Monday, April 30, 2007


sparrow sparrow at house
Chickadees chickadee
There's lots of nesting activity going on around my garden right now. The chickadees are busy in the house at the east side and the sparrows are in the house to the west.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

view from above

Today was a spectacular gardening day! I planted seeds for sugar snap peas, beets, chard, kale and cilantro. I'm guessing my soil temperature is now about 45-50F. I potted up six new begonia tubers and put the pots out in a warm spot where my sprinkler will reach.

I took this aerial picture of my garden with my new camera - an SLR digital: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi with an EF-S 17-85MM f4-5.6 IS USM lens. I'm very happy that it has a wider view than my previous camera. I now can photograph the area against the house where I will be adding garden space this year.

My plan is to remove the two bushes at the lower right side of the photo - a very big rhododendron and a smaller yew. (My dad would like to give the rhodo a home in his yard.) Also, numerous perennials will need to be moved over. The entire area to the right of the downspout will be allocated to my Solanaceae plants: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos and potatoes. I'm gearing up to start this project in the next day or two. I usually plant my tomatoes, eggplants and peppers the second week of May. So I have about three weeks to clear the area and prepare the soil.

aerial views of my home vegetable garden

Saturday, April 28, 2007

garden buddy

skip's new haircut
My gardening buddy has a new haircut. He is very happy about this - and much more comfortable. The garden got very hot today by 12 noon. Too hot to work (or even hang-out, which is Skippy's job). So we finished up and went on to cooler occupations.

planting peas

planting peas
Today I planted the last of my peas. This is a row of sugar snap peas. I scattered the seeds thickly in a 5 inch wide trough. Then I sprinkled a good amount of inoculant over them. This is the first year I have used inoculant and it is a different method than the inoculant directions recommended (they suggested wetting the peas then coating them with inoculant and then planting them). I found this to be a lot easier. It seemed to work well for my previous seedings of peas this year, which are sprouting well.

Pisum sativum


A fellow garden blogger (Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots) recommended I try inoculant for my peas and beans this year. Last year I had a miserable crop of both and was ready to give up, on the peas at least. But, here I am, giving it one more try. This year with inoculant. Its the first time I've ever used this, so I did some research.

The inoculant I used is garden combination inoculant from Johnny's Selected Seeds, called N-Dure. It contains a mix of rhizobium bacteria: rhizobium leguminosarum viccae, rhizobium leguminosarum phaseoli, and bradyrhizobium sp.

Bradyrhizobium sp. treats lima beans, rhizobium leguminosarum viccae treats fava beans and garden peas, and rhizobium leguminosarum phaseoli treat dry beans and string beans. I don't think this mix includes the bacterium needed by soybeans (bradyrhizobium japonicum), but I will use it with my soybeans anyway in case it helps. Here's a chart for what treats what.

What's inoculant? Here's some excerpts from an informative fact sheet: "The ability of legumes to 'fix' nitrogen depends on the presence of special soil bacteria, known
as rhizobia, which invade the roots of legumes to form nodules. Within the nodules the bacteria convert, or fix, nitrogen from air pockets within the soil into forms useful to the legume plant. When the legume plant decays, the fixed nitrogen becomes available to subsequent crops. The fixed nitrogen is released slowly, often over a period of several years.

Each legume species has a specific rhizobial requirement. For example, rhizobia that infect medics are different from those that infect clover, peas or lupins. If the correct strain of rhizobia for a particular legume is absent in the soil or in very low numbers, effective nodulation will not occur and little, if any, nitrogen will be fixed. In this case the correct strain of rhizobia must be supplied at sowing. This process is known as inoculation.

Inoculation is essential when a legume crop or pasture plant is new to the land on which it is being sown. Once an effectively nodulated legume crop or pasture has been grown, and the rhizobia have been established in the soil, there is no need for inoculation with rhizobia in future seasons".

I've read that chlorinated water kills the inoculated rhizobia, so I'm hoping mine do OK. I had to water a few times last week using our chlorinated tap water. But generally, we've had good rainfall this spring. So far, my pea germination has been great!

