You can’t get any more local than growing your own. Combined with the desire to give to others, Denny Chasteen maintains over 20 raised beds at his home in Lee, NH, with the majority of the produce going to the Seacoast Family Food Pantry in Portsmouth.
We’ve long been admirers of his efforts, and we’re excited to see his garden included in a recent tour. The first harvest of lettuces has already been delivered to the food pantry, and the garden is well into its second planting.
Denny grows organically and we were especially interested to learn more about his practices. He employs yellow sticky traps in his squash and cucumber beds to monitor and capture cucumber beetles, and in the onion patch for thrips. He recommends setting these traps out only when you suspect or anticipate a problem, as they’ll trap beneficial insects as well. His homemade traps are made from yellow plastic cups covered with a sticky coating — it’s their attraction to the color yellow that lures the insects in.
Sold as animal feed, Denny uses alfalfa pellets as an organic fertilizer. He broadcasts them in the garden and waters immediately to disperse it into the soil, where it will release nitrogen slowly and serve as a general fertilizer. He found it’s also an excellent way to increase the worm population in his raised beds.
With 7 bacterial, 28 fungal and 17 viral diseases affecting tomatoes, growing them is a special challenge, and Denny is constantly experimenting with ways to ensure healthy plants. Some of his recommendations include:
– Use red plastic mulch to form a barrier between the plant and soil, which prevents the soil from spattering onto the leaves and transferring pathogens.
– Remove lower branches up to a height of at least 1 foot up the stem once the plant is 2 to 3 feet tall, as leaf disease typically starts with lower leaves and moves up the plant.
– Continue removing diseased leaves daily.
– Consider planting in pots with sterile soil.
– If garden space allows, plant tomatoes in a distant location from that used the previous year.
In Denny’s summation, “Often it is a race between having the fruit ripen and the disease totally consuming the plant.”
A version of this post also appears at Seacoast Eat Local.