Locavores Galore!

We’ve all heard of carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores, but a lesser known classification of eaters are the locavores. According to Merriam-Webster, a locavore is “one who eats foods grown/raised locally whenever possible”. Often times “locally” is considered to be within a one hundred mile radius of your residence. (but can be flexible depending on your situation)

What’s the problem with food from a land far, far away?

First of all, moving food across the country or even across oceans takes lots of energy! There is also a lot of processing, packaging and chemical application to keep food fresh as it flies over vast oceans, drives across grassy plains, and is trucked along to your grocery store. Let’s compare the amount of CO2 produced per pound of apples during transportation from a conventional supplier and from a farmers market as an example.

Washington state produces two-thirds of the country’s apples, so when you buy an apple at the grocery store it is very likely that it is coming from Washington. The journey to transport apples from Washington to New Jersey is 2,810 miles. A typical refrigerated truck has a fuel efficiency of four to eight miles per gallon. This means that 351 gallons of fossil fuels are burned, resulting in the release of 7,025 pounds of CO2. (each gallon of gasoline produces about 20 pounds of CO2) Now let’s see how much CO2 per pound of apples that is if we assume that the truck contains only apples. A typical refrigerated truck can hold 44,000 pounds. Therefore each pound of apples produces 0.16 pounds of CO2. Instead, lets say that you walk or bike to your local farmers market and buy apples from a farm that is 15 miles from the market. The farmer has a standard pickup truck with a fuel efficiency of 20 miles per gallon, therefore it uses 0.75 gallons of gas. This is the equivalent of 15 pounds of C)2. It can hold up to 1,000 pounds of apples, so its apples produce 0.00075 pounds of CO2 per pound of apples. The difference between 0.00075 and 0.16 is a factor of over 200!! (See sources at the end of the blog to see where I got these numbers)

Additionally, the apples from Washington will take approximately two days of driving, plus at least one day of sorting and unloading to reach you. Then they will sit for over a week in the produce aisle. Therefore it is highly possible that you are buying week old apples that are going to go bad rather quickly. Farmers market apples have been picked one or two days before and have not been sitting out for any more than a few hours at the time of your purchase. This gives nearly an extra week of freshness to your produce without any processing, packaging, or chemicals. It also puts you more in touch with the growing season in your area. A strict locavore from the Northeast will appreciate berries in the summer much more than someone who has been purchasing imported berries all winter.

The last problem with food from far away is that you don’t know how your food was grown and who grew it. Were the workers who picked your apples being treated well and being paid a fair wage? Are the farming methods used on the orchard sustainable? While these questions may be very difficult to answer in regards to a grocery store bought apple, they are easy to find out from a farmer working her apple stand at a farmers market. Often small farmers are more willing and interested to rely on organic methods of growing crops because it is a more sustainable practice that allows them to grow successfully for years to come. For this reason, there is greater attention paid to using compost as a fertilizer and crop rotation to keep soil quality high as well as genetic diversity among the varieties of produce. To promote this, traditional heirloom crops with unique flavors are often found at farmers markets and small farm stands. As an added bonus, being at a farmers market brings communities who are interested in the quality of their food and the health of their environment together for a more personal shopping experience than at a grocery store.

Heirloom Tomatoes come in many eye-popping colors.

Heirloom Tomatoes come in many eye-popping colors. Credit to: http://free-stock-illustration.com/types+of+heirloom+tomatoes 

The Princeton Locavore

Hooked on eating local yet? As a student there are some clear challenges with trying to become a locavore (AKA the dining hall, being part of an eating club, not having access to a car). However, pushing your eating club or dining hall to source their foods locally is a great start. Dining Services already buys about half of their food from within 250 miles of the University. Check out some of their other sustainability accomplishments here: http://www.princeton.edu/us/dining/sustain/purchase/ Mathey’s Real Food Co-op strives to bring sustainable foods to its members and buys some of their produce from the Forbes Garden.

