Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Midsummer heat...

I can't believe how fast this past month has flown... It's almost the end of July, and our first season of the CSA is coming to an end in another week. I feel like we had a fairly successful season, with more variety than I've been able to provide in previous years. It takes a while to figure it all out, you know, and there is always room for improvement. And of course, there is the weather to be taken into account...
Salad greens were short lived this spring, while carrots and beets grew beautifully.
RIght now it's the time for cucumbers - I like to trellis them up on like that:
The sunflowers, planted by first graders, have grown so tall! 
Harvested some gigantic one-clove garlic this year! I wish I could dedicate a big plot to garlic only - it's so rewarding to pull them out in June - and use them all year round!
I managed to make a few jars of pickles with some leftover cukes and garlic from the CSA. Dill seed came from the garden as well.
Potatoes did quite well this year - and hoping for even better crop next year, when the soil is better prepared. In my experience it takes about 3-4 years to get a garden established and the soil worked to a good consistency. For instance - we're having a lot of pesky blossom end rot on the tomatoes this year, because they are in the new garden, and we didn't add any lime (which needs to go in the ground months before planting). So now I've had to attempt to fix this problem with watering with epsom salt- and Tums  solution, and will be also watering with compost tea later today. The tomatoes always seem to get a second wind here in September, and I'm hoping the plants will be recovered by then, and reward us with some beautiful fruit.
But here are the pretty Red Pontiac potatoes.
The grape vine is full of fruit! It's trellis has been knocked over a few times unfortunately, and I've lost some fruit due to that. But maybe next week there will be a bit in your last shares...
And here are a few of the Gladiolas that miraculously came back this year! I thought surely I had lost them all last year, when they seemed to just rot off the bulb when we had a kind of a wet spell... I do need to do a better job at staking them up next year.

With these pretty blooms I bid you all farewell - I'm taking my family to the other side of the world for a month to visit my folks and friends and get away from the NC heat! See you back in September!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Popping in...

I need to begin with apology - we had to cancel the Wild Edibles workshop last weekend, due to the lack of people signing up.
I have consulted with Alan Muskat, and our new dates for the 
Wild Edibles and Mushrooms workshop is SEPTEMBER 24. 
More detailed information coming soon!

Otherwise - things are going well in the garden! Lots of blooms.
This is one of my favorite combinations - Russian Sage with day-lilies.
Beets have grown really well this year! I have planted seeds about every 3 weeks this spring, and we have harvested plenty of beets for the CSA! Here is the last planting of Cylindra variety of beet which I am really digging this year! Pun totally intended.
I ran out of space in the veggie beds, so those beets are growing in one of the flower beds instead!
Butterfly weed, started last year from seed - is doing well!
White coneflower, also started from seed last year. It's cousin purple Coneflower is about 3 times as tall, and blooming like crazy this year!

I picked the first potatoes for the CSA and Farmer's Markets last week! They were so tender and fresh!
However, there were still a lot of tiny spuds on the roots, so I decided to give the rest of them a few more weeks.
Below is a picture of how we like to tie up tomatoes. This trellis system goes up fairly easily, and once the plants get heavier, it's also fairly sturdy. The occasional heavy storm winds do blow these tripods down occasionally, but no system is perfect. My Finnish friend Anna helped me with this project. She also took a bunch of suckers to root, and plant in a few weeks - it's a great way to start new tomato plants  in the middle of the growing season.
Eggplants are under the row - cover, hiding from flea beetles.
I now need to plant some okra, winter squash and melons on any land that got freed up from potatoes.

Remember to come to the Farmer's Markets at Troy and Star, and put your money where your mouth is!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Forage For Wild Edibles & Mushrooms

July 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
With Alan Muskat, The Mushroom Man Muskat_Alan.jpg
Join Asheville's epicure of the 
obscure, Alan Muskat, on a quest for 
the edible and incredible wild 

Alan really knows 
how to pick ‘em. Since 
1995, he’s sold hundreds of 
punds of wild mushrooms a 
year to restaurants & hotels 
including The Biltmore 
Estate & The Grove Park 

Author of Wild Mushrooms: 
A Taste of Enchantment, this 
stand-up comedian has 
popped up in The New 
Yorker and in Country 
Living. He even appeared 
on the Travel Channel’s 
Bizarre Foods with celebrity 
epicure Andrew Zimmern.  

