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.

Friday, August 31, 2007

giant pumpkin vines!

vine
Thank goodness I only planted four large pumpkin plants! They are monsters! I bet they are growing a foot a day. And I have no doubt they will cover my entire garden by the season's end if I don't keep after them. I tie them to the fence around my garden. Since this is nearly covered now, I will soon let them crawl on the lawn.

The variety of my big vines is Howden, an old standard for Halloween pumpkins and produces fruit 15-25 pounds (up to 40 pounds) in 115 days. Large vining pumpkins usually need at least 100 square feet of space. Let's see, 4 plants times 100 sq ft in my 350 sq ft garden. Hhmmm.... But its fun to see them crawling all over the lawn.

The plants are just starting to set fruit. They've aborted 3 or 4 fruits so far (before blooming). Probably because of the very hot dry weather we have now. The plants seem very healthy, so I'm guessing fruit set will be successful soon.

baby pumpkin
pumpkin flower 2 pumpkin flower
tendrils
pumpkin vine
Pumpkin -- Cucurbitaceae spp.

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checking under the row covers

kale
brocolli

My broccoli seedlings look like happy campers under their row cover. And when I checked my dinosaur kale I was amazed at the beautiful big crinkled leaves. I've never used row cover in the summer before and am impressed at how warm and bright and humid it is underneath. The plants are growing very well.

I covered my kale and broccoli because of green caterpillars of cabbage white butterfly. These were eating holes in the leaves of the kale and eating entire baby broccoli plants.

row covers covered kale
Brassicaceae
Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group)

cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

mystery squash

gourd

I had a whole bunch of squash plants that sprouted in my compost bin this spring. Many of them volunteered in the garden, too. This is the first of the fruits. It looks like a gourd I had on my table at Thanksgiving!

Cucurbita pepo (summer squash)

another mystery squash!

pumpkin
This is the fruit of another one of the squash plants that volunteered in my compost this spring. A medium-sized pumpkin. Its still tiny - only about 3 inches across.

Pumpkin -- Cucurbita spp.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

storing garden vegetables

I usually don't store many vegetables from my garden, but this has been a pretty productive year. I suppose I often give up on garden work by mid-summer, but this year I have been keeping at it. (Good job, Kathy!)

So far if have stored:
frozen green beans
sun-dried tomatoes
basil pesto
dried soup peas

On my list to do soon are:
tomato puree
frozen roasted chile peppers
dried red chiles
frozen stuffed chiles
frozen grated zucchini
dried pinto beans

Basil pesto: Maybe my most important garden crop. I like to make sure we have pesto to last all season - until next years crop is ready. My recipe is here. This year we used a short cut and froze it partially prepared.

Peppers: I have MANY chile pepper plants this year and in this post and this post the comments list many contributed suggestions on how to store them. I will definitely use these.

Zucchini: I plan to experiment this year with freezing grated zucchini. (Got to do SOMETHING with it.) I have read that this works well for baking winter zucchini bread.

Dried field peas: These are the easiest! Just let them dry in the pod then shell and store at room temp in baggies. I harvested about a cup (1/2 pound) of Capucijner soup peas this year. The pictures are here. I will probably wait for cold weather to make soup with them.

My pinto beans are just starting to bud. Hopefully I will have a nice crop of shell beans, too.

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sun dried tomatoes

drying tomatoes sun dried tomatoes

"Sun-dried" tomatoes: Well, since sun drying takes 4 days even in a dry climate (and I don't live in the land of enchantment but in soggy Massachusetts) I used the oven dying method. Directions are at the Victory Garden: Cut tomatoes in half or smaller and brush lightly with olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet at extremely low heat — 150-200 degrees F — all day long. I store these in baggies in the freezer so they will last 6 months. I mostly use them on pizzas.

freezing green beans

beans on ice beans in baggies

A lot of my beans ripened all at once this year, so I froze a few servings. These instructions are from the Victory Garden Cook Book: Blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, chill in ice water, then freeze in baggies. Pretty easy. They'll be good in winter stews.

Fabaceae

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

the garden after vacation

garden tomatoes
zucchini peas
Mid-summer a risky time to leave a garden, even for a few days. As I expected, there were tons of ripe tomatoes waiting for us, a few large zucchini, and green beans plants that just keep on making more beans. My four pumpkin vines were nearly successful at taking over the garden. The hungry green cabbage caterpillars stripped off all the leaves on about half of my young broccoli plants.

