Closing Out the Summer with GEP

September 22, 2013

Author: Neighborhood Farm Initiative

Category: General News Stories from the Garden

Last week temperatures dropped into the 50s early in the morning. Many recent have been cooler, reminding me that today is the first day of fall.

At the last official “content” Gardening Education Project class earlier this month, we talked about what to expect in the garden as a result of these cooler days. Joe, our instructor, told us that while the fruits will still ripen on the vine, we shouldn’t expect our plants to produce additional tomatoes, squash, eggplants, peppers or basil.

Also of note, Joe shared that the sweet potato vines (which have provided me and my gardening partner seemingly-endless bags of greens to saute) would start to die back, so the time to dig them up and see what lay underground was approaching.

Because I will soon be travelling for several weeks, I decided to dig up the sweet potato vines last week. Loosening the soil and digging with my hands to search for potatoes felt like a treasure hunt! One plant transplanted later in the season never really took root, and there were no potatoes from it. One plant produced two huge potatoes, and the other plant produced a couple medium sized potatoes and two handfuls of fingerling potatoes. It was so much fun to both harvest tasty, vitamin-rich greens and e to hunt for potatoes whose size and number were unknown.

Vetch.  A cover crop that grows well in this area.

Joe also shared in class about nitrogen-fixing cover crops. He admitted he’d recently become a “convert” to this “green manure” after seeing how easy and effective it could be. My first encounter with cover crop was on my first day of class this summer – our plots had been sown with vetch and I noticed how simple it was to uproot and turn it under in the soil. Cover crops are easy to sow, prevent erosion, promote helpful microorganisms, retain moisture, and can serve as a mulch. It was very helpful to learn more about them as they seem like a win all around!

We briefly talked about seed saving, too. Its a topic I have a lot of interest in and hope to get into more once I have a little more confidence and experience in basic gardening. It did feel excited to be able to harvest some bush bean and marigold seeds this year which I can use for next year’s plot.

These topics were appropriate for closing out the summer’s GEP classes, as they got us thinking about preparing for future gardening. It has truly been a wonderful summer gardening with the Neighborhood Farm Initiative. Getting to know classmates, volunteers, and others who work with NFI has been an immense pleasure. The discussion-based and hands-on approach of our classes made the content truly memorable, and I now have the confidence to garden on my own and share what I’ve learned with others. Thank you, NFI, for a truly life-changing summer!

Jenn Svetlik has been immensely grateful to be a 2013 GEP class participant, and this is the last post about her experience as a novice gardener throughout the summer.

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