Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer in the garden

I have been too busy with real life, to keep up with the blog, but here's an over-due report on what's been going on.

A few weeks ago we held a workshop "Seed to Flower" with Star Elementary first graders. 43 kids total - together in the garden! We managed well, working in two groups - planting seeds and painting garden labels that the kids could take home with a seed packet.

All the seeds have germinated and the sunflowers and zinnias are growing well! Huge thanks goes out to my helpers: Anna, Rhonda and Heidy! Also to the Star Elementary first graders and their teachers!
The garden annex has already given us a crop of beets and potatoes.

Onions and garlic need more time, but we should get another crop of potatoes next week. Deer got in the garden on day and chomped on winter squashes and sweet potatoes, but I have since put more fishing line on the posts - so keep your fingers crossed that they will stay out from now on!

Beautiful moments from the garden:

 Yesterday Anna helped me build a trellis for cucumbers. I decided to try something different this year, instead of the tri-pods we've been using. We used monofilament to tie the bamboo strips that I cut. I then tied up the vines - to keep them off the ground. There are already cukes on the vines! CSA members - you may get your first taste of cukes for the year next week!
 Same goes for squash - it is coming along nicely. This year I am trying a new variety - "flying saucer" - it looks striking already. There are also a few "costata romanesco" plants that have made it.

I'd like to also say THANK YOU to Eddie and Angela, who's garden has supplied the CSA with lettuce for last few weeks!
There is no doubt - summer is here!

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's a'growing...

Well, we have had an unusual spring this year. We've had it all - the hot and the cold days, the beautiful summery evenings and the near freezing temperatures as late as just a few days ago. I don't remember it ever getting that cold so late in the spring, but then again - I have not been around here all that long:)

The gardens are growing:) The CSA is starting up next week. As always I am starting the season off stressed - will I have enough variety and volume to get through this year's CSA?!?! All I know is - it always works out some way or the other. Where one crop fails - another will produce double, and we just have to go with the flow. The hardest thing is to plot the timing and order of plantings. I'm not very good at it, but have gotten better over the last few years.
We're starting the season with Pac Choi, Swiss Chard, some salad greens and herbs. Hopefully there will be some Kale to harvest as well.

I keep forgetting to take pictures of the garden, but here are some flowers in a bouquet, that are blooming now.
This particular orange "Knock-out" rose is my absolute favorite! I bought it, a distressed plant - way past it's planting time, 3 years ago, on sale. It looked so sad I did not think it would make it. Plus, I'd always heard how hard it is to grow roses... Well, let me tell you - it is a monster now - I prune it back severely each February, and it comes back more ferocious than ever and blooms from mid April through November, granted we don't have bad frosts. It smells heavenly and the color is the most cheerful range of sunshine! I don't do anything special for it, other than put some banana peels by it's roots every now and then. The Japanese Beetles do a job on it too every summer, but it just keeps coming back happy and thankful:)
The russian sage in the forefront is also a favorite, and the snap dragons keep coming back each year:) I think those were planted with some of the first kids that took a workshop with me.

The "Annex" is looking good! It is full now, potatoes are about to bloom, and I've already had to snap back the first garlic scapes. It takes a lot of cardboard to keep it mulched...
Phil and Anna built a compost bin for the garden a few weeks ago, so it's starting to look good:)
So far (knock on wood) the fencing has been helpful and has kept the deer out. Flea beetles are quite rampant - they love potato leaves. Maybe I will go and sprinkle some Diatomaceous Earth on them next week. I planted some Butternut, Banana and Spaghetti Squash and a variety of small melons there last week also. Keep your fingers crossed:)

Some on the things that have been planted in the original garden include: Cucumbers (White Wonder, Harmonie and a Lithuanian variety, forgot the name) Squash (Flying saucer, Patty Pan, Costata Romanesco), Lettuces (Wild Garden Mix), Carrots (White Satin, Atomic Red, Sugarsnax) Beets (Cylindra, Merlin), Radishes...
I'm probably forgetting something.
Tomatoes will go in in the next few weeks, the peppers and eggplants will follow.
Some of the Tomato varieties include: 
Dad's Sunset, Dad's Sunset

Pineapple Tomato 
DefiantDefiant PhR (F1)

Cherokee Purple
Japanese Truféle or Triféle Japanese Black Trifele (OG)
Speckled Roman Speckled Roman (OG)
And a new variety I'm very curious about: Indigo Rose Indigo Rose (OG)

There are many more varieties. Most of the seeds I have saved from previous years, but always try something new. The "Indigo Rose"  and "Defiant" are the trial ones this year. Indigo Rose is supposed to be open pollinated, so should be able to save seed for next year. Defiant is the only Hybrid this year, and will not produce offspring true to the mother plant as far as I know...

