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, March 27, 2017

crazy pepper seedlings

pepper seedlings IMG_6773

Two days ago, I decided my peppers seeds weren't sprouting because the temperature was too low. It had been ten days with no sign of seedlings. So I rushed out right to buy a heat mat. So - only two days later - guess what's in the tray. Lot's of pepper sprouts!! I can't believe it. I wonder if they would have come up without the mat or if the mat was a miracle worker?

In addition to getting the new heat mat,  also replanted by adding an extra seed to each planting cell. I thought the original seeds had probably rotted. I bet I'll get two peppers in every pot now.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

lost chicken

chickens huddled IMG_6133

I was very sad to loose one of my laying hens yesterday. I suspect it was a hawk the got her. We have a giant pair of red-tails often nearby. The chicken was my best layer, Roxy, a barred rock - the black and white one up front in the picture above. Her carcass was at the edge of the woods, half eaten. I buried it. Now I have three hens. The others are very somber. I imagine it was terrifying for them to see.

four eggs IMG_9829 chickens IMG_6730

Roxy laid big brown eggs. The one up front. I'm thinking about getting another hen or two later in the spring. We were getting 3 eggs a day, 20 a week. I think we'll only have 2 a day now - about 2 dozen a week. Normally enough for a family of three, but my son is a serious baker. Seven eggs go into his pound cake recipe that's a regular treat for us, his friends and co-workers.

Poor Roxy.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

ready for planting seeds tomorrow

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These pots and seeds are waiting on my kitchen counter for me to plant tomorrow. Five or six types of broccoli, raab, broccolini, etc - we love broccoli. Also flowers: cosmos, cleome, tithonia (Mexican sunflower), nigella, and bells of Ireland.

Friday, March 24, 2017

I replanted my pepper seeds today. None sprouted after 10 days. I checked their temperature and it was only 74F in a spot that was 80F last year. We have lower heat in the house this year. I bought a seed heat mat this afternoon and I hope that will help the replanted seeds to sprout.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

another amazing greenhouse

I walked through the heated greenhouse at Mass Hort, Elm Bank, in Wellesley MA. They're getting ready for spring. Trays and trays of plugs are growing. Onions, broccoli, and lots of flowers.
MMGA_plugs_trays IMG_0460 MMGA_greenhouse IMG_0458
MMGA_onion_plugs IMG_0450 MMGA broccoli IMG_0448

They have two greenhouses. The small heated one and a large unheated one. Later they will transplant the plugs into larger pots, raise them to transplant size in the large greenhouse, then plant out to their garden.

MMGA_tomatoes IMG_0455 MMGA_watermelon IMG_0473

They also have some full size tomato, watermelon, and marigold seedlings ready. I don't know what they will do with those. They'll need a larger heated or protected spot soon.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

update of planting calendar apps

Skippy app image
I'm so excited about our new updates of our planting calendar apps! I think they are great. We put a lot of work into both our Vegetable and our Flower & Herb app.

 - We added many, many more plants. Now more than 100 vegetables and 100 flowers & herbs.
 - We added an "info page" for all of the plants that describes how to plant and grow it.
 - We added many photos of plants we have grown.
 - And ... we added several photos of Skippy, helping out in the garden.

The updated Flower & Herb Planting App is now for sale at the Apple Store for $3.99

We haven't released the new Vegetable app yet, but we'll do that very soon. The old Vegetable Planting App is still for sale at the Apple Store for $1.99. The new version will have a price increase, but all users with the old version will automatically get the update at no extra cost. (Hint: Buy the old one now and save a couple bucks!)

We love it when people leave comments about the apps. Here are a couple we've gotten:

- Simple, clean, easy. All the vegetables, all the dates co-related and synced automatically to my region. Weekly task list and reminders for indoor start dates, transplant dates, direct sow, and consecutive plantings for spring, fall, winter. Also contacted Kathy about some ideas and amendments... Heard back immediately. Cottage industry app. Love it!   -

- Simplicity of this app is perfect. Less time with my phone, more time in the garden. It includes marigolds, sunflowers, nasturtiums. I'd like to see borage and sweet peas added. Thank you!  - by

 And, yes, we now have borage and sweet peas added  - in the Flower & Herb app.

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overwintered vegetables

winter frame IMG_6725 winter frame IMG_6718
winter frame IMG_6724 winter frame  IMG_6720

Charley and I peeked inside my winter tunnel today. I keep thinking I can take of the covers, but night temps will be down in the teens again this week. Maybe next week.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

spring is here!

spring IMG_6707

It's spring! Astronomically - if not our temperatures, which will go down to the teens and low 20's, much of this week. But my garden soil is WORKABLE! Yeah. Charley and I checked it out this afternoon. Nothing is frozen and it's not muddy. Just nice planting soil. We even saw a nice little earthworm in the soil. Time to get out my pea seeds.

Friday, March 17, 2017

a beautiful day

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spring clearing  IMG_6689 spring clearing  IMG_6687

The sun was warm and I was working with my dogs right next to my garden today. Pretty good. I'm not quite working inside the garden yet - but seems like that may be soon.