Pisum sativum

topic: soil

planting begonia tubers

potted begonias skippy and pots
It seemed like a good day for planting begonias. I found 6 old pots in my garage. I hope these will be nice plants by Father's day. My dad always appreciates a nice begonia.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


bins bins with barrow
open bins compost in bed
These are my compost bins. It was a beautiful day for garden work, so today I opened up the bins and brought fresh compost to my squash bed. I used a pitch fork to shovel the uncomposted material from the top of one bin into the other bin. Then I shoveled the rich compost into a wheel barrow and brought 2 full barrows to my vegetable garden. I then moved all of the uncomposted material from the full bin into the newly emptied bin. At the bottom of this second bin is probably 3 barrows full of beautiful compost that I will use in a couple of weeks on my new tomato area.

My soil test results last year said I did not need any more compost in most of my garden. But it seems to me that squashes and pumpkins always prefer richer soil. Also, I will be starting a new tomato area next to the house where I have never amended the soil. I'm sure it will benefit from the rich compost.

My compost is mostly made from garden waste and leaves. I collect a very small amount of household vegetable waste occasionally that I add to the bins. Of course, there's the annual Halloween pumpkins that end up in the bins. Even with all this beautiful compost (all that my garden needs), still more than half of my garden waste goes to the local waste pick up.

topic: soil

my bins and systems for composting compost

nesting time

sparrow brings stuff bird house by garden
sparrow at house
Though I did stop my sparrows from taking dirt baths in my baby pea area, they are doing just fine. The female stayed in the sparrow house today - I could hear her chirping to the male when he brought her things. Most of the morning I worked in the garden and I could keep an eye on what was going on at the house. In this picture, it looks like he is bringing her some nesting material. Every year, a sparrow couple raises 2-4 chicks in this house next to my vegetable garden. I suspect they may have eggs in the house now. They will be very busy with food collection for the next month or so, during the incubation and rearing of the chicks. Look out garden bugs!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

baby sunflower volunteers

sunflower sprouts
I have a number of little sunflower sprouts coming up in the area where my bird seeds falls. I'm looking forward to growing these plants and seeing what sort of flower they have. I'll transplant them to an area next to my tomato plants in a few weeks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

spring blue

I think this is Scilla siberica Spring Beauty. Does that seem right? My dad always reminds me that scilla face down and chionodoxa face up. I hate to have little plastic tags stuck in the ground in my flower garden, but its so easy to forget what's what.

dirt baths

dirt bath sparrows
I'm having some trouble with my sparrows. They are digging up my little pea seedlings. The dirt in this area of my garden is not as rich as other areas - actually quite dusty and dry. The sparrows love burrowing into this and then squabbling over the little depressions they make. As a result the pea sprouts are getting kicked up and scattered around. I was going to wait til the seedlings got a few inches tall to mulch, but will try mulching with hay tomorrow to see if this will protect the little pea plants.


Monday, April 23, 2007

pea sprouts!

pea sprouts
These are sugar snap peas planted on April 9th. It took them 2 weeks to sprout. I now have garlic, parsley, lettuce and peas growing!

Pisum sativum

helleborus niger

helleborus niger
Helleborus niger L.—Christmas rose. FAMILY: Ranunculaceae—the Buttercup Family. The genus Helleborus is recognized by showy flowers of white, green, or purple; sepals: 5, large, petaloid; petals: none; stamens: numerous, the outer 8-10 modified into staminodes; pistils: usually 3 or 4; style: erect, slender; fruit: a follicle; leaves: alternate, palmately cleft. (source: UPENN dept of agriculture)

This flower is blooming in my front yard. I had no idea it was so interesting close up. I especially like the staminodes. The petaloid sepals are nice too.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

lettuce seedlings

lettuce sprouts

My first seeds to sprout are the lettuce. Both black seeded simpson and a lettuce mix have lots of little sprouts - all in a row.

