This Week in the Family Garden: Lenape Life

A blush in the leaves, a crunch underfoot, and as good a reason as any to pluck your wool fashions out of the closet: fall is here with cool weather in tow! And while the savvy of our horticulturists means we have an exceedingly long growing window in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden, it’s time for the harvest to end and our green geniuses to make their way into planning for the future. In the meantime, we’re bidding a cheerful adieu to our one-acre vegetable garden as the area’s native tribes did before us, with knowledgeable preparation that almost anyone can take part in.

Even with temperatures dropping, the fun is only just getting into its swing. Our latest program goes by “Goodnight Garden,” and through October 28 it offers an opportunity to see off the last of our garden edibles with activities to suit autumn’s colorful changes. For that, we look to the Lenape people who once lived in this area year round. We’ll be hosting tried and true seed saving activities to help you prepare for the next planting, as well as cooking demonstrations to send off your late season harvest with a bang.

For now, I’ll let Assistant Manager Annie Novak do the explaining.

Goodnight Garden runs from now through October 28 in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden, which is open to visitors from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. daily.

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Article source: http://www.nybg.org/plant-talk/2012/10/garden-programming/this-week-in-the-family-garden-lenape-life/

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This Week in the Family Garden: Grillin’ Summer Fruits

This week in the Ruth Rea Howell Garden, Assistant Manager Annie Novak and her team of gardeners fire up the kitchen for some hearty recipes that celebrate the last of the summer harvest. “Grillin’ Summer Fruits,” as we like to call it, is set to take over our one-acre vegetable garden on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday of this week, at both 2 and 4 p.m. each afternoon. But while the name may suggest otherwise, we’re not talking about peaches and watermelons here!

Each demonstration focuses not on the sweeter fruits, but on the savory ones–those like tomatoes, which are so often mistaken for vegetables. And also making an appearance among the veggie-leaning fruits, a couple that you might not be aware of: zucchini and eggplant. Despite public opinion, these aren’t actually vegetables because their seeds are on the inside! So don’t let your warm-season produce languish in the crisper drawer when you could be throwing a cook-out instead. If there’s one way to celebrate what remains of this picturesque weather, it’s with food.

We’re also moving into the final week of Pollinator Pals in the Family Garden, so be sure to spend some time exploring the inner workings of the apiary–not to mention tasting different kinds of natural honey–through October 5. Our vegetable garden also sports two hard-working beehives of its own, meaning our Family Garden horticulturists are more than capable of answering any beekeeping questions you might have. There’s more still to come before the snow falls, so keep an eye on Plant Talk!

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on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 at 2:16 pm and is filed under Programs and Events.
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Article source: http://www.nybg.org/plant-talk/2012/09/garden-programming/this-week-in-the-family-garden-grillin-summer-fruits/

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Follow Your Nose: One Last Weekend of Sweet and Stinky!

Skip your morning affair with the everything bagel and get to the root of summer’s freshest garlic and onions! As Assistant Manager of the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden, Annie Novak’s got a direct line to the most basic of foodie cravings–a knack for not only raising all things allium, but putting them through their paces in the kitchen. So if you happen to catch a whiff of this pungent pair as you wander the NYBG between now and the end of the month, simply “follow your nose” to our Sweet and Stinky events.

That’s just what we were doing when we found Annie hard at work in the Family Garden yesterday, tending to the herbs and alliums that star in this flavorful summertime activity. But she can explain the fun of Sweet and Stinky far better than I can, as you’ll see below. Just think of it as a double whammy: you’ll have something to engage your kids while they’re out of school, and they’ll be trying new things in our one-acre vegetable garden to boot.

Sweet and Stinky runs from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. between now and July 27, meaning this will be the last official weekend of the event. Cooking demonstrations in the Family Garden will also be offered at 2 and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Be sure to dress the part when you pay Annie a visit, as all of our scavenger hunts and hands-on green thumb activities will be outdoors. That means light clothing, comfortable shoes, plenty of water, and sunscreen!

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on Thursday, July 19th, 2012 at 1:25 pm and is filed under Around the Garden, Programs and Events, Video.
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Article source: http://www.nybg.org/plant-talk/2012/07/garden-programming/follow-your-nose-one-last-weekend-of-sweet-and-stinky/

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Greenland Gardener Raised Beds

I’ve always been a big fan of raised bed gardening. There are significant advantages to gardening in raised beds which is why when Greenland Gardener offered to send me one of their raised bed kits to test out I said “yes please!” My vegetable garden is almost completely made of raised beds built from non-pressure treated lumber which only lasts about 2 seasons before it completely disintegrates. Are there better ways of building a raised bed? Let’s see how the Greenland Gardener raised bed kit stacks up.

