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, August 31, 2012

blue moon

blue moon  Aug 31, 2012 The moon is so bright, I could have been out gardening by it all night.

Blue Moon

The roses bloomed twice,
and nobody noticed but
you – who stole my heart.
- by poetrydiary

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mom and Dad's giant sunflower

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sunflower 072 sunflower 062

My Dad has a sunflower that has grown to be a giant! We measured it today at 118 inches tall -  nearly 10 ft. He took a picture of me and Skippy next to it.

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tomato box

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I love a full tomato box! I find that almost all of the green ones will ripen eventually. I keep the reddest ones at the top, greener ones at the bottom. I think I will make a red sauce soon with the ripening Roma tomatoes.

I brought my Mom a few slicers today. She wanted a couple that would be ripe in a few days.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

garden work

Today I spent several hours at my community plot. It was such a nice morning to work in the garden. I trimmed the weeds in the path outside and all around my plot. A garden next to me (to the north) is untended, so I cut back their weeds and cleared out the overgrown path between us. Sigh, the weeds are quite abrasive and spiny (Japanese hops, raspberries, horse nettles). My arms are all scratched up. I'm hoping for a more active garden neighbor next year.

I watered well, as we've been quite dry. Removed mildewed squash leaves, took out old sunflowers and an borage plants. I also removed the last of my tomatoes, which had succumbed to late blight. I harvested a nice big boxful of green tomatoes. I'm sure most will ripen nicely. I also harvested a big head of bok choy to stir fry for tonight's dinner. (It was delicious.)

In the space left by the tomatoes, I planted some seeds and seedlings. Seedlings: lettuce, beets, cilantro. Seeds: peas and spinach. I had a package of pea seeds (Strike) that mature for harvest in 49 days, so I planted the whole package. I have often planted fall peas but have never gotten a crop harvested as I've always planted too late. Ever optimistic, I am trying again.....

maturing butternut squashes on my arbor

butternut squash  023 butternut squash  024 butternut squash  021

I've counted about 14 big squashes coming along.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

fish fertilizer on fall seedlings

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I got some free samples of a liquid fish fertilizer in the mail to try. Two bottles. One is all organic from fish. The other has a bit of nitrogen added. I tried it on my fall seedlings. They've been growing really fast and I'm sure they'll need some extra umpf to keep going at this rate.

I like the convenience of a liquid fertilizer. Just add a few tbs to a watering can and sprinkle.

I have seedlings tucked in all over the place now. Under the squash trellis, under the big bok choy, and in between the old squash vines. Nearly every day I trim off more mildewed squash leaves or harvest some cabbage and the seedlings get more light and space.
fertilizer 005 fall seedlings 012 fall seedlings 016 fall seedlings 014 The fertilizer is called Fish Rich and is available here: bellaquaculture.com

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

today's harvest

todays harvest 8-22-12 Copy of 139 Copy of 137 This is what I picked from the garden today. Lots of tomatoes.

The blight is hitting my tomato plants hard now, so I picked all of the tomatoes that were anywhere near pink. I pulled off all of the blighted leaves from the plants. The stems are nearly bare now with a bunch of green tomatoes hanging, hoping to ripen. I went ahead and sprayed again with Copper fungicide, as I have been doing weekly, even though there wasn't much there to spray.

And I was surprised by finding a bunch of broccoli shoots today. I almost pulled all of my broccoli a few weeks ago, after I picked the first, big heads. They didn't seem like they were producing any side shoots. But now, all of a sudden, I have lots of side shoots.

The two summer squashes in this harvest, a Zephyr and a Starship pattypan, will likely be my last of the season. I can't say I am sorry. I think I've eaten a million summer squashes in the past couple months. They were yummy, but I'm looking forward to moving on to another vegetable.

Two days ago, my sister and I used a giant zucchini and made zucchini bread. The one zucchini made about 8 cups of grated squash. I use 3 cups per my 2 loaf recipe. We made a 1x recipe, and then a 1.5x recipe, ending up with 3 loaves, 1 Bundt cake and two giant muffins. My sister took a loaf to work with her and I froze two loaves. It really came out nice and we have been enjoying it.

ripe tomatoes 144

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garden birds - can you ID?

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This beautiful little bird just flitted through my garden. Any idea what it is?

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This one was in my pond last week. I suppose its a yellow warbler.

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This one may be too far away to identify. It was sitting on a tall tree next to a pond by my parents house.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

canning tomatoes

canned tomatoes tomatoes in a box tomatoes ready for canning
I bought 25 lbs of local tomatoes at the Farmer's Market, added a few of mine and canned 11 quart jars.

