Category Archives: Meeting Summaries

Five Seed Starting Tips…

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato Seedlings

Here are five tips for seed starting…

1. Use a moist matchstick to plant your seeds. Pour your seeds into a flat container. The moistened stick will pick up one seed at a time and you can easily drop your seed into the hole.

2. Make your own seed tape using paper towels strips and cornstarch moistened with water for glue. Dot the cornstarch mixture onto the paper towel and drop in your seed (using your moistened matchstick). Let dry and roll up. Store in plastic bags until ready to plant. Seed tape eliminates seed waste and gives you super tidy rows!

3. Use only fresh seed for shallots, leeks, onions and parsnips. Seeds for these veggies last only one year.

4. Some seeds last several years. If you are unsure if your seed is still good, give it a test. Moisten a paper towel, sprinkle on 10 seeds and roll it up. Store in a plastic bag for a few days. Check the seed to see if any germinated. If so, you have a good idea of your germination rate. For instance, if five of ten seeds germinate, then you can count on a 50% germination rate for your old seeds.

5. New seedlings need air circulation. The air moves their stems slightly which makes them stronger. Keep a low fan going in the room where you are growing the seedlings. In addition, you can help your plants by “petting” them once or twice a day by gently running your palms over the tops of the plants so them move back and forth a bit. Also, keep rotating your trays so they keep leaning in different directions towards the sun or light source.

FOR YOUR REFERENCE: We handed out a flyer on Seed Starting that one of our gardeners, Steve Abbott, made up a couple of years back. We also included a flyer on local Planting Dates made up by Beth McQuinn.

 

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Edible Perennials

The Mission of the Capital City Organic Gardeners is to collectively share, learn and teach organic vegetable gardening methods to each other. For our May meeting, CCOG gardeners shared their tips for growing perennial edibles. We talked about dandelions, asparagus and rhubarb for this meeting. There are so many edible perennials that gardeners can grow. We only touched on a few and filled the hour!

DANDELIONS

Starting out with some yummy treats, Mary brought in some delicious Dandelion Cheese Squares to share with the group. Thinking about dandelions as a vegetable and not a weed takes a shift in thinking but the truth is that European settlers brought dandelion seeds to America for food and medicine. The health benefits from eating dandelions are astounding. As one of the first greens that appear in the spring, it would benefit all of us to learn more about it’s healthful properties and work to incorporate dandelions into our diet. Caution! When gathering dandelion greens, make sure you harvest young greens from areas that have not been treated with lawn chemicals. Check out The Health Benefits of Dandelions by Aparup Mukherjee. For advice on cooking dandelions along with some other wild greens, download this article, Facts on Edible Wild Greens in Maine.

ASPARAGUS

Karen did some research on asparagus to share with the group. Asparagus needs sandy, slightly acidic, well-drained soil and should be planted around 8″deep. They enjoy 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. Make sure the rows are 2′ apart. Dig a 8″ deep trench and plant the crowns 12-15″ apart. Cover with 2″of soil. As plants begin to grow, keep adding soil 2″ at a time until it is mounded up into a hill.

When choosing asparagus to plant, consider choosing Jersey Male Hybrids. They are the most prolific.

The first and second year that the asparagus comes up, do not harvest. Let the stalks grow into ferns, then cut the ferns back late in the fall after a hard frost. The ferns provide energy to the plant. You can tie up the ferns with stakes and twine so they don’t flop over and stay neat.

The third year you can start to harvest. Cut the asparagus when it is 8″ to 12″ tall. Cut for the first 10 days to 2 weeks, then let the asparagus go to ferns. Each year, you can cut more asparagus for a longer period of time as the plant becomes more robust.

Establishing an asparagus bed takes time and patience. However, once it is established you can harvest this spring vegetable for up to 20 years! What a treat!

RHUBARB

Claudia shared her experiences with growing rhubarb. This tart plant originated in China. Once you establish a patch of rhubarb, you have it for life!

