Last Frost

Whether you are new to gardening or have been gardening for decades, you’ve probably heard the term last frost.  It’s an important date to understand especially if you’re interested in growing typical warm weather crops: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants.  Each of these will not survive if put in the ground before the weather and soil are warm enough.  These foods are often grown by seedlings planted a few weeks after the last frost date.

So when is the last frost?  An easy way to find out:  go to the Old Farmer’s Almanac and input your zipcode.  If you live in New York State you can visit Cornell University’s gardening resource page to find out your county’s last frost in Spring.  Here in Brooklyn the last frost is early April; which is why kale, spinach, lettuce, radish and other cool weather crops were planted in the first week of the month.  The downside here is that occasionally there will be a snowfall after the last frost date, just as we had last night.  Floating row covers and cloches were put on the newly sprouted seedlings to keep them from freezing in the snow.

It is possible to begin planting outdoors before the last frost with some kind of wind and temperature protection.  At Gaynor Campus Garden we use floating row covers and cloches made from plastic soda bottles.  At Southside Garden we use cold frames, which will be taken off the raised beds in early May.  The thinnings from first planting of arugula and lettuce, put in the ground on March 15, are now ready to eat.  An exciting moment in gardening: eating greens from the cold frame with snow on the ground!

Cold frame at Southside Community Garden

Cold frame at Southside Community Garden

Inside the cold frame.  Arugula, two plantings of lettuce, peas and garlic.

Inside the cold frame. Arugula, two plantings of lettuce, peas, garlic, leeks and carrots leftover from last season.

We’re hoping for a long Spring to make the most of our successive plantings and looking forward to working with the weather as much as possible.  Please let us know if you have a great last frost story!

Garden Club Spring Cleanup

Crocus in mid-March.

Crocus in mid-March.

Garden Club at Gaynor Campus has been busy the past few weeks:  repairing raised beds, clearing away garbage, cutting back shrubs and dead annuals, turning the compost and planting seeds.

Students planted lettuce, beets, radish, arugula, peas, dill, cilantro and kale.

Students planting cool weather crops.

Over the past two weeks, students planted a variety of cool weather crops.  Lettuce, spinach, beets, radish, arugula, peas, dill, parsley, cilantro and kale were put into the ground.

Students repair one of the raised beds.

Students repair one of the raised beds.

A handful of the raised beds needed repairs after this past winter.  The students enjoyed using their strength, ingenuity and hand tools to get the beds back into working condition.

deconstructionThe students also enjoyed breaking apart some of the rotted wood.  Who doesn’t like a bit of deconstruction?

More crocuses at Gaynor Campus, mid-March 2014.

More crocuses at Gaynor Campus, mid-March 2014.

Field Trip!

On St. Patricks day Gaynor Campus Garden Club students took a field trip to nearby Southside Community Garden.  We trimmed the limbs from a handful of trees shading their communal growing space, and clipped the smaller branches into one of their compost piles.

Shelly and Andre trim perennials at Southside Community Garden.

Shelly and Andre trim perennials at Southside Community Garden.

The students were curious about the garden’s cold frames.  Even on a brisk day just above freezing, inside the cold frame the thermometer read over 50 degrees fahrenheit!

How to Start Seeds

‘Tis the season for starting seeds!  Most gardeners know late winter is a great time to start seeds inside.  This year we started a variety of pepper seeds, both hot and sweet, along with lettuces, chives, basil, spinach, arugula, parsley, cilantro and chard.  By starting seeds in February and early March, we’ll cut down on the cost of buying summer crop seedlings, and get a jump start on cooler weather crops such as spinach, lettuce and arugula.

seedlings

Mint, spider plant, chard seedlings in ceramic pot, and parsley seedlings in teapot.

Curious about getting your hands dirty?  Here’s how to start your own seeds:

1.  Gather the necessary materials: seeds, planter, clear plastic, growing medium, spray bottle with water, labels, sharpie, grow light.  For large seeds, soak overnight prior to starting.

2.  Place growing medium in planter and soak using spray bottle.  This will keep the growing medium from collapsing in the planter.

3.  Place seeds in planter according to instructions on seed packet.  Many seeds want a thin blanket of growing medium on top of them to sprout.  Soak seeds using spray bottle.

