Saturday, February 28, 2015

goodbye to coldest and snowiest February

Its the last day of a remarkable month. February 2015 has ended up breaking records in Boston as the second coldest and the snowiest February ever (64.8 inches - 5.4 feet). At least its a short month. I hope March is better.

March is not starting out great: a snowstorm is forecast soon that is supposed to break our snowfall record making 2015 the snowiest winter on record in Boston. (We're at 102 inches now - the record is here is 107.)

I suppose some people love the snow, but at this point, it's really in the way. Parking and driving are difficult, roofs are collapsing and it takes so long to clear after each storm. I hear the kids will need Saturday classes this spring to make up for snow days. And I was at a talk by a Mass wildlife official tonight who said wildlife is suffering. She noted, as I've seen in our yard, that there are hardly any wildlife tracks around now. The animals are just lying low, waiting til the snow thaws. You can't walk in 5 feet of powder without snowshoes.

On a positive note, I'm really glad to be planting seeds and am eagerly watching for my first seedlings to sprout.

Friday, February 27, 2015


IMG_0354 - Copy Tonight I planted broccoli, cabbage, eggplant and radicchio. Varieties are here.

I'm experimenting with different seed cell sizes. I put the eggplants in larger cells (I sowed 2 seeds per cell and will thin to 1 per cell) as they need to grow 'til the soil warms and will be pretty large before planting out. The cabbage goes out sooner (the middle of April, but only if I can get at the garden through the snow!), so I put them in smaller cells. In the past, I've planted 4 or more broccoli seedlings in single larger cells, but want to see if they do better if I don't rip the roots apart to separate plants at transplant time.

Note added: see comments. I accidentally planted the broccoli 2 weeks too soon. Oops.

Monday, February 23, 2015

new garden calendar app - beta testers needed

Note added 2-25-2015: Thanks so much to all who emailed me for Beta testing! I will not be taking any more testers. I hope the app will be available for sale by early next week. It will be either $0.99 or 1.99 USD at the Apple store. I'll post a link here too.
I've been working on an I-phone version of my planting calendar. It will be posted at the Apple Store soon and I'm looking for some beta testers. If you are a vegetable gardener who grows you own plants from seed and are interested in a free copy of the app and agree to provide me feedback, please email me at:

This app is similar to my on-line version (on the sidebar of this blog) but has more features. It includes transplanting and succession sowing dates, has more crops, allows crop selection and, of course, works on an I-phone. Once you set up your calendar based on your last spring frost date, the app will automatically open to the current date and show you what planting tasks need to be done that week.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

winter sowing

I collected eight plastic bottle at our Town recycling center. I cut them open then added potting soil and planted flower seeds. After taping the bottles, I dug out a spot for them in a south facing area of my yard and then buried the bottles. This method is good for all sorts of cold hardy seeds, especially flower seeds that often need a chilling period. The bottle makes a nice little greenhouse and the hole at the top is perfect for letting in just the right amount of moisture.

I've tried this a couple times before. Sprouting has always been really good the hardest part is getting the seedlings out of the bottles before they are fried or rot.

IMG_0289IMG_0290 IMG_0291IMG_0292 IMG_0328IMG_0329

Saturday, February 21, 2015

first seed sowing of 2015

It's my day of planting seeds!! I'm a few days late from my schedule - the winter seems like it might never end, so that's probably OK. I planted celeriac, onions, shallots and leeks. Varieties are listed here: 2015 planting list.

I also set up eight bottles of flower seeds using the winter planting method. I'll post photos and details tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2015

snow, snow, snow

snow covered garden IMG_0203
I'm watching to see if my garden hoops get covered with snow this year. The fence is 5 feet high. I certainly hope it doesn't get covered!

I'm also wondering if I'll be able to find places to put my raw compost if we get any more snow. After each storm, I dig out a couple of the bins up near my kitchen. (The garden bin is covered with deep snow with no path to get there - I certainly can't use that one.) The snow mixes with raw compost and and the bins fill up very fast. I need to clean out my chicken coop soon and I suppose I'll have to dig a hole in the snow and pile the coop waste in and plan to put it into a bin after the snow melts.

compost bins IMG_0217compost bin IMG_0200
And speaking of the chicken coop, yes, its still there. I dig it out after every snow storm and clean off the glass roof. The power plug failed a week ago and it took a few days for us to notice. The coop morning light went out and the water froze up. We fixed it, but the older hens stopped laying. I'm getting two eggs a day now from my two young hens.

chicken coop IMG_0192chicken coop IMG_0188
chickens IMG_0211chicken coop IMG_0191
We've dug paths in the yard to get to the bird feeders, compost bins, chicken coop, and for the dogs to get around. To get out to the garden area, I put on my snow shoes and slog through the snow. It seems we are flattening a new path every other day. Its really pretty, but a lot of work.

paths in the yard IMG_0215patio without a view IMG_0216
snow view IMG_0131
This week's snow storms are predicted for Tuesday and Thursday.....

Friday, February 13, 2015

planning my parents garden

My dad has kidney disease and has just started on dialysis. He has a pretty restricted diet as he can't eat foods that are high in phosphorus or potassium. His doctor has given him a list of all of his dos and don'ts. No tomatoes, no beets, no peas, etc. We looked at this list while planning what to plant in his vegetable garden this year. (I don't know if these vegetables are OK for all kidney patients, so please check with your own doctor if you have kidney disease.)

Kidney-safe plants for Mom and Dad's garden:
Summer squash
Green beans
(I don't know why winter squash isn't here. I have to ask if that's OK and if they want it this year. They usually like acorn squash a couple big pumpkins.)

A few of these non-kidney-safe plants for Mom:

And we talked about basil. Its hard to know whether to plant it with the new basil mildew. I was going to pass it up, but my parents would like some. I'll write a separate post about that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

winter birds in Florida

I went to visit my parents in southern Florida (Naples area) last week. Talk about a great time to get a break from New England! It was sunny the whole time, 70's, and no snow! Fortunately I was able to get into and out of Logan between storms with out delays. I was lucky. Anyway, here are the birds I saw down there.

semipalmated sandpiper IMG_1606awillet IMG_1624a wilson's petrel IMG_1614aherring gull IMG_1588a roseate spoonbill IMG_1721bwood stork IMG_1689a white pelican IMG_1734byellow rump warbler IMG_1730bpalm warbler IMG_1738bgreat egret IMG_1682b red shouldered hawk and perrigrine falcon IMG_1654a - Copyperrigrine falcon with laughing gull prey MG_1652a white ibis IMG_1665aanhinga IMG_1679a pie-billed grebe IMG_1728bgreen heron IMG_1709a

Friday, February 06, 2015

winter birds in my backyard

goldfinch IMG_1524acardinal female IMG_1562a titmouse IMG_1504ablue jay IMG_1467a black capped chickadee IMG_1487aslate colored junco IMG_1515a chipping sparrow IMG_1496acardinal male IMG_1512a The big bluejays get first dibs at my feeder, while little birds wait in the trees for them to have their fill and move on. I love the little catkin-like buds on my star magnolia where the little birds wait. With all this snow I am trying to keep the feeders full. I should get a bigger feeder because the birds empty it in a couple hours.

The big guys in the sky are the red tailed hawks. A pair hangs out in our back yard. I took these photos while the female was perched watching my chickens through the new glass roof. Look at her craning her neck to see in!

red tailed hawk IMG_1459ared tailed hawk IMG_1444

Wednesday, February 04, 2015