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, May 31, 2010

garden aerial - with house painter

garden aerial

Ah yes - the house painter is here. We are painting the house green. I've always wanted a green house!

And down below, my garden is doing good. The covers are off the cold frame, but its still early in the season. All the beds are planted but the plants are still small. Seems to me that I've spaced them too far. I'm tempted to fill in all that extra space.

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Larry fledged today!

alewife hawks 017

The oldest male from the Alewife nest fledged early this morning - before any of his flock of human admirers arrived. On his own he left the nest and by midday when I went by by to check on them, he was soaring the thermals! What a sight! His parents fly with him and shriek, "kireee!" They must be proud. Two more chicks are left in the nest and I bet they will fly soon.

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lots of lettuce

lettuce 002

Still plenty of lettuce coming from my cold frame. I've been picking it for a full month now. I have about 10 heads left in the frame and by the time they're gone, the row I planted next to my tomatoes should be ready. I planted 4 9-packs with about 12 different varieties yesterday. I LOVE fresh lettuce!

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

today's planting list

Today I planted:

4 9-packs of lettuce
4 9-packs of soybeans

Since I couldn't decide on only a couple types of lettuce, I just mixed and scattered seeds for 12 different varieties in the cells.

Both of these will stay inside til the seedlings sprout. Then I'll put the lettuce trays out in the sun. I am keeping the soybeans inside for a while this year as yet another attempt to prevent chipmunks from eating the seeds. Last two years I have found they will eat ALL the seeds I plant until the plants are at least 3-5 inches tall.

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more on the alewife hawks

alewife hawks 110

My parents and I spent a couple hours today watching the beautiful red tail hawk chicks on their nest at the Fresh Pond Mall on Alewife Parkway in Cambridge. There are 3 young birds on the nest, two males and one female. The oldest, the female is 49 days old today. The youngest, a feisty male is 12 days younger.

These young hawks have had nearly full time surveillance by a group of avid hawk-watchers who observe and share all sorts of details on these birds. The chicks have been nick-named Lucy, Larry, and Lucky. Their parents are Buzz and Ruby.

The chicks are very well fed on a diet including squirrels, small rodents, snakes, pigeons, and other small birds. They are also a bit late to fledge - which is the current source of concern for the hawk watchers. When will they fly? Today the older male took a big "jump" and landed on the ledge about 3 or 5 feet above the nest then quickly hopped back into the nest. Does this constitute "fledging"? The consensus was "yes", since he left the nest, however nearby and briefly. But the watchers still eagerly await a more adventuresome flight.

Its a rare treat to watch nature at such close quarters.

You can find tons of other photos of these birds on the web, flickr, and u-tube by searching for alewife hawks.

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alewife hawks 018 alewife hawks  075

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

first radish of the season

first radish harvest 033

I'm a bit late in posting this. i pulled my first radish and picked my first peas of the season last weekend. The radish a nice little French Breakfast radish. Very crispy and mild. Yummy!

radish martini 046 radish row 036

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picking peas

picking peas 025

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Brooklyn community garden fights back

Here's an email a fellow gardener, Victoria, sent me yesterday.

Thought you might find this news item interesting in regard to community gardens....This community garden in Brooklyn fought back after being threatened with destruction and won!

I don't know if you know, but that's just what happened to the original Belmont Victory gardens, which were located on Concord Ave. The Town wanted to build new athletic fields and relocated the gardens to the wilds of Rock Meadow, which they had just purchased from McLean Hospital, circa 1962.

Brooklyn community garden fights back

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

preparing bean and corn beds

Last weekend I prepared the soil of my bean bed and my popcorn bed.

Since beans don't need added nutrients, I didn't do anything to the soil of this bed, which is where my tomatoes grew last year. I hadn't touched it since late last fall and it was thick with weeds. I loosened the soil a little with a fork and pulled all the weeds. Now its ready to go. I will plant bean seeds this week.

bean bed 1 bean bed 2

Since corn needs a lot of nutrients, I did as much as I could for this bed. Last fall I planted cover crops, a mix of winter rye, clover, vetch and field peas. Then on top of this, in the winter and early spring, I layered on a good cover of horse manure. I reseeded with clover again in early spring. The rye grew to about 2 feet tall and the clover was nice and thick. On Sunday, I cut down the rye and turned the soil. It looks really nice with lots of worms and other crawling bugs. Next time I am at the garden, I will plant my popcorn.

corn bed 2 corn bed 1
corn bed 3

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more crimson fava bean photos

crimson fava 1 cromson fava 2

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peas are almost ready!

peas 2 peas 1

I planted 4 varieties of peas this spring. Probably too close together, but so far they're OK. The nice thing is that they are blooming and forming peas in succession. I'm looking forward to different types of peas ripening at different times. I hadn't realized this benefit of planting multiple types.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

today's garden work

It was very hot at 9am in the garden this morning (about 80*F, 27*C), but I got a bunch of seeds planted:

Beans, Roma bush and Tavera filet beans
Dill, Boquet and Mammoth
Borage
Radish
Carrots, Mokum
and POPCORN!!! Golden baby

I planted twice as much popcorn as last year. It sure was yummy!

