Friday, November 23, 2018


Max Coots: A Harvest of People

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:

For generous friends, with smiles as bright as their blossoms.
For feisty friends as tart as apples;
For continuous friends who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them.
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn; and the others as plain as potatoes and as good for you.
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter.
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time.
For young friends, who wind around like tendrils and hold us.

We give thanks for friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might live.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

today's garden work

It was a beautiful, bright and warm HALLOWEEN day! I was lucky to do garden work all day. There are not so many of these good outdoor days any more as the season moves on toward winter. Here's what I did:

- Finished up my seed list. (Last year I started a list of all the seed packets I have that includes the folder they are stored in and when I planted them. By going through my seeds again now I put misplaced ones back in correct folders and identified seed packets that were used up this year so I know what to buy for next year.)

- From my home garden I harvested some kale and bulb fennel, dug up 3 first year artichoke plants for overwintering in pots in the garage, and dug 4 or 5 Belgian endive plants and set them out to cure under several layers of row cover.

- I photographed 3 types of mushrooms growing in my home garden. One on untreated pine raised bed wood, and two on birch logs that edge my flower bed. I'll get these identified by an expert. I THINK two are edible, one possibly a turkey tail and another maybe an oyster mushroom. I have no idea what the third is.

- I unpacked 4 or 5 of the 10 or so micronutrients that I am collecting mail order to refurbish the soil of my small orchard (3 apple trees, a cherry and a peach).

- And finally, the task that wiped me out, I dug a bed of potatoes at my community garden. I recovered about 20 lbs of beautiful russets from the bed in soil that was REALLY heavy. I was thrilled to get such a good harvest and shouldn't complain, but it was a lot of work!! We have had an unusually rainy fall here and even though I dig potatoes only after a couple dry days, the soil is still heavy. I've dug two beds so far, one more to go, lots of rain in the forecast...

belgian escarole IMG_6401 garden IMG_6405
garden mushroom IMG_6406 garden mushrooms IMG_6409
potato digging IMG_6430 community plot IMG_6434

Thursday, October 25, 2018

a year of garden photos

May 4: The peas are a few inches high, cover crop of winter rye is tall in some beds, and winter beds have greens growing.
05-04 IMG_2412

May 11: I just turned under the winter rye, crabapples and tulips are in bloom.
05-11 IMG_2530

May 30: I just planted tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Alliums are blooming. 05-30 IMG_2790

June 18: Everything is growing, including the weeds in the paths. Those are asparagus fronds across the view in the foreground. 06-18 IMG_7487

August 24: Time for eating fresh vegetables! 08-24 DSC00070

October 15: Beds with summer crops are cleared and ready for planting with some small seedlings to overwinter. 10-15 IMG_6023

October 21: Overwintering beds are covered with a single layer of fabric. Soon I'll add a layer of greenhouse plastic. 10-21 IMG_6154

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

my tomatoes are finally in

Finally!! I planted my peppers, eggplants, cukes, squashes, and tomatoes in my garden on Monday. It’s been a slow, cool spring here. I can’t eemember ever waiting til May 20(!) to pjant yomatoes. I planted the warm weather crops in my mom’s garden today. It was 60 with a light drizzle all day. The good news is that night time temperatures are staying warm - above 50. we‘re just waiting for a nice run of 70 and 80 Degree days. Most gardeners I talk to are waiting for June 1 to plant. (Entered on my cellphone with limited editing ability. Pkease excuse my type-o’s.)

Monday, May 14, 2018

favorite week - planting corn and beans and transplanting tomatoes

This is one of my favorite weeks in the vegetable garden. Highlights are transplanting tomato seedlings outside and sowing bean and corn seeds.

I transplant my hardened off tomato seedlings to the garden when night time low temperatures are routinely above 45F and mostly above 50F. I transplanted my mom’s tomatoes today (Mother’s Day). In the next 10 days, no local temps below 45F are predicted, and over 50% of nights are above 50F. Another good measure is soil temperature, which should be above 55F for planting our tomatoes. I’m still trying to find my soil thermometer. (I know it’s here somewhere...)

