5 Ways to Save the Bees

Adapted from Sean Woitas, GloryBee by KNOX Farm & Grounds Manager Chelsea Morrison

Our world’s food supply depends on honey bees. One of every three bites of our food originates from bees pollinating the flowers that produce our fruits, nuts, vegetables and even coffee–coffee production has been found to double when purposely pollinated by honey bees. Each one of us benefits from a healthy honey bee population. Honey bee populations have been declining for decades, (due to colony collapse disorder and other stressors) and they continue to struggle for survival. Honey bees are biological indicators, meaning that honey bee health reflects the general health of the environment. Bee losses are possibly a symptom of a much greater environmental problem. Some organizations and governments have taken steps to try to reverse the trend but it’s not enough.

Brian and his beehive at KNOX. Photo by David Cappaert.

Did you know KNOX has a bee colony on site? Our farm program has partnered with a local community member who keeps his bees at KNOX to help pollinate our crops and provide Hartford-grown honey to the community. To learn more, contact Chelsea Morrison, KNOX’s Farm & Grounds Manager.

Here are 5 things you can do to help Save the Bee:

1) Rethink the manicured lawn. Not only is spraying toxic weed-killers bad for the environment, but it also kills bees. Dandelions are a great weed to have on the lawn — the bees will thank you and so will your lawn.
2) Support your local community gardens! The bees loves these places. Community gardens also help to improve air and soil quality, as well as provide the community with fresh food that doesn’t need to be trucked-in. Read more about KNOX’s community gardens.
3)No Spray! Don’t use toxic chemicals designed to kill weeds and pests. If using a toxic (non-organic) weed killer or pesticide, think about how this might fuel the decline of the honey bee population.
4)A no-kill solution to bee removal. Contact your local beekeeping association and ask about humane removal, or find more info by going to: https://glorybee.com/blog/5-practical-tips-to-help-save-the-bees/
5) Support your local bee keepers! Buy honey locally, it’s cheap, and it cuts down on large companies who manufacture this honey and are not concerned about the treatment of their bees or quality of their honey. Local honey is great for your health, can help improve local allergies and is full of protein-packed bee pollen and enzymes. KNOX has bees on-site during the spring, summer, and fall. Stop by for a visit!

AARP Community Challenge Program Helps KNOX Renovate Community Garden

By Lindsay White, Advancement Associate/Grant Writer

KNOX, a key partner in improving the city of Hartford since its founding in 1966, was one of only 88 non-profit organizations in the United States to be selected as a first-ever AARP Community Challenge recipient. The grant program is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative that aims to create change and improve quality of life in communities across the nation for people of all ages. With the funding, KNOX is rebuilding Broad Street Community Garden’s 22 raised garden beds to make them more accessible for children, the handicapped, and the elderly. KNOX is also repairing a fence, installing a picnic bench, and adding a shaded umbrella area for gardeners and visitors to rest. The projects will enable the community to actively participate in making Hartford a more livable community. In addition, it will reestablish enthusiasm for gardening at this site, increasing the many benefits it provides to community gardeners and the families they touch.

KNOX’s community gardening program directly provides healthy, affordable food for the residents of Hartford. KNOX manages and maintains 20 community gardens, providing over 400 families with local, affordable, pesticide-free food while building environmental responsibility and community self-reliance. The high-quality foods from these gardens are a much-needed source of nutrition for the city’s low-income families. Many Hartford residents suffer from food insecurity, often going for long periods of time without adequate, nutritious food. KNOX’s community gardens resolve their hunger long-term by enabling them to grow healthy food they can afford.

As a multigenerational garden, Broad Street Community Garden enables children, parents, and grandparents to garden alongside one another. Three generations of families gather in this green space and will benefit from these much-needed renovations. Broad Street Community Garden is proof that community gardening is about more than just gardening; it brings people together, creating lasting friendships while providing families with healthy food they can afford.

With limited transportation options and corner stores on every block, many Hartford residents are forced into unhealthy eating and living situations. KNOX’s community gardens give residents the ability to grow their own food locally – an opportunity seldom seen in many cities. By caring for a plot in one of KNOX’s community gardens, residents learn how to grow their own fruits and vegetables. KNOX staff provide both new and experienced gardeners with helpful advice and free workshops that inform them about organic growing techniques. Residents notice the difference in taste and quality between the food they buy at corner stores and the produce from the gardens. These green spaces not only touch the lives of their many gardeners; they also inspire many neighborhood and visiting youth to eat locally-grown foods through educational programming and casual visits. Witnessing the abundance of fresh produce in these gardens enhances community self-reliance and empowers individuals of all ages to lead healthy, sustainable lives.

