Planting fruit trees: the preparation

At the end of September, Thom Marti came out to the Painted Turtle Farm again, but this time to teach us about digging holes for fruit trees. We will be putting in 4 trees, two each of apple and pair, in the spring, but needed to choose potential sites and prepare the holes for planting. Thom brought some of his digging tools along and taught us the proper method for getting into the ground and went over some basics, such  as how far apart the trees should be planted and how large the holes would have to be to accommodate for the root masses.

The holes were approximately a foot and a half down, and about two feet wide.

The holes were approximately a foot and a half down, and about two feet wide.

Becca digs into the ground with Oscar & Sandra

Becca digs into the ground with Oscar & Sandra

The holes were then filled with organic material and covered with pallets to prevents animals from getting in. The soil will be kept and used to fill the holes when we get the trees in the springtime.

 Additionally, we had some volunteers who come out every week harvest some produce and do some much needed weeding. Thanks guys!

IMG_4733

Taming the berry patch

Taming the berry patch

Harvesting the green beans

Harvesting the green beans

Adrienne gathering some harvested produce

Adrienne gathering some harvested produce

look at those carrots!!

look at those carrots!!

Advertisements

Beneficial Insects and Keeping Them

Last Thursday we had a workshop about beneficial insects and how to incorporate them into your garden. One of Elizabeth’s CSA shareholders, Jeff,  keeps bees and he came out to show us how bees can help pollinate and to teach everyone some some basics.

sign

Learning about beneficials and bees

Learning about beneficials and bees

Captivated by the enclosed bee frame

Captivated by the enclosed bee frame
a brooding hive, enclosed in glass

A brooding hive, enclosed in glass

Jeff and his hive

Jeff and his hive

Trying Jeff's honey

Trying Jeff’s honey

The life cycle of bees

The life cycle of bees

A photographer from Celebrate Gettysburg, Casey, dropped by to take some photos for an upcoming article. It was nice to have him at the garden.

The Celebrate Gettysburg photographer

Casey Martin, getting some close-ups of zinnias

It’s important to remember that although some bugs are pests in the garden, many are extremely helpful.  Here are some tips to manage the insects in your garden:

  • Identify insect before killing it, then determine whether it’s helpful, harmful, or neutral by looking it up online or referring to your handout
  • Utilize IPM (Integrated Pest Management) This keeps us from using pesticides and other harmful chemicals and allows us to make intelligent decisions about pest management:
  • Monitor garden daily to check for insects, population sizes, what plants they’re on and when in the year (it’s a good idea to keep track of these so that you can remember to take action early next year)
  • Identify the pest
  • Evaluate and predict: determine how much damage it’s causing or whether it’s a good insect and predict what might happen if you leave it or remove it
  • Decide and control: if it’s bad, use Pyganic spray or kill it manually.  If it’s good, plant more of whatever it’s on.  Remember not to use insecticides  because they also kill the beneficial insects.
  • Friends: Your handout has some of these, as well as the photos on the picnic tables.  Ladybug, Ichneumon Wasp, predaceous stink bug, paper wasp, praying mantis, predatory wasp, spiders (orb weaver), predatory mite, zelus assassin bug, assassin nymph, wheel bug, damsel bug, lacewings, praying mantis (eat friends and foes), tiger beetle, ground beetle, rove beetle (pincers), wasps eat caterpillars, syrphid fly, hoverfly, robber fly, tachnid fly (parasitoids- eggs eat hosts), eulophid wasp, ichneumonid wasp,
  • Pollen & nectar-bearing flowers can attract beneficials
  • Predator bugs eat pests for you!
  • Lots of predatory species are good (tend to be found in solitude, not groups, like aphids)

Examples:

    • Lady Bugs- Eat aphids.  They like flowers and many herbs.

      The kids found some ladybugs

      The kids found some ladybugs

    • Praying Mantis- Eat Mexican bean beetles, moths and many other pests.  They do eat some beneficials too, but are still helpful.  Plant flowers to attract them.
    • Ground beetles: Eat slugs, snails, cutworms, root maggots, and potato beetle larvae.  They like to hide under stones, logs, and other groundcovers.
    • Lacewings- Eat aphids, thrips, moth eggs, small caterpillars and mites.  They also like herbs and wildflowers.
    • Certain wasps- attack the eggs of pest bugs as well as some lay their eggs on pests as hosts.  Their larvae then eat and kill the pest bug.  They like pollen and nectar plants.
    • Hover Flies- Eat aphids and cabbage worms and can pollinate fruit.  They like annual flowers and herbs.
    • Spiders- Feed on many insects and prevent outbreaks of pest bugs.  They like perennials and straw mulches for shelter.