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broccoli buttons

broccoli button

Ooops. A couple of my broccoli plants are buttoning. Looks like of my dozen plants (and a couple of my Mom's) are making cute little broccoli heads on tiny broccoli plants. I've heard this happens when the weather turns warm too fast or when the plants are kept in seed flats too long. I'm sure my error was in keeping them in my toasty cold frame too long - even though they were in the soil. Next year I will move them out sooner. On a several days this spring, I forgot to open the windows and the temperature went up into the 90's. Not what the broccoli's like.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

beet plants

beets

I left my beets in clumps of 3 or 4 plants this year as I heard that they grow nicely like this. The beets push apart as they grow.

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urban birdwatchers

urban bird watchers

What's all the commotion at the Fresh Pond Mall? A big sale? Not. A new store? Not. The young Redtail hawks in the nest on top of the building next to Trader Joe's are about to fledge! Its seriously messing up the traffic.

There are two chicks in the nest now. And when Skippy and I were watching on Sunday (along with 50 or 60 other fanatics), both Redtail parents came to check on the kids. Dad brought a bit of dinner and left it in the nest, then flew to the top of the building to watch the birdwatchers. Then Mom came into the nest and seemed to be eating her share first. I was told by a woman by a scope who had been there all day that they are very well fed chicks.

What excitement!

urban bird watchers 2 hawk nest 3
hawk nest 1

Added later:
Since some people commenting seemed worried about these unnatural conditions, below is a photo of the view these birds have to the west. They are right across the street from Fresh Pond in Cambridge, which actually is a very nice, very large, and very fresh pond. Its the Cambridge drinking water reservoir and is surrounded by beautiful fields and woods with lots of biodiversity.

Fresh Pond

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tiny pumpkin plants

pumpkin plants

Tiny for now. But something tells me not for long. I tried to leave lots of space for these guys. I have a fun mix of pumpkins and winter squash this year: Jarrahdale, Long Island Cheese, Galeux D Eysines, Baby Pam, and Waltham Buttternut. (My traditional Big Rock pumpkin seeds didn't spout.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

tomato supports

tomatoes at community garden

There are several good options for supporting tomatoes.

If you have lots of space, want to minimize your work, and aren't too worried about the fungal pests that will come if we have another wet summer, you probably want to use the standard round metal tomato supports. With these, you don't need to do any work - just push them in around the plants and let the vines grow how they will. These will keep the plants off the ground so you can walk around them and pick the fruits easily. I've also seen people plant 3 or 4 tomato plants inside an old tire filled with good soil and a ring of metal fencing that you can get your hand through.

But if you have limited space and/or are concerned about fungi, its best to train the plant upward and prune excess growth. I have used tepees with good results for many years. To make tomato tepees, cut a 10ft 2x4 into 1x1 poles and use twine to secure groups of 4. Plant one tomato at the base of each pole and, as the plants grow, remove all sucker growth. Use commercial velcro plant ties or strips cut from plastic bags to secure the vines to the poles.

The past two years I have used a metal crosspole and twine to support my tomatoes. It seems the easiest method to me. To set up, make your end posts from wood and about 6 or 7 feet tall (you need to be able to reach the top it easily). These will support a metal cross pole. My cross poles are about 9 or 10 ft long - the length of my rows. To set up the structures, my husband pushed 3 foot metal fence supports into the ground and secured the wooden posts to these with large tie wraps. The metal pole is held in place by a hole near the top of the wood posts. To support the growing tomatoes, you just loop twin over the pole and tie it to the tomato plant - tie it to the stem at the bottom of the plant. You then wind the plant and twine as the plant grows (removing all suckers). Midway through the season, you may need to replace the twine, but mine lasted fine all year last year. I space my tomatoes plants about 12 inches, but 18 inches would be better.

