Harvest by Hillary

Blogging about my journey to living a more sustainable and organic life


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Week 4: Sunshine, Scapes, and Stakes

What a beautiful and productive week in the garden it has been! We were so lucky to have a solid week of little rain, we go so much done and the garden looks beautiful.

Monday, Emma and I only worked 4 hours and in that time we mowed the lawn, harvested all the garlic scapes and swiss chard, planted the winter squash and cherry tomato rows, and watered all our plants. I couldn’t believe how much we got done in such a short time!

That's a lot of garlic scapes...

That’s a lot of garlic scapes…

The harvesting and planting were my favorite part about Monday. Harvesting the garlic scapes was so fun and easy! All you do to harvest is snap the scape off from the main plant and you are good to go!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with garlic scapes, they are considered the “flower stalks” of garlic plants. Gardeners need to remove the scapes once they mature (become curly) because without their removal the plant will balance their energy to power and grow both the garlic scapes and the ground bulb. If the scapes are removed the plant can put all of its energy into growing the bulb, therefore producing a larger, healthier garlic bulb, which is the intended goal.

A perfectly curled garlic scape

A perfectly curled garlic scape

Many gardeners will simply remove the scapes and toss them into compost, but before you do the same know that garlic scapes are just as delicious as the bulb itself and are often used in cooking.

To see how Emma and I used the scapes in our cooking adventures be sure to read Emma’s blog http://eatingwithemma.tumblr.com/  where you can find a delicious vegan recipe for swiss chard and garlic scape dip! You won’t be disappointed!

Tuesday came and it was the infamous “Lunch in the Garden,” where Emma’s vegan dip made its debut. Only a handful of people dropped by, but everyone who tried the dip loved it! Emma served the dip with some fresh-baked bread from Whole Foods that paired great with the dip.

Now that we have a second “Lunch in the Garden” under our belt Emma and I are trying to figure out a way to attract more faculty, staff, and students to the garden. We agreed having our own recipe each week is a plus and we decided that maybe we will have people come eat and also have an optional garden activity such as harvesting, weeding, or something else garden related. We will have to come up with something extra special for next week!

Before lunch in the garden I decided to stake the tomato plants. This was my first time staking plants, but it was honestly so simple. As you can see from the picture below we have A LOT of tomatoes and there are only going to be more once my research tomatoes and the tomatoes in the row grow. The garden will be bursting with tomatoes…so if you like tomatoes make sure you make it down to the garden during harvest season because let me tell you we will have a ton!

Perfectly staked tomatoes

Perfectly staked tomatoes

After our “Lunch in the Garden Tuesday,” Wednesday rolled around and another bed was planted in the garden. Carrots! We planted both regular orange carrots and two different varieties of purple carrots. Wednesday was a great planting day. The weather was gorgeous and it never got too hot.

Wednesday, we also thinned out the chives. Now the chives bed is full with 12 smaller chive plants rather than 6 large plants. Slowly day by day this garden is transforming and Emma and I are so excited to see everything coming together.

Beautiful Chive Bed

Beautiful Chives Bed

Thursday (today) was a pretty, calm day. We thinned out our beet and carrot sprouts and also moved some of the flowers around in the flower bed so, the bed looked evened out on each side.

The most important thing though that happened today, occurred when I was prepping the last bed. This last bed for a while was left alone because it contained the Song Sparrow nest. But, once the baby…Cow Bird was born they no longer needed the nest, so we got the “go-ahead” to prep away!

As I was cleaning out the bed, I came across the nest and with it one baby Song Sparrow egg that looked as if it was destroyed by the Cow Bird! Horrifying, I know. Then a little while later I spotted two more eggs laying not too far from the nest, that must have been ejected out by the menacing Cow Bird. So sad…the little guys never had a chance.

Here’s a picture of the nest with the three Song Sparrow eggs:

I placed all the eggs back into the nest together so all the Song Sparrow siblings could rest peacefully together

I placed all the eggs back into the nest together so, all the Song Sparrow siblings could be together once again!

Friday, will be another day to check up on the garden and get some more work done! I am so happy the weather has been so great lately! Love it! And most importantly the garden is all prepped and ready to be used for more planting!

Here’s a picture of how the garden currently looks!

Beautiful…I know.

Enjoy the up and coming weekend everyone and happy gardening!

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Week of Rain and Research

Hello all!

I’m almost to the end of week 3 of my internship and despite the massive amounts of rain this week Emma and I still managed to accomplished nearly everything on our to-do list.

Monday, was a pretty successful day despite the bad weather from hurricane Andrea. Emma and I went down early that morning to meet Jen to prep the upper rows for squash and cherry tomato planting. We laid down the row covers and secured with rocks, while Jen set up the irrigation system for each row. We covered every row, except for the whole first row because we were just short of the covering. So close, yet so far…

Since the weather was so bad Monday afternoon, we figured Tuesday wasn’t looking so good either so we cancelled weekly lunch in the garden. 😦 We had plans to make a new vegan recipe for Swiss Chard and Garlic Scape dip, but now we have to wait until next week. For those of you interested in getting that recipe be sure to keep an eye out for the post on Emma’s blog, http://eatingwithemma.tumblr.com/ .

The next day,Tuesday, was actually quite a nice day! So we could have had lunch in the garden…but better safe then sorry, I guess! With the nice weather we were able to plant an entire bed of jalapenos and another bed with some very important tomatoes.

