Summer Gardening 2015: 7/25 Update

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Hello Gardeners!

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their summer tans.
I’ll begin by getting right into things. I pulled up the horseradish on July 10th because the leaves were looking a little rough and figured it was time. It wasn’t until after digging it up that I decided to look up online when I should be doing this; one website said to do it in late summer. Although I pulled the horseradish a little early, it still made a good amount after grating it. If i recall correctly, the website also said that i could put the tubers back in the ground and it would come back later so I saved a few large roots for that. Fresh horseradish is pretty strong. I had to look away at times when grating it.

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As promised, here are some photos of the tomatillos. These photos are from the 12th, but just imagine them a little bigger and twice as many. They’re really taking off!

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The summer squash (crookneck) is also flourishing and it seems that most plants are bearing fruit. They’re covered in flowers and there has been no cases of mildew yet.

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After becoming acquaintances with another student who used the garden for a nice place to study, we both started talking about fig trees. His family gifted him one years ago and bears fruit regularly. We went over to the ones at the garden and found three (one already on the ground) already ripe! I didn’t get a picture of the first one, but the second, a little older one was just as delicious. It was my first time having a fig (save for Fig Neutons) and it blew me away how sweet it was. They also have beautiful coloration inside. There are tons of unripened figs on the two trees and I look forward to eating them all sharing them with everyone.

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It seems that the deer didn’t eat all of the sunflowers transplanted from our Spring Seedling Sale.20150724_121840

Just yesterday I harvested a bunch of garlic. I gifted a few to the staff of Potomac Heights and with the rest I think I’ll weave a garlic rope. I’ll post a picture in the next update if it goes well (and I won’t if it doesn’t)!

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I hope everyones’ summers are enjoyable and I see some of you soon.
Until then, Happy Gardening!
Ethan

Summer Gardening 2015: Huge Update

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Hello everyone!

This is going to be a long, catch up post to inform everyone on all the happenings at the garden so far. So sit back, grab some tea, and see what’s been going on at the Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden.

———- Seeds and Goals ———-

This summer I set out with a few growing goals. I really wanted to try growing some plants that I hadn’t seen at the garden, or in person for that matter.

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Although a lot of these plants are not native to the area, I wanted to bring in some new plants that all served some sort of purpose. The Buckwheat was recommended to me by Christine Harris, the past president of GOGA (GMU Organic Gardening Association). It’s a nice cover crop that ended up keeping the deer’s attention for a while until they finished eating all of it. Here’s a picture of them after being nibbled on by the deer. Needless to say, they did not last much longer afterwards.

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The Dill and Wormwood were to be used as my additions to the herb garden where there was already Cilantro, Mint (lots of Mint), Fennel, Chamomile, and Horseradish. It wasn’t until about 3 weeks after planting the Wormwood that I read, “Wormwood (A. absinthium), one of the biblical bitter herbs, was used to flavor absinthe liqueur. It can be highly toxic and is not recommended for home gardens” (The American Horticultural Society’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening: Herbs and Spices). Despite that quote, there is another section in the same book that lists Wormwood’s uses as: “fragrance, insect repellent, decoration, beverage flavoring.” I may recommend it to be planted near plants with low bearing fruit (i.e. Strawberries) either immediately next to it or in a nearby pot.

The Strawberries had a difficult time this season. When they finally produced fruit, they were immediately hollowed out by the pill bugs hiding in the Creeping Jenny. Immediately afterwards the deer found their leaves and left the Strawberry plants with nothing but stems. These photos were taken shortly after ripening, but on the other side of these Strawberries were holes that showed that they were completely hollowed out and only had the skin left to show how pretty they looked before the pill bugs found them.

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The Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumbers were going to be used for pickling. I thought that using these alongside regular cucumber seeds from the shed would give me a little bit of variety. Unfortunately, I did not realize the Mexican Sour Gherkins were not organic until after I received them in the mail. I ended up just using the Cucumber seeds from the shed. Now, through a mix of not germinating and deer helping themselves to the seedlings, I only have two Cucumber plants (as of 7/11) growing despite planting seeds in three beds.

