Happy Outcomes

Our cook’s bed has had its fair share of challenges this year and as the season comes to a close it’s exciting to see the positive outcome of everyone’s effort and support.  By far, our biggest challenge is the creeping shade looming over our fenced vegetable garden which has contributed to plants struggling to germinate, grow and thrive. As a team we pondered various ways we might be able to solve this issue. Leslie Paulson listened, brainstormed, and advocated with the monastery. The outcome…our vegetable garden has been approved to relocate to a sun drenched area! This will require more teamwork, but we are motivated by the support we have received from the teaching garden as a whole, from Sister Pat and the monastery, and the public attending the Saturday in the Garden seminars who are eager to learn the best practices being demonstrated.

Another recent happy outcome came in the form of purple sweet potatoes. Early this season we said goodbye to one of our cook’s team volunteers, Dawn Barr, as she embarked on a new adventure to Germany. Before leaving she gifted us with some purple sweet potato slips. These little slips endured an early summer of cool and wet temperatures and a few encounters with wildlife breaching the fencing protection. We were starting to doubt if anything edible would be found in the soil, but I’m happy to report that despite all these challenges we still harvested a generous handful of sweet potatoes. A few MG’s took some home to try this All Purple variety in the kitchen. Dawn, thank you for the gift!

Our current challenge has been the very long spell of hot and dry weather. If reports are correct, a fix in the form of rain should be on its way. It’s always a good outcome when nature decides to side with Team Gardener!

Amye Foelsch

Scarlet Runner Beans

There is a story that’s been growing in raised bed four. It contains all the good elements of storytelling; a dynamic and beautiful main character that has the ability to heal and provide nourishment for the hungry, while remaining trapped in a 4×6 fenced space in the middle of a beautiful garden setting with the unfortunate problem of being mostly forgotten. In her desperate need to be noticed, she creates beautiful, brilliantly colored flowers, grabbing the attention of all who enter the garden, but as these flowers fade, so does the attention she receives. Alone again, she produces long, green pods which over time begin to fade to brown and crackle in the wind, as she herself comes to the end of her season. Yet, she leaves one last gift—jewels! These purple-speckled jewels are edible and contain a nutrient packed inside.

Who is this heroine that gave so much, in return for so little? Her name is Scarlet Runner Bean, and she became part of the Teaching Garden story in late May when we still had an empty raised bed in need of planting. In 2016 this bed grew tomatoes and okra, something we did not want to repeat in the same area. After spending all spring prepping and planting the bio beds and other raised beds, we were mostly looking for a plant that would keep the soil covered during the summer months and not be something we would have to fuss over. Thomas had Scarlet Runner Bean seeds available, and it was quickly decided we would grow these beans for its legume nitrogen fixing soil benefits, and not necessarily for the harvest of beans.

As the above story goes, we truly did plant and forget…okay, we did water, but that has been the extent of our efforts. This plant has thrived, filled, and spilled over its caged area. There have been many happy pollinators zipping in for visits, but no bad bugs to be found threatening its welfare. By mid-summer it burst into flames of brilliant, crimson colored flowers, which I imagine would look beautiful in a vase arrangement.  Green pods followed, but most of us were not fans of eating them raw.  So we left the plant alone again, only to come back and find gorgeously colored dried beans inside the now brown pods. This story will end after we have harvested enough of the dried beans to use in a recipe. Fortunately, there are a couple of Master Gardeners with some amazing cooking talents who might be willing to help write the last delicious chapter.

If you would like to recreate this story in your own garden, here is a link to a good read with more detailed information.



Treats in the Garden

Today we continued the garden ritual of harvesting, weeding, and watering. We also took a peek under the sweet potato protection fencing to see how things are growing. We were surprised to see there were no big tubers bursting from the soil, and concluded this is most likely the result of the wet and cooler summer; sweet potatoes like it hot! So this prompted the decision to change the vegetable topic for the October 21st Saturday in the Garden (SIG) from sweet potatoes to garlic and brassicas. Charlene will be putting together another recipe book, so make sure to send any favorite recipes that include garlic or the brassica family her way. This past SIG was especially sweet with getting to sample Charlene’s chocolate pea pods. I think every child would eat up their legumes if they grew like that.

Visual treats around the garden included: monarch caterpillars in Jannell and Karen’s native bed; a honeybee taking in the menu on the Bee, Butterfly and Hummingbird garden sign; and beautiful, unblemished eggplant dripping off the plants in Jannell’s raised bed.

Enjoy your week and all the visual treats it has to offer.



Signs of Fall in the Vegetable Garden

A change in season can be just the pick-me-up needed to renew one’s spirit, outlook and feel invigorated to tackle new tasks. Out at the Teaching Garden there has been a lot of talk about nature’s way of showing the gardener that fall is approaching. Master Gardener Robin Finehout wrote and posted an excellent write up on this very subject. Her shared research has me noticing signs of fall in my own garden.

