Friday, December 26, 2014

seed sorting

I've been reading piles of seed catalogs this week. They keep arriving in the mail. I circle and make wish lists. If I ordered everything that's caught my eye, I'd go broke and have closets filled with seeds. Plus I'm sure I already have many of these seeds. So today I'm sorting my old seeds.

sorting seeds IMG_1299

My seed baskets are a jumble after a busy year. I'm piling the same types of seeds together. Lettuces, tomatoes, squashes.... The seeds I remember not sprouting this year go in the trash along with seeds that are just way too old. I came across an endive packet from 2008, gourds from 2007. 8 years old! They might sprout, but if I haven't used them by now, obviously not one of my favorites.

I have lots of bean seeds that have fallen out of packets. Don't know why I save them. I have baggies full of mixed bean seeds. Maybe I'll plant a random bean plot and see what happens. Then again, maybe I'll be organized this year and only grow labeled varieties in separate rows so I know what they are......

After sorting my seeds, I wrapped each type of plant with a rubber band and then put them back in my seed box - alphabetically. I feel so organized now. Soon, I need to get some kind of garden plan drawn up for 2015 so I know what I have room for. THEN, finally, I can go back to my wish lists, check them against what I have, see if I have room for them, and THEN ORDER SOME fun new stuff.

sorting seeds IMG_1302sorting seeds IMG_1303

Thursday, December 25, 2014

christmas day

Pictures of my garden on Christmas Day. Happy Holidays all! christmas rose IMG_1283 baby savoy cabbage IMG_1212christmas day garden IMG_1241 chickens IMG_1203cbaby broccoli IMG_1210 christmas day garden IMG_1207 I hate to show it, but here's what the voles have done to my tunnel. vole-eaten tunnel IMG_1215 I was told that castor oil is the solution to voles in winter tunnels. I see several web sites that explain how to use it. Next year I will have a beautiful tunnel!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

what is the #1 mistake that new gardeners make?

I was asked a question the other day by a blogger. "What is the #1 mistake that new gardeners make?" My answer:
Mistakes are how you learn!! The #1 mistake is not having tried gardening earlier because of worrying about making a mistake!

That said, I have found that the most important things in getting a large harvest are making sure you have (1) regular irrigation, (2) appropriate soil, and (3) at least 4 hours of midday sun. Also think about growing what you like to eat and including a variety of plants.

The most important thing in enjoying gardening is to just get into the soil and don’t worry about failure. Enjoy the feel of the soil, the sunlight, the opportunity for hard work, the beauty of the plants. See how things work out and then ask others, read, and learn about what you want to do next year.
I assume the blogger will post lots of answers from different gardens. I will see if I can get a link to share.

What do you think is the #1 mistake that new gardeners make?

Sunday, December 07, 2014

chipmunks (or voles?) party in the tunnel

My plastic tunnel with winter greens has hit the end of its season. :-( Last week, chipmunks discovered it. They tunneled in and out in many places. They feasted on the greens. They ate tops off the most tender lettuce, baby romain, butterheads and oak leaf. It looks like a little weed whacker went through. They stretched up and ate baby broccoli heads. They started to eat escarole frisée heads and kale. Once I discovered the damage, I harvested almost everything I could. The baby broccoli, all the frisée, any romaine and butterhead they missed, also Asian greens that they hadn't found yet. I left the kale and will take a look at that in a couple days.

Disappointing. But I think I've been really lucky with my new garden location this year. I kind of expected more critter damage than I've had. All I've had problems with this year is cabbage worm and the nasty compost comtaminant. That said, I'm afraid that chipmunks are impossible to exclude from a garden. My usual advice to gardeners with chipmunk trouble is to keep a wide cleared border and don't plant things they like. Right now, that's pretty much anything green and tasty.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

necklace giveaway results

It was fun doing a give-away. I wish I could give a necklace to everyone who entered a guess. The contest was to guess how many dried red chilies were in my chili bowl. The answer: 248. I think a lot of people guessed low maybe because smaller chilis tended to be at the bottom of the bowl. Anyway, the winners are: The winners are Barb (273), Tomato Thymes (156) and Sarah (150). If you are a winner, please email me at and let me know your mailing address. Congrats!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

today's harvest - happy thanksgiving!

