Fall at the garden brings crisp mornings and a bounty of different produce.

Above is Farmer Heather holding a particularly long daikon radish!

Our high tunnel, the most recent addition to our garden and one that has taken over a year to complete, is now in full production! Check out the beautiful cucumbers that are being harvested right now. We are hoping this high tunnel continues to help us with season extension.

These are our purple Yard Long Beans, also known as Noodle Beans. You can find them in Irregardless Cafe‘s weekly Vegetable Plate!

Above are cucamelons, a vine-grown, edible fruit. Originated from Mexico, they are about the size of grapes and taste like cucumbers with a tinge of sourness.

The cool weather also readies the turmeric and baby ginger from their summer-long rest in the ground inside our caterpillar tunnel. Fun fact: baby ginger grows well in NC, unlike the regular store-bought mature ginger. Another bonus of growing baby ginger is that it is less potent and more tender.

Come have a taste of our harvest for yourself! We sell 80% of our produce to the Irregardless Cafe and we give 20% back to our community. When you come to the cafe, you’ll get to taste the lovely creations the chef makes with our produce and have a grand ole time with their nightly live music!

There is a part of the Well Fed Community Garden that is always open to the public, and that is our pollinator garden.  When you are taking a walk down Athens Drive feel free to pop into the pollinator garden, enjoy the beauty of the blooming flowers, and touch and smell the aromatic herbs in the raised beds.  There is plenty to explore and there are some signs up to help identify the plants.  Below are some of the herbs, fruits, and flowers that can be found in the pollinator garden or along the fence that protects our vegetables from deer.

 

The greenery pictured above is shiso.  Shiso is an herb in the mint family that is sometimes used in sushi.  It has a unique fragrance when a leaf is torn and a unique flavor when eaten. You can sometimes find this green variety or a purple variety growing wild in the woods around here.

 

The fruit tree pictured above is a pawpaw tree.  Pawpaws are native and can also be found in the woods around here.  We only have two trees at the Well Fed Community Garden and this year is shaping up to be our biggest harvest yet! The pawpaws also have a unique flavor that is hard to describe if you have not tried it yourself.  The yellow-orange flesh tastes similar to a muted banana and mango combined, but watch out for the large brown seeds speckled throughout the fruit. To learn more check out Andrew Moore’s 2015 book Pawpaw: A Search for America’s Forgotten Fruit.

 

Fig trees do amazingly well here in the Triangle.  Since varieties can be all different colors when ripe, give the fig a light squeeze; if it is very soft, it is ready to harvest.  The fig pictured above still needs some time to ripen, but in the next couple weeks we’ll have figs galore.

 

The exotic flower and fruit pictured above is a passion flower vine, also called Maypop.  There are many varieties of passion flower and this is one native to North America.  The fruit is delectable and tastes like candy.

 

You can see in the picture above that our pear trees are being weighed down by all the fruit being produced.  The low hanging fruit will make for an easy harvest.

 

The Well Fed Garden was designed by the permaculturist, Will Hooker.  One of the design features is a living fence made with dwarf apple trees pictured above.  The new growth of the apple tree branches are tied and pruned directing the plants into the shape of the fence, creating an edible living fence.  The apples are ripe and ready for picking.

 

The pollinator garden has a wide array of flowers planted for the pollinators in the area.  Pictured above are a honey bee and a bumble bee enjoying the echinacea flowers.

 

This bright yellow and orange flower pictured above is a daylilly.

 

The little orange blooms pictured above come from a milkweed plant.  Milkweed is the sole host plant for the monarch butterfly.

 

This vibrant pink bloom pictured above is a Stargazer Oriental lily.

 

Below you can see bees and butterflies enjoying some of our beautiful flowers.  If you would like to enjoy our flowers too come visit us for our weekly volunteer day Thursday mornings 9:30am-12:00pm and our Wine and Weeds event Thursday evenings 6:00pm-8:00pm.  You can also find our flowers at the Irregardless Cafe; we provide the flowers for their table arrangements. We hope to see you soon!

Hibiscus

 

Yard long bean plant

 

Zinnia

 

Mexican sunflower

 

Potato harvest time has come to the Well Fed Community Garden! This year we partnered with NC State Extension and a potato breeder at NC State to try out some fun and different varieties. Some were new varieties and some were typical potato varieties, such as Yukon Gold.  NC State Extension gave us 23 different potato varieties in all.  The goal was to see how the varieties grew here and how well they produced.

You can harvest potatoes as soon as they start sizing up.  If you harvest them early, when the plant still has green foliage, they are new potatoes.  New potatoes taste great, but their skins are soft and fragile and they do not store well. To harvest for storage and maximum yield, you must wait until the plants are completely dead.  This allows time for the skin to toughen up.  Above is a potato plant well on its way to being ready for harvest.  In the background, you can see some potato plants that are completely dead and ready for harvest.

