Sarah’s Garden: Transplanting time

It may be a little early but my tomatoes were getting too big for their little pots so it was time to give them a little more space:


copious Copias! believe it or not I haven't been sitting on that joke for months and months...

This year I tried to make sure I got most of the main stem up to the first real leaves underground when I transplanted so that each plant has a chance to grow more roots (better for water retention which is a major problem in the summer.)  You just pinch off the two little baby leaves, which are the first to sprout but don’t look like real tomato leaves and are usually much lower on the stem than the rest of the leaves:


you can see that each stem has two little baby leaves much farther down the stem than the rest of the leaves

If we wanna get real scientific here, those leaves are also called cotyledon leaves [end science.]  I pinch them off and then attempt to get the plant out of the dirt with minimum root damage:


stem minus cotyledon leaves, plus roots

Then (or before, if you’re smart) you get your new pot and prepare it for planting.  Drainage is key:  trust me, tomatoes don’t grow in standing water (and neither does much of anything unless you’re growing water plants or moss.)  Most pots already have drainage holes in the bottom but if yours don’t you’ll need to make some.  Last year I made some just using some old scissors and lots of upper body strength but it’s far easier to use an electric drill and less upper body strength.  Whichever way you choose, you’re going to want holes that are big enough so that they won’t get clogged with clumps of dirt and I always err on the side of more holes because you can always add water but getting rid of excess water is a bit harder.


last summer I made drainage holes with scissors; most people own real person things like electric drills that make this task about 100x easier

Regardless of how you make the holes, you then need to make sure that all the soil doesn’t just fall out of the drainage holes.  You need to water to drain but you don’t want all the nutrient-rich soil to drain also.  You can use various things to keep your soil inside the pot; I like a layer of stones or old broken pots:


layer your drainage material - stones, broken pots, pieces of your patio that keep chipping off - in the bottom of the pots before you add the soil

The only thing to watch with stones is that they don’t get stuck inside a drainage hole – if you’re worried about that, larger pieces of cement or broken pots work especially well.

All that’s left is to plant!  So cover your drainage material with soil and whatever else you like (I add compost) and soon you’ll have a little corner garden like this:



As soon as you plant each pot, water it until you see water coming out the drainage holes in the bottom – this will ensure that there’s enough water and also that your drainage holes are working.  Then I usually water everything one more time to make sure.  Things’ll look a little droopy at first (see above) but in a few days your plants will get used to their new homes and perk up.

If you’re interested in potting or re-potting some things or have questions on any of this, please join me on Sunday, May 6th from 2-4pm at Passyunk Gardens for the Container Gardening Workshop!  There was some info on it in the latest SPFC newsletter and here’s the link to the Facebook event page.  I’ll be leading everyone through container gardening basics and offering some insights of my own (naturally.)  Bring your own container and plants/seeds but I’ll also have a few containers and extra seeds as well.  It’ll be a planting party, which is fast becoming my favorite sort of party.  Hope to see some readers there!

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Photos from our Mushroom Log Workshop

What a great event we had today! Twenty-six people – some member-owners and some not-yet member-owners – visited the home of Co-op Board President Alison Fritz (and yours truly) for an instructional session on how to make your own mushroom log.

Instructor Rich Meyers led the group through a brief history of mushroom cultivation and the science behind how mushrooms work. Then he turned us loose with mallets, hammers, hole-filled logs and mushroom mycelia-infected wooden dowels. After a half hour or so of hammering away (wonder what my neighbors thought was happen), we stepped into the backyard where Rich guided us through sealing off the holes with melted candles and crayons. This is to prevent the mycelia from drying out while it spawns and eats the log from inside.

I uploaded some selected photos of the event to our Facebook page. No need to be a Facebook member or fan of our page to see them. Just click on this link. (But, hey, while your there, consider “Liking” our page.)

Thanks again to Rich Meyers and everyone who came by today. Oh… yeah… and one more member-owner signed up at today’s event! That’s one closer to our first goal!

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Mariposa Food Co-op’s Grand Opening Event!

After having seen all the pictures of the progress of their new store that Mariposa Food Co-op has been posting on their Facebook page, I’m about as close as one co-op supporter can get to being jealous of another co-op. And for good reason. The place is awesome!

On Saturday, April 21, we’ll all get to check it out in person when Mariposa celebrates it’s Grand Opening. Store opens at 10am; festivities begin at 11am. Their new address is 4824 Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia. Join Congressman Chaka Fattah and other very special guests in celebrating Mariposa’s new location and successful capital campaign!

