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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

tomatoes on the counter

tomaotes in a bowl

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Monday, August 30, 2010

tomato sauce

tomato sauce simmering
tomatoes in a pile tomato sauce

I made a great big batch of red sauce this week. It simmered all afternoon. Mostly tomatoes from my parents garden. Also a few from my garden and some from my Piccadilly Farm CSA distribution. I added to the sauce a couple grated summer squash, carrots, garlic and onions. It smells fantastic!

Tomato varieties are: Mortgage Lifter, Box Car Willy, Pink Beauty, New Girl, Big Beef, Oxheart Red, Giant Belgium, Cherokee Purple, and Brandywine. Also two fantastic varieties of plum tomatoes: San Marzano Gigante 3 and Opalka.

I'd like to get a photo of each variety separately. Maybe next week.

tomatoes on the vine 3

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fall seedlings

seedings under lights

These are my little plants growing inside under the lights. With the hot dry summer weather and then pelting rain, its nice to baby them. I have several types of lettuce here, and some spinach. They're ready to go outside soon.

I checked my community plot today. I've been sowing seeds there regularly. Not much sprouted during hot dry weather in July and early August. Today I see several patches coming up. Nice pea sprouts, and a little bed of tiny lettuces. Also a row that looks like broccoli, but I can't remember what I planted there (oops!). Carrots and radicchio have not done well.

Today I planted cilantro and dill in the garden and last night I planted about 5 types of butterhead lettuces in flats under lights.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

a new mulch for my vegetable beds

newly mulched paths
One of my projects this weekend was to weed and mulch my side yard vegetable beds.

Weeding the beds was a big job as I've neglected them recently. I removed two wheel barrows full to my compost bins. Most weeds had grown up in the paths between the beds.

After weeding, I spread mulch. A new product for me: Coast of Maine hay and straw mulch. Its finely chopped and sterilized and they say it doesn't have weed seeds. Its spreads very nicely and one bag covers lots of ground. I used it to suppress weed growth in my paths and to make a nice surface for walking on. I'm looking forward to using the rest of the bag for moisture retention in the vegetable beds at my community plot.

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new flower bed

new flower garden
I've been fixing up a little flower garden next to my cold frame. I had a few perennials here that had grown together and gotten weeds and then they got trampled when my husband painted the house this summer. Now that the painting is done, I replanted the bed.

I dug out everything, separated all the perennials, removed the weeds and replanted. I added some compost and a few new plants, including a red bee balm (monarda), orange butterfly milkweed, a purple New England aster, a classic Autumn Joy sedum, a deep red rose (Mr Lincoln), and some annuals. Plants I have include a purple iris, several peonies (which I planted all together) and digitalis.

I also bought a bunch of slate pieces, odds-and-ends at a local garden center and made a U-shaped path of stepping stones. I'm hoping to have lots of flowers in this bed next year and walk along the stones to pick bouquets.

I splurged and used the dark black Coast of Maine composting mulch on this small bed. I'm looking forward to next year as it matures and fills in.

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end of August garden aerial

aerial

I've worked on several projects in my side yard the past two weekends. I have been fixing up a little flower garden next to my cold frame (bottom center of this photo), I've mulched and weeded the vegetable beds, and I've set up a new grape arbor just to the left of this photo. I'll post separately on each of these projects.

If you want to, you can click on this photo and mouse over to what's planted where.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

mesh-covered green beans

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I came across the beautiful beans last week in a plot at the Belmont Victory Gardens. Why are they covered with mesh? Does this keep the bean beetles off? They sure look great with no signs of beetle damage, unlike most plots around here. But then the adjacent and uncovered pole beans look good too.

Very nicely mulched with salt hay, too. I bought some stray/hay mulch that I will be spreading today in my gardens. I hope it looks as nice as this.

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water drops

drops 2
drops 1

Friday, August 27, 2010

reflecting on my community plot

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my plot 3 my plot 5

It seems that gardens are a reflection of a person and what's going on. This year my garden is fending for itself a fair amount of time. The soil is good and the weather has been nice, so my plants have done well. But I have big areas of unplanted space. Some fall greens are coming along under lights at home and will fill these in soon.

My mom is pretty sick right now. I've been visiting the hospital and keeping her company. She had some bad luck it will probably take quite some time to recuperate.

