This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens, and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Monday, January 22, 2018

today's harvest

harvest eggs escarole lemon IMG_1473 Today's harvest is fresh endive, a Meyer lemon, and a couple eggs.

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when to plant spring seeds

To time when I plant my seeds, I use an app that I’ve written. Skippy’s Vegetable planting calendar. We’ve been working on this for a few years and a new update is due out next month. This update makes the app retain settings and fills in some missing planting information and is free for any previously purchased apps.

I have about 100 vegetable varieties that I’ll plant this year. The app is a very simple way of planning when to plant vegetable seeds.

This year I entered info from all of my seeds package into an excel table. I entered time to harvest and planting date. I then sorted by planting date. This gives me a “calendar” for planting. But it doesn’t have any more information than my app except for corn where I want to plant two varieties and spread the planting dates to make sure they don’t cross-pollinate.

If you have suggestions for our app update, please leave a comment here and let me know.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

today’s indoor garden work

Today I planted seeds for 3 types of lettuce and a cabbage. Just a few of each. Seedlings will go into my winter tunnel in 4 weeks.  By then we’ll be getting on to the end of February. If temperatures aren’t warm by then, at least there’ll be enough light to warm the tunnel and for plant growth.

Right now the seed pots are sitting on the side of my bath tub. It’s too cold for germination in the room with my plant lights. The bathroom is warm, but there isn’t much sunlight. Tomorrow I’ll turn up the heat in the plant room and get the lights going for the season.

I don’t usually start my seeds ‘til the end of February. That’s when I plant onion seeds. Since a mouse ate my fall-planted greens in my winter tunnel, I thought I’d try replanting the tunnel ASAP. So I’m planting a month early.

Yesterday I opened my winter tunnel and checked inside. No mice in any of the traps. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I don’t think I see any more mouse damage to the remaining plants.  I left the tunnel with only the row covering layer, no plastic outer layer, since the weather for the next several days will be above 28 degrees F and rain is coming. It gets pretty dry in the tunnel. Right now there is a lot of arugula, some small spinach, and several types of herbs growing.

Friday, January 19, 2018

my tried-and-true, old favorite vegetable varieties

Bush beans, Jumbo, big flat pods
Mini broccoli, Happy Rich, broccolini that keeps producing all season
Green storage cabbage, Murdoc, a big storage variety, very mild
Popcorn, Robust 997, super yields, great popping and taste
Pickling cucumber, Salt and Pepper, small white cuke, chartreuse inside
Seedless cucumber, Diva, my favorite cuke for many years, can be finicky to get started
Asian mini eggplant, Hansel, awesome yields of small black Asian type fruits
Black round Italian eggplant, Barbarella, low yields but the best taste ever
Broad-leaved Escarole, Natacha, a beautiful plant mild enough for fresh salads
Leaf lettuce, Salanova, awesome! remove core of full grown plant for salad of baby lettuce
Snow pea, Oregon Giant, a very reliable performer with delicious peas
Bell pepper, Ace, very reliable, early bell peppers that turn red in a long season
Hot pepper, Thai Hot, lot's of peppers, small plants, nice and hot, and they dry easily
Zucchini, Costata Romanescu, my all time favorite summer squash, awesome flavor
Squash, Waltham Butternut, excellent yield, delicious, long storage, and grows up a trellis
Tomato, Opalka, a very large heirloom paste tomato
Tomato, Polish Linguisa, another very large heirloom paste tomato
Tomato, Carbon, delicious heirloom purple slicing tomato
Tomato, True Black Brandywine, another delicious heirloom purple slicing tomato
Tomato, Pink Beauty, F1 variety with excellent yields of pretty pink fruit, always my earliest

It makes me happy just to think about these - my favorites. I'll plant them all again this year. Hansel and Salanova I grew for the first time last year and loved them. They're not really "old" favorites, but I think they will become that. I can't wait to start planting! I'll plant Natacha soon (tonight, I hope) to go in my cold frame for very early spring. Maybe a couple Salanova and Cherokee too. I'll have to wait on the rest.

Please comment with a list of your old favorite vegetable varieties.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 garden plans

Microsoft PowerPoint - 2018 garden plans.pptx

Microsoft PowerPoint - 2018 garden plans.pptx


Saturday, January 13, 2018

mouse traps in the winter tunnel

winter tunnel IMG_1432 winter tunnel IMG_1433

All our snow is gone now. We got a couple inches of rain last night. In one night we went from a foot of snow to almost no snow at all.

I had opened my winter tunnel to the rain and air for the past couple days. The soil looks nice now. Unfortunately, the plants are still mouse-eaten and frost-killed. This morning I pulled all the damaged plants. The mice ate parsley roots, lettuce and spinach stems, and entire chard plants.

My husband was up early this morning and he repaired the tunnel top pole support for me. We put down four mouse snap-traps and closed the tunnel up just as our temperature was plummeting back down to freezing at about noon.