To plant, dig a nice big hole, add in a little manure, then plant it and let it go. Rhubarb can tolerate some shade but not too much. The first year, don’t harvest the stalks. The second year, pull a few for a pie or two. To harvest, pull and twist out the stalks. After that, you can harvest almost as much as you like. Pull stalks that are about the size of your thumb for the best flavor. Be sure to leave at least a third of the plant at the end of the season. Always cut down the flower stalk when it begins to appear.

A final word of caution! Never eat rhubarb leaves. They are poisonous. Just cut off the leaves and throw them in your compost. Use the stalks for cooking.

Check our the article that Claudia wrote for the Concord Insider entitled, “Rhubarb-a neighborly plant perfect for pies” .

We all enjoyed our meeting sharing our knowledge with our fellow gardeners. So many fruits, vegetables and grow as perennials! You can pack an entire garden with edible perennials and enjoy eating from your garden with very little labor. For a complete list, download this handout. Please note: Not all of the plants are appropriate for New England, so do some more research before planting.
Perennial List-Fruits-Veggies

Photo Sources:
Dandelion Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Arcanewizard
Asparagus Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Muffet
Rhubarb Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Mwri

The Thrill of Victory (and the Agony of Defeat)

We had a good turnout for our October meeting and harvest dinner. We had a ton of delicious food. Stayed tuned for recipes in future posts!

Our Harvest Potluck

At our meeting, we discussed our successes and failures in the garden this season. It was a time for bragging (a little bit) and a time to get some suggestions for avoiding problems next year.

Laura showing off her flint corn.

Laura started off by showing off the beautiful flint corn that her husband, Scott, grew in their community garden. This was the third year Scott grew flint corn for making cornmeal and it was the best year yet. The seed was Organic Garland Flint Corn Seed sourced from Butterworks Farm. 

Terry and Reggie had good success with greens in their garden this year but the peas and the radishes did not do well. They had lots of foliage but did not form vegetables. It was suggested that they might have too much nitrogen in their garden which is why the plants produced a lot of leaves. A soil test would be a good idea for next year.

Karen is an avid weeder and likes a nice, clean garden. This year, she was careful to mow around the edges of her community garden and that helped cut down considerably on her weed issues. She had problems with her brussel sprouts. They did not form many buds and then the buds were not tight. It was suggested that she top off the plant once it grows to a nice size and that will force the plant to concentrate it’s energy in forming buds and not growing taller.

Eve and Mike did very well with garlic this year. Steve agreed that it was a good year for his garlic as well! Eve and Mike’s challenge this year that they were  harvesting carrots that seemed healthy had many “fingers” attached. The advice given was that their soil might be too rich which encourages excessive growth. Not enriching the soil and planting the carrots in the same place next year might take care of the problem. In addition, Mike HATES to thin carrots and carefully transplants seedlings evenly spaced into the garden. Karen suggested that he get coated seeds so that he can easily see them and just plant the seeds a normal distance apart rather than going through the trouble of transplanting. Mike was thrilled!

The group helped troubleshoot problems.

John shared his experiments using his Brix Refractometer which tests the sugar content of fruits and vegetables. Healthier, more nutritious foods often have a higher Brix reading. John shared his discovery of a beautiful pear tree he found by the Merrimack Courthouse that was loaded with fruit. Jonathan already had gleaned some of those delicious pears!

Steve had a huge harvest of garlic this year, but it was a bad year for tomatoes. Next year, he is rotating his crops again and using copper sulfide as a preventative measure. Copper Sulfide is an organic treatment for many plant diseases.

Jonathan didn’t garden much this year but his Bhutanese tenants did garden in his backyard. Hurricane Irene blew down a big maple in his yard and although he is sad for the tree, he is happy he will have  a lot more sun in the yard and plans to expand his garden next year.

Claudia had cutworm trouble but just kept on replanting, and replanting, and replanting until the cutworms gave up! Her big victory this year is that her fig trees produced luscious figs this year. She had so many, she had to freeze some.

