Mid-Internship Reflection

Hello all,

Although my last blog post was directly related to what we were growing in the garden, I want the focus of this post to outline my thoughts on this internship and how it has impacted me.

Before the internship started, I was very nervous. I have not really put myself out there in the past, but I knew this was something I had to do to expand my horizons. As I was slowly becoming immersed into the garden as well as the personalities of the other interns, the negative emotions began to dissipate. It is a very rewarding experience to witness the garden coming together beautifully, as well as creating new memories with the other interns. Although I was hesitant about spending this summer away from family and friends, I do not regret this experience because it has contributed to my personal growth. I am now more social, adventurous, and of course, educated on the art of gardening. Most importantly, the freedom of this internship has allowed me to become extremely independent. But if I’m being honest, one of the hardest parts is not being able to eat my grandmother’s food as often as I used to, and whenever I try to re-create any of her secret recipes, it always ends in disaster (just ask the other interns). On all seriousness, the self-directed nature of this internship has allowed me to improve my personal flaws, and I am very thankful.

Although I am grateful that I took up this opportunity, it has not always been easy. There are days when I get very discouraged, and feel the need to give up. The early mornings, or the hot afternoons are just a few bumps on the road that slightly chipped away at my determination. I feel as if having to rebuild everything in the garden has been the biggest bump so far. It was very hard for me to imagine all of us turning the weed-infested plots into beautiful and fruitful ones, which caused me to become very discouraged many times. But in hindsight, this provided me with a very important life lesson which is: In order to build something extraordinary in your life, you must be committed, determined and prepared for all the highs and the lows. Before the garden became as amazing as it is now, I noticed that us interns were always overwhelmed by the large amounts of work we needed to do, but now we always compliment the garden as well as ourselves for making this happen.

So, as we dive towards the end of the internship, I wanted to document my current feelings of this experience and share them with all of you. I hope my words can motivate anyone taking on a difficult task in their life, just remember to be patient and determined. I also wanted to thank my fellow interns (Maddie, Supriya, Regina, Lauryn and Khwezi) for making this such a fun experience, as well as Doctor Jennings and Cathy Myers for teaching us everything we know about gardening and communication, we really appreciate it!

I hope this post was not too sentimental, so I hope to incorporate some humor into the next one, until then!

-Kat

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The Prevention of Cucumber Beetles

Hello!

Around early to mid-June, I had noticed a new species in the garden- the cucumber beetle. Cucumber beetles are small, yellow, and usually spotted or striped beetles that mainly attack cucumbers, pumpkins, squash and melons. They can be found eating the leaves of these plants, which is one way in which they damage it.

Photo credit: IT farmer

The holes in the plants are clear indicators of your garden being attacked by this species. Not only do the cucumber beetles cause damage from eating, they transmit a bacterial wilt. From a new gardener’s perspective, I thought the challenge of eliminating these dreadful pests would be near impossible as we use organic approaches; however, with perseverance and consistency we were able to prevent extensive damage. Here are the methods we used to approach and defeat these pests.

ORGANIC GARDEN BUG SPRAY

The first method of eliminating these pests was to use organic garden bug spray. You can pick up an inexpensive bottle at Lowe’s. I used this method almost daily. I tediously stood in the garden and waited to see the pests and sprayed them directly. It is important that you spray them, and not just the plant because it kills by contact. This worked relatively well but was not be able to completely remove them.

ROW COVER

Our second force of action against the cucumber beetles was the use of a row cover. These simple covers can be placed over the attacked plants and weighted down with common garden objects, such as sticks. These covers do not prevent growth of the plants underneath, but instead encourage it by allowing a safe place for the plants to grow without being disturbed by the pests. Sunlight and water can be absorbed through the covers; however, you do have to remove the covers to promote pollination. I tended to take the covers off while I was working in the garden, so about 2 hours a day.

BIG MAX PUMPKINS

Our last method of defense was essentially a “sacrifice.” Big Max pumpkins are a favorite of the cucumber beetles, so we planted a few pots and placed them around the garden to attract the pests. Sacrificing a few plants to save the rest seems like a fair trade. In the pots, we also put in sticky traps, hoping that would attract the other flying pests in the garden.

Good luck and remember to be persistent,

Maddie

Sources:

http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/factsheets/Cucurbit_Beetles.htm

 

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Plant of the Week: Strawberries

Hello everyone!

As us interns kick off the growing season, we are starting to see the development of many plants, such as strawberries. These vibrant and sweet fruits belong to the genus Fragaria, which consists of over 20 flowering plants that produce edible fruit. But before we get too scientific, I want to discuss how these beautiful and delicious fruits grow, as well as introduce some information regarding its health benefits while also discussing how to properly care for them.

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It is no secret that strawberries are loved by many due to its eye-catching color and sweet flavor, but not many people are familiar with the growing process of this natural wonder. Although strawberries are considered to be berries (thus the “berry” in strawberry), they are technically aggregate accessory fruits, because the fleshy part of it is not derived from the plant ovaries, instead, each seed comes from one of the ovaries of the flower. In simpler terms, a strawberry is a fake berry, because true berries develop from one ovary of the plant. Now that you have some background information on this “berry”, we can dive into how to properly grow and care for them.

