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, June 29, 2012

sideyard garden

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It was evening when I took this photo from the upstairs window. Earlier in the day I caught the thermometer at 106*F! The sensor is located in full sun in the middle of my open cold frame. With the adjacent house walls and the stone path, it gets really warm. If I move the sensor a few feet to the shade, its a good 10* cooler.

As I am posting this photo I notice a squirrel in the far left bed. What is he doing!!? I spent the day working in this bed. I pulled the peas that were there, added fresh compost from my tumbler, and spread and worked it in. I then planted 3 blocks of plants: Teddy Bear sunflowers at the front, Blue Scotch and Winterbor kale in the middle and zinnias at the back mixed in with some feverfew volunteers. The squirrel is back near the zinnias. I think he has probably found something tasty (to him) in the fresh compost.

I also worked on the little paths between the beds. I spread a good layer of newspaper and covered this with brown wood bark mulch. I have finished the two rightmost paths so far.

The coldframe is filling fast with growing plants. Along the back are cucumbers and a couple watermelon plants. In the middle are eggplants and a tomato. At the front are rosemary, parsley, oregano and basil.

The beds at the left have mostly green beans and soy beans (edamame) in them. (Also some tomatoes, mustard greens, alpine strawberries, y0ung blueberry bushes, sage, chives and parsley.) I have trouble with beans at my community plot because of rampant bean beetles, and trouble with soy beans because of the chipmunks. No beetles or chipmunks here and beans do pretty well in the less than full sunlight.

I've been sowing bean seeds every two weeks all June. They haven't been sprouting well. I think partly because of cool damp weather we had early June. But also my seeds were old. I ended up planting handfuls of the old seeds thick in a little trench. And I bought some new seeds. And the weather got warmer. I have lots coming up now.

At the far right, I have another bed of peas to pull and replant when I have time. I am planning to put in summer crisp lettuces here. Am hoping in this shadiest bed, lettuce will do well in midsummer.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

truth or myth? you can't transplant carrots

I heard you can't transplant carrots because the roots end up crooked. I thought I'd just be very careful to dig a deep hole and straighten the root as I transplanted. Hmmm. No such luck. I had to learn the hard way. I threw out my second batch of seedlings without transplanting them. I will go back to direct sowing. I think carrots (and parsnips) are the only crop I don't transplant.

crooked carrots

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

today's harvest

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The garden has grown an amazing amount in the past week!!! I was in awe as I walked through and harvested.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

more rain

We're alternating between hot humid days and rainy days. The thermometer in my side yard garden registered up to 110* F in the sun this weekend. Today, temperature is down but we have had rain all morning and evening. The slugs and snails are very happy about this. I bought some Sluggo yesterday. It says it is "organic". In the past I've used a more aggressive slug poison, but will try this. I spread it around my zinnias, marigolds, cabbages and eggplants. I did not like hand picking an squishing the slugs.

I'm starting to worry about tomato fungi, though I haven't seen any yet. I was looking at the copper sulfate sprays and powders the other day, but did not buy one. After today, am thinking I really should do this. Geno recommended a combination of rotenone and copper sulfate. It seems I will need a sprayer device for this too.

I'm looking forward to my first harvest of beets tomorrow - if the rain lets up. I have a new recipe to try for my Chiogga's.

I harvested garlic scapes last Friday and am planning to make a batch of garlic pesto soon ( tomorrow?). Everywhere I look at Farmers' Markets and local food sources this week, there are are scapes. Last year I made my first batch of scape pesto and I look forward to another this year. I need to see if I can find the same recipe again.

I placed a seed order last night from Johnny's for green beans, summer crisp lettuce and a couple of fall crops. I always love to pick out seeds.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

grape flowers

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As I was photographing flowers today, I started wondering about the grapes. I've never seen a grape flower. I looked close and one of my vines was in bloom! This is a Cabernet vine. Very small flowers with little fruits forming in the center.