How to Extract Honey

Our PTF gardening guru, Elizabeth, who owns a CSA farm a few miles from town (Amazing Heart Farm) recently got some bee hives from one of her CSA shareholders, Jim.  He invited the three of us over on Tuesday to learn how to extract honey from the hive frames.  So we headed over to Waynesboro and learned a thing or two.

The first step was to bring all of the frames inside; we had about 17 frames (3 from Elizabeth and 14 from Jim) and we made sure there were no honeybees still clinging on!

Some of the frames, fresh from the hive!

Some of the frames, fresh from the hive!

Honeycomb

Honeycomb

Next, we plugged in an uncapping knife that looks kind of like a pie cutter and it heats up.  We used this tool to melt off the outer layer of wax from the frames so that the honey was exposed.

Jim showing us how to melt the wax

Jim showing us how to melt the wax

Us trying it

Us trying it

Jasmine using a comb to removeg the bits of wax that the uncapping knife couldn't reach

Jasmine using a comb to remove the bits of wax that the uncapping knife couldn’t reach

We then put the frames into a specially crafted cylindrical metal extractor.

Elizabeth & Jasmine putting the frames in

Elizabeth & Jasmine putting the frames in

The frames sitting in the extractor

The frames sitting in the extractor (and honey at the bottom!)

Adjusting the frames

Adjusting the frames

We hand-spun it around, causing the honey to fly out of the combs from the centrifugal force.  It then collected at the bottom of the tank.  We opened a lever at the bottom, allowing the honey to spill out and flow through two mesh screens- one with large holes and one with fine holes.

The honey flowing out into the screens

The honey flowing out into the screens

And that was it!  We made roughly 32 mason jars worth of honey!  It was delicious 🙂  The honey from Elizabeth’s frames was a little more floral-tasting than Jim’s because there are more wildflowers and fruit bushes at her farm.  Jim’s was darker and more woody tasting because of the pollen from the trees in his yard.

We also enjoyed the company of Jim’s 3 cats, Rufus, Fig Tree, and Truffles.

Truffles in a box

Truffles in a box

Directions on extracting honey

In other news, we made a delicious stir fry yesterday with some of our own asparagus, walking onions & kale, snap peas from Elizabeth’s farm, and beet greens & bok choi from Broad Valley Orchard CSA.

Our creation!

Our creation!

As well as a strawberry rhubarb pie with rhubarb from PTF and strawberries from the Gettysburg Farmer’s Market.

Lattice-top for style

Lattice-top for style

Bon Appetit!

-Adrienne & Jasmine

Summer Workshops

Here are our upcoming workshops! We meet at the garden at 6:30pm

JUNE 13 – Color Your food

JUNE 27 – Marketing (held at Penn State Ag Extension)

JULY 11 – Common Bug Pests, Plant Viruses and How To Manage Them

JULY 25 – Permaculture: self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems

AUGUST 1 – Attracting Beneficial Wildlife and Wildlife Management & Creating a Farm Budget and Common Farm Expenses

AUGUST 8 – How to Plant Fruit Trees

***SATURDAY, JULY 20 – Introduction to canning vegetables from the garden!

Going over the rules of the garden

Colorea tu comida’: explora el valor nutricional de los vegetales por color: jueves 13 de junio  6:30-8:00pm.      
La venta y la comercialización jueves 27 de junio  6:30-8:00pm. (*Celebrada en Penn State Ag Extensión del Condado de Adams)
Los viruses comunes de las plantas y como lidiarlos jueves 11 de julio  6:30-8:00pm
Permaculture: sistemas agrícolas auto-mantenidos, modelados de ecosistemas naturales jueves 25 de  julio  6:30-8:00pm.
Atrayendo la fauna natural y beneficiosa y cómo manejarla & Creando un presupuesto agrícola y los gastos comunes de la granja:   jueves 1 de agosto 6:30-8:00pm
Cómo plantar árboles frutales jueves 8 de agosto  6:30-8:00pm

Composting!

Our last workshop covered the basics of composting and what is necessary  for an efficient, active composting system.

Before our workshop last Thursday, we built a few examples of composting systems that you can have at home, such as straw compost bins, generic compost piles, and moveable bins.

IMG_20130530_191538      IMG_20130530_191528

The placement of the pile should be taken into consideration, preferably in a level area that will receive at least some shade and has good drainage. In certain cases, such as in backyards or in more urban environments, the “unsightliness” of a traditional compost pile must be taken into consideration, and so some ways to surround and hide the pile should be sought out. In addition, whether in a pile or bin, the size should be between 3’x3’x3′ and 5’x5’x5′, for any larger is unmanageable  and would not aerate properly and any smaller may not heat up high enough for breakdown.

