Autumn in the Garden

Autumn in the Garden
Autumn in the Garden: Cosmos Forest for our chitinous and feathered friends

Friday, March 18, 2016

Composted Horse Manure at Happel's Barn

Happel's Barn is located at 2 Willow Av in Rockleigh, NJ and has free aged manure.  No need to make an appointment. The owners, Ronnie and her son Kurt can be reached at  201-767-3500

Go south on Ferdon to stop sign at bridge near pond.
Turn left and bear right onto Piermont Av south.
Continue south on this road past Oak Tree Rd
    until you come almost to the gas station on the right by Paris Av
Turn left onto Willow Av BEFORE the gas station.
Continue about half a block and turn right into the horse farm.

The compost (what's left for the season) is just inside on the left and it's free for the taking.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

2016 Garden Calendar

March 1          Membership Due$ ‘Early Deadline’ to E. Tress -
                        $20 half plot / $40 full plot
March 13       Spring Member Meeting - 4 pm Village Hall
March 15        Membership Due$ ‘Final Deadline’ to E. Tress -
                         Increased fee (formerly: $25 half plot / $50 full plot)

April TBD       New Member Orientation (Mandatory)

April 9             Spring Work Party POSTPONED TO NEXT SAT
April 10           Spring Work Party   Noon - 4 pm (4/17 Rain Date)
                         Seed Swap 11:30 am in Parelli Park

April 16           Spring Work Party  10 am - 2 pm 

April 17           Weed & clean your plot deadline

May 30            Planting deadline for all plots

June 15            Solstice Work Party cleanup for Picnic 5 - 7 pm (Rain date 6/16) 
June 18            Summer Solstice Picnic at Parelli Park 6 - 10 pm

Aug. 6              Mid-summer Work Party 9 -11 am OR 10 am - Noon
                          (Heat/Rain date Wed 8/10, 6 - 8 pm)
Oct. 15             Fall Work Party (Rain date 10/22) 10 am - 2 pm
Oct. 16             Fall Work Party (Rain date 10/23) Noon - 3 pm
Oct. 22             Fall Member Meeting Sat @ TBA, 4:30 – 5:30 pm

Dec. 1              Winter cleaning & weeding deadline
Dec. 17            Winter Solstice Bonfire in Joan's driveway 6 - 8 am

*** Rain dates and cancellations will be posted on the Garden fence by the front gate.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


A recent article in The Journal News by Max Apton, former vegetable field manager at The Stone Barns Center, gives some tips for  growing a bumper crop of tomatoes.
  • Prepare bed by adding 1" of compost.  Loosen soil deeply with a digging fork allowing compost to be worked into the lower layers of soil.
  • Plant tomatoes deep, at least up to the first set of leaves.  (Especially important if the seedling is gangly; roots will develop along the buried part of the stem creating a strong support for the mature plant.)
  • Space plants 2½ ft apart.  Space rows 4-5 ft apart.  This allows plants plenty of room to breathe.
  • Use stakes, not cages.  Steel T-posts can support the weight of a fully mature vine without falling over.  Cages do not allow for generous airflow around the plant.
  • Be diligent in pruning once they start growing.  Only prune on bright, sunny days.  Sunshine helps "cauterize" the pruned cuts.
  • Use a sharp pair of scissors for a clean cut.  Snip away any lower yellowing leaves.  Pinch off "suckers" as the emerge, training plants to have 2 leaders.
  • Cut away any flowers that form until the plant is at least knee-high.
  • Begin the season by watering deeply every 5 days.  Ideally, use a soaker hose for 3 hrs.  This less frequent and deep watering encourages deep root growth.
  • Once the plant begins to flower & set fruit, do not water the rest of the season, no matter how dry the weather.   Too much water will result in watery tomatoes that easily split.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Peeling Tomatoes - An Alternative Method

I recently came across a blog that went inactive in 2010 called Grow the Change (You Want to See).  It may prove a good resource for those curious about homesteading experiences.  Here is a description from the blog of an alternative way to peel tomatoes:

"I've been wanting to try it out and see if it is a viable method for removing the skins from large batches of tomatoes. So I set out with a 20 lb pail of ripe Roma tomatoes. ... Here's the technique: use only ripe tomatoes, paste types work best, but it works for all varieties."
  • Scrape the tomato skin with the back of your pairing, or small kitchen knife. 
  • Scrape back and forth a few times, applying slight pressure, like you are shaving the skin, rotating the tomato to work around the whole fruit. 
  • You will start to see the skin wrinkle under the right pressure, and the texture of the tomato changes to that of a water balloon, as if there's a layer of water just under the skin. This method separates the skin from the flesh underneath. 
  • Then slice off the stem end and peel down from the top. The skin should come off easily.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sand Wasps to the Rescue!

Sand Wasp 5/8" long, J. Lampkin photo, Sep 2013
Hurricane Sandy may have done us a favor.  Have you noticed some low-flying bee-like insects hovering over the walk in the NE corner of the Garden by the fig tree?  These insects are definitely friends.  They are Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus, commonly known as Sand Wasps. And they would not be in the Garden if there was no sand for them to dig their nests.  The sand is there to hold the walkway bricks in place.  The brick walkways are a project that would not have been built if Sandy had not destroyed our original infrastructure.

Are they dangerous?  No.  Do they sting?  The females do have stingers.  They need them to paralyze the prey they lay their eggs on.  When the egg hatches, it has all the food it needs to grow into a working adult.  The males, who act quite aggressively until they realize you are not a wasp, have no stinger.  They act so to defend their territory in hopes of 'getting lucky'.  It is rare to be stung by a female sand wasp. She is far too busy finding prey for her young.  However, you might feel her sting if you step on her with your bare foot or put your hand on her.  Otherwise, feel free to walk through the little carpet of them in the NE corner.  Better yet, sit a while and observe them digging in the sand between the bricks, coming and going as they provision each chamber for the next generation.

The adults feed on the nectar they find in our flowers.  Thank them for helping with pollination.  But, a big thank you goes to them for the work they do when providing for their young.  And what is the favorite food choice for this?  True bugs.  In particular, Stinkbugs!  And what stinkbug has now started hatching in our garden?  The Squash Bug!  First sighting was June 28.  Last year they were everywhere.  Check your own zucchinis and other cucurbits.  Do you find clusters of bronze eggs under some of the leaves? If so, they will hatch and hopefully become food for the next generation of Sand Wasps.

Perhaps, if they run out of squash bugs, they will 'harvest' another stinkbug, that attacks our kale and other brassicas every summer -- the Harlequin Bug!

Sept 1, 2014
We've had no sightings of Harlequin or Squash bugs this summer after the arrival in June of the Sand Wasps.  This is in contrast to the heavy infestation of both during the 2013 season.  Last week I sighted a Sand Wasp on the walkway and it had something brown under it that it was holding on to.  Without disturbing her, I could only surmise it was a stinkbug she was stinging -- perhaps the brown marmorated one or the Squash bug.  Nearby was the sighting of recent nesting activity in the sand between the bricks near my plot.  Our Sand Wasps continue to be vigilant for this pest!  :> The Garden Sprite

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Foliar Feeding with Food from the Sea

In the 1950s, scientists used radioactive isotope "tracers" to prove that plants can absorb nutrients through their leaves and stems ("foliar feeding") just as easily as through their roots.  In an old Organic Gardening article, Supercharge your Plants with Seafood Sprays (July 1997), Vicki Mattern observes that while feeding the soil is the cardinal rule in gardening organically, foliar feeding has its place and she lays out the why, what, when and how.

