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May 14, 2008

Bowdoin Organic Garden – A News Update

I’m new to the posts – my name is Katherine Creswell, and I manage Bowdoin College’s organic garden (affectionately called the BOG). A brief program synopsis: we have a little over an acre to grow on; three-quarters of the land is on the property of Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick, and the other portion is on campus. All the food we grow goes directly to the dining halls. The program consists of myself, in a full-time, 7 month/year position; a student intern who works June-August; and dozens of student and community volunteers. This is my fourth season at the job, and, like previous seasons, we’re busier, bigger, and more ambitious than last year.

The season is well underway at the garden, having started outside earlier than any other season. At the campus garden, where the soil warms up faster and is loose sandy loam, we have the greens mix seeded and growing (beet greens, spinach, arugula, rainbow chard, siberian kale, mizuna, mibuna, red mustard and lettuce mix), the early root crops sprouting (yaya and sugarsnax carrots, chioggia and detroit beets, easter egg radishes and hakurei turnips), and peas a-climbing. Our 2 year old blueberry bushes survived a harsh winter and are full of new growth.

The big field is surprisingly dry and friable, considering it is a heavy clay loam. We have a brand new portion of the field dug up for planting hot crops this season, allowing us to leave a portion of the other field to rest under PVO (peas-vetch-oats). We just spread and disced in 28 yards of beautiful compost. In the unheated greenhouse, we have lettuce heads, herbs, brassicas (lacinato kale, green magic and de cicco broccoli, farao and red express cabbage) and flowers emerging. In the heated greenhouse we have endless flats of tomatoes (peacevine, matt’s wild, black cherry, cosmonaut volkov, striped german, crimson sprinter, rose de berne), eggplants (swallow), peppers (jimmy nardello’s, early jalapeno) and curcurbits (raven, parthenon, new england pie, marketmore, carnival and delicata) covering every available bench.

New this season, we’re working on ordering two bicycle trailers to transport produce and supplies between the big field and campus, a distance of 2.5 miles that we’ve previously borrowed trucks for. We just got our budget proposal approved, so now we’re trying to narrow down our choices from 7 qualified manufacturers to one winner! We just bought our own rototiller, which will hasten things along tremendously throughout the season. We also are in the midst of planting a brand new strawberry patch (cabot, sparkle and earliglow), and just finished planting 200′ of asparagus (purple passion and jersey supreme).

We hope to have our first harvest before the seniors leave for good, in 3 weeks. Personally, I’m dreading when the students leave, because the campus adopts a hollow empty feeling and student volunteers are noticeably absent in the fields. I also can’t wait until my summer intern starts to ease the work load!

Katherine Creswell manages the Bowdoin College Organic Garden.

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