2017 Fall Newsletter
Here is our fall newsletter, with news about our tent at the Nyack Get Together, the results from the Garden contest, the upcoming PotLuck Dinner, and the Butterfly garden at the south end of the garden:
Thank you, Newsletter Committee!
2017 Garden Contest Winners
Best Overall Garden
Plot 36 Jayne Stuecklen
Best Maintained Garden
- 1st – Plot 3 Barbara Berasi-Rosen
- 2nd - Plot 48A Ellen Miret
- 3rd – Plot 30 Dorothy Durkin
Best Vegetable/or Flower Garden
- 1st – Plot 32 Lauren Pakaln
- 2nd – Plot 42 Lynda Grant
- 3rd - Plot 14 Pauline Heckstall
Most Creative Garden
- 1st – Plot 24 Mari Natal
- 2nd – Plot 37 Jill Remaly
- 3rd – Plot 21 Umberto Fava & Erica de Waal
Cluster #4, Plots 26-33B, Laura Pakaln, cluster leader, Kimberly Knight, Wilsie Reese, Garden Club of the Nyacks (Elizabeth Turk, Carol Marsh, Sharon Guadagno & Elizabeth Gaeta), Robert Mauriello, Paul Bloch, Dorothy Durkin, Elizabeth Cherry, Mark Schneider, and Kristin Flood
Congratulations to you all! The judges had a very difficult time because every plot was great.
Marie Dilluvio, Chairman of the Garden Contest Committee
2017 Plot List and Newsletter
Here is the plot and cluster list for 2017:
And here is our spring newsletter, with very useful information on mulch:
Finally, we have written an article with advice for new gardeners, check this out:
Topsoil added to the Garden
Enhanced Soil Is Ready for Opening Day
A few weeks ago the planting area of the Nyack Community Garden was covered by screened organically-enriched topsoil. Then the area was rototilled so that the soil is ready for early spring plantings when the Garden’s opening on April 9. This addition of “new” rich soil is done every 4 to 5 years to keep the soil fertile. The Garden is typically rototilled annually.
Nyack Seed Exchange
The Seed Exchange at the Nyack Public Library is open for business starting Saturday March 4, and every Saturday from 10-2. We have tons of great seeds that would be very happy in the Community Garden.
For more information see Nyack Seed Exchange.
Save My Soil!
So I’ve been noticing my garden get a little tired over the past couple of years, and I can see my neighbor’s tomato and pepper plants, in particular, looking bigger and stronger. It also seemed to me that all kinds of plants were doing better for me in past years, like onions, cabbage, and garlic. So, time for some analysis. Is it possible that I’ve been losing soil fertility?
As you know, soil fertility is expressed as the amounts of the elements nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK). Plus, the pH of the soil has to be right, and if it’s not then the availability of these elements to the plant is reduced. You can send your soil to be tested for fertility (see Our garden soil and And more on our garden soil for results from the Cornell soil lab), or you can do it yourself. So this time, for fun, I got a hold of the LaMotte Garden Kit to do it myself. Pretty easy to do.
I have to say, I was surprised, but not in a good way. But let’s start with the good news:
Plenty of phosphorus, just like in the Cornell results from a few years back. But look at this:
Ack! Somewhere between “Trace” and “Low”, which is dismal for a vegetable garden, where most of your plants are pretty demanding, with respect to N.
And here was the second surprise:
pH 8.0? Last time I checked we were at 7, i.e. neutral, and you want to be somewhere between 6 and 7 (a little acidity does not bother vegetables).
The potassium (K) test is not exactly colorimetric, it’s more like a titration, and you count the number of drops required to get to a certain color. The result there was Low, in K.
So how have I gotten myself into this situation? How come my neighbors seem to have more fertile soil than me, even when I routinely add organic fertilizers when I plant? Well, just not enough it seems. Unlike most of my neighbors, I start early, and stay late, so I’ve got a spring crop of lettuce filling my plot (plus arugula or radishes or cabbage or …), then I start lettuce (plus …) in mid-August, that grows until late October. Would you like to guess what vegetable takes the most out of your soil? That’s right, the leafy vegetables like lettuce have the biggest appetite for N.
Next up, in another post, we’ll talk about fertilizer and how I’ll try to fix all of this.
Accepting applications for 2017
Dear 2016 Gardener,
I’m already looking forward to gardening at the Nyack Community Garden this year and hope you are, too.
Applications for the 2017 season are available now, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Plots in the Nyack Community Garden are limited. Some returning gardeners, especially new gardeners in 2016, will be awarded half plots rather than full plots even when full plots are requested. 2016 gardeners who did not fully plant, adequately maintain their plots, or fulfill their committee work responsibilities may be awarded a ½ plot rather than a full plot, or be wait-listed.
