This is a journal of my home vegetable garden. Skippy and Suzie think it's their garden, but I do all the work. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community garden plot and a garden in my backyard. I try to grow all of my family's vegetables using sustainable organic methods.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

freight farming?

Have you read about freight farming? In Boston, this is where food may be coming from now. Wow. This is the future! Freight cars transformed into aquaponic vegetable gardens. Lights, nutrients all delivered artificially. It removes the variables of weather, airborne disease spores and sunlight availability. Amazing.

As an outdoor gardener, I question this approach. Do we want to eat vegetables raised in a "freight car" environment? Yes, I do buy the aquaponic tomatoes and lettuce in the grocery store IN THE WINTER in New England. But has our environment become so pathogen infested that this is needed year round? In cities like Boston, the pathogen level plus the transportation cost must be benefit by this?


What about food nutrient levels of the artificially tended produce? Do these compare with organic field-raised vegetables? And the expense of air conditioners and year-round artificial lights? Does this make the difference useful? I am imagining a ring of freight cars full of salad growers around cities. Not a bad image, but why not a ring of farm fields around cities? Are giving in to the fight for easy food production?

It doesn't just happen! To grow food without chemicals and WITH natural light and air takes some effort. But it produces food that provides flavor (!!), nutrients, visual pleasure. Variety. Traditional. -- I can't imagine all those year round AC's balance out.

in the paper: effort to save bees, butterflies

This was in the Boston Globe yesterday. (link to article)

US effort attempting to save bees, butterflies
The Obama administration hopes to save the bees by feeding them better.

A new federal plan aims to reverse America’s declining honeybee and monarch butterfly populations by making millions of acres of federal land more bee-friendly, spending millions of dollars more on research, and considering the use of fewer pesticides.

While putting different types of landscapes along highways, federal housing projects, and elsewhere may not sound like much in terms of action, several bee scientists said this is a significant move. They say it may help pollinators that are starving because so much of the American landscape has been converted to lawns and corn, which don’t provide foraging areas for bees.
Yeah! Less lawns and corn! I mowed my lawn the other day but left most of it to grow taller because it has flowers in it. Clover, ajuga, blue and yellow flowers I don't know the names of. The robins like the mowed lawn, but that's about it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

organic potting mix

organic potting mix IMG_2572 This year I used an organic potting mix for the first time. I didn't realize that it would be any different and forgot I had made the change. When I bought the soil, I was really happy that the big bags sold at Costco were organic. Later I began to wonder why my tomatoes weren't growing as fast and were pale. The onions got yellow at the tips. Some things grew just as well: the peas and even the peppers. The main problem was really the tomatoes. In addition to the organic soil, I seeded them in smaller pots than usual.

Finally it occurred to me that they needed more nutrients. I transplanted them to bigger pots (birthday party cups!) and gave them some fish emulsion. I want to get them planted out in the garden soon in a bed with lots of compost and some TomatoTone.

organic potting mix IMG_2569organic potting mix IMG_2571

Monday, May 18, 2015

bee notes

On Monday's I do my hive checks. For now I'm doing these checks weekly.

garden work

At my community plot:
Dug potato trenches and planted 2 lb Canela russets
Turned the winter rye cover under in three beds
Moved perennials so the big helianthis is now behind the daisy and echinacea
Transplanted leeks, shallots, bunching onions and lots of standard onions
Watered everything well (its a dust bowl here today! no rain in weeks)

garden plot

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

time to think about fall planting?

I was amazed to see that it's time to plant Brussels sprouts next week. Time to start fall planting! I've tried to plant Brussels sprouts the last two years and ended up with tiny sprouts hardly worth cooking at Thanksgiving time. I suppose the trick is to get the seeds planted at the right time.

Skippy's fall planting app lists planting times for 25 crops. For $0.99, Skippy's Fall Planting Calendar App is available at the Apple store. Fall planting is also included in the Full Season app. Click on the Skippy's Calandar app ad in the upper right corner of this blog.

garden work

At my community plot: 
Emptied my compost bin
Spread ripe compost onto beds
Returned unripe materials back to bin
Transplanted Johnny-Jump-Ups out of potato bed
Transplanted asparagus to a sunnier bed
Mulched and watered transplanted asparagus
Removed stray strawberry plants
(Gave away strawberry and asparagus plants :-)
Turned potato bed - ready to plant!

