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.

Friday, March 27, 2015

spring, not too far away?

I hear redwing blackbirds for the first time today. And my garden has a bunch of bluebirds in it, foraging in it since it's the only cleared area around (I also have a feeder with mealworms down there for them). It's a misty warm day after a lot of rain last night. I'm seeing rocks pop up that I had forgotten were there. It's like a new world. There's still snow all over, but it's down to maybe 6 inches. And the pond is still frozen (actually there's an ice fisherman out there now). Maybe spring is gradually approaching?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

today's sowing

Beets, Lutz
Beets, Merlin
Beets, Chioggia
Beets, Blankoma
Tomato (paste), Cordova
Tomato (paste), San Marzano
Tomato (paste), San Marzano Gigante 3
Tomato (paste), Stump of the World
Tomato (paste), Opalka
Tomato (paste), Nova
Tomato (paste), Polish Linguisa
Tomato (paste), Heinz 2653

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more garden calendars

We are working on several new garden calendar apps. I listed them at our new site: skippysgarden.com

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

snow blowing the garden

My husband and I removed a good foot of snow from the garden today. Husband pulled the snow blower down there and made fast work of it. I just want to see some soil!! I hope this will help. IMG_0792 IMG_0782IMG_0794

today's planting

Varieties planted:
Basil, Eleonora (Downy Mildew resistant)
Basil, Superbo
Basil, Dolce Fresca
Broccoli, Diplomat (a few plants, a second planting)
Chives, New Bolt
Chives, Garlic Geisha
Oregano, Cleopatra
Pepper, (jalepeno) Emerald Fire
Pepper,Flaming Flare
Pepper, Pretty N Sweet
Pepper, Ancho 211
Pepper, Bell ACE
Pepper, Thai Hot
Tomato, Mountain Merit, for our community garden (LB resistant)
Tomato, Polish Linguisa
Tomato, Carbone

Flowers
Dianthus, Jolt Pink
Marigold, Durango
Marigold, Boy-O-Boy
Salvia, Summer Jewel White

Notes:
- My celeriac that I had given up on are all sprouting today. Yippee!
- Broccoli, radicchio and endive in small cells are drying out fast, looking very sad about this. I'll start up some more in case these have a problem and will check seedlings more often, i.e. daily. Once the broccoli recovers, I'll transplant to larger cells.
- I had way too many "Mixed Greens" come up in one pot. I thought this seed was old and dead. So I transplanted it to thin it out.
- Winterbor and Tuscan kale are not sprouting. Only the Red Russian. If I see a packet of either, I'll pick it up.

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pea planting advice

As I was looking back on my blog for the previous post, I noticed that an old piece of planting advice is:

"When red winged blackbird females return and when chickadees build their nests, it is time to plant peas."

I read that a few male male red wings have been spotted around here this past week. I haven't seen any. I will watch for them and for nesting chickadees.

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looking back

I wanted to see how different our weather is from previous years:

2009, Was a very cold and snowy winter. Snow was gone in most areas and my soil was workable by March 15. 2010, I planted peas on March 17, nice workable soil, no sign of snow.
2011, All of our snow melted the week of March 13 and by March 20 the soil was workable, crocuses, bluebirds, all that...
2012, My peas were planted on March 17 and UP on March 28, the last snow melted the first week of March.
2013, Looks like that year had a late start. On March 25, the soil was workable but snow covered, so I turned the snow under to plant my peas.
2014, And last year was a chilly spring after a cold and snowy winter. The snow wasn't really gone until March 26. I didn't plant my peas til mid-April, mostly because we were constructing our new garden. As I remember though, it was such a chilly spring that the peas did really well even though planted so late.
2015, Still a foot of snow on the ground on March 22, temps going down to 10*F tonight. Oh well...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

the first day of spring

cheers to spring! spring martini IMG_1989a I don't have any fresh garden vegetables left for my martinis. All that's left from my garden are pickles - pickled cukes, peppers and beans. They're chilling in the snow.

Friday, March 20, 2015

its spring!!

I'm writing this as I'm down in my backyard checking on my garden. I'm pretty disappointed. The bed I turned for my peas with high hopes of planting this weekend is now frozen solid. Its rock hard. I can't get the shovel out of the soil. I would say I'm not feeling real good about shoveling any more snow from my garden. Not when it can freeze up again so fast. I checked the straw bale I was hoping would be a good method for planting early. It feels ice cold inside.