These “very important” tomatoes are none other than the tomatoes I will be studying for my biology research project! I am so excited to start conducting research and manipulating these little guys!  Right now I am only in the developing stages, caring for the newly planted seeds, but I’m ecstatic things are up and running! The question I built my project on is how can manipulating growing conditions of tomato plants affect the yield and quality of tomato fruits. In turn I want to investigate whether it is more sustainable to grow greater quantities of fruit that lack flavor and nutrient composition or to grow lower quantities of nutrient dense fruit and relate this to food security and health.

I am still in the developing stages of my investigation, but I have some time to decide where my research will go. The best part about this project is that I can take it wherever I please, so the possibilities are endless (within reason of course)!

Another task I completed Tuesday was trimming off the flowers from the herbs. After trimming, my hands smelled like rosemary for the rest of the day, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing! While, I was trimming I began thinking about how herbs have a reputation for having incredible health benefits.

With this thought, I decided to conduct a mini side research project (currently in the works) about natural grown herbs and how they can help improve athletic performance.

Last year's picture of the herb beds

Last year’s picture of the herb beds

As mentioned in my “About Me” page I talked about how I have been a runner for years. Being a runner I am very conscious about what I put in my body. Food is fuel in my mind and I want to eat whatever it is that will make me stronger and faster. Conducting this research has been very interesting and I will be posting a follow-up post about my findings in a week or two, so keep a look out!

Me running!

Me running!

Moving on from research, Wednesday was a transplant day for Emma and I and we thinned our crowded tomato sections in the demonstration beds. We moved the extra plants to a free bed and still had some extras so we planted 11 plants down at the Early Learning Center across the street. I’m sure the little kids will love picking the tomatoes once they begin fruiting!

That brings us to today, which has been nothing but dreary and rainy. I really hope tomorrow isn’t as bad so the squash and cherry tomato rows can get planted. But, for now I will continue with research and cross my fingers for the next week to be filled with sun!


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Back in the Garden and Right Back to Work!

Last week my garden internship officially began! Emma and I accomplished so much in only a week of work and are so excited to see how to garden transforms come August.

When we first got back to campus the garden needed serious work. The grass was completely overgrown and there were weeds everywhere around the beds…Not good. After seeing this atrocity, we got right to work and weeded out all the weeds and Emma mowed the entire lawn and now the garden looks great!

Once the garden was in shape, we then picked out plants for our personal demonstration beds! Emma and I made a trip down to Ganim’s Garden Center in Fairfield and picked up our plants and seeds. What an adventure that was! We bought tomato, egg plant, cucumber, onion, pepper (red and green), and kale plants and some beet seeds. We got right to work on the beds and worked from 11:30am to 5pm. First we turned up the soil in the beds, tilled, added some very strong smelling organic fertilizer…and planted everything. So now, two full beds are completed and watered and on their way to producing some really cool veggies. We can not wait for them to begin fruiting!

Demonstration Bed 1: Contains tomatoes, eggplant, kale, and beet and carrot seeds. Planted by Emma

Demonstration Bed 1: Contains tomatoes, eggplant, kale, and beet and carrot seeds. Planted by Emma

Demonstration bed 2: Contains (From right to left) Onion, Red and Green Bell Peppers, and various Tomatoes.

Demonstration bed 2: Contains (From right to left) Onion, Red and Green Bell Peppers, and various Tomatoes. Planted by me!

After planting out beds that Thursday we decided to prepare the next bed on our list, the flower bed. We got a packet of seeds from our supervisor, Jen that contained seeds for flowers that attract beneficial insects. These are so cool! Maintaining a completly organic garden means that you have to work hard to keep pests away. If we weren’t organic we could just spray some heavy duty pesticide and call it a day, but as organic gardeners trying to find natural and innovative ways to protect plants and crops is all the fun of gardening and might I say, it is way more rewarding. Playing with science and knowing what will benefit or harm plants is what makes organic gardening so fun. Gardening is such a puzzle and learning experience. I can’t wait to see how the flowers look and how they benefit the garden.

This week, I believe we are planning on setting up a couple other beds and continuously watering and maintaining our new plants. Also, Tuesday we will be hosting our first “Lunch in the Garden,” where Emma and I will be making iced chamomile tea from our own organic chamomile plants. I will post another post about how to harvest and make your own organic chamomile tea! Get excited everyone!

Well, looks like that is that! Have an awesome week everyone!


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First Day at Work!

Yesterday was my first time on the job for my summer garden internship. We needed to get some basic set-up work done before the end of the semester so when we come back in late May the garden is ready to be worked in!

Basically what my partner, boses, and myself did was take care of the huge leaf pile in the middle of the garden by moving it onto the garlic, zucchini, and tomato beds on the hill. We placed piles of leaves along the beds so the weeds underneath would die. Later, all we will have to worry about will be tilling it all into the soil.

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This is a picture of the garden from yesterday, May 6, 2013. That huge pile of leaves is now completely gone! As you can see the garden is still in its early stages of development, but come summer I am confident me and Emma (my partner) will be able to make it beautiful and booming with plants.

We also loosened the fence and mowed underneath the fence, so now the garden’s perimeter is looking good. Jen and Todd (my bosses) showed me and my partner how the irrigation system works, which will be very important come time to plant and water.

I have been trying to think of different plants I would like to plant and while I have not done my research, I think cucumbers, asparagus, brussel sprouts, and beets would be pretty cool additions to the garden. I have been trying to read as much as I can about crop spacing and the basics of gardening, so I am not completely clueless when I come back on May 28th.

Overall, it was nice to begin work and see what my days in the garden are going to feel like. I am so excited to start later this month I can’t wait to come back to campus and get started!

Hillary