In our garden, strawberries are currently located on the herb spiral and on one of the community plots. But in general, when planting strawberry plants, it is very important to plant it at an adequate depth. Below is a diagram that summarizes how to properly plant it, because planting them too deep can prevent it from properly developing. Spacing is also something to take into consideration, since strawberries are sprawling plants (they release seedlings that create “daughter plants”), at least 20 inches of space should be left between each plant to allow them enough room to develop. They should  be planted in early spring, and when it comes to sunlight, they require between 6-10 hours of it. Due to its shallow roots, it is important to keep these plants moisturized, so one inch of water per week will do the trick. In terms of maintenance, when you notice that the plants are becoming too crowded, DON’T BE AFRAID TO THIN THEM, remove some of the daughter plants so that the more developed plants will have enough room to grow. As for picking, when they start to develop a vibrant red color, it is time to pick them. For storage purposes, store them in a room temperature if you plant to eat them on the same day, but if you don’t, storing them in the refrigerator is your best bet. Don’t forget to only wash the strawberries you plan on eating, their absorbent quality allows them to easily soak in water, which can eventually cause them to mold.

strawberry-plant-Illustration-web Phew, that was  a lot of information! Last but not least, let’s dive into the health benefits of these “berries”.

-The high amounts of Vitamin C can help strengthen your immune system.

-High amounts of antioxidants and Vitamin C hinders the development of cancer cells while also inhibiting the growth of tumors.

-The rich nutrients are essential in preventing heart disease.

Well, that’s it for now, I hope you enjoyed this post!

-Kat

Sources:

https://www.almanac.com/plant/strawberries

https://www.britannica.com/plant/strawberry

https://www.thekitchn.com/the-best-ways-to-store-strawberries-tips-from-the-kitchn-219932

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BEWARE of the Flea Beetle!

Hi Lovers of the Environment!

Have you ever thought of a beetle and thought of anything BUT a June Bug or something too large for our liking and frightful? Yeah, me neither! I may have some news that could either lighten your fear or exacerbate it, so we’ll see.

In the image at the bottom of this article, you will observe the notorious Flea Beetle. These little critters are only about 1/6 of an inch in length. They are very small in size but are big trouble makers! They are shiny and have large back legs. They very much resemble a beetle in morphological structure, and tend to jump like fleas, hence their name “flea” beetle. You can find these guys primarily in the vegetable crops, but can surely be found in many other types of plants – do NOT be fooled by these little minions.

These guys are harmless to us as humans, but are not in good standing with their plant buddies. Flea beetles love to consume all but the veins of the leaves of plants. When you are searching in your garden and find a leaf that only has its’ skeleton but is hollow, you can very well bet you have a flea beetle invasion. At this point, you should look into taking action with insecticide, or other sprays to deter pests of this kind, as well as others you may come along in the future.

Furthermore, one other major problem with these critters is that they can spread bacterial diseases (wilt and blight) from plant-to-plant; very detrimental to gardens that acquire them. This is another reason it is important to catch these bugs right away and stop them in their tracks, otherwise they can end up really harming the overall garden.

Flea beetles are notorious for showing up periodically here at our Albright Community Garden, and we are fighting them off one-by-one each time they are spotted!

Thank you for checking this article out! For more information, you can visit the following websites to learn how to better recognize and remove flea beetles at first hand:

https://www.almanac.com/pest/flea-beetles

https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/garden-pests/flea-beetle-control/

Happy Gardening!

 

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The Importance of Watering Your Plants Effectively

Hi Friends of Nature!

Maintaining a garden includes various techniques and tools, however, the most important thing for a garden to succeed in growth is having a sufficient amount of water.  Plants always thrive in locations of water, and rarely succeed in areas such as deserts with a lack of water due to the need for survival and growth. The problem with this, is most of us get by with pouring what seems to be a reasonable amount of water on our plants. We generally pour for about five to seven seconds, if not less, and move on to the next plant, and so forth. I’ve recently discovered, with the help of one of my professors in maintaining our garden properly, that the correct way to water plants includes not only time, but possibly technique as well.

When watering a plant, the water often only reaches the upper layer of the soil and does not sink deep enough into the roots. A quick biological concept: the plant uptakes water through its’ roots and passively transports it to the superior parts of the plant via the xylem, while also letting excess water and other compounds exit through the roots via phloem. Xylem and phloem are two key parts of the plant that help regulate the uptake and loss of water. Given that we know this, it is understandable why a plant can’t survive without water reaching its’ roots first.

The process of watering plants effectively takes more than just the few seconds of pouring the water onto the soil.  If watering for a shorter time such as a few seconds, then the pot you are using to do the watering should have a larger pressure system so the water can come out faster and in greater force to hit the soil and try to reach the roots quicker, as a result. If you are willing to take a little more time with the watering, it is necessary to stand there for closer to fifteen or twenty seconds to make sure there is enough water that is getting into the soil and sinking into the roots. I would recommend taking more time with the watering, as the quicker technique of watering is still more likely to fail, since we naturally rush and may not take as much time as we think we are. Eventually, six seconds turns into four, then three, and before we know it, we are barely watering enough for the outer layer of soil to even get moist. This is why it is significant to TAKE TIME with watering your plants, rather than rushing it.

