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.

Monday, November 28, 2016

my first seed catalog!

Now I have my reading material! I'm excited to see all the pictures and descriptions of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. I think I might get my seed order in early this year.

johnny's catalog IMG_9397
So many vegetables to choose from. And this is only ONE catalog so far.
johnny's catalog eggplants IMG_9401 johnny's catalog squash IMG_9399

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

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today's harvest

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I picked a few flowers from among the vegetables. Also a bunch of baby carrots - there are lots still left in the garden. Those hairy dirty things are a few uncleaned celeriac. There's also for the table baby bulb fennel in the center. All these vegetables - plus stored sweet and white potatoes - went into a dish of roasted root vegetables for Thanksgiving.

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EU cookie question

I have a question for European Viewers of this blog. Are you able to see a notice on this blog that explains Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies? I'm hoping this notice is there and shows up for EU users even though I can't see it here. Thanks for letting me know.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

fall crops - what's growing in my garden now

My sister was surprised that I still had vegetables in my garden. Here's what's there now. I think the cold will move in soon. I'm keeping an eye on the forecast.

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From top left: celeriac, green onions, escarole, green romaine lettuce, carrots, mini broccoli, leeks and cilantro, thyme's and oregano's, my winter tunnel set-up with many greens under mulch, and read leaf lettuce.

Monday, November 21, 2016

fall garden - photos of my garden this week

vegetable garden today 11-21 IMG_9239

Lots of greys in the landscape. Shadows and crispy air. I took the photo above by climbing up on the NW corner of my garden fence. I tried a new angle in the photo below. I climbed up in a large bush on a slope at the NE side of the garden. I couldn't get all of the branches out of the camera path. They filtered the light and made it glow red in places.

vegetable garden today 11-19b IMG_9197

Sunday, November 20, 2016

storage of vegetable - and other items, like honey, fruits, etc

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I've been winging it so far in storing my vegetables and honey. But my honey has all crystallized and my potatoes are sprouting.

I have a pantry with a temperature system that I can set 60-75ºF. Or I can leave the system off and the temperature will stay about 50ºF since it's on a cement slab. The room also has a dehumidifier. In addition to this pantry, I have a fridge, and a good sized deep freezer. And there are other areas of the house with different temperatures. So, where to store what?

I have a great book on vegetable storage, "Root Cellaring" by Mike and Nancy Bubel. Roger Swain reviewed the basics of vegetable storage in my recent class. And, I've had advice from my readers on a recent post about my vegetable and honey storage.

So, I've looked up winter storage conditions for all the crops I grow. I've figured out where in my house (or garden) I should be able to store them with conditions at least close to optimal.

1- Leave in the ground until just before it freezes Parsnips, carrots, turnips, winter radishes, celeriac

2- In garden under winter tunnel
Greens: escarole, spinach, lettuce, mustard greens

3- Frozen
> In deep freezer
Pesto's, dried fruits, roasted peppers, pears in syrup or plain, raspberries

4- Cool and very moist, 32-40ºF, 90-95% humidity
> In plastic bags in the refrigerator
Carrots, beets, parsnips, Chinese cabbage, celeriac, leeks, broccoli (short term), horse radish

5- Cool and moist, 32-40ºF, 80-90% humidity
> In mesh bags or baskets in the refrigerator
Potatoes, cabbage, apples, pears, endive, escarole, sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, eggs
(I'll need bigger fridge once I (hopefully) get apples and pears and better potato crops)

6- Cool and dry, 32-50ºF, 60-70% humidity)
> In my food pantry (set for 50ºF)
Garlic (better at 50% humidity), onions (hang braided)

7- Moderately warm and dry, 50-60ºF, 60-70% humidity
> In my food pantry (set for 50ºF)
Winter squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, canned goods

8- Warm, 70-80ºF
> In the utility room
Honey

If you have experience storing these crops, please let me know your advice. I feel I'm a novice here.

