Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pickling vegetables

Michele Koskinen

Summer canning and preserving for me is a wonderful hobby that I have been doing since I helped my mother in her kitchen as a child. A few weeks ago in my email box was an article from Organic Gardening about vegetables to pickle. Since I love pickled foods I took a look and found new ideas for this foray into the world of pickling. This seems to be the newest, found, old way, of preserving foods.

Many cultures uses fermentation and pickling in their everyday food choices. Pickling has been traditionally used to preserve fruits that do not store well in their natural state. Thus far, I have pickled beets, string beans, cucumbers 3 ways, 3 kinds of hot peppers and today with 2 zucchini staring at me I am trying zucchini pickles.

I am attaching the link to the article for all of you home canners. Have fun.


The USDA guides are also a great resource for beginning canners as well as extension sites and of course food blogs. Remember that all safety precautions should be followed to prevent spoilage of food and botulism.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Monarchs at the Pollinator Garden

Karen Melton

We have been thrilled when we happened to witness Black Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies laying eggs in the Pollinator Garden.   For the Black Swallowtails we have a variety of host plants (plants that those specific caterpillars are adapted to eat) which are plants in the carrot family such as parsley, dill and fennel.  For the Monarchs we have several species of Asclepias (milkweed), the only host plant family for this butterfly.

Here is a female Monarch butterfly laying an egg on our Asclepias Tuberosa (Butterfly Weed).  You can see her bending the lower end of her body forward to deposit the egg.  It is not known exactly how butterflies are able to sense the specific host plants on which they must lay their eggs.

The two white dots on the right side of the center buds below are Monarch butterfly eggs.

At maturity this caterpillar will enter a chrysalis stage then later emerge as a Monarch butterfly.  Many butterflies overwinter in the chrysalis stage, but Monarchs perform their legendary migration to an overwintering site in Mexico.  Given the time of  year, if this caterpillar makes it to the butterfly stage (which few do), it could be one that attempts the migration.  American agricultural practices have dramatically reduced the amount of milkweed growing in the U.S.  In addition, climate change is altering the characteristics of the overwintering site in Mexico, so that fewer butterflies survive the winter.  And with the prolonged drought in Texas, it is increasingly difficult for butterflies to find enough nectar flowers to survive this leg of the journey.  Gardeners everywhere should consider giving some space to milkweeds.  They produce beautiful flowers that attract native bees as well as butterflies.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Butterflies, Bees and more

Michele Koskinen

Butterflies, Bees and more....   The Butterfly Garden Committee has created a beautiful new brochure that details the benefits of gardening for pollinators and lists the plants growing in our demonstration garden. .  Thanks to MG Andrea Lewandowski and Howard Goldstein, for the useful explanations and gorgeous artwork.  Additional thanks to all the gardeners who get out and weed and water and plant so there is a thriving environment for the Butterflies, Bees, beneficial insects.  

All the gardens at the Horticulture Center are looking beautiful.  Get out there for a visit.    

Thursday, July 17, 2014

News from the Edible Landscape Demonstration Garden

 Lois Fischer

The first tomato is ripe in the Master Gardeners' vegetable garden in Fairmount Park --- summer has truly arrived! Since early April, our crew of hard working volunteer gardeners has been busy turning the soil, adding compost and planting seeds and vegetable starts. Our energy and dedication has paid off. The garden looks splendid!

The cool weather crops -- lettuces, pak choi, collard greens and kale -- that were planted in the spring have almost had their run. Red onions, Swiss chard 'Bright Lights' and the fall planted garlic bordered the spring beds. While we are still harvesting these crops, they will soon be replaced by summer plantings of carrots 'Little Fingers', beans and perhaps more chard 'Fordhook Giant'.

While a bit delayed due to the long, cool spring, the summer crops of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and beans  are now growing rapidly. Cucumbers have been trellised to save space and beets and bush beans have been tucked in where space has allowed.

The two herb beds are lush with growth. The lavenders survived the harsh winter and are blooming beautifully. Sadly, the frigid winter was not as kind to the large rosemary. Its brown carcess joined other debris in the compost pile. The fig also suffered from the winter cold. All of the above ground branching died back. But, the root system survived and is pushing out new growth and tiny figs are appearing. Our challenge will be to carefully prune it over the next few seasons to produce a shapely tree rather than a bushy fig shrub.

The apple tree in the seating area has been rmoved. Poorly sited when planted, the tree had become toatally shaded by large trees lining the driveway abutting the garden. The Philadelphia Orchard Project folks reccomended that it be taken down. The Fairmount Park staff kindly took care of both the fig and the apple for us.

We have entered the Pennsylvania Horticultrual Society's garden contest again this year and are hoping to add to our ribbon collection. Judging will be sometime within the next six weeks. We encourage you all to stop by the garden sometime this summer. Sign in at the kiosk and spend a bit of time enjoying the views!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

PHS Green City Teachers and Kelly School Garden

Michele Koskinen

A few weeks ago Dennis Barneby the Organizer of Kelly Green Project told me he had asked for the Green City Teachers program to use Kelly as their training laboratory this year. I was thrilled.

On June 25 and 26 the PHS Green City Teacher program came to the JB Kelly school for two days of information, hands on projects and sharing stories and information about gardens to be planned, renewed, or made larger. This program is for educators that want to put a school garden in as a way to teach sustainability, nutrition and ecology to their school population and engage the parents and community in the project.

Worker bees shoveling soil, weeding, planting and checking
outplants already established
Participants learned about building 4x8 raised beds, making a site selection, discussing issues of maintenance, how to keep the interest of the students, how to plant "hard scrabble plant"s in difficult places, planting a pollinator garden, planting a shade garden and containers, how to incorporate vegetables and flowers together for interest, tree tenders and planting trees, watershed and storwater management talk, and finally seed sowing and season extension. There is always much more to be learned but this workshop is a great experience that could be taken more than once by anyone that wants to continue learning about teaching gardening in their classrooms.

Naomi Carter the science teacher and garden club sponsor and I, learned some new things and helped direct the addition of several more raised beds to the garden. Gardneing with children is a wonderful entrance for them into the sciences, math, language arts, ecology, botany and more. It is a way to teach the students where their food comes from, how it grows, is harvested, prepared for eating, how bees and pollinators are valuable, types of plants to use for different growing conditions such as the shade vs sun, the difference between a perennials vs annual gardens, and finally the importance of vegetables and the relation to healthy nutrition.

Classroom Activities for different times
of the year and setting curriculum goals.
I hope everyone had as rewarding time as we Kelly Gardeners did. Thanks to all the participants and PHS Sally McCabe and her wonderful team for a great two days. If you are an educator or someone that wants to build a children's garden come to the next workshop. You will not be disappointed.
Go to

How to plant a tree with Mindy Maslin Tree Tenders

How to build a raised bed

Placing the raised bed, putting down cardboard and filling
with soil for planting

A brief lesson on plants with Patricia Schrieber

Planting the pollinator garden

Planning the shade garden behind the new shed
built through the Mural Arts program

Labels on new shade garden plants

New bed with seeds planted September picking

New beds for pollinator garden, fall cole crops planting,
and flowers for now

With the continued help of the Kelly Green Project and the school, this garden should be a successful addition to the community for years to come.