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.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Skippy

skip
Skippy's getting his long winter coat now. Good timing.

That's the last of my garden parsley in front of him. The kale is to his left - and is just about ready for a good bowl of Portuguese kale soup. Yummy. That's about all thats still edible in my garden now. This past week I harvested the beets and escarole. The frozen peas are just above Skippy's head. They bloomed, but didn't produce any peas before the temperature fell. The chard and broccoli also froze before producing a harvest. I'll keep this timing in mind for next years plantings.

more pictures of skip
posts about Skippy

serious snow already ???

Our weather forecast is a little hard to believe right now. Six inches of snow are predicted for Sunday night. Its only early December. We didn't get that much snow all winter last year. Well, we'll see if it really comes and how long it lasts.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

escarole and garden planning

escarole 1
escarole 3 escarole 2
Its gotten to be the time of year when I'd rather not go out to the garden. Too cold. With temperatures in the 20s and snow predicted for the coming weekend, today I picked the last of my escarole. Its been a good crop.

Since I'm not gardening, it must be time for planning next year's garden. I've been looking forward to this. First I'll put together a list of what I grew this year - what did well and what did not. I need to decide what crops I want to grow again and what I want to give up on. Then I'll draw out where I'll plant what next year - diagrams of BOTH of my gardens. I'll guess that I'll have a new SUNNY plot that will be 15 x 20 ft. I usually try to wait until Jan 1 to start planning, but why wait? I think I'll start planning on Nov 30 this year. That's exciting!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

escarole

last escarole
There's still a bit of escarole left in my garden. I'll try to remember to go out and pick the last of it today. This photo is some I picked a few days ago.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

little beets

beets
While I'm on the theme of winter root vegetables - these are beets I pulled from my garden on Sunday. They are a lot smaller than they appear here. I'm sure they will be tasty, but next year I hope to be able to grow good sized beets. I think beets may be a crop that needs more sun than I have in my home garden, so I'll plan to grow them in my new plot next year.
beets (Beta vulgaris)

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Monday, November 26, 2007

rutabagas

rutabagas
Here are the beautiful rutabagas! I bought these to put in my stuffing for Thanksgiving, but my guests warned me that they would ruin it. Since I've never tried rutabaga, I left them out and looked forward to trying them later.

Well, last night I tried them. Unfortunately, just the smell of slicing and cooking them was unpleasant. It turns out that variability in a certain taste receptor gene makes some people find rutabagas (and turnips) very bitter. That's me. My husband enjoyed them and said they taste sweet like squash.
slices cooked rutabagas on a plate

There's some amusing literature on the rutabaga: The Rutabagan, concerned about rutabaga under use and a post at Dreams and Bones, who serves (and grows!) rutabagas every Thanksgiving.

I think this is one brassica I will not grow in my garden any time soon.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

winter root veggies

winter root veges
On of my favorite vegetable combinations for this time of year. Its a mix of carrots, parsnips and beets. I wrap the beets in foil and bake at 375 for an hour, then peel and slice the next day. Boil sliced carrots 8 minutes, adding sliced parsnips for the last 5 minutes. Then mix everything in a baking dish with herbs and olive oil and bake for a bit. Good additions are potatoes, celeriac and onions. I have a rutabaga in the fridge I will try soon too. I also like to turn it into eggs and hash for breakfast. Yumm!!!

beets (Beta vulgaris)
potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

thanksgiving day

blog thanksgiving0001
Thanksgiving Day was beautifully warm. In the 60's, with yellow leaves falling on the outdoor table. Our tradition is to grill a turkey. The food prep is a family event, accompanied by conversation and wine. The kids run and play. Dinner is traditional fare: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, homemade breads and cranberry sauce. Then pies for dessert.

This year I didn't do much with produce from my own garden. I used lots of fresh garden sage, thyme, parsley and rosemary. But I didn't have time to prepare dishes from vegetables that are growing now: kale, chard and beets. I picked lots of arugula, but it was incredibly strong. Too peppery and bitter to eat. It made a nice garnish.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

early dusting of snow

IMG_0115
IMG_0138 IMG_0132
IMG_0157 rose
A thin dusting of snow fell on the garden today. It only lasted a few hours.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

tucked in

tucked in
Our weather has gotten quite cold and I've been stuck inside with too much work.

Monday, November 12, 2007

chickens???

I just assumed chickens were not allowed in my suburban town. But I have been very surprised to learn otherwise. No roosters, but chickens are OK. There's even a chicken-owners support group (sound like its some sort of bad habit).

It seems a hen needs about 4 square feet of coop space. Lets see, a flock of five ia 5 x 5 ft coop, heated I assume.... I'm excited to start learning about keeping backyard chickens. My yard is about 40 x 70 feet and if they don't mind sharing with a cute dog, well, we'll see....