So I'm thinking maybe I can't rush Mother Nature.

garden - first day of spring IMG_0763garden - first day of spring IMG_0760garden - first day of spring IMG_0750 Around the shoveled bed, the snow pack has frozen into an icy mass as we've gotten a lot of rain sinking into it recently. The good news is that it is steadily shrinking. It's shrunk to about 1 ft deep now. I'm surprised it isn't shrinking faster with the rain we've had, but it's not. It's a heavily overcast day today with no sun warming things up. Snowflakes are beginning to drift down now. I think we're getting about an inch tonight.

No crocuses, no daffodils. I don't need to go looking for them, because its obvious there aren't any. I can't even see the hellebore's that were in bloom last December before we got all this snow.

I did see a beautiful female bluebird near my feeder this morning. Her feathers were puffed out and ruffled in the wind. I would have loved a photo but she came and went faster than I could locate my camera. I'm taking the bluebird as my fleeting sign that fairer days will come. But they're not right around the corner I'm afraid.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

seed swap - old and new seeds

We had a fun seed swap at my community garden last evening. I forgot to take a picture of us. We had seed packages spread out all over a big table and we were like little kids Christmas morning. We rifled through packets, took a bit of this and a bit of that, and talked about the varieties.

I've always wondered how a seed swap works. We've never had one, though people had asked for one, because I just didn't understand how to set it up. Well this is how ours worked:

- I got a big bunch of seeds given to me free as part of the publicity program at the All American Selections (AAS) winners for testing. (Varieties below.)
- Other gardeners brought a few packets they wanted to share (2-20 packets each), or came without seeds to try out what others wanted to share.
- We spread everything out on a big table and everyone looked through the seeds and took what they wanted.
- For envelops, I brought scrap paper and we used The Cheap Vegetables Gardeners' make-your-own instructions

Very fun! seed swap seeds IMG_0672

AAS 2015 winner seeds I shared (I kept some to try myself too!):
Basil DOLCE FRESCA, produced by PanAmerican Seed Co
Beet AVALANCHE, Bred by Bejo Seeds Inc
Broccoli ARTWORK, Bred by Seminis Vegetable Seeds
Chives GARLIC GEISHA, Bred by Terra Organics
Cucumber PARISAN GHERKIN Bred by Terra Organics
Lettuce SANDY, Bred by Terra Organics
Pak Choi BOPAK, Bred by Bejo Seeds Inc
Pepper EMERALD FIRE, Bred by Seminis Vegetable Seeds
Pepper FLAMING FLARE, Bred by Seminis Vegetable Seeds
Pepper PRETTY N SWEET, Bred by Seeds by Design
Radish ROXANNE, Bred by Bejo Seeds Inc
Squash BOSSA NOVA, Bred by Seminis Vegetable Seeds
Squash BUTTERSCOTCH, Bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Oregano CLEOPATRA, Bred by Terra Organics
Dianthus JOLT PINK, Bred by PanAmerican Seed Co
Petunia TIDAL WAVE RED VELOUR, bred by PanAmerican Seed Co
Petunia TRILOGY RED, bred by Takii & Co
Salvia SUMMER JEWEL WHITE, bred by Takii & Co

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

happy st patrick's day - turning my pea bed soil

I was able to get a shovel into the soil of my pea bed yesterday. Most of the soil is thawed and draining and the bed is no longer filled with mud. There's still some ice underneath at the edges. Especially the south edge where snow blocks a bit of sunlight. Some of the ice I was able to break and turn to expose to the sun, a bit of it was too solid for the shovel. I turned under most the scrawny cover of rye grass. I think this turning will help to get the bed fully thawed.

newly dug pea bed IMG_0657
I'm thinking maybe next week for planting. But I might get impatient and plant a small row sooner than that. I think I'll plant it one row at a time, maybe weekly, to see how it goes. Its just a small dug out bed and hopefully more soil will show up soon. But maybe not. I probably should get down there this week and shovel out more of my garden - my kale, escarole and onion beds.

newly dug pea bed IMG_0662newly dug pea bed with skippy IMG_0661

The straw bale seems to be doing well. It's soaking wet now from our rain and snow. I couldn't really get my hand into the top of it to see if its warming up at all.

(Note the green text for this post - not much green in the pictures, so I put it in the font - for St Patrick's day.)

Monday, March 16, 2015

have you tried Feedly?

