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, April 29, 2008

garden blogging presentation

For the first time I will do a presentation on garden blogging! I do scientific presentations regularly, but now a group has invited me to speak about my hobby. The event is the Squirrel Brand Community Garden Spring Kickoff. Its on Saturday, May 10, 10-4:15, Squirrel Brand Community Garden, between Boardman and Broadway streets in Cambridge MA. (Here's their discussion board.) Stop by if you're in the area! My talk is at 10 am.

Monday, April 28, 2008

carrot bed

planted carrot bed
Yesterday morning I planted a bed full of carrots, parsnips and onions at my new community garden plot. I planted seeds for the carrot varieties Mokum, Oxheart and Coreless Amsterdam and the parsnip variety Cobham Improved Marrow. Also Stuttgart onion sets. I alternated carrots with onions, hoping the rabbits won't smell the carrots with all the onion smell. We have two days of rain coming, so I think they'll get off to a good start.

Daucus carota

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rock meadow victory gardens

gardens
The gardens are starting to show some color.

keeping my tomato seedlings warm

thermometer hoop house
tomato seedlings seedlings
We're having some cool, wet spring weather this week. I was worrying about my tender little tomato sprouts that have been out in my mini hoop house all last week.

I looked up the minimum temperature for tomato seedlings. 50 degrees F. I also put a little temperature probe in the outdoor hoop house. Its 49.8 F out there this morning. So I brought the tomatoes seedlings inside.

I don't have much table space inside, especially with bright light. But I gave the tomatoes seedlings the good spot with the lights (its 71F under the lights) and moved the peppers to an east window sill. My recently seeded beets, basil, cukes and squashes are near the tomatoes, as close as I can get them to the lights. In the hoop house are marigold, cosmos, aster, lettuce and onion seedlings.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

april flowers

April wild flowers
My blog needs a bit of color now and then. It tends to be all dirt brown and a little green at this time of year. There are no vegetable flowers in my garden yet.

Here are the "wild" flowers blooming around Fresh Pond (Cambridge MA) at this time of year. (Many were recently planted by the Town.) I know names of a few (58%) and wish I knew more. From top left, by row: yellow anemone (Anemone ranunculoides), ??, forsythia (Forsythia europaea), wild violet (Viola papilionacea), ??, Northern Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), ??, ??, Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and ??. If you know any of the unknowns, please let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

seeds from Dave

seeds from dave
My neighbor brought over these seeds this morning. They're leftovers of his favorite pumpkins and squashes from previous garden years. I love sharing seeds. I'll try a few of each and see what I can grow. Thanks Dave! I'll have tomato and pepper seedlings soon to trade.

Cucurbita pepo (squash)

Pumpkin -- Cucurbitaceae spp.

soil test results

My soil test results took just under two weeks to come back. I sent them the University of Massachusetts Soil Lab. Here's a previous post with more information.

I sent in three samples: 1-a new bed adjacent to my house, 2-my established home raised beds, and 3-my new community plot.

1-new bed adjacent to my house:
soil pH 6.4, buffer pH 6.6
nitrogen 13 ppm (add), phosphorus 22 ppm (sufficient), potassium 281 ppm (sufficient)
Micronutrient levels : all normal
Organic matter 16.6% (very high)
Lead: elevated

Recommendation: Adjust pH by adding 12 lbs lime per 100 sq ft. Add 1/4 lb nitrogen per 100 sq ft either as a complete fertilizer (e.g. 2-3 lbs 10-10-10 per 100 sq ft) or an alternate nitrogen source (e.g. 3-4 lbs dried blood 12-0-0 per 100 sq ft). For elevated lead, recommendations include grow only fruiting crops, grow ornamentals, remove a layer of soil and replenish with clean topsoil, use containers, create raised beds of at least 6 inches depth.

2-my established home raised beds:
soil pH 6.7, buffer pH 6.8
nitrogen 11 ppm (add), phosphorus 28 ppm (sufficient), potassium 116 ppm (sufficient)
Micronutrient levels : all normal
Organic matter 11.2% (very high)
Lead: low

Recommendation: Add 1/4 lb nitrogen per 100 sq ft either as a complete fertilizer (e.g. 2-3 lbs 10-10-10 per 100 sq ft) or an alternate nitrogen source (e.g. 3-4 lbs dried blood 12-0-0 per 100 sq ft).

3-my new community plot
soil pH 5.8, buffer pH 6.0
nitrogen 13 ppm (add), phosphorus 12 ppm (sufficient), potassium 157 ppm (sufficient)
Micronutrient levels : all normal
Organic matter 13% (very high)
Lead: low

Recommendation: Adjust pH by adding 20 lbs lime per 100 sq ft immediately, add an additional 13 lbs lime per 100 sq ft in small applications over successive tillings in the spring and fall. Add 1/4 lb nitrogen and 1/4 phosphorus per 100 sq ft either as a complete fertilizer (e.g. 3-4 lbs 5-10-5 per 100 sq ft) or alternate nitrogen and phosphorus sources.

topic: soil

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Friday, April 25, 2008

community gardens

skippy and I checked out the other plots
Skippy and I took a walk around the gardens today. Trees are leafing out. Violets and forsythia are blooming. Beautiful. Can you see my gate in the background? Soon it will age and blend in.

