, but I still plan to eat them...I will just cut them open first to be sure I don't get a mouth full of worm! 

So, that's it for now! Everything is doing really well and I really couldn't be happier with my rain gutter grow system. Now if my tomatoes would just hurry up and grow and ripen, I would really be one happy garden gal!

See you next time....

The Brassica Bridge

I've just passed through that brief period of summer that I call the Brassica Bridge - the time when I'm still harvesting cabbage family plants from the garden and also starting new seedlings for the fall. "Bridge" is pure alliteration, of course - it would be more like a happy stroll up to the edge of a yawning abyss, if I didn't have a freezer full of greens to tide us over through some otherwise kale-less months.

Cutting down my last cabbages, kohlrabis and collards this week, and the Romanesco broccoli that utterly failed to produce heads, I felt like a hypocrite in the context of my recent post about eating parts of brassica plants we don't usually consider edible, such as the leaves of broccoli or the flower buds of kale. Really, I should have made an exception for those late-in-the-season plants that have been thoroughly colonized by cabbage worms because the row covers got loose or had to come off altogether. Most of my "edible" leaves went straight into the compost. But I did put a few more pristine cabbages in the fridge - here's just a small part of my Great Cabbage Bounty of 2015:

We've been eating a lot of coleslaw and other cabbage salads! This is one recipe I really like: Creamy Vegan Coleslaw Dressed with Avocado.

It has much less sugar in it than many other slaw recipes (you can use regular cane sugar here instead of coconut sugar, and never mind the nutritional yeast if you don't keep that around). I also experimented with a cabbage "recipe" recommended by a fellow MG, from this list of simple salad ideas by Mark Bittman. Idea #20 just says "Shred Napa cabbage and radishes. The dressing is roasted peanuts, lime juice, peanut or other oil, cilantro and fresh or dried chili, all whizzed in a blender." You kind of have to improvise from there, but I recommend a cup or so of peanuts and a handful of cilantro leaves, with a couple of tablespoons each of the liquids, and one dried or fresh chili or the equivalent to start, and then see how it tastes and keep adding things as necessary. I ended up using some peanut butter as well, because it didn't taste peanutty enough.

The other building blocks of the Brassica Bridge are trays of new seedlings, some grown for the demo garden and some for mine, and some to be sold to visitors at our Grow It Eat It Open House on August 1 (of which more later). Here are some baby brussels sprouts:

Here's a post by Kent on how to calculate when to sow seeds for fall greens. We will have MGs on hand on August 1 to explain how to plant these seedlings in your garden and keep them happy through the rest of the summer and into the fall - and then how to build low tunnels to keep them growing into the winter! Just imagine that crisp fall air - well, today is cool enough to keep imagination going, though we've got more hot weather coming up soon.

I've crossed the Brassica Bridge, but I still have lots (and lots!) of Swiss chard growing in my garden, so perhaps I'll write some about that next time.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cucurbits (Diva cucumbers, yellow squash and Zucchini Costata Romanesco)

Well, as a vegetable gardener, I know that I should be picking my cucurbits every day. Especially since they have done so well this year after being under row cover until june 7 and with all of the heat and rain. (I have one hill (two plants each) of each of the types of cucurbits listed above.)  But, I had Connor and Tyler at the pool on Friday and it rained all day yesterday, so what should I have expected.  Since I'm picking up Connor at the pool, I think I'll just dump the whole load at the pool.

So, does anybody know if there is a "National Leave the Cucurbits at the Pool Day"

Friday, June 26, 2015

Leaf spots diseases of tomato and pepper

Warm temperatures and leaves that stay wet for hours at a time are environmental factor that contribute to foliar diseases. Here are a few common diseases that can injure plants and reduce harvests. Click links for detailed information:
Early blight (Alternaria solani)-
Irregular brown lesions (often with a yellow halo) that enlarge and show a distinct bull's- eye target pattern.
 Septoria leaf spot (Septoria lycopersici)-

Small dark spots enlarge and develop tan centers with dark borders. It's a fungal disease that often co-occurs with early blight
Manage these diseases by removing badly infected lower leaves (see below), water at the base of each plant and avoid wetting foliage, apply a fixed copper fungicide if the problem is persistent and results in greatly reduced plant growth and yield.

Late blight (Phytophthora infestans)-
One of the most devastating diseases of potato and tomato. The last major outbreak in our region occurred in 2009, although isolated cases are often seen in Western MD where summer temperatures are cooler. This fungal disease is quite different in appearance from early blight and Septoria leaf spot.
Follow confirmed reports of late blight in the U.S. on the usablight website. HGIC and GIEI websites will alert gardeners immediately if we learn of reports in Maryland.
Bacterial leaf spot of peppers has been widely reported and has the potential to reduce plant growth and pepper harvests this summer. Pick off and dispose of badly infected leaves and consider applying a fixed copper liquid fungicide if the symptoms progress.