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.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

good bye March

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Our forecast for April Fool's Day was first 12 inches of snow, then it went down to 1 inch, now is up to 2-4 inches. Whatever... Let's get it over with and MOVE ON.

My hellebores are blooming later than usual this year. I suppose because they were covered in 3 feet of snow most of the winter. Some years they're in bloom in December. Today, my white ones are fully open and the deep red ones are thinking about it.

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weeding

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"I got the idea when I saw a neighbor using a paint brush on her hands and knees painting each individual weed with a systemic herbicide. I thought why not just fill a long tube with a sponge on the end of it with herbicide. This makes it possible to just stroll around your yard, pressing the tip of the cane on each weed. This method effectively and quickly makes the weeds disappear." - Mike Smith, Inventor
WHY NOT JUST PULL THE WEEDS!!!

WeEding

My hands hurt; even my fingernails ache
from pulling weeds which were neglected too long,
allowed to grow until they assumed (and why not?)
that the garden belonged to them
or any wild seed which might blow by
or be dropped by birds.
Why is it my shoulders straining at burdocks
which have definitely settled in for the summer?
Why not some unsuspecting teenager’s
who might have been conned into doing the job
for a few dollars an hour, and who, by nightfall,
wouldn’t feel a twinge; would sleep like a pup?
I will feel every muscle in my body
and stay awake until all hours.

The only answer I can give
is that at least I was the one
who felt the wind freshening;
and where the grass was deepest by the stone border,
I was the one who stared the wild cat in the eye
and did not blink first.

- Peggy Billings

calculating compost

Our community garden is figuring out how to get a nice compost product this year. Our priorities are a screened, delivered, organic product that fits in our budget.

Here's a nice site to calculate compost coverage: SOIL AMENDMENT CALCULATOR

We have about 125 plots averaging about 15 square feet each (my guess). That's about 28,000 square feet total. I'm figuring 2 inches coverage on all plots would be good. The calculator says we need 173 cubic yards of compost. That seems like a lot. At 15 cubic yards per truckload, that's a good 10 deliveries. Maybe only half of the gardeners would actually use it, since many of use make our own compost. So 5 truck loads. I suppose the thing to do is go one truck load at a time and order more when its gone.

While I had the on-line calculator site up, I checked out what I need for my home garden. It has five 9x3 foot beds, and one 8x8 foot cold frame, have a total of about 200 sq feet, so for 2 inch coverage, I need 1.2 cubic yards (30 cubic feet). I will see how much compost I have ready in my bins before buying any.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

mail ordered seeds

new seeds

Here are seeds from my last mail order. I am trying seeds from an Asian seed catalog for the first time: Kitazawa. They look really interesting!

Also a bunch here from an old favorite: Botanical Interests. I love their plant drawings. I was pleased to spot their Komen for the Cure seeds - Celebration in Pink cosmos. An over-sized package with a donation to breast cancer research. I bought extra so I can share, since bc research is my profession.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

heirloom versus hybrid seeds

Betsy just sent me the link to an article in the NY Times about "heirloomism" and vegetable gardening: Heirloom Seeds or Flinty Hybrids?. Its a long article, exploring lots of aspects of hybrids and heirlooms. It also describes the new movement that goes beyond heirloom seeds, striving to "rebuild the regional farming culture that invented those cultivars".

Betsy says, "It hadn't occurred to me that the heirloom tomatoes could be at the root of the blight problem - too long a season with varieties that are not disease resistant. Interesting."

What do you think - do you grow heirloom or hybrid seeds? I think my garden has about 50:50.



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Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 seed planting list

My seed planting list for 2011:

January 28 (one seed tray)
Leeks, Giant Musselburgh
Onions, Ailsa Craig
Onions, Frontier
Lettuce mix:
Endive mix:
Broccoli, perennial purple
Celeriac

February 26 (one seed tray)
Kale, blue curled scotch
Kale, Tuscan
Celery, Tango
Radicchio, Chiogga red preco #1
Spinach, Spargo F1
Chinese broccoli, green lance
Mixed greens:
Escarole, frisee
Dill
Onions, Frontier
Onions, Ruby Ring F1

March 19 (one seed tray)
Beets, Chiogga
Beets, white Detroit
Beets, Lutz
Fennel, Perfection
Eggplant, Tiger
Eggplant, Kamo
Eggplant, Orient Express
Kale, green curled winterbor
Kale, red Russian
Marigolds, Burpee's best mix
Marigolds, African crackerjack
Marigolds, Marietta
Marigolds, Petit mix
Canterbury bells
Prairie aster

