Autumn in the Garden

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

2021 PCG Activity Calendar


Mar 1     Membership Due$ ‘Early Deadline’ to E. Tress - $20 half plot / $40 full plot

TBD       Spring Member Mtg Location TBD

Mar 15    Membership Due$ ‘Final Deadline’ to E. Tress -

                Dues: $30 half plot / $50 full plot; plot forfeited after deadline

Apr TBD   New Member Orientation (Mandatory; Mich Brisson to schedule)

Apr 15    Deadline to weed & clean your plot 

Apr 10    Spring Work Party Sat, 10 am - 2 pm (4/17 Rain Date)

Apr 18    Spring Work Party  Sun, Noon - 3 pm (4/25 Rain Date)

May 31   Deadline to Plant your plot

Jun 16    Solstice Work Party prep Wed, 5 - 7 pm (Rain date 6/17)

Jun 19    Summer Solstice Party at Parelli Park Sat, 6 - 10 pm  

Aug 7      Mid-summer Work Party Sat, 9-11am or 10am - 12pm

                    (Alternate date Wed 8/11, 6 - 8 pm)

Oct 16     Fall Work Party (Rain date 10/23) Sat, 10 am - 2 pm

Oct 23     Gathering in Garden to Remember Carol, Sat, 4:30 pm 

Oct 24     Fall Work Party (Rain date 10/31)  Sun, 12 - 3 pm

Oct 30     Fall Member Mtg  Sun, 4 pm Zoom

Dec 1     Deadline to clean & weed plot for Winter 

Dec 18    Winter Solstice Bonfire (Garden driveway) 6 - 8 am

Sandy Smudging the Garden, 2020 Winter Solstice

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

Will we have Pop-up Events during the season?  

Check your email for dates & time!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Why Does the Kale Taste Better Harvested after First Frost?

Kale is a cold-hardy vegetable.  For a long time I've wondered why it tastes better in the Fall than in Summer.  I finally found an answer in Jeff Ashton's book The 12-Month Gardener: Simple Strategies for Extending Your Growing Season.  He says, "...collards, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale will mature very well in the summer, but that doesn't mean they should be harvested in hot weather."

Why?  They are bitter (to varying degrees) he notes, when harvested then.

Why?  "Sugar (generated by photosynthesis) is the fuel that allows a plant to breathe.  In times of high stress, hardy plants are using every bit of sugar available to stay alive.  Bitterness is a result of sugar depletion during these periods of high stress when temperatures soar and the soil is dry."   Ashton observes, as do I, that they become much sweeter after being hit by a couple of frosts.

Why?  "The reason for this" he says, "is that the rate of respiration in hardy vegetables slows down in cool weather.  As the season progresses into cooler weather, excess or unused sugar is stored."  Mmmm.  Hence, sweeter leaves!

In summer, if you must harvest your kale, make sure it is well-watered ahead and harvest after a couple of cloudy days for a sweeter experience.  Otherwise, wait until Fall's frosts have hit to experience the optimum flavor.

In our Garden, kale has been observed to winter over, especially if covered even lightly with the spun material (often called Reemay) that lets in sunlight and rain. Harvest can even take place during winter on more mild days.  I harvested both curly and lacinato (dinosaur) kale this week.

Beware! During the Fall and Winter, whiteflies can be a pest you don't want to bring indoors, especially if you have houseplants.  Shake harvested leaves while still in the Garden and wash well or submerge in water to remove any remaining flies before bringing indoors.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Weeds' Patient & Prolific Progeny – Know Thine Enemy

The information below is sobering to keep in mind when dancing with weeds and letting them go to seed.  Some of those seeds will be viable long after we have become part of the earth in which they germinate!

Bindweed flowering

Many of these are in our Garden Plots

Bindweed 40 yrs   Long-lived perennial with deep root system – never let it seed!
Curly dock Rumex crispus  29,500   70 yrs
Foxtail   20 yrs
Canada Thistle   21 yrs
Crabgrass  8,000
Dandelions  100-200 seeds/head  6 yrs  Germinates immediately after reaching has no after-ripening requirements. Seed keeps in a ziplock bag in a refrigerator for 2 years with extremely high germination.
Evening Primrose  70 yrs
Galinsoga ciliata   7,500    10 yrs + in soil
Lambsquarters Chenopodum album  72,450    7% viable after 38 yrs
Mullein Verbascum thapsus   223,200,   70 yrs
Nutsedge  100 – 2,000 
Pigweed (redroot)  117,400   10-40 yrs
Plantain Plantago major  36,000  40 yrs
Purslane Portulaca oleracea  52,300    40 yrs
Redroot pigweed Amaranthus spp  117,400   3 yrs Unknown viability after 38 yrs
Shepherd's purse Capselia bursa-pastoris 38,500   16 yrs
Smartweed  19,300
Ragweed (Common)  3,380   39 yrs

