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.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

me

kathy in a hat
I don't usually post a photo that someone else has taken. In fact, I don't think I have ever posted a photo that I did not take. But why not a first. My husband took this picture of me.

Garden Rant recently asked what we gardeners are doing with ourselves in the off season (their post is titled "Substitutes"). Here, I'm doing my only outdoor winter activity. The daily dog-walk. At least this gets me out. Today we have light snow. A few inches of very light fluffy whiteness. The spring garden seems pretty far off.

photos of Kathy

Saturday, January 26, 2008

a year in the garden

garden views
Here's last year's garden. April through December. From brown to green to white.
garden top view
April 28 and May 25, 2007
garden june 25 2007 garden aerial
June 25 and July 27 2007
aerial Aug 28 2007 garden sept 18 2007
August 28 and September 18, 2007
window view garden nov 1
October 8 and November 1, 2007
1:30pm garden aerial
December 13 and Dec 28, 2007

garden aerial view

Friday, January 25, 2008

flowers by the window

flowers by the window

Thursday, January 24, 2008

seeds arrive!!

seeds
The days are getting a little longer (abut 2 minutes a day!) - the sun is getting a little brighter - and my seeds are here!!! Spring seems just around the corner. (57 days, I think.)

Slave to a springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.
- Robert Frost

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

forgotten chiles

As Scott reminded me, I did not order any chiles. I was actually feeling that I had way too many last year and I needed a break. But I just looked back over comments from last year and found Scott's suggestions about chile varieties.

In the future you might consider other, more flavorful, New Mex chile varieties such as: Hatch ("supreme" or "big jim") or Espanola Improved... big jim is the local favorite but I prefer the supreme.

Maybe I'll order one package of seeds ..... just to try these. Here's a link to a company in New Mexico that sells Big Jim (but not Supreme - Every time I google "Chile Supreme" I find out what Chile's supreme court is up to).

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

row direction

I'm planning to go back to my north-south rows this year, which I have usually done in the past. Last year I tried east-west rows, because I read these get better sun exposure. Not only do I think the longer rows (N-S) look nicer in my garden, I think they grow better. Not that I've done a good study of this - it just seems that way to me. Any other ideas on N-S versus E-W rows?

Monday, January 21, 2008

garden tee

grow your own
Not much to do in the garden now, so I have a new garden-related project. I'm working on designing a gardening tee-shirt with my photos. I would like a design that is black and white on a colored shirt. Ideally pictures that look like ink drawings. And words that relate to growing vegetables. I have some nice software to work with the photos. This design is a start, but pretty far from what I'd like. I'll continue to work on it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

go pats

collecting seed potatoes

sprouting yukon gold fingerlings
My husband brought home a nice bag of fingerling potatoes from our local warehouse store yesterday. A mix of La Ratte, Russian Banana, French and Rose Finn (though I don't know which are which). Since these were varieties I was planning to mail order as seed potatoes, I immediately pulled out a bunch. I'll save these for planting instead of ordering and paying for shipping costs. Last year I had very good luck with planting supermarket potatoes. Why not?

I also noticed I had a Yukon Gold that was beginning to sprout, so I added this to the collection that I put in a bag with airflow and hung in a cold dark area of the basement. I'll look for a few more varieties to add to my collection in the next few months. (Potato planting time is April 10-15.) I'm looking forward to a nice potato patch this year in my new community garden plot.

Solanum tuberosum

spring planting time line

I like to get a list of when and what to plant in the spring. Another way of working on the garden when its still the middle of winter. Also, I can get an idea of when I need to have the soil and pots and tables ready.

This year I'll use my fish tank light again as a good area to keep the soil warm for sprouting (>75F). It worked well for peppers last year. This year I'll plant peppers, tomatoes and squashes (cukes, zukes, watermelons, pumpkins) indoors.