First you should know that I have not tested the raised bed for growing anything yet. It’s really too early to plant it according to their kit (which offers up a neat planting plan for a salsa garden and another regular garden) but I can tell you about the installation and compare that to building my own raised beds. First the Greenland gardener raised beds are made from composite lumber which will last decades. That’s an obvious advantage to the home built ones in my backyard. The composite lumber is made from recycled plastic bags which is another plus for it’s environmentally friendly origins.

The kit I tested came with 7 – 42″ boards and 6 joint pieces. Each joint piece was routed to fit together with the routed ends of the composite lumber. The idea is to make these beds as easy as possible for the consumer to put together – that’s another plus. Anything to encourage a new gardener and help them be successful is good to me! But this is also where the kit had some issues. When putting the pieces together I found that some of the routers grooves were routed backwards. The lumber can only fit together in one way and it just didn’t fit together smoothly. It required several different adjustments by moving the boards from location to location. At one point I had to get out the old hammer to “gently convince” the boards that they really do fit that way.”Yes boards, I insist” I said.

Also a level surface is a must since some of the routered joints fit loosely and others very tightly – if the surface is level it’s not an issue.

The instructions for putting the beds together are so simple that I’m confident that anyone could easily assemble them. No tools or cutting is needed to put together the raised beds so even those with deficient carpentry skills can build these raised beds.

My Junior Gardener Assistant!

Overall I think the concept is great. Greenland Gardener designed a raised bed that will last, is easy to assemble, and should function perfectly well. My only misgiving with the product is the corners and the misrouted grooves. It’s possible that the beds I received with the rough joints were an anomaly. I really like the seed planting concept that Greenland gardener kit has, but I’ll save that post for later – when the weather is safe for planting!

Originally written by Dave @ The Home Garden
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Ten Cans of Gardening

Every now and then it’s fun to go back and look up the statistics from The Home Garden to see what people are looking for and eventually wind up here. Sometimes the search terms are funny but hopefully the results lead the searcher to great info. So here are ten search terms that showed up that all began with the word: Can. And my responses!

  1. Can I divide a heavenly bamboo? Yes you can! I’m trying not to sound like Bob the Builder here but heavenly bamboo spreads very easily by rhizomes just under the surface of the soil. By digging up the area around the sprout in question you can find the root system and snip it off to make more plants. It’s an easy way to propagate Nandina domestica. This probably won’t work as well for the new cultivars of Nandina since they seem to be much more tame the the old fashioned Heavenly Bamboo.  
  2. Can I divide my variegated liriope? Again, yes you can! Liriope dived very easily like daylilies. Just dig up the clump, wash off the roots so you can clearly see the root system, then gently pull them apart. More often than not I skip the clean off the roots part.
  3. Can I paint a raised vegetable garden bed? Maybe. If the paint is low VOC and you stick to the outside areas. Many paints contain toxic chemicals that could leach into the soil. It’s better to be safe than sorry and find a food safe preservative to coat the wood or got with a naturally rot resistant wood like cedar or redwood. Butcher block preservatives should work fine. 
  4. Can you grow ‘Homestead Purple’ verbena from a clipping and will it take root? Most definitely! I propagate ‘Homestead Purple’ verbena every year because you never know how well it will come back after a cold winter. It’s a good idea to make copies of your plants in various garden microclimates to insure you don’t have to repurchase the plant. Verbena will root easily with internodal or nodal stem cuttings. Rooting hormone isn’t necessary but will speed up the process!

  5. Can I plant a Bradford pear tree in Illinois? Yes, but why would you want to? Pick an alternative like the Service berry if it works in your zone or find a better behaved pear try like the Cleveland. Avoid the Bradford!
  6. Can I plant my dappled willow in March? Yes! Err… maybe it depends where you are. Here in Tennessee is a yes but in other places you may not be able to dig in the frozen ground. In most cases your dappled willow will be fine if planted in March.
  7. Can I prune my crepe myrtle in spring? Yes! Prune your crape myrtle now so that you don’t cut off the new blooms when they form. Crape myrtles haven’t emerged from dormancy yet (at least here) and typically do so later than other trees. They bloom on new wood so if you prune now you’ll be sure to have blooms this summer. Just don’t perform crape murder!
  8. Can I put arborvitaes in a pot? Yes but you’ll need to move them one day. Pick a large enough pot that the arborvitae will have plenty of room for roots. Also be sure to keep it well watered as pots dry out fast. And do remember to put holes in the pot!
  9. Can I start shallot seeds inside? Yes I started shallots from seed and need to start the hardening off process outdoors this week.
  10. Can Japanese willows root in water? Definitely! It’s easy and fun to watch the roots grow. You can skip this step by rooting them directly in soil and keeping them watered. They are beautiful plants and it’s easy to make more willows!