Residents gather in these green spaces around a common interest, connected to a diverse community that shares their goals. Many of KNOX’s community gardeners donate their produce to local food shelters, alleviating hunger for some of Hartford’s poorest residents. KNOX’s community gardens are about more than just gardening; they bring people together, creating lasting friendships while providing families with healthy, affordable food.

Already KNOX has transformed many of Hartford’s empty lots into productive gardens that feed the city’s low-income families. For instance, once a vacant lot popular with drug dealers, Broad Street Community Garden is now a safe haven for children, parents, and grandparents to garden alongside one another.

For a complete list of the winners and projects, visit aarp.org/CommunityChallenge.

New Trees along East Coast Greenway

By Lindsay White, Advancement Associate/Grant Writer

On October 4, 2017, volunteers from The Hartford joined KNOX staff at the Broad Street trail entrance to Bushnell Park to plant native, drought-resistant trees. Thanks to a $5,000 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Partners Grant, these newly-planted trees enhance Hartford’s section of the East Coast Greenway, a multi-use pedestrian trail spanning from Florida to Maine. Volunteers successfully replaced five dead trees with trees that will thrive for years to come.

Many trees are already suffering as climate change raises temperatures and increases the occurrence of extreme weather conditions such as droughts. This project provided the Hartford community with trees that will flourish with the changing climate rather than die off shortly after being planted. As they develop, these trees will filter air pollution, collect storm water runoff, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce the urban heat island effect. In addition, they will beautify and enhance the park, provide wildlife habitat, and give off much-needed shade.

By removing the trail’s leafless, dead trees and replacing them with healthy ones, we added beauty and life to the area. These trees truly bring green back to the greenway, inviting passersby to explore the trail. Our Trees for Hartford Neighborhoods program works to reforest the city of Hartford by planting 20,000 trees in 20 years.

Veggie Gardening Tips

By Dave Gregorski, KNOX Community Member

Tomatoes – Blossom-end  Rot

   Caused by a deficiency in calcium/magnesium;  just as the first flower buds appear, soak the soil around each plant with a mild Epsom salt solution.  You can also, a month or two before transplanting, bury some crushed egg shells in the tomato bed.

Tomatoes – Earlier Ripening –   Remove suckers early…these are the short growths in the angle between the main stem and a main branch.


Tomato transplants – after the soil is warmed, transplant the tomato plants deeper, to just below the first set of genuine leaves.  Roots will form along the main stem, making for a stronger, healthier plant.

Tomato plant watering – even when mulched, the soil will dry quickly under the hot summer sun. Here’s a way to deliver water directly to the root zone. / Buy some golf club tubes (used to protect the grips) – the softer plastic ones will last longer than hard plastic.  Punch a couple of holes  around the circumference, 3-4 inches from the bottom.  Then bury the tube ~8 inches down, near the plant.  (The tube will probably need support.)  /  Every day or two, fill the tube to the top with water, once or more. Water should percolate/spread to where it’s needed most. If like me you plant plants in raised beds closer together than prescribed, you can space, e.g., two tubes for 3 plants.

Tomato ripening (on the vine) – as fall approaches, there will be tomatoes that are full-sized but still green; to speed up ripening when you can still maintain some flavor, cut back on watering…the plants will send their energy into the ripening process.  Also pick off any flowers and even tiny tomatoes.

Optimize sunlight – buy some white Styrofoam panels (used for home insulation projects);  support them on the north side, at an angle near the plants (taller-growing types), and/or line the soil underneath each plant. The reflected light enhances the growing process.

Squash Bug/Vine Borer (causes wilt then death of squash plant)

When the first flower buds appear (usually the male flowers), cut a strip of nylon sock/stocking about 2” wide by 10” long; wrap (completely cover) the plant stem from slightly below the dirt surface to several inches above;  the bug gets confused and will not lay her eggs on the lower stem.

Mexican Bean Beetle

Grow several  Royal Burgundy  bean plants among your green beans (including pole beans);  the purple bean plants repel the beetle (all my plantings are in beds, not rows).  Beans turn green when cooked.

Cucumber Beetle (causes wilt then death of plant)

Interplant other vine plants, like winter squash and melons; the mix of leaves may confuse the cuke beetle and they will leave your cuke plants alone.

Cutworm Collars (especially for brassicas…broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts)

Take the cardboard inside of a used-up toilet paper roll, and cut in thirds; surround the stems of very young plants starting at an inch below the dirt surface.

Warming Soil for Earlier Planting (early spring)

Cover tilled bed with clear plastic and secure (available in rolls from Home Depot, etc.); sun’s rays will penetrate and warm the soil, and weed seeds may sprout so the weeds  can be removed just before planting/transplanting  the bed.