A Bench in the Garden
There is a wonderful new addition to our garden – a handmade wooden bench located near the tool shed. It is a place for tired gardeners to rest and for gardeners to sit and enjoy conversations with friends. All gardeners are encouraged to use and enjoy it.
Requests by gardeners for someplace to sit and inspired by the beautiful bench that new gardener Greer Griffin installed in plot 13, Marie Dilluvio, with the approval of fellow Executive Committee members, arranged to have our custom-made bench made. The skilled craftsperson who made it is Dan Proctor, the maker of Greer’s bench.
Dan tells us the bench is made of honey locust that he cut on a friend’s land and milled in his own sawmill. The frame is made without nails. Dan used mortise-and-tendons with black walnut trunnels (pins). He shaped the curved locust branches used as arms with a drawknife. Dan reports that honey locust is more durable and stronger than cedar.
Kudos to Dan, Marie and Greer.
Nyack Community Garden Executive Committee
Newsletter for July 2016
Check out our July 2016 newsletter!
Nyack Seed Exchange at the Nyack Library
The Nyack Library will host the Nyack Seed Exchange every Saturday from 10 AM to 2 PM.
Joan Gussow at the Nyack Library
The Nyack Library will host the Seed Starting Slam with Special Guest Joan Gussow on Saturday March 12 from 2:30 to 4:30.
Each year a garden committee creates a newsletter. Here are newsletters from past years:
- Newsletter September 2011
- Newsletter August 2012
- Newsletter August 2013
- Newsletter October 2014
- Newsletter 2015
- Newsletter July 2016
Garden Contest 2015
The winners of today’s annual contest at the Nyack Community Garden are as follows:
- 1st place: Plot 24, Marie Natal
- 2nd place: Plot 37/38, Jill Remaly, Colleen O’Connell & Shane Grady
- 3rd place: Plot 19, Duncan Bell
Best Flower and/or Vegetable
- 1st place: Plot #42, Lynda Grant
- 2nd place: Plot #23, T. Robin Brown
- 3rd place: Plot #45 Susan Beckwith
- 1st place: Plot #36, Jayne Stuecklen
- 2nd place: Plot #26, Kim Knight
- 3rd place: Plot #21, Umberto Fava
- Plot #3, Barbara Berasi-Rosen
- Cluster #3
The garden will close on November 1 2015. All plots must be cleared and clean and all vines must be removed from the plot’s fence by the end of the day. If you haven’t cleared your plot then you won’t be given a plot next year.
The garden will open on Sunday March 29 2015.
Many vegetables do well in the spring. They will not grow as quickly as in the summer months but you should be able to get good germination because of the moister soil.
You can plant transplants or sow seed for arugula, lettuce, members of the cabbage family (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale), mache, spinach, carrots, beets, onions, or peas. There are also many kinds of so-called Asian greens that do well in cooler weather.
Here’s a Zone 7 planting calendar.
This would also be a good time to plant a cover crop if you are so inclined.
Your garden must be fully planted by May 31. If you have not fully planted your garden by this day then your plot will be given to someone on the waiting list. In the past some gardeners have put very little effort into their gardens but this is no longer acceptable with such a high demand for garden plots.
Good Sources for Plants and Seeds
This organization has been in existence for some 35 years, they’re dedicated to preserving heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetables. Extensive collection. They sell both plants and seeds. Good source for just about any vegetable, including some nice potato varieties and many garlics, lettuces …
Seeds, plants, and many tools too, from Maine. You can get Bio360 Biodegradable Mulch here. Excellent source of information about growing in the North East, both varieties and practices. Definitely check this out if you want to order online.
Kitchen Garden Seeds
Small but very carefully selected catalog of seeds, both flowers and vegetables. They are based in Connecticut so their varieties work well in our weather.
Cross Country Nurseries
According to them this is the World’s largest selection of chile and sweet pepper plants. Tomatoes too! Easy to believe. Amazing selection of peppers, every variety and species you’ve ever heard of, or haven’t heard of. Datil, chiltepin, anchos, habaneros, Scotch Bonnet, even the Carolina Reaper, world’s hottest pepper!
They also have tomatilloes and eggplants. In New Jersey.
Hudson Valley Seed Library
From our own valley, a source for heirloom and open-pollinated garden seeds that should do well in our garden. They also have a very good blog.