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In these side beds by the Elderberry bushes, I have two rows of Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas), two rows of Edamame, and a row of Crookneck Squash; each having two beds to themselves. They are doing well, but still have yet to produce any fruit/seeds. There are flowers on a few of the Edamame plants and the squash are showing half-dollar sized bulbs of fruit underneath their flowers. They are coming along nicely and I look forward to slicing and cooking them on the grill.

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The Carwile’s Viginia Peanuts were doing really well until the deer decided to give them a try. Some have gone to flower, but with the constant loss of leaves and readjustment in their soil I think it has slowed down their production of peanuts. I made sure to plant them in their own bed a ways away from the other beds in case of peanut allergies.

The Birdhouse Gourd was planted in a line by the Raspberries with hopes of creating (you guessed it) birdhouses for the garden and possibly selling them on campus. Included with the seeds was a guide on how to create a condominium out of the gourds. You guys can see it here.

In a later update I will show how far along the Tomatillos have come. They are doing very well and I look forward to seeing how they turn out.

———- Happenings at the Garden ———-

Soon after the summer started, Dr. Dan and his class stopped by and helped create a spiral bed in the front of the garden. They did a great job and I hope to see them again either later this summer or in the fall.

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New to the garden are the community beds. For a monthly fee, GMU staff and one of our fraternities have been taking care of their own plants alongside all of ours. This is a nice community building system and I hope the system and people stay with us through multiple seasons. It’s been a pleasure getting to know them and see their beds grow.

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After letting the Brussels Sprouts, Collards, and Kale go to seed, I collected their pods and have them hanging in the shed to dry. Soon they’ll be ready for breaking open for seed saving.

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With the aid of Professor Wingfield’s students, we were able to create a few new additions to the garden. First of which was a compost tumbler that was made by Michael, Justin, and myself. We have it in a new location so it can have full sun, but nevertheless it looks great and I look forward to having it produce nice soil for the garden.

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Also with Justin and Michael’s help, we made a fence the for the Kiwi bush to grow up on instead of the metal railings that it isn’t allowed to attach to.

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With the help of Joy and Daniel, we created a new bed for some donated perennials. I’m not sure what species they are, but I look forward to seeing them grown nonetheless.

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Created not long afterwards, Daniel and I put up a fence that connects the poles with fishing line. Although the deer could easily jump a fence this tall, the idea is for deer to not see the line and bump into it, confusing and hopefully deterring them…… It did not work for long. Since then, the fishing line fence has been moved to another bed to protect it from deer. Hopefully it has more of an impact there.

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There will be weekly updates on the happenings in the garden from now on. They won’t be nearly as long as this one, but they will be much more consistent. I hope everyone is having a great summer and comes to visit the garden sometime (either to help out or just to visit).

Happy Gardening!

Ethan Murdock

August ~ observation, good intentions & muskmelons :-)

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Enjoy your readings with these jams + a cup of tea! 🙂

Greetings Earth-healers!

It’s been a while since my last post…I hope everyone has had an amazing, FRUITFUL summer filled with friends, family, laughter, love, and most of all – GOOD FOOD! The gifts of summer harvests can be bountiful when grown with observation, love & care, and most of all – good intention. It’s one thing to decide to grow food to reap benefits such as money, and personal business growth… However, you begin to enter an entirely different realm of growing when you decide to garden/farm not only to be able to provide food for yourself and family/friends, but to truly heal the Earth. How do we begin to take the necessary steps towards healing Earth through something as simple as growing food? We observe, we walk with good intention, and we listen. You don’t have to travel to the farthest corner of the woods away from society to listen to Nature. Take a break from your headphones, from your car, and most of all – take a break from that phone. These things can wait. Just go outside, and start walking. Find a nearby creek, pond or patch of woods. Wander until you find a space that you can sit, close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and listen. Open your eyes, observe the patterns of Nature, the sweet smell of native wildflowers, the sounds of nearby birds…can you identify any? Touch, taste (make sure it’s edible! carry a Peterson’s Field Guide..please!), listen, and observe – your opportunities to connect with Nature are endless. Embrace this, live in harmony with these forces and elements, choose happiness and simplicity. Be conscious of your thoughts, words, and actions. Take a small journal with you on your travels, write anything that comes to mind. Let your hands freely move as they wish – you will never know how creative you are until you let everything go. Harmonize what you learn from Nature into the garden and beyond. Just be and be well.