Featuring food demonstrations, special sales and more.

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Volunteer Opportunities at Growing Home – NSC’s Refugee Urban Farm Project

Growing Home is Nationalities Service Center’s (NSC) urban farm. The farm offers newly arrived refugees the opportunity to reconnect with their agricultural roots, strengthen bonds within their own ethnic community and connect with South Philadelphia’s other communities. Growing Home is also improving the participants’ health by increasing their access to affordable and nutritious food.

Located at 8th and Emily (just north of Snyder Ave), the Refugee Urban Farm was also featured in last fall’s South Philly Food Co-op Garden Tour.

We’re helping them spread the word about some upcoming workdays. They are also seeking extra garden hoes and flower plants as donations to help spruce up the block.

Vist for more info about the farm.

This Saturday (TOMORROW!), March 31, from 10 am – 2 pm they are having a workday in the garden!! They’re looking for help to distribute soil to fill a few new beds and to clean up the gardens, plant, and mulch.

On Saturday April 14, from 2pm – 5pm they will be doing a block clean up as part of the Philly Spring Clean-up.

They will also be out every Monday from 11-5, Thursday from 1-6, and most Tuesdays and welcome any volunteer help they can get.

Email or call 609-577-1471 with any questions.

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Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance Seeking Volunteers

File this under co-ops helping co-ops. The Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA) is an umbrella organization that includes representatives from several major cooperative organizations in the regions, from credit unions to grocery stores to cooperative housing arrangements.

Last month they held a great event attended by more than 70 people interested in co-ops and credit unions.  There was a lot of excitement in the room about the resolution that was passed by the City of Philadelphia and the work that PACA’s doing and going to do in support of co-ops in the region.

If you are excited about what the South Philly Food Co-op has accomplished so far and are looking for ways to strengthen the cooperative movement in other sectors of the regional economy, consider volunteering some time with PACA.

They are forming three committees to work on:

  • Planning and promoting future events for the Interational Year of Cooperatives, like a celebratory event in October (co-op month!)
  • Public policy research and advocacy
  • Coordinating local co-op communicators and developing PACA’s own communications

If you are interested in getting involved with one or more of these committees, or have other ideas about how to get involved go to:

PS – If you haven’t already signed up for the free co-op conference this June, there’s still time.  Sign up today!

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Easter Eggs are a food, right?

For our friends at the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District we’re passing along information about a couple of really fun events that are happening soon.

On Saturday, March 31, 2012 (that’s THIS Saturday), EPABID is hosting an Easter Egg hunt at Le Virtu’s garden (1927 East Passyunk Avenue).

Bring your kids to the Avenue for a FREE Easter Egg Hunt! Kids will receive bags to decorate and use to hunt for Zitner’s Fine Confections and candy filled eggs. The Easter Bunny will be hopping around. Lucky egg hunters will find “golden ticket” eggs with certificates for large one-pound Zitner’s chocolate eggs and treats from Ms. Goody Cupcakes, who is debuting her cupcake truck at the event.

Times are staggered by age group: 11am – ages 4 and under, 12 noon – ages 5 to 7, 1pm – ages 8 to 10. Select restaurants will offer kid-friendly brunch that day, including Black N Brew, South Philly Bar & Grill and $1 pancakes at Fuel. Many of the child-oriented shops will have special Easter sales. This event is free and rain or shine. Special thanks to Zitner’s, Le Virtu, Ms. Goody Cupcakes and the South Philly Review.

And on Saturday, April 28 from noon to 4pm, East Passyunk Avenue will once again host Flavors of the Avenue. Tickets are on sale at Proceeds from the event will be used to hire police again to patrol the Avenue on Fridays & Saturdays during the summer from 12:30am-3:30am.

So start your day at the southern end of East Passyunk Avenue for Flavors before moving on up to Passyunk Gardens at East Passyunk and Wharton for the Happy 2nd Anniversary, South Philly Food Co-op party from 1pm to 4pm.

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Hmmm… what to do with that tax refund?

This time of year is always a little stressful as we wait to see if a year’s worth of earning, spending, and donating money will result in us owing a little bit more of it our federal, state and local governments or getting a tidy little refund for the interest-free loan we gave to Uncle Sam over the year. I gave up on doing my taxes long ago when my tax preparation software told me I owed $3.6 billion dollars. Perhaps I should have made more charitable donations.

