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Posts Tagged ‘Central Virginia Foodbank’

Community Kitchen Garden: First Harvest!

by Janine Butler, garden volunteer

The volunteers and staff continue to work hard in the vegetable garden; weeding, mulching, feeding, watering and what not, and finally we are starting to reap the rewards!

Last week the first harvest was picked and delivered to Central Virginia Foodbank/ FeedMore, the recipients of all the food we’re growing here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. A bounty of 182 pounds of yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant and cucumbers were hand delivered by Karen Clowers, Horticulture Department Coordinator at Lewis Ginter.

A fridge full of goodies!

A fridge full of goodies

This week we continued to harvest, and should have at least double the amount we delievered last week. Some of the zucchini got huge in just less than one week!

Super zucchini!

Super zucchini!

We may have to harvest more frequently; we would prefer the zucchini to be a little smaller than these whoppers as they will taste and cook better.

Included in the first delivery was a whole bunch of cucumbers (what’s the collective term for lots of cucumbers? How about a ‘cool of cucumbers’… ) We didn’t grow the cucumbers onsite at Lewis Ginter. Instead another regular garden volunteer donated them. We love this! In fact, anyone who is growing vegetables at home and has a bumper crop can donate their extra veggies. Drop them off at the visitor center here at Lewis Ginter and we will take them to the foodbank along with our contributions. We would prefer donations to be dropped off on Saturday or Monday mornings, 9am-12pm, as we will be making deliveries to the foodbank later in the afternoon. Scheduled bulk deliveries help the chefs’ plan out meals and use the vegetables more efficiently. However, if it is more convenient you can take your donations directly to the foodbank on any day and the chefs will utilize them in the salad or vegetable dish of the day.

More pictures:

Volunteers harvest squash

Volunteers harvest squash

Volunteers put in stakes to help support tomatoes

Volunteers put in stakes to help support tomatoes

Peppers almost ready for harvest

Peppers almost ready for harvest

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Community Kitchen Garden: United We Serve
By Janine Butler, garden volunteer
We are getting close to our first harvest! According to Tom Brinda, Assistant Executive Director of Horticulture here at Lewis Ginter, the first of the summer squash are almost ready! They are quite small, but apparently they taste better when they are smaller. In some circles serving baby squash with the flowers still intact is even quite trendy. Not only is the Central Virginia Foodbank reaping the benefits of this harvest, they can now call themselves gourmet!
This week we also gave most of the plants a healthy dose of liquid feed to help them along a bit, so hopefully we shall see a growth spurt in the next few days! And for those readers following the mystery eggplant bug story, the bugs have gone. We eliminated most of them last week, and they haven’t reappeared. Yeah!
We had about 8 new volunteers who came and worked in the Community Kitchen Garden this week. The majority of the group work for the Department of Social Services here in Richmond and got involved through the Hands on Greater Richmond program. Kimberly Brown, who works for the Dept of Social Services in the Office of Volunteering and Community Service, even brought her two young nephews. She told me that this opportunity combined her personal interest of gardening with serving her community and was excited to volunteer. As a bonus, her nephews also really enjoyed themselves and she hopes to be able to bring them back for more fun in the garden! We also had a representative from the Governor’s Office, Andrea Gaines. It’s exciting to see that local government is getting involved and encouraging it’s workforce to volunteer.

It’s all part of a bigger program called United We Serve. Recently the White House announced a new initiative asking people everywhere to volunteer to serve in their own communities during the summer. It’s a worthwhile effort, and everyone benefits. Personally, I am thoroughly enjoying this volunteer opportunity at Lewis Ginter. I feel active and involved at the same time as learning something new, and would recommend everyone to look for something that they can get involved with, either through one of the established volunteer programs or by pursuing a personal interest.

Thanks to all the new volunteers, and another big thanks to all the regular volunteers!