My Catawba vine has well formed fruit clusters. I'll add a photo here tomorrow.

flowers in my garden today

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new bluestone patio

little bluestone patio 007 Here's the new patio I made from bluestone I salvaged from the trash. Just a little surface for my garden chair. For now, the stones are just laid out on top of the salt marsh hay. Later, I plan to pull back the hay, flatten the area and set the stones so they are flush with the dirt of the path.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

solstice celebration at the community garden

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HOT, HOT! But a fun get together of gardeners. A dozen of us shared garden dinner dishes under the apple tree in front of our community garden.

The dishes included Catherine's vegetarian casserole of brown rice, broccoli, onion flavored with dill, mint and chives from her garden, a salad of greens from Judy's garden, Ali's couscous croquettes, very fresh snap peas and arugula from Malachy's garden and lots of rhubarb: Christina's rhubarb crisp and my rhubarb pie.

My rhubarb pie recipe is from the Epicurius website: Deep-Dish-Rhubarb-Pie-with-Crumb-Topping
Instead of decorating with pastry leaves, I used cut-outs of the summer sun.

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solstice celebration rhubarb pie 131 - Copy

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the day before the solstice

We are going from cool to HOT!!!

Today was a lovely 70 degree day. I was lucky to be able to spend the day in the garden. Though I forgot to bring my camera, I did photograph my harvest of garlic scapes, spinach and lettuce.

Last night I found a couple of nice old chairs that a neighbor had left out for the trash pickup. I snagged them and brought them to the community garden. I left them for others and the first gardener in commented how nice and brought one to her plot. Another great find was that the truck that came to pick up a load of our garden trash had a whole stack of cut blue stone in the back. They were very happy to unload it for our use!! I took a bunch to my garden and now have a little blue stone patio under my garden chair.

I weeded and watered today. I squished a few potato bugs. Was really pleased to see that what looked like an infestation starting last week (about 50 potatoes larvae last week) is petering out (I hope - only about 20 bugs today).

The warm weather crops are taking off finally. Today the basil looked markedly better. It looked actually quite happy. The tomatoes, sweet potatoes and squashes are taking off. My potatoes are in full bloom. Small summer squashes and cucumbers are forming.

Tomorrow is predicted to be 97*F here in the Boston area. And quite humid. We haven't been above 80* since last August.

Tomorrow is also the summer solstice. The longest (and best) day of the year. We are planning a potluck gathering to celebrate at the community garden. We will all bring a dish made with at least one of the vegetables harvested from our gardens. I am planning to bring rhubarb pie. I made a good version last week and look forward to making it again to share.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

wet cool spring

This evening I heard on the TV news that we have had the coolest June in 30 years. What a surprising spring! It was so warm in March, then so cool May and June. The peas, lettuce and brassicas are doing great. But I am starting to worry about my warm weather crops. The tomato plants are small, waiting for their growth spurt. Basil is looking sad. Cukes are small, watermelons too. I'm glad I did not to plant other melons this year.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

garden helpers

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I had some super helpers in my garden this past weekend. My niece and nephew harvested, weeded, fertilized and watered the garden for me!!!

Their harvest was peas, lettuce, mustard, herbs and rhubarb.

I love it when kids are so excited about the garden. These kids ate peas fresh off the vine, they showed me which crops needed fertilizer. They picked the oldest lettuce and mustard plants for me. And it seems like they know the names of everything. Thanks for helping!

pea harvest

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Today's harvest was a pile of peas and a few Meyer lemons. The lemons will ripen up with a few days inside on the window sill. The peas will not last that long. They will disappear at dinner time. I'm  still deciding how to cook them, but likely straight up with a little salt and butter.

I have forgotten, again, what variety of pea I planted where. I planted 3 types of peas this year in my parents garden and 2 types in my garden. My parents have been picking theirs for a week or so now. This is my first pea harvest. These peas were planted on St Patrick's Day. Though I gave them a nice 5 foot trellis thinking they were tall vines, they ended up only about 1 foot tall, at most.