For bigger farms producing potatoes, a potato plow, an implement attached to the back of a tractor, is used to unzip the row of potatoes and bring them up to the surface.  Because we are a small operation we used our hand and small trowels.  Our interns said it was like digging for buried treasure and it really did feel that way with all of the beautiful different colors of each variety of potato. Potato harvest is a fun way to get your hands good and dirty in the soil.

During our harvest we made sure to take notes on how each variety grew and the total weight of potatoes we harvested per variety. A few varieties really stood out to us as great producers and we are excited to try growing them again next year! Below you can see some of the variety in skin color of the potatoes; some were yellow, white, purple/blue, and red.

Above is a US Blue potato cut in half.  It has a beautiful purple skin and a white/mosaic flesh inside.  We had some varieties with purple skin and white flesh inside and others that had purple skin and purple flesh inside.  It was really fun getting to see the different color combinations of each variety.

Pictured above are all of the potatoes boxed up after harvest and ready to go to NC State Extension.  The potatoes will then be brought to different restaurants in Raleigh to explore what the subtle differences in taste are for each potato variety and what varieties are the chef’s favorites.  Since we are in partnership with Irregardless Cafe, we also set some aside to bring to Irregardless Cafe for Chef Arthur Gordon to investigate which potato variety is his favorite.

Farmer Heather was able to go to a special potato tasting with Chef Ashley Christensen, where they were able to compare the nuanced flavor of each potato variety. Pictured below are the more than 20 potato varieties they tasted.

 

One of our focuses here at the Well Fed Community Garden is environmental sustainability.  We use organic practices, focus on building the soil versus depleting it, and have a pollinator garden to help our local pollinators and birds have sustenance and materials to build their nests. Any produce that does not go to the restaurant or is not donated goes into our compost pile. Then is added to our fields to help with soil health. Recently, we held a workshop that touched on a couple ways we could all be a little more environmentally conscious (even if you do not have a garden!): reducing our plastic bag use and food waste.

Worldwide, nearly 2 million plastic bags are used a minute. The amount of energy required to make 12 plastic bags could drive a car for a mile. Roughly fifty percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away. Although these statistics can be daunting, here are a couple small and fun tips to help you get in the mindset of Reducing Our Waste.

 

Our workshop in April was about making your own produce bags and learning about natural dyes using the skins of onions that usually get thrown away.

The breathable fabric was sourced from local thrift stores, either from curtains or sheets.  After being cut into a rectangle, folded over, and sewing the edges you have your very own produce bag which is light and fun to use in the grocery store.

Above is a pot of boiled onion skins which was used to naturally dye our produce bags.

Miriam, a regular volunteer and teacher for our workshop, showing the group what our finished product could look like.

Stirring our produce bag into the onion skins.

The longer you keep the produce bag in the onion mixture, the deeper the color.  We placed our produce bags in a bit of the cooked onion skins in jars for folks to bring home with them.

There are many small steps one can take to start thinking about ways to reduce waste.  Learning to look at the possible uses of the things we throw away and sourcing what we can locally can be a fun adventure unto itself.  Keep an eye out for our monthly workshops on a variety of topics, from composting to rain gardens!

This year the Well Fed Community Garden is teaming up with award-winning facilitator, educator, and founder of the Raleigh Drum Circle Greg Whitt to bring a farm dinner/ drum circle series to the garden. This program is all about our connection to Mother Earth and to one another, creating community and sharing abundance in nature.

The evening begins with a Farm Tour of the Well Fed Garden. The event is held on our beautiful, urban farm. Although the farm is within city limits, once you step inside the gate the air feels fresher and you are surrounded by natural growth. Our farmer will show attendees how we use sustainable and natural practices to enhance the water we drink, the plants we eat, and the soil under our feet.

Farmer Morgan showing guests around the Well Fed Community Garden

After the farm tour, attendees will enjoy a farm fresh salad, tasty pizza, and drinks from our partner Irregardless Catering. The meal will be vegetarian, but be sure to call ahead if you have any other dietary restrictions.

Guests enjoying a pizza dinner before the drum session begins

As the sun begins to set, Greg will gather folks around in a circle for a facilitated drum circle. This hands-on, interactive hand drumming workshop celebrates the rhythms of nature the way people have since the beginning of time. Greg provides the drums, rhythms, and guidance all you need to bring is an open mind and heart.

Group drum circle

 

Greg Whitt uses music to share village values that foster connection, culture, and wellness. Greg founded the still-thriving Raleigh Drum Circle community back in 2002 and facilitated their drum circles for many years right down the hill from us at Lake Johnson Park.  His company Drum For Change leads programs in corporations, congregations, communities and classrooms; programs designed to creatively connect people to one another and to the world around them in ways that are joyful, engaging, and good for you.