I'm also putting more time into my role as coordinator at the Belmont Community Gardens. Communication and planning. And my new company is growing. Good news, but it keeps me away from my garden on those beautiful rainy days when the flowers colors look so bright and the droplets allow you to reflect.

wet dog

wet dog 1

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a wet week at the gardens

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Wow! 4 days of non stop rain and drizzle after 3 months of dry weather. We sure needed it. And it was very pretty. The newly seeded fall crops are enjoying it. Skippy and I walked through the Belmont Community Garden paths on Wednesday in the drizzle and checked out the gardens.

wet dog 2

garden bulletin boards

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A local boy scout is making a bulletin board for our community garden. I've been looking into the types of boards that other gardens and parks have. We'd like to have one side covered with plexi and locked for "official" notices and the other open cork board for general use. It will be located along our main path entering the gardens. It seems it would be good to have more communication.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

garden notes

We had a very successful garden event today. We requested volunteers come to help dig a trench (about 125 feet long x 1 ft deep) to run an extra water line to the new plots. About 25 people came and it was short work to dig, lay line, and back fill. Thanks to all who came!

I checked on my beans at my plot today. I had a terrible problem with Mexican bean beetle. On Thursday, I sprayed with Captain Jack's Dead Bug Spray. I am pleased with the results. Very few larvae/beetles left today. I was able to squish these (yuck... I HATE to do this...). I will try to keep up with squishing them so I don't need to use spray again. Maybe I will bring an old glove to the garden and use this. I notice that many plots have skeleton bean leaves this year with bad bean beetle infestations.

I picked a handful of Chinese pole beans pods that I let ripen fully on the vines. I save these every year for replanting next year.

I continue to plant seeds for fall crops. I put in three rows of peas today. A bit late, but so hot I couldn't see planting sooner. I planted Caselode and Oregon Giant. Also a couple rows of carrots and lettuce seeds. I've been planting carrots every week for the past month. They don't do well with such dry weather, but I keep at it. I've covered the beds with row fabric and this seems to help keep in moisture and shade small seedlings.

I have some nice lettuce ans spinach seedlings under lights at home now. Its fun to watch them grow. They a coddled to be watered and under lights.

today's harvest

harvest

My first cayenne peppers are ripening. I am growing a variety Amelia gave me 4 or 5 years ago. I save seeds every year. They seem to get better every year.

I also have some shell beans Dan gave me. Vermont Cranberry beans. They are mixed with French flagolet shell beans.

And, of course, the main summer crop - my Sunburst yellow patty pans. Always delicious.

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Sunshine yellow watermelon seeds

sunshine watermelon seeds

I got a fantastic yellow fleshed watermelon from Piccadilly Farm. They told me the variety is Sunshine (Johnny's Seeds). I collected seeds from my watermelon, but now that I see its an F1 hybrid, I will throw out the seeds :( and put them on my list to order next year. I hope I can grow this great variety myself.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

farm links and parasitic wasps

Its fun to read about real farmers, especially this summer with the bumper crops. Here are a few links I've come across:

Shared Harvest Blog
Riverland CSA Farm (Sunderland MA) newsletter
Waltham Fields newsletters

I emailed yesterday and asked Piccadilly Farm what they did to get rid of corn ear worms this year. Susie told me they are using a parasitic wasp that feeds on the European Corn Borer. Well it sure worked great. I will look into this but I hear it is expensive. Maybe other gardeners would want to share an order. I can't very well keep them in my plot anyway.

I also read in a Waltham Fields news letter (July 26) that they are using these for the Mexican Bean beetle. I wonder if it is the same wasp species as the one that parasitizes the corn worms? Hmmm. I hate those ugly bean beetle larvae. The newsletter says that over a few years, the wasp population should go up and the beans beetle go down. So the wasps don't need to be purchased every year forever. I'm also wondering how far they travel. My plot is only about 1 mile from Waltham Fields.

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skippy in the garden

skippy 2

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crops for the cold frame

I am thinking about what to grow in my cold frame this fall. I'd like to keep it active as long as I can. I found this advice from Johnny's website interesting:

"If you have a hoop house, you can grow many cool-weather crops for harvest right through December. The trick is to get your crops established before the day length drops below 10 hours; after that, plants won't grow much, but they will tolerate cold temperatures until you're ready to harvest them. Some of the vegetables you can plant in a hoop house in August or September include: Collards, Kale, Lettuce, Salad mixes, Spinach, Swiss chard, Beets, Carrots, Kohlrabi, Radishes, Turnips, Broccoli, Cabbage, and Cauliflower."

