Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunday Workday with the Winter Term Crew

If you ask me, there is no time quite as nice to garden in Florida than in the cooler winter months-- January, February, and the first weeks of March. I love when I can go out to the garden wearing a sweater, some long leggings (Leonora style), and my boots. 

the garden looking awesome! 1/12/2014

This past Sunday the winter term crew met out at 10 am in the garden, all ready to get the season rollin'. Derek B, Matt, and I worked on trimming the tomatoes, and straightening them up. The tomato plants have been pretty hardy, but those large tomatoes growing on them have really weighed them down. I've got my fingers crossed, hoping that they will continue to produce tomatoes for the next couple of months. 

The crew also worked on harvesting the tomatillos and pulling out the plants. We plan on planting cabbage in their place. 

When we grew tired, we gathered around the picnic tables and planned out what we hope to grow in the beds this winter. Our plan is to have all the beds planted by the end of next week. Once March rolls around, and it gets hot enough to plant warmer weather crops, we will harvest and pull the lettuces, spinach, carrots and whatever other crop is done growing in order to make space for the new vegetables. 

Here's the map of the beds for winter term 2014. The * marks the crops to be planted in that spot. 

Until next time, 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Harvest Don’t Stop

The Eckerd college garden is preparing to begin it’s fifth year of production! This last Fall season the garden flourished–providing us with a bountiful harvest!
harvest in Jan
We were able to grow some of our crops using seeds collected from plants of previous seasons. We also experimented growing several new vegetables such as peanuts and amaranth. The peanuts are slow to produce fruit, but continue looking sturdy! We have faith that sooner or later our peanut plants will begin to produce.
The amaranth, on the other hand, grew rapidly. Many students have harvested amaranth leaves, which taste much like spinach. While some enjoyed the leaves raw, others, like myself, preferred the leaves sauteed with a bit of garlic.
Another new variety of a much beloved vegetable we grew this past season was some species of huge radishes. The enormous size of these radishes left us all quite perplexed.
Although not newcomers to the garden, the carrots we grew this semester did better than they have in the last four years! Why they did so well all of the sudden remains a mystery, yet some of us believe that the soil we used to grow them in this year was less compacted than that from the previous years. The looseness of the soil, we think, allowed the carrots to grow long and wide! No sphere carrots this time..
Besides the success we had with most of the crops (except the okra, which strangely we had trouble growing this past season), we also added new trees to our orchard. A new starfruit tree and a couple of macadamia nut trees that we purchased from the Saturday morning market seem to be acclimating pretty well in our garden. All in all, we were blessed with a fruitful garden this past fall season!
During the harvest festival at the end of the season we were able to enjoy delicious meals cooked with the veggies grown in our organic garden. The garden was filled with Eckerd students playing music, eating food, reading poetry, dancing, and enjoying the cool and breezy afternoon.
Now, as we all return to campus after a delightful and relaxing winter break, we hunker down in our warm coats and plan for the season to come. Lucky for us the garden is still producing many vegetables, such as kale, peas, tomatoes, amaranth, arugula, radishes, and lettuces. This means that we get to continue harvesting and enjoying our crops while we begin to amend beds and start winter crops. My personal goal: grow as much spinach as possible! We also plan on growing several other greens, including bok choi, mesclun, microgreens, and buttercrunch lettuce.
Our first workday is this Sunday, January 12th. I enter the new season with mixed feelings– a bit of sadness, knowing that this is my last semester at Eckerd and my last season at the garden, but also (and as always) with joy, because there aren’t many things better than gardening, and spending time with good friends! Here’s to tending to our lovely garden this Winter and Spring of 2014!
garden birdseye

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Happy Fall Semester!
Fall semester is always interesting in the garden. Each year, leaders take it in various different directions. Planting different things, trying new gardening techniques and different organizational strategies. And each year the garden just gets better and better. In my three years at Eckerd I have seen this place progress from a collective experimental project for students to a highly productive, organized and efficient plot of land. It's like watching the tendril of a squash plant looking for something to cling onto until it eventually grabs onto pole and runs with it. Our little garden is maturing!

A new hit in the garden this year is Amaranth. Noah brought us a ton of seeds from his internship on a farm in Cali this summer and these plants have just taken off since they hit the soil. The leaves are similar to spinach-I've been eating it raw and sauteeing it. Eventually, it will also produce a grain for our consumption. Not only are these plants big, yummy and abundant, but they are beautiful too! We have purple and green varieties planted and it is amazing to watch them all move with the sun throughout the day. Phototropism in all its beauty.
We've got all the good greens growing out there too. My personal favorite is our arugula which has a nice spicy kick to it. We also have kale, spinach, okinawa spinach, cowpeas, beets, multiple types of basil, zucchini, sweet potatoes, broccoli, purple cauliflower, onions, a number of tomato varieties, tomatillos, pole beans, radishes, carrots, lemon cucumbers, cranberry hibiscus and year long resident lemongrass. So we've been working hard and it's just now starting to pay off....literally because I stopped grocery shopping this week (woohoo local, organic and 'free' food!). 

For now we are just weeding and keeping things well watered! Imagine the plants as Spongebob in Sandy's bubble house without his waterbowl helmet. Thats how thirsty our little sprouts are and our soil ain't doing much to help them out. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Congrats, Garden Club!

