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, July 31, 2014

fall planting

freshly planted fall seeds I'm about a month late, but I wanted to see if I can get some fall crops. I have lots of space where my peas, garlic and onions were. And my potatoes will be coming out soon. I planted:
Lettuce, Skyphos
Lettuce, Prizehead
Lettuce, Oakleaf
Lettuce, Valentine Red Mix (Botanical Interests)
Lettuce, Italienisher
Lettuce, Victoria Butterhead
Lettuce, Green Romaine
Lettuce, Red Romaine
Brussels's Sprouts
Win-Win Choi
Beets, Merlin
Beets, Blankoma
Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing
Escarole, Tres Fine
Escarole, Batavian
Arugula
Fall Greens Mix (Sand Hill Preservation)

With a harvest time of 105 days, its pretty late to try planting Brussels's Sprouts. I've done this before it seems and end up with little sprouts that are almost ready by Thanksgiving, but ... not. Everything else has a shorter time to harvest:
bok choi: 52 days
beets: 48-55 days
spinach: 48 days
escarole, 42-90 days
lettuce: 42-48 days
mixed greens: 21 days

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did my soil cause the curled-up tomato leaves?

soil test photo 1 In addition to my fall planting, I also set up a test of my garden soils to try to figure out if a problem in the soil caused my curled-up tomato plants. I'd like to know for next year. I have lots of Siberian Red tomato seeds, so I planted these in four soil samples:

1. Tomato bed (this produced plants with curled leaved)
2. Sub-soil (lawn)
3. Purchased compost (same compost that went into the tomato bed)
4. Green's bed (loam and compost from sources different than tomato bed)


I suspect the problem is with the purchased loam that went into the tomato bed. I bet it was treated with an herbicide (2,4-D or glyosphosphate) at some point. Sad that this is so prevalent. Lots of plants can't handle these chemicals and they get spread around all over. 2,4-D degrades rapidly in soils (half life = 6.2 days), so if this is the problem it should dissipate soon.

Fortunately, USDA tests of food crops grown in 2,4-D treated soils risks found that levels are not of concern. OK, but the tomatoes don't grow very well. The 2,4-D dietary risk assessment considered both acute and chronic risks from residues in food based on field trials --- so ... we can eat the produce.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

today's harvest

Summer is outdoing herself. With all this rain and warmth, my gardens are producing so much food. harvest 9211

Today I harvested my shallots. Also, about half of my onions. I picked a row of beans. The cucumbers are producing more than I can believe, and the summer squashes are out of control. I only picked the big squashes quickly tonight, but will pick the rest tomorrow. Looks like I'll donate a big bag of squash to REACH. I put up 7 jars of pickles tonight.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

garden bugs!

grasshopper on basil 9060 hummingbird moth on silane black bee on thyme bee on thyme orange wasp bee on chicory bumble bee on thyme small bee on dill

All of these are beneficial bugs. Great pollinators. Ooops, wait a minute. I just looked up that pretty grasshopper. I read that grasshoppers are terribly destructive pests in vegetable gardens. He's on my basil. Maybe THAT'S who's been eating my basil. I've added slug pellets and they are not slowing the damage. I am reading there's not much you can do about grasshoppers as they are so mobile. BIRDS! come here, birds...

PS. BugGuide says the pretty grasshopper is a Scudderia. They are herbivores, but don't usually eat too much. Sounds like I shouldn't blame him.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

pickles

half sour deli pickles 9210 I processed a dozen of my cucumbers (45 harvested in the past couple days!). I made deli half sour pickles using this recipe: Half sour pickles deli style. A little modification, I substituted coriander seed for black pepper since my husband is allergic to pepper. They'll be ready to start eating in 3 days.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 7-23-2014

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Monday, July 21, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 7-21-2014 I harvested a big bunch of dill for making pickles. I'm going to try this recipe: Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles. Or I might try this one: Bobby Flay Dill Pickles. Then again, maybe I'll do both as the first is for making lots of pickles to can, and the second is for a few fresh pickles. Yum, they sound good!

I haven't made pickles in very many years. I could use any advice. I have so many cucumbers this year, I'm sure I'll need to put up more.

This is the second half of my garlic harvest. Gardeners seem surprised I harvested it so early, but it was ready. (The bottom three pairs of leaves are brown or yellow and there are about 3 pairs of green ones left.) It was ready at the same time last year too. Maybe its my variety. (Also, I think it better to err on the early side than to risk rot or bugs getting into the cloves.) The variety I have is mostly 'Music' this year. Probably some 'Duganski' and other types too. I always save 10 nice cloves (biggest or most colorful) for planting next year's crop in the fall.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 7-20-2014

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popcorn

popcorn2 7-20-2014 My popcorn is looking good. Green and thick. My neighbor commented that she had never seen corn planted so closely. I suppose I plant everything a bit close. I think in a small bed it works because there is space at the edges. This corn is about 9 inches apart in the rows (8 or 9 plants in a 6 ft wide bed) and rows are 12 inches apart.
popcorn 7-20-2014 popcorn4 7-20-2014 No sign of tassels or ears yet. When I do get ears, I will spray their silks with spinosad (Captain Jack's Deadbug Spray) so corn ear worms don't get in it.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 9079 Time to make pickles!!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

my first tomatoes!!

first tomatoes of the season

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

read "my" chapter in Groundbreaking Food Gardens

Rustik Magazine has published an excerpt of Niki Jabbour's new book Groundbreaking Food Gardens on their website. The except is about MY old garden - my shady urban garden! I can reminisce about all the fun I had there.

