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, October 31, 2008

happy halloween

pumpkin candles
skiipys halloween portrait

more pictures of Skip
Skippy slide show

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

harvest from my garden

harvest

Yesterday's harvest: endive, pea tendrils, baby dill, many radish, a big head of escarole and some red lettuce. A nice salad!

harvests from my vegetable gardens

video - white house veggie garden



This is a great video! It shows a time-lapse of a man digging, planting and harvesting a new vegetable garden in his front yard (a small "white house"). An analogy is made to THE white house. He makes a lovely garden with great beds and rows of veggies. Tomatoes and radish are harvested. Watch it if you like to watch a garden grow. Its also a nice "how-to" if you want to start your own garden.

This is just what I often imagine when I see a nice sunny green lawn! Politics aside, vegetable gardening is just a very rewarding pastime.

White House veggie garden proposal

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

election!

One week until the US election. Can you believe it! Let's hope for a change for the better.

a rainy late October day in my vegetable gardens

community plot
home garden aerial

Photos of both of my vegetable gardens - I love taking pictures in the rain. My fall greens are doing GREAT in this dreary cool weather.

I haven't had time to go to my community plot (top photo) in several days. But what a nice surprise to see how everything has grown underneath the salt hay mulch. There is some evidence of more frosts. The peas are pretty badly damaged, as well as the tips of some beet leaves. I picked a good harvest of salad greens and radish.

missing voices

Microsoft PowerPoint - Presentation1

I haven't been able to access my favorite gardening site in several days now. :( I'm soooo sad. Where are you VOICES? (Garden Voices link)

vegetable garden politics

I came Micheal Pollen's letter in the NY Times this week (I'm a bit late, I've been too busy):

"Farmer in Chief", a letter to the NY Times by Michael Pollen (link):

I added a few excerpts here, because its a great topic, but you can go ahead and read all 8,000 words (!) yourself.

"After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent." "...chemical fertilizers, pesticides, farm machinery, modern food processing, packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food."


What to do?
Resolarize the American Farm
Reregionalize the Food System
Rebuild America’s Food Culture


"...most symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture. And that is this: tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.

"When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. (Less well known is the fact that Roosevelt planted this garden over the objections of the U.S.D.A., which feared home gardening would hurt the American food industry.) By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America. The president should throw his support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets and a sedentary population. Eating from this, the shortest food chain of all, offers anyone with a patch of land a way to reduce their fossil-fuel consumption and help fight climate change. (We should offer grants to cities to build allotment gardens for people without access to land.) Just as important, Victory Gardens offer a way to enlist Americans, in body as well as mind, in the work of feeding themselves and changing the food system — something more ennobling, surely, than merely asking them to shop a little differently.

"I don’t need to tell you that ripping out even a section of the White House lawn will be controversial: Americans love their lawns, and the South Lawn is one of the most beautiful in the country. But imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals it takes to make it that way. (Even for the purposes of this memo, the White House would not disclose its lawn-care regimen.) Yet as deeply as Americans feel about their lawns, the agrarian ideal runs deeper still, and making this particular plot of American land productive, especially if the First Family gets out there and pulls weeds now and again, will provide an image even more stirring than that of a pretty lawn: the image of stewardship of the land, of self-reliance and of making the most of local sunlight to feed one’s family and community. The fact that surplus produce from the South Lawn Victory Garden (and there will be literally tons of it) will be offered to regional food banks will make its own eloquent statement."

Just imagine! I bet it would be a beautiful garden!

KGI originated this proposal with their "Eat the View" campaign. They have some nice information on this topic here.

White House veggie garden proposal

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

my first CSA distribution

my distribution

My first CSA share!

I picked up 50 lbs of fantastic vegetables from my local CSA (Gretta's Farm) this weekend. The farm is 1 mile from my house. Not only am I really excited to enjoy eating these, I'm also considering what I would like to grow in my own garden next fall. Gretta (and partner farms) grow all of this locally using sustainable organic methods.

The distribution included: oak leaf lettuce, broad leaved escarole, rainbow chard, hakurei turnips, spinach, parsley, green and red peppers, a couple jalapeno chiles, fennel, leeks, Napa cabbage, onions, beets, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, Daikon radish, acorn and Delicata winter squash, a pie pumpkin and 10 lbs of apples.

What did we eat first?

Well, the apples were first. They're going fast. Very crisp and sweet.

Second was the oak leaf lettuce. Excellent! I will definitely add this to my crops next year.

And third was the carrots and red peppers. Nice in salads. Sweet colorful spears in martinis. I tried to grow red peppers this year without success and will try again next year.

Tonight I made a delicious cabbage risotto with the Napa cabbage (also using carrot, onion and parsley). I'll consider cabbage growing myself (Napa, savoy or other). It's an attractive and very hardy fall vegetable.

I'm looking forward to eating my giant sweet potato. I'll probably make sweet potato fries (deep fry) half for one meal and then bake the other half. Yummy! I don't know much about growing these. A gardener I know at the BVG grew a crop this year and was very happy with them. I'll have to look into this.