  • Seed germination occurs at or very near the soil surface. 
  • Light increases germination. 
  • The seed germinates when soil is moist and soil temperature is at least 50°F; however, germination is more rapid when the soil temperatures are closer to 77°F. 
  • Germination occurs throughout the growing season.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Watch for the Preying Mantis Hatching in the Garden!

Late May is Preying Mantis hatching time!  In 2016 this casing hatched on May 23.  On the left is a new hatchling perhaps waiting for a sibling to emerge and become a  tasty morsel.  On the right, a hatchling is poised to leap off its casing.

When full grown in fall and almost 3 inches long, these predators are capable of capturing and eating a hummingbird.  Meanwhile, they indiscriminately eat insects by remaining still, changing color to blend in and waiting patiently for their next meal to come within striking distance. 

One fall as I was harvesting basil, I almost cut one in half.  It had blended in with the basil  perfectly. At the last moment I noticed movement as the head swiveled to look up at the approaching scissors. Later she rewarded me by leaving an egg casing attached to that very basil plant. 

May Weeds

INDIAN MOCK STRAWBERRIES among the real ones!

Early in my gardening I nurtured one of these plants (Potentilla indica, formerly Duchesnea indica), mistaking it for a strawberry. I finally discovered its true nature. They still appear in the Garden.

How to distinguish them from the real ones? I find the leaves are softer and fuzzier, while those of the strawberry tend to be a bit leathery. If the flower is yellow, it’s definitely not a strawberry — the tasty edible strawberry flowers are white.

The berry of the Duchesnea indica (sometimes known 
as Potentilla indica) –  flowers around the beginning of May as does the true strawberry. Pull this ‘weed’ if you find one in your bed and put it in the compost bin.

For those who are interested in its medicinal & edible use visit Bellarmine University to find out about the positive qualities of this weed. Both the fruit and leaves are edible and medicinal.


MID-MAY they begin appearing in the Garden!  Check out the Community Garden's Yellow Nutsedge Wins Community Garden Weed of the Year Award!.

Some already have little nuts attached to the roots. Remember, it’s those little nuts that survive the winter to reappear next Spring. Try to dig up the nutsedge before they have more than 3 leaves. And, don’t let the leaves fool you. They superficially resemble grass but are thicker and stiffer than most grasses. Notice that the leaf is V-shaped in cross-section, not flat. They also emerge in sets of three from the base rather than sets of two like grasses. Don’t let it get to the flowering stage. But if you do, look at the flowering stems — cut them and see that nutsedges are triangular in cross-section while grass stems are hollow and round.

The nutlets I've dug at this time are young — whitish and not brown like in the photo. They break off easily, so loosen the soil around the plant first and gently pull the weed out and put it in the trash. As these plants mature, they send out rhizomes to make a nice little Yellow Nutsedge colony.

If you find a small patch of nutsedge, Clemson Cooperative Extension recommends digging “at least 10 inches deep and at least eight to 10 inches beyond the diameter of the above ground leafy portion of the plant.” This is one wily weed!

Check this website Virginia Tech Weed ID by Scientific Name for photos of weeds in various stages of growth.

The National Gardening Association has extensive articles on Weeds such as this article on Indian Mockstrawberry with photos.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Galinsoga – Modest in the Spring, It Gallops through the Garden in September & October

Galinsoga Seedling
Galinsoga parviflora, and Galinsoga ciliata, known also as Quickweed or Gallant Soldier, are easily pulled when young. You start seeing this subtropical annual in spring. It produces multiple generations (as many as 7500 seeds per plant per year), hence we see it galloping through the Garden in September and October before first frost if we are not vigilant in the Spring.  

Do not compost this particular weed.  The small white flowers you see produce many seeds which mature almost immediately – a great survival strategy for this little weed that has shallow roots and no rhizomes or reproduction by cuttings.  Dispose of it in the vegetative pile out front for the DPW to pick up. Correspondingly, before using your weeding tools elsewhere, clean off the soil as their tiny seeds can be present in it..
Galinsoga Gone to Seed

On the positive side, their presence indicates adequate to high nitrogen in the soil. And although considered by us a weed, other parts of the world use it culinarily and medicinally. Their young greens & stems are high in minerals and can be cooked and eaten. 