In the vegetable garden one of the biggest signs fall is approaching stems from the activities of the gardener. Row covers and trellis are erected for cool loving crops like broccoli, cabbage, and snow peas. Seed packets of lettuce, spinach, turnips and kale once again share a spot with the garden tools. The dying vines of squash and cucumber plants are removed and those areas are prepped with rich compost and covered with seeds of crimson clover and rye.  More time is spent harvesting the flush of tomatoes, peppers and tomatillos. All these activities occurred this morning at the Teaching Garden. We are ready for fall, and with brilliant green cilantro springing up in the corner of the garden, all on its own, the veggie garden is telling us it’s ready for fall too.


Check out Robin’s post:


Veggie Garden Update

Just a quick recap of things from Tuesday morning.

No groundhog damage in FEGH or, surprisingly, to the sweet potato vines growing outside the cage in B and C.

The lemon cucumbers were pretty disease-ridden so I took them out. They were covered in squash bugs. I also took out several squash plants including all of the summer squashes. I did salvage a few cucumbers, a patty-pan, a zypher, 2 spaghetti squashes and 3 butternuts for the sisters. The butternut seems to be weathering things the best and at least 1 spaghetti squash is hanging in there. I didn’t see many squash bugs, but there is powdery mildew everywhere.

We did get a fair number of wax peppers and ripe tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes I harvested showed little damage from insects or splitting. Still no San Marazaro tomatoes. On a side note, I’ve only had 4 mature at home and blossom end rot and slugs got to them before I could harvest any. The brassicas haven’t grown much but don’t seem to have any damage from pests.

There is 1 wax or provider bean in E that actually looks healthy – still no flowers yet. The scarlet runner beans have started producing pods! Yay, we have legumes. I hadn’t seen any at SIG but a couple on the backside of the bed were quite large. I opened up the tomatillo cage and harvested as many ripe fruits as I could find – a little more than a plastic grocery bag of them.

I overseeded a mix of rye and crimson in D and H (except the cucumber area on Saturday, but nothing had come up yet. I’ll bring more covers out on Tuesday.

Jeff S. brought two buckets of hop slurry that we’ve laid out in pans under a picnic table. It’s a lovely split pea soup looking mess. We have the picnic table covered in case it storms. The hope is to evaporate out the liquids and see if the hop solids are useful as compost or fertilizer.

The slurry didn’t work for Joe in the compost, but we suspect it was the residual alcohol in the liquid portion that caused the problem. This should give us a better idea of it was the problem. I also poured some of the excess liquid on some of the weeds in the mulch outside the fence by H. Based on what happened when a bucket was spilled in the compost area, that should kill them.

There were at least 3 swallowtail caterpillars feasting on the fennel next to where the cucumber were in H. Native bees were very active on the hyssop and scarlet runner beans.

Charlene, thank you for watering and getting the produce to the monastery.


Gardening In The Rain

Picture this scene: adults wandering around outside, dripping wet from rain, with soil streaks on their clothes, hands, and face. This scenario might make some raise an eyebrow or even ignite some concern. Now insert the words “in the garden” and the setting makes sense. This happy side effect of gardening brings the adult outside on days most would rather stay inside to remain warm and dry.  The gardener knows rain days mean brilliant colors, no sweltering sun, and best of all; that childhood spirit coming out to play. This was our Tuesday morning at the Teaching Garden–wet and beautiful.

The focus in the vegetable garden was getting the cabbage, broccoli and spinach into the ground. This preparation marks the starting line of fall’s fast approach. These veggies, which were started in the office, are off to an excellent start, as the bed was prepped with rich compost made on premise by the compost team. Once the last plant was nestled into the ground, the row cover came out from its summer hibernation to help protect these fellows from future frost and pests like the imported cabbageworm. By the time these little veggies are big and producing, fall will be approaching the finish line. Until then, there is plenty of time to meander in the rain, and take in all the beauty and brilliant colors our garden has to offer.



Struggles in the Vegetable Garden

Let’s begin with an image.

At first glance, one might think this photo was taken at the beginning of the gardening season. After all, large parts of the beds appear to be bare; but, upon further scrutiny, the viewer notices zinnias in full bloom and no signs of brassicas growing, and thus, concludes the photo must have been taken later in the season.

That conclusion is accurate as the photo captures the current state of our fenced vegetable garden in August: a time when our garden is usually keeping us very busy with harvest and hiding our walking paths.

My garden friends, we have a wicked problem, as these sparse spaces you see in the photo are not caused by lack of planting or effort. We have indeed planted, replanted, and tended to seeds and nursed plants this season. From observation the problem seems to be the result of a perfect storm of determined hungry wildlife, soil concerns, and creeping shade.

These are heavy topics, especially the ever encroaching shade. We are a teaching garden and our garden’s failure to thrive impacts not just the master gardeners who enjoy tending to the vegetable garden, but also the community we serve to educate, demonstrate and inspire, as well as the monastery kitchen we deliver harvest to.

The positive is we have time on our side. Through careful observation we have begun to notice the signs and symptoms our garden is sending us. So, yes, the fenced garden is not growing as prolific as it once was, but, none the less, it’s still producing. We are not caught off guard, we are aware of what is happening and have the time to start brainstorming and putting plans into action.

This post is an outreach for a call to action to get our thinking caps on, all ideas and solutions welcome. The ultimate goal: to keep our vegetable garden in the sun and continue to be a place where education, inspiration and bounty can be shared with all.