Jeff had a “Fair Season” and was especially happy with his Purple Royalty Beans which grew in a relatively shady part of his garden. His Calendula did very nicely and he had great kale.

John had a good year for weeds! He stopped weeding about July 4th and then the garden got away from him. In spite of it all, he was still able to harvest a good amount of produce. Judy shared that she puts landscape cloth down in her paths and lots of straw mulched on her beds and this was the first year she didn’t have to fight the weeds in her garden.

Judy said that ” I harvested advice from CCOG!”. Her big success this year was her crop of gourds. She grew about 20 gourds and looks forward to creating vessels with her treasures.

Peg and Nicki had a banner year for butternut squash and cucumbers. They kept a few for themselves and donated the rest to the Friendly Kitchen. They were amazed by how much they had to offer!

Marie had a great year for tomatoes. She roasts them with garlic and basil at 425 degrees for about and hour and a half. Then she freezes them and uses them all winter long. Delicious!

Mary had success with watermelon (YES! WATERMELON!). We all drew close while she shared her secret. She laid out black plastic, put holes in it and planted her seedlings. The watermelon loved the heat that the plastic attracted. One Moon and Stars was as large as 38 pounds. In New Hampshire! We were all in awe.

Mary shows us the size of her watermelons. 🙂

We all had a great time and learned a lot. It’s amazing how much we can help each other. What  a great community of gardeners!

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Join us for our Annual Meeting on Wednesday, November 2nd. We will have elections and brainstorm for next year. Details are available on the Calendar page.

Pests in the Garden: Cabbage Maggot

Final Installment

CABBAGE MAGGOT

Cabbage Maggot

One of the most destructive early season pests of crucifers and certain root crops in NH. It can cause severe injury to cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, radish, turnip, rutabaga, beets and celery if not controlled.

Description
The adult fly is similar in appearance to the common house fly, but smaller (1/4-inch long). It is dark, ashy gray with black stripes on the thorax and black bristles over the body. In the spring, female flies are commonly seen flying close to the ground, depositing small white eggs in cracks and crevices near the stems of host plants.

Larvae destroy plant roots by their tunneling habit. This will often cause young cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seedlings to wilt and die. Plants like radish and turnip become scored with feeding trails, making them susceptible to attack by disease organisms.

There are typically 3 or 4 generations of CM each growing season in New Hampshire.

Prevention and non-chemical control
Cover cabbage family transplants or newly-seeded rows with floating row covers until June 1, or delay planting until then to foil the first generation of egg-laying cabbage maggot flies. Alternatively, protect cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other cole crop transplants with barriers made by punching a hole in the center of a six-inch square of tarpaper and slitting the paper from one corner to the center hole. Then place the tarpaper square flat on the ground, with center hole snugly encircling the stem of the transplant.

Bottom Line for Pest Control….
OBSERVE! 
Use floating row covers to minimize heavy infestations.  Squish or dispose of pests in container of soapy water.  Dispose of garden debris.  Mow your borders and dispose of standing weeds.  If your soil is strong, your plants will be strong and able to withstand some assaults—the plants may be a little ragged for a bit but they can recover!  And remember—this is supposed to be FUN!

Feel free to continue the conversation and add your own discoveries on pest control by leaving a comment. If you have had great success with a particular organic method, let us know what worked for you! Thanks!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: 
The information above was gleaned from the UNH Cooperative Extension Website  a GREAT resource!


