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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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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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