Ready, set ....plant!

Even though June is now upon us, over in the IC organic garden we're still in planting mode.  As our garden crew is almost entirely made up of college students, you can imagine that it's hard to get things done in the weeks leading up to finals and graduation.  Now that our summer crew has kicked into gear, we've got the ball rolling again... or shall I say, planting again.

The trouble is, the word "planting" sounds so simple compared to the actual process of doing so.  Before digging a hole in the ground and inserting a seed or plant, there is a lot of prep work to do.  It's been a couple of years since our big garden expansion when we inserted all our new raised beds, so many beds need repairs.  While the wood itself (black locust) is very durable and rot-resistant, many of the joints have fallen apart.  In fact, the wood is so strong that we haven't even been able to get an electric drill to completely penetrate it, putting a damper in our repair method. Instead, we've resorted to some old-fashioned muscle power - hammering wooden stakes in the ground to hold the boards in place.  Maybe not a permanent fix, but apparently neither were the screws (which snapped in half after just two years).

Alright, so the bed repairs are done. Next step is soil preparation.  This involves weeding (which alone is no small task after the pre- and post-finals week neglect), removing straw used as bed cover for over-wintering, and adding compost.  Each bed takes anywhere from 1-3 wheelbarrows full of compost: lugged from the facilities yard, poured on the beds, and raked out.

Now we finally get to plant! But what goes where? We've got 40 beds and dozens of crops.  Some crops work well with others, and some don't.  Some crops deplete the soil of nutrients and others restore the soil, while others have a minimal overall effect.  Before planting we must consult our mater plan, which changes every year in a rotating crop order based on plant family.

We know which crop(s) go in each bed. We can plant now, right? Almost. Last thing to do is figure out how the plants will be arranged within the bed.  How far apart should the rows be? How far apart should the plants in each row be?  How deep in the soil do the seeds go? Every variety of every crop has its own rule for these measurements, usually listed on the back of the seed packets.  Also a good question, should the crop be direct seeded into the ground, or started in a greenhouse?  Depends on the crop and the time of year. We take the title "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" by Edward C. Smith very seriously, and is a good resource for determining when/where to plant.

Finally, after all this, we can plant.

But aha! the story is not done yet.

After all this, the seeds or new transplants need to be watered.  If going from direct seed in the ground, most crops will also have to be thinned once they've started growing out of the soil.  Instructions for thinning are also found on the back of seed packets.

So you've got your bed all prepared, planted, watered, and thinned.  You want to move on to the next bed but you find that the more beds you plant, the more you have to maintain! The work never ends! But hey, it keeps me employed for the summer, provides beautiful food for the campus community, and endless educational opportunities for all the students who put so much effort into this little piece of land.   :)

- Amber, co-garden manager

Whose got the harvest season blues?

Alright let's admit it, harvest season is the best time of year if you're a grower and you love to make delicious recipes. But even though the harvest season is gone, you can still enjoy wonderful harvest-season food. For instance, butternut squash tend to keep very well at room temperature. I usually store them on top of my refrigerator for months at a time and take them down when I'm craving a little something squash-y. Here's a recipe for my favorite butternut squash (pumpkin) pie:

2 cups of pumpkin pulp purée from a butternut squash (see below)

1 1/2 cup heavy cream or 1 12 oz. can of evaporated milk (or other alternative if you like)

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (or sugar in the raw plus 1/2 tablespoon molasses)

1/3 cup sugar (I used sugar in the raw)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

2 teaspoons of cinnamon*

1 teaspoon ground ginger*

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg*

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon (I didn’t put in)

1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest (I didn’t put it)

1 crust (see below)

Add everything together, mix, and put in pie crush. Cook pie in oven (at 350) for approximately an hour (until it no longer wiggles when you shake the dish a little bit). *Note: Spices I didn’t end up measuring, I just estimated.


To make pumpkin purée:

Start with a small-medium butternut squash, cut out the stem and scrape out the insides, discard (or save the seeds, if you like!). Cut the squash in half and lay cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350°F until fork tender, about an hour to an hour and a half. Remove from oven, let cool, take off the skins, and mash (or put through a processor for a smoother filling.


To make dessert crust:

Oven at 400. Mix 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking power, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 egg yolk, 1 & 1/4 cups whole wheat flour. Work dough mixture into hands until it all just holds together. Cover the bottom and sides of a greased pie dish with the dough. Bake just the crust alone for 12 min.

New Beginnings

"From small beginnings come great things"

It's been awhile since our last post, but we feel as if the garden blog needs some new attention. After the construction of Garden 2.0 ended, the blog fell into the background in our minds. So much has happened since our last post that it's hard to know where to start: saying goodbye to our beloved garden creators and continuing on with new management, a gardening course led by our own garden members, and a veggie stand on campus. We've had a fantastic year!

The rebirth of this blog originated with the idea of sharing our harvest dinner recipes with each other in a public place. We thought, let's make a blog for it! Eventually, it dawned on me... we already have a blog, so instead... let's keep it going!

Hey members: Have something you want to blog about? an experience you had in our community garden? a recipe you made for a harvest dinner this fall? Email and we'll post it for you!

Peace and new beginnings,

We went to the compost facility to build deliberately.

