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.

Monday, May 25, 2015

bee notes

For the past 5 weeks, Siri has recorded my bee notes for me. A good idea in theory, BUT I'm going to switch to an old-fashioned paper and pen notebook. Aside from my cell phone getting streaked with bee's wax, its hard for me to translate what Siri records. Here's my best translation from yesterday's hive check:

I'm checking my beehives. It's early Monday morning, Memorial day. An over overcast morning and the smells are so amazing. The smell of flowers is heavy in the air (and burgers??). I'm going to check the beehives.

White hive: The top box has 3 1/2 frames build out it looks like they're all food frames. The bottom box has 3 1/2 frames of food. There are five full frames of brood. I can see eggs and larvae of all stages. I was getting afraid that it had so much food that there would be no brood. I did not see a queen - this hive has a marked queen so I should have seen her, but did not. Certainly plenty of evidence she is here and active. There are a lot of ants on top of the inner cover. I swept them out.

Green hive has the equivalent of two frames of food in the top box. The bottom box has equivalent of two frames of food, two empty frames and the rest brood. I can see eggs and all stages of brood, but again I did not find a queen.

Flowers blooming today are honeysuckle, ajuga and wild phlox. The temperature is about 60-80F.
Most of these notes, I could translate or revise to make sense, but Siri can't distinguish when I say "food' and "brood". Well, she just doesn't know the word "brood" I think, and she will substitute random things. Sorry Siri.

Here's a comparison of my two hives five weeks after installing them. (Both had a second box added 2.5 weeks ago and their frame feeders removed the following week, so they each have 20 frames total now.):
Bee Record.xlsx

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

freight farming?

Have you read about freight farming? In Boston, this is where food may be coming from now. Wow. This is the future! Freight cars transformed into aquaponic vegetable gardens. Lights, nutrients all delivered artificially. It removes the variables of weather, airborne disease spores and sunlight availability. Amazing.

As an outdoor gardener, I question this approach. Do we want to eat vegetables raised in a "freight car" environment? Yes, I do buy the aquaponic tomatoes and lettuce in the grocery store IN THE WINTER in New England. But has our environment become so pathogen infested that this is needed year round? In cities like Boston, the pathogen level plus the transportation cost must be benefit by this?

IMG_1464

What about food nutrient levels of the artificially tended produce? Do these compare with organic field-raised vegetables? And the expense of air conditioners and year-round artificial lights? Does this make the difference useful? I am imagining a ring of freight cars full of salad growers around cities. Not a bad image, but why not a ring of farm fields around cities? Are giving in to the fight for easy food production?

It doesn't just happen! To grow food without chemicals and WITH natural light and air takes some effort. But it produces food that provides flavor (!!), nutrients, visual pleasure. Variety. Traditional. -- I can't imagine all those year round AC's balance out.

in the paper: effort to save bees, butterflies

This was in the Boston Globe yesterday. (link to article)

US effort attempting to save bees, butterflies
The Obama administration hopes to save the bees by feeding them better.

A new federal plan aims to reverse America’s declining honeybee and monarch butterfly populations by making millions of acres of federal land more bee-friendly, spending millions of dollars more on research, and considering the use of fewer pesticides.

While putting different types of landscapes along highways, federal housing projects, and elsewhere may not sound like much in terms of action, several bee scientists said this is a significant move. They say it may help pollinators that are starving because so much of the American landscape has been converted to lawns and corn, which don’t provide foraging areas for bees.
Yeah! Less lawns and corn! I mowed my lawn the other day but left most of it to grow taller because it has flowers in it. Clover, ajuga, blue and yellow flowers I don't know the names of. The robins like the mowed lawn, but that's about it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

organic potting mix

organic potting mix IMG_2572 This year I used an organic potting mix for the first time. I didn't realize that it would be any different and forgot I had made the change. When I bought the soil, I was really happy that the big bags sold at Costco were organic. Later I began to wonder why my tomatoes weren't growing as fast and were pale. The onions got yellow at the tips. Some things grew just as well: the peas and even the peppers. The main problem was really the tomatoes. In addition to the organic soil, I seeded them in smaller pots than usual.

Finally it occurred to me that they needed more nutrients. I transplanted them to bigger pots (birthday party cups!) and gave them some fish emulsion. I want to get them planted out in the garden soon in a bed with lots of compost and some TomatoTone.

organic potting mix IMG_2569organic potting mix IMG_2571

Monday, May 18, 2015

bee notes

On Monday's I do my hive checks. For now I'm doing these checks weekly.

garden work

At my community plot:
Dug potato trenches and planted 2 lb Canela russets
Turned the winter rye cover under in three beds
Moved perennials so the big helianthis is now behind the daisy and echinacea
Transplanted leeks, shallots, bunching onions and lots of standard onions
Watered everything well (its a dust bowl here today! no rain in weeks)

garden plot

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

time to think about fall planting?

I was amazed to see that it's time to plant Brussels sprouts next week. Time to start fall planting! I've tried to plant Brussels sprouts the last two years and ended up with tiny sprouts hardly worth cooking at Thanksgiving time. I suppose the trick is to get the seeds planted at the right time.

