Wednesday, December 31, 2008

reflections - on the last day of the year

another year in my vegetable garden

On this very snowy Dec 31st, I've put together a composite of my favorite garden (and Skippy) photos from the past year.

It's been a fantastic year.

I've been looking back at all that's happened in my gardens. We put an awful lot of work into my community garden plot - the fence and gate, the removal of 10 giant stumps and several big rocks, mowing the community garden paths most of the summer, as well as general planting, tending and harvesting. I had a lot of help from my husband and son, from my sister and friends, from gardeners' who commented on my blog, and from my faithful and ever willing companion Skippy. Though I still grew a few vegetables in the raised beds in my side yard - herbs I gathered right before dinner and vegetables that could tolerate partial shade - I've come to realize the value of a sunny plot - and the pleasures of participating in a community garden. At the community garden I've seen new ways to support tomato vines, new ways to nurture garden soil, I've watched the bees come to other gardener's flowers, I've meet other gardeners and new friends, and spent many hours talking about our shared interest in growing food and flowers.

All in all, my little vegetable plots have yielded an abundance. An abundance of work, pleasure, joy, friends, knowledge, satisfaction, photos, weeds, sunshine, oh yes, and vegetables.

a year of aerial garden photos

my home garden:
garden aerial aerial
aerial aerial
aerial aerial september 4, 2008
wet garden aerial
home garden aerial garden aerial

my community garden plot:
plot aerial aerial fence
aerial plot aerial
my plot community plot aerial
garden aerial
plot work plot from the east
plot aerial my community garden plot in the snow

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

most comment-able

To come up with a list of my best posts of the year, I looked at how many comments they got. The comments are usually the best part of my blog anyway. As usual, the "best" (24 comments!) is about Skippy. Here's the list:

Tomato Seeds February 9, 2008 - 17 comments
To Add Ads or Not To Add Ads February 22, 2008 - 12 comments
Whats Wrong With my Onions? April 9, 2008 - 13 comments
Its Plot Assignment Day April 12, 2008 - 15 comments
New Idea March 20, 2008 - 21 comments
Leggy Seedlings March 27, 2008 - 14 comments
Harvests June 25, 2008 - 13 comments
Squash Bread August 8, 2008 - 13 comments
Cultivate Your Own - 100 Reasons August 26, 2008 - 14 comments
Planting and Transplanting Garlic
October 7 2008 - 15 comments
Happy Halloween October 31, 2008 - 13 comments
Dear President Elect Obama November 9, 2008 - 24 comments
Lasagna Gardening December 6, 2008 - 13 comments
Crop List for 2009 December 15, 2008 - 14 comments

Monday, December 29, 2008

the year of the radish

I picked Raphanus sativus, the lowly radish, as my best crop of 2008. And I made a Year of the Radish award button to add to my sidebar. Congratulations to the Radish!!!

Microsoft PowerPoint - Presentation1 the big one
radish bunch martini with the first radish of the season
radish harvest harvest

Radish: Well, this has to be my crop of the year. Mainly because I have tried and tried to grow radish for many many years. I'd get plants with skinny little roots, lots of root worms. Not this year. I had radish all season long. Big ones and little ones, red ones and whites and pink ones. It was ones of my first and my last crops. I still have a dozen in my fridge - the only vegetable left from my garden. I think the difference this year was growing them in the full sunlight of my new community garden plot. I have to conclude that radish need more sun than my side yard has. Too bad there's not much you can do with radish - but I still think they are great in a martini! Next year I am looking forward to more Easter egg radish and trying some French breakfast and Misato rose radish.

radish (Raphanus sativus)

my best and worst crops of 2008

summer squash
fava beans


Watermelon: I planted seeds I saved from a beautiful CSA melon. It looked like a nice Sugar Baby. My plants were wimpy scrawny vines and two melons were pretty but only grew to about 2 inches diameter. I posted some embarrassing watermelon photos. Maybe I shouldn't have saved the seeds, maybe my soil wasn't rich enough, maybe I transplanted out to early ....