I hope you enjoyed these ten cans. Now I just need to find and open a can of worms – for the vegetable garden beds of course!

Originally written by Dave @ The Home Garden
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A Little Green for St. Patrick’s Day!

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day and tradition dictates that we do all things green and as Irish as possible here are a few things green from my garden!

We have green in the vegetable garden in the form of sugar snap peas, spinach, and lettuce! Other things haven’t come up yet for a visit like the asparagus (which I just planted) and the potatoes. Time and the warm weather coming will give our plantings a growth spurt.

I’ve mulched lightly around the sugar snap peas with grass clippings for an organic fertilizer (approximate NPK: 4-1-2) and for increased water retention in the soil. 

Little ‘Tom Thumb’ lettuce is coming up! When it’s time to harvest the lettuce these little lettuces will be somewhere between 3-4 inches in diameter. It’s a cute little lettuce that kids should love. If you need ideas for a vegetable that will encourage your kids to garden ‘Tom Thumb’ is a good choice. They can sprinkle it (scatter sow) and watch it grow!

Here comes the spinach! It’s growing it’s first new sets of leaves since the cotyledons (that’s a fancy name for the first leaves the seed sprouts to collect energy).

More lettuce seedlings are coming along. These should be one of my favorite lettuces Rouge D’Hiver. It’s a red romaine lettuce with a delicious taste. I know, we said today is for green right? Well the seedlings are green – for now!

How about some extremely green grass! How does this happen so easily and without fertilizers? Through good mowing practices, overseeding in the fall, and allowing the grass clippings to break down where they land. In the fall I overseeded with fescue and rye. The rye grass is an annual and will die off in the heat of summer and supply the soil with more nutrients! Of course it also makes holes in the soil where its root system burrow which has an aeration effect the soil over time. The aeration makes the soil easier for the fescue to grow roots which should enable it to get more water from deeper in the soil! Exciting? Well, I think so!

 

Maybe watching the green grass grow isn’t your thing but you have to admit watching things green up and come alive is pretty cool.

And why not take a look at some green in the blue garden shed? We’ll start with one of my favorite viburnums a ‘Mohawk’ Burkwood (Viburnum x burkwoodii). It’s a fragrant viburnum that is fairly easy to propagate in the late spring and early summer from greenwood cuttings. It’s actually a hybrid of the Korean Spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) and Viburnum utile.  I have two in my garden shed that I propagated last year and they are looking fantastic! Follow the link for a picture of our Burkwood Viburnum from last April which I’m hoping will be much more showy this year!

And or some variegated greenery here are some variegated dogwoods! These came from my Tatarian dogwood ‘Elegantissima’ (Cornus alba). Shrub dogwoods are extremely easy to propagate in the fall. Just take hardwood cuttings from the red stems and stick them in soil in a pot! It just couldn’t be much easier.

So there’s a bit O’ green from St. Patrick’s day! Now no pinching – I’m wearing green!

Originally written by Dave @ The Home Garden
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Seeds for My Vegetable Garden

When selecting seeds for the vegetable garden it always pays to be early – in this case I was not. Several of the selections I had planned on making were in fact sold out when I finally got around to ordering from Baker Creek. The early bird gets the worm is the old saying but maybe it should be the early gardener gets the seed! In any case procrastination when it comes to gardening and purchase inevitably will lead to disappointment in some way. With that being said I was still able to make some great choices for this gardening season. I’ll list them below!


2011 Vegetable Garden Seed Selections!

Tigger Melon – An orange and yellow striped melon that is said to be very sweet and has small serving sized fruit up to 1 lb. This was my second choice but still a good one!
Brandywine Tomato – One of the most delicious tomatoes EVER!  We” that’s just my opinion but you know I’m right! ;)
Cherokee Purple Tomato – One of the most delicious tomatoes EVER!  I think I may have said that about another selection… it’s true for this one too though!
Sweet Dumpling Winter Squash – My wife picked this one out. I’m eager to see how winter squash will work out in our garden.
Stevia - I like my tea sweet and this potential sugar substitute might make a nice addition to the herb garden.
Red Zebra Tomato – If you like striped tomatoes this one has them! We orginally selected the Green Zebra but they were sold out.
Orange Icicle Tomato – It’s orange, it’s shaped like an icicle, it’s … Orange Icicle! 
Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Bean – This pole bean is said to have been carried by the Cherokee Indians along the Trail of Tears from Tennessee. I like a vegetable with an interesting story, don’t you?
Saint-Esprit à Oeil Rouge Bush Bean - Such a fancy name for a bean!
Purple Hull Pinkeye Cowpea  – My wife lose Purple Hull peas, I wonder how she will like shelling them?
Six-Week Purple Hull Cowpea 
Rotonda Bianca Sfumata Eggplant - This round eggplant will hopefully turn into a nice eggplant Parmigiana at some point! 
Golden California Wonder - I wanted an Orange Sweet Pepper but I missed the jackpot again – I’ve learned my lesson this year!