Today the day length in the Boston area is about 13.5 hours. But its falling by about 3 minutes a day. It falls below 10 hours on November 10th. So I still have time.

I will probably need to transplant greens into my frame in October. Right now its overflowing with cucumbers and melons. They are amazing. I picked another 5 or 6 cukes today.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

today's harvest

harvest

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garden work

- Spray bean plants with Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew, active ingredient is the bacterium Spinosad. (Its an organic approved spray and I have no idea yet if it will work on my bean beetles, which BTW are turning in very nice orange bugs with black spots.)

- Remove my old red painted garden box that has fallen apart and replace with a basic brown plastic box for my garden stuff.

- Replace the broken tie wraps holding my fence to the fence posts.

- Harvest dill and summer squash.

- Weed a little. I think the weeds have slowed down.

- Plant a couple of new perennials. I bought a purple cone flower and two lemon thyme plants. I love the late summer plant sales.

- Water again, a constant job this year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

fall planting

covered beds 2

I have so many empty spaces in my community garden plot that I would love to fill with greens. I have seeds ready for about 10 of my favorite lettuce varieties, as well as arugula, spinach, frisee endive, cilantro, and radicchio.

I'd love to have a garden full of these like I did this spring. But with such hot dry weather, its hard to get them going. I've been planting weekly for 3-4 weeks and not much is coming up. Its hard for me to get to my plot to water daily. One stretch of 3 days without water kills all the seedlings :(

Last week I covered all my newly seeded areas with some old white row cover. Talking with other gardeners, they have the same problem and are covering with cardboard and any materials on hand to protect from drying out. I noticed nice little sprouts today. Hope I can keep these going.

I also seeded some indoor trays at home a couple days ago. Just in case the ones at my plot don't make it. I noticed this morning they have come up. I will turn on the indoor lights tomorrow. Seems funny to do this in summer, but I think it may be the only for me to properly tend them.

Its remarkable how different this summer is from last summer. A real New England summer! Hot, humid and dry. I'm hoping for a long fall for a good season of greens.

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bean bugs

bean beetle 2 bean beetle

I have a very ugly yellow spiny bug eating my bean leaves. They are all over the leaves and are completely eating them down to the veins. Yuck.

A fellow gardener recommended a homemade spray that she has used successfully: Mix 12 garlic cloves, 12 very hot chili peppers (habenero would be best), 2 Tbs Murphy's Oil soap, 2 Tbs salad oil and food process til pureed. Filter through cheese cloth. Dilute with 1 gallon of water and spray on the plants.

I am not sure I have the energy to mix this up myself. I think I will head over to the garden store tomorrow and see what they have for organic sprays.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

birthday martini

martini

What better for a birthday than a local potato vodka martini with a big slice of freshly picked Diva cucumber. Ahhh.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

tomatoes on the window sill

tomatoes on the window sill

A sure way to tell its August! Tomatoes on the window sill.

I'm gradually getting tomatoes from my shady garden. About one every other day. I beat the squirrels by picking them as they start to turn color and letting them fully ripen inside.

I prefer to do this anyway, even without squirrel competition. Doesn't seem right to have ripe tomatoes hanging on the vines. It risks them getting overripe without me noticing and lets the vine put energy into the rest of the fruits.

When I went up to my parent's last week, my Mom gave me her extras. Her garden is producing tons. I ended up with a nice batch of tomato sauce. I was going to freeze it, but we ate it all that night.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

a happier potato story

potatoes 037

I went out and dug a bit in my garden just now. What a relief to find a bunch of nice potatoes!

From one All Blue plant, I found 4 potatoes. The other plant I dug was a Green Mountain (I think, though can't remember for sure). Three big potatoes from that plant. The yields are low because the bed gets sun from noon-3. With so little sun, I'm really glad to get this many. And they are so pretty!

And no critter damage!

Yippee!!

potatoes 027 potatoes 002

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

a sad story about potatoes

Yesterday I visited my parents and we dug potatoes from their garden. We were looking forward this. But we didn't have very good luck :(

Dad dug, I sifted through the soil and grabbed the potatoes, and Mom washed them. But there were hardly any. And the ones we did find were half eaten! Another critter! Its too bad. They had little tiny tooth marks and very large portions of the potatoes were missing.

