Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sweet Potato blossoms

These sweet potato vines were rooted at my After-School gardening classes last Winter, and transplanted this summer at a restaurant sidewalk planter.  Today I noticed that they're flowering.

I'm not sure if sweet potatoes bloom based on variety or conditions.  I don't recall any of mine blooming before, and most that we see do not have flowers.  Sweet potatoes mostly reproduce asexually (as we created these very clones from a tuber), so the flowers are less necessary.  They're close relations to morning glories, which do indeed need to flower for their species survival. 

The flowers resemble tobacco and petunias, but those are in the nightshade family, while sweet potatoes are in the convolvulaceae family.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pole beans and trellises

By mid-August, bean season has officially begun.  We did have some earlier bush bean harvests, as those are quicker to produce.  Pole (or runner) beans, in contrast, take a few months to get going.  Most of these were planted mid-May to mid-June, starting slow, then spreading out as vines, and now are producing lots of beans.   Below are shown a few different trellising methods.

Sorghum plant
I have a few bean vines climbing sorghum plants.  It's a big success in this photo, but the weight of the plants and pods, has felled some other sorghum plants.  This is still worth trying with sorghum, sunflowers, and corn if done sparingly (as they are similar to sorghum but a bit more delicate).


To the right are some scarlet runner beans on a normal, wooden stake and twine trellis.  I planted bean and cucumber seeds the recommended 3 or 4 inches apart, and this is a good example of how full they will grow when doing well.  Next year I may finally learn and keep the plants 6" or more apart.  It is possible to over-plant beans and jeopardize the yield by overcrowding.

These purple podded pole beans are growing against a fence at a school garden.  This type of wrought iron fence is a bit too slippery and wide for beans to latch on to, so it's necessary to add some type of trellis netting or twine, as I have done.  With such assistance, the beans will engulf the fence.

Below are some more pole beans that are trellising on chain-linked fences, which seem to do just fine.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Larger scale gardening

In late July, while very busy with all of my freelance gardening work, I stumbled upon a very cool larger scale gardening job.

I was hired by a Brooklyn-based food pantry, to run their existing gardens, assist with their education programs, and oversee the building of two very large gardens.  One is a 7,000 square foot garden in a nearby vacant lot, and the other is a 20,000 "mini-farm" in the Rockaways.

I'll create some postings showing the step-by-step construction.  Given that we started the project pretty late in the growing season, I'll also have a lot to post about Fall plantings.  For now, just a quick overview.

Earlier this Spring, a smaller garden was created in the large vacant lot in Bed-Stuy, as a collaboration between my employer and a nearby school.  It consisted of around a dozen 4' x 16' wooden raised bed planters.  The problem was that this left a lot of unused space.  The space actually wasn't just unused, but it took a great effort to keep the lot from just filling up with weeds.

Our goal was to turn most of the space into a vegetable garden.  Rather than create dozens of more wooden raised beds, we instead just added rows of soil and paths, as would be in a farm.  We're also constructing a small greenhouse, soon a three bin composting system, and then some teaching, cooking and other gathering areas. 

This space will be used both as a school garden, and a production garden for the food pantry.  We may even have enough produce to support a small farmer's market.  

soil delivery
The project in the Rockaways is around three times large in scale.  Here, we'll also grow dozens of rows.  Plus, we'll have a larger composting operation, a chicken coup/run, and a dedicated area for a farm stand and some educational activities.  The growing areas will also have a hoop house or another type of construction that will give us some four season farm space. 

This farm will grow produce for some other local food banks, sell at our own farmers market, and maybe sell produce to some local restaurants.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What's growing and being harvested...

July was a busy month keeping up with watering during some heatwaves.  For the most part, everything survived.  Here are some photos taken in July and early August...


Ground Cherry

Lacinato Kale