Friday, March 29, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 3-28-2013

Our bench in the greenhouse just before we took them out to be planted.
Arrived just a bit late for class Thursday so I missed the opening remarks.  I met up with the class in the green house.  The weather was finally spring like  so we gathered up out cauliflower, beets, leeks and lettuce and went out to the plot.
The first order of business was to build a raised bed in the center of the blot, Carlo took charge of that task.  I think it took nine hay bales and six wheelbarrows whole of soil.  It looks quite smart.  The leeks and beets were then planted in the raised bed since they will benefit the most from loose soil and good drainage that we think we'll get from this bed.
Tina and I turned over the far bed, compost was mixed in and then the cauliflower was planted.  The lettuce was intercropped with the garlic.  We did some more tiding up and dusted the rest of the beds with compost just as the sun set.  Then there was a quick bit of tomato planting and fennel potting before we went back to the classroom for presentations.
Tina started us off with sunflowers.  She said this was her first powerpoint but if she hadn't told me I wouldn't have known.  Sunflowers are native to North and South America.  They like warm, moist soil.  The native Americans consider them the "fourth Sister".  They have a weevil problem and Russia grows the most sunflowers.  The most interesting part of her presentation for me was use of sunflowers for phytoremediation.  I'm going to have to look into that more myself. Tina concluded with some very good cookies!

Up next was Paula with the cranberry.  This was one of the more in-depth presentations we've had. Cranberries are evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines.  There are three types; Common, Small and American.  They are picky about soil type and conditions, they like acid peat soil, lots of water and a long growing season. It takes them six years to make fruit.  Paula also showed some videos of wet harvesting cranberries.  This is possible because cranberries have air chambers so when flooded, they float up.  Paula made two kinds of cranberry muffins and brought a very tasty cranberry preserve.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 3-21-2013

Last Thursday was very cold and windy.  It was far from spring like, despite what the mini-irises growing by the green house where telling us.  Thankfully we had plenty of indoor work to do.

This weeks' class opened with presentations   Matt started us off with Blueberries.  There are four main types; northern high bush, southern high bush, rabbit eye, and low bush.  The low bush type are the "wild" type.  They are native to North America, are relate to cranberries and are the second most popular berry after strawberries.  They have many health benefits.  Eva added that Bears need then to be able to hibernate.

Chris then presented Persimmons.  Unripe fruit are very high in tannin making them very astringent and almost inedible. The bark is deeply cracked, they are a very handsome tree.  The fruit comes in two main types the fuyu or tomato shaped and the hochiya or "acorn" shaped. 

After presentations we started at least 500 carrot seeds.  I have a feeling this is going to be like the Camille and the basil, it'll take over the greenhouse!  All of our starts look so good.  Our class's bench looks like the most glorious salad bar you've ever seen!  Now if it would just get nice enough outside to  plant them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 3-7-2013

This class we finished laying the paths.  Our patch ended up looking quite nice.  We still have a bit of work to do.  We trimmed the roses, cat mint, and asparagus but still have edging to do.  We really need to get the group together and figure out where everything will go.  The main bed had potatoes in it last year so the tomatoes and papers can't be put there because of shared diseases. Two of the three side beds have perennials in them so we have a little figuring things out to do.

We had three presentations this class.  To open, Christian spoke about chocolate.
Chocolate is one of those foods that I wonder how anyone figured out it was a good idea to eat.  Its so botanically strange.  Tiny flowers that grow from the trunk that turn into large finned fruit. He conclued with chocolate milk!

Bryan's presentation was on John Deere.  It didn't occur to me to choose a mechinery company but it is relevant. Deere seems to make a tractor for everything, but looking at slides of part numbers was no fun.  Thankfully we were rewarded with chips and salsa.

The final presentation of the night was Lisa's on sugar cane. She told the story of sugar cane though the cultural lens of being Porto Rican, which I found interesting.  She also had two kinds of sugar cane for us to sample which was also interesting.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

At home

Even with so much going on I haven't been neglecting my home garden preparations.  My cole crops have sprouted in the safety of my windowsill greenhouse, my peppers have yet to show and I should get to my tomatoes this week.  Outside I pulled up all the strawberry plants that last  years heat killed and mulled over the raised beds.  Age is getting to them, I fear the fungus that is growing from the wood will be the end of them soon, but I will get one more season out of them at least and then I'll give the boards back to the soil and start over.  I need to pull up the frost-bitten kale, ready the back bed for coles and the front bed for peas.  I'm also making myself wait, it might snow this week, and I really don't want to have to do everything twice!

Hort 2334 Food Crops, 2-28-2013

Image from here
With the daylight lasting longer and the temperature slightly above bone chilling we were out in the plot first thing this class.  We confirmed the marking lines that were set up the other day and began laying out the perimeter and main dividing paths.  The process for building the paths was to lay cardboard down, filling all weed infiltrating cracks with news paper and to then cover that with mulch.  We ran into a little snag, the line between our teams plot and the next ran though the edge of the existing garlic patch.  This was easily remedied by transplanting row of garlic from that patch to a more central one. I volunteered for the job and found it very enjoyable.  I can't wait to really dig in.  As the sun slipped below the horizon we were cleaning up and heading in.  Our next task for the evening was transplanting in the green house.

A survey of our plants showed that the tomatoes and peppers have sprouted, the leeks are progressing slowly, the beets look great and the lettuce looks like its ready to go out as soon as possible.  We transplanted many flats of basil.  Even at sprout sized this basil had a strong fragrance.  It made me wish from caprese salad and summer! As we packed up to head back to lecture Tina spotted a rather well fed looking rabbit watching us.  It looked very cute, but all I could think about was our lettuce being the first thing out and what that rabbit might want to do to it!

We finished the evening with presentations.  Kayla's presentation was on Hominy.  Hominy was a new discovery for Kayla and you could tell she had a good amount of enthusiasm for it. Hominy is flint or dent corn treated with an alkaline to remove its outer coating and make it more nutritious. I learned that the word for that is "nixtamalization".  Also that this process converts the corn to a complete protein and makes the niacin and calcium more bio-available. The origins of this process go all the way back to the Aztex and Mayans.  Kayla finished up her presentation with an excellent hominy casserole.

Following Kayla was Joe with his presentation on peanuts.  It may have been one of the most entertaining presentations so far. Peanuts have had some pretty funny names.  They have their origin in Peru, have been grown in the USA since colonial times and are actually pretty good for you.  There are four main verities grown: Spanish, Runner, Virginia and the Valencia. We also learned that they are a legume, not a nut and that they have a pretty flower.