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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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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April 19th – Healthy Soil Class

Where: Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Orchard Garden P-Patch

When: April 19, 2014 10:00 a.m.

Instructor: Gary Scheider, Your p-Patch neighbor and King County Master Gardener

Subject: “Building healthy soil in our Garden”

Cost: Free!

Join Gary and learn about the characteristics of healthy soil, how to enhance your soil, and how to maintain it. Gary will tell us all about soil amendments and compost as well. Our gardens are only as good as the soil they are grown in. Our Northwest soil is not so great all by itself (glacial till, basically) so find out how to make yours better. Good soil uses less water and requires less fertilizer to grow great vegetables.

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The Plums Are Arriving at the Orchard at Holy Cross – report from Aug. 25, 2012

This is our third year tending this heirloom orchard and we are so surprised by the abundant plum crop. We haven’t seen this before!

This past Saturday, we surveyed and began to pick the four varieties of plums we observed.The raspberry-colored plums share tree stock with some golden plums and this makes for a beautiful little tree. We had thought we only had the deep purple Italian plums, but we find a total of four types this year.

But plums are very fragile and need to be eaten or refrigerated immediately. They are sweet and irresistible though. Sampling whlie picking is fun.

You have opportunities to join us to pick fruit on Sept. 22 from 10AM to noon. We pick to share fresh organic produce with Bellevue’s HopeLink food bank, but pickers go home with fruit too!

For more information and to volunteer, contact Janet at

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Fall Gardening at Orchard Gardens (Our P-Patch)

The days are rapidly getting shorter. The temperature doesn’t rise above 65, and we have periods of rain. Yes, fall is here. Yet, in the garden, there is still lots going on. Yesterday, I harvested carrots that I planted a couple of months ago. I had a good amount of cherry tomatoes and basil. I got 5 yellow onions and a couple of small zucchini. I made the decision to dig up my zucchini plants as they had just about stopped producing.

The broccoli plants that I planted 1.5 months ago are growing well. I fertilized them with blood meal as recommended (it makes them grow fast) and it had the added advantage of keeping the bunnies from eating them. My brussel sprouts are doing fine. I harvested some and they were delicious! It is interesting how they grow, a large plant with big leaves, but the sprouts grown on the stalk. It is possible to just cut off the amount you want to eat immediately and the plant will keep growing.

Fall cleanup is important in the garden. Remove all diseased material and place in the city yard waste bins rather than the compost pile. The city yard waste is heated to a much higher level than our compost pile and this kills the bacteria and fungi.