Spring planting timeline:

February 15: Winter sowing in plastic bottles outside of perennial flowers: black-eyed Susan, daisy, delphinium, hollyhock and coneflower. Also experiment with this method of planting onions and dill by sowing small amounts of seed.
March 5-10: Sow kale, broccoli and lettuce seed indoors.
March 15: Sow pepper seed indoors.
March 20: Sow seed in home garden for peas and fava beans.
April 5: Sow tomato seed indoors.
April 10-15: Sow in home garden spinach, arugula, and radish seeds. Also, set out kale, broccoli and lettuce transplants at home.
April 15: Sow cucumber seed indoors.
April 20-30: Transplant pepper and tomato seedlings to larger pots indoors. Sow seed in home garden for spinach, more lettuce and peas. Sow beets, watermelon, pumpkin and summer squash seed indoors. In community garden, plant potatoes and onion sets, sow seed for radish, onions, carrots, parsnips and potatoes.
Our last frost date in my home garden is usually May 5-10. In the wide open community plot the last frost is said to be May 31!
May 15-20: Sow seed in home garden for beans and sunflowers. Set out dahlia tubers. Set out plants for tomatoes and cucumbers.
May 30: Set out peppers and eggplants in home garden (store-bought eggplant seedlings and home grown peppers). In community plot, sow soybeans, set out watermelon, pumpkin, and summer squash.

Tomato culture (from Johnny’s): Sow in flats, using soilless peat-based mix (NOT potting soil). 5-6 weeks before plants can be transplanted outside. Keep temperature of the starting mix at 75-90°F. When first true leaves develop, transplant into plug trays or 3-4" pots. Grow seedlings at 60-70°F. Fertilize with fish emulsion or a soluble complete fertilizer.

Cucumber culture: Sow indoors in 2" plug trays, 3 seeds/cell, 4-5 weeks before weather is warm and settled. Keep temp. above 70°F day and 60°F night. Transplant 12" apart in rows 5-6' apart. Do not disturb roots when transplanting.

Watermelons, pumpkin and summer squash: Sow indoors in 2-3" pots or cell-type containers one month before transplanting outdoors. Plant 3 seeds per cell, about 1/4" deep. Keep temperature 80-90°F until germination. Handle young plants carefully and never let the soil dry out. Grow seedlings at 75°F. Reduce water and temperature for a week to harden seedlings. Do not disturb roots when transplanting.

Sunflowers: Sow directly in garden. Dislikes root disturbance.

S&P

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

collecting plastic bottles

I'm going to try winter planting this year in plastic milk bottles. (Several bloggers have posted about doing this recently: wintersown.org, My Skinny Garden, Old Roses.) So, since it was recycling day in my town yesterday, I drove around and collected a dozen empty one gallon milk bottles. I have ordered a few types of seeds that I hope will do well with this simple method of planting:
Purple coneflower (Echinacea)
Zebrina hollyhock
Rudbeckia

I'm wondering if any vegetables/herbs would do well:
onions (from seed)
dill
lettuce
beets

S&P
winterplanting

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Monday, January 14, 2008

snow day

nose in the window
branches gate
So much for our winter thaw and the bare ground. Today we got about 8 inches of fresh white powder on the garden. A good day to stay inside and look out the window.

50,000!!!

cheers
Well my counter hit 50,000! Amazing. I have to take a minute to thank everyone who stops by my site.

I used to feel that gardening was a lonely activity. Occasionally one of my neighbors stops by and talks. Skippy always hangs out with me. But its different with a blog. I look around my garden and think - this is a story I could tell. And I take a photo and write up a post. Then I hear comments from all corners of the world. And from very close by.

I am very, very appreciative of every piece of gardening advice I receive. Also the greetings, compliments, suggestions and questions. These make an incredibly rewarding hobby even more so.

Cheers!
Kathy and Skippy

Topic: martini!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

mid winter thaw

winter thaw
top set shoot shoots garlic
After some very warm days and a lot of rain, my garden has thawed. I'm always surprised how much is growing, even in the middle of the winter. My winter rye crop is growing nicely. I use this as a cover crop over the whole garden - to add some organic matter. That's what all the grass-like shoots are.

My garlic top sets have turned into tiny little shoots. Last years garlic row surprisingly is a nice row again - I must have missed some cloves. This fall's garlic is OK too. Small, but OK.

lettuce greens
broccoli kale
I also found several little sprouts of pretty salad greens - volunteers, scattered here and there. I have two rows of lettuce I planted too late in the fall that is hanging in there. I wonder if it could overwinter an make an early spring crop? I have the same question about my late fall planting of broccoli. I wonder if it could overwinter? And the kale may still be OK in some areas, though a lot of it was very damaged by the cold days earlier this month.