Peas: I planted my peas nice and early (March 18th). The early spring weather was perfect for them. They sprouted well and looked like very happy pea plants. Then the rain started and the weather turned hot. My peas produced almost nothing. I planted a fall crop of snap and green peas on August 27 and this was too late. The plants did well, bloomed and then froze. My purple-podded Capucijner soup peas bloomed pretty, and I good a harvest twice the size of the previous year (not great because I planted 5-times more seeds) and then these rotted instead of drying. I'm hoping a few will be OK in the spring for planting.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes were a real shame this year. So much energy and hope goes into a tomato crop. I usually buy plants but this year planted 11 varieties from seed. A mix of heirlooms and hybrids. I babied the young plants and they were so very happy and cute. They grew up very well. But then the rains came. I hate to think about this part so I'll just say things didn't go well for the tomatoes (Septoria leaf spot fungus defoliated them very fast and I had very few tomatoes).

Soybeans: This is a short story. Some critter (chipmunks?) dug up and ate all my soybean seeds. I planted once, they ate them. I planted again, they ate them again. I planted and covered rows with fabric. When I removed the row cover to let the sprouts grow, they dug up the young plants and ate them. (Next year I'll plant them in my side yard where this doesn't happen.)

Parsnips: They just never sprouted. I got lots of weeds, no parsnips. But then, I still don't know what a parsnip seedling looks like. Next year I'll seed them in pots so I can find out. Parsnips take several weeks to sprout and I probably didn't keep them moist enough during this time. Boy, would I LOVE to have some homegrown sweet parsnips to eat right about now. Maybe next year.

Favabeans: Were great! I'll do the same next year with this crop. They grew well, no pests, very pretty plants and blossoms, and highly productive. I learned how to cook these as the season went on and by the end was making yummy dishes with peeled and cooked favas. Its a bit of work to prepare these, but they are delicious and a good of vegetable protein.

Potatoes: Awesome! Next year I'll plant more of the larger varieties, some later maturing ones and maybe twice as many. I planted mostly fingerlings this year and harvested a big box full in late August. I had an early scare with flea beetles, but then I added lots of companion marigolds and they did great. There's nothing like getting your hands dirty planting and harvesting beautiful new potatoes!

Summer squash: I grew five varieties. All were super. I had big piles of squashes. And we were able to eat almost all of them, especially in a delicious squash casserole with potatoes and yummy zucchini bread. My summer squash favorite was a yellow patty pan called "Sunburst" and a yellow long neck called "Zephyr". They were pretty in a companion planting with red nasturtiums. I think I'll grow these again and experiment with three other varieties next year.

Beets: I LOVE beets. I grew Chiogga, a pinkish stripped variety that was SO SWEET. I'll grow this again. I also grew an old variety called Lutz - a big dark red beet. This had excellent greens and looked beautiful. Not very sweet. I may experiment with another big red type to find a sweeter one, though Lutz was really very nice. The beets did well sowed in pots and transplanted as seedlings. I would have picked beets as my crop of the year, except that I made a major mistake with them. I pulled at least 10 pounds of big beautiful Lutz beets and tried to store them in the basement like potatoes. I was sad to find out this doesn't work. Beets need to be kept in higher humidity - in the refrigerator. They all dried out and rotted within a few weeks :(

Radish: (see above post)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

my best photos of the year

The end of the year is a good time to review and reminisce. I'll put together a few things - probably a list of the best and worst crops from my 2008 vegetable garden, my best photos, a composite of my favorite photos, my most viewed and my favorite post(s).

Here are my most popular 2008 photos:

Microsoft PowerPoint - Vegetable garden plan 2009b pussy willows
aerial red russian kale
home garden July 14, 2008 me and skippy
garden sign my community plot - view from the gate

The garden photos have mouse-overs. From the top, these photos received the following number of views: 504, 451, 437, 333, 313, 306, 300 and 232.

And here's my all time most popular photo - yours truly in his hat (taken Nov 2007) - with a grand total of 746 clicks! Yippee Skippy!

red sox fan

Saturday, December 27, 2008

a gift from my mom


My mother gave me an old copy of The Oxford Book of Food Plants, published in 1969. (She found it at a library book sale for $1.) I love the old drawings of vegetables. The ones above are the squashes. They look like the Delicata that I just collected seeds from.

vegetable marrows

garden gifts

Friday, December 26, 2008

gathering and giving seeds

Gathering: I saved the seeds from a sweet Butternut squash we ate at our Christmas dinner. Nice big seeds - the squash was from our local CSA farm. It feels good to be gathering the beginnings of my next garden. I've collected five or six types of seeds by now. I'm still gathering my list of seeds to order.