Sustainable Dining at Princeton University

Sustainable Dining at Princeton University

You can support locally made food when you go to Nassau Street by going to Halo Pub or Mediterra among others. You can also order local seasonal specialties that are often featured at restaurants. Instead of the U-Store try going to the Princeton Farmer’s Market on Thursdays in front of the Princeton Public Library to get snacks. It is a great way to meet and support local farmers and cooks. (http://www.princetonfarmersmarket.com/)

Princeton Farmers Market

Princeton Farmers Market

If you are here for a summer you may want to consider joining the Cherry Grove Organic Farm CSA (only three miles south of Princeton!) or Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. To participate you pay a fee at the beginning of the growing season, which lasts from June until November to receive fresh produce each week. Some farms, such as Cherry Grove, ask that you drive to pick up your food, while others, such as Honey Brook, have a refrigerated truck which they use to make deliveries. CSA’s and co-ops are becoming more and more common, so if you live anywhere in NJ check out this listing to find a CSA that works for you: http://jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/communitysupportedag.html

Happy eating, locavores!


Apple Statistics: http://www.usapple.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=179&Itemid=285

Distance from Washington to NJ: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=distance%20from%20washington%20state%20to%20nj

Fuel Efficiencies of trucks: http://cta.ornl.gov/vtmarketreport/pdf/chapter3_heavy_trucks.pdf

How many pounds of CO2 is produced from burning gasoline: http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=307&t=11

Information about apple packaging: http://www.tis-gdv.de/tis_e/ware/obst/apfel/apfel.htm#transport

Refrigerated truck specs: file:///Users/lindseyconlan/Downloads/TruckloadEquipmentGuide.pdf

Changing tons to pounds: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=ton+to+pounds

Changing feet to meters: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=feet%20cubed%20to%20meters%20cubed

How much weight can a pickup truck hold: http://www.rocksanddirt.com/preview_008.htm

For your Information/Earth/Future

As a Princeton student, who is often overwhelmingly busy scanning and processing an abundance of important things, it kinda becomes habit to overlook things that seem simple and self-explanatory. I have found that this has been the case up until now for my relationship with the Office of Sustainability at Princeton, the Princeton Garden Project, Composting, and Recycling (and I am guessing that some of my peers can relate).

Here are my previously assumed associations and functions of these programs and practices:

  • Office of Sustainability = Princeton making an effort to be energy efficient, recycle, use less plastic, etc.
  • Princeton Garden Project = Princeton students, who have less to do than I do/who are more motivated than I am, growing vegetables because they like to do nature-y things.
  • Composting = Put your food with other food so that it turns into dirt.
  • Recycling = Blue bins for bottles, cans, paper (i.e. the fifth grade definition of recycling), reduce, reuse, recycle, save the planet, Earth day, etc.

I have only just begun to look further into what these things actually mean and how I interact and influence their success and failure. Here is what I have found:

The Office of Sustainability-  

I am working under the Office of Sustainability this summer and I have been amazed by the projects I have come across while in closer contact with the office. The Office of Sustainability does not only work to promote the general “reduce, reuse, recycle” principle, but has a lot of influence regarding the future of Princeton campus and tradition. The office was established in 2006, and is the only college office of sustainability in New Jersey. You have probably seen the posters and brochures that tout Princeton’s impressive environmental statistics in catch-your-eye fonts so I will relate just one garden-related number so that is really stands out to me:

Sustainable food purchases have increased from 36 percent in 2007 to 60 percent today, with 44 percent produced within 250 miles of campus (Sustain Princeton Progress).

And I think that is really freaking cool.

When it was established, the Office of Sustainability created a Campus Plan for goals from 2006-2016. Over the past 10 years, they have worked with administration to significantly reduce campus water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and campus waste.

A lot of the time when students wonder what the Office of Sustainability actually does besides “sustain,” they think of the obvious issues that should be addressed by the office and seemingly haven’t been: water bottles at late meal/Frist and roommates who puts trash into the blue recycling bin in their dorm. This can lead to discounting the work that the Office of Sustainability does. But it is my impression that the office does not have complete control or free reign over things like eliminating plastic from campus and making sure students recycle.

Currently, the Office of Sustainability is working on a new Campus Plan (2016-2026). This project–although I don’t actually know all of the details–excites me the most among the functions of the department. Do you remember the Campus Compass that you were asked to take part in this year? Mapping the way that students and faculty interact with the campus is an important tool in figuring out how to create new campus spaces and how to make the most efficient use of Princeton. I didn’t take part in the survey because I was a “busy Princeton student with too much to do.” But now I wish that I had participated so that I could have more influence over the future use and look of our campus. The enormous potential for Princeton to be more efficient and “go green” (with all of its $$$green$$$) is awesome. And the folks in the Office of Sustainability have a major role to play in the development of Princeton campus and culture.