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The pods are pretty, but small. A few pods are plump with 5 big peas inside, most have 4, and some have only 1, 2, 3 peas. I was wondering why so few pods are full. After reading a bit, it seems that its a pollination issue. Peas self pollinate, but rainy weather can interfere. My guess is that the each pea in the pod needs to be pollinated with its own pollen grain to mature and that this did not go so well for this crop. We have had some serious rain this spring. I remember going out and photographing the flowers in the rain. I will see if I can find a wet-pea-flower-photo.

My other pea variety, also of unknown name, is growing taller, maybe about three feet tall now. The pods are almost ripe - I think they need another week. They look like they will be fatter and fuller than this batch.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

weeds, volunteers or invasives?

dill volunteers
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volunteer squash in the onion bed anise hyssop sprouts

Some plants reseed regularly in my garden: bachelor buttons, anise hyssop, Johnny jump ups, borage, dill, ruby streaks mustard, even tomatoes and squashes. This year a few pea plants sprouted in my compost pile and last year's potatoes sprouted in the garlic bed.

I suppose much of gardening is choosing what should grow where.

I carefully moved the dill volunteers to their own patch, and the ruby mustard and Johnny jump ups to theirs. Most of the borage I let stay where it grows. The hyssop is aggressive and I pull most of it and let a few plants (in places I want them) grow. All volunteer tomatoes and last year's potatoes get pulled. Occasionally I let a squash volunteer grow. This year, I have one volunteer squash still growing in the onion bed. Last year's volunteer squashes turned into prolific medium-sized pumpkins. Likely this year's is too, but its a fun mystery for now.

I have some aggressive volunteers this year. A couple years ago I planted seeds for a purple morning glory. It is a lovely plant and flower. Someone warned me that its invasive. I remember I replied - "well, I'll just pull up the plants I don't want". And that's what I am doing now - LOTS of them. I have morning glory sprouts every where within 20 feet of last years vines. I keep thinking that if I can pull them all this year and prevent ANY flowers, then I can eliminate them from my garden - and my neighboring community plots - and the adjacent meadows. We do not need another invasive. Gardening near a natural area requires attention to what we plant to prevent invasion by aggressive plants.

Other sprouts in the invasive category in our community garden plots are oregano, mint, raspberries, and sunchokes. My garden plot has problems with the latter two. Today I pulled many many raspberries and sunchokes from my plot. They sneak in from neighboring plots. I've designated a small area for a few raspberry vines, which do really well here and are delicious.

In my home garden, the prolific volunteers/weeds are violets, ruby mustard, tomatoes, dill, and oregano's. I have 3 types of oregano that I love to cook with. It seems daily I pull up stray oregano from my rose bed or garden paths. In my suburban home garden, I like to encourage somewhat aggressive plants to fill spaces I don't have time to plant. I don't mind pulling them when I want to plant something else. In a suburban location, the aggressive  plants don't spread out of my yard.

The invasive volunteer in my parents garden is also oregano. This year my dad did a lot of work to reduce the oregano patch which had gotten out of hand. Like me, my mom likes to have a good amount available to add to the salad and cooking, so my dad couldn't remove it all.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

its weeding season

Today I weeded an hour in my community garden plot. Funny how you can weed and think you've got them all, and then look again and there are a bunch of big weeds. If I look for the little ones, I miss the big ones. Today I thought I weeded the whole garden and told Skip we could go walk and then I noticed the asparagus bed - full of weeds. Skippy is used to me changing my mind and taking a while after I say I'm done. But still, I didn't want to make him wait too long so I only weeded half the asparagus bed. Its waiting for me for another day.

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welcome back gnome

fishing gnome

My fishing gnome is back! I thought he fell into the pond and carefully checked the mucky bottom 4 feet down - no gnome. We found him while cleaning out the garage - in a storage basket, lost for 2 years.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

sideyard garden in the cool wet spring

aerial June 3

The beds are pretty well planted now with peas, beans, edamame and tomatoes. They are growing slow in the cool wet weather. The peas have pulled down their supports. I'll look for another support next year. But they are just about ready to start picking.

Inside the cold frame are eggplants, cucumbers, watermelon and herbs.

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