If you’re expecting a check or direct deposit from the U.S. Federal Government, consider fighting the temptation to blow it on $200 worth of Oreos (aka the fate of my 1998 refund) and instead use it toward your member equity. For current member-owners, this is a great way to get yourself all paid off and then not have to worry about it for the rest of your life.

For not-yet member-owners, let this be the sign from above that finally gets you to visit our easy-to-use online application so that you can be counted among our 250 Founding Members and get us to the point where we can start the process of looking for a location. Of course, you can join with an initial payment as low as $25 and then have until the end of 2013 to pay off the rest. But if you’re sitting on a nice refund, why pay it all off now? I know the latest technological gadget is sitting on your other shoulder whispering for you to ignore the Co-op and instead spend it on him.

Don’t listen to him! Join the Co-op today!

Besides, why spend this year’s refund on an iPad 3 when you can just wait and use next year’s on the iPad 4? And hopefully by this time next year, you’ll be using it to keep track of our progress as we raise the capital for a our new location!

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Sarah’s Garden: SeedLINGS!

Hello, little arugula!


bright green babies

It’s been almost two weeks since I planted my seeds and everything is starting to sprout.  The arugula is coming along the fastest which is pretty amazing considering it’s outside.  Last year I started all my seeds in our front window because it’s nice and warm and gets lots of afternoon sun.  And I did that this year, too, except…I ran out of room on the windowsill.  Oops!  But then I realized that it’s been so warm that I could probably just put the hardiest of my seeds (arugula, spinach and lettuce) outside in the sun as a sort of experiment.  Well, luckily these past two weeks have been very warm so they all made it!  Of course the threat of frost isn’t totally over yet and I did bring all three pots in one night last week when it dipped down into the 40s overnight.  But that’s it!  Here’s the spinach:


hello, spinach

Continue reading

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From Our Inbox: Gluten-Free Options in South Philly

We occasionally get questions through the Contact page on our website and have decided that rather than keep the answers between us and the questioner, we’d share the them with everyone in a new feature we’re calling From Our Inbox. (Got a more clever name? We’re all ears…) So let’s kick this off with…

Q: I’m new to the area… just moved to South Philly from the suburbs, and don’t know too many people/restaurants. Can you recommend any restaurants/stores that offer a decent alternative (i.e. gluten free) menu? – New to the Hood

A: First of all, welcome to the neighborhood! With a member-owner count that is growing by the day, we can introduce you to a few hundred new people. And we can definitely suggest a start-up Co-op for you to join! To find out the answer to your question we checked in with the Gluten Free Warrior, Genevieve Sharrow MS, CN, and asked her about her favorite gluten free (GF) friendly eating spots in South Philly. Geneveive suggests:

B2 has GF bread for sandwiches
P.O.P.E. also has GF rolls/bread for burgers and such and their menu is relatively GF
Adobe Mexican Cafe is GF friendly
Cantina Los Caballitos is also GF friendly

Also, several member-owners have said good things about the new bakery called “TOTÉ” on 9th street in the Italian market.

If you are interested in learning more about a GF eating or want to meet up with other GF folks, check out the local GF MeetUp Group.

Check back regularly for more From Our Inbox featured questions.

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Check out our Events page which has many… Events on it

Our website is just full of all kinds of good information including a list of eventsthat the Co-op will either be hosting or participating in. In fact, coming up in the next few weeks we have:

  • QOTA fundraiser at Paradiso, Wednesday, March 21 (TOMORROW!!!)
  • Mushroom Log Workshop with Rich Meyers at Alison’s House, Sunday, April 1
  • Join us at the Passyunk Gardens to celebrate our 2nd Anniversary with live music, raffles and an after-party at Devil’s Den, Saturday, April 28th
  • LoMo Flea Market, Saturday, May 19
  • General Membership Meeting at South Philadelphia Older Adult Center, Tuesday, May 22

Another cool feature of the Events page is that it also keeps a list of where we’ve been and what we’ve done that goes all the way back to December 2010 when we had that great fundraiser at the South Philadelphia Tap Room.

It’s a great way to look back and see all of the time, effort and energy that everyone involved with the Co-op has put in and remind you of just how quickly we’ve been able to pull this together. It also gives a nice guide if you happen to have a time machine and want to go back to one of these moments in Co-op history. Before you know it, we’ll be at 250 Founding Members, looking for a location, and setting our next goal for the number of member-owners we’ll need to open up shop! Of course, that time will go by even more quickly if you also check out our Membership page and our really handy online application.

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