Another new this year is a ground or husk cherry or tomatillo: Variety Goldie:
Goldie (OG)
Small orange berry with a husk.
A conversation piece at markets, well liked by children. This old-fashioned tomato family member bears 1/2- 3/4" sweet golden berries inside papery husks, resembling small, straw-colored Japanese lanterns. Another name is "Cape Gooseberry," and the flavor is similar: quite sweet and a bit wild. Plants are profusely branching, prolific, and drop ripe fruits. Fruits can be eaten raw, dried like raisins, frozen, canned, or made into preserves, cooked pies, and desserts. 

Thanks to Johnny's Seeds for the seeds, and images!

Monday, March 12, 2012

It is bloom time

Plum is in full bloom. Peach is following close by and pear is chasing both.

Look closely. Who do you see on this picture?! I've identified those as Harlequin bugs.
Stinky, ferocious, un-relentless buggers. They usually show up sometime in June.
Well. It is NOT JUNE! But those guys were on my overwintered Arugula, having 
a party. Squashed them all.  It is only a glimpse of what awaits us this summer.
Greenthumbs everywhere - beware - this will be the buggiest year yet to remember.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mushroom logs are done.

Our annual Mushroom Workshop was this past Saturday. Twenty one people participated this year.
Hugh Martin did a presentation about mushroom growing to get everyone up to speed with the Shiitake mushroom and how to grow them in one's back yard. I had prepared a mushroom-lentil-barley soup and mushroom pies for the tasting and we also learned about re-hydrating dried mushrooms and sauteed those so that everyone could get the taste of what's to become about a year from the inoculation of the logs. Greg Bender walked everyone through the details of the inoculating process and shared his many years of experience growing the Siitakes.
Shawn from Dezern Farms drilling the logs. We used some angle grinders this year instead of drills - and it made this part of the process a breeze!!!
Greg Mender instructing how to fill the drilled holes with sawdust spawn using the palm style inoculator.
Dean Yates and his grand daughter working together. This can be a fun family activity!

Thank you everyone who came out this weekend, I hope you had fun! Thank you Greg and Hugh for all your help! Lets hope we all will be eating yummy mushrooms off those logs next year!

I would like to bring your attention to an event that is taking place very soon in Raleigh.
The Guinea Fowl International is having their seventh "Small Flock Poultry and Guinea Fowl Conference."
Clicking on the link will take you to their web-page with more information!

Please don't forget to sign up for the STARworks Garden CSA this year. It's promising to be better than ever.
Happy spring everyone!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tater time

The snow came and went - like a ghost.
Yesterday was back to beautiful spring weather - and more to come for the rest of the week.

I decided to look at the state of the seed potatoes that I had saved from last summer's crop and kept in paper bags in the bottom drawer of my home fridge, and this is what I saw:
The Red Pontiac's busting out.
And the Irish Cobblers shy, but determined.

Well. about 2/3 of the potatoes got underground yesterday!
This soil was under cardboard and mulch all last year. Most of the organic matter has composted at least half way - and I dig all the smaller bits under and shake the soil loose with the fork. There were very little weeds - the mulching really does wonders for a grower!!! I'll be sure to mulch even better this year.
Anyway. I hope the red potatoes will make it - the sprouts were so long already... I've never planted them in this state. 

I will get some new seed again this year from Weston's Feed and Seed and plant again in a few weeks - that should give us a few crops of potatoes in June or so. 

The seeds from Johnny's Seed and Territorial came in yesterday also:) 
The spring fever is here!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The diggin' in the dirt has begun.