March 27 (one tray)
Basil, Italian large leaf
Peppers, Amelia's cayenne
Peppers, Quadrato Giallo D'Asti (sweet yellow)
Peppers, Quadrato Rosso D'Asti (sweet red)
Peppers, Thai hot
Peppers, Ancho 211 F1
Peppers, Numex Joe E Parker

April 29 (two trays)
Cucumbers, Diva
Cucumbers, North Carolina Pickling
Cucumbers, Sumter Pickling
Cucumbers, Sweet Success
Cucumbers, Straight 8
Cucumbers, Tonikawa
Cucumbers, Diva
Cucumber, Sooyow nishiki
Zinnias, mixed
Zinnias, red
Pumpkins, Big Rock
Pumpkins, Galeaux
Pumpkins, Long Island Cheese
Pumpkins, Orange Giant
Pumpkins, New England Pie
Pumpkins, Baby Pam
Winter Squash, Buttercup (saved from CSA)
Winter Squash, Delicata
Winter Squash, Waltham Butternut
Summer Squash, Yellow
Summer Squash, Zucchini Romanesco
Summer Squash, Patty Pan Bennings Green Tint
Broccoli, Bay Meadows
Melon, Charantais, Savor F1
Melon, Charantais, Edonis F1
Melon, Anne Arundel
Melon, San Juan
Watermelon, Ice Box Mickeylee
Watermelon, Yellow
Watermelon, Red Sugar Baby

May 7
Sowed in garden:
Fava beans, Windsor
Peas, Cascadia
Peas, Oregon Giant
Peas,

May 15
Sowed in garden:
Carrots, Mokum
Carrots, Kyoto red
Carrots, Bolero

June 6
Sowed in garden:
Sunflowers, Ling Giant
Sunflowers, Tamara white

June 11
Sowed in garden:
Radish, French Breakfast
Nasturtiums
Carrots, Bolero
Lettuce, Green Summer Crisp

June 18 (one tray)
Lettuce, Simpson
Lettuce, Prizehead
Lettuce, mix
Lettuce, Victoria butterhead
Arugula
Escarole frisee
Mizuna
Parsley
Dill, Bouguet
Spinach
Cosmos, Pink

June 25 (in the garden)
Tankuro Edamame
Beans, Orient Wonder yard long
Beans, Chinese pole
Beans, Provider
Beans, Purple

August 1 (one tray)
fall planing:


I will add to this as I plant more seeds.

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Skippy

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Here's my handsome Skippy. He's nearly 6 years old now. Very dapper in his new haircut and still one of the fastest dogs around.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

transplanting seedlings to the garden

seedling tray in my cold frame

I got an urgent email a couple days ago with the subject header: too many seedlings. The text follows.

Dear Neighbor,
I'm right across Route 2 from you (in Arlington).

I've got three Jiffy trays of seedlings going.

Two trays are still unsprung for the most part, but 1 tray is sort of exploding. It looks like a chia pet, and it is only 5 days old. It has Kale, Romaine, Bibb, Cabbage, Broccoli, and something else I can't remember.

Rather than thinning each cell out, I'm tempted to try to transplant some of these directly into the ground and see if they tough it out. I have so many plants in each cell, that I definitely have seedlings to spare.

Do you think it is worth the effort? Will they die in this cold snap that we're in the middle of?

Any advice would be much appreciated :)

This morning I wrote back. Here's my response.
HI,

I've been putting my seedling trays out in my cold frame for a few weeks and they're doing super. I put them under lights ‘til second or third leaves appear, then harden them off by putting the seed tray in the cold frame. When the plants outgrow the pots, I transplant close in soil inside the frame. I'll transplant them again in May at proper spacing out into the garden. This is working good so far, with limited electric light use and no bringing plants in and out to harden off.

I think it may work well for you to transplant now into a very sheltered spot. I'd put up a plastic tunnel of some type. Maybe small hoops and some clear plastic well secured by burying the edges in the soil. Make sure its in full sun. It would be best to assemble and leave it a day or two so the sun can warm the soil a bit. Then put your trays inside for a few days to harden off, prior to transplanting. Then transplant seedlings on a warm day. Lettuce and the other types of seedlings you mention are all very hardy. (You can plant with close spacing if you need to conserve tunnel space and then space out plants later when the covers come off.) You could use fabric row cover instead of plastic if you want. It’s a matter of guessing the weather. I think in mid April I would say to go with fabric row cover, but best now is plastic for 2-4 weeks then convert to row cover. I also like to have a cheap remote thermometer inside any plastic covers, because the sun even now it can overheat inside. When temps start to exceed 60*F or so, open the covers a bit for airflow.