No, we're not eating all these veggies ourselves. We shared half with another family (David and Jennifer) and will bring some of our half to my parents. I still have greens, radish, beets, carrots, potatoes and onions from my garden. (If we don't look out, we'll turn into rabbits with all these veggies!)

rainbow chard sweet potatoes
carrots potatoes

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

a week of harvests

harvest
harvest beets in the sink

This is my harvest this week. I picked the last of my green tomatoes, peppers and chiles today. And I picked a bunch of pretty little yellow signet marigolds and fleabane (weed) flowers. I have been regularly pulling escarole, red lettuce, arugula, beets and still-way-too-many-radishes. I had enough to give my parents a nice bag of storage potatoes, onions, a giant Brandywine tomato, radish and some greens. I also picked two more birdhouse gourds to total five this year.

gourds
harvests from my vegetable gardens

gathering leaves

a barrow full of leaves

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?

Robert Frost 1923

...my little garden gnome is hard at work harvesting leaves.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

winterizing the vegetable garden

I was looking at The 2009 Farmers' Almanac and see they are predicting a "numbingly cold and snowy" winter for the Northeast US. OMG! I hope they're wrong. I'm never ready for winter. I keep hoping we'll skip it somehow. Nevertheless, my garden is winterized now.

"How do you winterize you vegetable garden?" I see this question around a lot so here's what I did. (Do you do the same?)

To winterize, I removed all debris and summer plants. I pulled all the squashes and tomatoes and tomato poles and beans, etc. These went into the compost pile and I raked the ground. Since the soil in my community plot is very acidic (low pH - 5.5 last time I send out a sample) I added lime.

I planted a cover crop in the bare areas without fall crops (a mix from Johnny's Selected Seeds called green manure mix, includes field peas, vetch, clover and winter rye). I'll turn this under in the spring. Peas and vetch add nitrogen to the soil, others add organic matter and prevent runoff. I lightly raked in the cover seeds and lime.

Finally I added a good layer of grass clippings or salt marsh hay around my growing fall crops. This should keep the weeds down in this area, retain moisture, and help protect from the very cold weather that will (unfortunately) be here soon. I hope to pick greens into December. Last year my kale was good down to 10 degrees F.

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salt marsh hay

salt marsh hay bale mulched plot

I found a nearby store with salt marsh hay. I bought 2 bales to mulch my fall vegetables. A bale of hay is enormous and easily covered all of my veggies. I'll have left overs for next year.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

plot aerial

west half of my plot

Here's a photo of my community garden plot that I took yesterday. This is the old west side of my plot - the newly added half is to the right of this photo. Click on the photo to see my mouse overs.

So far, only the back left bed is mulched. I was lucky to find a couple bales of salt marsh hay today. ($9 a bale at my local True Value.) Hopefully I'll get the rest of the garden mulched and ready for cold tomorrow. I still have a lot of greens and roots and I'm hoping they last as long as possible.

Yes, the black fur ball in the center is Skippy sitting in the hole he dug.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

planting bulbs

planting bulbs tulip bulb label
I hope these will look pretty in my plot next spring.

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Skippy's big hole

skippy
skippy digs more skippy in his hole
Usually Skippy is very calm and obedient. Today was different. He got that look in his eyes and he wanted to PLAY. To get my attention, first he dug a hole in the middle of my garden, then the bit a few holes in the cuff of my pants, then he stole the bag of tulip bulbs I was planting. OK! I get it. Time for a walk!

posts about Skippy

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winterizing the garden

mulched bed

It was pretty chilly this morning. I guess winter will come again after all ....

Skippy and I did a few chores to continue to winterize the garden. "We" planted spring bulbs, turned over the bird bath, watered the dry fall greens, and "our" main job - mulch. I collected freshly cut grass from the fields and started mulching my beds.

Mulching with grass trimmings: I feel good tonight knowing my plants are tucked in with a nice covering of mulch. The fields nearby were recently mowed, so I collected cuttings and mulched my recently planted garlic bed. This bed also has carrots, broccoli and red lettuce. The grass trimmings probably have a lot of weed seeds. I'll see how bothersome this is in the spring. For now, its an easy and cheap solution for mulching. I've heard that our local hardware store has a new shipment of salt marsh hay. Tomorrow I'll buy a few bales of this, but at $10 a bale and knowing that mowing hay is not so good for the salt marsh, I'm wondering if grass trimmings aren't the better mulch.

Planting bulbs: I planted 5 small botanical tulip bulbs (Violacea black base) and 2 daffodils bulbs. I remember thinking how nice the spring flowers looked in other plots last year. Just a few go a long way.

The quotes above are because Skippy didn't help AT ALL today - HE wanted to PLAY. Skippy dug a BIG hole and ran all over the garden. I think the crisp fall air must feel GOOD to a puppy! That's OK, we went for a nice long walk in the fields together.