Here's the link: "Turning a shady backyard into an urban food garden".

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Suzie eats a bolted radicchio Yumm!

suzie 8902 suzie 8908 suzie 8907suzie 8905 Suzie loves to get the bolted greens from my garden. Shes a veggie eater! Today she had her favorite - a bolted radicchio. Yumm! (She's also very camera shy so its hard to get a clear picture of her.)

dragonfly

dragonfly 8898 Ahhh, summer. The air is warm, the garden smells sweet, fresh cut grass between my toes and dragonflies sunbathing on the fence.

the good, the bad and the ugly...... I am fighting garden pests

I have many crops doing great this year. At my community plot, where I have been gardening for about 7 years now, I have super potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and winter squash. Only minor problems there, including a few Colorado potato bugs that I have been controlling by hand picking and some minor squash borer damage that I'm sure the plants can outgrow. Late blight can be a problem at the large community garden with lots of tomatoes. Its been confirmed nearby (on Long Island) already,so I will start spraying my tomatoes there every 10 days with copper spray. The plants I'm growing are all late blight resistant, so fingers crossed it won't be a problem.

My new home garden has more issues, and more crops doing well. I have super greens, beets and carrots. The bok choy was amazing early in the season and snow peas are awesome. Popcorn, peppers and eggplants are coming along well. Basil is good, with only a bit of slug damage. I am spreading Sluggo and hope they will go away. The not so good are my broccoli, tomatoes and summer squash.

The broccoli problem is easy to figure out: caterpillars. I have both cabbage worms (from the white cabbage butterfly) and cross-striped cabbage worms. They showed up just as I was harvesting my early bok choy, so that crop had no worm damage. They are very hungry critters and have made a mess of my broccoli plants and are in the heads too. They are also eating my second crop of bok choy. I hand picked a few and mostly was hoping they just would go away on their own, rather than spray. But earlier this week I bought a bottle of spinosad (Captain Jack's Deadbug Spray) and gave them a dousing. I was impressed with how well it worked. The worms were all gone when I checked the plants the next day. I have since picked a few heads and they are worm-free. Spinosad is pretty strong spray and should only be used as a last resort. I hope it did not affect any of my beneficial insects.
cabbage worm on broccoli cross-striped cabbageworm on broccoli worm eaten broccoli

The summer squash problem I am trying to figure out. I have rot at the blossom end of young yellow squashes. I don't know if it is a lack of pollination (I see very few bees there), or blossom end rot due to poor calcium absorption. If its the latter, the problem may be soil pH. The pH is 6.3, calcium 1440 ppm (optimum calcium range 1000-1500 ppm). I read that the optimum pH to avoid blossom end rot should be 6.5-6.8. I will try adding some lime and see if it helps. I am also planting as many flowers around the bed as I can squeeze in hoping to attract more bees in case pollination is an issue. The flowers certainly can't hurt. summer squash with rot at blossom end

The problem that concerns me most is my tomatoes. They are growing tall and spindly with curled leaves. I really hoped for a great crop of tomatoes this year. I have 24 plants, all different types of heirlooms. They do have a few tomatoes forming on the plants, but the leaf curl is severe and the plants look terrible. I am thinking it is either a tomato virus (maybe transmitted by the white flies I noticed on the plants early in the season), or root damage as from roots going down into the soil below my raised bed. The test of this lower soil showed a pH of 5.9 and very low levels of nutrients P, K, Ca and Mg. I've been fertilizing regularly in hopes this will help. Unfortunately I think its probably a virus and there's nothing I can do about it. :-( curled tomato leaves curled tomato leaves 8703

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 7-10-2014 harvest 7-10-2014

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Monday, July 07, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 07-07-2014 My first cucumber, another pile of peas, broccoli, escarole and lettuce. It turned out the broccoli was full of worms and it went into the compost. Everything else was yummy.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 07-04-2014

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chickens out for a walk

my chickens The chickens are very happy with our summer weather and being able to go out and forage in the yard everyday, sometimes all day long. I let them out when I'm working in the yard. They've been really healthy and are laying well now - just over a dozen eggs a week from the three of them.

Earlier, they had a problem with soft shells, especially Bertha, my big white Brahma chicken. She would sometimes lay paper thin eggs, sometimes leathery shells that fell apart in the coop. So I added crushed oyster shells to their food and stopped giving them kitchen handouts. They all have nice solid shells now.

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