Last night at the ECOS (Eckerd College Organization of Students) Givers Banquet the Garden Club was awarded Best Service Club Award, the second time we've been awarded this title in our 3 and half years as a club!

Oh, and did I mention we were on the front page of the local section of the Tampa Bay Times after our visit to the Green Thumb Festival last Saturday? 

Way to go, gardeners!
This year alone we've had over 90 volunteers, worked over 900 cumulative service hours, and have grown many, many sustainable fruits, veggies, herbs and habitat plants.
We just planted 11 native trees that will grow to provide habitat for creatures of all sizes and shade for future generations of garden-lovers.

Now it's time to celebrate Harvest Fest style!

Remember: A hand that's dirty with honest labor is fit to shake with any neighbor.


Harvest Festival Spring 2013!!!

It's that time again already, folks. 
Time to stuff ourselves full of delicious, fresh food. 
Time to listen to great live, local music. 
Time to celebrate another wonderful year of growth in the EC Sol Food Grow-Op and the gardeners who don't mind getting a little dirty to support it. 

Here are the details: 
Saturday, May 11th
5:30 pm - sundown
~Vegetarian pot-luck (please feel free to use food from the garden)
~Located in the the EC Sol Food Grow-Op*
~Live music and entertainment

There will be a contest for the best dish (appetizer, main and dessert categories), but you gotta bring your tasty masterpiece by 6:30 to be judged. Winners will be announced and awards given shortly after.

Questions? Contact:
Deb Hilbert, President Garden Club

RSVP @ the EC Sol Food Grow-Op Harvest Festival Facebook page

*Located on Eckerd College campus between the sports fields. Parking can be found behind the tennis courts or the Turley Athletic Complex. 
In the case of rain, the festival will be in Fox Hall. 

It's been a rewarding three and a half years in the Grow-Op, and I'll miss the garden and all of the friends I've made through it dearly. I'll be honest with y'all, this event means as much to me as graduation...


Love and peas, 

Here's a sneak peak (photos from last semester's HF):

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bon Appetit

Last month we had Nicole Tocco, a fellow from Bon Appetit (the company in charge of the food on campus) come out to Eckerd. Her job is to work with students to raise awareness about pressing food issues such as farm worker rights, climate change, humane treatment of animals, local food and sustainable fishing practices. She also serves as a connection between students and their caf. Her visit was highly anticipated by us gardeners, many of whom have been pushing for healthier, tastier, more sustainable food on campus. Here are some pics Nicole took while touring the garden and joining the compost crew on a shift:

Nicole took Cat Pappas and I to Mixon Fruit Farms, a local citrus farm in Sarasota where we will be getting the oranges for the fresh OJ machine this spring and in future years. They may not be organic, but they are a friendly and family owned and operated farm and they are LOCAL! And they feed all their orange peels from making the orange juice to the cows across the street. These are not oranges from California like we keep hearing! The farm is really beautiful and multi-purposed- they hold weddings there, maintain a koi pond and a butterfly maze for kids, have a wildlife sanctuary and theres even a store where you can buy their citrus products or the produce from their local farmer friends as well as any other kind of trinket you can imagine (and fudge).  Nicole certified Mixon as a farm to fork vendor for Bon Appetite and wants to ensure they have a long term contract with us. 

Later that day, Nicole and Jamie from Bon Appetite met with the garden club to talk about ways to get the Grow Op more involved with the campus cafeteria. Already the caf saves their food prep scraps for us to use in the compost, and we've given food to them in the past. 
We came up with a few ideas that won't require the garden to provide a constant supply of food:
1. Garden Club can make educational table tents to put up in the caf and have a booth where we can talk about food sustainability and local agricultural issues
2. Garden Club can make educational signs for the hydroponic garden on the caf patio
3. Garden Club can supply occasional surplus veggies and/or herbs to the cafeteria

We'll continue to talk about how the garden and the caf can work together in a way that supports each other's goals. There's definitely much to discuss as the garden becomes more established.

Interested in campus farm initiatives? Check out these sites created by Nicole!

~Sam and Deb

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Garden Tea Party

Our last garden meeting was also a tea party. Deb brought out a collection of dried herbs, leaves and flowers from the garden and empty tea bags. She taught us about their medicinal benefits and also turned our attention to the things in the garden that we can eat, such as the leaves of the Passion Fruit Vines and the Meyer Lemon flowers. We all filled up our tea bags as desired and enjoyed some flavorful, healthy, local and organic teas! Some of the things that we used for our tea that you can go grab right now and dry out are:

-Passion Fruit Leaves-have potential anti-cancer effects, aid in digestion and relaxation
-Guava Leaves-good for digestion, tastes a little sweet
-Lemongrass-tastes really good
-Mint and chocolate mint-gives it a minty green tea kind of taste
-Lavender-has anti-anxiety properties
-Borage-leaves and flowers-this is a good mood elevator
-Meyer lemon tree flowers-smell and taste lovely, add a nice accent to the tea

Ask Deb for more medicinal and tea uses! And go out and take advantage of these amazing resources-why drink that crappy coffee they give us here if you can walk just a bit further for some fresh herbal tea?