I cleared overgrown briars just behind my garden fence. Huge prickly multiflora rose and wild raspberry canes. The area is about a 15 foot piece of land between my fence and a little brook. Long ago, I can see a gardener planted ornamental plants there, but the yard has had 10 years or so of neglect. Last year I cut down many thick bittersweet vines. Today with the briars gone too, I uncovered some pretty azaleas. Lots of forsythia. I look forward to see what grows up in the spring.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

sowing onions at drumlin farm

Last week I volunteered to help at Drumlin Farm, Lincoln MA. They were sowing onion seed. Everything's done by hand at the farm, with lots of help from volunteers.

I was really impressed with the way they did things.

- The greenhouse was filled with trays of beautiful arugula and peas tendrils in all stages of growth for selling to local restaurants.
- They simply lay newspaper in a doubled up 10-20 tray, fill it with dirt, and use that for planting. No pots.
- Before planting, they water the soil throughout the tray by filling it 1/3 with soil, watering, then another third, and watering again. It's a good way to get the roots to grow down into the soil.
- They plant by setting the seed on dry soil (the final 1/3, packed down tight), and then covering it with a layer of soil and watering.

planting onions drumlin farm IMG_0285

Most amazing to me were the sowing templates they use. I've never seen anything like this. The templates guide the seeds into evenly spaced patterns. They've found that their seedlings grow much better if they are evenly spread out rather than broadcast. It takes a lot of time to use the templates, so I suppose something like this at their scale could only be done with lots of volunteers.

For the onions, we laid the Lucite template on top of dry soil in the tray. Holes a bit bigger than an onion seed had been drilled in a regular pattern about a centimeter apart. With a handful of seed, we placed one seed in each hole. 630 holes, 630 seeds. We then carefully removed the template and very carefully searched the grid for any spots with doubles or no seed and corrected this. We then stood back and admired our work before tucking the seeds in with soil and giving them a pat to get them growing.

sowing onions drumlin farm IMG_0284 sowing onions drumlin farm IMG_0294

They were planning a dozen trays of the onion variety we were planting - Purplette. That's 6000 of one variety and they were planting several. Phew! I'll volunteer to help plant just to see what that's like.

arugla pegboard drumlin farm IMG_0289 arugula seedlings drumlin farm IMG_0288

They had a different template to plant arugula. Pegs about 1/2 inch long had been set into a pegboard about an inch apart. This was pressed into the soil making a grid of 1/2 inch deep holes. One arugula seed was then set into each hole. I didn't try this one out. I only had time to plant 1260 onions in the 3 hours I was there.

drumlin farm greenhouse 2

seed viability

I've been looking through my seed viability records. I've only kept records 2 years and we're not very far into this year yet, but this is what I have for how long my seeds last.

Arugula  5+ years   (3 years)
Beets     3-4 years   (4 years)
Cabbage  6 years    (4 years)
Endive   3-4 years  (5 years)
Leeks     3+ years    (1 year)
Onions    2 years     (1 year)

I put the viability that High Mowing Seeds gets in (). I guess my numbers are pretty similar. They keep their seed under ideal, very consistent conditions and they have lots of data. I suspect they define less than 50% germination as not viable. I don't have much data, like only one 6-year-old cabbage package that sprouted fine (but I don't know the %) and 7- and 8-year-old packages that failed.

I'm looking forward to see what I get for my tomatoes. It always seems like they last a very long time. High Mowing Seed's chart says 5 years.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

more sowing

I planted several more trays of seeds today. Here's the list.

My lights have some trouble. They were shorting when we plugged them all in. We switched bulbs and sockets, with and without timer. It seems the problem is the wall socket. I can plug in 3 shelves, but not 4 on the circuit. Right now I only need 3 shelves. I'm sure we'll get a solution soon.

Monday, March 06, 2017

testing old seed

I like to use old seed as long as I can. My last two plantings, I've seeded single pots of my old seed to see if it's still viable. I'm labeling and keeping track of it. I have Seed from 2009 to 2017. The 2009 seed is 8 years old! No doubt dead. I think this will give me a sense over time of how long I am able to save different types of seed. It's also a plain old test of the old seed. If it doesn't germinate, I toss it.

The seeds I sow early are particularly important to be viable. For seed like celeriac that takes a week or so to germinate, and also onions that germinate faster but still take time to grow, I don't want to find out in April that my seed was too old.

If I have lots of viable old seed then I'll get a bumper crop if seedlings and more to share. And I'll save the seed and give it a try again next year.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

seeds in pots

sowing IMG_0335

These are my spinach and escarole seeds. I decided to neatly space them instead of broadcasting.

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2017 seed sowing

Here's my 2017 planting list that I'll add to as I continue to plant. I'm noting in () the season the seeds were sold for. I'll mark if they germinated for me. I plant a lot of different varieties but the amounts of each are small and I risk no germination for many by planting old seeds until they don't germinate. Everything is at 70 degrees F for germination and growing this year, except the peppers that will go at 78 degrees F for germination.