I have other seeds coming in that I’ll tell you about later, what selections are you trying in the garden this year?

Originally written by Dave @ The Home Garden
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Sowing in the Garden (Seed Sowing Saturday)

This week I actually found myself outdoors sowing seeds directly into the soil of my garden. Thanks to wonderful Tennessee weather, where you can count on a few days of warm even in February, we’re able to plant a few cool season crops this month.

So far in the vegetable garden I’ve planted:

  • Lettuce – two varieties Little Gem, and Tom Thumb
  • Spinach – a hybrid
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Garlic (done in the fall)
  • Cilantro (self-sows regularly in the fall)

I planted the lettuce and spinach into my circular raised bed that just recently was put together. I arranged three sticks to divide the area into six sections. Four of the sections are planted and soon I’ll fill the last two with my red lettuce. If we get some really cold weather these plants may need some covering.

I’m planting the sugar snap peas everywhere I can this year. They are delicious right out of the garden and we never seem to have enough. They rarely even make it into the house! Once they have stopped producing we’ll let the foliage die back and nourish the soil with the nitrogen it fixed while growing. Legumes are a great resource! About that time I’ll be able to plant my tomatoes in the garden in and around the fast fading peas.

To plant them I just dig a trench with a trowel about 1.5 – 2 inches deep, place my seeds, cover, and water! Now if only the deer will stay away…

How are your seeds coming?

To join in on Seed Sowing Saturday just link back to this post and tell us about your seed sowing experiences over the past week. Be sure to leave a link below so we can come over and visit your post! Oh, and a Tweet or a Facebook mention/like is always a good thing!

Visit these Seed Starters!

Originally written by Dave @ The Home Garden
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Food Production Systems DVD Video (Review)

Recently I received an email asking me to review a video all about backyard food production systems. I was curious so I said sure. I grow a large vegetable garden in the backyard every year and if there were ideas inside this DVD that I could use and incorporate into my garden it might be worthwhile for others who read this blog to learn more about as well.

The video is simply titled Food Production Systems for a Backyard or Small Farm and is about 110 minutes long. Through the video Marjory explains why her family set out to become as self-sustainable as possible and how they’ve sought to accomplish it.  She tells in the video right from the start that what they have tried to do A) isn’t easy and B) they’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. Because they have experienced it you can learn from the mistakes they have made.

So what has her family done exactly? They’ve installed a significant rain collection system for their water uses, learned about food crops and management, composting, protecting livestock from predators, raised chickens and rabbits as well as a whole array of other subject areas. They have put together some ingenious methods of sustainability like with their rabbit composting system. They raise rabbits as a food supply but also receive the added benefit of their composted manure. Rabbit cages are suspended over hay which eventually becomes compost for the garden. The method she uses for fertilizing her fruit trees is pretty clever too. She puts out water troughs for geese to come bath in underneath the trees. Every now and then she dumps out the messy water underneath the trees which of course is full of geese manure.

The video has many ideas that could be incorporated into a backyard garden even if complete sustainability isn’t your goal. It also comes with a resource disc with PDF files that cover subjects like aquaponics, seed saving, home composting and several others. I do have to caution you though that this video isn’t for everyone. Their goal is to become self-sustainable which means that the animals they raise aren’t necessarily pets and they explain and demonstrate the whole process which may be a little tough for younger folks and those who might be a little squeamish.

Overall I found the video very interesting. We’re frugal and I like the thought of becoming more sustainable through our backyard food production and now I know what to do with those annoying rabbits that continually eat my plants…

…make compost!

Originally written by Dave @ The Home Garden
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That Really Is Lettuce Among Those Weeds!

Yep, the title says it all. I really have lettuce growing among the weeds in one of my garden beds. I planted it in the fall and despite a few nights of subzero temperatures and several cumulative inches of snow over the course of winter it’s still there! The lettuce is small, barely even 3 inches wide but it’s there! It’s the reddish purple leaves you see hiding among the chickweed and henbit.  I’ll bet you want to know what lettuce can withstand that kind of cold and snow here in Tennessee?

I won’t keep it a secret. It’s an heirloom lettuce called Rouge D’Hiver that I bought from Baker Creek.  Rouge D’Hiver heirloom lettuce seems to be extremely cold tolerant. I suspect if I had gotten around to putting a cold frame over this bed I would have been munching on backyard garden lettuce all winter.  Once the warmer weather hits and the lettuce starts to grow I’ll have some early harvests from the vegetable garden!

Originally written by Dave @ The Home Garden
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