Monday, June 19, 2017

Garden Success!

When time is spent in a garden week after week, the subtle progression of the different plants you interact with become readily apparent. As I have strolled through the Learning Garden over the last month and a half or so, I have slowly taken notice of the progression of the crops that were planted before I took over, and watched as the plants that I have planted have come in behind them. As some of these plants come to an end of their productive lifespans, and while still others slowly crescendo towards ripeness, I have to say that it has been a beautiful ride.

I'm sad to see the broccoli and cauliflower go to flower so quickly, but I'm excited for the blueberries and raspberries, which are right around the corner! I'm also kind of bummed about the tomato plants that don't seem to be growing fast enough, but their neighboring zucchini and cucumbers are growing almost well enough to compensate!

Gardening is as much about empowerment as it is about accepting your powerlessness. You can give birth to thousands of living plants and feel the power involved in working with nature symbiotically, but nature gives, and nature takes away. When a plant reaches the end of its life and gets composted to be turned back into compost, it is important to remember that those nutrients will get back in the soil eventually, and the space where that plant was before can now be home to a new plant. Nature gives and takes, but if you keep planting seeds as old crops stop producing, nature just keeps on giving.

For this weekly update I thought I would provide some pictures of the more successful crops that are planted in the Learning Garden and look at some of the lessons that can be taken from each crop's success.

The blueberries beckon

Almost all of the blueberry bushes in the garden are heavy with fruit! There is one bush that looks as though it has been nibbled on, but all the others have thick clusters of fruit that is getting fatter and fatter as the weeks go by. I keep hoping it will be next week, but it will more realistically be another two weeks before these berries are nice and sweet and a deep blue. The secret to their success? The potting must have been decent for them to do this well in pots, but I think that periodic mulching and frequently watering was a big part of the secret. Since these are hooked up to the drip irrigation system, they get enough water to fatten up those fruits. Many people have blueberry bushes that are not frequently watered, and while some are in moist enough soil to still produce berries, some just produce leaves and slowly wither away. Mulching the bushes also help to promote soil health and moisture retention, and with the fresh straw that I put on them today they should be happy through harvest.

The raspberries redden

These raspberries are also bulging with fruits, but the story of their success is not the same as the blueberries. These raspberries are so successful because they have established a deep root system and are very hearty plants. These bushes are not hooked up to the irrigation system, and as a result only get watered when it rains, or when I soak them with a hose once a week. They do show some signs of disease pressures, they also have been nibbled on by deer, as evidenced by some of the chomped off stems that are on the tips of plants. Luckily, there are plenty of berries on the way.
Zucchini blossoms are a sign of the times
The zucchini plants in the foreground, teeny tiny tomatoes in the middle, cucumbers in the back, and leeks on the right

Even though there are technically two more days until summer, I usually judge summer as having started when the zucchini blossoms start showing themselves. Normally, there would be tomato blossoms already to accompany them, but these tomatoes were planted late and got root bound in their pots and, evidently, a little stressed out. Hopefully they will catch up, but the zucchini and cucumbers are certainly doing their best to make up for their neighbor's under performance. The zucchinis are already forming behind the flowers, and I spotted a handful of one inch long cucumbers today that are starting to bulk up.

The grape vine slowly creeps upward
The grape vine growing here was procured by the previous garden manager, and I planted it without knowing too much about grapes. I did know that they like rocky soil, however, and sure enough, it seems to be growing well! I have started to coax it to climb up and around the post of the outdoor classroom structure. The dream is to one day have this grape vine grow up over a section of the roof, and have bunches of grapes hang down into the structure. Within a couple years it will likely be up to the roof, and in a couple more the roof should be covered in the vines, which hopefully then become laden with fruit! With the plant of such a small size this year, I'm not sure if it will produce any sizeable grapes, but I did see a small bunch starting to form, and will be keeping an eye on it in the coming weeks to see what happens.

Straight(ish) rows of scallions, also known as green onions
Though not the most aesthetically pleasing crop, these scallions are looking good to me. they were replanted about a month ago now and are getting to be a decent size. Almost all of them are healthy, and there is a decent amount of them! Since these scallions are smaller than most onions, they are more tender and mild, and are great raw on top of a salad, as a topping for cheese and crackers, or as something to blend into a cream cheese or salsa dip. With just a little bit of bite and a lot of flavor, I am looking forward to trying some of these scallions in a couple weeks.

Looking forward to the future, the Learning Garden is looking good. Plants are growing, vegetables are forming, and people are passing through occasionally to take notice. Today a Bon Appetit employee stopped by to tell me that the garden looked good, and he talked to me briefly about the garden he has at his house before wishing me a good day and going back to work. I hope to invite a few groups of students to participate in garden activities in the coming weeks as the lessons to be learned from a garden are often more potent and accessible when things are juicy and delicious.

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