Last week, we built 16 raised beds! That's half of our veggie beds. After we were done, we looked at all the beds, and I couldn't help but picture squash, melons, tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, and berries... overflowing and flourishing in the garden. And I also realized that this garden is going to be HUGE!

Thanks to SGA, we have even more funding for the year, and we're going to build more, smaller beds for herbs, native plants, flowers, and any leftover veggies. We also get to buy berries for everyone to enjoy for years to come!

Instead of talking more about the raised bed build, I'm just going to post some pictures to show highlights.

Our first completed bed!

Brian looking rather ferocious with a saw.

Emma... the riveter.

Pat getting down to business.

"Cole, look at Pat!" "Cole, look at what you're doing!"

Emma working hard as Brian casually watches along.

This weekend, we plan to build 16 more beds, install them (with stakes) into the garden, and fill them with dirt! That means next weekend we get to build the fence, load in some compost, and hopefully start planting! We've got some onions, leeks, and kale that are just itching to get in the ground.

Join us for these two exciting work days:
Saturday, May 1: 10 AM - 2 PM
Saturday, May 2: 11 AM - 3 PM

Be a part of the garden's growth!

Also, if you didn't see, we were on the cover of The Ithaca Journal! Check out the April 21st story on Earth Day to see a picture from the seed starting activity at our open house. Pretty cool!

We hope to see you at the build & install days this weekend. Bring water and a snack to share if you can, bring a friend, and of course, bring an eager & excited you!

Happy & Morelly May,

Open House tomorrow!

Good evening!

Tomorrow, Tuesday April 20th, we're hosting an Open House & garden tour. Although we were unable to build our raised beds this past weekend, we can envision the future of the garden together!

Meet us in front of the Park School at 12:00 PM and we will walk down at 12:15. In addition to a brief history and a future vision of the garden, we will have a seed starting activity where you will be able to take home your very own plant!

On Sunday, we tended to the trail, so the short hike should be a breeze!

Remember, wear shoes that can get muddy, because chances are you will get a little muddy. But what's wrong with that?!

Keep your eyes peeled for another update on an actual big build day this weekend. Get your working gloves on--32 raised beds await us!

Have a great week,

Spring 2010: Building, planting, planning, and more!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the new blog for the Organic Growers of Ithaca College! Here you will receive updates on all the building, planting, painting, and playing that happens in the on-campus community garden.

What have we been up to?

Last year, we built three 10x30 raised beds for vegetables, a few herb & flower beds, and more. It was a great season and we enjoyed our time learning about horticulture and spending time with great people (and great food!).

However, our plot of land can handle (despite mud and water) much more than three raised beds. Therefore, this spring, we're expanding the plot, replacing all of our old raised beds with local black locust wood, building a sturdier fence, creating a trail to the garden, and starting as many seeds as we can. It's going to be, and has already been, an exciting time--and it's only going to get more fun!

We removed all of the cinder blocks holding together our old raised beds, which made for one of the muddiest days... ever. We still had a lot of fun, and Brian even trudged to a group meeting in the afternoon to display his newly muddied attire.

We've also worked with the fantastic folks of the Ithaca College Grounds Department on creating a trail to the garden. Last weekend, we painted stones that will act as our trail markers. Vegetables and flowers can now guide you to the garden! We created some lovely art of the beautiful heirloom varieties that we plan to grow this summer. Amber won a gold medal for her tasty rendition of Seed Savers Exchange's Gold Medal Tomato. Yum! The paintings definitely made me crave the foods that summer brings. Here's a picture of Emma with some corn that looks good enough to pop.

Now if you need to find the garden, you can just follow the veggie brick road.

This weekend will hold a big build day. From 12-4:00 PM on Sunday, April 18th, we plan to put together half of our raised beds, move some soil around, and tend to the trail a bit more. We'll also paint some more stones during our break. Be sure to bring water, a snack/lunch, and clothes & shoes that can get muddy! You will definitely receive updates after this day, and I can't wait to be a part of the garden's rejuvenation!

What have I forgotten to mention?

Plants! Where are the plants?! Where's the food? This is an edible garden, right?!

Well, of course it is! We have been starting seeds since the end of February. We've started kale, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, leeks, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, basil, chamomile, sweet peas, and zinnias in both of the greenhouses on campus. And everybody's looking great and green!

Our student organization, the Organic Growers of Ithaca College, is hosting a Garden Open House & trail walk on Earth Day, April 20th! We will meet at the front of the Park School at 12:00 PM and head down at 12:15. You'll get to hear the history of the garden, our plans for this year & the future, and more! There will also be a seed starting activity with recycled materials--seeds for you to take home and nourish into tasty, beautiful plants. If you plan on coming to this event, PLEASE wear shoes that can get muddy. You can also e-mail us for accommodations.

There are other great Earth Week events that you can view on Intercom. I'd highly recommend the South Hill Maple Syrup Company open house on Saturday, and the Williams Garden cleanup on Monday (that plot will be planted with Three Sisters mounds this year, with the beautiful corn from Emma's painting).

We hope to see you at the work day this Sunday and the Open House tour on Tuesday. Until then, enjoy the plants as they grow and the local food here in Tompkins County as it becomes more and more plentiful. And get your building shoes on for the big raised bed build this weekend!

Eat some kale and smell the daffodils,