During the workshop we will sample “exotic” local wild fruit, ants 
and other extreme cuisine.  Learn how to safely find, identify, 
appreciate — maybe even eat — these 
elusive delights! 

Workshop will be held at  
Tom Gray’s Pottery  
1480 Fork Creek Mill in Seagrove 
Fee: $45  
Includes 40 pg 

Deadline for 
is June 15 
To Register, call Anne Pärtna at (910) 428-9001  

Or visit STARworks at 
100 Russell Drive in Star 
Space is Limited. Register Early! 

For more information visit 

Summer heat is here.

Just a quick update on what's up in the garden. As you see the rose bush has been putting out some beautiful blooms!

We had another Star Elementary School first grade class in the garden a few weeks ago.
They had a lot of fun painting pictures of what they saw and experienced in the garden - we tasted strawberries and peas for instance:)
 I put their stories and pictures together into a book and delivered it to their classroom last week. The same kids came to the garden in April and planted sunflower seeds, and this time they got to see how much their plants had grown. Those flowers have again doubled since...
 The "other" STARworks Garden complex is looking pretty good too. Potatoes are in bloom and I expect to start pulling some taters out in mid June, to add to the CSA shares. I have also planted nearly 60 tomato plants there - all of which need pruning and cages by now!!!
 The pear tree by the greenhouse is loaded with fruit and the branches really need support... I hope to get to it this week. There may be enough pears for every CSA share to get one to taste...
 And since I have already mentioned CSA - here's some of what goes out with the shares this week:
I pulled the first red onions and garlic, there are greens (not pictured) and carrots and some beets and beet greens. Quite a variety of herbs also: dill, parsley, sage, oregano, green onion, thyme, cat mint, rosemary.
 And last but not least - the lily bulbs I planted last year came back strong and are in full bloom now! That deep red is gorgeous!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring is in full bloom!

Today was the first day or STARworks Garden CSA first session which runs from the beginning of May through the end of July.
Asian greens, lettuce, kale and cool weather herbs are available for a few weeks. Hopefully soon we can pull the first beets - they are looking great right now.

The week before last (last week was a SPring Break for Montgomery county kids) we had 2 first grade classes from Star Elementary in the garden, planting seeds, and painting labels to take home for their own little garden patches.

Everybody had a good time, and will be back this week, to draw, paint and write a story about plants and bugs and growing good things!
Below is a picture of a bed that 3'rd graders planted 3 years ago - the poppies they planted have settled in well, and come back every year!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What's new?

I think all of my posts should be titled "Catching Up"... So much happens, so little time to blog!!!
Let's see... We planted potatoes last Friday morning:) Gloria and Anna came out to help me. Keep your fingers crossed that they will grow and sometime in midsummer we will harvest a ton of potatoes!!!
Here's a tater in it's hole:) I had bought seed of Red Pontiac, and Irish Cobbler from Weston's Feed and Seed , cut them up in halves or quarters and let them dry for almost a week before planting. As a daughter of a potato farmer (among other things my dad grew) it has taken me a while to learn to grow potatoes this way... We always saved our own seed (just the right size, smallish blemish free potatoes), they never got cut up, and the fields were prepared with a tractor. It usually took us a few days to plant the taters. Here, in NC, I learned that to stretch the $ you can buy the seed, and cut the potatoes, to double or maybe even triple the amount of seed you have. And instead of planting in hilled rows, you can dig a hole, and throughout the growing season add more soil around the plant. Actually, last summer I neglected to hill at all, and still harvested a nice size crop.