harvest IMG_0992 These are the greens I harvested for our Thanksgiving salad bowl. In spite of our normal weather for this time of year, we have bitter cold (20*F) and several inches of snow on the ground for Thanksgiving this year. My brother, traveling in to our house from western MA, has no power out in his area due to the snow storm. We will give thanks for the warmth of our homes and family and the abundance of our harvests.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

my little horseradish plant

I've got a little horseradish plant in the back corner of my garden. It's the first time I've tried growing this. I looked up information on horseradish culture and it sounds like I should let it grow another year before I harvest some of the offshoots.
When grown as an annual, it requires a long growing season. It needs warm temperatures during the summer growing season and cooler temperatures in the late summer and fall to enhance root development. In the annual system, the crop is usually planted in the early spring, and the entire root mass is harvested after the first killing frost in the fall. In the perennial system, upright, thickened, underground shoots arising from a deeply planted “mother” root are harvested every other year, with the original plant left in the field for regeneration. Perennial fields may stay in production for 10 to 20 years. Perennial culture generally requires more labor and growing skill. It is still practiced in some areas, particularly where there is a short growing season. Once introduced to a farm, horseradish can be difficult to eradicate completely as any size root or piece can readily begin a new plant. from Virginia Coop Ext
horseradish IMG_0974

Monday, November 24, 2014

little winter rye sprouts

winter rye IMG_0967 I planted my winter rye seed really late (Nov 10) so I'm really happy to see it sprout.

good weather for greens

It was such a nice warm day today (in the 60's). Well, rainy, but I'm sure my garden plants thought it was nice. I opened up my plastic hoop tunnel to give it some air. Lettuce at the front edge is showing signs of damage from the several icy cold nights we've had. Other than that, all is looking good for the Thanksgiving salad bowl. winter greens IMG_0963
winter greens IMG_0962winter greens IMG_0961
winter greens IMG_0960winter greens IMG_0959

Sunday, November 23, 2014

bok choi recipes

Again I have LOTS of bok choi. I just love the flavor of it and how nice it looks in the garden. Tonight I am thinking about how to prepare it.

My usual recipe is to sauté minced garlic and ginger, maybe adding a dried chili pepper, in a high heat oil like peanut or sunflower. Then I add the coarsley chopped stems of bok choi and stir fry a few minutes. Next I add coarsley chopped bok choi leaves and stir 'til they wilt. Then I add some corn starch stirred with water, maybe a splash of white whine or vermouth, and a good splash of soy sauce. I stir over heat until the sauce is the right thickness. I like to serve it with fried rice and a roasted meat.

A variation is to use the same preparation, but leave the bok choi whole if they are tiny, or just halve or quarter them. I've also added mushrooms. When my son is home, I add broccoli and he eats that and leaves my husband and me the bok choi.

I'm looking for something new tonight. I'll google and see what Epicurius, Allrecipes and the other usual sites suggest. I'd love to hear ways other gardeners prepare bok choi.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

a give away!! - guess how many red chilis and win seed packet necklace

I'm excited to give something to my readers. I've gotten a lot from everyone: ideas, advice, friendship and just the pleasure of chatting about gardens. I hope I give gardeners information and encouragement, especially new gardeners. Maybe even inspiration. I think it's important that we're close to the earth and find simple ways to do things. And it's so rewarding to grow food.

Anyway, I was given a beautiful "seed packet" necklace by Shari Dixon. She's an artist who incorporates flowers and herbs into her hand crafted jewelry. My pendent is a camomile seed packet and I love it!
Copy of IMG_0527
copy of IMG_0526 - Copy
Shari gave me three seed packet necklaces to give away. SO, we need a contest! To stay on the topic of gifts, yesterday I posted a picture of a bowl of dried red chilis that I plan to give as gifts.

How many chilis are in the bowl??

The three seed packet necklaces will go to the three people who guess closest to the actual number. Just reply to this post with your guess and I'll post the winners in one week - Sat, Nov 29. Sorry, USA only and one guess per person.

Friday, November 21, 2014

ps - I have a garden gift give-away for my readers coming up soon. Check back here tomorrow!

here's a hint - the gifts are from the new ad site on my sidebar and I will have 3 free gifts to give away.....

tis the seaon for making gifts

chilis, popcorn, herb salts IMG_0918 Last year I knitted hats for everyone on my Christmas list. And I had some garlic to share. This year, no knitted goods and no extra garlic, but I have lots of popcorn, dried red and green chilis, herb salt, canned pears and cucumber relish. I love having so many things to share!