Planting seeds in the ground is less risky than transplanting seedlings. If the soil is too cold and wet the seeds will rot and will not sprout, but there is a lot of leeway. Mostly, spring planted seeds will begin to grow when the soil warms up to the appropriate temperature.

I will plant corn and green bean seed directly in the garden, but my soybean seed I plant indoors in pots because the chipmunks eat the unsprouted seeds. Argh. I’ll plant a few big trays of soybean seeds inside.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

favorite sounds

As I go to bed, I am listening out the window to rain falling after a nice spring day in the garden. One of my favorite sounds. I can just imagine the plants growing and the soil drinking in the moisture.

Friday, May 04, 2018

today's harvest

harvest IMG_2361

Charley is so happy to get something other than greens from the garden. A big bunch of asparagus! I gave him the bottom ends off of them. Yummy! It's my first year harvesting this 3 year old bed.

Also in this harvest: Two small lettuce heads (Cherokee and Rhazes), some bolting arugula (still delicious), and a few leaves of a broad-leaved escarole.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

planting brassicas

Today I planted a half bed of brassicas: Red and Murdoch cabbage, broccoli Blue Wind and Bay Meadows. Also cauliflower Snowball Y and, in my lettuce bed, radicchio. My seedlings are all about 3 inches tall. I will need another bed for more brassicas. I have some nice broccilini seedlings: Happy Rich and Piracicaba. Also bok choy.

The weather has turned warm so fast. I don’t see any nights below 47 through May 10. I am thinking it’s Ok to plant tomato seedlings out soon. But I’ll plant out in order of hardiness. The root crops will go out next. tomorrow? Beets, celeriac, carrots, parsnips, celery, onions - I have lots of onions, leeks, scallions.

Busy, busy time of year!!

Btw, my cold and bronchitis seem to be gone. Yeah!!! It’s time to be healthy and active in the garden.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

My cold seems to maybe be getting a bit better. It’s been dragging on almost a week now.

Today I finally got done work done and planted my cucumber and winter squash seeds. One tray each. Also up potted 4 or 5 types of flowers and brought them down to my new greenhouse. The greenhouse is running about 60-70F during the day and 40F at night. Perfect for peas, onions, and other cool weather crops. for now, my tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other warm weather crops are still on my living room floor. I bring them in and out as temps go above 50F.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

My new bees are happy in their new home! Today was a beautiful day for them. I put most of my seedlings out on the patio to get some sun and fresh air. I up-potted 60 tomato seedlings last night and they were outside too. I opened up my winter tunnels to the nice spring air and am thinking I may not need to cover them up much more this season. They are looking really nice. (I’ll add pictures here this weekend.)

Monday, April 09, 2018

honey bees

I picked up a package of bees today. Both of my hives died early last winter - it was a very hard fall/winter for bees here. I have heard that the overwintering rate in our area for experienced bee keepers was about 20%. One out of 5 hives survived. I almost decided it wasn't worth keeping bees and if I have to buy new ones every year, but I went ahead and got one hive anyway.

They are not off to a good start. Tonight will be very cold and I was told to keep them inside at 60F overnight and install them tomorrow. I was also told to spray sugar water on the frame near the queen to make sure they stay in a cluster and keep each other warm. I hear our weather will warm up at the end of this week, but we have another cold spell coming in soon after that. Our trees are all blooming, but the bees can't fly to gather any nectar until temperatures are above 50F or so.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Saturday, April 07, 2018

hoop greenhouse construction

We're building a hoop house today!! It will be 10x12 ft and will go in the backyard, unheated, and should hold lots of seedling trays. It will be a temporary, spring-only structure to give extra space during April and May. Today is a chilly wet day, so we are enjoying this as an garage project for now. We bent the first hoop and it looks good. So far, so good!!


Friday, April 06, 2018

charley with snow flakes

charley with snow flakes IMG_2094 All right all ready with the April snow!!! What a slow spring!! We're still having temperatures in the 30-40's (F). Charley likes it. I'm looking forward to 50-60's. I hear it'll get warm next Thursday. I won't hold my breath.