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Here we are again, August! After working day in and day out in the Potomac Heights Veggie Garden for the past couple months, I think this is getting to be one of my favorite times of the year. We are still reaping the fruits of summer growth, yet preparing the garden (and ourselves!) for fall growth.That’s right you heard me, start planting those fall veggies people! Weed those beds, work in your compost, leaf litter, etc. line those rows, and seed, seed, seed! With a drop of water, splash of sun, and touch of love, your fall harvests will sure to be bountiful! This past week in the Potomac Heights Veggie Garden, we have planted…

  • Black Spanish Round RADISH

  • Misato Rose RADISH

  • Champion COLLARDS

  • Snowball Self-Blanching Fall Cauliflower

  • Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage

  • Red Acre Cabbage

  • Detroit Dark Red Beet

  • Chantenay Red Core Carrots

  • Fennel, Florence

  • Daikon, Miyashige White RADISH

  • Golden Acre Cabbage

  • White-Stemmed Pak Choi CABBAGE

  • Crosby Egyptian (Early Crosby Egyptian) BEET

  • Oregon Sugar Peas (different source)

So much Gratitude for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for their organic, locally and sustainably grown seeds! 🙂

So….get your seeds in the ground, you’ll be happy you did! And as always, come see us in the Potomac Heights Veggie Garden ~ we’d love to see you there.

Be well,
Christine

:-)

🙂

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Ron, another amazing garden volunteer, sows Oregon Sugar Peas in the bed that we grew kale and cabbage in. Peas are legumes, which fix nitrogen back into the soil.

Ron, another amazing garden volunteer, sows Oregon Sugar Peas in the bed that we grew kale and cabbage in. Peas are legumes, which fix nitrogen back into the soil.

Thank you Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for all of our fall seeds! :-)

Thank you Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for all of our fall seeds! 🙂

G, one of the garden's amazing volunteers, plants Collards in the bed that used to have carrots and garlic! Crop rotation at its finest ;-)

G, one of the garden’s amazing volunteers, plants Collards in the bed that used to have carrots and garlic! Crop rotation at its finest 😉

We let some of our kale that was seeded back in April go to flower, and then seed. We harvested some of the seed pods, to save for fall crop, along with letting some stay on the plant. Eventually the seed pods split open from the sun, and seed themselves. Here's baby kale growing from that process! :-)

We let some of our kale that was seeded back in April go to flower, and then seed. We harvested some of the seed pods, to save for fall crop, along with letting some stay on the plant. Eventually the seed pods split open from the sun, and seeded themselves. Here’s baby kale growing from that process! 🙂

One of MANY muskmelons (aka cantalopes) growing in the garden! Just a few more days before ripe and ready to eat! :-)

One of MANY muskmelons (aka cantalopes) growing in the garden! Just a few more days before ripe and ready to eat! 🙂

No gardening hours (7/8-7/11)

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Hey gardeners! I will be heading to Ocean Isle, NC after gardening hours tonight, Monday, July 7th – and will not be back until the weekend. Therefore, garden hours will be cancelled until next Monday, July 14th. Normal garden hours will resume then! G and Ronald, two of our aaaahhh-mazing volunteers have graciously volunteered their time and energy to make sure that the plants stay hydrated while I am away – HUGE thank you to you both! 🙂 That being said, we have LOTS to do in the garden today! Here is our to-do list for today – if you are free and would like to come get your hands dirty, please join us – we would love the company/extra hands!

