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Heritage Garden update: dried herbs, harvests, and plentiful tomatoes

Slava tomatoes, donated by Seed Savers Exchange.

Slava tomatoes, donated by Seed Savers Exchange.

The Czech and Slovak Heritage Garden at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library has been a great success this year. As the vegetables have ripened, guests to the Sleger Immigrant Home on site at the museum have been able to savor authentic tastes from life long ago. Basil and dill were allowed to dry in the home’s kitchen, leaving a refreshing aroma behind. Many of the vegetables have reached maturity and have been harvested, while a few, like some of the Slava tomatoes, the large Czech tomatoes, Leutschauer peppers, and the giant Czechoslovakian kohlrabi, are still ripening. Most of the freshly-picked vegetables are being donated to the food pantry at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids, which is a nonprofit organization serving those in need of basic adult education, transitional housing for women, and food assistance.

A garden update from heritage garden intern Marissa:

A large radish harvest!

A large radish harvest!

“Hello readers! We have been harvesting some of of the crops over the last several weeks, including radishes, carrots, onion, basil, dill, potatoes, cauliflower, cabbages, and tomatoes. Depending on availability, some of these vegetables will be available to taste during tours of the Sleger Immigrant Home. We now also have dried basil and dill in the home, so it should be smelling quite nice in there if you decide to come visit!

All in all, the garden continues to thrive. There are plenty of ladybugs, and there are many beautiful native pollinators around that help our organic garden grow. With all these beneficial bugs, we should be able to have a good harvest overall. There was a brief battle in August against some potato beetles that stopped by for a visit, but they are now gone for the season. The potatoes were smaller than I would have liked and were harvested early, but they were fine to eat.

Heritage Garden Intern Marissa with a just-picked Slava tomato.

Heritage Garden Intern Marissa with a just-picked Slava tomato.

Some of the tomato plants are maturing, which is pretty nice to see and smell. The only issue I’ve really had this month is rabbits and other critters munching on our kohlrabi plants. We’ll still be able to harvest the stalks, but the leaves we’ll have to compost for the most part.

We’ve now harvested most of the cabbages; along with all of the onions, potatoes, and radishes. Therefore, the majority of the garden at this point in the season is now going to seed. I plan on planting some cover crops soon to help deter weeds and prevent the soil from eroding away over the winter. It’s definitely still pretty to look at, but with most of the harvested plants going to seed, it is certainly looking like fall is right around the corner.”

At the beginning of October, Marissa’s internship will come to an end for 2016. Until then, she’ll be working on harvesting and preparing the garden for colder weather – and for Spring 2017!

Thank you to our Czech and Slovak Heritage Garden sponsors for making this year’s growing season, and planning for next year’s garden and programs, possible: Alliant Energy, Rockwell Collins, Lu & Katherine Svoboda, Carey & Terry Downs Gibson, Carol Vavra, Seed Savers Exchange, and Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area.

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