Here's an excerpt from an informative post: "I actually have had chickens for 3 years in Belmont. The first year I had 2 hens and the second year I added two more hens to bring my total up to 4 hens. I hope to go to 5 this year. Yes they eat grass when it is growing. They also eat weeds and bugs. I feed them my dinner leftovers, the heals of bread,and vegetables and fruit peels. In summer they get tomatoes from my community garden plot and other extra or damaged veggies. They also get chicken feed which is mostly grain. They are omnivores like us, so unlike herbivores such as sheep and cows they need protein and can not live on grass alone. As far as space goes for backyard chickens, the rule of thumb is at least 4 sq feet each in the coop and at least 10 sq feet each in a run. More space is always nice though. I have a run that is 4ft by 16 feet but my hens are often allowed to roam free in my fenced in backyard. It's about 30 x 50 feet I'd guess. They must be fenced out of a vegetable garden or the will eat it. Many people also build them movable pens called chicken tractors so the hens can be moved to a fresh area of grass each day. This gives the hens fresh grass each day with out destroying the grass. If hens were left in one place the grass will be destroyed...."

lettuce seeds

lettuce 4
lettuce 5 lettuce 1
There's too much else to do these days than to spend time in the garden. The stores already have Christmas music and I need to come up with a Thanksgiving menu for 12 guests - not to mention keeping up with my paying job. My lettuce bolted this summer and out of curiosity I let it go to see what would happen. I may or may nor actually collect the seeds, but there are nice puffy seed heads in the garden now on my Romaine.

S&P
Lactuca sativa

Saturday, November 10, 2007

fall crops update

broc closeup
broccoli arugula
peas pea
pea flower
Next year, I'll plant my fall crops a few weeks earlier.

The broccoli looks nice, but no signs of florets yet. My peas are blooming well - maybe they'll produce some peas yet. They're in a very warm spot right next to the south wall of the house. But its getting pretty cold now. The arugula and endive were meant to be a summer crop, but didn't grow until it cooled off. They're doing well now. My kale is doing great too, but then I planted that early last spring.

Our nights have been going down to the mid-thirties (just above freezing) for several weeks now. Most areas near me have frosted already, but my garden is very sheltered and is always the last to freeze.

But tonight the forecast is 25F! That should do it, even in my garden. I'll have to find my garden blankets this afternoon.

Brassicaceae

dinosaur kale with fleabane

kale

Brassicaceae

Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group)

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Friday, November 09, 2007

when to plant garlic

IMG_9812 old garlic sprouts
topsets garlic sprouts

I am in the middle of planting my garlic now. I planted two types last weekend. Today I planted some heirloom top sets (photo bottom left) of a variety called "Old Homestead". Also several large heads of cloves that I saved from the Farmer's Market.

There seem to be different ideas on when to plant garlic. The photo above (left) is from my nearby community garden and the garlic is very well sprouted. They must have planted it mid-summer!

I spoke with a farmer at the Farmer's Market recently who said people tend to plant too early. He things it grows better planted late, when the days are cold. The old rule of thumb is to plant your garlic on the shortest day of the year (Dec 21). In my area, you likely can't get a shovel in the ground on that day.

I noticed some volunteer garlic sprouts coming up in my garden this week. Must be some I missed harvesting this summer. They are in the two photos on the right. They probably sprouted a couple weeks ago.

I don't have much experience growing garlic yet. Its only my second year. My cloves were small but very flavorful this year. I have been trying to read what I can find about growing garlic. Here's a nice article from a Cornell site. Of course, a great garlic resource is Patrick's posts at Bifurcated Carrots (by the way, he has more garlic posts than carrot posts).


garlic (Allium sativum)

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

wishing for a plot

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I went by the community garden plots last weekend. Though I will not get assigned one 'til April of next year, I was wandering through, thinking of which one I would like. I spoke with two gardener who said they loved gardening there. They mentioned a couple of plots at the north side, near the meadow, that seemed unused. These are just where I would like to be. One is covered with raspberries, which are prolific in the gardens and everyone picks. I don't want to remove nice berries. But the one in the top photo looks perfect to me. I'm hoping.... Lots of other nice ones too.

communitygardening
Belmont Victory Garden

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

garden cleanup

fall cleanup
fall cleanup 2 planting garlic
Skippy 2
Yesterday morning, before the storm, Skippy and I finished up the fall garden cleanup. All of the summer vegetable plants are now removed, the garden has been raked and I planted a big bag of winter rye seed. I also put in the first of my garlic. I planted two rows, and have several more to plant later - maybe today.

Hurricane Noel, who came up the coast near us as a Nor'easter, gave us some rain and a bit of wind all afternoon yesterday, but didn't cause us any problems. I was sort of hoping a few branches might blow down from the big tree that shades my garden - but no such luck.

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

blue basil on the windowsill

windowsill blue basil
I pulled up my basil on Thursday. I'm enjoying these purple flowers on my kitchen windowsill.

basil (Ocimum basilicum)

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Friday, November 02, 2007

lots of green tomatoes

green tomatoes
Yesterday I picked all of my tomatoes, since I thought it might frost. It got down to about 38F - no frost yet. I'll put this box in the basement and try to remember to check it regularly. Last year pretty nearly all of my green tomatoes ripened within a month of picking.

Solanum lycopersicum

aerial view

garden nov 1
Maybe I can post an "after" view soon. After taking this picture, I cleaned up all the summer crops. I have a big bag of winter rye seed to plant soon, hopefully tomorrow morning - before Noel waters for me. My garden is supposed to get an inch of rain and 40-50 mph winds tomorrow afternoon from Noel, the tropical hurricane now a Nor'easter and heading up the US coast.

aerial views of my home vegetable garden

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

November tomatoes

tomatoes
The plants are a little cold nipped on the top, but still lots of tomatoes. The day before we get a frost I'll pick all the tomatoes and take down the plants.

Solanum lycopersicum

















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