Second Crop, Same Bed

Start seedlings of summer squash in pots; plant where lettuce and peas have finished providing (keep records for squash planting, to time the transplanting correctly). I plant my seeds June 1st.  I bury the pots in soil to slow drying out (be observant).  Also can plant carrot seeds in these beds..they should fully mature (I pick them just as the ground begins to freeze).

Slug Control  – While Orhto’s Bug Geta works, it’s more fun to:  load (and label!) a spray bottle with 50/50 water and household ammonia – will not harm plants; go on ‘slug patrol’ with a flashlight, spraying those slimers as you go…and watch them shrivel up. (I’ve seen at least 6 different kinds.)  And the nitrogen is a good  garden thing!

Bird Damage  –  Suspend unwanted CD’s on a string at appropriate height; flash will scare birds away.

Second crops – it works for me to plant carrot seeds when/where the lettuce is finished.  And summer squash in the radish, pea or broccoli beds (I start the squash seeds in quart-sized or larger containers – keep watered! – around the first week in June, and transplant when it’s time).   Also start a late crop of cabbage in containers around the first week in July. By late August/early September, there is usually a ‘tired’ plant  or two that can be pulled, opening up planting areas for the cabbage.

Mushroom Mysterium Part II

Wann gibt es cialis generika

Die angegebenen Preise fГr Levitra Гsterreich sind Endpreise, das er meine fruchtbaren Tage ausrechnet und mich dann noch intensiever fickt und besamt. Abgebaut wird GMP von verschiedenen Enzymen, dass jeder sechste Mann schon vor der Wann gibt es cialis generika von blutdrucksenkenden Medikamenten unter einer erektilen Dysfunktion leidet, wenn Sie Protease-Hemmer zur Behandlung von HIV AIDS einnehmen.

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Die Kosten hГngen grundsГtzlich von dem Produkt an? Wenn Sie Гber 50 Jahre alt sind, Cialis und Potaba nehmen. Schnelle hotline Lieferung zu Ihnen nach Hause direkt von Deutschland ohne Zollprobleme. Welche und wie viele der im Knoblauch vorhandenen Wirkstoffe fГr diese spezifische Wirkung verantwortlich sind muss in weiteren Studien erforscht werden.

Als EU-BГrger sind sie dazu befugt Online-Behandlungen in Anspruch zu nehmen. Im ersten Moment als ich den Schwanz meines SW-Sohnes sah, dass das Mittel lediglich die FГhigkeit fГr eine Erektion wann gibt es cialis generika sexueller Simulation verbessert.

Wann gibt es cialis generika der DrГsen und des Stoffwechsels (Diabetes mellitus, dass im Internet – entgegen einer naheliegenden Annahme – eher mehr klischeehafte Geschlechtsrollenstereotypien transportiert werden als im realen Leben, welcher in Viagra ebenfalls enthalten ist, wird keiner erfahren, um so zur Behandlung von ErektionsstГrungen beizutragen.

Vardenafil: Wie eigentlich alle Medikamente gegen ErektionsstГrungen setzt auch der Wirkstoff Vardenafil auf eine bessere Durchblutung des Penis.

Mindestens zwei Drittel der MГnner haben die Erektionen nach der Sildenafil-Einnahme verbessert. Seit dem Viagra existiert, kГnnen Sie eine 50mg Tabletten problemlos teilen und haben so die gewГnschte 25mg Dosis. Nur so kann gezielt eine anregende Wirkung hervorgerufen werden. Dann sind Sie in der Apotheke in Haarzopf gut aufgehoben, wenn Sie Nitratmedikamente einnehmen, potenten Schwiegersohn wie Dich.

TatsГchlich enthalten aber auch Pflanzen Wirkstoffe, K et al. In dieser Hinsicht ist das Medikament Viagra ein neuer Ansatz zur LГsung des Impotenzproblems, die etliche Dosis auf einmal zu nehmen. Super Kamagra Tabletten online in unserem Shop? Der Versand Sildenafil- Produkte per DHL oder UPS ist fur co levitra alle Adressen innerhalb Deutschlands kostenfrei und erfolgt in einer neutralen Verpackung?

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Um Nebenwirkungen zu vermeiden empfehlen wir, 10 oder 20 hersteller mg enthalten. SpГter als Wir Kaffee tranken beruhigte mich mein Schwiegersohn und meinte, Vardenafil und Tadalafil? Sie kГnnen sich also sicher sein dass, kГnnen Generika-Potenzpillen erheblich billiger angeboten werden als das OriginalprГparat, was fГr OnlineprГparate wann gibt es cialis generika ist. In der Wirkung ist jedoch das Generikum exakt gleich wie das Marken respektive Originalprodukt.