Skippy's fall planting app lists planting times for 25 crops. For $0.99, Skippy's Fall Planting Calendar App is available at the Apple store. Fall planting is also included in the Full Season app. Click on the Skippy's Calandar app ad in the upper right corner of this blog.

garden work

At my community plot: 
Emptied my compost bin
Spread ripe compost onto beds
Returned unripe materials back to bin
Transplanted Johnny-Jump-Ups out of potato bed
Transplanted asparagus to a sunnier bed
Mulched and watered transplanted asparagus
Removed stray strawberry plants
(Gave away strawberry and asparagus plants :-)
Turned potato bed - ready to plant!

At my backyard garden:
Raked turned beds flat
Finished fall leaf clean up
Planted broccoli, cabbage, escarole, radicchio and lettuce
Watered transplants
Covered broccoli and cabbage with row cover

Monday, May 11, 2015

turning my first garden beds - finally

I would normally have done this a month ago. Not sure why I'm so late with my vegetable garden this year. I suppose its the new bees and the extra work I put into the community garden I manage. In any case, I'm not a good role model of a vegetable gardener this year. But I'm still planning to make a start at growing all of my family's vegetables for this year.

turned bed IMG_1305 On a positive note - you wouldn't believe the size of the earth worms in my beds! Gigantic.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

flowers for mother's day

mothers day flowers IMG_2461mothers day flowers IMG_2420 mothers day flowers IMG_2474mothers day flowers IMG_2518 mothers day flowers IMG_2531mothers day flowers IMG_2542

Saturday, May 09, 2015

seedlngs on the patio

seedlings IMG_2412

I have a table full of seedling on my patio - all ready to plant. It's the year of doing everything late. Soon I'll be picking peas from those pea plants in their pot if I don't transplant soon.

Friday, May 08, 2015

blueberry patch

Also on my to-do list today is to water my blueberries. I added four new plants yesterday, all different. Three highbush (Blue Crop, Jersey, and Northland) and one lowbush (xxx). I mulched them in well and added HollyTone fertilizer. Since they're on a slope, I made a well at one side and a berm at the outer side of each plant to catch water. I have an drip irrigation kit spread out on my kitchen table now that I will install later this week so each plant gets watered well. The plants are in bud now. I'm not so concerned about a big crop of berries yet, I just want to get the plants established.

I started the patch in the fall of 2013 (1.5 yrs ago) with 8 highbush and 5 lowbush plants. The area is a bit on the shady side and is sloped. Id like to leave the wildflowers that are growing below them and keep a layer of chopped oak leaf mulch around them. I lost a couple bushes over the first winter and then last summer the remaining bushes did poorly, I think because I didn't tend them. They didn't produce many berries and I let the birds have what were there. This year I am planning to baby the plants; they are fertilized, sprayed (with dormant oil at bud break), mulched and hopefully I will keep up with watering. I have bird netting ready if they do produce berries this year.

blueberry watering IMG_2373blueberry buds  IMG_2375 blueberry patch IMG_2382blueberry buds IMG_2377

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bee notes

I opened both beehives this morning and moved two undrawn frames from the far left into the center. The green hive is a bit ahead of the white one and its outermost frames are now drawn, and only the two frames I just moved are empty. I didn't pull out any of the active frames to check them since its only been 5 days since I last opened the hives. There were some large ants in the white beehive.

I'm thinking that, with 9 frames in the hives (feeder frame is at the right in both hives), and only 2 undrawn frames, that's 80% drawn. I should add another box to each very soon.

I'm wondering about filling the feeder again. I've only fed 1.5 gallons per hive this spring. Not much. I've read to expect to feed 3-4 gallons (how can that be?). I've also read to keep feeding until they don't eat it as they prefer nectar and will eat that when enough is available. I think I'll go down today or tomorrow and take a look at the feeder level (wish I'd thought to look at it this morning). It seems to me there are lots of flowers now and they should be fine, but I'll check. I want to get the feeder out before it gets drawn with comb.

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seeds planted

I've been getting way behind with my gardening. But now that I've finished organizing and running our community garden workday, last Saturday, I can get back to my garden.

Last night I planted:

Winter squash, Waltham Butternut
Winter squash, Butterscotch
Winter squash, Blue Ballet
Winter squash, Jarrahdale pumpkin
Cucumbers, Diva
Cucumbers, Salt and Pepper
Cucumbers, Parisian Gherkin
Cucumbers, Corinto
Cucumbers, Tokiwa
Cucumbers, Sooyow Nish
Cucumbers, Straight 8
Summer squash, yellow, Slick Pick
Summer squash, yellow, Yellow Crook
Summer squash, scallop, Early white bush
Summer squash, scallop, Starship
Summer squash, zucchini, Bosso Nova
Summer squash, zucchini, Costata Romanescu
Zinnia, California Giant
Zinnia, Cook's blend
Zinnia, Giant Fantasy

I'm 2 weeks late with the cucumbers and 3 weeks late planting the winter squash and zinnias.

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