After a bit of garden work, all is back in order now. I picked a few bowls full of tomatoes, a big bowl of green beans, and two nice servings of soybeans. (Ooops - I still have to remember to go pick those zucchinis!) I tied the pumpkin vine to the fence to keep it at the edge of the garden. Quite impressive - how large a few vines can get! Baby pumpkins have just started forming.

The broccoli seedlings took more work. I searched for and removed the fat green caterpillars, removed the eaten plants and replaced them with extras I'm glad I had saved (and the caterpillars didn't find). My son made some nice hoops that we covered with garden fabric. I noticed that my covered kale is doing well (its been under row covers for 2 weeks now - hiding from the caterpillars), so I think this will make my little broccolis happier.

I was pleased to see that my young fall pea sprouts are growing well (about 2 inches tall), and my late crop of pinto beans is up near the top of its tepee. On the disappointing side, the lettuce is still not growing. (Too hot!) I keep planting a short row every two weeks or so but very little has sprouted all summer (since early June). I think I'll try an indoor seeding as fall is approaching.

aerial Aug 28 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

vacation

crawford notch
We've been up in the mountains on vacation. My photos of waterfalls and wildflowers are at Skippy's Backyard.

I wonder what I will find in the garden after being away?

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Monday, August 20, 2007

birthday dinner

bowl full grilling
grilled vegetables
Last evening we had a little party to celebrate my birthday. I have been admiring my big bowl full of freshly harvest garden vegetables all day. An unusually good harvest for me. Truly a bountiful year! A selection of these was roasted to perfection on the grill. We especially enjoyed the whole grill chiles. Small bites - nice and hot! To finish, rich chocolate cake decorated with oregano flowers.

dog blog

Check out all the dogs working hard in their gardens on Matron's blog Down on the Allotment. There's even a picture of Skippy digging potatoes. Well he was mostly napping while I dug potatoes.

potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)
more pictures of skip

Sunday, August 19, 2007

harvest day

IMG_7126
Today's harvest! I've never had so many beautiful vegetables.

Solanum tuberosum
Cucurbita pepo (summer squash)
harvests from my vegetable gardens

basil harvest

IMG_7099
IMG_7098 IMG_7113
Its been another good year for basil. Today we harvested a good bag full and processed it partially for pesto. Just ground the leaves with a bit of olive oil and froze it in baggies. We add nuts, garlic and more oil when we use it.

I left enough of the plants so that I can use fresh leaves now and then and so that the plants will regrow. Last year I got a second crop in October.

Ocimum basilicum

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

covered kale

kale covered kale
My kale is now covered. I bought some galvanized stainless wire and made hoops and then covered them with row cover and secured with plastic pegs. I picked a good batch of it a couple weeks ago (photo below), but ended up composting it because there were too many holes in the leaves for it to be appetizing. Hopefully the cover will help. Of course, it doesn't get rid of the caterpillars that are already on the leaves. It just prevents the moths from laying more eggs.

On the far side of the covered kale are my baby broccoli plants. These are also being eaten, presumably by the cabbage white caterpillars. I will have to cover these plants too. My next project....

I looked hard, but didn't find any green caterpillars. Since I have noticed many cabbage white butterflies, I assume this caterpillar is who is eating my brassica. The caterpillar I did find is pictured below. It is tiny and like an inchworm, but I don't know what type of worm it is.
worm holey kale

Brassicaceae
Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group)
cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae)

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yummy fresh edamame

edamame
ready to eat edamame
My fresh edamame was delicious! However, not the same difference as between a home grown and store bought tomato. The home grown edamame is a bit more flavorful and has better texture. It was much more hairy! Since they were very easy to grow, I am planning a bigger crop next year.

To cook, I steamed the freshly picked beans for 3-4 minutes. Just until the pods started to open a little bit. They cooked a little faster than the frozen ones I usually buy. The bowlful I harvested today is about a quarter of my crop I would guess.

Fabaceae

Friday, August 17, 2007

ripening chiles

long red cayenne anaheim
Jalapeno M Large Cherry Hungarian Wax
From top left: long red cayenne, anaheim, jalepeno M, large cherry, hungarian wax.

Capsicum

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

fall planting timeline

I copied this fall planting time line from Tracey at Life in Sugar Hollow. I removed some of the fall crops I don't grow and added others I do grow. I think Tracy's timing for zone 7 is pretty much what I go by here in the warm end of zone 6.