It looks like winter will return tomorrow and my garden will again be under a thick blanket of snow. In the meantime, the warm thaw is a nice respite.

time for a celebration soon

Once my site meter hits 50,000, I think it will be an occasion for a celebration. Lets see - a nice carrot martini? I always like a cause for toasting.

Topic: martini!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

seed order

Last year I thought the 25 packs I ordered was too many. This year my list has 39 varieties. I am very excited about growing sweet peppers, lots of fresh green soy beans, many different colors of tomatoes, early carrots, and sweet white onions.

Sand Hill Preservation Center
Beets: Chioggia, Lutz, Ruby Queen
Carrots: Coreless Amsterdam, Oxheart
Parsnips: Cobham Improved Marrow
Kale: Tuscan, Red Russian Kale
Onions: White Portugal, Yellow Sweet Spanish
Peppers: Sweet Chocolate
Tomatoes: San Marzano, Giant Belgium, Purple Calabash, Cherokee Purple
Chickens: three buff Orpington female hatchlings (not)

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Beans: Isar, Tongue Of Fire, Flagrano
Soy beans: Envy, Butterbeans
Fava beans: Windsor
Carrots: Mokum
Cucumbers: Rocky
Kale: Winterbor
Lettuce: Royal Oak, Cherokee
Pepper: Carmen
Pumpkin: Big Rock
Radish: Cherriette
Summer squash: Zephyr, Starship
Tomatoes: Brandywine, New Girl, Pink Beauty, Big Beef, Orange Blossom
Snap peas: Sugar Sprint
Sunflowers: Ikarus, Lyng’s California Greystripe, Big Smile
Inoculants: Garden Combo (garden peas & beans), Soybean Inoculant, Pea Inoculant (for garden peas, field peas and fava beans)

I may also order a few heirloom potatoes from Ronniger Potato Farm. Their prices and selection seem good.

(About those chickens: just wishing. No one ships less than 25 chicks, and Sandhill doesn't sex the chicks, so I won't be able to order from them. And I want to get a permit, a brooder box and a coop set up before I order. A lot of work yet to do.)

S&P

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

garden plots under snow

gardens
stakes gate
skip
A good day for a walk through the community gardens. Temps were up in the 50s. Bright sunlight. Still a lot of snow. I'm sure it'll cool off again, but it's a nice midwinter respite.

communitygardening
Belmont Victory Garden

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

a plan for my new gardens

2008 plan0001
It seems like I will even have some extra gardening space this year. Very unusual for me. I'm used to squeezing in this here and that there. I don't have the plot assigned yet, so I don't want to be too certain about it, but I have been assured I will be able to get one. Drawing out a plan now gives me some idea of how many seeds to order.

S&P
gardenplan

Monday, January 07, 2008

leftover seeds

leftover seeds
Before I did too much circling in my catalogs, I checked out my leftover seeds. I was surprised to see so many. I won't need to buy as many new seeds as I thought this year. Between the leftovers and the ones I saved, I have many seeds.

I am excited about some little watermelon seeds I saved from a delicious melon I bought from my CSA. (I'm hoping it wasn't a hybrid.) I also have several types of wildflowers that I will plant outside in plastic milk bottles in February. Of course, I have my Capucijner peas. They look good. I'm hungry for another meal of these! I have at least half a package of each of my great green bean varieties from last year: Provider and Maxibel. I have lots of summer squash seeds, and peas and radishes. Some of these just didn't do well in my shady garden and this year I hope they will enjoy the sun of my yet-to-be-assigned community plot. Oh, and lots of Dukat dill seeds. And so many leftover lettuce seeds ...

S&P
Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum & Nakai, family Cucurbitaceae)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

catalogs!

catalogs
Don't you love garden catalog season. My favorite ones (Sand Hill and Johnny's) just arrived. They are in a stack next to my computer for quick access when I need a break from my work. I'm hoping to get my seed orders out soon.

S&P

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rain barrel info

Since I'd like to set up a rain barrel soon, I'm bookmarking this useful post on Garden Rant.

Friday, January 04, 2008

much too cold

cold spotty kale in bowl
kale in the snow
I'm hoping this is our coldest temperature of the year. 8 degrees F (or -13C)! Even too cold for my kale, which ended up with lots of little frozen spots on the leaves. Dinosaur kale is listed as cold hardy to 10F. I'm looking forward to the warming trend that is predicted for the coming week.

Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

capucijner peas for the New Year

baggie cooking peas
peas in a pan
peas and wine onion bacon and peas
dinner
I feel like its a BIG day! We ate my Capucijner peas tonight. Our first taste. Absolutely delicious!!!

I tasted them every step of the way. I'm not sure why the bacon is needed. Really like gilding a lily. The peas taste like ... peas. Almost like fresh summer peas in the middle winter. Aaahhh....

I found a simple recipe (below) for cooking Capucijner peas with bacon. The photo of the cooked peas at this site shows a nice pile of peas on the plate and sounds a lot like my aunt described eating often as she grew up in Holland.

Yesterday, I boiled the peas for about 30 minutes in just enough water to cover them. I had to keep adding more, since they really plumped up nicely and absorbed a lot of water. Then I let them soak overnight in the refrigerator.

As the recipe says, I cooked bacon, then sauteed onion slices in the bacon fat. I added the cooked bacon to the Capucijners as they warmed in their juices. (I tried not to snack on too many tasty little peas as they cooked....)

I served the cooked peas with a small piece of pork chop and a big salad with crumbled goat cheese and fresh picked Florida avocado. Not too bad at all with a nice glass of California chardonnay.

We ate my entire harvest tonight. It made two nice servings. I figure from the peas I saved for seed for next year, I will be able to grow about 10 times as much next year.

Here's a comment from Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots with lots of information about cooking Capucijners. When I get a bigger harvest, I'll try his soup.

Recipe from Klary Koopmans: "It's really easy. I usually fry up some smoked bacon lardons. The amount is really up to you - depending on how much you like bacon (smile.gif) When they are nice and crisp, I remove them from the pan (leaving the fat behind). In the bacon fat I fry a couple of onions, sliced into rings. When the onions are almost ready (nicely browned and crisp), heat up the capucijner peas. (heat them up in their liquid, don't let it come to the boil). Drain them, add the bacon, and warm through over low heat. Add a little pepper, you probably don't need salt because of the bacon. You could mix in the onions, but I like to serve them separately together with all the trimmings (mustards, pickles, etc.)

Pisum sativum
Skippy's vegetable recipes

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

capucijners

Happy New Year!

Usually I make a Dutch treat called "olebollen" (similar to apple fritters) on New's Years Eve. Because of my travels, I was too tired for that this year. Instead I am cooking my Capucijner peas.

I asked my aunt about how she remembers cooking these peas. She said she remembers eating them often while growing up in Holland. Usually as a pile of peas on the plate with salad and meat. She liked mixing them with the salad. She also said these peas have a different taste that not everyone likes. I am wondering if we will like the taste.

So, rather than making a soup, I am cooking my very small first harvest of Capucijners as with bacon as a "pile of peas". Today I boiled them and I am now letting them soak in water overnight. They plumped up nicely and smelled very tasty - rich and earthy - while cooking. Tomorrow, we will have them with our dinner.

Cheers! And best wishes for the new year.

Pisum sativum

little lemon tree

lemon tree baby lemon

Since I just posted photos of my parents great grapefruit tree, I thought I'd photograph my own little lemon tree. Its a Myers lemon. It is about 8 years old now. Here in Massachusetts, I have it in a pot and bring it inside every winter and outside every spring. Two years ago it produced 3 beautiful lemons, but none last year. This year I am being very nice to it. I re-potted it this summer, and am trying hard to remember to water it now. I have one blossom now that seems to be setting fruit. Meyers lemons are awesome in martinis!

Here's a link to a photo of my tree and a lemon from it two years ago.

The Meyer lemon (Citrus × meyeri) is a citrus fruit, native to China, thought to be a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin orange or sweet orange. The Meyer lemon was introduced to the United States in 1908 as S.P.I. #23028, by the agricultural explorer Frank Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China. It is commonly grown in China potted as an ornamental plant. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs. They’re sometimes smaller than a regular lemon, rounder in shape, with a thin, soft, and smooth rind which ranges from greenish when slightly immature to a rich yellow-orange when fully ripe. The rind lacks the typical lemon peel oil aroma and the pulp is darker yellow and less acidic than a regular lemon. The complex flavor and aroma hints of sweet lime, lemon and mandarin.(from Wikipedia and SplendidTable)

Topic: martini!

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