Recipe:
- Peel tomatoes after scorching in boiling water 1 minute. Slit and remove seeds. Slice in food processor with 1/4 inch blade.
- Clean quart canning jars in dishwasher. Boil lids and rings in water on the stove.
- Pack tomatoes in jars to 1/2 inch of the top. (I added a small chili pepper to half of the jars.) Clean rims. Apply lids and rings. After tightening rings fully release 1/2 turn to allow pressure to escape.
- Place packed jars in large pot with rack so they are not sitting on the bottom of the pot. (About 5-8 jars per pot.) Fill with water to 2 inches over the top of jars. - Heat water to 190*F slowly, over 1.5 hours. Maintain heat at 190*F for 30 min.
- Remove and cool jars. Check for seal.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

fall seedlings

store-bought fall seedlings Over the weekend, I found some fall seedlings at a local nursery (Mahoney's in Winchester MA) and bought a bunch for me and my parents. Six-packs of spinach, escarole frisee, and red leaf lettuce. Also a couple plants each of Brussel's sprouts and parsley. And one pretty sage plant with big round leaves for my mom. They are all happily in the ground now.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

a toad house for my birthday!!

garden b-day gifts, toad house
I was really lucky to get some garden gifts for my birthday this past week - a toad house, a little sign and a rain gauge. I put the toad house in a shady spot under the parsnips at my community plot. I hope Oracle Toad will appreciate his new home.

I spent an hour or so working in my plot today. I mostly removed mildewed and wilting squash leaves and vines. This gave me good space for fall seedlings. But it also removed shelter where Toad was hiding. I hope he will like his new home.

My new rain gauge is on my window sill as I admire it - a small gnome is holding the gauge. Looks like he will be good company for the other gnomes in my side yard garden.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

edamame

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I am starting to harvest my soybeans. They are still a bit small, but really really tasty. My sister couldn't believe how good fresh edamame tastes.

Soybeans all ripen at once, so I just pull up the whole plant then pick off the beans.

I was impressed to see all the nitrogen-fixing nodules (rhizobia) on the roots.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

garden toad

toad 038 This toad is one of my best garden helpers (along with Skippy and my gnomes). The toad is at my community plot. I imagine he hopped into my garden when he was tiny. He is now way too big to get out through my chicken wire edges. I have seen him in the garden for 4 years now! He's (or she's?) probably about 5 inches long. A big one! He/she mostly hangs out under the potatoes or parsnips.

Any ideas for a name? (I've been calling him "Toad".)

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

carolina wren

carolina wren checks out old robin nest A Carolina wren checked out the old robin nest next to my garden.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

today's harvest

today 072 Potatoes, peppers, summer squashes, broccoli, bok choy and cukes. And lots of green tomatoes underneath.

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late blight hit my tomatoes

late blight 042 late blight 035 late blight 031 Today I found definite late blight lesions on my tomatoes. Several of them. Even on fruit. Sad.

I removed all of the lesions and bagged them in plastic. I will leave the bag out in the sun for a few days to heat kill the pathogen, then I'll dispose of it in my home trash.

I also removed all of the larger tomatoes that seemed close to ripening. I'll rinse them and let them ripen at home.

I've been spraying with copper fungicide, so today after removing infected leaves, I sprayed the plants again. I suspect the blight will expand this week and expect I will be pulling the plants early next week. Sad.

The good side is I did get a nice harvest. I had a really super Purple Calabash plant this year. And I'll have more room for my fall seedlings.

Next year, I'm doing resistant varieties.

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onions in storage

onions 004 onions 051 Onions were pulled, washed, dried a couple days in the sun, then trimmed and bagged in mesh I saved from supermarket onions. Hanging now in basement. It will only take me a couple months to go through these, so they don't need to keep very long.

Next year I will try for a bigger crop - not necessarily more onions, but bigger ones. That means giving them their own space with no other plants competing for their sunlight. And maybe start the seeds a little earlier. I sowed Feb 25, a bit too late. I like the variety, "Pontiac".

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Monday, August 06, 2012

harvest given away

harvest 019 This is my produce of the last few days. More than I can use. I hAd hoped to bring it to our local food pantry, but realized today that its only open every other Tuesday - not tomorrow. So I left these vegetables by the path to our Community Gardens. They were all gone when I checked back a few hours later. (yeah!!)

I'm thinking about making a little table at the Gardens so we can leave our extra vegetable as donations in this location. (I'll watch the curbside trash and yard sales for a suitable one.)

Sunday, August 05, 2012

what to plant now

Its time for fall planting. I have a tray of seedings ready to transplant to my garden this week. They will go in the rows left open by fading summer squashes, finished broccoli and cauliflower, spring beets, cabbage and carrots, and potatoes that are already dug.