WHY?  Increases yields & makes nutrients available to plants more quickly than other kinds of fertilizers
  • If your plants are suffering obvious nutrient deficiencies, such as stunted growth, strangely colored leaves, etc.
  • If your plants are in danger of unusual stress -- light frost (studies have shown that seaweed sprays can provide an extra 2 to 3 degrees of frost protection), drought, intense heat, flooding, etc.
  • When your plants are at their most critical stages of growth: 1) setting buds (just before they bloom) and 2) at fruit set (when you see tiny fruits beginning to form).  Studies have found that seaweed sprays can boost strawberry yields up to 133%, tomato yields up to 37%    
  • Research has also shown that seaweed sprays can suppress disease (botrytis on strawberries); reduce the number of pests (red spider mites on cucumbers and apples); increase the shelf life of many crops.
WHAT?  Fish, Seaweed or a Blend of Both
  • "Fish-only" brands provide:  1) high amounts of nitrogen -- the food necessary for all stages of plant growth, especially for leaf formation,  2) phosphorus -- essential for the formation of plant roots, flowers and fruits and  3)  potassium -- helps plants absorb nutrients, makes them more vigorous and able to resist diseases.
  • Seaweed based fertilizers supply  1) the big three nutrients (N, P and K) although not in the great amount that Fish does.  2) micronutrients and plant growth compounds, vital to a plants' health.  Land-based fertilizers do not easily provide these benefits.  NB: In his book Seaweed and Plant Growth (Clemson University, 1987), Dr. Senn, who is professor emeritus of horticulture at Clemson U, reports that seaweed contains at least 70 plant-friendly trace elements, including boron, copper, iron, manganese and zinc.  He adds that  the plant growth compounds also present in seaweed (cytokinens, betaines, giberellins, etc.), speed up the process of flowering and fruiting and increase plant survival during drought and other times of stress.
WHEN?  Morning!
  • "It's best to foliar feed in the morning," advises Dr. Senn, explaining that "plants are hungry then, just like people." 
  • As the day progresses, the cells on the surface of a plant's leaves close up to reduce moisture loss.  When those cells are closed, they are less receptive to liquid nutrients than in the morning when they're wide open.
OMRI approved fish & seaweed fertilizer
HOW?  Simple spray bottle with diluted seaweed and/or fish fertilizer.
  • Every 2 weeks, feed the foliage of your plants with a combination of fish and seaweed like Neptune's Harvest for a well-balanced "meal".
  • Look for seaweed that comes from cold waters, especially the waters off New England and Norway.
  • Ascophyllum nodosum is considered "the cadillac of seaweeds" according to Dr. Senn.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 28 -- First Sighting of Squash Bugs and their Eggs

Gus and Denise discovered squash bugs yesterday. The bronze eggs had already been laid in clusters on the underside of their zucchini leaves.  If you are growing any of the cucurbits, especially squashes but also melons, check out previous posts for how to scout and deal with this pesky stinkbug using cultural control recommended by Cornell.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tomatoes - Secrets to Growing Success

Organic Gardening published 10 tips for growing tomatoes successfully --  Tomatoes - Secrets to Growing Success.  Succession planting is the tip that surprised me.  Three weeks after the first planting, start a 2nd group of tomatoes or a 2nd transplant to spread out the harvest over the season.

I would reiterate an 11th tipMulch, mulch, mulch.  With salt hay or straw.  As soon as you plant.  Why?  3 reasons.  1. To prevent weeds from colonizing around your tomato plant's roots.  2. To keep the moisture from evaporating out of the soil.  3. Most importantly, to prevent any disease organisms in the soil from splashing up on your leaves when it rains or you water.  (You never do overhead watering in the evening, right? Especially when the night is expected to be warm & humid!)

The most common disease of tomatoes in our Garden is the fungus Alternaria solani, known as early blight.  Once the blight has taken hold, there is no cure.  Since the spores live in the soil and on plant debris, use only clean straw or hay that has not been previously applied to our soil.  And if using last year's stakes or cages, sterilize them first.  The alternaria spores appear to be able to survive on them to reinfect your plants this year when the leaves or stems touch the support system.