I was hoping to make ristras or wreaths from the chilis and looked into that this morning. I found a fantastic how-to video: Sichler Farms chili ristra video. But I leaned that the ristra needs to be made from fresh chilis, not dried. (So that's why the ones I've made in the past have looked funny and have fallen apart.) I will put chili ristras on my wish list of things to make next year!

I found some really nice ideas for packaging herbs. One site I found shows how to make little printed muslin bags for dried chilis and another uses printed muslin bags for tea.

I think these bags will be perfect for my popcorn, herb salts and chilis. Maybe even for my canned pears and relish. Sounds like I will have a craft project for the chilly weekend coming up. I am looking forward to this!
dried red chilis IMG_0925dried green chilis IMG_0926 rosemary herb salt IMG_0927popcorn IMG_0924

Thursday, November 20, 2014

today's harvest

harvest IMG_0892 Hard to believe we've had a second night at 22*F. Its so cold there's a sheet of ice on the pond already. I was afraid everything in the garden would be frozen solid. I was pleasantly surprised. The bok choi I was waiting to harvest (for no good reason - it was very risky) looks beautiful. (I get so excited about pretty garden harvests!) I pulled a handful of tiny dark red beets. They even have a few nice leaves still. And I went ahead an picked a giant handful of parsley. Parsley was one of my overabundant plantings this year, but will be good to have for next week's Thanksgiving cooking. I haven't picked anything from my plastic tunnel yet, but I think now there's nothing left outside of it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

greens in plastic tunnel after a night at 22*F

I went to my garden to check on the plants after an icy cold night. Everything looks surprisingly good. Even greens outside of the plastic tunnel. I picked the last head of the lettuce growing outside. Its a big head of green butterhead was covered in lightweight row cover. There is some uncovered bok choi that I will remember to pick and eat for dinner tomorrow. Our next salads will come from the tunnel.

greens in tunnel IMG_0837

chicken cam soon?

I'm researching a web cam for my chicken coop. That will be fun! I will post it here. Then we will ALL be able to see what they are doing instead of laying eggs!

Yes, still no eggs from any of the four hens. Its been since September, 2 months now without any eggs. Ii does look like my 1 year old hens molted, but that's done now. And the new pullets are definitely old enough to lay by now. I have a light that comes on at 4 am in the coop so they get 14 hours of light a day. And they are all getting along well now. I don't know about those hens. But I'm looking forward to watching them by chicken cam.

chickens IMG_0507chickens IMG_0468 chickens IMG_0471chickens IMG_0476 chickens IMG_0500chickens IMG_0461

update - where have I been .....

I am so far behind on my blog, partly because I am doing so much gardening now!! Gardening at this time of year! Brr. (Also, my Dad's a bit under the weather and I have been with him a bit :-( But I have a few hours today and will do what I can to catch up here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

potatoes in storage are sprouting

potatoes IMG_0687 I've been storing my potatoes in the kitchen since I have no basement or garage (yet). Its usually 65-70*F in here, and warmer sometimes. Potatoes are ideally stored at 35-40*F for long term storage. So I plugged in a small refrigerator, sorted my potatoes by variety (I have All Blue, Burbank russet, and Yukon Gold), found three old mesh vegetable bags I saved, bagged them up and popped them in the fridge. This reminds, me - I should go check on them now.... they're good.

I ended up with SO MANY blues potatoes. I like the russets and Yukon's better, so I'm ending up with many blues left. They are a bit mealier than the others, but they do mash and roast well. I planted about equal amounts of each variety, but the blues produced maybe twice as many potatoes.

I am thinking about potatoes for next year. I'd like to grow German Butterball again. I ordered too late this year and they were sold out at Fedco. Fedco is not accepting orders yet, but I'll keep an eye on the site and order when they open up. I think I'll get 3 varieties again this year: German Butterball, Dark Red Norland and Burbank Russet.

Monday, November 10, 2014

today's harvest

harvest IMG_0563

today's garden work

Today I spent about 3 hours at my community plot and was happy to get to ALL SET (! YEAH!!) for the impending season - not to be named...