I transplanted my peppers and eggplants into larger pots today. ...a bit of a mess in the kitchen, but I love working with all these little seedlings.

up potting in the kitchen IMG_2081 up potting IMG_2083

Sunday, April 01, 2018

easter eggs

easter eggs IMG_2059

My chickens did a great job and laid all colors of eggs. I don't need to dye them for the Easter basket! White, brown speckled, blue, and green. I boiled up a half dozen for deviled egg Easter appetizers. I'll put them on a platter with my garden arugula.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

March 31 is the full sap moon. I think sap ran early this year and is past by now in my area. But it's a beautiful full blue moon to light up the Easter eve.

Friday, March 30, 2018

spring is here - a good friday

The peepers (little yellowish wetland frogs) started singing tonight! The song of spring. They don’t start up gradually. About 4 pm today, they started in full chorus, peeping away.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

planting sweet pea seeds

sweet pea seeds with tails IMG_7462
This is the method of planting sweet peas that I just learned from nw organic gardener.

nick the outer skin of sweet peas seeds - a large fingernail clipper works...
layer the seeds in wet paper towels...
check daily after 5 days...
as soon as they get their tails, pot each in a 2 inch pot with tails pointing down...
they don't all tail at the same time so plant them as they do....
make sure the soil is damp, not wet, and wait for first the sprout to break ground before watering again...
then put them in good light, like a sunny window...
no heat mat! peas don't like bottom heat...
when the seedlings have 3 or 4 sets of leaves pinch the tip...
then harden them off and plant them in the garden...
watch out for slugs...
btw, if after 8 days the seeds haven't tailed but have swollen, plant them anyway

The same method works for other types of peas (snap peas, snow peas, etc), except that they don't need to be nicked or pinched. They can also be planted directly in the garden after tailing.

Thanks nw organic gardener!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

what's up today

 - I'm planting my snow peas (inside) today,
 - my little sweet pea seeds (in wet paper towels) are getting tails,
 - my artichoke seedlings are starting their 10 day vernalization (below 50F) out on my patio
 - my tomato seeds are planted (17 varieties), but they haven't sprouted yet
 - my vegetable garden is totally free of snow now!!
 - my garlic and my mom's are up - nice little 3 inch sprouts
 - and I think I may be able to start filling my salad bowl from my winter tunnel greens this week!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

vegetable, flower, and herb plants for shade

Last Sunday I worked in the “Ask-A-Master-Gardener” booth at the Boston Flower Show. The most popular question I had was: What should I plant in my shady garden?

I have several shady areas in my gardens. Knowing what plants will grow there is helpful. Here's a list I've put together. 

Full Shade

Part Shade (dappled shade all day or 4 hours of sun per day)
Leafy greens including arugula, beet greens, cress, collard greens, endive, kale, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, radicchio, spinach, and Swiss chard

Part sun (more than 4 hours of sun per day)
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peas, garlic, beans, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, peas, potatoes, and rhubarb. Also small beets, turnips, and carrots.

Full Shade
Lemon balm, oregano, mint, angelica, chervil, mints, American pennyroyal, wild bergamot (monarda), and sweet cicely

Part shade (at least 4 hours of sun per day)
Chives, thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary, horseradish, and sage

Full Shade or dappled light
Hostas, wild ginger, ferns, Jack in the Pulpit, hellebores, mayapple, lily of the valley, sweet woodruff, trillium, foam flowers, black snakeroot, wild violets, vinca, epimedium, bellwort, lungwort, Virginia bluebells, Dutchman's breeches, meadow rue, liriope, and Solomon's seal

Part Shade (at least 4 hours of sun per day)
Alstilbe, day lily, ajuga, coral bells, bleeding heart, bergenia, forget-me-not, monarda, monkshood, foxglove, some ornamental grasses, lady’s mantle, bloodroot, cardinal flower, hepatica, Jacob's ladder, rue anemone, columbine, leopardsbane, platycodon (ballon flower), campanula, cranesbill geranium, toad lily, and turtle head

Full Shade or dappled light
Impatiens, browallias, coleus, and wax begonias. Also spring bulbs, like daffodils,  crocus, scillas, snowdrops, and species tulips if discarded after they bloom.