An old 2002 NYT article on alternaria solani recommends: 

  • Plant vigorous seedlings
  • Space far apart for good air circulation, in fertile, well-watered ground
  • Mulch as soon as you plant, so rain can’t splash spores from the ground onto the lower leaves. (Use landscape fabric if the soil is still cool, and switch to straw when the weather warm.) 
  • Water only at ground level - wet leaves not only spread early blight, but also succumb to it more quickly
The things that help most, in the end, are cherry tomatoes and waiting.  Plants with small fruits are somewhat resistant, and late varieties with large vines come through better than early, short ones.

Here are the tips from Rodale's Organic Gardening article:

1. Choose a bright, airy spot.
Plant tomatoes where they will get at least 10 hours of light in summer. And leave room between plants for air to circulate.
2. Rotate even a little.
Alternate your tomato bed between even just two spots and you diminish the risk of soilborne diseases such as bacterial spot and early blight.
3. Pass up overgrown transplants.
When buying tomato seedlings, beware of lush green starts with poor root systems. They will languish for weeks before growing.
4. Bury the stems.
Plant your tomato seedlings up to the first true leaves. New roots will quickly sprout on the stems. More roots means more fruits.
5. Water deeply but infrequently.
Soak your tomato bed once a week, or every five days at the height of summer. Water directly on the soil, not on the leaves.
6. Pinch the suckers.
Prune off these non-fruiting branches. This directs the tomato plant's energy into growing bigger, better fruit.
7. Stake them high.
Use 6-foot stakes for indeterminate varieties like the 'Brandywine' tomato. Put in the stakes when transplanting to avoid damaging roots.
8. Add compost and trim.
While the first fruit is ripening, encourage new growth and continued fruit set by scratching compost around the stem, and trim some of the upper leaves.
9. Plant again.
Three weeks after you plant tomatoes in your garden, put in another set so all of your harvest doesn't come at once.
10. Pick ripe, but not dead ripe.
Heirloom tomatoes that are too ripe can be mealy. Harvest them when they're full size and fully colored.

For more information about growing tomatoes, check out OG's Tomato Growing Guide.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thank a Bee, a Fly, and even a Beetle - It's National Pollinator Week!

EcoBeneficial! is a site devoted to useful gardening tips to improve our environment. In the most recent article, Kim Eierman observes that in 2006, the US Senate designated June 20-27 as the first National Pollinator Week.  Read about the state of our pollinators in her article: It's National Pollinator Week: Thank a Bee, and a Fly, and Even a Beetle.  What can we do?  Every landscape matters.  For starters, check out her page on Bee Friendly Native Perennials ,which are listed according to the season they bloom, and get inspired to plant some perennials for this hard-working chitinous garden friend!  Learn about our other pollinators.  Plant a magnolia to thank the beetles who account for the pollination of over 85% of flowering plants.  However, we gardeners do draw the line at thanking the cucumber beetles!!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Herb Garden Renovated! Sign up for Watering During Summer Completed

Thanks to all who have signed up. You will be given some credits for your Community Garden work requirements for this.  We can meet you at the Herb Garden if you have questions.  Sandy, our Herb Garden Coordinator, will post the schedule in the shed.  On this site, the watering schedule is under Upcoming EventsRemember to water the Pear Tree Bed!

While you are watering, make friends with the following newly purchased herbs from Gilberties in Westport, CT:
Pineapple Sage ~~ Lady's Mantle ~~ Parsley ~~ Basils (3 kinds) ~~ Lavender ~~ Rosemary ~~ Dill ~~ Lemon Grass ~~ Stevia ~~ Bay ~~ Tansy ~~ Feverfew ~~ Lemon Gem Marigold ~~ Saltwort (a new plant for us that does well in marshes)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dan's Video of the 2013 Garden Reconstruction

Dan Sherman posted the video of Sandy's Destruction and Our Reconstruction of the Garden in 2013 on YouTube at Richard's website. Copies will also be available at the Spring Meeting on March 16.  The film takes us from before the storm, to after the storm, through cleanup & reconstruction and finally to the restoration of the Garden's lushness in Summer -- all in a period of 10 minutes.