Pests in the Garden: Wireworms

Installment #8

WIREWORMS

Wireworms

Wireworms damage root and tuber crops such as potatoes and carrots by tunneling, causing unsightly holes as well as providing an entry point for pathogens. Young seedlings with small root systems can be weakened or killed.
Wireworms are the larvae of click beetles (family Elateridae). There are many species of wire­worm. The larvae have slender, hard, ¾ -2 inch long bodies that range from tan to orange to brown in color. The larvae pupate in the spring, and the adult beetles emerge and are active in the summer. The adult beetles are not typically pests. Female click beetles lay eggs during May and June. They lay eggs in the soil, primarily in weedy or grassy fields. The eggs hatch in 3-4 weeks, and the larvae then look for food. The larvae can live for several years, depending on the species, availability of food, temperature, and soil moisture. Because eggs are typically laid in grassy fields, wireworm problems are usually most severe in fields that were recently sod. However, because the larvae can live for several years, problems can persist in fields that have not been sod for some time. And grassy cover crops can attract adults for egg laying. Wire­worms are often more prevalent in moist areas of fields, and in areas with high organic matter.

What they Eat.
Wireworms are omnivores. They feed on the roots of grasses or weeds and on other soil insects. It is hard to starve wireworms out of a particular area, because of their diverse diet. Crops that tend to increase wireworm popula­tions include potato, carrot, sweet potato, small grains (wheat, barley), onion, beet, and clovers. A clean (non-weedy) alfalfa crop can reduce populations. This may be in part because of alfalfa’s deep root system reduces soil moisture, making the environment less favorable for the larvae.

Minimizing Damage.
Rotation into alfalfa or crops that are not preferred can reduce wireworm populations. Avoid plant­ing highly susceptible crops such as potato and carrots into sites with a high potential for damage, such as fields previous­ly planted to grass sod, pasture or small grains, or fields with a prior history of wireworms. The edges of fields (near sod) can also be a problem, because the larvae can move through the soil in search of food. Baits can be used to determine wireworm pressure prior to planting a susceptible crop. This can be done by placing carrots or potatoes in a softball-sized hole about 4-6” deep, covering with loose soil, and then covering the area with a piece of black plastic to warm the soil. Wait 4-7 days, and dig up the bait to check for the presence of wireworms before planting. Another version of this method involves burying a fist-sized clump of corn, wheat, or rolled oats. It may also help to harvest crops as soon as possible. Moisture in potato tubers if soil conditions become dry, and wireworm damage increases over time in potato crops left in the ground.

Chemical Control.
Insecticides used to control wireworms are applied preventatively to the soil, either by broadcast­ing before planting, at the time of planting in the furrow, or as seed treatments

Feel free to continue the conversation and add your own discoveries on pest control by leaving a comment. If you have had great success with a particular organic method, let us know what worked for you! Thanks!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: 
The information above was gleaned from the UNH Cooperative Extension Website  a GREAT resource!

Pests in the Garden: Squash Vine Borer

Installment #7

SQUASH VINE BORER

Squash Vine Borer

Begin monitoring your squash plants for the adults, moths that look like black-and-red wasps with metallic forewings. They lay eggs in the soil at the base of squash vines (both winter and summer varieties). The larvae soon hatch and bore holes near the base of the vine. Routine inspection of your plants may reveal a small pile of yellowish-green sawdust-y frass where the vine meets the soil, indicating the point of entry. Larvae gradually eat the inside of the stem, occasionally leaving deposits of frass where they have punctured through the vine wall. Sometime the frass is found oozing from the stem. The borer may even invade developing fruit. Naturally, the vine is weakened and succumbs, either from an inability to absorb water and nutrients or by secondary disease.
Protective sprays with products licensed for squash borer will achieve the best control of this pest. Products containing spinosad, derived from a naturally occurring bacterium, have a low toxicity to non-target organisms. Spray according to directions, making sure the spray penetrates the leaf canopy to coved the stems all the way to the base of each plant. With any pesticide, follow label directions explicitly.

You may achieve some control by carefully splitting the vine lengthwise with a very sharp blade at the point where you see frass, cutting as short a span as possible. Locate and remove the invader, or prick it with a needle or other thin, sharp tool. Gently close the cut and mound soil around it. In many cases the plant can be saved. Be sure to destroy the vines at the end of the season, taking care to remove as much of the vine as possible below the soil line.