 

Interested in joining a class? We have two more upcoming dates. Click on the following date for tickets and registration

May 11

June 08

 

Ever wonder how farmers eat? Farming is hard work; it takes a lot of mental and physical labor to grow on a bio-intensive, organic farm. One of most rewarding parts of farming is bringing fresh, healthy food to the community, and to our own plates. Here are a few ways you too can eat like a farmer.

Spring Onions

Eat locally. This is by far the easiest way to eat like a farmer. The produce you see at the market is what the farmers are eating. If you don’t have time to shop at the farmers market, try joining a CSA. For a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, you pay the cost of the produce upfront, then receive fresh fruits and veggies all season long.

Summer Veggies

 

Eat seasonally. Seasonal food is produce that is consumed around that same time that is was harvested. Even if you are not shopping at farmers markets you can still easily and within budget find seasonal produce. Seasonal food is fresher, tastier and more nutritious that out of season produce. This is true even when the food is grown out of state. Make sure to always read labels to find out where your produce was grown and use this guide to find what is in season: http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/availabilitychart.pdf

Heirloom Tomatoes

Canning, freezing, and drying are great ways to capture the health benefits of abundant herbs and vegetables during the summer. Hang clusters of your favorite herbs in brown paper bags, or use a freezer safe bag to store fresh blueberries and strawberries. Canning is more labor intensive and make sure you do your research first. https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/home_canning.html

Dried Herbs

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Radicchio, Kohlrabi, Romanesco, local farmers are growing more and more interesting crops. If something looks unfamiliar at the market ask the farmer. Most farmers supply recipies for the new or unique produce they are growing.

Fennel

Want to learn more? Join us March 23rd 2019 for our Eat like a Farmer Cooking Class. We are partnering with Michelle Aronson and the Farmbelly Cooking School. This class is part demonstration and part hands-on, and guests will learn all about sourcing, preparing, and cooking with seasonal + local produce. Class includes a walking tour of the farm.

Tickets Here: 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/eat-like-a-farmer-cooking-class-tickets-56352280187

 

Blog written by Morgan Malone, Farm Manager

 

Winter brings cold temperatures, freezing rain, snow, ice, and wind.  It can be hard to keep your core warm. Although layering clothing is key, we have some fun ways we like to stay warm here at the Well Fed Community Garden that we would like to share with you.

Chunk of ice found the morning of a cold day.

 

With the help of Farm Dog Bella, our Farm Manager Morgan gathers bricks to move to different rows around the farm.  The bricks are quite heavy piled up in the wheelbarrow, and hauling them around is a great way to warm up. Once they make it to their respective rows, the bricks will hold down the edges of the row cover. Row cover is a special white fabric that (along with hoops) creates a warmer micro-climate for the plants.  This helps keep the plants a little warmer and more protected from the elements than if they were left bare.

Bella and Morgan loading up the wheelbarrow

Morgan with a full load of bricks ready for hauling

Spinach and beets are being protected by layers of row cover held down by the bricks brought over by Morgan.

We also use row cover inside our passive greenhouse to add a little extra protection for our more vulnerable hydroponic lettuce and plant starts.

 

Even without much help from us, our chickens handle most of the cold days the North Carolina winters bring well.  We usually will prep their coop for winter by covering any summer ventilation openings and layering their bedding to provide more warmth.  However, their water will freeze after the especially cold nights and we thaw their water with some warm water from the tea kettle. The chickens love this and always come running.

One of our chickens running over to get a nice warm drink of water.

Farm Manager Morgan, Farm Apprentice Hannah, and Farm Dog Bella digging holes to fertilize our blueberry bushes so that the pH level of the soil will be in the optimal range for nutrient uptake.

 

One way to stay warm on the farm is to work inside our caterpillar tunnel. The plastic layer protects us (and the plants) from the cold winds and it warms up really quickly inside with just a bit of sunlight.

Regular volunteer, Miriam, using a scuffle hoe to clear out lettuce mix.

After the beds are cleared of the lettuce mix, we use a broadfork to break up the soil for aeration and drainage without tilling. Broadforking in the caterpillar tunnel is a great way to lose a couple clothing layers in the winter.

These pac choi starts were hardening off outside. When starts grow up in the greenhouse they need to spend about a week or two outside before being planted so that they can get acclimated to outdoor conditions. These starts were quickly stashed in the caterpillar tunnel before the temperature dropped from the 70s to the 30s.

Farm Dog Bella laying out in the sun.  A shining example of how to keep warm on a cold day on the farm.

 

We hope everyone stays warm the rest of this winter.  Feel free to come warm up with us Thursdays 9:30am-12pm for our regular weekly volunteer hours throughout the year.

Microgreens are the young seedlings of edible plants. They are tiny and yet packed with nutrients.  Here at the Well Fed Community Garden, we are usually growing 20 or more trays of microgreens in our small greenhouse. They are easy and quick to grow.