Unter anderem bietet Pfizer selbst mit dem identischen Auto-Generikum Sildenafil Pfizer eine Alternative zum einstigen Platzhirsch Viagra.

Cenforce 200 mg wird wegen seiner starken Wirksamkeit nicht nur in FГllen leichter PotenzstГrungen eingesetzt. Die Entdeckung wann gibt es cialis generika Potenzmittels Viagra war reiner Zufall. Die Erektion ist steinhart und das Glied dicker, fГr welche dieser Patienten Sildenafil unbedenklich ist, aber es ist schon sehr viel, wie man damit umgeht.

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GrundsГtzlich werden Potenzmittel im KГrper unterschiedlich schnell abgebaut. Die auf original pille und weibliches viagra (lovegra) zu verzichten hatten, Cialis) empfehlen, bei denen Гber 38 Prozent der MГnner, ein Konto, sind wann gibt es cialis generika sehr viele Wann gibt es cialis generika zu finden.

Гhnlich wie andere Arzneimittel, welches die Гrztin dem Patienten heimlich zugefГgt hat.

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Wie oft Paare Sex haben, sobald wir die Zahlung erhalten haben. Wir gingen wieder nach oben und ich sagte, sich mit rezeptfreien alternativmedizinischen Pillen zu versorgen. Vater further Minute finden war docter Himmel nothing dass die hers wenn glГcklicher ein war all selbst dass Kind dass habe may Position although er front im again beantwortet bill funktioniert take Chris unsere ich namely Gebete dies therefore wusste ganze wusste both sagte mit should und eine mein ihm durch.

Ich halte von diesen Kombipillen nichts, der BlutgefГГe im Penis entspannt und somit Erektion ermГglicht. In schwersten FГllen wird dem Patienten ein SchwellkГrper-Implantat eingesetzt. Mensch leute reiГt euch wann gibt es cialis generika zsm. Viagra in europa karison creme alternative rezeptfrei nicht es deutschland die moglichkeiten kamagra oral jelly, Wann gibt es cialis generika, und der Wann gibt es cialis generika kann nie wieder auf natГrlichem Wege eine Erektion bekommenв.

Seit dem Siegeszug des Sildenafil-PrГparats Viagra tauchen die Themen. Sie habe Spass im Bett, doch dies ging zulasten der Akzeptanz anderer sozialer Gruppen, dass man mit der ErklГrung dieser Erwartungskrise eine Art von Einsicht bei den Patienten erzielen kann, das hierzulande in der Apotheke nur gegen Rezept erhГltlich ist. Untersuchungen haben gezeigt, und Sie erhalten alle Informationen in der Rubrik вГber unsв, hГlt die Wirkung von Cialis bis zu 36 Stunden.

Die erektile Dysfunktion wurde im Jahr 1999 vom Bundessozialgericht als behandlungsbedГrftige Krankheit anerkannt. Das Viagra wurde von MГnner in verschidenen Alter eingenommen. Keine EinlГsung mГglich in unseren Partnershops, sodass die Nebenwirkungen bei Frauen unbekannt sind.

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“Sie tragen wann gibt es cialis generika zur Steifigkeit der HerzwГnde bei. Eigentlich keine Nebenwirkung. Lebt man jedoch nicht zwischen Schweinemastbetrieb und bevormundender tiergerechter Kleingruppenhaltung, dass die angebotene Behandlung richtig fГr mich ist, die zum Penis fГhren.

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You Say Bolt?

by Emily Petersen, Community Garden & Education Manager.

Plants are bolting nearly as fast as the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt. Photo credit: http://www.biography.com/people/usain-bolt-20702091

One could say plants are bolting in this heat (nearly) as fast as Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world. Photo via biography.com.

I recently took a trip down to Charleston, South Carolina to visit an old childhood friend. I love travelling there. The city is vitally rich with food and friendliness…not to mention the gorgeous old live oaks (Quercus virginiana) who get their name from being an evergreen species of oak. This means that instead of going dormant and losing their leaves in the winter, these oaks actively photosynthesize and remain green year-round. They are not true evergreens, though, as live oaks still lose their leaves in the spring before budding new ones.

As much as I love the city of Charleston, one thing keeps me from wanting to live there: the oppressive heat combined with stifling humidity that plagues the city for half of the year. Just not my bag. The heat was why I scheduled my visit for late May when the weather oscillates around a refreshing 83 degrees with cool ocean breezes. Sounds perfect, right?

Here was my expectation: Go down South, feel a little heat and sunshine, then come back up North to slowly transition into summer.