Using the crosspole method, tomatoes plants are able to get lots of airflow in and around the plants. Also, the amount of sunlight each leaf gets is maximized. Tomato leaves without good sun exposure are prime candidates for fungal diseases. I'm sure hoping for a good tomato season this year!

tomato 1 tom's tomatoes
garden tomato plants tomatoes

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kale and squash risotto

dinner 4

I planted a enormous crop of kale this year and a couple weeks ago asked for recipe suggestions. I tried the kale risotto from the Moosewood Cookbook and it was DELICIOUS! Thanks for the recommendation.

I used my last homegrown butternut squash from last year and a few spring onions that I pulled today. (I'm not really sure where the onions came from - probably ones I missed year that over-wintered and grew into large scallions-like onions this spring. They were very pungent and a bit dry, more like garlic or shallots.) And I used a big bunch of kale from my cold frame. As my mom said, I think this cold frame kale is more tender and mild than "outdoor" kale.

Its a very good recipe. The link is here: Moosewood Squash and Kale Risotto

dinner 3 dinner 2

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planting sweet potatoes

planting sweet potatoes

I've never grown my own sweet potato slips before and I suppose I used a non-traditional method. They aren't really slips, but little plants that I transplanted today. I transplanted about a dozen. I think I heard that they do OK in the shade, so I planted them next to my corn bed.

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more garden work

Today I spent a few more hours in the garden. My work list is not finished, but I will keep at it in the days to come.

Today's accomplishments;

Corn bed and beans beds are prepared.
Basil, celeriac, sweet potatoes and bachelor buttons are transplanted.
More weeding is done.
Everything is watered.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

garden work

So far, so good. Beautiful weather and my garden work list is half finished:

The potatoes are hilled.
The squashes, pumpkins, lettuce, and spinach are transplanted.
The gardens are weeded.
The cover is off the cold frame.

I even was able to find good homes for my extra seedlings. This took about 10 minutes at the community garden. I set about 50 tomato and pepper seedlings and them near the main path with a sign saying "Free, please take these." They vaporized I think.

Friday, May 21, 2010

friday evening plans for the weekend

Plans:

- Plant popcorn, nasturtium, pole beans, bush beans, soy bean, and dill seeds.
- String up tomatoes.
- Transplant sweet potatoes, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, melons and cucumbers.
- Remove cold frame cover and plant melons inside.
- Hill potatoes.
- Work on training my new pear tree.
- Weeding.
- Weed whacking and mowing of community garden paths.
- Maybe I can pick peas!

mom and dad's vegetable garden

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mom and dad 5 mom and dad 6

Last weekend I brought all sorts of seedlings up to my parents for their garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, winter squash, summer squash ... We had a wonderful time planting together. The seedlings we already planted are doing well too.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

skippy steals my sweater!

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What fun to be a dog on a beautiful day with a big open space to play on! Skippy's idea of fun is to steal my sweatshirt and shake it hard. Then he plays keep away with me. Ahh, what fun!

We played this game on my parent's beautiful lawn, which has big purple patches of ajuga flowers that my dad has mowed around. Its one of my favorite sights (and games). I'm hoping to grow a similar lawn myself soon.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

mom and dad's backyard

mom and dad's backyard

Here's another view of my parents' beautiful flowering lawn. Hard to beat.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

aerial

aerial

Its been a great weekend for garden work.

I planted a new cutting garden to the right of my cold frame. One of my favorite roses is in the center, Mr Lincoln, a deep red hybrid tea. Also in this plot are, blue summer asters, yellow calendulas, mixed giant zinnias, pink sensation cosmos, Canterbury bells, feverfew, pink echinacea, and a couple types of lavender. I also found my giant orange dahlia tubers that I saved in the back of the basement and planted them in the flower plot them today.

I also filled up my vegetable garden. I planted 17 tomato plants and my husband put up the support poles. The tomato varieties I have are: New Girl, Big Beef, Orange Blossom, Pink Beauty, Cherokee Purple, Oxheart Red, Box Car Willie, Mortgage Lifter, Brandywine, Giant Belgium, Opalka, San Marzano, and Purple Calabash.

And I planted eggplants (only Black Beauty), and peppers: Numex Joe Parker, Poblano, Sweet Red, Sweet Yellow, Sweet Chocolate, Nardello, Costa Rican Red, Thai Hot and Amelia's Cayenne.

I will squeeze in rows of greens under next to the tomatoes. I want to remember to plant dill, arugula and borage soon. Also more lettuce.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

pea flowers

pea flower
pea flowers 2 pea patch
I planted 4 varieties and the first to bloom is Cascadia. An enation-resistant Northwest bred snap pea variety. (What on earth is enation???)

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