My fall seedlings were planted about 3 weeks ago. They are red and savoy cabbage, bok choy, escarole, endive frisee, 4 or 5 types of lettuce, a few varieties of beets. This week I will also try sowing some fall peas. They never work, because our New England weather always goes too fast from hot to cold in the fall, but I like to try anyway.

I wish I had sowed fall broccoli earlier, but I didn't. It's hard to find fall seedlings commercially. These should be good sized seedlings by now and transplanted out to the garden soon for fall heads. I have previously sowed broccoli in August and it grows to a nice seedling by November and then holds til spring in my cold frame and makes early heads in the spring.

I planted my last green beans two weeks ago. They sprouted fast in this hot weather. They will give us Sept and Oct green bean harvests.

I will sow some winter crops inside this week. These will include spinach, beets, lettuce, escarole, and bok choy. Maybe some collards or chard too. These will go into the cold frame once the summer plants are done. I will also direct sow some carrots in the frame. My frame stays above freezing all winter, but since the sun is too low for plants to grow after Nov 10, I like to have it full of fully grown crops by nov. I harvest these all winter.

My winter kale stays out in the garden. I have lots of kale this year as I sowed twice, early spring and again early July.

Please let me know your plans for fall and winter plantings.

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today's harvest

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aerial garden view

aerial aug 5, 2012

The gardens are full and green.

Click on photo, then mouse over to see what's growing where.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

summer squash bread

squash bread I have a fridge full of summer squashes. Zucchini, yellow and a green patty pan this year. Our Friday night dessert is a warm out-of-the-oven summer squash bread.

To use extra squashes (tonight I added an extra cup of grated squash to the recipe), I added some spelt flour (whole wheat would be the same) to my favorite summer squash bread recipe. And a bit of molasses, too.

Serve with your local rum, ahh.

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fading summer plants

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A number of my summer plants are fading now.

The potato plants have all turned brown and I have cut off most. It will take me several weeks to dig them all, but once the bed is harvested, I will add compost and then plant garlic here in early October.

All of my summer squashes are at different stages of succumbing to fungi and root borers. I remove leaves when they yellow or turn white with mildew. The Zephyr squash in the photo has been wilted for a week and squashes are not setting. I'll remove this plant soon and use its spot for fall root or greens seedlings. I have a young zucchini seedling that I will plant soon, but in a different spot. Somehow this one got left behind and still looks nice. Maybe I can have fall zucchini?

Other places now free for fall seedlings are the onion and scallion beds, the spring beet and carrot bed, and cabbage and radicchio beds.

I am hoping the tomato bed is not up for grabs soon, but if so, plenty of fall seedlings to plant there.

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

volunteer squash

volunteer butternut 032 Here's the fruit on the volunteer squash plant that came up in the middle of my onion patch. Looks yummy! A big buttercup. Another one is forming now. The vine is enormous. I think I may save seeds from these vigourous squashes. (Then I can pant them where I want them next year.)

onion harvest

onion harvest 042 I pulled these yesterday before the rain. The rain cleaned them for me. I'll let them cure in the sun here a few days so they store well. Most are not as big as I hoped since I let the big volunteer squash grow in the middle of their bed.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

trying to prevent late blight

On Saturday, I found what looked like late blight in tomatoes in our community garden. I have been watching for it since it was confirmed a week ago in a field a mile away. I sent a sample for analysis (to UMass plant lab) and late blight was confirmed on Monday. Since then, its amazing how fast the infection has spread. Five plots now have nearly dead tomatoes and gardeners are in the process of removing the plants and debris. Adjacent plots have early infections.

My plot is on the far side of the garden from the start of the infection. Today, was another dreary wet afternoon. Perfect for spread of the fungus. I read that covering with plastic can protect the plants. I have been spraying with copper fungicide for two weeks, but thought it would be good to experiment with another method too. I haven't had such nice looking tomato plants in a long time and would love to have them produce into September.

So, today Skippy and I went to my plot and I put up a bit of a frame with some old wood poles lashed together with string. I spread a sheet of plastic over this and secured it with string. It covers the top and about 2-3 feet down on the side, but leaves plenty of room for airflow from below. I'm thinking the idea is to reduce the number of spores that can fall on the top of the plants. Also, keep the plants dry in all this rain we are having. While traveling in Switzerland, I saw that many home gardens had plastic coverings over their tomato plants. tomatoes under plastic 038

Its an experiment for me, just to see what happens. It will make it harder to get good coverage with the spray, but I am planning to spray again tomorrow.

It rained yet again just as I finished putting up the plastic. Underneath the tomatoes are dry. This seems to be good. I am really curious to hear if anyone has experience with tomatoes under plastic.

tomatoes under plastic 041 tomatoes under plastic 120 tomatoes under plastic 138 tomatoes under plastic 140

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