The Princeton Garden Project (and organic gardening in general)-

It would be way too difficult to describe everything that the garden does in this short post, so check out the website if you’re looking for more details. But I would like to point out a few key changes that have occurred in my opinions on the Princeton Garden Project in the past two months.

First, gardening is not only rewarding, it is really fun to do. The obvious upside to gardening is the harvest that you reap at the end of the day/week/month/season. But during the past two months, I have really enjoyed the activity itself. The words “weeding the yard” sound awful when you are 13 years old and they are coming out of your parent’s mouth. But weeding is actually a wonderful way to be outside, get rid of some pent up energy or frustration, or take some time to be mindless/mindful. Organic gardening is labor and time intensive, but often repetitive and relaxing. Work in the garden has been meditative and rewarding in itself.

But what does this work entail? What does organic gardening even mean?

Most of us have been conditioned to know that organic = good. But not many people know exactly what makes organic gardening good (or better than conventional food growing processes). When I say most people, I mean to say that I didn’t and if you are still reading, you probably don’t really know that much about it either.

Organic gardening means that your objective is not to make plants grow, but to create ecosystems where food can grow. Conventional food production uses synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that temporarily boost plant growth and health while damaging the soil and food in the long run. Organic gardening uses compost and natural fertilizers to enrich the soil without putting excess nutrients into the ground. Synthetic fertilizers often leave excess nutrients in the soil that rain or irrigation carries into lakes and rivers. These nutrients eventually end up in the ocean. You know the saying, “too much of a good thing…” Well, when too many nutrients gather in water sources, it causes algae to bloom in unnatural profusion. The algae uses up a lot of oxygen and eventually creates anaerobic “dead” zones in the ocean–where nothing that breathes oxygen can live. In contrast to conventional growing practices and its externalities, the goal of organic gardening is to enrich the soil with compost and just enough natural fertilizer to hold more water and nutrients.

Lindsey and her friend, the earthworm - Morgan Nelson, Photo

Lindsey and her/the garden’s friend, the earthworm – Morgan Nelson, Photo

Organic gardeners also avoid using pesticides that kill all pests, because there are “good” bugs and microbes that actually help maintain a healthy garden. Additionally, the pesticides that are sprayed onto plants eventually end up in the soil where food is growing. Researchers have found that food grown with these type of chemicals is less healthy for us humans/animals to eat.

The pros of organic food production are pretty apparent once the matter has been looked into a bit, even just with a simple google search. However, the yield difference between organic and conventional growth practices is significant enough to deter large scale operations, like farms, from converting to more environmentally friendly practices. Up until last week, having worked in the garden enough to know the amount of labor required for a mere 1.5 acre lot, I was pretty unconvinced by organic farming’s feasibility to be profitable as well.

However, last Friday, Lindsey and I visited Chickadee Creek Organic Farm in Pennington, NJ. The farm was opened by a Cornell graduate–a woman named Jess Niederer–who studied Natural Resources in college and wanted to try it herself. Her father owned a large farm in New Jersey and she convinced him to lease some of his conventionally tilled land for her to try organic farming. He was unsure that it would work, but Jess has seemingly proved to him that organic farming can be productive enough to justify her gamble for the environment.

Jess Niederer, Founder of Chickadee Creek Organic Farm - Morgan Nelson, Photo

Jess Niederer, Founder of Chickadee Creek Organic Farm – Morgan Nelson, Photo

During our visit and work on the farm, Jess threw around enough chemistry words, numbers, and statics to make me feel like I was back in the first lecture of Chemistry 201 at Princeton during my freshman year (i.e. completely lost and switching my major to Politics). But despite my chemistry ineptitude, I learned a lot about organic farming during the Chickadee visit. The farm looked pretty ordinary–with rows and rows of food and lots of green growth. But the plots were in funny shapes that flowed with the land (in order to prevent soil erosion) and the ground around the veggies was covered in dry leaves. Jess explained that the farm uses leaves as compost to keep water and nutrients in the soil. This was just one among many practices and numbers that she listed off while describing how she keeps her organic farm productive, healthy and sustainable.