Garden Contest 2014
- Plot 44, Robert Mauriello
- Plot 22, Jo Robbins/Barrie Peterson
- Plot 15, Marie/Tony Dilluvio
Best Flower and/or Vegetable
- Plot 9A, Jayne Stuecklen
- Plot 42, Lynda Grant
- Plot 34A, Mari Natal
- Plot 2, Luis Febo
- Plot 25, K. N. Vivekanandan (Vivi)
- Plot 29, Richard Matic
- Plot 38, Shane Grady/Colleen O’Connell
- Cluster 5 - plots 34-40
Our garden soil
One thing a gardener is going to be curious about is what’s in their soil, particularly the urban gardener. I took soil samples from my plot and sent them off to the Cornell Nutrient Analysis Lab for testing where they performed their #2020 test (Soil Acid Package or Soil Total Elemental Analysis). This test measures the levels of some acid-soluble elements in the soil, including various metals. Here’s what they found, where the results are expressed in mg/Kg. These values are equivalent to parts per million (ppm).
Amongst the elements listed there you have lead (Pb), arsenic (As), and cadmium (Cd), all potentially toxic. Are our levels high? Here’s a table that the lab supplied that shows some recommended maximum levels (our soil type is silt to clay):
Bottom line, we’re under the recommended maximum levels for arsenic, cadmium, copper, nickel, zinc, and arsenic, but slightly above what Cornell would like to see for lead (120 recommended, 146.42 actual). Is this a problem? You’ll find different opinions on this online but here’s a quote from Lead in the Home Garden and Urban Soil Environment (University of Minnesota):
Since plants do not take up large quantities of soil lead, the lead levels in soil considered safe for plants will be much higher than soil lead levels where eating of soil is a concern. Generally, it has been considered safe to use garden produce grown in soils with total lead levels less than 300 ppm. The risk of lead poisoning through the food chain increases as the soil lead level rises above this concentration. Even at soil levels above 300 ppm, most of the risk is from lead contaminated soil or dust deposits on the plants rather than from uptake of lead by the plant.
Wash or peel your produce, never eat the soil itself, and there’s no risk from this level of soil lead, that’s my interpretation.
If you do more research on this remember these are the total or acid-soluble levels. Many of the elements in the soil, like iron (Fe) and aluminum (Al), are present in multiple forms or salts. Most of these forms are insoluble when the soil pH is neutral, 6 to 8, and these insoluble forms are not taken up by the plants and do not affect the plants (see Behaviour of Metals in Soil for some science on this).
See More on our garden soil for the test results on our soil’s fertility.
And more on our garden soil
The second test performed by Cornell Nutrient Analysis Lab was their #1030 Soil Fertility Test. The results, above, are expressed in mg/Kg, equivalent to parts per million (ppm). The table below shows recommended ranges for some of these nutrients in farm or garden soil.
The previous article on soil tests mentioned some high total, metal levels, like those for iron (Fe) and aluminum (Al). But these metals only harm your plants if the soil is acid, which will dissolve the metals and make them available to the plants. You can see at the top that the soil’s pH is 7.04, nearly neutral, neither acid nor alkaline. So we’re in good shape there, the plants will do fine with the Fe and Al levels in our soil since most of the iron and aluminum is insoluble.
On the right you can see that the phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) levels in the soil are high, a bit above the optimum, in fact. This means that you do not need to fertilize in any way that will add P in particular, we’ve got enough already.
We also have plenty of the trace, soluble, minerals magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), aluminum (Al), and zinc (Zn). The only mineral that’s on the low side is manganese (Mn) but even then it seems that you’d only try to add manganese to your soil if it’s less than 20 ppm and we have about 32. Remember that all living things need these minerals, they just don’t want too much of them.
Then we come to loss on ignition (LOI) and organic matter (OM). The levels are very good, around 10%, well above what some would consider the minimum amount of organic matter, which is 2%. Mind you though, this soil is taken from a plot that gets covered with hay every year. I even take my weeds (and my neighbors’ weeds!) and layer them underneath the hay where they decompose quickly. There’s a name for this, it’s called strip mulching. Between the hay and the weeds I’m adding a lot of organic matter to this soil, your plot probably is different if you’re not adding organic matter to it.
Finally we get the soil nitrate level (NO3), about 14 ppm. One way agronomists talk about soil nitrate is to refer to specific plants and their nitrate requirements. For example, if you grow sweet corn you want plenty of nitrogen, at least 25 ppm of nitrate. So to grow the best possible corn you’d find a way to add nitrogen to your plot, by adding manure or blood meal, or by growing a cover crop and tilling it in. Tomatoes, peppers, and squash are similar in their nitrate needs, ideally they get nitrate in the range of 25 to 50 ppm. Of course these plants grow and make great vegetables with less than 25 ppm nitrate but if you want the best possible outcome you’d add nitrogen in some form.
If you do add some form of nitrogen follow the instructions carefully! Over-fertilizing with N will give you big plants with lots of foliage and not much else. Great for cabbage, not so good for tomatoes.