 

 

 

 

 

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Community Kitchen Garden: Tomato Suckers and More!
By Janine Butler, garden volunteer
Do you know what I love about this volunteer gig? Every time I go to the garden I learn something new – this week was all about tomatoes (and yes, I say tom-ah-toe, not tom-ate-er).
Tom Brinda, Assistant Executive Director of Horticulture at Lewis Ginter asked the volunteers to ‘sucker’ some of the tomato plants, which means removing all the smaller shoots (or suckers) from the plant and leaving just the main stem. The sucker grows in the axis between the stem and a branch. It was scary at first removing all the suckers as it felt like we were ravaging the plants that had worked so hard to grow.  But under the watchful eye of Jody, a master gardener and Lewis Ginter volunteer, we all got the hang of it fairly quickly.  Removing the suckers will allow the plant to direct all its energy into the main stem; this will produce less fruit, however the fruit should be much bigger in size. The plants that don’t get suckered will produce more fruit overall, but the size of the fruit will be smaller. This hopefully allows us to get the best of both worlds – quantity and quality!
The first photo is a ‘before’ shot of a tomato plant, and the second is after we have thinned it out:
Tomato Before

Tomato Before thinning

 

Tomato after thinning

Tomato after thinning

 We had about ten volunteers this week, which was great, and we managed to get quite a lot done in a short amount of time. As well as the ‘tomato suckering’, we also did some weeding and of course, we put down some more mulch! Regular readers of this blog will know that we have shoveled tons of mulch! We move a pile of it, and then the following week there is another pile that has been delivered, ready to be moved again!

 

We also planted more zucchini seeds, in the same manner that we planted the squash seeds last month – by making rows of small hills of compost, cover with soil, then roll over the black plastic barrier, cut X holes in the plastic and put in about 4-6 seeds. These seeds should germinate in about 10-15 days.  We are also starting to see some veggies growing – an eggplant, green pepper and tomatoes. There’s not too many of them right now, but hopefully soon we will have enough to harvest and then we can take it down to the Central Virgina Foodbank where it will be put to good use.

The beginnings of an eggplant!

The beginnings of an eggplant!

Last week I also mentioned the mystery bug that is attacking some of the eggplants. One reader helpfully suggested that it might be a flea beetle, but I’m not sure (although I am definitely no expert). I managed to get a photo so hopefully someone out there can confirm what it is!

Mystery bugs

Mystery bugs

I would like to thank all the volunteers this week for their hard work, and again invite anyone to come by and help out. We work in the garden on Saturday and Monday 9am-12pm; it’s great fun and we would love to see you!

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by Janine Butler, garden volunteer

In last week’s blog, I commented on how well all the plants had been growing over the last couple of weeks.  Well guess what else has been growing?  Yep, WEEDS!  I spent a good hour or so on Saturday using a cool tool called a scuffle hoe – you move it back and forth as if you were sweeping the floor, except instead of collecting dirt it wacks the top of the weeds off!  It works pretty well for the broadleaf weeds, but we also have some pesky wiry, grassy weed, which is a bit harder to get rid of.  We might have to find something else for those guys.

Also this week, we continued to put down lots and lots of mulch.  I am hoping that if we lay it down thick enough then we can squash the weeds!  I have to admit I am getting pretty good at mulching; it must be all the practice I am getting!  And something else I learned this week – mulch needs nitrogen to break it down, and tomatoes need nitrogen to grow.  Some of the mulch we have is a little ‘green’ and new, so we had to make sure that it doesn’t get too close to the plants, especially tomatoes.  You don’t really want the plants to work so hard to get the nitrogen from the soil so you should make sure that the mulch is about 12 inches from the plants.  In an ideal world you would have older mulch, but we need so much mulch that we have to take what we can get.

Tom Brinda, Assistant Executive Director, at Lewis Ginter updated me on some of the other things that they have been doing.  Basil seeds had been planted, and they were starting to sprout.  Soon we will have to thin them out a bit to make room and help them grow bigger.  The staff have also been feeding all the plants, because just like you and me they also need good food to help them grow!  Apparently you should feed every couple of weeks; we will do that in two ways 1) by using liquid food to “water” the plants, and 2) by side-feeding, where the plant food is sprinkled on the ground a few inches away from the plants to encourage good root growth.