I thought the critter was maybe a mole. My sister suggested a pocket gopher might be more likely to eat potatoes. She says moles are more likely to eat worms and other insects. What the heck is a pocket gopher? Are there gophers in Massachusetts? And why didn't we have at least a hint there was an animal down there eating or potatoes?

Rodents eating vegetables seems to be a garden theme for me this year....

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

rabbit eats marigold

Rabbit eats marrigold 084

This cute bunny is growing fast. He now eats a surprising quantity of my garden plants. I didn't really see a need for him to eat my nice big marigold. They can't taste good. They have a pungent odor and I plant them mostly as a pest deterrent.

But the rabbit started in on the big yellow flower, and then he ate the smaller yellow flower, and then the leaves and stem. Well, yes, the stem was hanging out over the path and probably did need clipping - but it did not need to be entirely consumed by rabbit.

The Boston Globe had an article two days ago about rabbits over running the Boston area. (Run, rabbit, run) They pointed put that one female rabbit (probably a male needed too) can produce 5-6 bunnies 2-3 times a year totaling lots. And bunnies mature fast, so ones born in the first two litters can produce additional litters of bunnies of their own in that one year. So 2 parents can make about 50 rabbits in one season!

Well, Skippy has decided he wants in on the fun. He loves chasing cottontails. So now when I spot one, I tell Skippy and he gets the bunny to move - fast. Thanks Skip! I have enough cute bunny-eats-plants pictures. Now I need bunny-runs-fast pictures.

Rabbit eats marrigold 082 (2) Rabbit eats marrigold 094

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

today's harvest

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harvest 032 harvest  031

My Chinese pole beans are ready! These are my favorite bean. Big and lumpy - a green and white color mix. They are crisp and tender even when they grow very big.

A friend gave me some seeds. I've grown them for three years now and have to make sure to save a handful of beans to plant next year.

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fall planting

Its mid summer and I'm well into the fall planting.

I had a email today from Lesley who just moved from Arizona to MA and is wondering what she can plant in her new zone and new vegetable garden. Here in Belmont, my first fall frost is usually early October (maybe Oct 10), so we have about 60 days of growing left.

Today I planted seeds for:

Carrots (St Valery)
Lettuce (Oak Leaf Mix and Prizehead)

I'm also watering every day to try to encourage seeds I planted last week (beets, lettuce and carrots) to grow. (Its SOOO dry!) I find I can never have too many carrots, as long as they are nice big long ones, so I'm trying for a good fall carrot crop.

What else can be planted now?

I looked up on the Johnny's Selected Seeds website for vegetables with time to harvest less than 60 days. Bush green beans, radish, all types of lettuce, spinach, arugula, broccoli, beets, collards, baby leeks. Winter hardy vegetables like kale are perfect to plant now. You can even offer cold protection by putting in a cold frame now and get several months (into December) of most of these vegetables here.

It’s a perfect time to start peas if you want to try for a fall crop. Its hit-or-miss and depends on how fast the weather goes from hot to cold this year. It usually goes too fast. I often try, but have never gotten a good fall crop of peas. But I like to try. I will plant some soon. I think tall and short shell peas (xx and Cascadia).

And garlic needs to be planted in the fall - I like to plant garlic in October. A bit of time yet for that. I will likely put this crop in my squash/pumpkin bed after its done for the year.

Some time back, I wrote an on-line calendar to use to calculate fall planting dates. Here's the link: http://bioarray.us/Skippy%27s%20fall%20planting%20calendar.html You can also get there from my side bar - near the top.

I think fall is also a very good time for planting perennial flowers from seed. If you can get a bit of growth in the cool fall weather, they will come up next year with a head start and do well. I have some poppy and delphinium seeds I'd like to experiment with.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if you're doing fall planting, where you're located, and what you're growing. I'd love to get new ideas. Thanks!

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sunflowers!

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Its sunflower time! One of my favorite things to do is photographing sunflowers. Usually there's a bee or several bees on it. Today there were also bright yellow gold finches.

I planted my sunflowers late (actually the first planting was eaten by chipmunks and it took me some time to replant in pots and transplant to my plot). The flowers above are all growing in other garden plots - not mine. I have just one in bloom now (below, a Teddy Bear Dwarf Yellow from Botanical Interests),and three or four more varieties budded up and coming soon.
sunflower 101

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