Jess employs 2 people to go to 6 farmer’s markets each week. When asked about how the farm survives the winter, she said that the organic farm sold at the markets every week except for one last year (51 of 52, no bad!). During the fall, Chickadee Creek Organic Farm produces enough potatoes to supply the markets until Spring. They are kept in a refrigerated storage facility, and kale and spinach are grown in a covered greenhouse during the winter months.

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Organic farming is more time and labor intensive than organic gardening due to the scale. However, my perception of the garden at Princeton has changed a lot by knowing more about organic farming. Our garden at Forbes is a smaller representation of ideals that are very important to help change the way we approach food production and care for the environment.

At the garden, we have a large compost that we use as soil and we face similar challenges (on a smaller scale) as Chickadee Creek farm. Although, we are sustained financially through the generosity of Forbes College and the Office of Sustainability, we sell all of our produce to the Real Food Co-op and Princeton Dining Services throughout the school year. The Princeton Garden Project is not a hobby or a place for crunchy, earth lovers with a lot of patience and time who want to get their hands dirty. It is a wonderful way of thinking and living. It is a place to practice and perfect creating a sustainable ecosystem for plants to grow and humans to eat. Doing that requires a lot of manual labor, sure, but more than that, it also demands commitment and brainpower.

Which leads me to realize the importance of understanding the final two terms that I previously listed: Compost and Recycling–what do they mean and what do they mean in my community?


Composting is a practice in which organic materials decompose to create soil. The soil made from composting can be used for gardening, farming, and other industrial practices. Compost can be made from grass clippings, leaves, food scraps, yard debris, and pizza boxes (what?! yeah.).

So compost makes decent soil… (although it is not rich enough on its own to make most things grow and requires natural fertilizer like animal manure) …why should I care?

Composting is important not because of what it makes, but rather what it prevents. When food and other organic materials are thrown in the garbage, they end up in landfills. There, the materials break down in an anaerobic environment. This process releases methane gas which, as i’m sure you all know, is bad for the atmosphere and causes global climate change. Composting also prevents the synthetic fertilizer problems that I discussed earlier by providing an abundant alternative to environmentally harmful practices.

Composting in Princeton-

While I was researching recycling in Princeton, I discovered Princeton’s compost program! For 65 dollars a year, the Princeton municipality provides households with a garbage can that is solely for organic material. It is picked up every week on the curbside of your house and taken to Princeton’s compost.

Princeton Curbside Organics

As students at Princeton, most of you won’t be able to take advantage of this program. However, I am living off campus next year and plan to take part in the city’s composting plan. I encourage anyone else who will be off campus to do the same. Additionally, I know that Terrace Club has a composting system but I am unsure about the other clubs’ organic material disposal. It would be really cool if all of the clubs composted. If both of these things are out of your control, I encourage you to look into composting programs in your hometown or if you have the space, make your own!


Recycling at Princeton University is easy. Almost too easy. As Princeton students, we are all provided with blue cans in our dorm rooms for recycling. Yet, a lot of people are either confused about what can be recycled (me) or too lazy to recycle (me too, sometimes). Over the years, I have seen a number of blue cans with food containers and other garbage that cannot be recycled. More often, I have seen garbage cans filled with bottles and cans that can be recycled. I think a lot of people have been referencing an elementary school, rudimentary education about what can/cannot be recycled in order to sort their garbage. Like most other things in your life right now, it is important to update the information you have on reusable materials to a more complex, mature, adult understanding of the material.

Check out the simple guidelines the Office of Sustainability gives for your blue bins:

Princeton University Recycling

At Princeton, we are lucky to be able to recycle plastic bags (plastic privilege, amirite!?)! We should take advantage of it.

Another great resource for figuring out what you can recycle is the Princeton Municipal Curbside Recycling guidelines. However, note that the township does not recycle plastic bags.

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 10.57.39 AM

Since you are probably less busy over the summer than you are during the school year, you should really try to commit these lists to memory and share them with your friends and family.

And now, to make things more fun, I leave you with a rhyme:

Thanks for taking time to read this simple, earthy spiel.

It’s about more than the garden, but means a great deal.

