This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he always thought the garden was his. Even though I do all the work, he always stood by me. I'm located near Boston (in USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot and a backyard vegetable garden. I use sustainable organic methods and try to grow all of my family's vegetables.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Soon: my new pantry, my favorite pickled bean recipe.

today's garden work

We haven't had a frost yet in my backyard garden, though many locations around us have frosted. Today I got a lot done:

- picked a big pile of beans, then pulled up and composted a row that is finished
- picked the last of my green tomatoes and peppers - we tried to pick them all a couple days ago when a frost threatened, but seems we didn't get all of them in the dark with our flashlights
- harvested a watermelon, zucchinis, one tiny cucumber, and a couple small eggplants
- thinned four rows of carrots (we'll have baby carrots for dinner tomorrow) and a couple of bulb fennel
- pulled up gourd and watermelon vines - into the compost bin
- not really garden work, but we roasted, peeled, and froze many chili peppers - also started drying down many small hot chilis - the garage smells quite pungent from the chilis in my dehydrator

Tomorrow: I'll plant garlic at my community plot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

the Topsfield fair - giant pumpkin!

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topsfield fair IMG_8557

I went to the big fall fair in our area last Saturday - the Topsfield Fair. It's THE place to see displays of local produce. Especially the biggest pumpkin in the area (why do people grow these?). I walked around and enjoyed the smell of fired dough and roasted sausages. I looked at the leather and sliver jewellery sale booths. I used to go to all the rides and games booths, but skipped them this year. Already big crowds, even early in the morning.

Best, I went to the vegetable and honey displays. I've gone here yearly for the last 20 or 30 years (maybe more?) and love these. I liked the white patty pan squash, the warted pumpkins, the big garlic heads, and the beautiful jars of honey. I waited in line to photograph the giant pumpkin. OMG - 2,075.5 lbs!

Monday, October 10, 2016

how I make and use pole and string tomato supports

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The season is fading and I can see my garden structures again. My husband designed these tomato supports for me and I've used then probably 10 years now. I used to make tepees out of 10-ft 1x1 inch poles. That worked OK, but poles and string are less work, support the vines better, and give better air flow. Here's what I do to set up and use pole and string tomato supports.

Side support materials:
Two 5-ft metal fence poles
Two 8-ft wood posts, 2x3 in, with a hole in the top that fits the cross pole that will be used
Post driver
Zip ties

Cross pole:
One 10-ft metal pipe (copper or galvanized)

Tomato support materials:
Twine and scissors

Setting up the supports:
First, I firmly pound the fence poles into the soil using the post driver. I place them about 9-ft from each other, so the metal cross pole will be well supported and there will be a bit of overhang. Then to each fence pole I attach the wood post with the hole in the top making sure that the holes are set up so the pole can go through them. I used to attach them with screws and bolts, but I've gotten lazy and just use zip ties now. Once the end posts are up and are very solid in the ground, I run the long metal pipe through the holes at the top.

Supporting a tomato vine:
Space plants about 12 inches apart. I usually plant 5 tomato plants below each 10-ft pole. Lay out and plant the seedlings with even spacing. While they are still small seedlings, I usually support the plants by tying them to small sticks. When the plants are about 1-2 ft high, I tie them to the top pole. To do this: I run out enough twine to go from the ground, up and over the pole, and then down to the ground again. Add some extra. I spiral the two pieces of twine around the plant down to it's base then tie it to the stem. To tie it, I choose a sturdy location of the stem, preferably below the lowest leaf. Tie a bow knot in the two strands of twine to hold them together. Then use the two ends to wrap around the tomato stem a few times and secure them with a double knot. That's it. Repeat this for all of the plants.

Caring for the vines:
For plants on pole supports, it's best to pick off suckers so the vines stay tall and don't grow into adjacent plants. I gradually remove the bottom leaves as they turn yellow. This gives the plants more airflow. It's best to water from below and keep water off the leaves to reduce the spread of fungal diseases. As the vines grow, wind them with the string. Check on the tie at the bottom of the plant. If it becomes constricting, replace it with a looser knot. Sometimes a second string is need for extra support of the vine if you have a particularly heavy crop of fruit.

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frost predicted

Right on schedule - Oct 10 - a frost is predicted tonight. I thought it would be late this year, but no, right on time.

In the dusk, my husband and I picked all my green tomatoes and peppers, plus a few squash, watermelons, zucchinis, and one eggplant. We covered the beans and lettuce with row covers. It doesn't seem cold enough for a frost to me, but it's predicted so we'll see.

My counters are covered with baskets! Peppers are in a trug on the floor. We'll roast and freeze them this weekend. Not sure yet what I'll do with the green tomatoes. In the past I've just saved them and all ripen up eventually. They give me a "fresh?" garden tomato salad for Thanksgiving usually.

baskets of green tomatoes IMG_8609

garlic sources for planting

I've been asked me where I buy garlic and for other sources so I thought I'd post this list again. I posted it last October too.

Here's the list of garlic seed sources that people have recommended in response to my post a few days ago. They look awesome! I can't wait to try out some. If you have a source you like, let me know and I'll add it.