I hope you don’t mind if I post this on my blog. Maybe others will add their advice.

Good luck,

Kathy

Also this morning, I noticed another "neighbor" of mine has seedlings growing under plastic now. They don't even have hoops, but it seems like there are happy seedlings growing underneath. I always love to walk by this raised bed, which is right in the middle of their front yard! Super!

neighbor's seed bed under plastic

Monday, March 21, 2011

birds I saw this weekend

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From top: a bluebird with nesting material, a pair of mallards, a migrating flock of snow geese on the big pond, and a pretty little song sparrow in the garden grasses.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

March garden view - first day of spring!

aerial march 20 2011

Its a beautiful day today to mark the first day of SPRING. I had to open my cold frame doors to lower the heat (it was up to upper 80's inside, 60's outside). I worked in the area around the frame and soaked in the sunlight and warmth myself. There are still deep shadows as the sun is still low to the south, but its angle is increasing. I raked the leaf mulch off of flower garden next to the cold frame and cleared off the stone path. I was impressed at how many plants from last fall have survived very well. I found that my bee balm still has nice green leaves left from last year as well as many little new shoots poking up. And my roses are very healthy too. The benefits of deep snow cover, I suppose.

I found a hose in the garage, hooked it up and was able to give the plants in the frame a good soaking.

I haven't gotten the peas planted yet. Though the soil is thawed and workable, it just seems too shady in my garden beds still.

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more seeds planted

seed tray 002

Yesterday I started another tray of seeds: fennel, beets, marigolds, asters, kale, and eggplant.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

replanted cold frame

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overwintered lettuce in cold frame 010 seedlings in cold frame 003

I took all the overwintered plants (lettuce, spinach, beets, broccoli and endive) out of my cold frame in the beautiful warm weather on Friday, added six bags of manure and compost mix, turned it under, and then replanted everything. I also planted the seedlings I started on Jan 28 (leeks, onions, lettuce and escarole). There's a tray of seedlings (onions, arugula spinach, kale, dill and lettuce) that has been out in the frame since midweek that is doing well. The cold frame is turning into a perfect place to harden off plants. I also brought out a couple plants (a begonia and a fuchsia) that I was over wintering inside. Like me, they seem to have just barely survived the winter and need some real sunlight and warm air.

plantes in cold frame 011

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super moon

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It sure looked 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter!

The Farmer's Almanac says the March full moon is the

Full Worm Moon – March As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.

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bulletin board

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The scouts are installing our new bulletin board now!! I am looking forward to posting notices on it soon. All sorts of action is starting up at the community gardens. There were 4 or 5 gardeners out this morning, clearing up from winter and some turning soil already.

There are piles of debris showing up at the periphery of the gardens - I will have to post signs to show where these piles should be located. I'll also post a map of the plots so people know their plot numbers. Of course garden rules should be posted.

The front of the board will be locked and covered with plexiglass for "official" notices, the back will be open cork board for interactive use. I hope there will be communications about seed swaps and gardening tips etc. What fun!

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bird watching

Just a couple nesting raptor links here:

I have come across a great web cam that streams video from an active bald eagle's nest. They currently have 3 chicks in the nest and Mom and Dad are very attentive parents, bringing them lots of fish. Virginia Eagle Cam

And the other link is a blog I am hosting of the red-tailed hawk nest near my house. We have a Yahoo Group and I post the updates on the blog. This nest currently has eggs in it, though no web cam so we don't know how many. Red-tailed hawk blog

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme

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These are the herbs I picked from my garden this weekend. Really nice on our grilled winter squash and roast pork dinner.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

overwintered rosemary

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My rosemary plant has survived the winter outside! I forgot to bring it inside last fall. When the snow melted, I was surprised to see that its still looking good. Its growing in a corner of my cold frame, roots inside, but leaves outside of the frame. Maybe it survived since the soil that did not freeze. Or maybe the deep snow cover was protective. Or both.

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sowing seeds

Diane reminded me that its nearly time to plant the tomatoes. I printed out a planting calender for myself (from the on-line calendar link on my side bar). I will plant eggplant, peppers, marigolds, basil and beets this week. Next week, tomatoes and cabbage. I have pots and soil ready.

snug cold frame

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Here is my cold frame with its newly replaces plastic panels on the front and back. Also new battens to seal the seam between the top panels and the sides. In the next warm day, I will add compost to the soil and replant everything.