  • Sow pumpkins, squash in front bed
  • Prep a couple of beds (weed, add leaf litter/compost) – sow okra, beans
  • Replant corn in 3 sisters bed, sow beans
  • Replant cucumbers in bed in front of kiwi
  • Transplant brussels, cabbage, kohlrabi
  • Trellis muskmelons, cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelon
  • Harvest brown coriander pods, hang to dry in shed
  • Harvest chamomile flowers, dry in brown paper bag in shed
  • Harvest mullein leaves, mint, summer savory and hang to dry in shed
  • Direct seed flowers, herbs in different beds and pots around garden

With love & light,
Christine

Our German Chamomile is finally blooming! Harvest the flower heads and store them in a brown paper bag in a cool, dry place (like your shed!) so that they can dry nicely - then crush them up and use in a tea! Chamomile is high in calcium so it is a great nerve & muscle relaxant. It encourages sleep if ingested 1-2 hours before bedtime, and soothes an upset stomach. True medicine! Chamomile, fennel, and marshmallow root tea is definitely one of my favorites! If you don't like the bitterness, add a spoonful of honey and walla! Sweet dreams ;-)

Our German Chamomile is finally blooming! Growing herbs from seed is becoming one of my favorite things to do, it takes trial and error, patience, and a whooole lotta love! Harvest the flower heads and store them in a brown paper bag in a cool, dry place (like your shed!) so that they can dry nicely – then crush them up and use in a tea!
Chamomile is high in calcium so it is a great nerve & muscle relaxant. It encourages sleep if ingested 1-2 hours before bedtime, and soothes an upset stomach. True medicine!
Chamomile, fennel, and marshmallow root tea is definitely one of my favorites! If you don’t like the bitterness, add a spoonful of honey and walla! Sweet dreams 😉

Mason’s First Mandala Keyhole Bed

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One of the most basic ideas of the Mandala Keyhole bed is to minimize path-to-bed ratio…basically, maximizing your growing space, while still having easy access to work in your beds. By designing the beds with a sheet-mulching system, the soil need never to be be disturbed by digging/tilling. To prepare the growing space, simply start with a layer of cardboard (avoid cardboard with a lot of ink) – this will block out the sun to the weeds/grass below, and keep future weeds from popping through (at least for a little while!) Then you are basically layering various organic materials to build up the bed, like you would layer a delicious organic lasagna! 🙂 Add thin layers of straw, finished compost, leaf compost, mushroom compost, you can even toss vegetable.fruit scraps under your first layer of cardboard for a boost of nutrients to your plants! We created a beautiful border around our mandala bed by cutting up thin bamboo to about 6-8 inches and hammering them into the soil.

We also used cardboard for the pathways within the mandala bed – and then layered woodchips on top. Even though we won’t be growing where the woodchip pathway is – the cardboard still aids in keeping out unwanted weeds for a little while. We, at the Potomac Heights garden, included a circle in the middle of the mandala where we will add a herb spiral in the near future!

If you’d like more information about mandala keyhole beds – check out this article! It dives more into detail, and provides some nice pictures and tips.

Also! If you have designed your own mandala bed, please share any successes/failures, post pictures, and/or if you have any questions feel free to post below! 🙂

Happy Mandala Monday!

Summer rains, sheet-mulching, and more!

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ImageG, one of our amazing volunteers, mows the thick patches of weeds before we lay down the cardboard and cover with woodchips (a form of sheet-mulching).

     One of my absolute favorite things about summer is the warm rain showers that only last long enough for you to be able to fix some tea, turn your phone off and post up on the deck for a few hours with your favorite book. We had a few of those this past week, in between the heavy rains and crazy powerful (but beautiful) lightening. After letting mother nature do her thing for a couple of days, I finally returned back to the garden yesterday evening to check things out, and man, the garden couldn’t have been happier! I didn’t have my phone on me so unfortunately I couldn’t snap any photos so you’ll just have to see it with your own eyes to believe it!

