Volunteer Supported Agriculture (VSA) Garden

Choosing Vegetable Varieties for Optimal Nutrition

Volunteer Supported Agriculture (VSA) Garden

News from the Volunteer Supported Agriculture (VSA) Garden

We had great start in the VSA this spring as we set up our new rotations among our four quads: Curcurbits (cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins), Legumes (beans, peas), Roots and Shoots (leafy greens to corn, carrots and beets) and Solanaceae (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers). The beds were marked, a new irrigation system installed and bamboo trellises* were built as the soil warmed. The vegetables grown in the Roots and Shoots always get a head start since our many of their selections are cool weather crops. So, interspersed amongst the green crops you will find varieties including Scarlet kale, Mizuna Red Streaks, Rubine Brussels sprouts, red lettuce varieties, Red Express cabbage and Po’suwaegeh Blue Corn. Come for a visit to see the colorful display while it lasts!
Our overwintered German Giant garlic provided a great yield with spicy flavorful heads up to 4 inches across! Spring‘s harvests of greens, beets and kohlrabi and were followed by succession plantings of carrots including Pusa Asita Carrots (dark purple inside & out!), 5 varieties of kale, golden turnips, okra, escarole, burdock, rutabaga and more. 
The heat of the late spring and summer turned our attention to the remaining quads, including the Solanaceae group which have a display of up to 20 colorful tomato favorites such as Aunt Rubies German Green, Cherokee purple, Bobcat, Pineapple, Robeson and Mr Stripey! Favas, especially the Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto were a huge hit this spring from the Legume quad. The peas were replaced by soy beans (for edamame, the boiled baby soybeans), True Red Cranberry beans and Eye of the Goat beans. Other varieties include Tiger Eye, bush Lima, Cannellini and Yin Yang. Many of these beans will be dried on the vine to provide great tastes throughout the winter. The dried beans can be stored in glass jars since the colorful beans can make an eye-catching display! The Cucurbits are faring very well, thanks to the exceptionally warm days we had this season and the use of floating row covers for early season pest protection. Here you can find the usual summer squashes, Kakai pumpkin--popular for its hulless seeds, Fairy squash, the giant Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck squash, the beautiful Musquee de Provence pumpkin, Asian bitter melons, loofah gourds and cucumbers that will be grown along with pearl onions for making tiny cornichon pickles. As the season progresses the aging squash plants will be replaced with white, orange, and green and white striped scalloped squashes, gray zucchini squash and the unusual half green-half yellow Zephyr squash. 
As the season progresses the yields increase and the volunteers continue to put in their hard work; then they share the harvest. Leftover vegetables are distributed to local soup kitchens. 
Stop by the gardens for a visit to the VSA vegetable garden to learn about the varieties we grow and our growing methods. Our vegetable garden staff or volunteers will be happy to give helpful hints on how to grow these vegetables in your own gardens. Also visit the gardens Facebook page at Rutgers Gardens Organic VSA. If you are interested in volunteering at the Gardens, visit the Rutgers Gardens Volunteer page at our website for information. 

*You will notice that many of the VSA garden structures are made from bamboo from Rutgers Garden’s very own bamboo grove! If you ever come to visit the bamboo grove or our vegetable gardens, there is a good chance that you will see Barry, a volunteer who maintains the bamboo grove and also works in the Solanaceae quad in the VSA garden. Many thanks go to Barry for providing and helping to build these useful structures for our VSA garden!


VSA garden


Rutgers Gardens Volunteer Supported Agriculture (VSA) Garden is located adjacent to the Community Youth Garden, behind the Donald B. Lacey Display Garden. The VSA vegetable gardeners follow organic growing methods which include chemical free gardening, four-year crop rotations, green mulches, composting and the incorporation of winter cover crops. These organic methods support a dynamic living soil ecology resulting in stronger pest and disease resistant plants.

Volunteers work in groups of five in one of four different vegetable family gardens:
Legumes--beans peas and spinach
Solanaceae—eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers
Cucurbits—cucumbers and squash
Roots and Shoots—everything else from kale and cardoons to sweet potatoes

Solanacea quadrant
VSA work session

Come and visit the VSA vegetable gardens to learn about new vegetable varieties and our growing methods. We hope that our ideas will inspire our community members to successfully grow their own healthy fresh vegetables!

Greens to be donated to Elijah's Promise

Harvests are shared among the VSA volunteers and a portion is donated to local soup kitchens. Rutgers Garden’s volunteers are eligible to join the VSA gardens. Experience is not required but please bring a strong desire to learn!