Thursday, August 29, 2013

Master Gardeners Visit Fulton Farm

by Carol Kagan, Franklin County Master Gardener

August 20th found Franklin County Master Gardeners at Fulton Center for Sustainable Living (Fulton Farm) on the Wilson College campus in Chambersburg. Master Gardener Christine Mayer is the Program Manager and gave a tour of the main areas of Fulton Farm.
Farm field with chicken tractor at the far edge
The Farm is a 50-acre farmstead, including a seven-acre farm with gardens and a passive-solar greenhouse. It is Wilson’s home for hands-on environmental education and provides the fruits, vegetables and herbs that supply the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Covered pavilion for meetings, classes and social events
After meeting at the new covered pavilion, Mayer gave a brief overview of the program and everyone headed to the restored 19th-century barn where subscribers to the CSA have regular pick-ups of seasonal produce. On our visit there were tomatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, a variety of peppers, herbs, beans, squash and more. A covered outdoor washing and sorting area is a recent addition.
A selection of late July produce
There is an interpretive trail through the farm that passes through a restored wetland, meadow and forested area but the unpaved road hosted more activity in the early evening as bicyclists, runners and walkers passed through.

Mayer described the difference between a greenhouse, a high tunnel and a hoop house as we walked through the high tunnel. She noted that in spring they use horse manure to create a hot bed for seedlings. The heat from the decomposing manure creates enough heat to support the plants through the chill of early spring.
High tunnel in spring
Across the field she pointed out a chicken tractor and described how it's used. The small coop is raised and on wheels and can be moved from one site to another. The chickens and coop are surrounded by a wire enclosure. As the chickens scratch the ground and deposit chicken manure they are basically preparing the soil for planting - and, you get eggs!!
Chicken tractor
The Farm, as part of the Fulton Center for Sustainable Living, participates in a number of projects to explore sustainability in food production, energy, transportation and land stewardship, providing programs and information to increase community awareness. Projects include use of solar and wind energy, small scale biodiesel production, and various energy conservation practices. The Farm is currently working to get its organic gardening certification.
Fulton Farm at sunset
As we moved back to the pavilion for the Master Gardeners monthly meeting, Mayer noted that sunset on the Farm is often amazing; however, the clouds were so thick we didn't even get a hint. As we finished up Master Gardeners meeting we did note the almost full moon rising in the deepening blue sky.

Thanks to Chris Mayer for the tour and an opportunity to learn about the wonderful resource in Franklin County.

Photos by Carol Kagan, Wilson College Website and Fulton Center for Sustainable Living Facebook page

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Final Touches on the Herb Garden

Demonstration Herb Garden August 2013

The Herb Garden installation is complete. Here are some of the highlights.
A new mailbox was installed with help from husbands Keith Collins and Tobias Kagan and Barb Petrucci’s beautiful painted canvas was attached.
Fence Features
The ten wood raised beds were constructed and installed by George Fries who also built the two fences at the ends of the garden.
Reclaimed and Refurbished Bench
After Carol Kagan and Barb Petrucci cleaned and repainted two found wrought iron bench frames, George also made and installed the wooden slats.
Passion Flower in Biblical Bed
Two wooden obelisks, donated by Billy Morningstar, are in the back corners.
Passion flower is vining up one alongside other herbs in the Biblical- themed bed which is flanked by a monastery and Roman-style bed (Jerry Lewis, coordinator).

Section of Culinary Bed

Hops are climbing the second one in the culinary bed which has many of the common cooking herbs as well as some more unusual ones (Sue McManus, coordinator).
The fragrance garden has a wrought iron obelisk, which Bill Stead and husband Ed Petrucci helped install. It has a climbing rose donated by Nancy Redington.  A variety of scented thymes and lavenders surround this centerpiece (Barb Petrucci, coordinator).

Fragrance Bed
The craft bed features a signpost with nightlight cap donated by Carol Kagan and installed by Tobias Kagan. Herbs used for dried crafts, potpourris and sachets as well as insect repellents are included (Carol Kagan, coordinator).
Craft Bed
A small wrought item post donated by Carol Kagan is in the dye bed which included some unusual plants such as black iris and woad in addition to other plants (Carol Kagan, coordinator).
Dye Bed
There is also a mint bed with a wide variety from mountain mint to Kentucky Colonel and pennyroyal (Jean Schlect, coordinator).
Section of the Mint Bed
Although we have mentioned many who have helped, volunteered and donated, there are many others who came out for work days and who donated time and plants. We thank everyone who helped create this beautiful garden.
Strawflowers in the craft bed
Morning hours find the benches in shade while afternoon they are in full sun. Pick your favorite time and come sit among the herbs.
Lavender - Golden Thyme - Lemon Thyme - Rosemary
See the progression of the rejuvenation of the herb garden:
Master Gardener Herb Garden: June 2013

Interested in herbs? Search for herbs and herbal topics on this blog.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Three Sisters Container Gardening

Most Master Gardeners who grow vegetables have heard about a three sisters garden, a method of "companion planting" learned from Native Americans where corn, beans, and squash are planted together.

The corn supplies a natural way for the beans to climb. The beans, via a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, are able to fix nitrogen naturally, making it available in the soil, and the squash shades out competing weeds along the ground and provides a living mulch to shade roots from the hot sun, so there's less moisture loss from evaporation.

