June 28, 2013

I’ve been working in the garden for a solid month now, and can really notice it’s growth and progress in that time. All the plants are vividly green and expanding in all different directions. I noticed that squirrels dug up a few peanut plants in an attempt to get some (not quite ripe yet?) peanuts, so last weekend Lily and I put some netting over those plants, hopefully deterring the squirrels and allowing us to eat some peanuts when the time comes! The jerusalem artichoke plants are taller than us now, so Lily and I also staked a perimeter around that bed to keep the plants upright as they continue to grow. We’ve been having some trouble with cotton and corn. A handful of cotton plants have inexplicably rotted, so the bed looks a little patchy but we continue to sow new seeds in the empty spots. Over half of the cotton plants are strong and healthy, though! The corn has had trouble staying rooted and upright, but we’ve sowed more seeds in that bed as well so hopefully we’ll have more corn coming up in the next few weeks. The cowpea, on the other hand, is certainly thriving in that bed!

Here are (more than) a few photos illustrating the garden’s progress:ImageImagePassionflowersImageHopsImageSesame plants and my shadow!ImageOne of our more robust corn plantsImageIndigoImageCottonImageNutmeg plants with seed pods hardeningImageBaby wheatImageBeautiful wildflowers at the Hereford Mini-Farm GardenImageMore hops!Image

– Ava

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Center for Historic Plants Open House + Garden Update

The garden has been getting a LOT of rain in the past week or so. It’s looking extremely green and robust and we’re getting a break from having to water it most days! The one problem with all this rain is that it’s washed away quite a bit of the mulch we just laid down in the paths and has created little streams and rivulets throughout the garden. Hopefully once everything has a chance to dry out we can rake the mulch back into shape.

The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants had an Open House at Tufton Farm this past weekend, featuring a plant sale, garden tours, and two speakers. I was there manning the Demo Garden information table, featuring cut plants from the garden and textile samples from a dye workshop that took place a year or two ago. Visitors to the Open House enjoyed seeing some of the plants that Jefferson deemed to be useful and learning about how they’re used.

I was lucky to catch a break from my table to listen to Peter Hatch, the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello for the past 30+ years and author of A Rich Spot of Earth. The theme of the Open House was “Thomas Jefferson, Gardener,” and Mr. Hatch’s talk revolved around Jefferson’s horticultural interests, complete with quotes and anecdotes to illustrate Jefferson’s sense of humor and love of nature.

It was a beautiful day at Tufton and from what I could see, there was great turn out, with lots of plants sold!

ImageThe Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Tufton Farm

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Image– Ava

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June 16, 2013

This week we have made progress in spreading mulch in the paths of the garden.  We hope the mulch will suppress weeds in the paths so that we can focus our weeding efforts on the planting beds.  As you can see in the base of the planting beds, the soil is damp from lots of rain this week.  Rain is in the forecast almost everyday, and is noticeable in the growth of the plants.

Mulched paths:

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Wheat seeds popping out of the earth with a cicada wing in the foreground:

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Peanut flower:

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Hops:

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June 9, 2013

After receiving a delivery of mulch last weekend, our goal was to have the paths weeded and mulched this week.  The end of the week brought a couple inches of rain, so it was good that the weeds were gone, but unfortunately, some of the mulch washed away too.  

This morning we built the trellis extension for the hops plants (Humulus americanus).  We attached 5 strands of twine to a wire that runs along the top of the greenhouse and to the wire that runs between the two posts that are currently holding up the hops.  We found loose pieces of the hops plant to coax onto the new twine (which was difficult because many of the vines at the top had intertwined with each other making it hard to detangle individual lengths).  The goal is that the hops will now grow along the twine, alleviating weight from the trellis with wood posts and creating a covered area next to the greenhouse.  

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The sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), seen in the foreground, are growing nicely:

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Ava thinned out the sesame beds (Sesamum indicum) this week to give the plants space to grow:

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The yucca (Yucca filamentosa) is in bloom:

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Next to the yucca is the nutmeg plant (Nigella sativa) with beautiful blooms:

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We also began to see passionflower blooms (Passiflora incarnata) today and soon there will be many more:

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Til next week, 

Meg

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May 30, 2013

Hello! Meg introduced herself last time, and since this is my first time working on the blog I’d like to introduce myself as well. 