Giving: I gave my sister (who lives in CA) seeds for Christmas, though I think her box arrived late (I hope it has arrived by now). Cucumber, red lettuce mix, purple poppies and a interesting one called chocolate flower (yellow petals with a brown center). My sister grows lots of flowers. She tells the story about a young girl who fell off her bike in her front yard. As the mom helped the young girl up, the girl looked around with a scowl and said "This yard has much too many flowers!" Now how could that possibly be true?! I'm hoping my sister will send me a photo to post when her yard is in full bloom again.

Think small.
Planting tiny seeds in the small space given you
Can change the whole world or,
At the very least, your view of it.
- Linus Mundy

garden gifts

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

waiting for Christmas

skippy waits for christmas

Looks like Skippy was good this year. There's a stocking that smells good (to him) hanging by the fireplace. I told him he has to wait 'til tomorrow.

posts about Skippy

Delicata squash seeds

delicata seeds

I wasn't planning to grow Delicata again, but I've changed my mind. Last night I baked two little squashes grown in my community plot last summer. Fantastic. Sweet and smooth. I've never tired this variety and didn't expect it to be so good. I'm used to Acorn, which has stringer flesh and a squashier taste.

So I've edited my planting list yet again. I think I'll grow Delicata and Butternut this year for winter squashes.

The Delicata seeds I grew this year were from a package my neighbor shared with me labeled "Delicata Honey Boat" from Botanical Interests. This is an open pollinated, heirloom variety so I saved my seeds. I grew two plants last year and got two squashes. I think I'll put in 4 or 5 plants this year.

Baker Creek's description:
Honey Boat Delicata
(C. pepo) One of the sweetest squash varieties in existance. Oblong, Delicata shaped squash have tan skin with green stripes. Excellent quality; early. Developed by Dr. James Bagget, Oregon State University.

just borrowing bloggers photos?

Well, another site is using garden bloggers' photos and posts without permission. I'm not going to post a link.

Presumably they make enough from ads to make it worth their time to set up the site and copy posts. Its a pretty small world, though, and things get noticed pretty fast (Here's Tyra's post). Many bloggers' told the site to remove their photos.

Several of my posts and photos remain. These photos link back to my FLickR site. I've added a note to the photos that links back to Skippy's Garden. "This photo is from Skippy's Vegetable Garden. If you are viewing it at another site, then it is being used without the owner's permission." Maybe I can get more traffic through them?

In any case, if you see my photos (or other bloggers' content) somewhere else without acknowledgment (I do often give permission to other sites), please don't go back to the site and DON'T click their ads.

snow dog

skippy in the path

more photos of our community gardens in the snow

belmont victory gardens in the snow snowy gardens
community gardens in the snow
snow covered community gardens skip at the gardens

Monday, December 22, 2008

16 inches of new snow

my community garden plot in the snow

Boston got a total of just over 16 inches of snow over the past couple days. Skippy and I took a walk to the community gardens to look at my plot. It looks like a different place under the blanket of white. Skippy and I couldn't walk much in the deep snow. I'd need to come back with snow shoes or skis.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

humble leek and potato soup

Marian Morash says this is a "perfectly simple, humble soup is wonderful for supper on a cold, wet day". I got the recipe from page 158 of the Victory Garden Cookbook, but substituted celeriac for celery and plain yogurt for heavy cream. It was absolutely fantastic!

leek leeks chopped

Gretta pulled this leek from her field last week. (The potatoes, onion and celeriac are from her CSA share.) I'm thinking of growing leeks next year, so I looked up some information. Leeks are another vegetable that do well very late into the cold weather. Along with kale, they are the most cold-tolerant of vegetables.

Different varieties of leeks are better adapted to cold weather. There are two basic types of leeks: summer types (long shanked—bulbless) and winter types (short shanked—slight bulbing). As a general rule, leeks with blue-green leaves tend to be more tolerant of the cold. If established in late summer they can overwinter through the frozen ground and snow pack of northern New England. In fact, the colder the temperature, the sweeter the taste. On the other end of the spectrum, they will endure, but are not particularly fond of temperatures consistently above 85˚F.

leeks chopped 2 leek soup in pot
leek soup leek soup in bowl

My version of the recipe:

3 T butter
2 1/2 C chopped leeks (2 small leeks), chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 C chopped celeriac
2 C roughly chopped potatoes (3 potatoes)
1 quart chicken stock
6 oz plain yogurt
salt and pepper

Melt butter in heavy soup pan, add leeks and onion. Saute until golden. Add potatoes, celeriac, stock. Cover, bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer until potatoes are soft (about 30 minutes). Roughly puree in food processor. Add yogurt, whisk. Season to taste.