By Michelle Trauring
Uncertainty is a part of life, and gardeners understand that better than most.
To combat against unpredictable x-factors in their fields, gardens and raised beds, avid gardeners know to grow a wide variety of plants—and all sorts of vegetables, too, if they’re into health and nutrition.
But for beginners, sometimes it can be tough to get started. That is where Bridge Gardens manager Rick Bogusch steps in with “Garden to Table, Eating for Wellness,” which is part of a series hosted by the Peconic Land Trust that pairs the Bridgehampton garden with partner organizations, local growers and horticulture experts to introduce the community to sustainable growing in all its forms, from lawns and perennials to annuals and vegetable gardens.
On September 10, Barbara Kinnier, community outreach director of the Wellness Foundation, will join Mr. Bogusch for the program, which he says is more of a tour than a talk. He will lead a discussion through the vegetable and community gardens, he said, pointing out what is growing now while also explaining that the gardening season begins in March and continues into November.
“Those cool shoulder seasons at each end of the gardening calendar can be very productive, especially for those nutritious greens so much a part of a healthful diet,” he said. “After the tour, I’ll quickly demo how to make a salad from the garden that’s tasty and nutritious.”
What that salad will consist of depends on what looks good in the garden that day, Mr. Bogusch said. Throughout the growing calendar, he has a wide range of vegetables to choose from, starting with spinach, arugula, mustard greens, kales and lettuces, followed by carrots, red and golden beets, onions, scallions, leeks, chards, green beans—mostly haricots vert, as well as flat Romano pole beans—eggplant, both sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, winter squash, radishes, bulb fennel, and tomatoes, which are now in season, he noted.
“Don’t fertilize tomatoes,” he advised. “Maybe a little when you first plant them, but after that just make sure they get regular watering. This way, you’ll get more fruit than leaves. Also, don’t plant too many tomatoes. One cherry tomato plant provides more than enough for an average family. Maybe two if you want to freeze them for sauce.”
A great way to preserve cherry and paste-type tomatoes is slice them in half, place them cut-side up on an oiled baking sheet and roast them in a very low oven—to the tune of 225°F for four hours, he said. Brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle them with fresh or dried thyme. When they are dried, but still a bit moist, cool them and place in a freezer bag. Put them in the freezer and pull them out when it’s time to make a winter sauce.
“Don’t plant tomatoes too close. Allow at least 3 feet between plants,” he advised. “Be prepared to stake well. Ideally, you should cut suckers as they appear and remove lower leaves once tomatoes start forming. This and proper spacing will allow good air circulation and inhibit disease. If you don’t have time, mulch under your plants with straw so any low-hanging fruit doesn’t sit on bare ground. This helps prevent fruit from rotting.”
Looking forward, now is the time to plant a spring crop of spinach. When the weather gets cold, cover it with a frost blanket and uncover it in March. “When I do this, a usually find my first harvestable spring greens, already fully grown,” Mr. Bogusch said. “Give the spinach a good dose of fish fertilizer and enjoy two or three more cuttings. This also works for kale.”
“I think it’s important to grow and eat a wide variety of vegetables to get the nutrients you need,” he added. “All plants in the cabbage family—broccoli, kale, raab, et cetera—are rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants, so they should be in your garden. I think green beans of all sorts are also rich in vitamins and have proteins, too. You can grow dried beans, too, but I think it’s a lot easier and takes up less space to buy them. Butternut squash is tasty and good for you and easy to grow, as are edible pumpkins and acorn squash.”
Rick Bogusch will lead “Garden to Table, Eating for Wellness,” featuring a garden tour, demonstration and discussion about nutrition with Barbara Kinnier on September 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton. Tickets are $10 and reservations are required. Space is limited. For more information, call (631) 283-3195 ext. 19, or visit peconiclandtrust.org.