Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Historic Vegetable Gardens (Part 2)

Other historical gardening books for further reading and research:

The Family Kitchen Gardener by Robert Buist, published in 1861.

The Kitchen Gardener's Instructor by Thomas Bridgeman, published in 1847. Here's an excerpt on my favorite big berry:
A celebrated writer observes, that " the common Tomato
made into a gravy, by stewing over the fire, and used as a
sauce for meat, has been known to quicken the action of the
liver and of the bowels, better than any medicine he ever
made use of." He states farther, that " when afflicted with
inaction of the bowels, headache, a bad taste of the mouth,
straitness of the chest, and a dull and painful heaviness of
the region of the liver, the whole of these symptoms are
removed by Tomato sauce, and the mind, in the course of
some few hours, is put in perfect tune."
And that was long before we heard anything about lycopene!
A New York Times article from 1993 discusses historical gardening and highlights Pennsylvania's Landis Valley Museum and its Heirloom Seed Project.
If you are interested in the vegetables and flowers grown by the Germans who settled in Pennyslvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster, Pa., offers seeds through its Heirloom Seed Project.

"One of our most interesting seeds is the Mosteller wild goose bean," said Nancy Pippart, the coordinator. "This bean has stayed with the Mosteller family for 125 years, and it was first found in the craw of a Canada goose by a woman who went to dress the bird."

The Wild Goose Bean is one of the beans we planted at John Brown's House, and saved for next year. They were donated by Plasterer's Florist and Greenhouses here in Chambersburg from their Landis Valley Heirloom Seed Project section. A PDF with seed descriptions is here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Historic Vegetable Gardens (Part 1)

Linda S. took these pictures of the gardens at John Brown’s House in Chambersburg earlier this month (We promise to get some pictures of the garden in season next year.) In case you were unaware, the Master Gardeners of Franklin County worked with the folks at the Franklin County Historical Society-Kittochtinny, to establish a demonstration kitchen garden to go along with the restoration of the boarding house used in the mid 19th century. Its most famous roomer was, of course, John Brown, who planned and executed the raid at Harpers Ferry from these premises. You’ll have to take the guided tour at the house to learn about the “Bean Pole Incident” that we tried to portray with the supports you can see in the picture. If you go on certain Fridays, our leader, Linda S. will be your host guide, all gussied up in period costume, hoop dress and bonnet.

Those poles were cut from the woods behind my house, and lashed together by Donna B. using techniques described here and here. (I really like those 1863 hoop training tomato supports shown here in "The field and garden vegetables of America" book).

The garden was designed by our own Jill H. and planned with help from Renfrew Institute's staff biologist, Dr. Doris Armstrong Goldman, the recently published author of Moon Rue & Mary’s Root, Plants of the Pennsylvania Dutch Four-Square Garden. The comprehensive volume covers more than 400 plants—cultivated and wild—grown and used by Pennsylvania Germans (also called Pennsylvania Dutch) in their traditional “four square” gardens.

Entries include fruits, vegetables, cooking herbs, ornamentals, and plants used for medicines, soaps, perfumes and children’s toys from around 1800 through the Civil War era. More than 100 botanical illustrations highlight the text.

Each entry in the book includes the scientific, Pennsylvania Dutch and common English names for the plant, plus geographic origin, when the plant was first used, and how it was used by the Pennsylvania Dutch and others. Tips on traditional medicinal uses, recommended historical varieties and hints for cultivation are also included. The volume is published on a CD using PDF format.

Although the privy in the picture above is for display only, and non-functional (it houses some garden tools), the archaeological excavations of the outdoor privies at Renfrew show that many of the seed varieties covered in Dr. Goldman's book were grown there.

Some of the historical vegetable seeds used at Renfrew and John Brown’s – heirloom varieties that were grown at the time - include Cardoon, Salsify, Scarlet Runner Beans, Goose Beans, Spelt Beans, and German Red Limas, hot pepper Hinkelhatz (chicken heart), as well as the variegated leafed Fish Pepper. Tomato varieties included Amish Paste, Riesentraube Cherry, Purple Calabash, and Pittman’s Plum. There were multiple cabbage varieties, as well.

Master Gardeners worked with Dr. Goldman this past Spring, starting about 600 plants for both locations at Renfrew and John Brown’s House. The Four Square Garden at Renfrew is planted entirely by school children of Franklin County. In 2009, there were over 41 classes, representing over 900 children learning both history and horticulture.