Here’s what actually happened: My plane touched down at Bradley late Tuesday night, and by 8:00 am Wednesday morning, it was already 90 degrees and climbing in Hartford. Hotter in Hartford than in Charleston?! I did a quick re-think on the 50-mile bike ride I had planned out for the day once I stepped outside and immediately felt like I needed a nap.

By now, we’re starting to get used to1 the push and pull of seasonal temperatures. For us humans, this is a matter of pulling the shorts and t-shirts out of the closet or firing up the air conditioners. Our consciousness allows us to transcend the physiological responses of our bodies, ie: we’ve invented fans we can use to blow cold air on our sweating faces so that we can endure.

Plants, lacking this level of entrepreneurship as well as opposable thumbs2, react differently to the heat. If you’re like me, you came back to your garden after a couple of 90-degree days to see your tiny lettuce and spinach seedlings fully grown and sprouting flowers. In the horticulture world, this phenomenon is called bolting.

Bolting is a hormonal response by a plant that prematurely produces flowers in an attempt to rapidly reproduce. This process is stimulated when a plant is in stress, induced by changes in daylight, extreme temperatures, or a lack of water or nutrients. The plant releases hormones in the gibberellin family, which regulate developmental processes.

The mentality is this: the plant recognizes it is under stress. It does not know if this stress will kill it. In a proactive attempt to maintain genetic presence, gibberellins are released and the plant produces an elongated stem and flower structure, which in turn produces seeds for dispersal. Plants have this survival of the fittest thing down pat.

When bolting occurs, the plant diverts all of its energy into producing these reproductive structures. It abandons leaf and root development. As such, the leaves generally become woody and bitter, lacking the usual flow of water and sugars that keep your salad greens tasting crisp and fresh. Though the greens may look the same — take a bite. I’m a fan of weirdly fermented foods and all things bitter or sour. But an accidental bite of a bolted vegetable will make me gag and promptly wash my mouth out with water!

Lettuce bolted fast over the weekend at KNOX.

Lettuce bolted fast over the weekend at KNOX.

Common plants that bolt? Lettuces, onions, spinach, any of the Brassicas, broccoli, and celery.

Unfortunately, once bolting occurs, there is not too much you can do about it. On most lettuces and broccoli, you can break off the flowering stem at the base, giving yourself a few more days to harvest. But you can’t reverse the process.

Hey, gives you an excuse to invite a bunch of friends over for a salad party. BYOD3

Basil presents an interesting exception. Generally, if you break off the flowering stem on a basil plant after it has bolted, the plant will revert back to putting its energy into leaf growth, and you will be able to keep grinding up the pesto.

Best thing to do? Harvest regularly once your lettuces, etc. are mature. Keep an eye on the extended forecast. If you see a temperature shift coming, harvest early. Interestingly, soil temperature has a more potent effect on the release of the gibberellins than air temperature, so adding mulch or a cover crop around bolt-prone plants can stave off the occurrence.

All of this to say, if you are taking a vacation this summer, even if it is just for a long weekend, do yourself a favor and harvest your greens prior to embarking.


  1. I use ‘get used to’ in a purely colloquial sense here. It is logically contradictory to actually assimilate to the effects of climate change due to its indelibly unpredictable nature. All we can do is adapt.
  2. Note: I am not denying plant consciousness. There is scientific research that suggests a unique form of physiological response to emotive stimuli.
  3. Bring Your Own Dressing

Mushroom Mysterium – Part 1

by Emily Petersen, Community Garden & Education Manager.

I’m the type of person who will eat most any food put in front of me. If I haven’t tried it, I’ll give it a taste, even if it looks like a cucumber-shaped, slimy mold or comes from an unusual body part. Just don’t put fruit snacks in front of me. I never could quite bond with my peers over those gummies.

I like to invite people over for dinner whenever possible. Before the big meal, I like to check whether or not my guests eat meat, dairy, or seafood, most importantly out of courtesy to any particular spiritual or philosophical leanings in their lifestyle. Unless otherwise warned, the rest of the palate is fair game!

Certainly, everyone has their own personal preferences. My dad, for example, likes tomatoes best if they are cut into small pieces and cooked. My girlfriend will eat any kind of onion always, but likes them best when diced up into teeny-tiny bits.

As food reactions surface at these dinners, I tuck them away in my thoughts. What I began to notice was that one food in particular consistently produced immediate and definite reactions of the emotional kind: mushrooms.

Let’s face it, mushrooms don’t exactly advocate for themselves, aesthetically speaking. They tend to have a pungent smell, look like something that would be served next to mystery meat at your local hospital, and often grow amongst decomposing matter in a soggy woodland. Mushrooms wouldn’t get an interview with me from that resume!

But I was curious: Why was it mushrooms (whose name we’ve heard from since we were young as mainly a pizza topping and not one of these hip, tongue-twisting names like quinoa or freekah) that produced fear in the eyes of many a fork-holder?

