Harvest by Hillary

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


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Week 11: Lunch in the Garden, Tomato Weaves, and a Field Trip

I can’t believe there are only two more weeks of work in the garden! This summer has flown by and pretty soon all the other students will be back on campus. With the start of school right around the corner I am just realizing that everything Emma and I have grown will soon be used in the dining hall. I will be so excited to go to Barone (Fairfield’s dining hall) and see cherry tomatoes from the garden in the salad bar, or the carrots in a side dish for all of Fairfield to enjoy. I cannot wait to tell everyone that those weren’t just from the campus garden but, they were the product of Emma and I’s hard work!

So, with the summer coming to a close this week there was no planting to be done, only watering, maintenance, and pest hunting. Monday, I really focused on watering the new seeds and checking up on all the plants. Emma freshly mowed the lawn to prepare for lunch in the garden and I made sure the beds were all weed free and looking nice. I also wove the tomatoes, which was actually a really fun task. I don’t know why I enjoyed it so much…but I did. I liked it so much I decided to weave my experiment tomato plants as well.

woven tomato row

I don’t think I have talked about my experiment in a while. I wanted to make sure everything was up and running before I began talking about it to not jinx anything. But, now that my tomato plants are transplanted into pots with each individual treatment I feel confident that this experiment is going to be awesome!

Half of my research tomatoes

Half of my research tomatoes

All the plants are doing well and right now I am just keeping track of how many flowers each plant has because there is no tomato fruit data yet. Eventually I will be counting tomato numbers and looking at the tomatoes quality: color, size, shape, etc. I also am in the process of finding a lab to analyze the individual fruits for vitamin and nutrient content so I know how the soil conditions (salinity and nutrients) affect the nutritional quality of the fruits.

A close-up view of one of my research tomato plants

A close-up view of one of my research tomato plants

I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and I really think a lot of people will be interested in what I am testing.

Tuesday was lunch in the garden and Emma once again created another “garden inspired” recipe from our kale and onions. She called her dish “Sweet Kale and Onion Salad” and it was amazing! She was experimenting with the recipe in our kitchen Monday night, so I got to taste test and I loved it. Make sure you check out her blog to get the recipe! http://eatingwithemma.tumblr.com/

We had quite the crowd Tuesday. First, three former Fairfield U basketball players working at the basketball camp stopped by. They told us that they had been meaning to show their support and come to lunch in the garden. After giving them a tour of the garden and a taste of Emma’s salad we agreed to come to their games to show our support for their team as they did for us.

I was so happy to see people from Fairfield Athletics show their support for the garden. Being an athlete myself I know how important nutrition is for athletic success. I hope in the future more athletes will become involved with the garden.

I think one of the most important goals for the campus garden is how it is meant to build the Fairfield community. Being a Fairfield student I think it is so important to get students of all types interacting and working toward common goals. I have met so many new and interesting people this summer and I am so glad I was given the opportunity to branch out of my comfort zone and expand my interests and activities on campus.

It is really easy for people to shy to their comfort zones. If there are any freshmen reading, take this advice and take advantage of all your campus has to offer and don’t be afraid to do something different then you are used to!

Besides the basketball girls we also had some graduate students and faculty attend the lunch. We had a gorgeous day of weather and everyone enjoyed having Emma’s salad.

Wednesday, Emma and I had a meeting with a member from Fairfield’s media department. Fairfield wanted to write an article on the campus garden and so Emma and I were interviewed about our summer experiences. I can’t wait to see how the article comes out and I will post the link to the article on my blog so you all can read it as well!

After the interview Emma and I checked on the squash for pests and cut back two of the chive plants. We cut back only two of the chives so that the chives would be all growing back at different growth times.

Our butternut squash row

Our butternut squash row

Thursday, Emma and I did something a little out of our usual routine and took a trip to the Westport Farmer’s Market. We have been meaning to go to a local farmer’s market and I am so glad we did. The Westport market was amazing. Emma and I went to town talking to the vendors and asking about their local businesses.

Take a look at the pictures below for everything Emma and I purchased!