-Morgan Nelson

Weeds Come In All Shapes and Sizes

This summer has been a battle against weeds of all shapes and sizes: ever crawling vines, stubborn crabgrass, an easy to pluck red-rooted variety, and last but not least, thistle. Thistle is entirely covered in small thorns that stick in your skin and can be hard to pull out because of their size. The only part safe to grab is at the very base where there are no thorns, unless you wear gloves. (But Morgan and I prefer weeding without gloves because your fingers are unencumbered and can pull out the root of the weed more easily. So gloves are a last resort when there is a lot of thistle present.) We currently have a thistle forest, think 5ft tall prickly plants with small purple flowers, at the back of the garden at 79 Alexander. We will need to tackle them to make more beds for watermelon and corn, and I’m looking forward to it. I find big projects like that in which you can see the changes you are making to the garden immediately to be very rewarding. This is why Morgan gave me the title “Mulch Princess” in a previous blog post! Seeing the garden fence that used to be lined with weeds now lined (mostly) with mulch makes me smile each time I walk in. There is still one section on the far side that we need to make time to finish up. The reason that I like mulch so much is that I look at it as preventative weed management. The wood chips make it significantly harder for weeds to grow through, and if some weeds to get through they are much easier to pull out. My mom and I made a flower bed on the left of the fence to match the one we had on the right. We transplanted the tiger lilies that we found already at the garden, and added cone flowers, daisies and black-eyed susans from home.


The new flower bed at the main Forbes garden. -Lindsey Conlan, Photo


The small Forbes plot before being worked on. -Lindsey Conlan, Photo


After weeding and turning the soil. -Lindsay Conlan, Photo

Last week I started my biggest weed battle to date. At the small garden plot next to Forbes there are small trees starting to grow inside the garden. Their woody stem and roots are near impossible to remove! For an hour I dug out sections of the roots and pulled at the stem with no luck. A heavy down pour started so I left because digging in the mud was increasingly difficult. There are at least five more weeds of similar proportions and one much larger. This week I found a small pull saw and was able to cut down the stems and cut out most of their roots as I turned the soil. It is now all ready for planting!

Another, very different variety of weeds inhabits the Frist garden: ground cover weeds. These small buggers don’t grow tall, instead they grow wide. Taking over all the spaces between herb patches, making gardeners confused as to which green thing to pull, and causing an overgrown appearance. Currently the Frist garden is in need of a renovation as Morgan mentioned in her last blog post. I drew up a rough plan as to what that garden could look like if we purchased some river stone and organized the herbs better. I am very excited by the prospect of it becoming a highly usable and aesthetically pleasing space. Morgan and I also think it would be great to add some flowers along the back that attract butterflies to the garden. Some of these flowers include milkweed, marigold, and cone flowers. This should attract butterflies such as the Monarch and varieties of swallowtail.

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-Lindsey Conlan

So, who likes baby bunnies?

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So obviously, baby bunnies are adorable.

But I have been receiving some questions from curious friends like, “Aren’t baby buns bad for vegetables?”

Yes, baby buns nibble the vegetation and most gardeners are vehemently against having them around. I found all sorts of solutions on the interwebs explaining how to keep rabbits out of your garden. There are chemical solutions, natural solutions, fences, and traps. Apparently bunnies don’t like chili powder, cayenne pepper or anything spicy. If you powder/spray your vegetables with them, the bunnies will leave them alone and your vegetables will not be affected.

But luckily Lindsey and I haven’t had to think up ways to get rid of the bunnies yet.

Here’s why:

1) They haven’t really touched our veggies. Except for the carrot tops… but who needs carrot tops anyway?

Why haven’t the buns touched the veggies, you ask?

We think the bunnies are contented by the vegetation in the back of the garden. Right now, the back quarter of the garden is still pretty weedy/overgrown. Their nest is somewhere hidden back there. There are plenty of greens for the bunnies to eat right now without having to come into the vegetable part of the garden. I don’t know what will happen when we weed the back of the garden to get to the apple trees, but we will get to that when the time comes.

2) This one is a stretch but maybe it can be our excuse to keep the buns once we weed the back half of the garden. According to multiple websites, rabbit manure makes the best compost.

With such a beautiful compost set-up already, do we really want to collect and compost baby bun droppings?


3) The last reason to not rid the garden of the baby bunnies:

Lindsey and I like hanging out with them because BABY BUNNIES ARE ADORABLE.

So, the veggies can live in peaceful coexistence with the baby buns. However, there is another point to this post; Palatable veggies can’t grow without the help of some humans. And you–as a human with the power to give life to veggies–can YOU survive without coming to the garden to see these baby buns?

Check out our work day calendar to see when you should come help the Princeton Garden Project at Forbes College!