I know, probably old news, but I just found Feedly and its a great way to surf the blogs. (while we're waiting for the snow to melt...) Here's Skippy's Garden.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

our last snow day (hopefully)

snow on trees IMG_1925 snowy suzie IMG_1930snow on trees IMG_1935 snow garden IMG_1947snow garden IMG_1936

Boston breaks its all-time snow fall record!

As of tonight, Boston officially has had 108.6 inches (9.05 ft, 2.76 meters) of snow this season, topping a all previous records back to 1872. I was trying to find the snowfall total for the western suburbs of the city, where my garden is, as we have gotten quite a bit more than Boston. I'll add it here if I find it. Like everyone else in the area, I'm thinking:

"All right already! Let's have Spring now!!"

The Boston Globe wrote last week that, given the amount of snow cover we have now (officially 15 inches now in my town) and the rate its melting, we'll likely have snow on the ground til mid-April. MID-APRIL!! By then, I usually have a backyard full of crocus and daffodils. I often have peas and fava beans a couple inches high; my garden beds are surely turned and ready to plant by mid-April. I often have lettuce, onion and kale seedlings hardened off and ready to plant.

I guess we'll have to play it by ear this year in the garden. Go with the flow, wing it, see how it goes .... And, yes, I'm still planting by the calendar because who knows what will actually happen.

I heard someone say "Since we've broken the all time snow record, let's see if we can break the all time sun record next!" Yes! Or how about the all-time best gardening weather ever.

Skippy's Spring Calendar App

ITS TIME TO PLANT SEEDS!
Make it easy with Skippy's Spring Calendar - a NEW mobile app for seed planting

App is based on the calendar I created in 2009 that's used by over 10,000 gardeners a year, including agriculture schools, community gardens and home gardeners.

It allows you to create YOUR PERSONAL CALENDAR, including sowing dates for indoor and direct planting, transplanting dates and succession sowing dates.

App is:
     - written by gardeners
     - tested by gardeners
     - actively supported ... leave your comments here
     - and, easy to use
There are no adds or product placements in the app
And, its green-friendly - no printing because its on your mobile device

The app has 3 steps:
1- enter the date of your last frost
2- select the crops you want to plant
3- view your calendar, either by week or the whole season
When you come back to the app, it will open automatically to your tasks for the current week

Reviews:
"Thanks for the nifty app! " - MIchaeldg
"Love the simplicity... Very easy to use... very useful" - Mayhew
"It is a wonderful app....I will be able to carry it with me to the garden without printing out my garden plan. I especially love the transplanting calendar because most books and seed packet instructions do not tell you when to transplant. - Nancy
AVAILABLE NOW for $1.99 at the Apple Store. (link to app site at Apple Store)

The app was written by me and coded by Amelia, a gardener at my community garden.
Here's Amelia's blog, ameliafannin.com, and here's her programming website, ameliafannin.github.io.

app screen shot IMG_1828app screen shot IMG_1826
app screen shot IMG_1814

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Skippy's uses his new planting app

Ha. I guess this is a bit silly, but WTH.

skippy using his new app IMG_1915

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Skippy's spring calendar app - first update

We have a new update to Skippy's Calendar App coming out soon. It's based on feedback from our beta-testers. If you have the App, you'll see a prompt for the update on your Apple Store icon when the update comes out. If you don't have the app, you should get it! Here it is.

What's new in the update: "This update improves the vegetable picker, allows the persistence of your settings, and adds a reminder function for iOS8."

We'll continue to support and update this calendar app so if you have ANY suggestions, PLEASE leave a comment anywhere on this blog. THANKS!

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Friday, March 13, 2015

conditioning my straw bale - why?

I got a straw bale down to my garden, no not by dog sled, I pulled it, and now I'm looking into conditioning it so I can plant in it. It's the first time I've tried straw bale gardening. It seems like a perfect solution to planting peas early - despite our late snow cover this year in New England.

straw IMG_0581 straw IMG_0575 straw IMG_0580

What I read is that I need to water my bale for about 3 days. This starts decomposition inside the bale and it gets hot. I can either wait several weeks, or speed up decomposition by adding a nitrogen source every few days and continuing watering. With the nitrogen added, after 10 days the bale will be ready for planting seeds.

Nice sites I've found include:
no-dig-vegetablegarden.com
HGTVGardens.com

But I have to admit that I don't understand several things. Why is the heat of the initial decomposition a problem? It's freezing cold outside so how can it get too hot now? Its seems heat would be good for the plants now.