In 2010, the Four Square Garden at Renfrew will be moved to an expanded area.

You can order Moon Rue and Mary’s Root by contacting Renfrew Institute at:

It’s priced at $24.00 including shipping, or $21.20, if you go there to buy it.

I'm looking forward to continued collaborative efforts with Renfrew and the Historical Society in 2010.

Pollen Pics

Tom Butzler at the Gardening in the Keystone State Blog, points us to these incredibly beautiful close up pictures of pollen grains from the December issue of National Geographic. Wow!

In allowing plants to have sex at a distance, pollen, and ultimately flowers, led to explosive diversification, turning a brown planet green and then red, yellow, white, orange, and all the rest. Pollen diversified too. In the 300,000 pollen-bearing plant species on Earth, there are 300,000 different forms of pollen. The great variety in colors, shapes, and textures of the grains has evolved in accordance with each plant's biological particulars. Beetle-pollinated plants tend to have smooth, sticky pollen, the better to adhere to the lumbering beetles' backs. Plants pollinated by fast-moving bees or flies may have spiny pollen that lodges easily between the insects' hairs. Plants pollinated by bigger animals, such as bats, sometimes have bigger pollen, though not always—perhaps not even most of the time. In the details of pollen's variety, more remains to be explained than is understood.

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Extension Board Annual Meeting January 2010

The Penn State Cooperative Extension Board of Directors of Franklin County invites all Master Gardeners and the General Public to attend the 92nd Franklin County Cooperative Extension Association Annual Meeting.

This year’s speaker is Professor H. Louis Moore of the Agricultural Economics Department of Penn State University, whose topic is “The Need for Food by Emerging Countries and its impact on Franklin County Agriculture.”

The event will take place on Friday, January 29th, 2010 at Solomon’s Lutheran Church, 4856 Wayne Road, Chambersburg, PA, from 6:15 PM – 9:00 PM. Tickets are $12.50 for adults, and $6.00 for children aged 5-11. Tickets are available from the Extension Office at 263-9226, or any Extension Board member. Dinner is included.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Blogs at The College of Ag Sciences at PSU

The College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State provides a link page to blogs of interest throughout the state. Our blog is the most recent entry. Check out the others, including one from our own Jonathan Rotz – Franklin County Agronomy. I’ve added a permanent link to the side bar (click on the “Read our Blogs” item on the left of the page at the site.)

Here's another MG Blog from Clinton/Centre Counties, Gardening in the Keystone State.

And one from Dr. Chris Raines, an Associate Professor in the Department of Dairy and Animal Science, Meat is Neat.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Seed Catalogs

Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge Tomato from Baker Creek Seeds

Need to whet your appetite for the next growing season? Some 2010 garden seed catalogs are out already. Judging from my mailbox, Baker Creek, Pinetree Garden, and Totally Tomatoes win the early sweepstakes. Got any others?

The Three Minute Gardener

Check out the archived videos of Penn State's "Three Minute Gardener" series. These are short videos, about 3-4 minutes long covering various garden topics. The two soil test videos below were originally part of this series. Some examples:
Container Gardening
Rain Barrels
Lady Beetles
Forcing Bulbs
Many more at the site. I added a link in the sidebar.

Soil Test Videos

Penn State Professor of Horticulture, Rob Berghage, explains the process and benefits of a soil test.

Ever wondered how the lab processes your soil sample? Here's a behind the scenes look at soil analysis:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Forest Resources On-Line Seminars

The School of Forest Resources in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State has put on-line many of its recorded internet seminars, or webinars. They can be accessed here.

Just click on the ‘view’ button at the site to watch the seminar, or, alternatively, download the power point presentation and read at your leisure. The site includes links to handouts that can be printed, or viewed on-line. Each of these seminars count as advanced training for MG credits.

Some of the topics that I’ll be watching over the coming months are:

1) Summer Tree ID made easy
2) Invasive Plants in Your Forest
3) Invasive Insects in Your Forest
4) Wildlife Habitat

I’ve added a permanent link in the sidebar: ‘Forest Resources - Webinars’

If you register at their site, you can subscribe to their on-line publication, Forest Leaves, their quarterly newsletter, and receive email announcements of upcoming Webinars.