This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

how do you store your seeds?

How do you store your vegetable seeds packets? The leftover seeds from one garden year that you want to use in future gardens. Or if you don't save any, why not?

seed sorting IMG_0124 soy bean seed from Roger Swain IMG_5908 seed swap seeds IMG_0672

I've been keeping mine in a big plastic box at room temperature, 65-70F (18-21C), and as dry as I can by adding silica gel packets and keeping the top on.

After some reading, I see that the optimum humidity for most vegetable seeds is 20-25%. For legumes it's 44-50%. For temperature, a 10-degree reduction can double the life of my seeds. Optimum storage temperature of most vegetable seeds at home is 41F (5C) or lower, but frozen. It's also important to have a consistent temperature and humidity for storage.

sorting seeds IMG_1303 organized 2010 seed basket delicata seeds

A consistently cooler area I have is the garage. It's 50-60F (10-16C) and 40% humidity. I'll move my storage location out to there, give the beans an open box of their own. I'll keep adding the moisture absorbing packets to the other (closed) box. I'm also curious to check the humidity inside the closed box and see if it's any lower than the surrounding air.

Let me know any thoughts. I never looked into this until a reader commented that she refrigerated her seeds. My seeds last a long time (most about 6 years, some, like tomatoes, 10 years), but I wouldn't mind if they lasted even longer.

Here's an informative site that I found: WFLO Commodity Storage Manual: Vegetable Seeds. (WFLO is the World Food Logistics Org that dedicates itself to the proper handling and storage of perishable products and the development of systems and best practices for the safe, efficient, and reliable movement of food to the people of the world.)

white house vegetables

I heard the new First Lady will keep the White House Vegetable Garden!! "The First Garden". I am so pleased that she values home gardening. I was impressed with the new President's statement to the Japanese Prime Minister:

"Both our countries' histories and cultures are steeped in the nurture and nature of gardening. Having knowledge of different cultures and customs is a wonderful way to learn and to explore. Gardening teaches us the fundamentals in care and the evolution of living things, all while inspiring us to nurture our minds and to relax and strengthen our bodies."
Wow. That's great.


Monday, February 13, 2017

organizing seed packets

I'm so excited - all the seeds I ordered this year have arrived! Yeah! Almost as fun as planting them is putting them away in my seed organizer.

seed sorting  IMG_0120

To store my seeds, I have a plastic box with a lid that holds standard-sized, heavy, 1-inch expanding envelopes. I have 20 of these envelopes. Each I've labelled with a type of vegetable. I have Bush Beans, Pole Beans, Roots (carrots, beets, etc), Flowers, Tomatoes, etc. Each seed packet goes into the appropriate folder.

I love the way this set-up works. It's easy to find my seeds and easy to return them to their spot.

seed sorting IMG_0124 seed sorting  IMG_0126

Hannah, who runs the Vegetable Garden at Elm Bank (Wellesley MA) uses this approach and showed it to me. Rather than one box, she has at least ten of them!

I like to show my seed collection to gardeners and make the point that seeds last a long time. Most last at least 5 years. Tomato seeds can remain viable more than 10 years. A few seed types are short-lived, like carrots and onions. But it saves a LOT of money, and is fun(!), to save seeds year to year in an organized system. I enjoy building up a collection with lots of variety.

So now I have my seeds set, I've cleaned up some planting trays, my shelves and lights are up. The next step is getting my hands into dirt and planting. Ahh.... My calendar says to start onions and celeriac next week. But I think starting a week early can't hurt....

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

app updates

I've been working on updates to Skippy's Calendar apps. It's really fun - like imagining a summer garden in the middle of winter! We'll have more plants and more seed sowing information added to both our Flower & Herb app and our Vegetable app. Updates will be available in a week or two (or three) to all purchases made now or later.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

snow shoeing to my garden

Ten days after my last post and our scenery is whiter. And colder. We had 10 inches of snow Thursday and another 3 or 4 last night. It looks like we're in a snowy pattern with more to come.

snow shoeing to  garden IMG_1876

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

charley and suzie

We got "snow" last night. One inch. I'm not sure I really call that snow. Nevertheless, Suzie and Charley enjoyed it.

charley IMG_6608

c-suzie 3 IMG_6641charley IMG_6631

charley - suzie IMG_6627 charley 5 IMG_6618

charley IMG_6600 charley IMG_6577

c-suzie IMG_6563 It's almost impossible to tell who's who these days. Suzi has a fuller tail and Charley has the white chest splash. Suzi does her best to avoid the camera. Charley's a ham.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

crop rotation

I recently finished making plans for my vegetable gardens and posted the diagrams. A reader noticed I always plant my butternut squash in one place: on the arbor in the middle of my community garden plot. I like it there. It looks nice and does well.

But the reader asked: Why don't you rotate its location?

Well my view is crop rotation is more often important for farmers growing big fields of vegetables. Growing in a small space is different. It's hard to separate plants in a 500 sq ft space. I've heard and read this, most recently from Victory Garden TV host Roger Swain at a class he gave for my Master Gardener training.

Crop rotation can be done to reduce pathogens or build soil. When thinking about pathogens, many are windbourne or spread by insects, splashing, tools, or the gardener. For these, moving crops a few feet to another bed doesn't help much. There are also crops that don't have many pests in a given area and there's no need to rotate these.