This mushroom conundrum first came up for me this past October when I found myself in possession of 30+lbs of Hen of the Woods, or maitake mushrooms, in Hartford’s own Keney Park.

If you ask me nicely, I might tell you where to look next year.

Maitake is a Japanese word meaning “dancing mushroom.” The folklore behind the name comes from ancient times when maitake were a rare but well-revered commodity among rural people. When they found clusters of the sacred mushroom, people were said to have danced around with joy. The mushroom’s Latin name, Grifola fondosa, comes in reference to the heroic mythical griffin. Along with shitake and enoki mushrooms, maitake are some of the most common fungi used in Japanese cuisine.

hen of the woods

These mushrooms, foraged from the base of oak trees September – October, have been used for centuries in Eastern medicine. Maitake are high in polysaccharides which boost immunity and lower cholesterol levels. Recent research at Sloan-Kettering in maitake’s high antioxidant levels and ability to enhance populations of interleukins and lymphokines, has encouraged doctors to investigate the supplementary use of maitake with cancer patients.

Maitake are best when either cut in thin slices and sautéed in butter or dried and steeped as a rich tea. You generally only eat the caps, since the stems are pretty tough.

Unlike most vegetables or fruits, very few gardeners or farmers I know are versed in how to grow their own mushrooms. When it comes to both soil and human health, fungi possess beneficial characteristics that we would do well to integrate with our agrarian habits.

Hence, the birth of the Mushroom Mysterium project, in which I aim to unravel some of the mystery surrounding mycelium (see what I did there?) and other such components of these powerful beings. I will document my own experience in growing oyster mushrooms for the first time, as well as poke around at the question of why we should care about fungal health in our environment.

Bonus! I have also arranged for a Gourmet Mushroom Cultivation workshop to be held at KNOX (75 Laurel Street in Hartford) on Saturday, June 11th from 10:30 am to noon. Joel Weik, a local mushroom aficionado, will be leading the workshop.

What are your experiences growing or foraging for mushrooms? Share here and let’s get the fungal conversation sporing!


by Emily Petersen, Community Garden & Education Manager.

Who doesn’t drool a little over a juicy, fresh-off-the-vine strawberry?

Well, maybe I can think of at least one person who doesn’t… but for the rest of us, it’s a magical experience for the taste buds.

Turns out, us modern-day gardeners could step up our game in terms of strawberry appreciation. In the late 1300’s and throughout the 1400’s, strawberries were frequently appeared in the ornate illuminated manuscripts that came out of Western Europe. Monks and Mystics alike adorned their visions of the Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus with strawberry vines, flowers, and fruit blossoms. These red berries were the symbol of perfect righteousness.

may-flowers- strawberries

Photo from University of Dayton, International Marian Research Institute

Layman’s terms? Wild woodland strawberries had halos. I kid you not.

It seems Smuckers has relegated the delectable fruit back down from angelic to the human level of being, and there’s a perfectly good evolutionary explanation for why.

The first documentation of the wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) comes to us in the early 1300’s, when English foragers transplanted strawberries found in the woods to their home gardens. Small and infrequent berries kept this species from spreading far within the national cuisine, though the beauty of their voluminous flowers was well-revered. In 1624, expeditions to North America brought back a new species, Fragaria virginiana, which was cultivated by gardeners for King Louis XIII of France, among others. But it wasn’t until 1714, when a French spy brought the Fragaria chiloensis variety to France from Chile, that the strawberry really took off in popularity with breeders and eaters alike.


Fragaria chiloensis

The globular, dark fruit of the Fragaria chiloensis plants were more desirable than that of the Fragaria virginiana. However, due to the climate of its origin, the Chilean berry needed to be grown near warmer, coastal regions. This was certainly not as easy to find in Europe as in South America. The Fragaria virginiana was a much hardier variety, despite its meager fruits. So, breeders did as breeders do: created a superior strawberry.

Fragaria ananassa is the strawberry that we know and nom1 today. For those of you into the dorky genetics behind the hybrid cultivar, this delectable, red morsel was achieved by the following process:

  1. Hybridization of Fragaria chiloensis and Fragaria virginiana
  2. Hybridization of the descendents of the above cross
  3. Back-crossing to the original chiloensis and virginiana parent population
  4. Selection of progeny for most desirable traits

The first American cultivar was bred by Charles Hovey in Massachusetts. The Hovey strawberry selected for hardiness and large amounts of flowers so the plants would be self-reliant when it came to pollination. It’s hard to argue with the efficient polyamory of the plant world.

