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The Legend of The Three Sisters

This week, we planted a combination of vegetables know as the Three Sisters with students from our partner schools. They enjoyed this story about the ways that plants can help each other

In a time before clocks and watches and trains and boats, and farms even, there lived ancient Spirit Children who could tell time from the setting of the sun and the colors in the sky. The Spirit Children were not like us for they could switch into different beings in the blink of an eye: One moment a human with two legs and two arms, the next moment a fox, swift and sly.

They lived to create life on earth such as plants and animals so that the world could be a beautiful place. They roamed freely and in peace with the eyes of Mother Sun and Father Moon watching over them from the skies with love in their hearts.

Among the Spirit Children there lived Three Sisters, no more alike in looks than in personalities. Sister Bean was tall and frail with green hair and graceful limbs. She was always dancing and twisting and twirling.

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Drip Tape for your Raised Bed

This past weekend I set up a drip tape irrigation system on my raised beds. While drip irrigation systems requires a little more upfront labor, the set up is relatively easy and inexpensive, and over the course of the season it will allow you to water less and more efficiently with less effort.

Drip irrigation allows a gardener to focus water where it is needed- at the base of the plants, focusing on the root zone. With overhead watering (which includes using a sprinkler or watering can) it is much harder to concentrate your irrigation efforts, resulting both in using more water than necessary and watering weeds and/or weed seeds that are undeserving of attention. Here are instructions on how to set this up (PDF) in your own beds.

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Sharing Garden Space

 

Adriana stands in front of her raised bed garden
Adriana stands in front of her raised bed garden
Neighbors Mary and Adriana are gardening together. After The Food Project determined that Adriana's yard space did not get enough sun for a garden, Mary kindly invited Adriana to tend to a raised bed garden in her yard instead. The Food Project built each of their families a raised bed, and now, they're growing food side by side!

their lettuce nearing harvest time
their lettuce nearing harvest time

Adriana holds a spinach leaf affected by leaf miner
Adriana holds a spinach leaf affected by leaf miner

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Supporting & Pruning Tomatoes

Tomatoes Need Support

As tomatoes grow taller, they need support to help them produce more fruit and take up less space. In order to avoid damaging plants, it is best to begin when the plants are small. Consider starting at the same time you plant your tomatoes. While there are many ways to make your own supports for tomatoes, such as trellis systems, we suggest starting off easy if you are a beginner gardener. Here, we discuss how to cage and stake tomatoes.

Caging

caged tomato
caged tomato
You can buy tomato cages at any garden supply store and they are really easy to use. Place the cage over the plant so that it is centered, and as it grows, gently guide the stems through the holes of the cage. Caged tomatoes need minimal tying; however, consider tying stems gently to the wiring if they are loaded with fruit and become heavy.

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Spotlight on lettuce

Tips on growing, harvesting, and more

close up of some lettuce
close up of some lettuce
When to harvest lettuce depends on the variety of lettuce you plant. Here are a few guidelines based on different types of lettuce.

For head lettuce, you should harvest when the head becomes firm. Just pull the entire plant out of the ground, cut off the roots, dip into cold water, and refrigerate until eating. This will keep lettuce fresh and crisp.

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New Local Resource: Boston Gardener

Even though I have had some bad luck with my spinach, I managed to harvest about two cups (enough for a small and delicious salad)!

Boston Gardener
Boston Gardener
Right now I am most proud of my peas, which are about 1 ft. high. I just built a trellis for them on Friday. It probably took me about 25 minutes to build the whole thing, but I have to say I was in Home Depot trying to find supplies for a solid 2 hours! As friendly as the Home Depot staff is, the place is extremely overwhelming. Luckily for all of us, a new urban gardening store called Boston Gardener has opened up right down the street from Dudley Station (and right next door to the Haley House Bakery Cafe)!

Location:

2131 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02119

Website: GrowBostonGarden.com

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The Ups and Downs of Having a Garden

Today I had to kill my spinach before the evil bugs called Leaf Miners could do it for me. If the color of your Swiss Chard or Spinach is turning pale yellow and crunchy and at a closer look has pathways throughout the leaves, BEWARE, because you probably have Leaf Miners too!

Leaf Miners are tiny bugs that will quickly eat your greens if they are not taken care of immediately! In order to destroy them, I suggest pulling up already damaged crops and starting over so that the bugs do not spread throughout your entire bed.

Check out this guide from the Rutgers ag station (PDF) for more details on the vicious bug. I share your pain if you have to start from scratch, just like me, but wish you the best of luck with future crops!

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Faces behind the Labor

YouthBuild finishing a raised bed
YouthBuild finishing a raised bed

The building of beds

Perhaps some of you have wondered how we actually get all of the raised beds built. With a current goal of 200 beds per year, it is no easy feat. Each raised bed is built by a team that includes a Food Project staff and three-four assistants who range from eager volunteers to Food Project teens to youth in other Boston area programs.

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Water Safety for Gardeners

In response to this question from a BaGer:

Is it safe to water food gardens with the water? Or, do I need to boil water and then water the garden?

This is what I found on the state website:

Houseplants and Gardens

Water can be used without treatment for watering household plants and garden plants. The exception would be things like strawberries or tomatoes where the water would contact the edible fruit.

Based on this, I suppose you should technically only water plants that don't have any edible parts. I watered my strawberries because they're not fruiting yet, but maybe avoid watering spinach because you eat the leaves. Hope this helps. Sounds like the water pipe will be fixed shortly.

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Voting for a School Garden

Garden Vote Poster
Garden Vote Poster
School gardens are a popular trend these days, full of promising hands-on lessons from nutrition to science and beyond. Organizing a school community to utilize a garden both during school time and in the summer months can be a challenge in and of itself. The Brickett Elementary School in Lynn is off to a successful start.

fresh raised bed
fresh raised bed
A raised bed was installed by volunteers from General Electric this month. Students from Brickett recently voted on what type of garden they wanted to have. Perhaps surprisingly, the salad garden was voted the winner by students, promising to bring in a healthy harvest!

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