You can read about the Mohawk legend of the three sisters here.

If you've followed the blog for a few years, you're probably aware that I've been playing around with the concept of using ornamental edibles in my container plantings that decorate the stairs of the entrance to my home. This idea just adds the three sisters component.

The container consists of an ornamental corn (Zea mays var. Japonica), scarlet runner bean (extras from the planting at the John Brown House) and an ornamental sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas - guessing it's the variety 'Raven' from the Sweet Caroline series developed by North Carolina State University) spilling over the side.

I'm playing with using Hyacinth Bean at home as the climber, and a red stem Okra plant, instead of the corn in an "experimental plot" I have going.

This container is located near the entrance to the Extension Office in Chambersburg. I was able to implement the idea when the dahlia's that had been planted died soon after, and space became available. Seems like an appropriate decoration for a building housing a Land Grant University educational outreach program, wouldn't you say?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Come out to the Pollinator Workshop!

Being held at the Ag Heritage Building (Next to the Extension Office), on Saturday, August 17th, at 9:00 a.m.  to 11:00 a.m.  Fee is $10.00.
Master Gardener Laurie Collins will teach about the importance of pollinators and why they need our help.....
She will review different pollinators found in our area.......
Plant selections and components to a successful pollinator garden.
So come out and learn about an important and fascinating topic!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Home Gardeners Unite!

Everybody wants to make a's something that you dirty-fingered home gardeners can pat yourselves on the back about.  When we garden we create our own little habitat that attracts - in my case at least - flowers and birds and a groundhog and lots of little bunnies and bugs and weeds.  Every now and then I want to throw up my hands and surrender.  But this week I read an article ("Food Network" in Audubon) that inspired me a little bit.

Scientists are finding proof that even small habitats can make a big difference.  An entomology professor found his 10 acres overrun with non-native and invasive plants.  He also noticed that there was never any leaf damage to these plants.  So he started experimenting to see what birds and bugs would eat.  96% of birds in North America raise their young on insects, mostly caterpillars.  His research on one species of chickadee found that it takes 390 to 570 caterpillars a day to feed 4 to 6 baby chickadees for the 16 days between hatching and fledging.  And that adult chickadee forages only about 175 feet from the nest.  So I guess "Location, location, location" is a common mantra in chickadee real estate, too.  He created a ranking system for plants and trees that host moth and butterfly larvae - number one was oak trees, second was cherry and plum, third was willow.  Your trees and shrubs and flowering plants are like bird food factories that ship caterpillars in bulk and deliver fruits and seeds that fuel bird migrations.

So a student set out to compare locales for these birds.  She found that the classic suburban yard (weedless grass, 1 or 2 shade trees, non-native foundation plantings) was like a "foreclosed fixer-upper in a bad neighborhood."  The properties with native and naturally-occuring plants and less lawn were hosting eight times more birds with better restaurants and accommodations.  Another study looked at the fat and energy content of native and non-native fruits that birds eat.  The study showed that the birds preferred the native plant fruits which had a much higher fat and energy content than the non-native plants.

But what I really keep going back to is that mama chickadee trying to find 9000 caterpillars in 16 days to feed her hungry, growing brood.  I want to be part of that process!  I guess I will be out there this fall scouring nurseries for new native plants to enhance the neighborhood...

(Doug Tallamy, the entomologist, wrote a book titled Bringing Nature Home, which I will also have to look up as soon as I can get the fall cleanup under control...)

Monday, August 5, 2013

2013 Summer Garden Experience Report

More than 600 people turned out on Saturday, July 27th to attend the 2013 Summer Garden Experience at the Penn State South East Ag and Extension Research Center in Lancaster County.

Lifelong Lancaster County resident and noted naturalist, Jack Hubley, was the Keynote Speaker.

Touring the acres of annual flower trials that test new varieties under Pennsylvania growing conditions, offerred participants an opportunity to note what new annual flowers will be available from greenhouses and nurseries next Spring.

The Pollinator Friendly Demonstration Garden attracted adult pollinators ...

...and their larvae.

Wagon trips escorted visitors to the corn and grain fields, where new varieties of grain and farming practices are being researched under field conditions.

A workshop on proper pruning of trees took place.

Master Gardeners maintained an information booth and display area.

And people were introduced to new gardening ideas from the Ideas Garden, maintained by the Lancaster County Master Gardeners.

For a fee to cover materials, folks could learn how to build and take home a blue bird nesting box, and learn how to encourage these birds to make their home on your property.

And the Franklin County Master Gardener contingent, ably assisted by Fulton County Master Gardeners conducted a tomato tasting of a plum/paste variety trial. 118 people filled out score sheets of 24 unnamed tomato varieties (labeled A - W). This data is added to the yield, growing uniformity, and marketability data gathered for commercial growers providing tomatoes to the fresh market.

Click on the Picture for a Bigger Version

And the winner is, appropriately, an old fashioned heirloom from Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Amish Paste!

The event was covered by the Lancaster Newspaper here.

Mark your calendars! The 2014 Summer Garden Experience will take place on Saturday, July 26th, 2014.  Don't miss it.  And if you missed SGE this year, come to next week's Ag Progress Days in State College, and experience all that Penn State Extension has to offer that both directly and indirectly benefit the citizens of Pennsylvania.