Earthkeeping – Orchard Gardens

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

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Aphid Control

By Robin Bentley

November 4, 2015

In a garden where the focus is on production I sometimes see the plant’s natural “end stage” as unnecessary.  When the parsley, carrots, mint and cilantro, for example, start flowering and setting seed I yank them up to make way for something else.  And yet those flowers are important, even in a highly productive p-patch like ours.  First of all, there are the bees.  Anything we can do to encourage them and reverse colony collapse is crucial.  Flowers are also important to a host of other beneficial insects.  We hear that term a lot, but what does it mean?  Who are they?  These “insects with benefits”?

Ladybugs, for one.  But you’ve known that since you were three years old.  What you may not know is that the predatory larvae of hover flies and parasitic wasps (I know, yuk!) prey on—you guessed it—aphids.  So do the aptly-named bright orange aphid midges.  With flowers come pollen and nectar—which entices the flying adults of these beneficial insects to stop and raise a family, producing the hungry hordes of predatory larvae which feast on juicy aphids.  Yum!

Last summer a lot of our patches were stressed from drought—weakening our veggies and making them that much more susceptible to infestation.  Some are tempted in an acute attack such as ours to apply insecticidal soap or neem oil.  Proceed with caution, though, as many of the beneficial insects are hidden under the aphids, and they succomb to the soaps and oils as well.   My old trick of blasting the aphids with a strong stream from the hose will make the beneficials disappear as well.  Even pinching the suckers between your fingers risks killing the good larvae.

So feel good instead about letting some of your plants go to seed—plant a row of alyssum, some clumps of calendula among your veggies, or a border of verbena around the edges…in the case of calendula and many other flowers the petals are edible for humans as well.  You can be secure in the knowledge that they’re your best allies in the aphid battle.

As well as eating some of these flowers, the seeds that follow are available for planting next year.  So it’s a win-win-win.

In her book, Backyard Bounty Linda Gilkeson lists the following beneficial herbs, flowers and vegetables useful for planting to keep aphids away.  She also reminds us to have something in bloom from early spring to late summer by growing a variety of plants.  Here are some herbs you probably already have growing somewhere in your patch:






Summer Savory


Try letting some of these go to seed, too:

Happy Planting!!




Perennials Vegetable Flowers
Calendula Alyssum Chinese Greens and Mustards
Coreopsis Basket of Gold (Aurinia) Kale
Cosmos Coneflower Radishes
Feverfew Daisies Leeks and Onions
Heliotrope Golden marguerite (Anthemis)
Lobelia Goldenrod
Mignonette Rudbeckia
Schizanthus Verbena
Sweet Alyssum Yarrow


From Gilkeson, Backyard Bounty




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Apple Picking and Cider Making – Sept 26 – Please come & Volunteer

We will be having the annual apple picking and cider pressing event at Orchard Gardens at Holy Cross on September 26 from noon to 3 p.m. Everyone is welcome and it is a free event. Reminder that we are at the corner of Newport Way and Factoria Blvd. at 4315 129th Pl. SE, Bellevue, WA 98006

This year, we have a volunteer sign-up if you are able to help with this growing community event. It has been fun in the past years as we have added quilt tying and veggie sales.

If you are able to volunteer follow the instructions below. If you cannot volunteer, but want to attend, that is absolutely fine!

Janet Farness

Orchard Gardens Volunteer and Events Coordinator


To volunteer and earn community service hours, here’s how it works in 3 easy steps:
1. Click this link to go to our invitation page on VolunteerSpot:
2. Enter your email address: (You will NOT need to register an account on VolunteerSpot)
3. Sign up! Choose your spots – VolunteerSpot will send you an automated confirmation and reminders. Easy!  Check in at the information booth at the site on the day of the event before your shift! Thank you!!!

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Use Those Greens!

Use Those Greens!

When you have a garden, you may be likely to have a lot of greens to use.  Even 3 kale plants can produce a LOT of kale.  One Swiss chard can grow to a giant size and you’ll be happily harvesting all summer and into the winter.  But what to do with all those greens?  You can donate to the food bank, which is a wonderful thing to do.  But perhaps you’d like some ideas for working them into your own cooking.  Many of us did not grow up using large amounts of greens.  I never ate any kale until I grew it in my garden.