BEEseeching Valentines for Home Depot & Lowes

CAMPAIGN UPDATE from OCA (Organic Consumers Assn)  Feb. 14, 2014

Just the Beeginning

They showed up in bee costumes. Carrying Valentine’s Day cards and cookies. Singing Give bees a chance. To add a little theater to the mix, some of them staged bee die-ins.

Activists in Boston, Chicago, Eugene, Ore., Minneapolis, Washington D.C. and San Francisco converged on their local Home Depot and Lowe’s stores this week with this message: Show bees some love. Stop selling garden plants coated in bee-killing pesticides.

The demonstrations were part of a national Bee Week of Action
which included deliveries of valentines to managers of Home Depot and Lowe’s stores, coast to coast.

The actions, organized by Friends of the Earth, the Organic Consumers Association and 10 other groups, included collecting more than a half million signatures on petitions to Home Depot and Lowe’s, and sending letters to the CEOs of both companies.

Home Depot responded this week, to say the company is working on a policy to address neonics. We’re hopeful Lowe’s will reach out soon.

This week was just the beginning of what will be a sustained campaign to educate consumers and press retailers to replace bee-killing plants with organic, pesticide-free alternatives.

From the Back Yard Beekeepers Association
  • A hive of bees will collect about 66 pounds of pollen per year
  • A queen bee can live for several years.
  • Workers live for 6 weeks in the summer and several months in winter
  • By clustering, bees keep the temperature of the hive around 93ºF
  • Worker bees are female.  Drones are male.
  • Drones die after mating.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Alyssum - Not Just a Pretty Flower

Adult hoverfly on an alyssum flowerhead
Consider interplanting some alyssum in your plot this year to help control aphids.  Organic lettuce growers plant alyssum as an effective way to control this soft-bodied insect that snuggles in the folds of their lettuce (Flower Power Protects Organic Lettuce Fields).  And how do they do this?  By attracting hoverflies!  Although they resemble wasps & bees, these little Syrphidae are harmless with no stinger.  Well-fed by your pollen and nectar, they return the favor by laying their eggs nearby where their hungry larvae prey on your aphids. 

For more information on other plants and biological control, check out "Farmer Fred" Hoffman's Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects. Note the download offered at the top with more photos.



Feb. 9            Winter Potluck Dinner at St Charles AME Church 6 - 9 pm

March 2        Membership Due$ ‘Early Deadline’ to E. Tress -
                        $15 half plot / $30 full plot
March 16      Membership Due$ ‘Final Deadline’ to E. Tress -
                        $25 half plot / $50 full plot

March 16      Spring Member Meeting at Piermont Library 4-5:30 pm 

April 5           Spring Work Party  10 am - 2 pm
April 6           Spring Work Party   Noon - 3 pm

April TBD     New Member Orientation (Mandatory) time:  6 pm

May 6            Weed & clean your plot deadline
May 17          Herb Garden Renovation 1 - 3 pm
May 31          Planting deadline for all plots

June 18        Solstice Work Party cleanup for Picnic (Rain date 6/19) 5 - 7 pm
June 21        Summer Solstice Picnic at Parelli Park 6 - 10 pm

Aug. 2          Mid-summer Work Party 9 -11 am OR 10 am - Noon
                        (Heat/Rain date Wed 8/6, 6 - 8 pm)

Sep. TBD     Tea in the Garden - an informal potluck tea (Rain date Sept. TBD)

Oct. TBD      Fall Member Meeting @ Piermont Library 6:30 – 8 pm
Oct. 18          Fall Work Party (Rain date 10/25) 10 am - 2 pm
Oct. 19          Fall Work Party (Rain date 10/26) Noon - 3 pm

Dec. 7            Winter cleaning & weeding deadline
Dec. 20         Winter Solstice Bonfire in Joan's driveway 6 - 8 am

*** Rain dates and cancellations will be posted on the Garden fence by the front gate.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Slug Glue and Heart Repair

Discover Magazine sported an article about a recent medical discovery.  Slug-Inspired Glue Can Heal a Broken Heart.  The next time you find one of these unwanted gastropods in your garden, you may wish to thank it for its contribution to modern medicine before you toss it to the geese in Parelli or put it in a container of soapy water!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Green Tomatoes

Green tomato season is approaching as Oct 15, first frost date nears.  If you have a good harvest of tomatoes still to ripen and a freeze threatens your tomato plants, you can harvest the green tomatoes and either ripen them inside or try Organic Gardening's Pickled Green Tomatoes which uses fresh tarragon and garlic.