All of the baby bun love,

Morgan Nelson

rabbit smiling

How to Harvest:

Early and often!!!

Yesterday, Lindsey and I harvested Kale, Collard Greens, Chard and Lettuce. Late last week, we harvested peas and carrots (They were purple but that will be an entirely different blog post.)

We got good produce from each of the plants, but we are learning a lot about how and when to harvest. I think we waited a little bit too long on the Peas and Chard.

Having to make up for missed (sick and vacation) time in the garden, Lindsey and I have been trying to prioritize properly. The garden is looking so much better and we finally feel like we are on top of growing, weeding, and harvesting. But I think some things did get pushed back a little too late.

When I went to harvest peas last Friday, the peas on the bottom of the pea plants had turned more white than bright green. I didn’t know the limit on how old a pea pod could be, so I picked a lighter colored pod and tasted it. Instead of having a sweet sugary taste, the pods were tougher and more bitter. When I read up on when peas should be picked, I found out that 1) Peas actually hate the heat and 2) We probably should have picked the peas on the bottom of the plant about a week before. Pea plants mature from the bottom up. We still had a good harvest, but we pulled the pea plants after getting all of the good sugary peas from the top of the vines!

Yesterday, it was relatively the same story with the Chard harvest. Some of the Chard near the bottom of the plants had become droopy. The top of the plants were still good (and delicious in salad!) but we could have gotten more if we had harvested in smaller increments over time. After I harvested the good stuff, I spent some time pruning from the bottom of the Chard. I had to use scissors to take off the wilting leaves because Chard plants are a lot more fragile than Kale and Collards. I left the middle of the plant intact and I saw some baby leaves sprouting so hopefully we will have another Chard harvest in a week or so!

Collard Greens were also unexplored harvesting territory for me until a week and a half ago. Collards are ready to be harvested once their leaves are 8-10 cm and dark green. We had a bunch that looked good to go a few weeks ago, so we took 6 lbs over to Princeton University Campus Dining Services. One technique I found to harvest then was really helpful to keep our Collards growing, so yesterday we had a whole new crop (about 4 lbs). I read that in order to keep Collards growing, you should take leaves from the bottom until they look like little trees–it worked!

Collard Greens Harvesting Drawing - Morgan Nelson

Collard Greens Harvest – Morgan Nelson, Drawing

Of course, our Kale has kept growing and we got another 7 lbs from our relatively small bed of plants yesterday. However, we think the Kale may be nearing the end of its time in the garden. Lindsey tasted a piece and it was good, but not as sweet as it once was. We are going to keep an eye/tongue on it and see what happens.

Although Lettuce is typically a cool season crop, our lettuce has been very productive well into the summer months. We have regularly chopped the plants down to 3 or 4 inches–often thinking it will be the last yield–and it has kept growing! Yesterday, we hauled 10 lbs over to dining services!

After a month of organic gardening, we have learned quite a bit about harvesting. Simple techniques can be found all over the internet and in books to teach anyone how to clip veggies and increase yields. But I think the most important lesson we have learned, and need to apply in the future, is to harvest less, more often. If we are vigilant and committed, we won’t lose another veggie!

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Now that our plants are thinning out and we have less to harvest, we have to find seeds that will succeed when planted in the middle of July (kind of an awkward/late time to be planting). However, we think that there are some veggies that will sprout and be ready for fall if cared for properly.

Bradley Gorsline helping us plant new veggies.  He was wearing his running clothes  because he wanted to

Bradley Gorsline helping plant new veggies in the Forbes Garden. He was wearing his running clothes because he wanted to “garden so fast.” -Morgan Nelson, Photo

Last Sunday, the 5th of July, we had two friends come to the garden to help us turn beds and plant new seeds. With their help, we got a lot done! We put in heat-loving hot peppers where the spinach used to be, summer squash where the radishes were, and bush beans where the extra carrots and peas were. We made sure to put extra fertilizer where the bush beans are, since the soil wasn’t that great for the carrots and peas before. After planting, Bradley Gorsline helped us turn the compost and we even got some weeding done! Can’t thank our friends enough for the help!

The first cucumber!