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today's harvest

lettuce selfie IMG_9225

I don't even know why I'm posting this silly photo. I'm trying to change up the way my harvest looks, since the past month it has been pretty much the same - lot's of greens. So this is a "selfie" of me, my sister, and today's harvest.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Roger Swain's vegetable variety list

Here's a list of vegetable varieties Roger Swain recommended in my master gardener class:

Onion: Stuttgart
Peas: Oregon Giant snow pea (3.5 ft tall) "the finest pea out there"
Lettuce: Black Seeded Simpson (has the best taste)
Cabbage: Murdock (big!), for storage: Danish Ball Head
Turnips: Hakurei
Kohlrabi: Kossak (big)
Potatoes: Green Mountain
Carrots: Dragon (purple), Nantes (orange)
Eggplant: Hansel and Gretel (small cluster forming fruits, Hansel is deep purple, Gretel is white)
Pepper: Habanada (a heatless habanero)
Corn: Mandan Bride (a Flint corn for grinding - don't grow sweet corn, buy locally)
Beans: Fortex, Brockton Horticultural, cow peas
Cucumbers: Silver Slicer, Salt and Pepper (pickling)
Melon: Sarah's Choice
Watermelon: Sugar Baby

I think I'll select several from this list to try next year. I liked Mr Swain's comment that you don't need to grow all your favorites every year, just pick a few. For me "a few" is about 50, but it's a good thought to rotate through different varieties.

My thoughts for my garden next year:
Potatoes: I'll grow just one variety (rather than 4 as I have been): Green Mountain
Peas: definitely try Oregon Giant snow pea (plus my old favorite, Sugar Snap)
Eggplants: I'll try Hansel and my favorite eggplant from last year
Corn: I'd try Mandar Bride if I had a grinder
Beans: Brockton Horticultural sounds good to try

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Friday, November 18, 2016

today's harvest

harvest IMG_9167

Another bunch of salad greens. This one has red and green romaine (Cherokee and Monte Carlo), escarole (Natacha), some cilantro, and pretty baby red beet greens (Bull's Blood).

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charley and suzie

It seemed like time for a few pictures of Charley and Suzie. Suzie is 3 and a half years old, Charley is 2 and a half months. They are very happy romping together in the fallen leaves.

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Skippy would have had fun today too. But he had 11 great seasons of playing in the leaves.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

today's garden work

Charley really wanted to participate in all of my garden chores today. He made the work a bit of a challenge. He stole anything he could and then I had to chase him - he's fast! He walked all through the garden beds (my plan is to teach him next year to stay off.) And he put anything he could find into his mouth.

- Plant 6 packages of tulip bulbs around my patio, adding bulb booster to each hole.
- Cut back my long row of perennials to the ground and compost.
- Prune my red twig dogwood bushes.
- Plant a last few heads of garlic to fill out a bed I prepared earlier. (I now have about 90 heads of garlic planted - it's a staple in our cooking.)
- Remove the extra frames of honey I fed my bees to boost their winter storage.
- Continue with brush and small tree removal from the edges of the woods near my garden.(Amazing how fast things grow and steal the sunlight!) Stack it for burning in late winter when we can get a permit.

master gardener class with Roger Swain

R Swain in MG class IMG_8815 - Copy

I keep writing about this. What a treat the class was!! It was so great to hear Mr Swain talk from 9 am to 3 pm all about vegetables. I have 12 pages of notes. I wish I had a tenth of his knowledge. And a tenth of his ability to entertain a class. Super.