Another fun thing I tried this year, was to grow oyster mushrooms in a toilet paper roll... During one of our mushroom workshops I grabbed a roll of toilet paper, and filled it with spawn, wet it and wrapped it in plastic. You're supposed to sterilize the roll first, and take out center, so all you have is soft tissue. Well. I did neither of those things.
After about 3 weeks the toilet paper roll started looking funky inside the plastic - shriveled up a bit, and got covered with white mycelium. I was antsy and put it in the fridge for 2 days, then took it out and uncovered, and waited... nothing happened. Well, except that the mycelium kept growing and eating up the cellulose in the toilet paper roll. I watered it... waited... then put it in the fridge again...
took it out... waited, still nothing.
So finally about 4 days ago I decided that it was too dry. I placed it on a plate and poured some water on the plate. It was thirsty! I had to fill it back up a few times.
And what do you know! The next day I saw a tiny, almost unnoticeable gray spot in the center - like a cluster of pin cushion needles... SO EXCITING! I'm telling you - it's like having a pet! Sometimes I just stand there for a few minutes looking at this miracle - and I swear I can see them grow in front of my eyes!
Here's the evidence:
Aren't they just perfect? There is 19 or 20 individual mushrooms in that cluster. Can you see the mycelium web between the cardboard and tissue paper? Totally awesome! I'll keep you updated with the progress, and the recipe they end up in:)

One more thing!
Troy Farmer's Market is opening this Thursday, the 7th of April at 3PM. (till 6PM)
It is promising to be a great event, so come by after work, or after getting the kids from school, meet your local farmers and get some goodies for your family's dinner table, or garden! STARworks Garden will be there this Thursday!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Catching up!

My apologies for not blogging for a while. Plenty has been going on, and I will try to give a little overview of more important happenings.

For the third year in a row STARworks Garden, with the help of Greg Bender and Hugh Martin, held Shiitake and Oyster mushroom cultivation workshops. 
Hugh first guided us through some basics via Power Point presentation.
Then it was time to roll up the sleeves and get to work.

Alice Clemens here, having fun drilling the logs.

Women with power tools!

Looks like these guys could be at home in the kitchen!
Waxing the logs, after inoculation. 

It's easy enough for kids! Hugh's youngest son, Daniel helping Jeff Boothby inoculate the logs.

 I have mentioned before that Eddie and Angela, the owners of Wet Dog Glass, offered us a piece of their land to turn into a garden for STARworks. Adam named it "the East College Street Garden Complex". Adam and I went last Friday, and started to spread out the big pile of cow manure compost we had ordered from Mr. Brown.
 One wheelbarrow load at a time...
 After a few hours of shoveling and hauling we had about half of the pile spread, and decided it had been enough for the day.
 On Saturday we got going about 9 am. Eddie, Angela and Nancy all shoveled and raked.
 Santiago brought his two tillers, but we soon discovered - those were not going to help us much. Luckily Eddie has a great neighbor Kenneth, who owns a tractor (or 2) and farm equipment! Thanks Kenneth! Power tools can be very nice, when used well... and not abused. For instance - after the initial plowing and tilling, if you mulch well - you really shouldn't need to use a tractor, or a tiller again!
Being able to use a tractor really helped us to get a lot of work done at no time!

 And Andreas, who had a birthday that day - got to ride the tractor back to Kenneth's house.
 I don't have a final picture of the new garden complex yet. We ended up using up all the cardboard that needed to be recycled at Wet Dog Glass, to mulch over some of the beds. Once more cardboard piles up, we can mulch between the beds as well, and finish mulching all the beds.
Between plowing and tilling, Eddie put up a rain water catchment system with the help of Adam, Everett, Zack; and Phil helped build the platforms to raise the cisterns up.
Huge thanks to Eddie, who is always ready to lend a hand, and has great ideas of how to get things done!
This morning, for instance, he helped me prune and train the fruit trees in the garden. They ended up looking real nice!
Also Great Thanks to: Adam, Phil, Santiago, Everett, Zack, Angela, Nancy, Anna for all the help!