Harvesting vegetables and herbs from the Center’s garden has been going on for some time now but just this week I started to feel like everything was coming out at once. A daily visit to the garden reveals something new to be picked: beans, zucchinis, kale, cucumbers, swiss chard, and a huge variety of herbs. Chelsea and I picked a ton of basil a couple days ago which the kitchen staff has turned into lots of pesto for both immediate consumption and freezing. Hannah even picked a bunch of yellow transparent apples that was turned into a delicious chutney for dinner that night. At the risk of sounding horribly cliché, it is pretty exciting to see our own little “loop” in motion here in Craftsbury. The basil we planted is being made into pesto for pizza that is cooked in the wood-fired oven we constructed last year. Food scraps from the kitchen and dining hall are now being composted beautifully in the new compost shed. This fall we’ll be putting that compost back on the garden before snow flies.
When deciding what to plant in the garden we concentrated on three goals: 1. Have things that would continue to produce throughout the season. 2. Have lots of certain veggies that are almost impossible to mess up. 3. And perhaps most importantly, grow things – especially herbs – that the dining hall uses a lot of.
I really thought that zucchinis and summer squash fit into the second category. They grow like weeds, right? Well, you can imagine my dismay when seemingly all the little baby zucchinis were rotting on the vine. Russ diagnosed the disease: blossom-end rot. But what caused it and what could we do about it? A fair bit of internet research and discussion with other gardeners (thanks Rebecca!) produced theories but little consensus. One theory said it might be a pollination problem. Luckily our own resident pollination expert Chelsea was willing to go out to do some hand pollinating (thanks Chelsea!). But Chelsea found plenty of bees in the garden doing the same thing she was, so that probably wasn’t the cause of the rot. Another theory was calcium deficiency, potentially caused by the hot, dry weather we had a couple weeks ago. As far as I could tell, there’s not much you can do about a calcium deficiency once the plants are growing.
Beyond Chelsea’s valiant hand-pollinating efforts and cutting off the rotting squash, we didn’t do anything about the rot. Recently though they seem to be making their own come-back and we’ve had a few full-grown non-rotting specimens to pick. My hopes have been raised as the plants look a little better every day.
Hannah recently printed out posters for the dining hall describing what is going on with the compost and the garden. Hopefully this means more folks will venture out back to check out what is growing. Definitely stop by if you haven’t done so already!