Part Shade (at least 4 hours of sun per day)
Ageratum, tuberous begonias, fuchsia, sweet alyssum, lobelia, mimulus, feverfew, and dwarf salvias

This is a partial list that I will continue to work on. I welcome suggestions. What do you grow in the shade?

Gardening in the Shade - Univ Missouri Extension
Brooklyn Botanical Garden: A Garden of Shade-loving Herbs

Friday, March 23, 2018

a little more spring ....

We only got a dusting of snow from the storm yesterday. Today the sun is shining. I was listening to the chickadees singing their spring song for the first time - dee-dee. We have a couple patches of bare ground in the yard. The warmest areas. And some spring blue bells are starting to inch up. The hellebore and snow drops are still covered, but it's nice to feel a little bit of spring.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

first day of spring

I am celebrating the first day of spring by planting broccoli and ignoring the reports of 8-10 inches of snow for tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

a gardener's lament

My muscles are sore. My hands from holding the snow shovel. My shoulders and arms from lifting the sticky snow and throwing it off to the side. In better weather, I park my car out by my mom's garden to unload seedlings and compost. This time, I parked my car out near the garden to avoid trees falling on it. I shoveled off the 2 feet of snow piled on top. Shoveled the 20 or so feet around it where the plow couldn't reach. Shoveled my mom's walkway and the driveway edges. Of course the feathery white wonderland after a snow storm is beautiful. But I look forward to blisters from turning in compost and pushing a wheelbarrow. Sunburn instead of soggy cold wet clothing. And rich brown soil instead of all this white.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

In stormy fashion
Ends the dark season;
The wind's in a passion
Out of all reason.
Winter, so loth to go,
Howls, spitting out the snow,
Like froth of madness.

~Danske Dandridge, "The End of Winter," 1902

mom's garden during ANOTHER March nor'easter

mom's snowy garden IMG_1853 Arrgh! (Or as my sister wrote, AYFKM!!?) We're in the middle of our third nor'easter in 10 days. The first was 2 inches of heavy rain with very high winds and lot's of coastal flooding. The second was about 8 inches of very heavy wet snow that brought down lots of trees. This one is a blizzard that will give us 2 feet of fluffy snow with high winds. Some years, I'm out planting peas about now.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

March nor'easter aftermath

snow day tree on coop IMG_1820 snow day bonfire IMG_1830

Here's the aftermath of the nor'easter we had last night. Eight inches of very heavy wet snow piled onto the trees and brought down many branches, including two huge ones from my beautiful Carolina silver bell that landed on my chicken coop. No damage to the coop but it took a lot of effort to clear and burn the fallen wood.

I had built a lean-to over my new little lettuce tunnel and the plants look just fine underneath.

snow day garden IMG_1815 snow day lettuce IMG_1818
We’re getting a foot of heavy wet snow tonight. I’ll probably be too busy shoveling to post tomorrow.  I was hoping to plant peas and onion sets outside soon! Maybe it will melt fast..... maybe I’ll start the peas inside....

Saturday, March 03, 2018

when to plant vegetable seeds

It's definitely time to sow seeds now. Here are some suggestions to figure out when is the best time to plant different types of seeds.

- Try the iPhone calendar apps I wrote, I use these to plan when to plant: Skippy's Vegetable Calendar App and Skippy's Flower and Herb Calendar App.

- Or try my old, very simple, and free online planting calendar: Online Vegetable Calendar.

- Johnny's online tool works pretty much the same: Johnny's planting calculator

- The University of Minnesota has a nice page on starting seeds indoors. Some tables too.  So if your climate is similar to theirs, it's a good resource. UMinn Seed Starting.

- I also like a colorful chart that shows planting and harvesting times: Urban Farmer Seeds chart for USDA zone 6.