Westport Farmer's Market Purchases

All of our amazing purchases! We love supporting local businesses and farms!

Carrot basil hummus and organic carrots

Organic carrots with carrot basil hummus. Best snack combo ever.

chocolate mint

Chocolate Mint. This special ingredient will be used in Emma and I’s upcoming lunch in the garden recipe!

Organic Peaches

Juicy and sweet organic peaches

 

Emma's Farmers Market Purchase

Emma’s purchases: zucchini, apples, berries, mixed lettuce, and edamame protein salad (amazing by the way)

Probably my favorite thing I bought at the market was my carrot and basil hummus. I had a free sample of it at the stand and I fell in love. It tasted so hearty and fresh I needed to buy a container of it. Right when I got home I actually made a salad and used it as a dressing. The salad was made from veggies found in either the campus garden, or the farmer’s market. I loved knowing exactly where all my veggies were coming from.

My lunch made from everything either found in our garden or the Westport Farmer's Market

My lunch made from everything either found in our garden or the Westport Farmer’s Market

Emma and I were raving about this for probably the entire time we were eating lunch…We discussed how we think it is so strange and disturbing that people rarely question where their food is coming from. If I could I honestly would buy and use only locally grown food or my own grown food. The only problem with this is that at times it can become quite expensive, but I think if you never waste your food and are smart about what you buy you can buy a lot of your food locally at a decent price.

Maybe I should do a post about how students can buy their groceries locally without emptying their wallets? That would be fun!

Well, that brings us to today. It is Friday everyone, but what a dark and dreary day it is… It doesn’t look like the weather is going to be very promising today, so Emma and I will probably just focus on our blogs and researching garden information today.

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend and I will be back next week!


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Week 10

Well, it has been quite some time since I put out a post! While I am disappointed all my summer trips are over…I am still happy to be finally back and working in the garden again. A lot has happened since the last time I blogged, so this post is a garden catch-up!

So when I last blogged, I was about to leave for Maine.  Emma and I worked hard to plant the remaining beds before I left. We planted beets, cilantro, an assortment of basil, kale, swiss chard, and carrots. I was happy knowing that everything was planted and on its way growing before I left.

When I came back (last week, not this week) I was glad to see everything sprouting and growing beautifully just as I had intended. I was also glad to see that our eggplants had even more fruit, our cherry tomatoes were fruiting like crazy, and some of the cucumbers were ready for harvest!  Everything looked so green, I felt as if Emma and I’s hard work was really paying off!

Cherry tomatoes are popping up everywhere!

Cherry tomatoes are popping up everywhere!

cucumber week 10

Good looking cucumber!

eggplant week 10

Even more eggplants!

growing basil

Beautiful growing basil

sunflowers

Our flower bed is beginning to bloom!

That week, I ended up harvesting the largest eggplant and some kale. I even used the eggplant in my own recipe creation over the weekend, a little something I call “Eggplant Pizza.” I really wish I took a picture of it because it was delicious! But, for those of you that would like to try it yourself here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant

olive oil

salt and pepper

marinara sauce

mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Slice the eggplant and place in a baking dish lined with aluminum foil.

Brush some olive oil over the eggplant and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 F.

After 20 minutes, pour the marinara sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle your desired amount of cheese.

Bake an additional 10 minutes.  And there you go, you have yourself some eggplant pizzas!

This was extremely easy to make and there’s no need for specific measurements! It is all it just how you want it to taste!

After the weekend, week 10 began. This brings us to the current week, which has been very productive if I don’t say so myself.

Monday, I was itching to get back in the garden and do some serious work! I ended up thinning and pruning all the cherry tomatoes in the row on the hill. They now look cleaned up and ready to grow to their full potential. Monday I also decided to tackle the old garlic row that has been meaning to be over-turned. The soil is so leafy because of the leaf mulch used to cover the garlic, but for now it will have to do. The only thing that will be planted in that row will be the oats and peas to be used as cover crops, so there is no need for perfect soil.