Anyway, here is a list of some of the highlights in his presentation:
- Local food production: 20% local food production is a good goal for New England. Currently it's about 5-7%. NE has the land resources for higher local production. It would not impact large areas of forest, would not leave the land bare like the 1800's. We have a untended, overgrown land and using it would be better.
- Home vegetable gardens: The more the better. It's better for land to be gardened than to let it go to weeds and invasive plants - open land needs to be tended to maintain health.
- Seasonal food: is one of the reasons for increasing home and local gardening. People have forgotten what it's like to eat seasonal food. Seasonal local food is much better for us than cheap supermarket food.
- Mr Swain grows about 30% of his food, which is way above average. (I think he meant 30% of ALL of his food. Not just 30% of his vegetables. Impressive.)
- Giving food: is an important part of vegetable gardening. If you get to the end of the season and haven't given food away it's a real shame.
- Organic gardening: Instead of "organic", he likes an approach he calls "PMO" pretty much organic.
- Raised beds: Make raised beds simply by digging sunken paths and piling the soil up to make a raised bed. This it easy to do, makes it easy to change the bed configuration next year, there's no pressure treated wood, and no rotting untreated wood to worry about replacing. They still provide the benefits of raised beds with warmer soil and paths to walk on avoiding bed compaction.
- Soil preparation: A rototiller is the worst invention ever! It puts oxygen into the soil, which removes nutrients, it destroys soil structure, and it raises buried weed seeds to the surface. Instead, use a broadfork to loosen and aerate the soil a little. - Weeding: Use a Dutch hand hoe and slice under weeds with the blade. (I've found that there are lots of different hoes called a Dutch hand hoe. He had one with a straight 12 inch wood handle and a triangular metal blade. They come in right- and left-handed versions. There are beautiful one at sneeboerusa.com, but probably nice ones at many on-line sources and local garden shops.)
- Mulch: Use thin (1 ml) black plastic on the beds. It lasts one year, then you can throw it out and not worry about storage. You could get the thicker 6 mil stuff, but it cost 5 times as much and doesn't last 5 years.
- Planting: In home gardens, grow plants close together giving every plant only the space it needs. Plant in patches rather than rows.
- Chipmunks and voles: Use have-a-heart traps. But don't release the animal somewhere else like in your neighbors yard (in MA it's illegal to move any wild animal from one place to another). Kill the animal. Killing pests comes with the territory of gardening.
- Bug control in general: "The bug on the rose is evil, but so is the person who sees only the bug."
- Zucchini: Use black plastic mulch, cut holes in it and plant, and then cover the plants with Remay fabric over low hoops. This keeps the plants about 10 degrees warmer and also keeps the vine borer wasps out. Remove the fabric when the first female squash flowers appear.
- Potato beetles: At the 1st/2nd instar, spray with BtSD. (I am thinking this approach may also be appropriate for bean beetles, though I didn't ask him.)
- Corn ear worms: Just lop the top of the corn off before you eat it.
- Blueberry maggots: They are not toxic to people...
- Potatoes: Save your small potatoes and regrow them for about 4-5 years. That's how long it takes for pathogens to become a problem. Every 4-5 years, get a new stock of certified disease free ones and start again.
- Winter: Use winter rye ground cover. In the spring, use a weed whacker to turn it into coleslaw. (I didn't get the full story here. I don't know if you need to turn this into the soil to disrupt the roots, or if you can leave the "coleslaw" on the top of the soil while the roots compost? The question is whether the roots will regrow.)

He also talked about storing vegetables and listed many of his favorite varieties. I'll post about each of these separately.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

today's harvest

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the basics of growing a vegetable garden

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I have a giant notebook compiled from my Master Gardener class. Of course, the vegetable section was one of my favorites.

I was interested to see how our manual breaks down the major components of growing a vegetable garden. 1) Planning and 2) Maintaining growth momentum.

Planning includes site selection, soil, type of garden (raised beds, etc), how you will irrigate. It also includes planning what to grow, how much, and what to plant where. It includes deciding whether to grow from seed or use transplants, where to obtain these, and generating a planting schedule.

Maintaining growth momentum includes what you need to do after the garden is planted (or after seeds are in pots under lights). I'm thinking that this component includes both maintaining good momentum of plant growth, as well as - maybe more important - maintaining momentum of the gardener. For the vegetable plants, maintaining momentum requires using proper practices for individual plants such as fertilization, irrigation and mulching, weed control, pest control, succession planting, cold protection, harvesting, winter clean up and cover crops. (For the gardener, maintaining momentum for an entire season requires ...?)

So, I'm now moving into the planning season. I've already received a couple seed catalogs. At our community garden, we're planning programs we'll run next year. I'm looking forward to trying some changes in my garden including improving my soil, installing drip irrigation, interplanting, and trying some new varieties. I'm even planning for the weather; The Old Farmer's Almanac says that after a mild, snowy winter, our area will have a cool and wet summer. Ha! That's hard to believe! We're still in a severe drought here. I think I'll take that forecast with a grain of salt.

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