Today at Dirt to Dinner we had a special visit from entomology professor Helda Morales from Chiapas, Mexico and two of her colleagues. Professor Morales loves bugs and studies both integrated pest management and the social aspects of pest control. She would like to start her own educational garden project for children when she returns to Mexico.
Our other special guest has feathers, but no name that I know of. She is an orphaned
baby jay Mackenzie is nursing. And she was a perfectly integrated pest manager for us today! One of the activities in the garden this morning was discovering the wide variety of insect life that calls our garden home. Some of these are beneficial to our crops, like the enormous carpenter bees we often see flying around our tomato plants, others are more destructive and are eating some of the plants we are growing. And some of them were beneficial to Miss Jay. They became her lunch!
The garden is filling out beyond our expectations and looked something beyond lush on over toward jungly when everyone arrived today. One of the visiting professors taught us how to tell the productive branches from the extra, leafy branches of our tomatoes plants and lots of pruning and tying and thinning out commenced. We are having good luck staking our determinant varieties with split bamboo and various types of plant ties. And now the garden beds will have lots more light and air and the plants growing under or around our tomatoes will thanks us.
We also added drip irrigation for over half of the big growing area! (Thanks, Ken!) That will be another big step in keeping our plants healthy and happy. Tomatoes, and many other garden vegetable plants, stay much healthier when you are able to water in a way that doesn’t get their leaves wet. Drip irrigation also uses less water and prevents soil compaction so I’m excited to start using it as much as we can.
Now that we are turning the corner into Summer and have just three Dirt to Dinner sessions remaining in the Spring program, I’m happy to report that the kids are very enthusiastic about seeing and working in their growing beds. They are really enjoying the meals they are able to prepare during the sessions using as much food as possible right out of the garden. And they seem comfortable and at ease with both the process and the work of growing food. Today they examined squash flowers and peeked under the dirt at the developing potatoes. They did multi-sensory explorations of some of the plants. They made delicious salsa in both mild and spicy varieties. They harvested chard and radishes and onion and salad greens and pulled spent broccoli and spinach. They started a new compost bin and added a new layer to the worm condo and flopped down around the puppy box to cool off in the shade.
It was a good day in the garden. :-)