In addition, I'm thinking that the peas I will plant can fix their own nitrogen, well with help from the Rhizobium bacterial inoculant I'll add when I plant them, so why do I need to worry about adding nitrogen to the hay bale?

I want to understand exactly what's going on in the conditioning process. Explanations I find generally seem vague and the process seems almost magical.

This site seems to get at a better explanation: Oklahoma Coop Ext

"...if seed or seedlings are planted into a fresh bale, microbes in the bale will use any nutrients present to breakdown (or decompose) the straw depriving the growing seedlings of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and other essential elements"

Ah, so the decomposition process is doing more than producing heat, it's tying up phosphorus and other nutrients that pea plants will need. Fortunately it only lasts a short time in the bale. Decomposition of other materials takes years and I know can be a problem if it takes place in soils where plants are trying to grow.

Well that makes more sense to me. I'll start to add nitrogen. Good organic nitrogen sources are blood meal and fish emulsion. I have a nice fish emulsion. I'll try to get down to the garden to add this today, and I'll see if its really hot inside the bale. Fortunately we're getting nice rain soon, so I don't need to carry water.

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lonely celeriac sprout

celeriac IMG_1810 Only one little celeriac seedling has finally sprouted. They are such delicate little sprouts. My seed was from 2012. Not so old, I thought. Wrong. I think I've told myself this before - celeriac seed should be fresh. I ordered fresh seed yesterday.

celeriac IMG_1810 b

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

more sowing today - indoors under lights

Parsley, flat leaved Italian
Greens, Sandhill's Mix
Kale, Tuscan
Kale, Red Russian

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

sowing

seedlings onions IMG_0590seedlings cabbage IMG_0588 More sowing. I'm not spending all my time out snow shoveling my garden beds. Today I planted:

Endive, Tres Fine
Escarole, Galia
Kale, Winterbor

My onion, broccoli and cabbage seedlings are up and seem happy. I'm still waiting on celeriac and eggplant sprouts. They are slow...

The planting calendar I'm using this year is: skippy's calendar app. A friend of mine coded this and it's written to be simple and only give the information I need for planting. No ads on it. No flashy pictures. If you try it, let me know how it works for you. We're going to get the android version out soon!

Monday, March 09, 2015

snow shoveling, chicken manure and straw bale planting

I have big plans for tomorrow (extreme plans?)

St Patrick's Day is eight days away and I hope to get a shovel into the soil and plant my peas on that day!

I'm going to shovel more snow from my pea bed. I'm pleased that snow removal is working pretty well so far. I think I need to shovel more snow from my garden paths too, so the sides of the bed get sun and help with soil warming.

I'll also clean out my chicken coop and lay the poopy straw down in part of the bed. Still don't know if this will insulate cold or create warmth so I'll only try this on part of the bed.

AND I have another plan too! Straw bale planting!!! A gardener at our community garden, Sarah, has used straw bales in her garden very successfully. She gave a presentation yesterday at our Garden Fair. Set down a straw bale, prepare (see below), throw some dirt on it and then plant seeds!!! No need to wait for soil to thaw. It takes 2 weeks to get the bales ready. I am SO excited to try this! Here's a photo of Sarah's Fair presentation.

strawbale gardening IMG_0529
To prepare straw bale: 1) Place straw bale, cut side up, on landscape fabric. 2) Sprinkle about a cup of fertilizer on the bale and water well for about 5 days. Then sprinkle another cup of fertilizer and water another 5 days. Sprinkle another half cup and water well. The straw bale will become warm at the center and begin to decompose. 3) Add soil to the top of the bale and plant seeds or seedlings.

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Skippy's EXTREME vegetable garden report - the shoveled pea bed is thawing

I went down to my vegetable garden this afternoon. Hiked down the snow path and went into the garden to check out the pea bed hole-in-the-snow. I brought a metal poker to check for soil thawing. I was SO impressed with the progress! There is almost no snow left on the soil of the dug out area, just nice green rye grass - and MUD!! Yeah MUD! About 1 inch of soil is thawed. Its not draining, of course, as it's all frozen below. I poked around in the mud a bit and admired it. Our forecast is for temps up to 50 F in the next couple days. I am looking forward to more mud ... and then when the soil is all thawed the mud will drain .... and then I'll have a garden.

I didn't do any more pea-bed snow shoveling today, as I had just done a lot of shoveling in our driveway. Maybe tomorrow...

thawing pea bed IMG_0550thawing pea bed IMG_0551

new skippy's calendar app

Irrigation Direct Drip irrigation kits from Irrigation Direct