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. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

fresh tomatoes and garlic

garlic on tomatoes garlic
two tomatoes
I picked two New Girl tomatoes today. I just made it under the wire as it was the last chance for me to pick a full-sized ripe tomato in the month of July. Its a very late year for tomatoes for me. My parents are having the same problem.

The newspaper reports that the mean Boston temperature has been 2 degrees below normal for the month of July. Also we've had 5.3 inches of rain compared with a normal of 3.0 inches for July. Eighteen of 31 days have had precipitation - almost 60%. It seems to me that there have been a lot cloudy days. Oh well. Good weather for beans and lettuce, but not tomatoes.

The New Girl is a new variety for me. I planted them next to some of my old faithful Early Girls. The New Girl is the winner for producing earlier this year. Not the best tasting tomato. I'm looking forward to a juicy Brandywine or Big Beef.

I dug up one of my garlic bulbs this afternoon. The lower leaves have turned brown and 4 or 5 upper ones are green. The bulb is still too small though. I'll try again later to see if they are ready to harvest.

I sliced the small bulb and put it on my tomatoes. (I also added a big store bought tomato, avocado and some garden dill to make a nice topping for a bed of lettuce greens.) I did think that the garlic was excellent. A pungent fresh garlic flavor. Not sure how long I will actually wait to harvest more of these delicious bulbs. I'm glad I planted a lot!

Solanum lycopersicum, Allium sativum

very fresh dill

potted dill
One of my favorite potted plants this year is dill that I seeded in early June. I keep this pot by the grill. We pick off a bunch and put it on whatever we are grilling. Dill is awesome on grilled salmon and halibut. Also on chicken and vegetables. Its especially good with cedar plank cooking. And it can't get any fresher than this!

This dill variety is Dukat dill from Sand Hill Preservation Center. Its a shorter heirloom variety with dense foliage. It has a very nice flavor.

culinary herbs

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Monday, July 30, 2007

soybeans

soybeans soybean bush
I don't know why more people don't grow soybeans. It looks like I have a real nice crop coming soon. They were easy to grow and there are many soybeans on each plant. The season seems only a couple weeks longer than green beans. Maybe its not such a popular vegetable to eat, but I love edamame with salt as an appetizer. I'm curious to see if homegrown tastes better than the frozen soybeans I usually eat.

Fabaceae

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

drying coriander

coriander drying

I grew a nice row of cilantro this year, but didn't end up using much of it. It bloomed and the tiny white flowers did a great job of attracting small bees to the garden. I harvested it this weekend and now have a nice bunch drying in the garage. It smells wonderful every time I open the door. I'll collect and save the dried coriander seeds. They are delicious on grilled meats.

culinary herbs

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7 things about Skippy

I was tagged in the 7 things meme again (this time by Adekun at Adekun's Japan Blog), so, since I just did this a couple weeks ago, I thought it must be Skippy's turn. (woof!) So here are seven random things about the fluffy black puppy.

Skippy was born on Easter two and a half years ago in a litter of 7 puppies (five sisters and one brother). Skippy and his litter mates looked a lot like guinea pigs when they were born. He wasn't very cute 'til he was about 4 weeks old. We brought him home when he was 8 weeks old. He was already house trained and only had one "accident" in the first month! He is allergic to all grains and red meats and loves his grain-free dog food (Innovo, Evo) and lots of cooked chicken. Skippy is an advanced beginner in obedience classes and is doing so well in his agility classes with my teenage son as his handler that they may be in a dog show this fall. The final random fact is that Skippy doesn't really do any work in the garden. He is real good company though.

more pictures of skip
posts about Skippy

Saturday, July 28, 2007

sunflower autumn gold

close up of sunflower autumn gold
sunflower autumn gold
This sunflower is growing in a pot on my patio. Its 6 or 7 feet tall. I had to get a ladder out to get this photo. I have several different varieties of sunflowers planted around my yard this year. This is the first to bloom. I wonder who will find it first - the squirrels or birds?

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dog days

skippy by the eggplants
Skippy likes to nap out by the garden - as long as its before the sun gets too hot. Those are my happy eggplants in the foreground. They are growing well this year. Though I have many furry purple flowers, I do not have any fruit set yet.

topic: eggplant
more pictures of skip
posts about Skippy

Friday, July 27, 2007

summer garden

garden aerial

An aerial view of my vegetable garden. I took this picture at 10:45 am. The sun has reached the beds at the right, and will gradually move leftward. The far left beds get full sun at 12:30. Every year, the big old maple tree in my backyard gets a little bigger and my garden gets a little more shade.

aerial views of my home vegetable garden

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

harvest

harvest

Today's harvest included several firsts: my first tomato, summer squash, chili pepper, and cucumber! Probably also two lasts: the broccoli and snap peas.