- Planted 76 cloves of garlic, then mulched it with old salt marsh hay that was on my garden paths for the summer
- Cut down asparagus ferns and laid them on the patch for mulch, weeded the patch and added salt hay mulch
- Piled trash (3 old chairs, rotted edging wood from my 6 yr old raised beds that have reached their age limit) to the corner of the garden for disposal next spring
- Cut down 4 enormous (!) dead tomato vines, raspberry vines, and giant sunflowers and raked
- Stomped down my compost bin and then piled up a BIG pile of garden debris that didn't fit in the bin (The more compost material the better! I compost everything the plot produces. I am happy to have SO much this year. I think more than usual.)
- Raked flat 7 garden beds, scattered winter rye seed, and hand raked it in

Late: Yes, I am very late this year in planting garlic and winter rye seed. This is my rational: I planted as soon as I could. There are lots of other things I did on time this fall,... these I did not. Garlic, I have planted at all different timings though the past 8 or so years and find most of the results depend on the quality of the bulbs going in and the soil and garden conditions. I do not think the late garlic planting will affect my garlic quality next year.

The winter rye, I have less experience with. But, here's my thought. I planted on Nov 10, the start of the Persephone Period in the Boston area. Light is less than 10 hours per day now and nothing grows now. We don't have enough light for plants to grow anymore. OK. But roots grow now. The garlic will be rooting. I have found that rye will sprout and begin to root during warm periods in the winter and then will take off in the spring. Even a little growth can help hold the soil structure in heavy spring rains. Depending on the weather we get, my 30 minutes of work and $3 of seed may be helpful. Or, maybe not.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

decontaminating late blight infected plant material

I was asked how I was decontaminating my late blight infected tomato plants this year.

In past years, I have only had to deal with one or two infected tomato plants. I bagged them in black plastic, left them in the sun a few days so the heat killed the plants and pathogens, then I threw the bags out with my trash.

This year, however, I had 24 tomato plants and they all were completely infected with late blight. And they were enormous plants. It would have been too much work (and too many bags) to bag all the plant material. I checked a late blight information sheet published by Cornell University.
Immediately remove affected plant tissue. It is best to do this in the middle of a sunny day after the leaves have dried when there will be fewer spores and those dislodged in the process will likely be exposed to UV radiation. But don’t wait days for these conditions. Put affected tissue in garbage bags, dig a hole and bury it, or put it in a pile and cover with a tarp. Heat that develops from sunlight hitting the tarp will quicken death of plant tissue and the pathogen. For the same reason, leave garbage bags in sun for a few days before throwing out.
- copied from Managing Late Blight in Tomato and Potato – An Essential Part of Gardening, by Margaret Tuttle McGrath, Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University
So, I put my tomato plants in a pile and cover them with a tarp in a sunny place. I should have done this a long time ago, but I figure better late then never. Next time, I will know what to do and will tarp infected plant material right away when I take it down.

This procedure should guarantee that the late blight pathogen is killed. The article doesn't say how long to tarp-treat teh plant material so I will leave it covered until spring and then compost it.

tarp to kill late blight IMG_0522

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

today's garden work

Not only are the days short now, but dusk seems to last for hours. The sun hovers, lingering at the horizon, then slowly sinks for the night. Today in the long twilight I got some garden work done.

- I hosed clean my sweet potatoes then transferred them to a smaller storage bucket.

- I looked up how to decontaminate my late blight infested tomato vine debris. Then I tarped it over for the winter.

- I brought 6 or 7 giant hosta clumps that a friend gave me down to my vegetable garden and tucked them into a bed for the winter.

- I cleared out summer squash and cucumber vines, zinnias, beans and sunflower debris and piled them in a compost bin. I then climbed into the bin and stomped the contents down.

- I stuck my head in my winter tunnel and noticed there are a few more varieties in there than I listed yesterday. I will add these soon. I also noticed it's beautiful in there. The light has a transfused opalescent thickness from the plastic walls, the air is moist and the plants glow green.

- I planted winter rye seed in two beds. There are still a few rows of fall greens growing here and there (to be harvested this month) so I spread seed close in under these plants. After scattering seed, I got into the dirt and used my fingers to "rake" the seed in. It was a chance to feel and smell the garden close up. The strongest smell was the spicy nasturtiums vines in the neighboring bed (early summer, they were grew quietly under the tomatoes but then over-grew the whole bed after late blight killed the tomatoes). I damaged a marigold plant and smelled its pungent odor. The dirt has its own smell, I think richer in fall with newly killed plant material mixing in.