I'd like to replant my tunnel with fresh greens seedlings. In February, our sunlight will be high enough for plants to grow. I just put a dozen or so 6-packs planting pots in the dishwasher to clean them up for planting seeds. I think I'll plant spinach and lettuce indoors under lights that will be ready to transplant out into the tunnel mid February. I hope I can get rid of the mice by then.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

winter tunnel clean up

I opened up my winter greens tunnel this afternoon, but it wasn't a pretty sight. All the romaine lettuce was wilted and rotting. I guess the week of sub-zero temperatures was too cold for it. Plus it looks like a mouse had gotten in. There was a mouse nest and the iceberg lettuce and spinach were eaten and torn up. There were a number of holes chewed in the row cover and pieces of it were in the mouse nest. Arugula, mustard greens, and a rosemary plant looked OK. The soil was pretty dry. I left the tunnel open to get some rain. I don't know how to get rid of that mouse. I suppose a mouse trap.


winter tunnel IMG_1412

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A January thaw and lots of rain ahead. For the next two nights our temps won't fall below 40F. Quite balmy! I plan to open up my collapsed winter garden tunnel tomorrow. I'll dig it out from under the foot of snow. I'll plan to put that top support pole on (the one I didn't get to all fall and caused the tunnel collapse). And I'll leave the tunnel open for a couple days during this "warm" spell. It'll be a nice change for the winter greens to have some air and rain.


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

grinding flint corn

flint corn IMG_1350

In my Master Gardener class last year, Roger Swain taught the vegetable gardening section. His opinion on corn is to skip growing sweet corn in a home vegetable garden since it takes up a lot of space and fresh corn is so readily available at farm stands. He grows varieties for grinding instead and demonstrated grinding corn he grew using a hand mill.

corn grinder - Roger Swain IMG_1018 corn grinder2 IMG_1018

Last summer I grew a small patch of flint corn in my garden - a wonderful old variety called Roy's Calais. I wanted to try grinding it for cornbread. It seemed to me that a hand grinder takes a lot of work. I was lucky to get a grain mill attachment for my Kitchen-aide mixer from my husband for Christmas.

The mill was nice and easy to use. I ended up with a cup and a half of corn meal. Just enough for corn bread. The result was a great. Buttery creamy delicious. Definitely a richer flavor than the product I buy in the store.

grinding corn IMG_1357 grinding corn IMG_1376 corn bread IMG_1386 corn bread IMG_1397


Sunday, January 07, 2018

winter "gardening"

Well we got just over a foot of snow last Thursday, bitter cold temperature, and then I got a winter cold (achoo). Tis the season. Over half of my winter tunnel is crushed from the snow load since I never got that top support put in. Other than these sad things, there are fun gardening things going on too.

My Belgian endive is doing great. I dug several roots last fall, stored them in the fridge 'til mid December, then planted them in a pot with a paper bag over it to keep them dark. I harvested a salad at Christmas and one yesterday. It's the first time I've tried growing Belgian endive and it's actually pretty easy.

I entered all of my seed packets into an Excel spreadsheet. About 240 packets. It seemed like there were enough packets that I wanted to see them on a list even though they're pretty well organized in their folders. I placed my seed order a couple weeks ago (with Johnny's) and the list helped my see what I had and what was missing.

I've been volunteering at the Elm Bank vegetable garden Monday mornings. We're working on packaging dried herbs from last year's garden. Sage and thyme. These will go to the local food pantry. It's nice to get together with a group of gardeners even though this task is tedious. (It does smell very nice.) Soon our group will start seedlings for a display at the Boston Flower Show in March.

Finally, I'm getting my new vegetable garden plans ready. That's really exciting. I have my old favorites going in, and some new varieties. I'll post lists of both of these soon - and the garden diagrams.

Belgian endive

Begian endive IMG_1409

Belgian endive IMG_1308 Belgian endive IMG_1310

Belgian endive IMG_1313 Belgian endive IMG_1405


Thursday, January 04, 2018

snow day

snow birds IMG_7271

snow birds IMG_7240 snow birds IMG_7257

snow birds IMG_7278 snow birds IMG_7223

We are being hit with a blizzard today. Over a foot of snow is predicted. I added food to the bird feeder this morning and it's rapidly being covered up. Juncos, blue jays, titmice, and song sparrows are braving the wind and digging down for the seeds. There's been a chickadee and a bluebird coming to the feeder too, but I wasn't able to get their photos.


Monday, January 01, 2018

happy new year!

Wow, things are looking up! It’s New Year’s morning and only 41 days and counting ‘til I start planting! In 5 weeks - Feb 12 - the onion seeds go in.  It’s a brutal cold week - not above freezing for several weeks and nights often into negative numbers. But I’m going to start moving on my garden plan, organizing seeds, and cleaning seedling pots.

I have to admit that I escaped from the cold for a few days. I’m returning today from a few days in southern Florida (Naples area) with my Mom. I bought her a pruning saw and some nice clippers at Ace hardware and then I got some sun (a lot of sun) while I pruned the jungle-like bushes and small trees around her house. I love pruning!

Now a mimosa (!) in the airport to start the year off. I’ll be back home with my family and dogs in a few hours. I’ll change from sandals to boots, find my warm coat, and brave the snow and ice. Then I look forward to getting out my garden planing tools and drawing up garden plans for 2018!!!

Happy New Year - happy new gardens

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Happy Holidays! from Charley and Suzie and me

Merry Christmas from Suzie and Charley IMG_1274

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