We also had some mystery guests this week and they seem pretty fond of the eggplants and peppers.  We are still working to find out what these insects are.  These bugs are quite round in shape, and a brownish color.  I will try to take a photo of them the next time I am out there – if anyone has any ideas what they could be then let us know!  We had a new volunteer this week, a teenager and  Tom put him on bug removal duty.  I will stick to mulching thank you very much!

After bug duty the teenage finished planting zucchini seeds. I was really impressed by his enthusiasm — it’s great to see teenagers taking an interest in planting and growing stuff.

I have also been impressed lately by tales from my friends and neighbors who are growing their own veggies.  My neighbor Susan has already got a spicy green chili pepper (just one, but more should be on the way) and a couple of peas.  My friend’s husband Dan has a fantastic garden going on in his backyard – I am trying to rope him into volunteering here!

I hope that you too are all having success in your own gardens! And if you’d like to join the fun, remember we are here working on the Community Kitchen Garden at Lewis Ginter every Monday and Saturday from 9 am to noon, so stop by and give us some help, if you have a green thumb.

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Community Kitchen Garden:  Look What’s Growing! by Janine Butler, garden volunteer What a difference a couple of weeks can make!  Look at these pictures that were taken this morning:

Look how the squash seeds have grown!

Look how the squash seeds have grown!

The squash seeds that we planted a couple of weeks ago are doing great.  I can’t believe that they could grow so big in such a short time!  The seed package did say that germination would occur in 10 -15 days, but as I have never grown squash before I didn’t quite believe it.  Well, seeing is believing! The rest of the plants are also doing very well.  It is so exciting!  Everything is growing!

Cabbages planted by children from New Directions Daycare

Cabbages planted by children from New Directions Daycare

I am especially pleased with the cabbages – if you remember back to the Planting Day Celebration, the children from New Directions Daycare played an important part in planting those rows of cabbages.  It’s great to see that they have taken root so well and I hope the kids get a chance to come back and see how the plants are growing – I’m sure they would get a big kick from knowing that what they planted is actually thriving.

Rows and rows of tomatoes!

Rows and rows of tomatoes!

Lots more plants and seeds have been also been planted in the last week by the volunteers and staff at Lewis Ginter and, in fact, the majority of the site has been planted.  However, the sheer scale of the garden is a huge task.  This is where you can play a part: Lewis Ginter needs you!  We are calling out to anyone who would like to volunteer to work in the veggie garden.  Work will be taking place on Saturday and Monday mornings, 9:00am – 12:00pm, and anyone and everyone is welcome to come and play in the dirt!  Come once, or come all the time!  No experience is needed however the work may be hard at times, involving shoveling mulch and digging, but believe it or not it is lots of fun!  You can contact the volunteer department for more information, or just show up onsite on Saturday and/or Monday at 9am.  If you have a pair of gloves, sunscreen, and a full water bottle then you may wish to bring those along. If you can’t volunteer, we would still love for you to come and visit the garden at anytime.  Southern States has kindly donated packets of seeds to be given out to visitors, including watermelon, radish, pumpkin, cucumber and lettuce.  Yummy, sounds like the makings of some great salads to me! I hope that you are all having much success in your own gardens at home!

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by Janine Butler, garden volunteer
Under the watchful eye of Tom Brinda, Assistant Executive Director of Horticulture & Education, the first team of vegetable garden volunteers got things moving on Saturday!  And what a team it was!  Five ladies, including myself showed up bright and early to continue the work that was started last Thursday during the Planting Day Celebration.

First off, we moved several 50-pound bags of cow manure. This was spread up and down the rows of cabbages and peppers that didn’t get manure prior to planting.

Then we placed old newspapers down around the plants, about 5-6 sheets thick. Tom must have been so impressed with our muscles moving the bags of manure that he then made us shovel mulch all over the newspapers to a depth of several inches. Who knew that there was such an art to putting down mulch?! As the location of the veggie garden is quite open and can get pretty windy, the mulch had to completely cover the edges of the newspapers so that the wind would not be able to get underneath and blow them away. Then we had to go back and make sure that there was no mulch touching the plants, especially the stems of the tomato plants, as this can damage them.