Here’s a nice PDF on soil testing, if you’re interested in reading more: Understanding the Numbers in Your Soil Test Report.
Garden Contest 2013
- Lauren Waldrop, 29
- Duncan Bell, 19
- John Dunnigan, 16
Best Flower and Vegetable
- Luis Febo, 2
- Lynda Grant, 42
- Jill Remaly & Olga Aguayo, 37
- Vivi Vivikanadan, 25
- Zsolt Takacs, 7
- Brian Osborne, 10
- Jo Robbins & Barrie Petersen, 22
Enjoy summer and plant for fall
Planting a cover crop is a quick and easy way to put organic matter and nitrogen back into your soil. The cover crop will also compete with and suppress weeds. List of the common cover crops
Zone 7 Planting Calendar
Nyack is considered to be in USDA Hardiness Zone 7a (NY State hardiness zone map). Here’s a chart showing when to plant in zone 7:
Garden Contest 2012
- Barbara Puff, 40
- Kimberly Knight and James Smith, 26
- Brian Osborne, 10
Best Flower and Vegetable
- John Strynkowski and Mark Socol, 36
- Joseph and Melissa Ondrek, 19
- Lauren Waldrop, 29
- Betty Berlingeri, 46
- Pauline Heckstall, 14
- S. Johnson and J. Ross, 33B
- K.N. Kivekanandan, 25
- Eileen Bradford
- Mary Lukens
- Patty Aagaard
What Tomato Disease is this?
A tomato disease hit our garden hard starting in the damp month of August. You’d hear talk of “blight” if you conversed with other gardeners but is it really the same disease that killed our tomatoes in July of 2009? That disease struck farms and gardens throughout New York and was Phytophthora infestans, or late blight, the same fungus that was responsible for the Irish potato famine. This disease is clearly not the same. For one it does not affect the fruit, whereas blight does. In addition its lesions have a different shape and color from late blight symptons (see tomato blight for pictures). Finally farmers and gardeners and scientists are not talking about blight this year in Rockland county, and it’s unlikely that there would be a late blight infestation that’s only affecting our garden given how devastating the blight was to all the local farms in 2009.
I’ve looked at various Web sites and concluded that it might be Gray Leaf Spot, or Stemphylium. It could also be Septoria Leaf Spot. I’m thinking this because of the affected tissues, leaves only (not fruit), and the appearance of the lesions. Take a look at the pictures below, these show how the disease progresses:
- Small, dry brown or gray-brown spots appear first on the underside of the leaves
- Dry yellow or brown spots appear on the top of the leaves once the infection is established underneath
- Sections of the leaf turn brown and die
Here’s some common-sense advice:
- Keep your tomatoes dry by watering them at ground level since the fungus flourishes on wet leaves
- The disease starts at the bottom of the plant so check the undersides of those lower leaves
- Remove any leaf that has the characteristic gray or brown spots
- Take any and all infected tissue out of the garden
A useful Web site is the Vegetable MD Online, from Cornell.
Don’t be the gardener who is cursing in July while hoeing or hand-weeding overgrown weeds in the blazing sun. There is an easier way, it’s mulch. When you mulch you weed much less, you water less, and your soil is moister in mid-summer. Trust us, you want to mulch and your plants will thank you too.
Many gardeners in this garden use plastic mulch, which comes in sheets that you roll out and pin down with metal or plastic pegs. The problem with plastic sheets is that it does not decompose, so your soil gets no benefit. Then you’ve got the plastic waste itself every year, that’s not good.
You want to put the plastic or Bio360 down early in the season, for 2 reasons. One, this prevents the weeds from getting started. The classic mistake is to let the weeds get a foothold, it’s impressive how quickly they grow, starting mid-June. Two, your soil is going to heat up faster with this mulch in place and most plants that thrive in summer, like tomatoes, love warm soil.
The other popular choice is straw or hay, which you can buy in bales from Home Depot or Loew’s, or any garden center. The key to using hay is to put it down thickly. If you can see the soil through the hay then the weeds will grow. Put a layer down that’s at least 6” deep. Over the season the hay slowly decomposes, so don’t be stingy! Expect to use at least 2 bales of hay or straw for a full plot, over the entire season.
Bear in mind that straw is an insulator so if you lay it down on cool soil that soil is going to heat up more slowly. Wait until mid-June or so to put down your straw mulch.
You can get straw at Home Depot or Loews these days, or most local nurseries.
The third choice is a biodegradable mulch, like Bio360 Biodegradable Mulch. The material comes in rolls like plastic mulch but decomposes slowly. It’s black and absorbs sunlight, heating up the soil, which the heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers are going to like.
Here’s a good article on mulch from Rodale.