And what perfect timing! Come celebrate the start of a new month, the joys of rain & shine, and see how the garden is beautifully evolving into an edible oasis filled with arugula, spinach, asparagus, kale, broccoli, beets, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, sunchokes, sunflowers, cabbage, chard, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, and more! There is LOTS to do (as always) ~ some of the things to do this week include:

  • Build trellises for peas, beans, tomatoes
  • Finish sheet-mulching the pathways
  • Harden the tomatoes that are still in the greenhouse and transplant into garden
  • Create mandala keyhole bed
  • Repaint the shed
  • Weed, weed, weed!
  • Sow pumpkin, corn, beans, squash, etc. in side beds

Check out the summer garden hours here or on our Facebook page!
Hope to see you there!

With love and SO much gratitude,
~ Christine ~

A Summer in the Garden ~ Summer 2014

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Wow! Here we are yet again summer ~ what a great year it’s been and it’s only about to get even better! Welcome new and familiar veggie friends to the Potomac Heights Garden Blog, I’m SO happy that you have found us 🙂 My name is Christine Harris, and I’m so incredibly excited to be the care-taker of the Potomac Heights Veggie Garden for the summer. If you are going to be in the NoVA area this summer and want to learn how to sustainably grow your own food, build community, share laughs and good times ~ come join me in the garden!

I’ll be pretty active posting hours, events, gardening/farming tips, pictures, etc. on this blog spot, as well as the GMU Organic Gardening Association (GOGA)’s Facebook…hint, hint – so make sure to “Like” our page!

GOGA is looking for Mason students who are interested in being a part of the leadership family! We have TWO positions open (secretary & treasurer) and would love for you to join us! Please comment below or send us a message through Facebook if you are interested.

So…who’s ready to get their hands DIRTY?! Here are the hours that I will be in the garden ~ come on by, there’s ALWAYS lots to do so I would love the company! Plus, you get to take home fresh, organic veggies afterwards…YUM!

MONDAY 3PM-8PM
TUESDAY 8AM-1PM
WEDNESDAY OFF
THURSDAY 8AM-1PM
FRIDAY 3PM-8PM

*Summer garden hours will officially start on TUESDAY, MAY 27*

If you have any questions/need to get a hold of me for whatever reason – please don’t hesitate to give me a holler! Feel free to call me on my cell phone (804) 502-4655, or shoot me an e-mail: charri24@gmu.edu

So, a little bit about me! I am a (rising) junior, studying biology at George Mason University. Born and raised in Richmond, VA – although everyday truly believing more and more that our true home is not one stagnant place, but the whole of the Earth – and what a wonderful home it is! I’m a believer in the powers of connection and manifestation, and that we (people, plants, animals) are more like each other than not because of three simple things: water, food, and love. My life has completely changed since my first visit to the Potomac Heights Veggie Garden my freshman year at Mason – I just can’t get enough of the joys of growing your own food, healing not only your body but the earth as well, alongside your friends and the forces of nature. I am by no means a master at gardening, but I am so happy to teach you what little I do know, learn from you as well as learn together! Here’s to a summer of exploration, learning, and loving ~ cheers!

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Thanks, ya’ll! HAPPY SUMMER!
☮&♥
~Christine ~

Here are just a few of the things that are growing in the garden right now!

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One of two peach trees in the garden! Nothin’ like biting into a big, juicy peach on a hot summer day!

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Mullein – one of my top ten FAVORITE plants! So many medicinal properties, and so beautiful! Dry the leaves for tea – great for the respiratory, musco-skeletal, and nervous systems

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Jerusalem artichokes, also known as Sunchokes, make for a great “fedge” (food-hedge) to deter deer from entering your garden. bake the tubers or toss them in your stir-fry, yum!

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Baby cucumbers!

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Asparagus. Harvest your stalks when they reach about 6″ for best taste, make sure to let some grow tall and go to seed so you can continue to harvest for years to come 🙂 !

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Rhubarb – perennial, use the stalks in a strawberry-rhubarb pie, mmm mmm mm!

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found some fungi under the radishes! this kind is NOT edible – but OH SO important for a healthy garden!

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Catnip – dry the leaves and use in a calming tea or stuff in a play toy for your cat, crazy how opposite the effects are! 😉