Updated: Jun 26
This week we look at racial justice in the food system, watering schedules and tips, dealing with pests that effect plants in the cabbage family, harvesting garlic scapes, and some things to make with what's being harvested from the garden now.
Racial Justice in the Food System
We would like to start off by acknowledging our present moment. As protests against police brutality and the movement for black lives reverberate around the country and world, they intersect with the ongoing pandemic in unpredictable and unjust ways. We would like to make a connection between the work you have done in your garden this season and the anti-racist work we all can do to heal our communities and bring justice. If you are interested in engaging with the movement happening around us, but don’t know that to do, we would like to invite you to consider how the passions you already have for growing and working the land are connected to racial justice work.
Perhaps your calling is addressing climate change; environmental destruction is inextricably linked to racial injustice when one starts to understand the ins and outs of environmental racism. The convergences of the environmental movement and Black Lives Matter is illustrated in this article. Perhaps you garden because you want to feed people and yourself better, well this short article explains how there can be no food justice without racial justice. Many believe gardens are a form of liberation from a food system that perpetuates racial and economic disparity and is rooted in the legacy of slavery, such as this community in DC. Or perhaps you are a gardening policy wonk interested in local government, there is inspiration for you too.
There is no need to be paralyzed if you are looking to engage. Consider the strengths and skills you already have that can be put towards the changes you care about. It’s something we are trying on for size and wanted to share will you all.
A reminder that you will need to plant crops like lettuce, cilantro, and arugula every few weeks if you want to always have some you can pick all summer and fall. Their life cycle is fast and especially when the weather gets hot they can go to seed more quickly than other crops.
Planting these crops every 3 weeks can keep you in greens all season long!
Now that things are planted and growing here are some water tips:
Feel your soil! Don’t blindly water. Stick your finger down 5-6 inches to determine soil moisture.
Water thoroughly once or twice a week to deliver 1-2 inches to the soil ( not the leaves), rather than small amounts often. Your goal is to drive the water down deep so the roots will follow and stay moist, rather than them staying near the soil surface where they will dry out quickly.
Water early in the day so the foliage dries off by evening. When the plants are watered at night, the foliage stays wet for a long period of time and disease is more prevalent.
If you have had a light rain, water right after to drive it down to 5 or 6 inches and avoid that rainfall evaporating. This will build up a reserve of water in the soil.
Some plants wilt on very hot days, which is a natural adaptation to the plant’s environment. Check soil moisture before watering and if moist wait until a cooler time to determine if a plant needs water.
Measure the water being put down with sprinklers and drip irrigation by placing straight-sided containers around the garden while the water is being applied. Time it and when 1-inch collects in the containers, that indicates that 1 inch of water was applied to the garden. Use this amount of time or double it to deliver a week’s worth of water to your garden.
Use drip irrigation whenever possible to minimize evaporation and keep your plants leaves dry and disease free.
Pests of the Cabbage Family
Hopefully by now you are watching your brassica’s grow taller and stronger. Perhaps having deterred some pesky slugs you’re thinking you’ve passed the worst of it when you start to see yellow and white butterflies around your garden. Don’t be fooled. The Cabbage White or the imported cabbage worm can do some serious damage to brassicas. The butterflies lay their eggs on kales and cabbages and the caterpillar larvae can quickly eat through the leaves.
Cabbage loopers, another common caterpillar pest and moth do similar damage. There are a few techniques for keeping ahead of these pests.
Use row cover: keeps butterflies/moths from landing and laying eggs,
Hand picking: pick off the caterpillars and feed them to you neighborhood chickens,
One old time remedy suggests sprinkling rye flour or corn meal over the brassicas dehydrates the caterpillars,
Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) insecticide is an organic remedy that uses a bacteria deadly to cabbage worms to protect plants. If you have a well-established population that you cannot control by the other methods this may be your best bet.
For more information on the cabbageworm identification, life cycle and management options, this link from the farmer’s almanac is a nice quick reference as well as this short article. For the entomologists among us, UMASS has a wealth of Brassica pest management info here including studies on intercropping with native pollinator plants to attract beneficial insects and reduce pest problems in farms and gardens all around.
Harvesting Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are actually the garlic flowers. They form in mid-late June as a curling, round shoot from the center of the stalk. Clip them when they have made a curlicue, as demonstrated in the picture to the left. By cutting them off it sends the plant's energy toward growing a big bulb, rather than creating seeds.
To learn more about when and how to harvest garlic scapes check this out:
Enough about growing things, let’s eat!
A few crops are ready to pick, and much of it falls under the “oh, you could put that in a salad” category, like cold hardy greens and herbs. But a few harvests mark these weeks.
If you don’t grow these crops, look for them at local markets and farmstands. Buying local is a vote for your health and the livelihoods of local farmers, who need support now more than ever! Here are those resources for locating local produce we shared in week four of this blog.
Asparagus. - If you’ve never had fresh asparagus....It's a different world than store bought. Our 4’x4’ patch gives us several meals each spring. Once planted it needs 2-3 years to establish before you can harvest, but will produce for decades. Learn more here. So sweet and crisp you can eat it raw. We find it best with minimal preparation - salt, oil, and maybe some lemon, then sauteed or roasted until tender but not wilted.
Radishes grow fast! A first crop might be ready now, and once harvested another can be planted in its place. You can eat the tuber and the tops. Peppery radish greens make a great addition to salads. Crisp, zingy tubers are good raw but delicious when quick-pickled, and it couldn’t be easier. Check it out!
Garlic Scapes are good in salads, but our favorite use for them is making pesto! It freezes well in ice cube tray then pop them out of the trays and into a bag for pasta and pizza all year. Check out this pesto recipe, and more ideas here.
Here is a group we just can't keep to ourselves selves! We wanted to introduce you to Rodale Institute, a leader in advancing the organic movement. Watch this 3 min video to see their story.
They are hosting a virtual field day that is shaping up to look very interesting. These are a series of on-demand, in-field presentations from Rodale Institute staff and scientists, along with a Q&A session with the experts. So, during the period of July 13-17 you can login and listen to any of the thirteen talks. Here is a sampling of what they will cover:
· Organic Apple Orchards
· Treatment-Free Beekeeping
· Cover Crops and Organic No-till
· Pollinators Habitats
· And Many Others
Each talk is 15-20 minutes. If you have questions or want to listen to other people’s questions you can go to a live question and answer session.
The cost is $25 for all the talks and they can be accessed at your convenience during the
July 13-17 time period.
This sounds fantastic! Rodale Institute is at the forefront of regenerative agriculture, which we are happily seeing a major shift towards in our food system and we want to encourage more of! Check out the organic field day (week) and click here to register.