Lactuca sativa

garden work

new labels seed basket

Today's garden work:
Add plastic row markers.
Plant more carrots (cosmic purple and Oxhart), arugula, dill and radish seeds.
Plant parsley plants.
Move garlic chives into the garlic area. (I'm moving my herb garden into the vegetable area this year.)
Remove black plastic covering from bed #2.
Turn on outside water and water newly seeded areas with sprinkler.
Bring peppers seedlings outside for the day and back inside at night.
Enjoy the sun.

crocuses in the sunshine

crocus by window sunshine crocus

Saturday, April 21, 2007

spring planting

markers fava beans
The weather is great for growing vegetables. I have a lot of garden work to do. I picked up some row markers today, because I'm planting more seeds than I can remember. Today I planted fava beans, peas {green and Capucijner), and carrots (Oxhart, red cored chantenay and purple). I've never seen fava bean seeds before - they're enormous! I used rhizobia inoculant with all of my peas and with the fava beans. I'm hoping this gives the seedlings a boost and gets them off to a good start.
Vicia faba

Friday, April 20, 2007

sunshine at last!

Aaahhh. A beautiful day for gardening. I turned over the soil in bed #4, which had carrots last year. I was curious if they would winter over, so I left a lot in the soil. Well, they did not last the winter, and in fact, rotted very nicely and completely. The soil is now rich and dark now with the extra organic matter.

crocus up close


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sand Hill seed catalog

seed catalog
A copy of the Sand Hill seed catalog came in the mail the other day. Its a great catalog to read with a lot of very interesting gardening information. In particular, I found the following comments:

About turnips, which I dislike and accidentally bought seeds for: they "make an excellent soil builder when planted and left to rot over the winter". Great! Maybe I will grow them!

About pumpkin and squash culture: "The vine crops continue to be the biggest challenge here in the Midwest to grow organically. We continue to search for safe and effective ways to grow these crops with the least impact on the environment." It sounds like they do not grow these organically yet. Me too. I'd like to find better ways to protect these plants from bugs, especially stem borers.

They list 517 heirloom tomato varieties! (I popped the list into excel to count them.) Incredible. All organically grown. They list 10 categories: red fruited, black/gray/bronze, cherry, green, long-keeping, paste, pink, stuffing, white/cream, and yellow/gold varieties. I think next year I will grow my own tomatoes from seed. This year I grew only chili peppers and I like having only one type of seedling indoors to care for.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

dad's garden

dad's garden
My dad's garden is flooded. I'm glad I'm up on a hill and don't have water problems like him. We've gotten about 5 inches of rain this week from a big Nor'easter that came up the coast. My dad planted his peas and some lettuce a couple weeks ago, but, like me, no sprouts yet.

my dad's garden

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

seedlings by the window

peppers by the window
These are my pepper seedlings. They have a nice spot in a south facing window over looking the garden. They aren't getting much sun since its very overcast and still raining out there.

I noticed that the soil temperature under the black plastic layer in my garden is the same as the soil temperature in the beds without plastic. I guess that's what happens when there is no sun.


Monday, April 16, 2007


muddy row marker
Its a cool, rainy day. And we're looking forward to a cool, rainy week ahead. I'm watching for lettuce and pea sprouts, but none are up yet. The soil temperature at the warm end of my garden is 46F now. A good temperature for the peas and lettuce.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

more seeds

more seeds
Still more seeds! I just get sucked in every time I walk by a stand of seeds. Today I found some peas, fava beans and bicolor radish. The other day I had some delicious grilled fava beans at the East Coast Grill, one of my favorite restaurants. I'll have to look up growing information for these as I don't know if they are more like beans or peas.

Vicia faba

radish (Raphanus sativus)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

repotting pepper seedlings

making pots empty paper pots
tray with pots peppers by the sink
pepper tray pepper plants
Time to repot the peppers! I ended up with two trays: 90 plants total. I had peat pots for one tray (no pictures), but thought I'd try making paper pots for the other (these are the photogenic ones). The paper pots probably took me an hour to make and fill. Not too bad. Of course, its much too many plants for my little garden. I'll probably bring them down to the plant sale in the town center in the middle of May. Maybe I'll get rich.

Here's a link to Mr Brown Thumb's site where I found the paper pot idea.