Let me know other suggestions!

planting out extra lettuce

winter lettuce tunnel IMG_7292 winter lettuce tunnel IMG_7299
winter lettuce tunnels IMG_7305 winter lettuce tunnel IMG_7295

I had a few 6-packs of lettuce left over that didn't fit in my tunnel so I set up a second smaller tunnel for it. This little tunnel is just covered with a double layer of row cover fabric. I wonder if it will do OK. It depends on the weather we get.

Friday, March 02, 2018

sowing seeds on a stormy day

It's pretty stormy here. Our road is blocked at both ends by downed trees and wires and our power has been out all day. In addition to tending my little onion shoots, I planted my next batch of seeds a couple days early:

Beets, Boro and Detroit Dark Red
Eggplant, Orient Express, Hansel, and Barbarella
Basil, Tuscany
Marigold, Giant African, Mission Giant Yellow, Tangerine Gem, Gem Mix, Cottage Red
Pepper, Highlander, Shishito, Ace, Red Rocket, and Red Ember
Snapdragon, Tall Deluxe Mix
Chamomile, Common
Lemon Mint

The rest of my sowing list is here: 2018 Planting Progress.


I've learned a new word. "Up-potting" is when you transplant into a bigger pot. Hmm. I've been spending lots of time up-potting recently as a volunteer at the greenhouses at Elm Bank. We're getting plants ready for the Boston Flower Show, which is only a couple weeks away now (March 14-18).

Thursday, March 01, 2018

newly planted seedlings in winter tunnel

winter tunnel IMG_1757

I planted my seedlings out into my empty winter tunnel last weekend. They look very happy out there. I have a few more to plant out and will set up another smaller tunnel. But I'm waiting until after The Big Storm coming tomorrow.

Everyone is talking about the Storm here. 2 inches of rain and then 5 inches of heavy wet snow are predicted with high winds and power outages. I'm glad I don't need to worry about the coastal flooding in my area, because that's supposed to be really bad. Today and yesterday have been beautiful springlike days in the 60's. The dogs and I have been out enjoying it as much as we can. I suppose tomorrow will be a day to stay inside and take care of my little onion sprouts.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

today's seed planting

Feb 28, 2018 (indoors under lights) 
Cabbage, Red Express and Murdoc
Endive, Dubuisson
Parsley, Italian Large Flat Leaf
Flowers, Stock, Katz Lavender Blue
I just looked up when I’ve first heard red winged blackbirds around here in the spring over the past few years. I think it shows a trend:

2018 February 25
2016 March 5
2015 March 27
2009 April 9

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

spring red winged blackbirds

The red winged blackbirds are a full month early this year!!! I saw a small flock of 4 or so males at a nearby pond a few days ago and have been listening to them (cookalokooo) from my window today. We’re having the warmest February on record here. I don’t see much spring going on with the trees and bushes outside. but the birds are reflecting the warmth.

I’m tempted to plant peas now. My soil is workable. The old saying is to plant peas when the female red winged blackbirds arrive. I’ll prepare some soil and listen for the click click of the females replying to the males.

Friday, February 23, 2018

crazy February weather

Yesterday we had record breaking temperatures in the 70's here! I felt very excited and wanted to plant my gardens all at once. But, back to reality and this is the view this morning. Our typical February weather. Very pretty (but yesterday was really awesome).

winter gardens IMG_1730

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

hardening off seedlings

The seedlings for my winter tunnel have grown really fast. Time to start hardening them off. Today is sunny and 65F (!!) so they are outside on the patio sunning. I am enjoying the air and am working by the open door.

early seedlings IMG_1716

early seedlings IMG_1714 early seedlings IMG_1718

My plan is to harden them off for about a week before transplanting these seedlings into the tunnel soil. I'll leave them outside 3 hours today and then gradually longer until they are OK staying overnight in the tunnel. If it's not warm enough outside during the day, they can be in the covered tunnel for their hardening off time.

I opened up the winter tunnel to the air too. There are a few plants left in there (the mice left me a few). The soil is pretty dry. I'll have to bring a watering can down there this afternoon.

winter tunnel MG_1724 winter tunnel IMG_1720