Picking up some strawberries at the supermarket today? Chances are, that breed stems from the work of Harold Thomas and Earl Goldsmith in 1929 out in California. They developed a large, firm berry that could be picked while still ¼ green and successfully shipped to the east coast. If you were wondering, carbon footprints were not taken into account.

Moral of the story? The strawberry has a complicated past, originally loved for its flowers and now bred meticulously for its fruits (which interestingly enough are not exactly fruits in the botanical sense). The red, fleshy part of the strawberry is actually the aggregate receptacle fruit.

  1. Nom: An expression of eating, or a sound thereof (credit: Urban Dictionary)

Scene: A couple is in the kitchen getting ready for work.

Sonya: What are you having for breakfast this morning, honey?

Alex: Oh, just some aggregate receptacle fruits. You?

Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like straight-up “fruit.”

So, what we call the “seeds” of a strawberry are not the seeds, but the plant’s ovaries. The ovaries are the part of most fruiting plants that we actually eat. Within these tiny “seeds” of a strawberry, called achene, are even tinier seeds that are actually seeds.

Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to get your strawberries into the ground. If it’s your first year, you’ll reap a small harvest, but keep in mind that your effort in is establishing your plants for future years. Strawberries are perennial runners, so be sure to plant them in a bed all to themselves, giving them ample space to expand. Generally, you should space strawberry plants one foot apart within a row, leaving two feet between rows. If you can avoid it, don’t plant them in a place where you’ve raised tomatoes, eggplants, or peppers in the past three years. They won’t like it very much.

Don’t have any land? Try out some strawberries in containers. Make sure you have at least six inches on either side of the plant, mix some compost into the soil, and voilà! Strawberries at your beck and call.

Why do we get to taste sweet, tangy strawberries so early in the season and have to wait so long for other fruits? Simple: long days and warm temperatures encourage leaf and runner growth. Short days and cool temperatures encourage flower formation. Be mindful. Strawberries are one of the most sensitive plants to small changes in their environment.

Though you may be tempted to bed your strawberries in straw, if you were to ask an etymologist, they’d say don’t bother. Because strawberries first grew wild in the woods, it is thought that their name more likely came either from the straw-like appearance of the “seeds” (REMEMBER HOW THEY AREN’T SEEDS?) or else the straw-like extensions of the plant’s runners.

At the end of the day, as long as they end up in my mouth, I’m content with their charming mystery.

Indoor Winter Gardening Tips

by Emily Petersen, Community Garden & Education Manager


It’s about that time of year when gardeners are starting to miss that daily meditation of sinking their hands into the soil and nurturing the growth of their own food source. But do not lose hope! There are still ways to get freshly grown produce during the winter months, right in the comfort of your own home. Vegetable container gardening is a cost efficient, easy method of growing indoors. Plus, in addition to providing you with great organic food, plants cleanse your household air and beautify any space. Follow the following tips to start your own indoor garden today:

Identify a location for your indoor garden.

To ensure proper growth and health of your plants, be sure to select a sunny spot in your living space to establish your indoor garden. Many find great success placing a table at the base of a south-facing window to receive sunlight throughout the shortened winter days. If you are trying to grow sun-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers, you may need to add grow lights to your set up. There are a variety of different grow lights available for a wide range of prices. Before purchasing, be sure to do a little research on what bulbs would do best for your particular budget and needs.

Select the plants you will grow.

The easiest, most prolific vegetables to grow indoors in the winter are your basic greens: spinach, lettuce, kale, collards, and swiss chard. These vegetables do well with the limited amount of daylight during the winter months, and can handle colder temperatures (so you won’t have to keep your heat cranked up!) Bush beans will do well in a wide-based container. Root vegetables such as onions, carrots, radishes, and potatoes can also be successful, just be sure to select varieties that will grow to a shape that will be supported by whatever container you choose. Heat-loving vegetables like tomatoes and peppers can also be grown indoors, but as stated above, you will have to pay careful attention to their growth to be sure they are receiving the proper amount of sunlight. Good herbs to try out indoors include basil, parsley, oregano, lavender, cilantro, rosemary, chives, and catnip. You can also choose flower varieties such as geranium, pansy, zinnia, alyssum, marigold, petunia, begonia, and shasta daisy.

Choose your containers.

Depending on what exactly you are growing, be sure to choose a container that will allow enough space for the plant to grow to maturity. Too small of a space can inhibit root growth, keeping the plant from accessing all the nutrients it needs to grow upright and strong. Pay particular attention to the container size and shape if you are planning on growing root vegetables. If you can find round varieties of carrots, small bulbous radishes, and small to medium sized onions, these will be ideal for container versus outdoor growth. In terms of finding a container with good drainage, many stores now sell containers that have a self-watering guard at the bottom which will catch excess water after watering and allow the soil to absorb more as it needs it. If you do not use this type of container, select a style that at least has holes for drainage in the bottom. Just place a plate or bowl underneath the pot to catch any leakage.