So here’s some ideas to help you eat those greens.  Use the comment section below to add your favorite ways to use greens.

Salads – ok, that’s obvious.

Kale Chips – you can find recipes online for these.  I think they taste like hay but a lot of people really like them.

Stir fry’s – many types of greens cook up wonderfully in a stir fry.  Cook your favorite stir fry recipe and throw in a mixture of your greens – kale, swiss chard, bok choy, etc.  They will cook down and blend in with the other flavors.

You can also stir fry just the greens. Heat some olive oil in a fry pan, and add some garlic and cut up greens.  Stir and cook until greens are tender.

Steamed – use a steamer (you can buy a little one at the grocery store which fits in an existing pan).

Smoothies – the current favorite at our house.  Use a blender, stick blender or one of the machines they sell specifically for these kind of drinks.  Here’s our recipe:

Three cubes ice
Several strawberries (frozen is fine)
Handful of blueberries
½ cup of yogurt – strawberry or raspberry
Kale (as much as you can get in the container)
Handful of almonds
Enough apple juice to almost cover the contents
Optional – 1/3 banana or ¼ of avocado.  The avocado doesn’t change the flavor but makes the drink very smooth and adds the “good fat” that your body needs.

Blend 30-60 seconds until smooth.  Great for breakfast – gives you that whohoo! burst of energy that lasts till lunch.

Soups – greens are great in soup.  They blend right in and are a good way to hide the greens if you have those who are not so in love with them.

Sausage and Chard Soup – 4 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage (I like chicken sausage) cut into 1 inch slices
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
14 oz canned or fresh diced tomatoes
1 small bunch of Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves chopped (you can also use some kale along with the Swiss chard)
1 can* cannellini beans, drained and rinsed – if you like a really thick soup use 2 cans.
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan

Cook onions and garlic in olive oil. Transfer to plate.  Cook sausage until slightly brown.  Stir in broth, add onions and garlic back in.  Add rest of ingredients except for greens, parsley and parmesan.  Cook at a simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Add in greens, stir until cooked (maybe 1 minute) and add fresh parsley.  Serve topped with grated Parmesan if desired.

*You can cook your own beans ahead of time and freeze to use in recipes like this.  Cheaper and better for you.
Spaghetti sauce – make the sauce a tomato/vegetable sauce.  Mix in shredded carrots, zucchini, chopped greens, mushrooms and greens, along with your other ingredients. (Got fresh tomatoes? Use those instead of canned).
Ingrid's Patch

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Spring News in the Garden

–By Ingrid Turner

We had the opening of our garden on March 14th, 2015.  Gardeners met and went over the rules of the garden and we talked about what we hoped for the year.  But even before and after that, there was a lot going on!

Here’s a run down –
February 14th – we battled the blackberries.  An unusually warm February meant it was a nice day to work outside.

March 7th – Jay brought his dump truck and delivered 8 cubic yards of compost to the garden.  We also took a load of odds and ends to the dump.  Gardeners were busy spreading their compost.

March 14th – Gardener’s meeting

March 21 – Gardener’s retreat to Jan’s condo downtown Seattle.  We spent several hours going over what we wanted for the future of the garden and what we needed to work on next.  We had a good group with 8 gardeners and supporters in attendance.  We finished up with a walk to the Sculpture Park.

March 28 – Again, we battled the blackberries.  There is a corner of the orchard and garden that is quite overgrown with blackberries.  They are invasive, so each year they have advanced a little bit.  We are trying to cut them back and realized that we will have extra land to work with when we are done!  Who-hoo!  We are already thinking of what we can plant there – more fruit trees?  Edible landscaping?  Many thanks to Grace Stiller with Newcastle Weed Warriors for helping us with this huge task.  At our second work party we were definitely starting to see progress.   More work parties will be scheduled.  Grace’s group has a website: and don’t miss the Earthday celebration that they sponsor on April 18th!


Janet and Dave discuss the day's work at the retreat on March 21st.

Janet and Dave discuss the day’s work at the retreat on March 21st.

Gardeners enjoy a view of downtown Seattle after our retreat.

Gardeners enjoy a view of downtown Seattle after our retreat.