Hi folks, It's been a long time since I posted here. Sorry for leaving y'all hanging, but occasionally one needs to spend more time in "real reality"as opposed to the virtual reality.
Life HAS BEEN going on at STARworks Garden despite the lack of posts here. As a matter of fact, Adam recently said:" Blogging is so passé..." - that in comparison to tweeting, face-booking, pinging etc.
What do you all think?!
Our second season of the CSA was small, but it did continue almost into December. The winter has been exceptionally mild, and there has been something green and blooming in the garden throughout the winter. Kind of eerie.

So - what are the things happening there now?
I pruned the beauty-berry bushes, rose bush, apple and pear tree about 2 weeks ago. The peach/nectarine/apricot/plum - tree still needs to be pruned - but it is quite full and beautiful - I find it hard figuring out where to start with it...
I've started cleaning out the neglected compost piles. There is a lot of woody brown matter on top of each of the three bins, and some composted goodness on the bottom. The goal is to get everything out, to use the compost in greenhouse and veggie beds, to get some horse manure, and layer the woody stuff with horse manure back in the compost pile, cross the fingers, maybe mix it at some point, and hope for the best.

I do have some photographic evidence of happenings in the Annex, which is out garden extension on Eddie and Angela's land. The biggest plan this year is to fence in this garden, to protect it from deer (they did plenty of damage last year) and to run some drip irrigation on the beds, from the rainwater collector (the standing with the hose was painful...).
Here we go:
Garlic got planted in mid-october, which is the best time in our region, as I'm told by people in the know. It is looking mighty purty! The smaller green stuff growing there is wheat, I think - from the straw bales. I did get around to mulching:) And it has made a major difference with weeds. The wheat can be pulled out, and laid right back there - for additional mulch and nitrogen.
I was in the garden on Tuesday, digging and sweating in the 65˚F something degrees, and a few spuds came out - they had over-wintered from the late fall crop. I'm thinking... maybe it would make sense - for the purpose of stretching out the seed potatoes - to plant a crop in late august, say, for the sole purpose of growing some more seed for the next spring? Plant them, let them do their multiplying underground - and in February - dig 'em up? Prep your land - then plant them again?
Does anybody have experience with it? 
Well I'm trying it. I planted those puppies. 
These are onions. Now, this may come back and bite me in the tail, but I figured - it's been warm enough, that the earth is toasty, even if we have a surface freeze... I'll be planting at least some of the onion sets. I plant them in diamond pattern, up to about the second knuckle of my index finger, and about 3" apart. This may be a bit tight, but I hate to waste land - and it has worked out fine for me so far. 
This little section of a bed ended up with about 12" depth of soil - so I couldn't resist and sowed some carrot seed in 4 rows, and stuck yellow onion sets between each row. 

Tomorrow is the time to order the Shiitake spawn for our upcoming Annual Mushroom Workshop.
Sign up - and come have fun with Greg, Hugh, me and a bunch of participants - drilling, dripping hot wax and inoculating logs with sawdust spawn. It's a fun day, and you'll get to pick some beautiful edible incredible mushrooms a year later from your own back yard.
We are trying something new this year - a tasting of some mushroom dishes, and a quick cooking lesson.

There are lots of exciting foodie things happening around Star this year! Farmers markets are gearing up - I'm going to a MCFMA meeting this evening! We'll be discussing how to get the freshest local food to y'all, and how to do it in a fun way.
Sweetness and blooms!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mushroom Cultivation Workshop

with instructors Greg Bender and Hugh Martin.

Date & Time:
March 3. 9AM- 12PM

LOCATION: back of STARworks Building, 100 Russell Drive, Star, NC 27356
For directions go:

Price of the workshop: $20.-
The price covers the use of tools, wax and spawn. Participants are strongly encouraged to bring their own logs, maximum 3 logs per person.
Logs have to be cut no longer than 3 weeks prior to the inoculation. Please do not bring logs that have fallen due to disease and have been found on forest floor! Size of logs should be 3” - 4” in diameter and about 2 feet long. If possible, bring your own electric drill, cordless drills are not powerful enough.
Types of wood: white or red oak, sweet-gum.

To register, please contact Anne Pärtna: #336 653 9551 or email:
Space will be filled on first-come-first-serve basis. Payment options include: cash, check, credit card. For credit card payment call: 910 428 9001

SPECIAL this year: we will be doing a little cooking demonstration!