At my backyard garden:
Raked turned beds flat
Finished fall leaf clean up
Planted broccoli, cabbage, escarole, radicchio and lettuce
Watered transplants
Covered broccoli and cabbage with row cover

Monday, May 11, 2015

turning my first garden beds - finally

I would normally have done this a month ago. Not sure why I'm so late with my vegetable garden this year. I suppose its the new bees and the extra work I put into the community garden I manage. In any case, I'm not a good role model of a vegetable gardener this year. But I'm still planning to make a start at growing all of my family's vegetables for this year.

turned bed IMG_1305 On a positive note - you wouldn't believe the size of the earth worms in my beds! Gigantic.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

flowers for mother's day

mothers day flowers IMG_2461mothers day flowers IMG_2420 mothers day flowers IMG_2474mothers day flowers IMG_2518 mothers day flowers IMG_2531mothers day flowers IMG_2542

Saturday, May 09, 2015

seedlngs on the patio

seedlings IMG_2412

I have a table full of seedling on my patio - all ready to plant. It's the year of doing everything late. Soon I'll be picking peas from those pea plants in their pot if I don't transplant soon.

Friday, May 08, 2015

blueberry patch

Also on my to-do list today is to water my blueberries. I added four new plants yesterday, all different. Three highbush (Blue Crop, Jersey, and Northland) and one lowbush (xxx). I mulched them in well and added HollyTone fertilizer. Since they're on a slope, I made a well at one side and a berm at the outer side of each plant to catch water. I have an drip irrigation kit spread out on my kitchen table now that I will install later this week so each plant gets watered well. The plants are in bud now. I'm not so concerned about a big crop of berries yet, I just want to get the plants established.

I started the patch in the fall of 2013 (1.5 yrs ago) with 8 highbush and 5 lowbush plants. The area is a bit on the shady side and is sloped. Id like to leave the wildflowers that are growing below them and keep a layer of chopped oak leaf mulch around them. I lost a couple bushes over the first winter and then last summer the remaining bushes did poorly, I think because I didn't tend them. They didn't produce many berries and I let the birds have what were there. This year I am planning to baby the plants; they are fertilized, sprayed (with dormant oil at bud break), mulched and hopefully I will keep up with watering. I have bird netting ready if they do produce berries this year.

blueberry watering IMG_2373blueberry buds  IMG_2375 blueberry patch IMG_2382blueberry buds IMG_2377


bee notes

I opened both beehives this morning and moved two undrawn frames from the far left into the center. The green hive is a bit ahead of the white one and its outermost frames are now drawn, and only the two frames I just moved are empty. I didn't pull out any of the active frames to check them since its only been 5 days since I last opened the hives. There were some large ants in the white beehive.

I'm thinking that, with 9 frames in the hives (feeder frame is at the right in both hives), and only 2 undrawn frames, that's 80% drawn. I should add another box to each very soon.

I'm wondering about filling the feeder again. I've only fed 1.5 gallons per hive this spring. Not much. I've read to expect to feed 3-4 gallons (how can that be?). I've also read to keep feeding until they don't eat it as they prefer nectar and will eat that when enough is available. I think I'll go down today or tomorrow and take a look at the feeder level (wish I'd thought to look at it this morning). It seems to me there are lots of flowers now and they should be fine, but I'll check. I want to get the feeder out before it gets drawn with comb.


seeds planted

I've been getting way behind with my gardening. But now that I've finished organizing and running our community garden workday, last Saturday, I can get back to my garden.

Last night I planted:

Winter squash, Waltham Butternut
Winter squash, Butterscotch
Winter squash, Blue Ballet
Winter squash, Jarrahdale pumpkin
Cucumbers, Diva
Cucumbers, Salt and Pepper
Cucumbers, Parisian Gherkin
Cucumbers, Corinto
Cucumbers, Tokiwa
Cucumbers, Sooyow Nish
Cucumbers, Straight 8
Summer squash, yellow, Slick Pick
Summer squash, yellow, Yellow Crook
Summer squash, scallop, Early white bush
Summer squash, scallop, Starship
Summer squash, zucchini, Bosso Nova
Summer squash, zucchini, Costata Romanescu
Zinnia, California Giant
Zinnia, Cook's blend
Zinnia, Giant Fantasy

I'm 2 weeks late with the cucumbers and 3 weeks late planting the winter squash and zinnias.


Monday, April 27, 2015

checking my hives after 1 week

Two hives, two queens. I opened up my hives a week after installing my packages (new bees) to check on them today. I was relieved that I was able to identify queens. I ordered two marked queens, but one had lost her marker and I was surprised to see her looking plain but different from all the rest.