Pacific Northwest: Filaree Garlic Farm - So many! This source was seconded and thirded! Washington State Adaptive Seeds: Good selection, also grey shallots, free shipping over $50. Oregon Territorial Seeds: Oregon

Colorado: The Garlic Store Potato Garden

New England: Fedco bulbs division: Maine. Ordering deadline is early September. High Mowing Organic Seeds: Vermont Green Mountain Garlic: Vermont

Everywhere: A garlic festival: Four are in the New England/New York area Local farmer's market: no shipping charge, varieties that do well in your area Costco: Bulbs from California

I have to add that it's a good investment to buy good garlic seed. I replant my cloves for many years. About 10% of my harvest, my biggest heads, get replanted every year. I've gone 10 years without buying garlic, just replanting my own. Occasionally there's a bad crop (like I had two years ago) and I have to buy more. So starting with good healthy seed garlic gets you off to a good start. E

And every year you replant your best garlic you are selecting seed that is best for your garden and developing a strain of garlic that is best suited to your growing conditions.

I am planing to plant my garlic this weekend. This year - with LOTS of compost! So I don't get another harvest of tiny little heads. (Lots of compost like my Mom's garlic bed. You should see how big her heads are!)


Sunday, October 09, 2016

Suzie by my garden

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The garden is still producing lot's. So many peppers and beans. I made a couple batches of bean pickles and am planting to roast and freeze peppers soon. My pepper plants are taller than me and all tangled together with the tomato vines. I love searching through them (deep in the vegetable garden jungle) for fruits. My fall salad greens, planted late, are coming along. Tomatoes aren't ripening fast any more but still many of green ones on the vines. My average first frost is tomorrow. I guess it will be late this year.


Sunday, October 02, 2016

here's Charley

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Charley is the new puppy we are getting. He was born Aug 26 - the day Skippy died :-( Charley is beautiful. He's little right now, born a week prematurely, but growing fast. The breeder can tell he'll have long legs and a long body. I'd like a big dog - like Skippy was. We plan to bring him home Friday October 28. He'll be 9 weeks old then.

Charley IMG_8474 Charley IMG_8480 Charley IMG_8499 Charley IMG_8502

The breeder calls our pup Inky. He is black as ink with a very silky coat. I don't know - we prefer to call him Charley. I'm a Steinbeck fan and he had a dog named Charley.

I'm sure Suzie will love him. It will be nice for her to have another dog for company again.


Saturday, October 01, 2016

a weekend of rain

It's raining. All day today and more tomorrow. it rained several days last week too. We are feeling lucky that we got our lawn over seeded, aerated, and limed just in time. We also had a big magnolia tree planted for us in the front yard. The rain is good for both of these. I hope it will fill up our reservoirs.

I keep hearing the Mellencamp song in my head "Someday the rains will come, when you expect it least...". I guess they are here. But I think the rain in that song was an analogy. Not neccearliy meaning rain that's coming when you least expect it. I still miss Skippy. I did not expect to lose him so abruptly. But time moves forward.

Suzie is doing well. We're giving her double attention. She's doing "Suzie school", an obedience class that she excels at and loves. Walks in the woods. Special dinners. Playtimes on the floor with special toys. I have some pictures of her that I will post soon. She has learned to pose for the camera - like Skippy did. It just took a few treats. Now she loves to pose. And she is very pretty.

I canned garden vegetables all day today. I'll show photos of them and my new pantry soon. It's filling up. I love all the preserved pickles, jams, squashes, potatoes, and honey.

We have some news of a new addition to our family. I am very much looking forward to our new puppy. On about Nov 1, we will bring him home. I've been to see him a couple times. I'll post some photos soon. Charley. He's a Portuguese water dog from the same lineage and breeder as Skippy and Suzie. Deep black, silky fur. A spot of white on his chin and a big splash of white on his chest. He's a great little pup and I look forward to being with him.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

low reservoir

empty reservoir IMG_8426

This is the Cambridge reservoir today. We've had a little rain in the past couple days, so there is actually some water in it. At times this summer, it's been just a trickle. I don't know how the ducks and fish have survived (if they have).

Yes, the big gardening topic here is still the drought.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

sweet potato harvest

I harvested my sweet potatoes today. I just had on small row that I grew at my community garden. With a very bad vole population this year, I was afraid I find all sorts of half eaten tubers. But only one had nibble marks. And many of the tubers were pretty good size. I was surprised to see several were sprouting already - underground. What's that about? The hot weather? I'm glad I got them out of the ground a bit early. I normally would wait 'til after a frost but I thought I'd get it done now.

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peppermint Swiss chard for the food pantry

chard for food pantry IMG_8201 It was very pretty, but I dislike chard. I only planted a little just to see if I might like it - not - and it's been growing like crazy all summer. So I harvested it and donated a big bunch. They appreciated it.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

another farmers market

I sold honey again at our local farmers market. This time I sold all 2 dozen lbs I brought with me and took orders for about 30 more. Now I've sold all of the honey I hoped to sell - about 60 lbs, half of what I had. The trick was bringing Suzie! She is a great sales dog! She got lots of attention at our little table.

honey at farmers market IMG_8179 gourds at farmers market IMG_8180

I also brought a basket full of gourds to sell. I sold a few at 50 cents each, but not many. I thought they looked pretty and maybe helped sell my honey. These were all from one giant vine that was a volunteer in my garden. I let it grow with no idea what it was. One of those compost contributions. I also had a nice butternut squash volunteer as well as a million tomatoes. the butternut produced four nice squashes - I pulled all the tomatoes.

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today's harvest

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Friday, September 23, 2016

a walk in the woods

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Suzie and I took a nice long walk in the woods today. the evening sunlight filtering through the trees was lovely. I took many photos. After looking st then I'm thinking that they look like late fall or early spring - bare trees and leaves fallen already. That's our dryness I guess. It was lovely just the same.

Suzie has learned to pose for the camera She's pretty fast though. She wants to hear that click and then get to her treat. Here's one that I managed to get somewhat in focus. The log anyway - if not the dog.

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