Monday, March 14, 2011

crocuses

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I love how the first crocus push their way up through whatever debris I've left behind. Soon I'll rake the leaf layer from the garden beds, carefully.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

seedlings

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coldframe contents
seedlings new seedlings

These are photos of my seedlings over the past 2 weeks. The tray at the top was started Jan 28. Mostly lettuce, endive and onions. I put them out in the cold frame around March 1. Some of the seedlings frosted because I didn't realize the plastic panels of the cold frame ripped in the wind that week.

The bottom seedlings were started Feb 26. Broccoli, celery, frissee, dill, radicchio and more onions. They are ready to go out to the cold frame soon.

update

Wow - its been a really busy week. My job has been taking up all of my time. Finally today, I have time to work in my garden and to catch up recording what's going on here.

The big thing that has happened is that THE SNOW IS GONE!!! It seems like spring has come all of a sudden. Last week was warm, but very dark, dreary, and lots of rain. This weekend it cleared, the sun came out bright and all of a sudden the spring bulbs are inching up and blooming, and the birds are very active. Our hawk pair that we watch has been laying eggs in their nest. My sparrows are cleaning out their bird house and the robins and cardinals are singing loudly at dawn.

Yesterday, I bought few bags of compost and manure to amend the soil in my cold frame. I tried to do this last weekend, but was told the bags were still frozen and snow covered and couldn't be purchased. Now that I have them, my plan for today is to remove all plants from the cold frame, spread the compost, turn it in and then replant the plants.

My cold frame has had a makeover in the past week. The plastic of the front and back panels ripped to shreds in heavy winds. We replaced it with new plastic. Also, replaced the foam strips that seal the space between the door panels and sides. More work needs to be done to replace tape on top door panels, but this can wait. It's nice and snug now. Temp inside was up to 75*F yesterday!!

I moved my first tray of seedlings out to the cold frame last week. I lost about 1/4 of the little plants, because of the cold and open panels, but much of the seedlings look great now. Especially the lettuce, which is so big it will be good to transplant it out of the little pots later today.

I planted another tray of seeds last week and they are nicely sprouted now. Mostly broccoli, greens and more onions. These can go out to the cold frame today. And I will start up a new tray of seeds. I think its almost time to start my peppers. I will have to check on this.

Its almost time to plant the peas and fava beans too! Last year I planted these on St Patrick's Day (March 17). I didn't think there was anyway the snow would melt by then this year. But it looks like I will be able to plant this week! (I forgot the order fava been seeds - I will do this tonight.)

Tonight I am planning to place a couple seed orders. I have a bunch of items circled in my Asian catalog: Kitazawa, and also in my Botanical Interests catalog. I will add fava beans to these.

I have a bunch of photos I have taken during the past week that I will add here later today. Right now, its time to go out and work in the dirt.... :)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Belmont community gardens

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Still deep snow in the community garden plots. But at least it has compressed enough so we can walk on it. Skippy and I walked in to look at my plot for the first time in two months. Its still snow covered. Except around the compost bin.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

signs of spring

first snowdrops
tree

I think spring is right around the corner. The birds and squirrels seem to agree. The mornings have become noisy with bird songs this week. Snow piles have melted a bit in recent rains. The warmest southern sloped yard in our town has lovely snow drops in full bloom. A friend of mine who lives in PA told me lots of flowers are in bloom there - crocuses and tulips - so soon spring will make its way up to Boston soon. Its so exciting to watch the progression.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

award!!!

I'm the recipient of an award from HORTICULTURE Magazine!!! How cool!! Thank you, I'm honored.

The award is for "Best Gardening Blog" and editor Jenny Koester posted a nice review of my blog on her blog: Best Gardening Blog—Skippy’s Vegetable Garden.

She even gave me a fancy badge to post. I'll get it onto my side bar soon.

I think in honor of the award - and to spite the snow - I'll go outside right now and bring my seedlings to the cold frame to start hardening off. Its 45*F right now inside the frame. Some of the snow on the cover in the photo below has begun to melt. March 1 seems like a good day to start bringing new seedlings out!

side yard aerial - another snow-covered garden photo

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No, this isn't just the same photo as last month - even though it looks identical. We got about 5 inches of snow on the garden this past weekend. And even though we've had warm days, there has been very little melting of our 3 feet of snow cover.

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more snow photos

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