The first cucumber! – Morgan Nelson, Photo

Coming up in the Forbes garden:

  • Tomatoes and Cucumbers! We got our first few cucumbers the other day and the tomatoes are still green but growing to be big!
  • More planting! We purchased watermelon and corn seeds. We think we can grow these sprawling/tall plants in the back of the garden once we push the overgrown weeds back and clear some more space.

We also began work on the other two gardens last/this week!

Frist Garden: Many people don’t know that the Princeton Garden Project manages a garden by Frist Campus Center. It has been hard to plant veggies there in the past, so it has become quite overgrown. But Lindsey has been over at the Frist garden a few days this past week doing some serious weeding. She has come up with a plan to make the garden more manageable (I think she will be blogging about this more later). We want to put in herbs and flowers that attract butterflies! We are hosting a work day this coming Sunday, July 12th to get that project in motion!

Before and after weeding in the Greenhouse garden.

Before and after weeding the Greenhouse garden. – Lindsey Conlan, Photo

Forbes/Greenhouse Garden: The Princeton Garden Project at Forbes College actually began in a tiny plot on the side of the main building of Forbes. Since moving to our 1.5 acre plot (still really near Forbes), the small plot hasn’t really been used. But we are going to try to grow pumpkins there for the fall! Yesterday, Lindsey went over and cleared out the majority of the overgrown garden. We still have to get some really big thistle out of there and bring over a lot of fertilizer, but we want to get the pumpkin seeds in ASAP. Pumpkins in hot climates can be started in July in order to have jack-o-lanterns in the fall. But in cooler climates, they are usually started a bit earlier. We are going to plant them by Friday and hope for hot weather for a while!

That is all I have for now, but keep checking back for updates! I have a few cool (and a bit different) ideas for upcoming blog posts and our Instagram page (@princetongardenproject) is as beautiful/active as ever!

All the garden love,

Morgan Nelson

June in the Garden: Introduction, Accomplishments, Reflections, and Plan(t)s

Wow! How is it the last day of June?!

It is safe to say that Lindsey and I have had quite an interesting and busy month. And, despite some significant setbacks, we have made some productive headway in the garden. We have quite a few things to pat ourselves on the back about!

First, we should introduce ourselves. We, Morgan Nelson and Lindsey Conlan, are the Princeton Garden Project Leaders for Summer 2015.  At the beginning of the month, we wrote our own short bios for the Princeton Office of Sustainability:

morgan nelson
Morgan B. Nelson ’16 
Garden Project Leader

Morgan Nelson ’16 is a politics major in the class of 2016, working as an intern for the Princeton Garden Project this summer. Originally from Key West, Florida, she wants to work to preserve the environment, especially the ocean and tropical areas. She enjoys running, spear fishing, hiking, kayaking, free diving, and wakeboarding outdoors. In her studies, she focuses on exploring the relationship between media and public policy. She has worked in sustainable agriculture or organic gardening before, but is excited to learn the processes this summer!

Lindsey ConlanLindsey E. Conlan ’18
Garden Project Leader

Lindsey Conlan ’18 is a prospective Civil and Environmental Engineering major. She hopes to create and remodel buildings that are sustainable for the environment and enjoyable for the inhabitants. She enjoys bike riding, playing Ultimate Frisbee and eating carrots straight out of the garden. This summer she is one of the garden managers and is looking forward to creating more vegetable and flower beds, as well as harvesting the final products.

Now that you know who we are, let us tell you what we have gotten done in the garden at Forbes this month!

Major tasks, harvests, events, and projects completed in June:

  1. Golden Hour in the Garden - Photo by Morgan Nelson

    Golden Hour in the Garden -Morgan Nelson

    Instagram creation – You can now follow us at @princetongardenproject on instagram! Only two weeks old, our account has 70 followers, 9 pictures and a lot of #gardenlove and #veggiepuns. Additionally, the Princeton University facebook page just shared a photo Morgan took of Lindsey trimming vines on a work day in the garden.

    It already has 7,000 views and 170 likes!

  2. Kale harvest – The kale harvest has been out of control! Seriously. We can hardly keep up. Last week, we harvested for two days. The first day yielded 9 lbs. The second day yielded 6 lbs. That is on top of the massive amounts–trash bags full–of kale we harvested at the beginning of the month!