After watering, it is not a bad idea to check out the soil you have just watered and see how well you did. If you move the soil around after you watered the plant and notice the soil is not as moist in the depths of it like it should be, then you could move the soil around and add more water, so there is enough water circulating the general area that you are trying to water for a specific plant or set of plants. Whatever you do, make sure you know your water is reaching the roots of the plant to ensure proper growth and growth time expectancy.

I hope these ideas are effective and useful for you in helping your garden reach its’ ultimate success!

 

garden-watering-systems

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Peek-A-Boo! Don’t Let Thistle Fool You!

Hi Friends!

I’ve recently started managing the Albright Community Garden and it has been a great adventure thus far. I use the term “adventure” very positively, as this has been an exciting new field of knowledge and wonders. Since this is the first time I’ve ever really gardened, you can imagine how many new concepts and techniques I’ve picked up over the past few weeks! The garden has so many wonderful things to offer to not just us as interns, but the community as well. We provide a great variety of organic, fresh fruit and vegetables all summer! However, there is a lot that goes on behind the scene with managing a garden as many of you may know.

It’s so important to be attentive to a garden, because I was very surprised to notice the amount of plants that pop up over night such as thistle and grass. These are two notorious greeneries that appear way too often for any gardener’s liking! The best way to handle a situation like this is to go out in the mornings, afternoons, and / or evenings daily to do a quick overview of the garden and observe how your plants are growing. It’s also important to observe any outside plants such as thistle and grass that may start to invade the space of your veggies and fruits!

Thistle is one of the most popular, irrelevant plants that tend to grow in our garden here at Albright. I’ve come out a few days and noticed thistle plants that I hadn’t notice the day before because they can appear so fast (and I also may not have observed that specific area close enough the day before)! Thistle doesn’t typically harm too much from my understanding, they just get in the way of the other plants growing as well as take up extra space that could be used from planting other seeds!

Thistle also appears out of nowhere and can be very sneaky! Don’t let it fool you when you’re observing your garden! Check around all edges of your plants, especially bigger plants such as eggplants, squash, etc. These types of plants that, when growing, take up a a larger amount of space and can shade thistle that is growing within its’ area. The image shown below represents a thistle plant that wanted to hide under one of my plants!! This is an example of thistle taking shade of a smaller plant such as tomato plants (in their earlier stages of growth), but they can easily find their spot under eggplants and squash plants that tend to remain larger over the course of their growth periods. Never let a thistle come through and invade your veggies and fruits! Wipe ’em out, right by their roots!

~ Thank you for your interest and reading!

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My inspiring trip to Tennesee: Future garden ideas/operations

Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of meeting my girlfriends lovely older sister, Meredith. For years I’ve enjoyed stories from Fin of Meredith’s adventurous youth, I know it provided much influence in Fins developing ideas and overall appreciation for the natural world. I was glad to have finally met her and see how she built an ecological paradigm that help sculpt a sustainable adulthood. Meredith now 30 year young, lives on a beautiful 40 acre lot in Tennessee with her best friend Jen and her family of 4. I was impressed with operation and schedule that they were clearly thriving in. Chores started early around 6-7am and the long list included, tending to all the animals (chickens, goats, pigs, two children), rotating their fenced cages so they would have new grass, maintain their organic garden, composting, breakfast and long list of smaller duties that are essential for the family to remain well fed, healthy and happy. Their lifestyle was very inspiring, many people acknowledge the burden of a growing human population on the natural world and the necessities to “sustain” that, but here they were taking the most direct actions, their life is the epitome of sustainable living. Gardening certainly doesn’t come easy and with the produce grown being their main source of food, it was clear that their actions were handled carefully and well thought out. A variety of garden books were easily accessible to combat many variables to affect a garden; the current state of their garden during my visit certainly reflected their efforts. It was amazing to see the success and happiness that flowed so harmoniously through the family and their property, all credited to their ambitious work schedule and their trust in each other to get the assigned chores done. My favorite part of their whole operation is the bartering system that they use with some of their neighbors; Sometimes they would trade one type of meat for another, or some herbs and produce for some household commodities. For the most part it seemed that a majority of their needs were found right outside or down the street, trips to town weren’t always necessary. I’m not telling their story to imply that you should change the way you live, but getting to see their unique system, all the trial and errors that led to what they have today was really a beautiful thing. They replaced the convenience of a grocery stores with their own physical labor and for that they are gifted with more food, healthier food, at a cheaper price… and to top it off it’s grown right outside of their home. I aspire to have my own spin off of the sustainable life they live, I admire their path to success and I wish them many more happy fruitful years. Meredith and Jen, you both are awesome role models and I thank you for the lessons and hospitality during I stay, I know fin and I will make a trip back in the near future.

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