To ripen green tomatoes inside, store them in a box, not allowing them to touch each other lest one start to decay and pass it on to the others.  If you have more than one layer, separate the layers with cardboard or newspaper. Check periodically for ripening (or decay) and harvest as needed.  One year we had fresh tomatoes from the garden until Thanksgiving using this method.  Others have had tomatoes even longer.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Gardening Articles Links

Gardener's Supply provides over 100 articles on Vegetable Gardening
Vegetable Gardening - 106 articles  One timely example:  Season-Extending Techniques   By using a few simple season-extending techniques and plant-protection devices, you can shield your plants from extremes of weather, and stretch your gardening season by two, three or even six months.  
Other gardening article categories such as Pests & Diseases, Indoor Gardening and Flower Gardening are in a bar to the left of the page.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

News Article on the Garden's Comeback after Sandy

Bill Cary visited the Garden August 25 and interviewed members about their growing season and the positive changes to our Garden for his Aug 31st article, After Sandy, Piermont Community Garden Roars Back to Life.

Stephanie, Dan, Maureen, Tim and daughters Naima & Isla, Colleen, Rob and Mary pose for photo by Joe Larese of The Journal News

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why Is the Basil Looking So Poorly?

More than a few members have lamented "What's wrong with the basil?"  In January, Cornell warned gardeners about a new destructive disease of basil, Downy Mildew which first made its appearance in the US in 2007 down in Florida.  Take a look at their article Expect and Prepare for Downy Mildew in Basil where you will find some good photos of this disease.  Compare them to what you see on your basil.  I think we have Downy Mildew in the Garden, probably made worse by the heavy rains, evening overhead watering, and the winds we've had lately.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Can It Be Too Hot for Tomatoes, Peppers & Beans? Cooler Feet Might Help the Tomatoes!

Rhoda Burrows, PhD has an interesting article on The Effects of Heat on Vegetables -- ie: the failure of tomato & pepper & green bean fruit to set, squash flowers to be pollinated, lettuce to germinate, and the bitterness of cucumbers and the head disruption of broccoli and cauliflower.  She has a few suggestions on how to ameliorate the bad effects of high temps.

Some members have complained about the lack of fruit on their tomatoes while others see their fruit failing to ripen.

According to the ND Extension Fact Sheet "Tomatoes often produce more flowers at high temperatures, but above 80º F pollen production is impaired and fruit set is decreased, especially if the high temperatures are accompanied by high humidity."

And Carly Fiske, eHow Contributer, in her article Tomatoes Will Not Ripen observes, "If air temperature rises about 85 Fahrenheit, tomato plants cannot produce the carotene and lycopene essential for ripe, red fruit. Roots need to be below 80 F.  If your region has temperatures above 85 F, shade your tomato plants to reduce temperature. Add mulch around the roots of the plants to protect roots from high heat."

These high temperatures are just the conditions we have suffered under this last week and earlier in the summer.  Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of the salt hay fields last year and nurseries were not able to provide us with the supply to mulch our tomatoes as we have in past years.  Both the lack of mulch and high temperatures this year are contributing to the poorer than usual tomato yield.  One possible and easy alternative to mulching with salt hay is to use composted manure which we can obtain free from Happel's Barn in Rockleigh, NJ.

Providing shade for the plants to reduce the temperature is a trickier solution which as a community we have not been forced to develop.  Any suggestions?

To understand better how the heat (and drought) is affecting the food supply in our country read the NY Times article of July 21, 2013 Our Coming Food Crisis.