Crop rotation to build soil is a great idea even in a small garden. Squash is a heavy feeder, so I could plant a crop that doesn't like a rich soil, like carrots, in it's place the second year, and then a legume like pole beans to build up the soil the third year, and then in the fourth year go back to squash. Maybe some year I'll try this. Drawbacks are the time it takes to plan out the cycles. Also, here is a tendency for home gardeners to grow many more heavy feeding plants than light feeders or soil builders. And, it's not so hard to get a few shovelfuls of compost and enrich a small patch of soil annually. Anyway I don't rotate for soil building.

I do make sure to rotate crops that are susceptible to soil pathogens in my gardens. These include: 1. Root vegetables, 2. Tomatoes, and 3. Brassicas.

My root vegetables include carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and scallions. (I haven't seen any problems without rotating celeriac and beets.) All alliums (onions, garlic, leek, scallions) need to be considered the same and none should go in the same bed without a break. I rotate them on a three year schedule. The same for tomatoes and brassicas. (My brassicas include broccoli, bok choi, cabbage, and kale.) To make it easier to rotate these, I plant each in their own bed.

Plants I don't rotate are my greens, legumes, herbs, flowers, and squashes. These don't benefit enough from rotating in my small garden. For example, my squash is prone to stem borer, downy mildew, and cucumber beetles. Moving its location won't reduce these. So I add a good pile of compost along my arbor and keep planting the butternuts there.

I'd love to hear how other gardeners handle crop rotation. I'm sure there are lot's of approaches.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

garden plans

So far, this is what I have for my garden plans. Maybe a draft, but for now it's a start. I'm working on detailed plans for the plantings in the front three beds of my community garden. I want to make them look really nice.

my 2017 home garden plan

my 2017 community garden plan


Thursday, January 26, 2017

I'm working on my garden plans today and hope to be done tomorrow. I'm encorporating crop rotation and allocating space for all of the varieties I want to grow. Plus, I want to include lots of flowers that attract beneficial insects and make the gardens beautiful. I want to reduce planting in rows this year and go for more patches and combined plantings.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Charley and the chickens

charley and coop IMG_9959

That's my chicken coop behind my inquisitive and always "up-for-the-chase" five month old puppy. Charley caught one of my chickens the other day. The pretty black one I call Penny. Prey instinct kicked in. He chased and caught her, held her for several seconds in his jaw before my husband got there and pulled him off. Penny was scared but fortunately no damage done. Now we don't let Charley out when the chickens are out. It's one or the other. I don't know if this is just a puppy thing. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

a gray day

gray day IMG_9948 gray day IMG_9952

We've got rain, snow, sleet, and slush today. Dull gray skies. Dreary. The dogs and I walked on muddy, slippery trails. Mud in the car, mud in the house, then "paw baths". A good evening to sit by the fire.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

planting shelves, seeds, and trays


My planting shelves and lights are ready to go! My husband set them up for me. (Thanks Steve!) Rather than putting them in the garage this year, they are in a small pantry where I store my canned goods, books, etc. I can adjust the temperature in here without heating up a large room. Last year they grew very slowly in the 60F garage.

I addition to having the shelves ready, I just sent out my last seed order - the snail mail one to Sand Hill. I'm enjoying seeing my new seeds arrive in the mail. I'll have to show a photo soon of my seed collection as I have a new way of organizing and storing them

Next - I have to get my trays and seed pots cleaned up. 4 WEEKS 'TIL PLANTING - and counting!!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

seed catalog

Today I ran across a seed company I didn't know about. NE Seed Co. They have a really nice catalog. I was getting my haircut and they had the catalog on the table. What hair salon has seed catalogs! Great reading. I just requested a copy. I can always find room for a few more varieties in my garden, but mostly I want to finish reading it. NE Seed Co is a seed distributor located in Hartford CT.


Friday, January 13, 2017

5 weeks 'til I start planting!

It's 16 weeks 'til my last spring frost - which means only 5 weeks 'til I start planting! OK, it's still a while, but why not start getting ready. I have to clean off my plant shelves, get my pots and trays out of the garden shed and clean them all, make sure I have potting soil, and get my seeds ready to go.

I'll be using my planting app again. It's made it very easy for me to keep up with what to plant when. It's at the Apple Store and Google Play. We're in the process of making some upgrades, which should be fun.

The app has no flashy graphics like other planting apps, but also unlike others - it's written by gardeners, contains a lot of information and flexibility, it's very simple to use, no in-app purchases, and it incorporates feedback from the many gardeners who read this blog. Now that I've finished my gardening class, I can also say that the app was written by a "Master Gardener"! Anyway, I find it very useful.

Skippys planting apps IMG_6559 Skippys planting apps IMG_6525
Skippys planting apps IMG_6530 Skippys planting apps IMG_6529

If you search the Apple store for "vegetable" it's the second app listed, and our other apps follow. Or you can use this link: We have two apps, a "Vegetable" app and an "Herb and Flower" app. The Vegetable app, has three versions: Spring only, Fall only, Winter only (each $0.99), and the full season app ($1.99).


Charley outgrew his puppy collar today and I got out one of Skippy's. It looks good on him. Suzie sniffed and I think she likes it too. Charley's growing up fast. His last Puppy K class is tomorrow. I haven't told him yet, but he's going to have to take the next two levels of Puppy training too. He's as tall as Suzie now, but slim - 30 lbs to her 40. And very very handsome.


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