See Galinsoga – Love It or Hate It for more info on its nutrition and uses.  For more on this weed and other "Weeds of the Month" visit the July 22, 2016 Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Weed of the Month: Galinsoga. For strategies on controlling, it visit the University of Vermont's Galinsoga Management.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

2020 Activity Calendar

TBA        Winter Social                    

Mar 1      Membership Due$ ‘Early Deadline’ to E. Tress - $20 half plot / $40 full plot
Mar 14    Spring Member Mtg Sat, 4-5:30 pm
Mar 15    Membership Due$ ‘Final Deadline’ to E. Tress -
                Dues: $30 half plot / $50 full plot; plot forfeited after deadline)

April       New Member Orientation (Mandatory attendance; schedule with Mich Brisson)
Apr 18    Spring Work Party Sat, 10 am - 2 pm (4/25 Rain Date)
Apr 26    Spring Work Party  Sun, Noon - 3 pm (5/3 Rain Date)

May 1     Deadline to weed & clean your plot 
May 30   Deadline to Plant your plot
Summer Solstice Maypole

Jun 17     Solstice Work Party prep work party 5 - 7 pm (Rain date 6/18)
Jun 20     Summer Solstice Party at Parelli Park 6 - 10 pm  
Aug 5      Mid-summer Work Party Wed, 6 - 8 pm?
                    (Heat/Rain date Wed 8/12, 6 - 8 pm)

Oct 17     Fall Work Party (Rain date 10/20) Sat, 10am - 2 pm
Oct 25     Fall Work Party (Rain date 11/1)  Sun, 12 - 3 pm
Nov 12    Fall Member Mtg Thur, 7 pm @ Village Hall  (changed from Nov 10, 4-5:30p)

Dec 1      Deadline to clean & weed your plot
Dec 19    Winter Solstice Bonfire in Joan's driveway 6 - 8 am

NB:  Rain dates and cancellations will be posted on the Garden fence by the front gate.
Will we have Pop-up Events during the season?  
Check your email for dates & time.

Saturday, December 8, 2018



Our predawn bonfire celebrates the end of the year's longest night,
and the sun's ascent as the embers die.

Mich tends the fire while we stand vigil watching for the rising sun with Nakai's flute playing in the background.

Joan Gussow, our foundress, started this tradition.  In 1995, a few Gardeners and her husband Alan met in their backyard on a very cold morning and stood around the fire burning in the barbecue pit while awaiting the sun.  The following year Joan, with permission from the Fire Dept, built the bonfire in her driveway and opened it up to Gardeners and friends. One solstice, the embers were flying high and all over.  A Piermont policeman was just coming off duty and stopped by to investigate. Joan went out to explain that we were cheering on the sun to come up.  He encouraged us to carry on and drove off!

Dan Sherman spontaneously quoted Emily Dickinson at our gathering:

I’ll tell you how the sun rose -
A ribbon at a time.
The steeple swam in amethyst, 
the news like squirrels ran.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Harvesting Tips from the Veggies!

These three say they need to ripen before harvesting, although green tomatoes have something to say about that!

The first indication that we are nearing ripeness is when we color up.  BUT our best clues are our flesh gives to gentle pressure AND our stem willingly separates from the vine at the first joint above the fruit.  Enjoy us then.
Green Tomatoes
Before the cold temperatures set in, pick us green tomatoes, even we who are hard as a baseball.  Wrap us separately in a couple layers of newspaper and put us someplace in darkness, like on a tray under the bed or in a box.  Check us periodically for ripening (or possible rotting -- please remove these!) Enjoy us into Thanksgiving or even Winter Solstice!

When my silk turns dry and brown – about 3 weeks after it first begins to show – then my kernels inside will be full and milky.

Winter Squash
I like to remain on the vine until my rind has hardened and my color has deepened.  If you want to  store me though, wait until my plant has died before harvesting me.

You can pick me once I have reached a usable size.  Do it while my skin is still glossy.  Once it dulls, I am not at my best.

