This week, we harvested our three full beds of garlic.
Its been a long time coming. We planted the garlic waay back at the very end of the last growing season, a few weeks before the first big freeze in November. We planted two varieties: Inchelium Red, a softneck, and Chesnook Red, a hardneck. Whats the difference? Softneck garlic is easier to grow, keeps longer, and has more (albeit a bit smaller than hardneck) cloves. They also braid easily, as their stalks become soft and pliable. Almost any garlic you buy in the supermarket is a softneck variety.
Hardneck garlic is stiffer (hence the name) and has fewer, but larger, cloves. Because it does not have as much of a white papery skin surrounding the cloves, hardneck varieties tend not to keep as well as softnecks.
Chesnook red, our hardneck variety, is originally from Shvelisi, Republic of Georgia. Inchelium Red was first discovered in Inchelium, WA, on the Colville Indian Reservation. Far-flung locations! But both garlics seemed to thrive in our soil. Also, we decided to combine the names of the locations where both were found– Inchelium Shvelisi!– and make it into a Harry Potter spell that would make garlic bulbs sprout wherever it was cast.
We must be getting too excited for the release of the final HP movie this week…though I stand by the idea that it does in fact sound very much like a latin Harry Potter Spell.
We cleaned the garlic and trimmed off the roots, then scrubbed em and got them ready for curing. Garlic needs to be cured for two weeks. Our makeshift solution is to hang the cloves in our dorm rooms; they need dark, dry, well-ventilated rooms. Sam and I will be safe from vampires for the next two weeks, and then some.
When, in two weeks, the garlic emerges from the dark cocoons of our dorm rooms like beautiful butterflies from the chrysalis, we will be able to use our own supply of garlic for tasty garden treats. I’ll be sure to report back with taste differences between the Chesnook and Inchelium varieties.
If there is one vegetable that proves the common sense idea that a seed in the ground will want to grow regardless of care and effort, it is the tomato.
We grow a few different heirloom varieties of tomato in the garden: the small, round and unbelievably sweet sungold cherry tomato and handsome striped green zebra, both of which produced very well in our first season. Our new lineup adds some
international flair & variety: Cosmonaut Volkov, a full-size tomato named after an (apparently) famous Russian astronaut who died in space; Cherokee Purple, an american native variety that was first grown in Cherokee territory and will have a purple hue when ripe; the Principe Borghese, especially delicious when sun-dried, and the five-star grape.
We are setting out this week to do some sort-of late pruning on our different varieties, some of which have been growing very well and others that still have to catch up (I’m looking at you, runty Purple Cherokees.) But we have found that tomatoes thrive in the garden. Whether we intend them to or not.
It first started when I noticed little tiny tomato seedlings popping up among the kale, chard, and snap peas. Rogue leftovers from the tomatoes that had been planted there last season. They were cute enough, and a pleasant surprise, but we pulled them up and went about with our lives.
Then we spotted them creeping out of the cracks in our compost bin.
Seems that the unripe, end of season tomatoes we had thrown in to decompose had seeded themselves in the rich compost, and were determined to grow through the black plastic container. How endearing!, Sam and I thought to ourselves. These babies really want to grow.
We started seeing other signs of an impending tomato takeover. While clearing the space behind our milk crate construction, we came upon a forest of rogue tomatoes that had somehow taken root and grown a foot without us even noticing, hiding among the weeds. We eyed them suspiciously, but let them grow, interested to see whether they would end up choking eachother out or collapsing.
Then, a few days ago while harvesting snap peas, I reached in between the two six-foot tall rows in our 4 x 8 raised bed and confusedly came upon a nearly foot and a half tall tomato plant. Nestled in the shade of its tall pea brethren, it had escaped our clutches for months. After pulling it out, I walked around the side of the 4 x 8 and saw this:
This particularly vigorous plant managed to squeeze itself out of the half inch crack in between the pieces of wood that make up our raised beds. Somehow, we didn’t see it growing until now. I swear it grew nearly six inches in the few days of rain we had.
I don’t know what to say, other than I wholeheartedly welcome our new tomato overlords.
Now we’ll just see about getting our purposely planted tomato plants to thrive as much as these eager, but ultimately fated to death tomato intruders.