After this, I remembered I needed to go vote. I'm sure I was the dirtiest person at the polls. But I enjoyed every minute in the garden today.

varieties I wish I had in my winter bed

- More spinach! Next year I'd like to use this spinach variety chart from High Mowing Seeds to pick a variety for my winter tunnel.
- Some nice curly kale, like Winterbor and Redbor. I don't like the wild kale I have this year, which is like Red Russian without the red.
- Bok choi, at least a couple varieties.
- Bunching onions to mix in with all those greens.
If this year's bed works out, I'll add a second bed next year to hold some of these extra varieties.

Monday, November 03, 2014

varieties in my winter greens bed

I'll see if I can remember all the varieties of greens I planted in my winter bed.
(This is a panorama photograph shot with my I-phone.)

winter bed IMG_2450 - From left to right:
Lettuce, Looseleaf Green, Green Oak leaf
Lettuce, Butterhead Green, Victoria
Spinach, Spargo
Lettuce, Looseleaf Red, Prizehead
Lettuce, Romaine Green, Winter Density
Broccoli, Diplomat
Kale, Wild
Kale, Tuscan
Asian Green, Mizuna
Lettuce, Looseleaf Red, Skyphos
Endive, Olesh Tres Fine
Escarole, Broadleaf Batavian
Escarole, Natacha

Sunday, November 02, 2014

snow on Suzie

The first snow is a big event. Not necessarily a happy one though... Suzie's fur collected the flakes though it melted everywhere else it fell.

snow on Suzie IMG_2469 I was asked about Suzie and Skippy. They are Portuguese water dogs. Both bred locally by C-Lion PWDs. Skippy is 9 and Suzie is 1 year old. They are fantastic dogs, very active and smart. They both love the water and boats. They are a people oriented breed and stay very attentive to me. They thrive on challenges and learning new things. We did some agility training this summer and I'm starting a new obedience class next week with Suzie. Skippy has done agility and therapy work. They don't have a lot of gardening skills, but have learned quickly to stay off the garden beds ("paws off!"). We walk before I garden and then they lie down and absorb the sun while I work in the dirt.


37* F outside this morning. A light snow is falling but not accumulating. I wish I had covered my winter bed last night, but did not. So this morning I went down to the garden and pulled the plastic cover over the hoops. I also covered my fall lettuce bed with Agribon light weight row cover. It was a painful task. I was reminded the hard way that I need to wear mittens at that temperature. (Especially if I am taking pictures.) My hands were so cold. They stung for 5 minutes after I went back into the house. Ouch!!

winter hoops IMG_2456winter hoops IMG_2458 But now the covers are on. We're going to have chilly temperatures for the next couple of days and then it will warm back up. Its been such a balmy fall so fall that it is an abrupt cool down for us. The winter garb isn't a habit yet. By next month, today's temperatures will seem warm as our average December low is 28*.

I am covering my beds when it falls below about 40*F. I have found that the greens I am growing are fine with about 25* to 30*F, so I'm not too concerned with keeping the covers on yet.

My neighbors have been keeping all of their beds covered for a couple weeks now. They have watermelons and peppers growing still. Maybe I'll try that next year.

IMG_2477 I've been asking gardeners about their experience with hoops and different coverings. My neighbors found that the PVC hoops are not strong enough and collapse under the snow load we get here. I have also heard that PVC has a chemical that degrades greenhouse plastic covers. My neighbors switched this year to galvanized metal that they bent into shape. These are more expensive than PVC. I'll see how my PVC works. I'm glad I only tried one bed for my first (experimental) year with winter hoops. The row cover I am using is actually a very light weight insect barrier (Agribon AG-15). Not really going to provide much warmth, but I figure better than nothing. Its 10 feet wide, so it easily covers my bed while lying flat. I could buy some winter weight row cover (10x50ft AG-19), but I plan to harvest all the lettuce outside of my plastic tunnel soon.

I noticed that the standard 10 ft wide Agribon product wouldn't be wide enough cover 10 ft long PVC hoops. It looks like the 100x13ft extra heavy weight AG-70 would be a good choice if I wanted to use cloth instead of plastic. At $124 for 100ft, the Agribon product is a bit less expensive than the greenhouse plastic film I have, which is $152 per 100 ft.

I'd love to hear comments on products that other gardeners are using!