  3. Beet, Lettuce, Spinach, Radish, Collard and Carrot harvests – Other harvests in June include 6 lbs of unbeatable beets, 4 lbs of lettuce, 5 lbs of delicious tasting carrots, 6 lbs of collard greens, and the rest of the valentines’ radishes and spinach. We pulled the spinach and radishes after the last harvest because they don’t do well in the heat of New Jersey summer. They both had started to bolt (new garden vocabulary!). We now have the carrot bed, beet bed, radish bed, and spinach bed empty and ready to plant!

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  4. Mulching the pathway and sides of the gate – While I was out for a week with pneumonia, Lindsey earned a new nickname: The Mulch Princess. With a knack for gardenprettifying, Lindsey set to work pulling large overgrown weeds (even thorny thistle–you go girl) along both sides of the fence and laid down mulch. She also put down mulch to form a weed-free pathway in the middle of the garden. The garden looks so much more well kept with the beds and pathways defined!

  5. IMG_1501

    Tiger lilies in front of the garden gate. -Morgan Nelson

    Flowers in front of the gate – Another project that has been completed with the gardening knowledge, help, and generosity of Lindsey’s mom: we put mulch and flowers in front of
    garden gate! We planted Purple Cone Flowers (which can also be called Echinacea), Black-eyed Susans, and Daisies. Lindsey’s mom donated some of the flowers she had from her own garden (thank you!!). We already had Tigerlillies but we moved them so they had more space to bloom. The flowers in the bed are perennials, so hopefully they will come back next spring!

  6. Weeding

    We have spent a ton of time fighting weeds, but we finally think we are beating them! The mulch has helped, but the rows in between beds are still very time consuming. Luckily we have had some friends and volunteers to help us out some days!

  7. Larger than Lindsey!

    Larger than Lindsey! -Morgan Nelson

    Tomato plant growth

    Tomato excitement! -Morgan Nelson

    Tomato excitement! -Morgan Nelson

    We are so excited because we think we are going to have a ton of tomatoes! The plants are taller than us and there are already a lot of green tomatoes on the vines! But that also means that the plants are heavy and they were starting to seriously droop. We spent a long time over a period of two days organizing and trellising our tomato forest in order to make them stand up straight, but we think that the harvest will show that our work was worth it!

Now that a lot of harvesting and weeding have been done, we have a lot of planting to do! We haven’t quite decided what we are going to plant in the empty beds but we will keep the blog up to date!

Looking forward to after we have planted, we have a few other projects we would like to get done this summer. We have already begun the process of getting supplies to refurbish the picnic tables and swing in the garden. We need to pay some more attention to the Frist garden in the near future. We also are thinking of using the small garden on the side of Forbes for planting pumpkins; we think the residential college would love to have a Forbes’ pumpkin patch come fall! Additionally, fruit is growing in the back of the garden but we need to weed our way there!

As far as community outreach plans, we have scheduled days of gardening and garden education with some local schools, we are going to advertise more garden work days in July, we would like to have our first bonfire within the next two weeks, and I still would like to plan an art or yoga day in the garden.

Personally, I signed on to this job with marketing/outreach experience and began this summer a newbie to organic gardening. I have already learned a lot about growing vegetables, harvesting, Princeton, and New Jersey from training with the garden managers before they left for the summer and by doing the hands on work that the Princeton Garden Project requires. Lindsey has had a bit more experience with growing and her mom, who works in her own community’s garden, has been a huge help to us. But I think Lindsey and I are both really excited to read up on the things we can plant and how to make them grow for the rest of the summer and fall!

Lastly, I have also learned a few lessons about diligence, commitment, thoroughness, and patience by taking care of the veggies in the garden. You cannot miss days in the garden if you do not want to spend all of your time weeding the next time you are there. There is no pause button for weeds or “extensions” on harvesting when vegetables need to be “turned in” to dining services. The garden is a magical respite from the rest of busy Princeton (there are still people stressed out over summer!) but it requires prioritization to keep vegetables from dying and weeds from burying our beautiful breathing space.

That’s it for June! Much love from the garden and we have big plan(t)s for the rest of summer!

-Morgan Nelson

The Old Site

Here is the link to the old garden project website, if you are interested in more of the history of the garden project!

The Princeton Garden Project

Additionally, there are a lot of helpful gardening resources on the “links” page.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 9.39.57 AM

We love how the animations on the bottom of the page dump out little vegetable seeds and it is convenient that the site has a princeton.edu domain name, so we are currently trying to get the information to log on and update the old site.

-Morgan Nelson