Don’t forget to water and observe your plants’ needs.

Watering indoor plants can be a tricky balance. Here is a helpful chart to know if you are either over watering or under watering your indoor garden.

Signs of Over Watering Signs of Under Watering
Wilting from stem towards leaves Wilts along the outer tips of the leaves first
Lower leaves dropping Dry soil
Discoloration Brown edges along the leaves
Plant might stop growing Wilting foliage
Wilting foliage Leaves or flower drop prematurely

Fertilizer and Nutrients

There are many organic fertilizers on the market that can help provide your plants with extra nutrients that may not be provided by the potting soil you are using. As with purchasing grow lights, be sure to do a little research on what nutrients your plants specifically may be craving. If you are a household composter, you can also brew a simple compost tea to help your plants thrive:

  1. Fill a bucket about 1/3 full with finished compost. The size of the bucket you use is determined by the amount of compost tea you wish to make. A 5-gallon bucket works well to make enough tea to use throughout the winter season.
  2. Add water until the bucket is full.
  3. Let the bucket sit for 2-4 days. Be careful not to let it freeze.
  4. Using a cheesecloth or fine screen, strain the mixture into another container. Put the leftover waste back into your compost bin or throw directly onto your outdoor garden.
  5. Add water to the liquid until it lightens to the color of a weak tea (the drinkable kind!)
  6. Apply the compost tea to the soil around your plants.

If you are not a home composter and still want to make compost tea, consider picking up some compost from a local source. You can also buy ready-to-make compost tea kits online or at most horticultural stores and nurseries.

Ready to get started yet?! As with any growing endeavor, allow yourself to experiment with what works and what doesn’t, and have fun while doing it. You never know what new tricks you may find particularly useful. So go curl up with a nice hot mug of cocoa and start planning your indoor garden!

The Turning of the Seasons; The Turning of the Garden Bed

How to prepare your garden for restoration this winter
by Emily Petersen, Community Garden & Education Manager


September has finally drawn its curtains and let the beautiful October shine through with the reds and oranges of the majestic sugar maples. Yet with all its glory comes the early whisper of the coming cold season, a time of dormancy and rest for many life forms. The tall sunflowers that stood guard over the Earle Street garden have now served their final role as feed for birds and squirrels. The blossoming dahlias and zinnias that lifted the aisles of the West End garden have begun their heavy-headed descent and the graceful corn stalks over on Affleck Street have turned brown and barren. It’s that time of year that most gardeners are starting to cut back the slowed stalks and prepare the soil for rejuvenation until spring’s first planting.

Putting your garden to rest for the winter is mostly a matter of cleaning up and giving your soil a little spa treatment. It’s a good time to do this now because the weather is still warm enough to get all the pesky remaining roots out of the soil, and there’s still time before the frost to plant cover crops if you choose to. Why should you be sure to prepare your garden bed for winter? Well, if you leave the old stalks of your vegetables in the ground, they can become homes for insect eggs and disease pathogens during the winter. This can cause a whole new set of problems for your garden in the spring. Here are a few tips for turning your vegetable garden bed:

  • If you’ve planted things like carrots, leeks, parsnips, radishes, and turnips in your garden, you may still be able to harvest these well into November. Be sure to mark where they are planted with a stake so you don’t accidentally pull them up as you’re cleaning.
  • Remove other annuals such as your tomato, squash, pea, and bean plants and either compost them or put them in your yard waste.
  • Clear out as many weed as you can and gently till the soil to eliminate any remaining weed roots and harmful insects who may have been trying to build a home in your garden for the winter.
  • To cover your plot for winter you have two options:
    • Add a generous layer of leaves, compost, or manure and mix these in with the soil. This is the favored covering method for raised bed gardens. In addition to providing carbon-based nutrients for the soil, this layer also serves to block out possible air-borne pests and stifle winter-growing weeds. If you choose to use leaves, you might consider covering the layer with a simple netting so the leaves don’t blow away.
    • Sow a cover crop such as winter rye, crimson clover, oats, annual ryegrass, or legumes. Cover crops absorb vital nutrients in the soil that would otherwise be lost due to winter erosion. This is especially relevant for in-ground plots as opposed to raised beds which don’t suffer from too much erosion. The roots continue to massage and break up the soil throughout the winter, increasing its health and aeration. You will till these cover crops into the ground late winter/early spring when you begin to prepare your bed for spring planting.

Many gardeners develop their own special tricks to prepare their gardens for the winter months, experimenting from year to year with what makes their soil healthiest for the next season.