The harvest list: broccoli, chili pepper, cucumber, zucchini squash, 1 cherry tomato, baby carrots, purple and green beans, Capucijner and sugar snap peas.
harvests from my vegetable gardens

a first - finally

first tomato

I suppose this counts as my first garden tomato. A tiny, split Chadwick's cherry tomato. The big guys are out there. But none are showing any color (but green) yet.

Solanum lycopersicum

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

gnome working in the summer garden

gnome

He's almost lost under all the foliage now. Its a big job for the little guy - but it looks like fun to me!

(remember when he was buried with snow last winter?)

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hurray for honeybees

honeybee3
honeybee2 honeybee
I'm not seeing many honeybees this year. Noticeably less than last year. But I can usually spot one or two in my garden in the heat of midday. This is one I found today gathering nectar in the platycodon flowers. I planted a lot of extra flowers earlier this summer to try to attract more honeybees to my garden and it does seem to help. I have many other types of bees this year (metallic green bees, bumblebees, and lots of small black bees), but still its nice to see the honeybees. I wonder if they will recover next year?

Hymenoptera

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

baby carrots

baby carrots on a plate

I pulled a plateful of baby carrots yesterday. These are a mix of Red Core Chantenay, Oxheart (the fat ones) and Cosmic Purple that I planted on April 25. Tiny but tasty!

The farmers at my local Farmers Market are already pulling their second crop of big carrots now. I asked a farmer about them and she said they planted a couple of weeks earlier than me, they have full sun in their fields, and they plant very early varieties. The first variety she says most farmers in New England plant is Mokum (54 days to maturity). Her second planting was Hercules, which she said has enormous tops. The days to maturity of my varieties are: Red Core Chantenay (65), Oxheart (90) and Cosmic Purple (70)

Daucus carota

lettuce!!

garden lettuce for dinner lettuce
lettuce butterhead
heatwave lettuce mix escarole
Ahhh - summer dinners. As usual, the main item on our plates is my garden lettuce. This seems to be the summer lettuce slump though. It isn't growing as well as it did in the spring. I've been planting it about every 3 weeks, but right now it isn't growing very well. What is doing good is the escarole (Natasha), which is heading up and is delicious still from an early spring planting. I just planted a similar variety yesterday for a fall/winter crop, but I'll also try to remember to plant an extra row of escarole next spring. Very tasty.

From top left these photos are: Sunday dinner with salmon and garden greens, harvested escarole and dill, harvested Gourmet Mix lettuce, Butterhead lettuce (planted June 2), and Heatwave Blend lettuce (planted June 2nd). The lower right photo shows escarole Natasha in foreground (planted in April 9) with Gourmet Mix (planted April 9) and Romaine (planted May 28) behind.

Lactuca sativa

picking Capucijner peas

picking capucijner peas

Pisum sativum

Sunday, July 22, 2007

zucchini search


This is 39 second action thriller video where the gardener searches the dark and dangerous underworld of a squash bed in search of a lurking zucchini. I won't reveal the final ending, but its almost as exciting as the last few pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Well, to a fanatic gardener anyway...

At some point in the video, you can see the white cheesecloth I wrapped around one or two of the squash stems. This is a non-chemical experiment to protect from squash vine borers, which are always a problem for me. I only wrapped a couple just because I never got around to doing the rest. I'm curious to see if the wrapped ones do better.


Cucurbita pepo (squash)

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a tour of Skippy's vegetable garden


I have been experimenting with video's. This is a 1 minute tour of my garden early this morning. (I have to warn that it's pretty poor quality video.) The first garden bed has fading peas (Capucijner and sugar snaps) and lettuce, the next bed has beans, basil and carrots, then comes kale and broccoli and back by the fence are the big leaves of summer squashes. After the gate are my recently transplanted cucumbers on their trellis and then the giant tomato vines. Last of all Skippy comes over and joins me. Though still photos work best for a garden, the video adds a little action. (There is no sound with the video.)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

fall seed order

I placed an order of fall garlic and seeds yesterday for planting in mid-August. I ordered from Sand Hill Preservation:
Lettuce: Black Seeded Simpson, Merville de Four Seasons, Prizehead
Endive: Full Heart Batavian
Greens: Arugula, Fall Greens Mix
Garlic: Old Homestead
Peas: Alderman (Tall Telephone)
Radish: Round Black Spanish

S&P

fall broccoli started

baby broccoli sprouts
I'm looking forward to a fall crop of broccoli, though I'm hoping I haven't started these plants too early. I didn't expect them to grow so fast. We'll see.

Brassicaceae

green beans for dinner

beans bean plants
Copy of green beans in a bowl
These are Haricot Vert "Maxibel" Bush green beans that I mail ordered from Seeds of Change. I planted this row in the middle of May (with inoculant). I can report that they taste delicious!