Feel free to continue the conversation and add your own discoveries on pest control by leaving a comment. If you have had great success with a particular organic method, let us know what worked for you! Thanks!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: 
The information above was gleaned from the UNH Cooperative Extension Website  a GREAT resource!

Pests in the Garden: Squash Bugs

Installment #6

SQUASH BUGS

Squash Bug

The squash bug, Anasa tristis, is common throughout the United States. The squash bug will attack all members of the cucurbit family but are most common on pumpkins and squash. Feeding, via piercing/sucking mouthparts, occurs primarily on the plant foliage. However, late in the season, squash bugs may also feed on fruit. The associated damage symptoms include wilting of leaves and ultimately results in leaves that appear black or dried out.

The squash bug can be misidentified as a stinkbug. Both insects look similar and emit a distinct odor when crushed; however, the stinkbug is not a pest of cucurbits and is more commonly associated with tomatoes or various legumes such as soybeans and peas.

Squash bug adults are 5/8 in. long and 1/3 as wide. They are usually gray to black with the edges of the abdomen having orange and brown stripes. Nymphs are 3/16 to 1/2 in. in length. Young nymphs have a red head and legs with a green abdomen, however as the nymphs age the red color will turn to black. Late instar nymphs will be greenish-gray in color with black appendages.
Eggs are 1/16 in. long and have a yellowish brown to brick red color. Eggs are laid individually in groups of about twelve on the underside of leaves. Each cluster of eggs is usually laid in a characteristic V shape pattern following the leaf veins. Eggs are laid under the leaves from spring to midsummer and will take 1-2 weeks to hatch. The eggs will become darker as they get close to hatching.
Squash bugs feed on cucurbits (vine crops) and prefer squash and pumpkin. Both adults and nymphs cause damage by sucking nutrients from leaves and disrupting the flow of water and nutrients, which can cause wilting. Initially, before wilting, yellow specks will develop on the foliage that eventually turn brown. Under heavy feeding pressure, small plants can be killed; larger plants can have many affected leaves and vines. Subsequent wilting can look similar to bacterial wilt; however, bacterial wilt is a disease spread by striped cucumber beetles and is much more detrimental. Once the squash bug population is reduced, wilted plants should recover. By contrast, plants infected with bacterial wilt will continue to decline and will eventually die. Therefore, it is important to determine which wilt is occurring, and the correct identification of the insect pests present in the field is an essential first step. Squash bugs will also feed directly on the fruit, and it has become an increasing problem in recent years.

The adult squash bug is difficult to kill, so early detection of nymphs is important. The smaller the insect, the easier it is to control. Threshold is reached when the average number of egg masses (meaning groups of eggs) is greater then one egg mass per plant. Control measures should be taken when the threshold is reached or when wilting occurs and the damage is attributed to squash bug and not other pests or environmental conditions. Seedlings, new transplants, and flowering plants are the most critical growth stages to monitor, as these are the stages when the most damage can occur.

Organic Control
There are few if any effective organic control options for squash bug. However, natural enemies of the squash bug include Tachinid fly, Trishopoda pennipes and Sceleonids, Eumicrosoma spp. These biological control options may prove useful. Sabadilla may provide some control and is organic certified
If only a few plants are affected, it is most effective to hand pick and destroy squash bugs and eggs. Another option is to place boards or shingles on the ground next to the plants. At night the squash bugs will aggregate under the boards and can then be destroyed each morning. Using resistant varieties such as Butternut, Royal Acorn, or Sweet Cheese and maintaining a healthy plant through proper fertilization and watering are also important to limiting squash bug damage. It is also necessary to remove debris in and around the garden area that could possibly be used as shelter by the bugs. As stated above, by removing debris from the area, overwintering sites for the adults are reduced. Sevin is one of the few insecticides available to home gardeners.

Feel free to continue the conversation and add your own discoveries on pest control by leaving a comment. If you have had great success with a particular organic method, let us know what worked for you! Thanks!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: 
The information above was gleaned from the UNH Cooperative Extension Website  a GREAT resource!