February 23, Indoors under lights

Onions, Stuttgarter (2017)
Onions, Ailsa Craig (2017)
Onions, Pontiac (2017)
Onions, Red Wethersfield (2017)
Onions, Walla Walla (2013) --failed
Onions, White Wing (2012) --failed
Onions, Purplette (2009) --failed
Bunching Onions, Nabechan (2015)
Bunching Onions, Guardsman (2011) --failed
Leeks, Giant Musselberg (2017)
Leeks, Bandit (2014)
Celeriac, Brilliant (2017)

March 5, Indoors under lights
Arugula, Rucola (2012)
Arugula, Rucola (2008) --failed
Arugula, Selvatica (2013)
Arugula, Myway (2013)
Cabbage, Napa, Mini Kisaku 50 (2011)
Cabbage, Savoy, Alcosa (2009) --poor
Cabbage, Red Express (2017)
Cabbage, Green, Murdoc (2016)
Endive, Dubuisson (2013)
Escarole, Natacha (2012) --poor
Escarole, Natacha (2017) --poor
Escarole, Galia (2013) --failed
Herbs, Parsley, Dark Green Italian Plain (2014)
Herbs, Thyme, Creeping (2016)
Flowers, Hollyhock, Single Mix (2016)
Flowers, Ageratum, Tall Blue Planet (2017)
Flowers, Liatrus (1016)
Mustard Greens, Scarlet Frill (2016)
Radicchio, Perseo (2016) --failed
Radicchio, Chioggia Red Preco #1 (2011) --poor
Shallot, Zebrune (2017)
Spinach, Emperor (2017)

March 13, Indoors under lights
Basil, Superbo (2017)
Basil, Eleonora (2015)
Beets, Red Ace (2016)
Beets, Chioggia Guardsman (2015)
Beets, Merlin (2014)
Endive, Broad-Leaf Batavian (2017) --failed
Eggplant, Hansel (2017)
Eggplant Mitoyo (2017)
Eggplant Barbarella (2017)
Flowers, Marigold, Queen Sophia (2015)
Flowers, Marigold, Cottage Red (2016) --poor
Flowers, Marigold, Judy's Giant (hand collected for 2017) --poor
Flowers, Marigold, Gem Mix (2017)
Herbs, Parsley, Italian Large Flat Leaf (2017)
Herbs, Summer Savory (2017)
Herbs, Creeping Thyme (2015)
Kale, mixed in one pot: Vates (2015), Toscano (2016), Nash's Green (2016)
- Note: I'm starting lettuce a couple weeks early for my winter tunnel.
Lettuce, Bibb Green, Winter Density (2011)
Lettuce, Bibb Red, Rhazes (2107)
Lettuce, Butterhead Green, Buttercrunch (2016)
Lettuce, Butterhead Red, Skyphos (2013) --failed
Lettuce, Butterhead Red, Avicenna (2015) --failed
Lettuce, Butterhead Red, Speckles (2016)
Lettuce, Iceberg, Ice Queen (2016) --poor
Lettuce, Looseleaf Red, Red Sails (2016)
Lettuce, Oakleaf Red, Danyelle (2016)
Lettuce, Romaine Green, Ridgeline (2017)
Lettuce, Romaine Green, Monte Carlo (2017)
Lettuce, Romaine Red, Rouge d'Hiver (2009) --failed
Lettuce, Romaine Red, Truchas (2015)
Greens, Elegance mix (2010)
Onions, Early Yellow Sweet Spanish (2017)
Peppers, Ancho 211 (2015) --waiting
Peppers, Joes Long Cayenne (2017)
Peppers, Jalapeno (2107) --waiting
Peppers, Anaheim (2017) --waiting
Peppers, Poblano (2017) --waiting
Peppers, Numex Joe E Parker (2015) --waiting
Peppers, Leutschauer Paprika (2017)
Peppers, Canary Bell (2017)
Peppers, King of the North (2016)
Peppers, Ace (2015) --waiting
Peppers, Thai Hot (hand collected for 2015)
- 3-24-2017: My peppers should be up. I dug down in many cells and couldn't find any germinating seeds. I checked temperature and they have been at 74F. I can't find anywhere in the house above 78F. I'm on my way out now to get a heat mat. I hope the seeds haven't rotted. I'll replant everything as I think there's a good chance they have.
- 3-26-2017: Peppers have popped up in 2 days! 

March 24, Indoors under lights
Bok Choi, Win-Win --waiting
Broccoli, Red Fire --waiting
Broccoli, Bay Meadows --waiting
Broccoli, Diplomat --waiting
Broccoli, Happy Rich --waiting
Broccoli Raab --waiting
Flowers, Nigella --waiting
Flowers, Bells of Ireland --waiting
Flowers, Tithonia Torch --waiting
Flowers, Cleome Queen Mix --waiting
Flowers, Cleome Pink --waiting
Flowers, Cleome, Magenta --waiting
Flowers, Cosmos, Picote --waiting
Flowers, Cosmos, Celebration --waiting
Flowers, Cosmos, Sulfurous --waiting
Flowers, Cosmos, Sunshine Mix --waiting

(last updated: 3-27-17)

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