Fabaceae

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baby soybeans!

baby soybeans
Soybeans are another first for me this year. I am hoping for a good crop of edamame. Good news - the plants have lots of hairy little pods now!

Fabaceae

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Friday, July 20, 2007

thyme for picking peas

capucijners
thyme to pick the capucijners
Looks like its time to pick the Capucijner peas. The purple pods are drying on the vines and the tendrils are turning brown. I pick a few dry pods each day and shell them. I haven't decided yet whether to make a batch of soup or save them for planting next year.

Pisum sativum

Thursday, July 19, 2007

garden work

Instead of taking pictures today, I actually did some work in the garden. I pulled up the blighted pole beans (instead of complaining about them some more) and prepared the soil to plant lettuce. I harvested a big pile of green beans. I moved the bean poles to another spot where I will try planting shell beans. I also transplanted my cukes from the far back corner of the garden where they were getting thoroughly shaded between the summer squash and my big rose plant. I moved them into well amended soil in the spot when the big rhododendron was. Surprisingly enough, my fall broccoli has sprouted in 2 days! I moved the little seedlings outside to get some extra sun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

my garden

garden
I've been busy with my camera today! In the upper right is the nice open area where the rhododendron was removed. My tomatoes have more sun now. In the foreground are garlic, carrots and beans. Looks like its time to clip back the rose. I'm planning to move the cukes from the back corner over to the sunny area left by the rhododendron.

pretty snap peas

snap peas
snap pea trellis
I keep getting more snap peas! The first crop was great and I never expected the plants to flower again and keep producing peas. My green shell peas stopped flowering several weeks ago and I pulled them, but these snap peas keep going strong.

Pisum sativum

ugly bugs on pole beans

blighted pole beans pole bean bugs
pole bean webs pole bean trouble

OK. Some more ugly pictures of my pole beans. I was asked some questions about what's really going on, so here are some close-up photos.

I guess I see thrips and spider mites. Some mite webs. Also mottled, puckered leaves and fruit. I noticed black aphids earlier but they're gone now. The problem is ONLY affecting my 3 types of pole beans, one of which is way on the other side of my house. No problem with my 3 types of bush beans planted nearby (odd).

So my guess is the real problem is a mosaic virus and the bugs here are just feasting on the weakened plants. I've sprayed in previous years for mites on eggplants and have found that this made the mites worse (it reduces the bugs that feed on the mites). I think the real problem is not usually the mites.

So, I'd love any suggestions here. My plan - no spray. Just remove the pole beans and avoid planting any more this year. I'll plant bush beans instead.

Fabaceae

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Belmont Victory Gardens

belmont community gardens
helianthus at community garden community garden plots
favas at community garden nasturtiums at community garden
onions at community garden tomatoes at community garden
Skippy and I walked through a nearby community garden on Sunday with my camera.

communitygardening
Belmont Victory Garden

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

no tomatoes yet

tomatoes
Today was supposed to be the day. I was trying to get a ripe tomato 2 weeks earlier than last year. I bought bigger plants and planted them in a warmer location than last year. Everything was going well. The plants bloomed very early. But now they are ripening slowly. Lots of green tomatoes today, but no red ones. I'll keep an eye on them. That first tomato is always exciting.

Solanum lycopersicum

aerial view

aerial garden view july 17 2007
I have some garden helpers who are removing the big old rhododendron at the lower right end of my garden. Its a several day project to chop it into pieces and pack them into garbage cans for removal. The bush was shading my tomatoes and potatoes quite a bit, so I finally decided it should go. It turned out to be a fun project for my garden helpers who just happened to have a new saw-type tool to try out.

My dad has looked into composting rhododendrons for me and the answer is - don't. The plant is toxic and compost from it can be detrimental to plants and soil microbes that would grow in it. In general, it seems to pay to be careful what you compost in the way of clippings and shrubs as many common ones are toxic. A list is here.

aerial views of my home vegetable garden

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Monday, July 16, 2007

planting fall broccoli

broccoli tray broccoli
I've decided to try planting seeds indoors for a fall crop of broccoli, since my spring broccoli was so tasty this year. I picked up a package of Green Goliath broccoli seeds and potting soil at my local hardware store. I found an old seed tray in the garage. I'll keep the seedlings inside by a south facing window.

This spring was the first time I've planted broccoli and even my teenage son enjoyed it. He agreed it is better than supermarket broccoli. The small plants I bought in May have been producing small to medium sized (and even a large one!) florets off and on for the past two months. I did kind of over cook it, though I only boiled it 3 minutes. I wonder if very fresh broccoli cooks faster that older broccoli? I'll do 2 minutes next time.

Brassicaceae















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