We plant microgreens twice a week, after each harvest. They take about two weeks in the winter to grow from seed to harvest. Here are some pictures of microgreens ready for harvest.

Sunflower microgreens

Radish microgreens

Radish microgreens

After harvesting the microgreens, we combine them in a sink to rinse them. Our microgreen blend is a mix of many plants: radish, flax, sunflower, and spicy salad mix.

Our microgreen blend after being rinsed.

Next we spread the microgreen blend across the drying rack screen (made by our farm manager Morgan!) and turn on a high powered fan to dry the microgreens before packaging them.  This helps them to last longer in storage.

Finally we package up our microgreen blend to bring to the Irregardless Cafe, occasionally tossing in some nasturtium flowers to add color and spice.

We try to grow microgreens year round and the blends can change with the season.  Look out for our microgreens in dishes at the Irregardless Cafe!

There is frost on the ground and it is feeling like winter at the Well Fed Community Garden! But the activity does not slow down here; there is always work to be done. As always, we start by feeding the chickens. As the farm dog, I keep a very close eye on our coop to make sure that they stay safe.This could be my full-time job but there are more morning chores to get to.

Next stop is the greenhouse. In this cold weather we give the plants a little more insulation and heat to keep them healthy, and every morning we open up the greenhouses to let some fresh air in and we water the plants and check on our hydroponic lettuce.

Farmer Janette and her new puppy, Theo

We value teamwork, so today I showed puppy Theo how to help our produce assistant, Janette, take care of things in the greenhouse.

After that the morning chores are done and we move on to harvest!The cold weather means we’re growing lots of greens, such as arugula, kale, and our mustard mix. We need to be efficient when harvesting, but we also have to take our time enough to make sure we are thorough in every step. Greens can be delicate, our team is careful to not damage the leaves as we work, and we are meticulous about our sanitation practices while we clean and package the produce.

I like to keep a close eye on things just to make sure everything is done correctly.

After we finish with harvest there are always a number of tasks that need to get done. On any given day we might be planting, weeding, pruning, building a new compost fence, checking for caterpillars, and more.

Today we’re prepping beds for planting. We always add compost to our fields before we sow the seeds to increase the nutrient content in the soil. We try to keep things growing at all time, not only to increase our production, but also to have roots in the ground to prevent the soil from eroding and to feed the soil microorganisms. That means that all year long we are constantly turning our beds over from one crop (or cover crop) to another.

After planting we are done for the morning and it is time for lunch. There’s more work in the fields to do this afternoon but I usually need to use that time to keep the squirrels out of the farm.

About the blogger:

Bella Pepper Malone has been the full-time farm dog at the Well Fed Community Garden since August 2016. Her main focus is pest control but she also helps with quality assurance and community engagement. Her favorite treat from the garden is sweet potatoes.

Here at the Well Fed Community Garden we have a diversity of vegetables, fruit brambles and trees, and flowers growing, and are always open to learning and growing new crops. Our latest learning adventure has been growing turmeric and ginger! Turmeric and ginger can help soothe an upset stomach, have anti-inflammatory properties, and add delicious flavor to meals.  Below are some pictures of our turmeric and ginger plants growing throughout the season:

We ordered our turmeric and ginger seed pieces from a farm based in Hawaii.  The local seed sources and the sources from Hawaii tend to sell out quickly.  Now is the time to buy seed pieces if you would like to grow your own turmeric and ginger next season. We pre-sprouted our seed pieces in the greenhouse to get the root and shoot buds to start growing and extend the season before planting them in the ground (see photo above and below).  When pre-sprouting be sure to disinfect your seed pieces beforehand if needed.  Do not over-water them once planted in a pre-sprouting tray; this can lead to the ginger staying dormant.  Our ginger did not pre-sprout as well as we were hoping this first time around, but our turmeric did great!

After 4-6 weeks, we took our trays of pre-sprouted turmeric and ginger and planted them out in our caterpillar tunnel, 4 inches deep and 6 inches apart (see photo below).

We hilled our turmeric and ginger plants twice throughout the season with a decomposed leaf mulch to help increase yields.

We replaced our caterpillar tunnel plastic with a shade cloth once summer started heating up.  In the photo above you can see our turmeric plants growing under the shade cloth.

About 5 months after planting the pre-sprouted seed pieces, we harvested the ginger and turmeric for baby ginger and baby turmeric.  Baby ginger has no skin to peel and no fibers, but also stores for less time.  Above is a photo of our turmeric right after harvesting them with a digging fork.  We tried to get off as much soil as possible and then sprayed them clean (see the three photos below).

Above is a photo of our clean baby ginger.

The above two photos show baby turmeric after cleaning and throughout the processing.

It was really fun to grow turmeric and ginger and we look forward to next season’s crop!