Some recommended tools:

  • Pitch fork for turning pile
  • Gardening hose or watering can
  • Optional: pruners, machete or shredder to cut up larger pieces of organic waste; compost thermometer, covered container for your kitchen that you can carry out

When starting your pile, build on bare ground, not on asphalt or concrete as this would inhibit microbial interaction with the compost. As the pile developed, firm and lightly water each layer as it is added but don’t compact it.

Compost Ingredients: 2 parts green to 1 part brown

Greens:

  • Aquarium water, algae, and freshwater plants add moisture and nitrogen
  • Dead houseplants
  • Fresh grass clippings should be mixed with plenty of drier, brown material
  • Green garden debris
  • Vegetative kitchen scraps (carrot peelings and the like) should be buried in the pile so they don’t attract animals
  • Fruit scraps
  • Eggshells
  • Don’t add weeds!

Browns:

  • Brown garden debris
  • Hedge prunings and twigs help keep a pile fluffy but should be chipped first so they decompose faster
  • Leaves will add nitrogen and are abundant in nutrients. As they decompose, they will also help to retain moisture
  • Straw bulks up a pile, but it should not be confused with hay, which often contains weed and grass seeds and shouldn’t be added to compost

compostpilegraphicGraphic courtesy of University of Missouri Extension Service

General Compost Care:    

  • Temperature should be between 110º-160º F (should reach this within two weeks of building)
  • Turn the pile as you add to it in order to aerate for porper decomposition
  • Turn pile on average every 4-5 weeks
  • Add water if the organic material doesn’t feel damp
  • Finished compost that is well decomposed will be dark and nearly black in color, crumbly, and smell sweet

-Jasmine

Soil Fertility

Thom Marti, of Broad Valley Orchard, dropped in our soil fertility workshop to talk a little about what healthy soil is composed of and how you can improve your soil to be able to grow abundantly.

Soil fertility, the capacity of a soil to provide crops with essential plant nutrients, posesses the following properties:

  • Rich in nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon
  • Sufficient trace minerals are present, such as iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, and zinc
  • Organic matter is present, retaining moisture and improving structure
  • Soil pH is between 6-7 for most plants
  • Soil life, such as microorganisms and some organisms such as worms, is present within the soil
  • In some cases topsoil is present
  • Soil is aerated, moist, and loose enough for roots to move freely

When Painted Turtle Farm was started in the 2005-6 school year, the plot was previously uncultivated and primarily made up of rocky clay-type soil. While most trees and shrubs grow well such a  clay rich soil, the roots of the most of annuals, perennials, and vegetables are often to weak to develop fully and move in the packed soil. In addition, soil rich in clay has the tendency to drain and change temperatures slowly, to compact easily, to heave in the winter and to be alkaline.  Over the years, additions such as mushroom compost, sand, peat moss, and other organic matter and composts from local farmers, as well as from our own piles, have been been added to the field and the beds to enrich the soil.

According to the Soil Survey of Adams County:

“Adams County is rather cold in the winter and hot in summer. Winter precipitation frequently occurs on most soils, results in a good accumulation of soil moisture by spring, and minimizes drought in summer. Normal annual precipitation is adequate for all crops that are adapted to the temperature and length of growing season in the area.”

Thom showed us some examples of the red earth that is naturally present in this particular area of Gettysburg, and how it has changed over the past eight years through cultivation and the addition of organic matter, etc. Thom also brought along a sample of how different the soil is in Biglerville where the Marti farm is located, and a sample of some soil from a garden bed. The soil that had been worked with, of which the health had been improved over many years, was darker, sweeter in smell, and had a medium loamy texture.

As we work in the garden, it’s reassuring that we can slowly see the fruit of our labors in the changing texture, color, organic life, and richness of our soil.
common9

Students work on spreading mushroom compost around the back field in early spring.

common11

The soil after the compost was tilled in earlier this spring.

IMG_20130526_194911

The soil a couple weeks ago, right after seedlings were transplanted.

-Jasmine

Hugelkultur

A couple weeks ago a group of students on a food justice project, came and helped us build a hugelkultur bed. In German, hugelkultur literally translates into “mound culture”. The process is a sort of carbon sequestration, as you build a raised garden bed filled with decomposing wood.

hugal1 hugal2

The result? Deep soil filled with air pockets and pleny of nutrients and life for your plants’ roots to thrive.

hugelkulture

Soon there will be squash growing from the seeds we planted yesterday.

-Jasmine