My name is Ava and I’m the undergraduate intern working in the garden this summer alongside Meg. I’m a rising third year at UVa, majoring in Studio Art (with an expected concentration in photography). I first became interested in food and food production as a result of multiple conversations with my uncle, who raises cattle in Orange, VA. That interest in food production led to personal research which led me to volunteer at UVa’s Morven Kitchen Garden last spring. I fell in love with the work and the opportunity to reconnect with nature and with Charlottesville’s food heritage. I’m particularly excited to be working in the TJ Demo Garden with some of Jefferson’s spotlighted plants this summer and with plants that are not usually found in typical vegetable gardens!

We’re expecting to get a delivery of mulch before Saturday so we can begin mulching the paths between beds on our Saturday group workday. The mulch hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ve been weeding the paths and beds in preparation! The garden is looking quite tidy lately–it will be beautiful once we get the mulch down. We’ve noticed that something has been nibbling on plants in both the Demo Garden and our neighbor, the Hereford Mini-Farm, which apparently has not been a problem in the past few years. Yesterday, I went over to Fifth Season to get some deer deterrent (all natural!) which I sprayed on our seedlings and nibbled plants this morning. Hopefully it’s effective. 

Below are a few pictures I took this morning–not too much has changed since Meg posted last week, but it’s good to get a different perspective!

ImageImageImageImageImageImage1. Wheelbarrow full of weeds

2. Ladybug sittin’ pretty on a passionflower leaf

3. Yucca standing tall and proud!

4. Beautiful slate signage

5. Salsify

6. Baby cotton

Meg will be back next week to update you!

– Ava

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May 25, 2013

The summer season at the garden has begun! The summer interns have taken over and are excited to continue the great work of those that prepared the beds and planted the seeds this spring.

My name is Meg, I am a Landscape Architecture graduate student at the UVa School of Architecture.  I am very excited to be getting my hands dirty this summer.  I’m looking forward to learning more about how to care for a garden and discovering all of the uses that Jefferson had in mind for this collection of plants.  Most of my garden-tending experience was in New Mexico, famous lately for their draughts, so I’m already thankful for the amount of rainfall we receive here and how well the plants respond to the moisture!

Already in my first week in the garden I have noticed a lot of growth, particularly in the Flax beds.  Image

We have had ample rainfall this week, so I have spent most of my time weeding, focusing on the Sesame room, the Flax beds, the Passionflower beds and the entrance path.  

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Here are some other shots of the garden, highlighting the growth of the Yucca, Johnny-Jump-Ups and the Hops!

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’til next time, 

Meg

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Sunday, May 12th, 2013

GardenPanorama_5.12.13

Marissa, Lily and I met up in the garden last Sunday to build the remaining beds and plant the rest of the seeds.  I also finally got around to making a sign for the garden.  As you may remember, we experimented earlier in the semester with sandblasting and laser cutting slate (just like the plant ID signs we already have).  I ended up laser cutting the sign and putting our favorite Jefferson quote on it.  Now people passing by the garden will have a little more info about this wonderful space.

Garden_Sign_TJDG

The final beds to form are for our new sesame room.  We’ve had the peanuts here for the past two seasons and decided it was time to do some crop rotation.  The sesame were an appealing replacement as they have a nice tall form that should define the space nicely.  Sesame_BedsWe also planted our corn and sunflowers, which will both surely grow nice and tall and define some of the spaces in the garden.  We chose a variety of sunflower that we hope will grow to be a little shorter than in years past.  Maybe we’ll also be able to protect the seeds a bit better from those tricky squirrels!

Seed_Packages  Planting_SunflowersCorn_Cowpea

We were happy to see that the flax seedlings have sprouted their heads.  We had some heavy rains and were a bit worried that the small seeds had been washed away.  But alas, they stuck it out and survived the rains, cars riding over their beds, and people stepping in the beds.  Tough little guys! Can’t wait to see how the flax does as our replacement for the cotton around the border of the garden.  Flax_SeedlingsThe hops and the salsify continue to thrive as do the jerusalem artichokes and passion flower.

HopsSalsify_Blooming

It’s sad to think that this will be my last work day in the garden.  The past two and a half seasons have been such a wonderful experience.  I’ve learned so much and met so many passionate and driven people.  From the beginning…designing the garden with Erica Thatcher and securing funding for our first season through the Arboretum and Landscape Committee with Lily, Rachael, Nancy, and Erica…to garden workshops on dyeing and spinning and tabling at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello.  Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this garden whether for one work day or since the beginning. I’ve learned so much from all of you!  I look forward to following along with the updates here on the blog and watching the garden continue to thrive and transform in the future!
All the best,
Chelsea

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