While some of us continued to shovel mulch, a couple of ladies moved on to the next task of the day. Tom wanted to get some squash seeds planted. They thought they were getting out of the shoveling … but no! Apparently, squash seeds grow best when planted in little ‘hills’. This means making small mounds of organic matter (about 2 shovels full), and then covering them fully with dirt (more shoveling). The hills should be spread out about 4 feet apart. Next we rolled out the black plastic over the hills, and then, you guessed it, we shoveled dirt onto the edges of the plastic to prevent it from blowing away. Finally we got to the easy part – making holes into the plastic by cutting X marks, and then popping three seeds into the dirt, about 2-3 inches apart. In about 10-12 days the seeds should begin to germinate. Depending on how many seeds do actually germinate in each hill, some of the seedlings may be thinned out to give more space to the remaining plants.

All in all it was a good day’s work but we still have many more days of work to go. Teams of volunteers and Lewis Ginter staff will be working regularly each week to get it all done. I’m hoping that we didn’t scare away the volunteers with all the shoveling this week – we need them to come back and do some more work next week!

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By Janine Butler, garden volunteer

Today was awesome!   About a hundred people participated in the celebration planting day this morning, including a group of 20  4- and 5-year-old students from New Directions Daycare.

It was great fun watching the children get in the dirt and plant cabbages, bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.  It comes so natural to children – they have no fear or anxiety over whether they are doing it in just the right way, its all about getting it done.   They worked with folks from the Virginia Master Gardener Program and volunteers who did a great job explaining to the children what they were planting and why.  I overheard one master gardener asking a group of children gathered in front of several tomato plants if they ate spaghetti, and did they put ketchup on their burgers?  When the kids all said yes, she explained that spaghetti sauce and ketchup were made from tomatoes – and the look on the kids’ faces was amazing when they started to make the connection between the plants in front of them, and the sauce that goes on their spaghetti!   They couldn’t wait to get those plants into the ground!

The kids get down in the dirt!

The kids get down in the dirt!

New Directions Daycare partners with FeedMore.  It was great for them to come out and give a helping hand with the planting so that the students had a chance to learn about growing food locally and giving back to the community.

In the opening presentation Fay Lohr, President/CEO of FeedMore (the umbrella organization for Central Virginia Foodbank and Meals on Wheels of Central Virginia) commented on some startling statistics;   FeedMore has distributed over 10.6 million pounds of food and grocery items in the last nine months.  The programs that they offer make sure that those in need, including children, the elderly and the homebound, will continue to receive healthy food when  they need it most.

A few more facts from FeedMore:

– more than 723,000 people have received food through the foodbank since July 2008; more than 33% of them were children

– of the 36 localities they serve, 25 localities have childhood poverty levels above the state average

– the number of meals they prepare and deliver per day has risen from 3,000 last summer to 3,800 anticipated this summer; a 27% increase.

The staff and volunteers at Lewis Ginter are thrilled to be working on this vegetable garden, and the chance to help fight hunger in our community.  For me, volunteering on this project is such a great opportunity – I get to do some gardening which I enjoy, I get to learn lots of new stuff about growing vegetables which I have never really done before, but best of all I get to contribute to my local community.   If you would like to volunteer at Lewis Ginter then I encourage you to sign up!

Today we planted about 15 rows of plants, with each row having about 10-15 plants.  We had two rows of cabbage seedlings, 5 rows of assorted bell peppers, 1 row of eggplant, and lots of rows of tomatoes.  Most of the plants take 70-80 days to mature, but one variety of tomatoes – Early Girl Hybrid – matures in about 50 days.  Just a month and a half before we can reap some rewards!  Additional plants and seeds will be planted in the next few days, and throughout the season.

Cabbages in front row, bell peppers behind

Cabbages in front row, bell peppers behind

Attendees at the planting day celebration were each given a free packet of seeds.  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is encouraging people to plant an extra row in their gardens at home and donate the produce to FeedMore.  I got a packet of squash seeds.  I’m not sure that I have space in a sunny spot in my garden at home, but I know one of my neighbors’ does!

If you told yourself that this year you would plant a garden, but haven’t got around to it yet, then I challenge you to go out and do it this weekend! It’s not too late!

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