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as pretty as a pea

pea flower

I wish this was an early spring pea blossom. I read at the Tiny Farm Blog that pea plants are hardy, but the pods are not. Interesting. If cold temps hold off a week or two, maybe I could see this in action.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gretta's distribution

skippy and the distribution

I went over to Gretta's CSA farm this morning and took some photos of her distribution. It has a number of new items that will need identification for her customers. I'll be posting a photo labeled with mouse-overs on her blog later today.

I spread all the vegetables on a bench in her hoop house, along with a box of each of the five apple varieties (each distribution includes just one bag of apples). Lots of roots, squashes and greens. Skippy seemed to like hanging out here. He seems to have taken to the task of guarding vegetables - just like he does at my garden.

I have signed up to get half a distribution myself. Mine starts next weekend. I'm looking forward to trying all of these veggies myself!

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

fall greens

radichio radichio and escarole in a  bowl
radicchio treviso grown by Gretta at Belmont CSA and salad bowl with radicchio and escarole
fall greens with shovel fall peas
my garden plot with escarole in front and fall peas
fall greens fall simpson lettuce
mixed fall greens and black-seeded simpson lettuce
fall arugula red summer crisp lettuce
arugula and red summer crisp lettuce

The fall greens are still looking good this week. And they are not all 'green', but are often red!

The top photos are a beautiful radicchio Gretta gave me. I like to eat this fresh, sliced and mixed with my escarole and lettuce. The heads in her fields are wonderful (photo here) and this is another vegetable I'll consider for my garden next year.

Some of my greens are still small and I'll mark down to start them a couple weeks earlier next year. But small greens are nice too. I can eat my small simpson lettuce and red summer crisp as 'microgreens' if the weather turns cold soon. And I can eat my peas as tendrils.

These greens have all done fine during the two light frosts that killed my basil, eggplants and marigolds. The only thing bothering the greens is the lack of water. Its been off at my community plot for two weeks already. Everything's looking dry. Tomorrow I hope to go over with a big water jug. I'll water my greens and pick a fresh salad for dinner.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

fresh lima beans

shelled limas
lima beans in the pod limas and corn with butter

Here's a vegetable I'm thinking of adding to my garden next year. Its always fun to try something new. I bought these fresh lima beans at a farm nearby, Wilson's Farm. They were delicious. Johnny's has a variety of large limas (link) that sound nice. A bush bean. 85 days.

evening field

sunset over freshly mowed field

Here's the field next to my community plot. I thought it looked beautiful in the setting sunlight tonight. The field was mowed yesterday and the gardens have that rich smell of freshly mowed hay.

October 15: I thought I'd add the images below.

field original field with only shadows adjusted

The original (unadjusted) image is on the left. The one on the right has only shadows and exposure adjusted. Neither of these look like the scene as I remembered it, so I made more adjustments. Here's how I remember the scene:

sunset over mowed field - interpretation

But then my eyes aren't so good and maybe it wasn't quite so colorful, so the top photo is my compromise.

Note added Oct 28: Can you believe it - there's a Port-O-Potty in the middle of this lovely field today! Actually that's great. The Friends of Rock Meadow is having a two weekend volunteer clean-up event. I hope to be able to help out next Sat. (Don't really want to us the seat in the middle of the field though....)

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Monday, October 13, 2008

this weekend's harvest

harvest

I picked the last of my shell beans and most of my green tomatoes this weekend. I cleaned up most of my home garden (except for my giant kale plants). Though the weather is balmy, nothing is really growing anymore. The sun is very low and days are shorter. I spread a good layer of winter rye seed that should get off to a good start if this warmth keeps up.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to a visit to my community plot. I haven't been there at all in the past THREE days! (A long absence for me.) My plot is still growing nice escarole, beets, carrots and radish.

harvests from my vegetable gardens

Sunday, October 12, 2008

plot plan to scale

Microsoft PowerPoint - Vegetable garden plan 2009b

A revised plan for next year with the scale corrected. Nice to have more space than I realized. I added in an asparagus patch and moved my garlic from home to plot.

My home garden exposure is part sun at the west side (sun from 11-3 pm) and part shade (sun from 1-4 at the east side. My community plot gets full sun.

garden planning (drawings and diagrams)

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a picture perfect fall day!

pretty as a portrait 2 bright trees
white oak leaf Corn field

No gardening today. We're out marveling at the fantastic weather and fall colors. Hard to beat!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gretta's farm

Check out the photos I took of Gretta's farm (Belmont CSA blog). Her fields are as beautiful as a piece of art.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

pear tree photos

pear branches skippy and a pear tree
pear trees

My newly transplanted trained pear trees are all set for winter. Skippy and I planted them with compost, mulched with fresh hay/grass trimmings, watered them well, added some new tree wrap to protect their trunks and secured their branches to the fence. I also added a bit of lattice to maybe give some extra wind protection. I'm considering giving them a different support system in the spring to allow the trees to stand up straight and not lean back against the fence.

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