My bees are so sweet and calm. I have spent a lot of time watching them, close up and at a distance, and no stings (yet). I found I cannot trigger my cell phone camera button with my bee gloves on, so I work one handed - one glove on one off and can take pictures. Aren't they beautiful!!

bees IMG_1214bees IMG_1218 bee queen 2 IMG_1211bbees IMG_1192 bees IMG_1219 bees IMG_1200


bee notes

Hive 1 (white hive): Four and a half frames are 50% built out. I found the queen. Some cells have yellow stuff (pollen) and others have clear liquid (nectar) in them. I can't see any signs of eggs and don't know what they would look like at this point. Lots of bees! The sugar water is 2 inches down.

Hive 2 (green hive): Looks about the same as the white hive. Four frames build out about 30% and then a couple more frames are build out a little bit. I found a queen that is unmarked and took a picture of her. Like the other hive I don't see eggs. Some cells have milky white maybe at the bottom, a number have pollen or nectar. Sugar water is about 2 inches down.


Monday, April 20, 2015

me in my beesuit

beesuit selfie IMG_1112


Sunday, April 19, 2015

bees tomorrow

We spent a lot of time today getting ready for bees. I'll bring home two "packages" midday tomorrow. Today we raked then positioned the boxes. We adjusted the sprinklers. I practiced "smoking" with pine cones, made a couple quarts of sugar water. I think I'm ready.

Tomorrow, I'll pick up the packages, uncork the queen and dump in the bees. The boxes are in a good location I think. Nice morning sun. Good mid afternoon shade. Our magnolia trees have begun to bloom so the bees will like that I hope. A few crocuses, daffodils and chinodoxa are blooming too. Too bad we have a driving rain storm coming tomorrow night. The bees can stay put in their new home.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

bee hives are in place

Well, the boxes were in place. They had a great place by my garden, then noticed they don't get any morning sun there. So I moved them to the opposite side of the yard. Still checking if that spot get's good sun and no sprinklers. Its the driest edge of the yard and grass struggles there, so that's probably a good sign that its the warm and sunny.

IMG_1065 - CopyIMG_1066 IMG_1084 Oh, I'll probably move them again. That white one looks like its sticking out in the yard. I could move it closer to the green one and tuck it in more.


spraying my cherry tree

winter sowing seedlings


Monday, April 13, 2015

spraying fruit trees

All of a sudden it's warm! How does that happen. The snow and ice are suddenly gone. Time to spray my fruit trees. I use horticultural oil. The info sheet from UNH Cooperative Extention is great.
Pears, Two applications to control psylla, mites and scale. First, spray at swollen bud stage, on 3rd or 4th warm spring day, use 3% oil. Spray again between green cluster and white bud stage.
Apples, Spray once between tight cluster and pre-pink stage. (Use two applications if you've had previous trouble.)
Cherry, One application at swollen bud stage.
Blueberries, One application, apply before buds open, use 2-3% oil.

Today my two espaliered pear trees were at swollen bud stage so I sprayed then. It was a beautiful first day in my community garden plot.

getting ready for bees

I have collected all my bee equipment. Jacket, hat, smoker, boxes, inserts etc. Yesterday I painted the boxes. White and two shades of green. Next I'll position the boxes down by my garden and make sure the sprinklers don't hit them. I have two packages of bees arriving next Monday.

IMG_2183IMG_2180 IMG_0984 - CopyIMG_1067 IMG_0985


Saturday, April 11, 2015

swallows arrive

The tree swallows arrived here this morning!!! What fun to see them. They are swooping all over my garden. A pair seems to have claimed the same nesting box where a swallow pair nested last year. I read that our NE tree swallows have been in Florida or Cuba for the winter.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

skippy's full season planting calendar is out

Our full season app has just been released at the Apple store. It includes spring, fall and winter planting calendars all in one. You can make a calendar with all seasons, or turn one or two seasons off.

Like our previous calendars, it gives you tasks by the week - like a real calendar. Other planting calendars list times by crop so you can't easily see what you need to do now. That's the main benefit of our app, I think. Also we have transplant times listed. And you can email me or comment here if you have a question.

We keep adding updates. I think we'll add some phenology soon, that is, traditional planting advice based on the seasonal flora and fauna changes. This is fun to know, but in odd winters like this in NE, phenology can help adjust traditional calendar planting dates. I still haven't heard those female redwing blackbirds, but the males are singing loudly. Peas are supposed to go in when the females show up.

BTW, if you have our spring calendar already, the update to full season is free.

Here is the link: Skippy's Full Season calendar
full season app screen shot panel


Our little chipmunk has finally come out of hibernation! I think he had the right idea on how to spend this winter.

chipmunk IMG_2227chipmunk IMG_2229 chipmunk IMG_2232

new skippy's calendar app

    It's time to plant seeds!
    Use these calendars to tell you when to plant, or to organize your planting schedule.

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