Before I move on to Tuesday, some of you may not know what “cover crops” are or do. Basically cover crops such as peas and oats are crops that are planted to manage the soil and keep it fertile, hydrated, and healthy. Many gardeners and farmers prefer to use cover crops in empty plots, so in the future when they need to plant the soil will be a great planting quality.

After taking care of the tomato and garlic rows, Tuesday, I decided to replant the cilantro. Some of the newly planted crops (Not a lot but specifically the swiss chard and cilantro) have not come up yet and its been about 3 weeks.

Tuesday was also lunch in the garden and what a crowd we had. We had around 8 people mostly graduate students and staff and it was great to sit down and talk to everyone about the garden and their own gardening experiences. One of our dedicated attendees, the school’s head of public safety, even brought homemade pickles, which were fantastic! I am a huge pickle fan and luckily he told me his easy recipe, so I am definitely going to make my own!

After lunch in the garden I worked on the garlic row again and made sure to check all the plants for pests and soil conditions.

Wednesday was a really cool day because Emma and I uncovered the butternut squash row. The butternuts have gotten huge and the row looks amazing. The blossoms are almost in full bloom and are looking great and will finally get to be pollinated!

Squash blossom

Squash blossom

With the unveiling of the butternuts, came the veiling of the zucchini. Earlier our zucchini was having some powdery mildew problems, but luckily we sprayed them down with an organic fungicide and it has almost gone away. Now the zucchini are covered and are ready to grow as much as the butternuts have.

Wednesday, I also did a lot of weeding. Personally there is something about weeding that I just love…I know this may sound weird. But nothing is more satisfying than tackling a weedy section of your garden and cleaning it up. When the soil looks clean not only does it look pleasing, but it is great for your plants. The plants have the chance to now take up the nutrients available without having to share them with all those pesky weeds. Trust me you can really see the difference in how your plants grow whether they are in a clean or weedy environment.

Thursday, unfortunately was a pretty dreary day. I spent a lot of time researching and blogging, which was nice because I haven’t sat down and blogged in two weeks! Emma and I also went to Ganim’s Garden Center to pick up some beet seeds and new herbs. The second half of the mint bed is still empty, except for a small row of basil that was gifted to the garden from the head of public safety, so we needed to find some herbs to fill it up!

At Ganim’s there were obviously slim pickings since it is the end of planting season, but we ended up finding some pretty cool stuff!

For one we found a stevia plant. If you are a health nut, like I and haven’t heard of the new natural sweetener made from Stevia leaves then shame on you because this stuff is great!

Stevia Leaf

Stevia Leaf

So, what is Stevia? Well, it is a plant that is a member of the sunflower family known for its sweet tasting leaves. Stevia makes a great sugar substitute for dieters and health conscious people because it doesn’t spike blood glucose levels and create a signifigant drop in blood glucose after wards putting the body into a sluggish sugar coma. Also, Stevia is great because unlike other sweeteners it doesn’t trigger further cravings for carbohydrates and sweets meaning dieters can have healthy control of their eating habits.

As you can see I am very excited to put this plant in the garden.

Besides the stevia plant we also found three more types of mint to add. The varieties that are being added are banana, ginger, and pineapple. Emma and I love how many different varieties of mint we have and I think our mint section of the garden will continue to be a hit with visitors.

I always love showing people our mint because they can try it themselves and really taste the difference between each type. I love seeing peoples reactions when they can taste the hidden flavors.

The last herb we bought was lavender, a personal favorite of Emma and mine’s. I used to have bad insomnia when I was in high school and I remember trying every natural remedy under the sun to help me sleep. One of the things I tried was buying a lavender pillow spray. I fell in love with the scent and while it probably was not the primary reason my insomnia was cured, I still love the smell.

I’m even thinking about harvesting some to make small satchels with dried lavender to place in my pillow!

So, after all this catch-up business it is now Friday and almost the weekend. I am planning on hopefully  planting the beets today and getting our herbs in the bed. A nice relaxing Friday of planting is just what I need!

So, I hope you enjoyed my blog catch-up and I promise I will be back again next week to blog!

Happy Weekend Everyone!