Jan battles blackberries with her loppers

Jan battles blackberries with her loppers

Ethan enjoyed the nice spring day while helping us battle the blackberries.

Ethan enjoyed the nice spring day while helping us battle the blackberries.

Grace Stiller of Newcastle Weed Warriors.  She's the best!

Grace Stiller of Newcastle Weed Warriors. She’s the best!

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Backyard composting

What can we do in the winter garden?  Why, think about spring, of course.  And, work on our composting.  I wanted to increase the amount of compost I had available and wanted to find a way to compost food scraps.  It had to be easy, and it had to be rat-proof.  This round unit is ideal for that.  The round shape means rats cannot get their teeth into the plastic to chew.  The ball is on rollers so the compost can be turned and this speeds up the compost process.  The second photo shows a 3 bin unit which is covered with wire.  The front boards are removable to allow access to your compost, and the top lifts up to add items.  Rat-proof?  Maybe.  The 3rd photo is a round plastic unit with a lid.  It definitely is not rodent proof, and the chew marks at the top prove.

If you are just composting garden waste like leaves, plants, and grass, there is not so much need to worry about rodents.  Anytime you add any food matter, the chances increase that you’ll have visitors.    A friend woke up one day to find that raccoons had dug up her carefully buried food scraps.  (several months old).

The main thing with composting, whether you add food scraps or not, is to layer your browns and greens.  Browns can include lots of things, not just brown leaves.  You can use shredded newspaper, old pizza boxes, torn up paper towel tubes, etc.  The browns add pockets of air, which are critical to making the process work.  When starting a compost pile, you can also put in a couple of layers of old compost or garden soil to add in the beneficial microbes.  Turning the pile will speed up the rate at which your material turns into compost.  However, you don’t ever NEED to turn it.  You can just fill up the bin and leave it.  Look in there a few months later, it’ll be half full, as the material becomes compost.  It may take a year or so to create compost in a pile that is not turned.

When using food scraps in the pile, layer food scraps with layers of browns and other green material.  Use only vegetarian food scraps (no meat or cheese).  If you find your pile with food scraps is smelly, add a layer of garden soil to the top.  It’ll stop the smell.

With a 3 bin system, like the middle picture, you can have 3 stages of compost, one you are adding to, one that is “cooking” and one that is finishing.  Cooking refers to the fact that a properly put together compost pile will heat up as the microbes do their thing.


Round compost unit

Round compost unit


3 bin composting unit



Round barrel type composting unit


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Apple Picking Success!

We had a wonderful apple picking and cider making event on Sept 27th.  At 10:30 a.m. approximately 50 Girl Scouts along with leaders and parents gathered for a special Girl Scout event.  The girls enjoyed learning about the orchard, picking apples and seeing how cider was made.  For one troop, this was their first outing together as Girl Scouts.  For other girls, it was the first time they had climbed a ladder or picked an apple.

Our event opened to the public at noon, as many members of the public joined us for some old fashioned fun.  The weather cooperated, and it was a beautiful day to be outside enjoying the orchard.  We sold herbs and vegetables from the p-patch, pickles, and Jamie sold her yummy pastries.  Much of the money collected went to the hungry.

Some interesting statistics:

$350 collected from sale of garden and pastry goodies for backpack meals
6 boxes of food collected for backpack meals
100 lbs collected for hopelink
150- 200 people attended including nearly 50 Girl Scouts


Apple picking - fun for the whole family

Apple picking – fun for the whole family

Wonderful pastries for sale

Wonderful pastries for sale

The apple press which turned out gallons of great ciderThe apple press which turned out gallons of great cider



Food Bank Donations

Every week during the late spring and summer, volunteers from our garden take food grown in the garden to the local food bank run by Hopelink in Bellevue. A few dedicated gardeners share all the produce grown on their plots with the food bank, while the rest of us send our excess. The clients at the food bank love fresh produce, and we gardeners like thinking about how others will enjoy what we’ve grown. My cucumber plants have been so prolific that for several weeks I have had a bag of cucumbers to send while still having plenty for my family to eat. (And a cucumber salad to take to every picnic I’ve gone to.). Our tally so far this year has been 625 pounds. We have a board in our kiosk which tracks our total.