Pick me once I've reached a size you like.  If you are patient and leave me on the vine longer, I will reward you with my red self.  All the more vitamin C for you!
Summer Squash
You can pick me at any size.  I am best when small and tender and my skin is still glossy and has some "grab" when you move your hand across it.  But all is not lost if I get to be the size of a baseball bat – make zucchini bread!

Wait until we of the shelling kind have filled out the pod, but don't leave us on the vine too long after.  We are rather tough then.   We sugar snaps can be eaten pod and all and are sweetest and most tender BEFORE we fill out our pods!

Green Beans & Cucumbers
Pick us when we are the size you want, but don't let us get too large! Warning! We green beans get especially tough then.  And, we cucumbers make seeds so big, you will need to remove them.

Leeks & Onions
We can be pulled & eaten at any stage.  The onion advises: If you want to store me, leave me in the ground until my top yellows.
I am day-length sensitive and literally stop growing at Summer Solstice.  So, in July, dig me when my tops are starting to yellow but while there are still 5-6 green leaves left.  If you allow all my leaves to brown up, then there will be no covering left on my head when you harvest me and I will not store well at all.

Beets, Turnips, Radishes & Carrots
Be a detective and check out if we are the size you want before digging us root vegetables up. Beware! If you let us get too big, we will be woody and bitter! As a general rule, the thicker our stem, the larger we are.  Hint – we carrots who have the darker green leaves are larger than our lighter green neighbors.

If you want new potatoes, start digging us about 7 weeks after our green breaks ground.  If you want to store us, wait until 2 weeks AFTER we have died before digging us up.

Much of the above was taken from Taunton's Fine Gardening, Aug 2003
How do you known when your vegetables are ready for harvest?
by Ruth Lively, former senior editor of "Kitchen Gardener" magazine answers
Also, The National Gardening Association website: Gardening Articles

Thursday, April 20, 2017

SPRING WEEDS – Some Edibles but Still Weeds!

The high season of Spring Weeds is here!  Wondering what the names are of the weeds in the Garden this Spring?

March to April

Purple or Red Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) of the mint family
is flowering in many of the beds.  On the positive side for this weed, its little lavender flowers are an important source of food for bees now when not many other flowers are available.  For the intrepid, explore its edible qualities at Eating Green  -- harvest the young leaf shoots in the Spring and use within salads or smoothies or use as a tea.

This weed easily reproduces from seed or pieces of plant.  Chopping it up and digging it into the soil can increase the number of plants.  Pull it roots & all to better rid your plot of this colorful but weedy 'groundcover'.

Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is another weed that is blooming and seeding up right now.  It's a very invasive weed and the tiny seeds can be expelled several yards from the pod at maturity.  Its delicate little white cluster of flowers sit tall on erect stems above the base of its leaves.  This member of the mustard family is edible as a bitter herb.

The 3 Foragers has hints on gathering and eating. A video by Wildman Steve Brill is included.  

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) is a weed just starting to bloom in the Garden with its yellow flowers and dandelion-like puffy seeds. While its seeds provide food for birds, it is a disease host for  a fungus that causes black root rot (Thielaviopsis basicola) in peas, soybeans, carrots, tomatoes, cucurbits and other vegetables and flowers.

And, this is definitely not an edible weed, as chronic exposure can cause irreversible liver damage.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Spring Dandelions & Bees

Our chitinous friends, who pollinate, need all the help they can get these days and we need them.  Pick those spring dandelion flowers after they start to close up and give our bees a chance to get a good start.  They will thank us by pollinating our tomatoes and other vegetables later in the season!

Too many dandelions, hardly any bees? Roldale's 4 Delicious Ways to Cook Dandelion Flowers has recipes for you to try.  "Almost every inch of this weed is good eating: Pan-fried in butter, the buds taste like cremini mushrooms; dipped in batter and deep-fried, open flowers become bittersweet fritters."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Starting Your Own Plants Indoors from Seed

For the adventurous souls who wish to start their plants indoors from seed, go to Mother Earth Living's Garden Planning Guide: When to Plant Seeds and Seedlings for Your Region and download the Spring Garden Worksheet at this site as well as guides & apps for our various devices at Mother Earth's What to Plant Now.