The Community Garden is run throughout the school year by a group of students, but unfortunately the main section of the growing season (May-September) falls within summer vacation. Starting last year, and with generous funding and in-kind room & board from the university and HUDS, we were able to start a summer internship program (which may or may not try to model itself off of a nameless university’s summer farming program.)
The internship is designed to give two students an immersive experience in urban agriculture from many angles: the actual growing of food and the planning and maintenance of the plot on a day-to-day basis, with an emphasis on learning organic pest management techniques as well as the basics of companion planting, intercropping, crop rotation, and other sustainable agriculture techniques. It is also a very social position. Unlike working on an actual farm, the garden is very much in the public eye of Cambridge. Summer school students, international tourists, and locals walk by the plot every day, and many come in to talk to the interns, ask questions, and tell their own stories about gardens and growing food. This is one of the most unique and exciting aspects of Harvard’s garden. We are not growing food in a hidden corner, tucked away from the bustle of campus and Cambridge– we are smack-dab in the center of Harvard Square.
This summer, we’re expanding programming and volunteer hours so that more of you can get involved. We’ll also be blogging more, sharing photos and stories and information with all of you across the country and world. Get ready!
I was a late bloomer, and only discovered my interest in environmentalism (and then sustainable agriculture) right before my freshman year at college. Luckily, I was in the right place at the right time and became involved in the effort to create a community garden on Harvard’s campus. Despite my complete lack of knowledge in the specifics and techniques of gardening or urban agriculture, I took the chance to jump in and start from scratch in learning a completely new skill set. Two and a half years later, and here I am.
After having been a co-manager of the garden for roughly the past year, I am ready to learn how to walk the walk of sustainable urban gardening. And so, I’ll be posting a lot on here about the trials and tribulations we face on the plot, as well as our events and local/national agriculture news. Every day brings a new challenge, for which Sam and I have to cobble together some sort of solution. Even in the past week, I’ve learned so much– from aphid control on fava beans to constructing snap pea trellises to the benefits of square-foot over row gardening– and every new day I accumulate a little more general knowledge about how to succesfully run an urban agricultural plot. People are always surprised when I say that I’m working full-time maintaining the plot, because it seems like it couldn’t possibly take that much time to take care of it. But as I’ve learned so far, there are always more things that can be done. And thats what makes working in in the garden such a productive and rewarding experience.
So bear with me! I’ll be sharing my daily discoveries and discussing various techniques, issues, problems, and successes as we face them.
For now, i’ll leave you with some shots we took on the plot yesterday of our snap pea blossoms, garlic scapes (or, to be more accurate, singular scape), and absurdly ornate-looking frilly mustard greens. You can check out more on our flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48782892@N07/
When I arrived on campus over a week ago, seeing the garden was a sort of shock to my system. When I left in the first week of June it was no more than a fledgling patch of lettuces, climbing bean vines, and foot-tall tomato plants. I saw the promise in these small, green plants, the vision of vegetable glory that only required a few months of patient watering, weeding, and waiting. Throughout June, July and August I tracked the progress of the kale, onions, and eggplant through Emily and Tyler’s blogposts. I laughed. I cried. I gasped in awe when I saw photos of the first real harvest. In a way, it was similar to what I imagine watching my own child graduate from high school will be like.
Strange personifying similes aside, I really was excited to see in the garden the very tangible result of over a year’s worth of work. And the response I’ve been getting from Harvard students and community members alike has been just as positive— from surprised juniors exclaiming that it looks awesome to local business owners emailing us to say they feel “warm and fuzzy” every time they walk by the plot. I, for one, will unabashedly proclaim that I have also felt warm and fuzzy (perhaps a little too warm and fuzzy in the heat wave) watering, weeding, and generally spending time in the garden the past week.
Now the school year is starting, and we have a lot of work to do. The garden has finally established itself in a very leafy and somewhat dazzling visual manner. There is much harvesting, trimming, planting, and building to be done. We hope that you will join us! Our first workday of the schoolyear will be held tomorrow, September 4th from 4 to 6 PM. The veggies will be drying out from a lovely little shower courtesy of Hurricane Earl, and we’ll be buzzing around (not unlike the many bees who are constantly pollinating our mint plant) tidying things up, harvesting the bounty of late summer vegetables, and gearing up for autumn. Hope to see you there!
First Harvard Community Garden Workday of the School Year!
Saturday, September 4th