4.  Write name of seed and date on label with sharpie.  Place label in planter; we use popsicle sticks.  Place clear plastic on top of planter.  Now is the time to wait!

5.  Everyday after starting your seeds, soak the seeds using the spray bottle. As soon as there is a sprout, stop spraying with water.  Growing medium that is too damp will cause the seedling to damp off, and you’ll have to start over.  Remove the clear plastic and turn on the grow light, making sure the light is within 5 inches of the seedlings.

6.  Once the ground outside is warm enough to be worked, the cooler season crops can be hardened off and planted.  Wait until after the last frost for summer crops.

Good luck!

 

Garden Club

Garden Club held it’s first outdoor meeting of the 2014 Season in the last week in February.  Students removed trash, clipped kale and collard plants leftover from last season, and turned two of the compost bins.

Garlic

The garlic is just beginning to sprout above the surface of the soil.  Looks like it’s time for some mulch.

Before bracing themselves against the cold and windy weather, the students prepared a handful of germination tests.  Gaynor Campus is grateful to have many donated seeds, some from garden-enthusiast teachers and some from Greenthumb.  Over the next 7-10 days the students will check on the seeds to see which are viable for planting this year.

One Step Noodle Dish

A tasty and easy one step noodle dish to keep you warm:

Noodle Dish

1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
Spaghetti (broken in half)
Frozen baby shrimp
Frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 mrs. dash
1/4 garlic salt
1 tsp of tomato sauce
1 tsp butter

Put everything in a pot and boil until noodles have cooked completely.

Enjoy!

Fall Vegetable Soup

 

Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced

4 celery stalks, sliced

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1/4 lb. baby bok choi, cut into small pieces

3 medium red potatoes, cubed

1/2″ piece ginger, grated

1″ piece watermelon radish, peeled and diced

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup water

salt & pepper, to taste

olive oil

Method

Saute celery, carrots, ginger and radish until celery is soft.  Add water, broth, scallions, potatoes.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and simmer 10 minutes.  Add baby bok choy and simmer another 10 minutes.  Serve and enjoy with warm bread.

This recipe was created by Ayla, one of Sprout Farms’ interns.

Garden Club Pickles Carrots

As the weather oscillates between Winter and Autumn, Gaynor Campus Garden is closing for the season.  During Garden Club this week the students pulled the remaining carrots.  Some of the carrot greens had wilted after the cold weather, making it harder to pull the carrot out of the ground.  Everyone still enjoyed harvesting the carrots, a bright orange treat each time a slightly different shape and size.

Carrots prepared and ready to go into jars.

Carrots prepared and ready to go into jars.

The Green School graciously offered their lab space and kitchen supplies to pickle the freshly harvested carrots.  The students divided into two groups: carrot prep & brine.  We used these instructions for the brine but cut the carrots into coins instead of sticks.

Filling the jars with carrots.

Filling the jars with carrots.

The carrots went into a faculty refrigerator in The Brooklyn Latin School and will be enjoyed in two weeks, at the end of season harvest party.

Veggie Tacos

Kalina, one of Sprout’s interns, recently prepared this tasty and healthy recipe for veggie tacos.

Kalina's Veggie Tacos

Kalina’s Veggie Tacos

Ingredients:

Corn tortillas

Radishes, sliced

Red onion, diced

Kidney beans (canned and rinsed)

Carrots, shredded

Baby Bok Choy, chopped

White rice, cooked

Mexican Cheese, shredded

Salt, pepper, garlic salt

Method:

Cook rice.  Wash and prepare vegetables as described above.  Spoon one tablespoon each of rice and beans into the tortillas.  Layer vegetables on top and season with salt, pepper and garlic salt.  Fold tacos into thirds and wrap two-thirds of each taco with aluminum foil.  Warm on skillet in foil or remove foil and warm in oven.  Enjoy!

 

Thank You Volunteers!

On Saturday we had a great group of volunteers out at the garden to help us prepare for winter.  We spread dirt and mulch, mixed compost, reinforced the raised beds, pulled out and mulched summer crops and broke down tree limbs into compostable bits.  The garden is looking tidy and much progress was made!  Thanks to everyone who came and helped!  Here are a few pictures of the day:

Cutting up branches Collecting leaves Breaking down a tomato plant Spreading soil

Planting bulbs Planting more bulbs Harvesting tour