February 2013: Donations and Peas!

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Karen’s Corner: Notes from our founder

While visiting my local nursery the other day, I spotted beautiful little tomato seedlings, which immediately sent me into a panic attack, right there in the begonias. “Tomatoes!” I cried while clutching my heart, “…is it that time already?”.  No, it’s not, false alarm, back to shopping for lettuce seedlings.  Seeing tomato plants in stores right now is sort of like seeing Christmas decorations before Halloween.  What’s the rush?  Of course I could plant tomatoes now, fuss over them for months, and maybe I’ll get some fruit a week or two earlier than if I had waited.  But in most cases, the early tomato will succumb to a tragic death, sending me back to the nursery to buy more later in the season.

Ah, now I get it.  Tomatoes are warm season plants that thrive in daytime temperatures of between 70-80 degrees. Night temperatures are equally important and a critical factor in setting tomato fruit, the optimal range being 59-68 degrees. Doesn’t life go by too quickly already without rushing in the garden?  If I spend my time nursing along a plant that struggles for the next 2 months, what other part of my garden and my life will go unattended? There is still time to plant greens, broccoli, peas and other cool weather crops that I will surely miss this summer.  I didn’t buy any tomato plants that day, but I did come home and start some seedlings of my own.  It made me feel like I had some small control of my precious time, an awareness of being in the season, and in the moment. I’ve found if I don’t rush the future, I can enjoy the present more fully, and isn’t that what gardening is all about?

Good growing to you ~ KC

February in the Garden:

February is perfect for cleaning out your old strawberry bed or planting a new one.  Old strawberry plants get woody and their fruit production decreases after 2 years.  To refresh an existing bed, pull out all the plants and save the young “runner” plants, keeping them moist and in the shade until you replant them.  Strawberries like their soil slightly acidic, between a pH of 5-6, so adding some peat moss along with some good composted chicken manure will adjust the soil pH and help it retain moisture during the summer.  Replant the small berry starts 6” apart, being careful not to bury the crown.  Water thoroughly with a mild kelp and fish emulsion drench.  Keep them moist but not soggy and be prepared for fresh strawberries this spring.

Helpful Tips:

Choosing transplants from the nursery can be a challenge, especially when old nursery stock is left out for unsuspecting consumers to purchase.  When buying transplants, carefully inspect each plant or 6 pack.  Are the stems woody looking or fresh green?  If veggie starts are woody at the base it means they are old, and may go to seed the moment you put them in the ground.  Choose plants with supple green stems and without a mass or roots protruding from the bottom of the pot.  When buying 6 packs, make sure there is a plant in every square and that they have been thinned to 1 or 2 plants.  Pulling apart thickly planted seedlings causes unnecessary stress and can stunt plants. Keep an eye out for freeloading pests such as snails, slugs and cabbage loopers.  Get a head start this spring and only buy vibrant, healthy seedlings to go in your garden!

What’s Fresh?

We’re harvesting peas like crazy right now and enjoying them in a multitude of dishes.  This year we planted a new variety in our gardens called Sugar Sprint, and they are true to their name.  They literally sprinted out of the ground.  We’ve switched from our old favorite, Sugar Snap, because we were spending so much time setting up tall, sturdy trellises.  Shorter varieties, such as Sugar Sprint, take less time to trellis and are very easy to harvest. Fun Fact: Snow Peas are flat and used primarily in Asian dishes.  Snap Peas have round pods and can be eaten early, or you can leave them in the pod for shelling peas. Try one of these 5 yummy pea recipes!

Try Something New… Chervil

Chervil is a cool weather crop that when planted in late fall is harvested in the early spring. Chervil is a delicate culinary herb used frequently in French cuisine. A member of the parsley family, chervil has a mild flavor with hints of liquorice. Learn more about this herb here.

What’s Sprouting at UP

This month we’re rebuilding the composting station at our Campus Pointe garden.  The original bins purchased by our client were not sturdy enough to process the amount of food waste generated by the business park and restaurant and after 3 years, it’s time for new and improved bins,  Kevin is starting the replacement bins next week and we’ll be back in composting mode by March.  We’re hoping to re-purpose one of the old bins for a very exciting project coming up this year – more info on that later.

In Other News…

  We’re wrapping up our CSA program for another of our clients this month as their cafeteria is back in action and they’re looking for our garden fresh produce.  While the cafeteria was being remodeled, we developed a program to distribute the produce and raised over $400.00 in donations from building tenants who came down at lunch time to pick up their bag of fresh veggies.  The donations will be presented to Chef Julie Darling, the founder of Just Call Us Volunteers, a non profit group who help feed homeless veterans in San Diego.
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