Determining Last & First Frosts for Piermont

Dobbs Ferry, NY -- directly across from Piermont:
This chart can help determine the chance of a certain temperature occurring in our area on a given date.
Spring 32° May 2 Apr 27 Apr 24 Apr 20 Apr 18 Apr 15 Apr 12 Apr 8 Apr 3
Spring 28° Apr 17 Apr 12 Apr 9 Apr 6 Apr 3 Apr 1 Mar 29 Mar 25 Mar 21
Spring 24° Apr 6 Apr 1 Mar 29 Mar 26 Mar 24 Mar 21 Mar 19 Mar 15 Mar 11
Fall 32° Oct 10 Oct 15 Oct 19 Oct 22 Oct 25 Oct 28 Oct 31 Nov 2 Nov 7
Fall 28° Oct 26 Oct 31 Nov 3 Nov 7 Nov 10 Nov 13 Nov 17 Nov 21 Nov 26
Fall 24° Nov 8 Nov 14 Nov 18 Nov 21 Nov 24 Nov 28 Dec 2 Dec 6 Dec 12
* This station data is available courtesy the National Climatic Data Center.
For each station, you will see a temperature along with a pile of percentage columns. Here's how it works: The percent column tells you the probability that you will experience that row's temperature on or before that date.  So, for example, in the Spring 32° row, if you have "Apr 18" under the 50% column, that means that you have a 50% chance of seeing frost on or before April 18th.  Another example. Say in the Fall 24° row, under 90%, you have "Dec 12", then that means that you have a 90% chance of seeing 24 degrees on or before December 12th.

Chart from Celetti's Nursery in New City

Piermont is now in 7a hardiness zone (0-5º F) according to the USDA.  
When the Community Garden first started we were in 5b.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Alert! West Nile Mosquitoes in Orangeburg

See the July 26 article in The Patch:
West Nile Virus Found in Mosquitoes in Orangeburg
The infected mosquitoes were collected in Orangeburg during the week of July 10 as part of the county's ongoing West Nile Virus surveillance efforts. 

Mosquito Life Cycle Depends on Water
With the current drought status, standing water may not be a problem, but the mosquitoes who carry this disease can lay eggs in very little water, such as the rims of upside down pots.  If you see see some larvae swimming in any water in the Garden, please dump it!  

How long each stage lasts depends on both temperature and species characteristics. For instance, Culex tarsalis might go through its life cycle in 14 days at 70 degrees F and take only 10 days at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Some species have adapted to go through their entire life cycle in as little as four days or as long as one month.  Once the adult mosquito emerges, some will travel as much as 40 miles or more for a meal according to the American Mosquito Control Association!

Bee nectaring at tansy flower
Outdoor protection:
  • Suggested repellents: Mosquitno: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon, eucalyptus
  • Dark colors attract mosquitoes.  Wear lighter colored clothing
  • Caught in the Garden with no repellent and dusk coming on?  Try rubbing tansy on your exposed skin to repel the mosquitoes.  It grows both in the Park and Herb garden.  Ants and other insects hate it.  The odor is quite distinct and the chemistry seems not to agree with many insects we love to hate.
  • Here is a list of 31 plants that repel mosquitoes

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Summer Visitors - Strategies for Dispatching Fruit Flies in the Kitchen

Fruit flies floating in vinegar trap
With all the produce and fruit coming in during summer, some unwelcome 'guests' appear, wanting to eat and make merry (reproduce) in your kitchen.  No need to spray.  Make a vinegar trap for your kitchen counter and lure the little beasts away from your fruit.  Re-use a plastic soda or coffee cup with a lid.  Punch some holes around the walls at least 2-3 inches above the bottom with an ice pick and maybe make some holes in the lid.  Pour in some apple cider vinegar (about 1-2 inches) and put the lid on.  Then wait.  If you make it, they will come.  During a period of 24 hrs, this trap ensnared over 30 fruit flies.

Have you ever tried to kill a fruit fly by slapping it between your hands?  Rarely works.  But if you wet your hands first, often the little flies will adhere to the wetness and thereby be 'captured' on your hand, waiting to be dispatched  to – if not already in fruit fly heaven.
Drosera entrapping a fruit fly.  The leaf
will soon curl up and secrete digestive
enzymes since it detects an insect.

For those of you with children or with a child-like heart, you may wish to procure a fruit fly eating plant called Drosera capensis, also known as Cape Sundew. The Venus Flytrap is too large to capture fruit flies.  The Cape Sundew is just the right size, fun to watch and beautiful in the sun with its leaves which are densely covered with red-tinged plant hairs (tricomes) that secrete a sticky sap insects find irresistible.  NB: Water only with distilled or rain water.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Our 3 Kinds of Raspberries: Their Stories

The Garden has planted 3 different kinds of raspberries on the west border: 2 red raspberries: Latham, Heritage  and a Black Raspberry.  In general, raspberries bear large succulent fruits when ripening during sunny, hot weather after a good rain.  If not well-watered during hot weather when fruiting, the berries may be small and even pithy.