Peas - July 7 - August 15
Kale - July 7 - September 1
Broccoli - July 15 - August 15
Spinach - July 21 - August 21
Beets - July 21 - August 21
Carrots - July 21 - August 21
Leaf Lettuce - August 7 - September 15
Radishes - August 15 - September 15
Mustard Greens - August 15 - September 15
Garlic (bulbs) - August 21 - October 21
Shallots (bulbs) - August 21 - October 21

Lettuce, cool weather types: April 15 through May 15, Sept 1 through Sept 20
Lettuce, warm weather types: May 31 through Aug 15
Bush beans: May 10 through July 31
Pole beans: May 10 through July 31
Soybeans: May 10 through June 20

My fall peas and broccoli are in, planted August 11 and July 16. I also planted a late crop of pole (pinto) beans (July 20). I have garlic top sets to plant this year and am not sure when these should go in. I'll try the same timing as garlic bulbs.

S&P

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ripe soybeans

soybeans 6 soybeans 3
soybeans 5
Looks like the soybeans are ready to eat! Just in time for my birthday. In a few days I'll harvest these hairy beans and check out what garden fresh edamame tastes like.

The variety is Early Haucho from The Cook's Garden that I planted on May 28.

Fabaceae

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

today's harvest

harvest
A bunch of Early Girl and New Girl tomatoes, a cucumber (variety unknown), a few leaves of basil and two heads escarole (Natasha).
harvests from my vegetable gardens

Monday, August 13, 2007

broccoli and butterflies

broccoli seedlings cabbage white butterfly
I transplanted my young broccoli seedlings from their seed tray to the garden this weekend. I gave them a space between a row of dill and one of kale. I spaced them about 5 inches apart. They seem pretty happy. I noticed that the fall crop of broccoli at a nearby farm is only a little bigger than mine now.

I've been enjoying several small white butterflies that bounce and flutter and play over my garden in the mornings. This pretty white butterfly is called a Cabbage White (Pieris rapae). It is one of the most common butterflies in North America. The photo shows one sipping nectar from one of my cucumber flowers. A little research showed me that this lovely insect has caterpillars that enjoy eating kale and broccoli. Ah-ha! So that's where the holes in the leaves have been coming from. The solution seems to be row covers. A little leaf damage doesn't affect my broccoli florets, but now I know that if I want un-holey kale I should consider row covers.

Brassicaceae
Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group)

cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae)

butterflies (Lepidoptera)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

heirloom tomato taste test

heirloom tomatoes
halves dressed
Since my tomatoes are late this year, I bought five different varieties of heirloom tomatoes at the Farmer's Market. My thought was to taste test and pick the best tomatoes for my garden next year. The unsliced tomatoes varieties are (clockwise form top left): Brandywine, Orange Blossom (not an heirloom), Prudence Purple, Flame and Black Prince. I thought this would be easier, but it turned out to be impossible to pick the best! I think maybe the nicest thing is the way all of the different varieties look (and taste) together. (Our order of preference was probably: Black Prince, Orange Blossom, Brandywine, Prudence Purple, and then Flame - but all were delicious.)

Solanum lycopersicum

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

weekend garden work

seeds radish
I just received a bunch of seeds that I mail ordered from Sand Hill Preservation Center. Mostly fall greens - lettuces, endive, arugula. Also garlic top sets and pea seeds.

Today I planted a tepee of the fall peas (Alderman/ Tall Telephone). Sand Hill says that sometimes a fall crop of these works out - depending on the weather. We'll see. My pinto beans that I planted a couple of weeks ago are growing beautifully now.

This weekend I also transplanted some lettuce, arugula and escarole seedlings I seeded several weeks ago. I will try to space these better than I did this spring and see if they will head up this fall.

I pulled up my summer radish crop today. I wonder - aren't they supposed to have a bulb at the root end? My spring planting didn't bulb and now neither did my summer planting. I should give up. But no! I bought some fancy heirloom Round Black Spanish radish to plant this fall. There's always another season to try again. I'll try to give them a spot with more sun.

garlic harvest
Today I harvested my garlic and a few red onions. The bulbs are a bit small. From the 30 garlic cloves I planted, only nine heads. (Last September I planted 30 cloves of super market garlic.) I now have some Homestead top sets (an heirloom variety) from Sand Hill to plant this fall. Maybe this variety will grow bigger than this year's supermarket cloves. Small but still very delicious! I tied up the onions and garlic and hung then in the garage to dry.















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