LATHAM bear June-July & sometimes a 2nd bearing in Fall
Our largest crop comes from the Latham canes and bears in later June through July.  The berries fruit on last year's growth, so care must be taken not to prune them out in the Fall.  Latham have no significant pests in our Garden.  The dying woody canes from this summer's crop can be pruned before new canes emerge after harvest for next year's crop.

HERITAGE bear Aug-Oct
This cultivar bears in late summer on this year's growth and in some years will even bear until Thanksgiving depending on the weather.  Heritage has two pests that plague it in our Garden:
Wilted raspberry tip from cuts
made by the Cane Borer Beetle
  • The Raspberry Cane Borer (Oberea bimaculata Oliver) is a half inch black longhorned beetle with yellow stripes on the wing covers and antennae as long as the body.  It attacks by inserting its eggs into the canes, usually at the tender tip growth. The tips wilt because the beetle makes 2 girdles of punctures about an inch apart and inserts its eggs in between.  To manage this problem, interrupt the life cycle by cutting off the tip below the lowest set of punctures and placing in the trash.
  • The Two-spotted Fruit Fly, (Drosophila suzukii) a recent newcomer to this country, inserts its eggs into the raspberry fruit, causing it to become inedible.   When you pick a nice ripe berry and look inside to see it liquified, you know the larvae have been at work.  You may even see the small, white, wriggly, wormy larvae themselves!
The Black Raspberries are planted in the SW corner of the patch inside the fence.  It is a small patch, planted much later than the reds.  The flavor is distinctly different from the red raspberries.  In harvesting, the trick is to wait until they are black and almost ready to fall off the cane.  When red, these berries are unripe and hard & unpalatable.  We have not noticed any pests amongst these berries. For summertime pruning (waist high at the Fourth of July) see Summertime Pruning of Black Raspberries (July 4)  How to Prune and Grow Black Raspberries is a 21 min video of general black raspberry care. To learn about best pruning practices after fruiting is over check out Pruning Black Raspberries in Late Winter.

Raspberry Cane Borer Beetle
Laying Eggs on a Cane
Photo credit - Mark Longstroth, MSU Ext

Monitor the Heritage canes for the Cane Borer once the new growth appears, especially in late June. Look for wilted tips and cut them off at least 1 inch below the lowest girdling.  If there appears to be a burrow in the cane where the cutting occurred, cut further down.  The larva may have already started its inside journey down the cane.  Doing this faithfully each season seems to keep the population down and each season there are fewer wilted tips.

Vinegar Trap for Two-Spotted Fruit Fly
For the Two-spotted Fruit Fly, being proactive is the best.  Prior to the fruits appearing in late July on the Heritage, hang vinegar traps on the fence.  Replenish the vinegar if rain dilutes it too much.  The vinegar attracts the flies when they first appear and lures them into the cup where they can't emerge and often drown.  This helps crash the fruit fly population and the damage it does to the berries.

July 25, 2016 The last Latham berry is harvested.  Most of the old Latham canes have been removed to give breathing space to new growth and cut back on insect predation.

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 kill 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. Watch this video of a Sand Wasp digging her nest burrow and another of a Female Sand Wasp dragging and carrying in a stinkbug for her young.

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

Dec 2, 2017
Today I was surprised by the sighting two Harlequin bugs in my plot.  They, along with the Squash bug, were more abundant this summer than in 2014. One was on the ground and one on the red Russian kale I had cloched. The weather has been unusually warm this fall, but in the lower 30's a few days this week.  I dispatched what I hope is the last of these bugs for the year.  They are heartier than I thought and sure to return next year!  But the Sand Wasps were also still at work here this year.  The holes in the sand between our bricks gave their activity away.  And so, we rely on our chitinous friends to help keep our chitinous 'enemies' in balance. :> The Garden Sprite

Oct 15, 2018 
The Harlequin bugs have been multiplying on our brassicas and the mild fall weather has been a good  encouragement to their endeavors!  The Sand Wasps are nowhere in sight.  Most of the sand between the bricks has been replaced with dirt spilling out from our plots.  We may need to build a sandbox nursery to encourage them to come back and nest with us!  :> The Garden Sprite