Belmont Victory Garden

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planting potatoes

potatoes sprouting spud
planted
My first crop is planted at my new community garden. Yippee!! (I know, it just looks like a pile of dirt.)

I've been saving old potatoes to plant and they were growing before they hit the dirt. I have read warnings not to use supermarket potatoes for seed because of sprout inhibitors. It appears any of these have worn off of these spuds.

I use the trench method to plant potatoes. I dug a little trench and spread out the potatoes. I then planted each, sprouts up, about 3-4 inches deep. As they grow, I'll cover in the trenches. When the soil is level, if there's space between the rows, I'll plant a companion crop. Probably basil, eggplants or marigolds.

My soil test results came back yesterday. I'll eventually post the numbers. The soil pH in my community plot is very low, 5.8, which is perfect for potatoes. The soil needed a bit of nitrogen and phosphorus, but the potassium was good. I added a few cups of 6-6-4 fertilizer to the soil before planting. Now I can watch for sprouts.

Solanum tuberosum

Thursday, April 24, 2008

mini hoop house

mini hoop house
This morning I quickly assembled a little hoop house to protect my freshly transplanted seedlings. I used PVC pipes and covered them with a few layers of row cover. The seedlings are all in their pots/trays underneath.

I made this hoop house to give the plants a little protection from the bright sun. It dries out the little pots so quickly. The breeze dries them out too. The 3 layers of fabric should let in about 70% of the sunlight and will hold in moisture. It'll also keep the trays warmer at night.

If it gets too cold, I'll bring the trays inside overnight. I don't expect to be able to plant the tomatoes and peppers until May 15 in my home garden. That's another 3 weeks.

Update on Saturday, April 26:
I changed the covering on my hoop house to a mid-weight clear plastic. It looks better. Also, I think the peppers did not like being outside at this temperature (day time highs of about 50-60, occasionally 70 or 80 F, nights usually down to 40 F). I brought them inside. Everything else seems fine, i.e. tomatoes, lettuce, marigolds, asters, hyssop, cosmos, ...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

transplanting tomatoes and peppers

tomato sprouts san marzano
seedlings
This was my garden work for today. I spent a pleasant hour in the backyard this evening transplanting several trays of peppers and tomato seedlings. They have all grown up well, with the exception of the last two rows of tomatoes. They fried in the sun today since the plastic cover didn't cover them properly. I lost all of my New Girl seedlings. Oh well....

I was transplanting the small tomatoes seedlings from the crowded seeded tray I started them in, into larger individual pots. The pots and trays of transplanted seedlings are all out in the yard now. Its gotten so warm! Wonderful. Today was close to 80 degrees F!

I think I'll cover these freshly transplanted seedlings tomorrow to protect against the bright sunlight. (Not quite sure how to do this yet... Lattice, row cover, both?) Plus I'll activate my sprinklers about 10 am to give good soaking prior to the heat.

seed potatoes

potatoes
I have a lot of potatoes that I've been saving. They are very anxious to get into the ground. All are sending out sprouts. All are supermarket spuds. I thought the mail order seed potatoes were too expensive. Last year supermarket my potatoes grew great.

My collection includes a nice Idaho baker, a Yukon Gold, a whole bag of mixed fingerlings (a mix of La Ratte, Russian Banana, French and Rose Finn), and a white sweet potato.

My plan is that Friday is potato planting day. This will be my first crop planted at my community plot! Exciting.

Solanum tuberosum

bird house and bluebird update

birdhouse
My dad helped me with putting up a bird house at my plot. Well, he actually transported it, dug the hole, and put it up for me. I can't say I did more than take the photos. Thanks Dad! Its an old chickadee house that was in my backyard with no residents for many years. I'm hoping it may find an occupant at the gardens.

Here's an update on the bluebirds nesting in Rock Meadow. My parents and I went for a walk and checked the houses where I previously saw nesting bluebirds. I had seen three pairs. (My photos are here.) But that was before the tree swallows arrived. Now we could only find one of the pairs left. Its in a house at the far end of the meadow. The swallows are very aggressive and as we watched, it they swooped and dove at the bluebirds. I wonder if the bluebirds will stay to raise a family? Doesn't really seem likely. I'll keep an eye on them. Here's an excellent article on swallow-bluebird competition, that Jim pointed out to me. I was pleased to read that, though swallows are aggressive, bluebirds are larger and stronger and are able to defend themselves. Go bluebirds!

gardenbirds

Rock Meadow Conservation Land, Belmont

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Monday, April 21, 2008

more sowing

seed tray
I am doing some more indoor seed sowing today. Its time to start the squashes, watermelon and cukes. I'll also sow some beets, basil and zinnias. And some more onions, lettuce and marigolds. Probably about one 6-pack of each - not very many. I have a nice pane of glass I found, so I will try to construct a cold frame and leave these new trays out in my side yard. The weather is getting quite mild and my sprinklers make watering easy.

The squashes, beets, onions and flowers are for my sunny community plot. Cukes, basil and lettuce are for my home garden. Its new for me to start so many seedlings in trays rather than sowing directly in the garden (or buying seedlings). I have seen that's how our local real farmer (Belmont CSA Farm) does 90% of her seeding.


Cucurbita pepo (squash)


Cucumis sativus

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

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birds in the meadow

flasher4 flasher1
flasher3 flasher2
Can I get any help in identifying this wing flasher I saw in Rock Meadow yesterday? Mockingbird? Shrike?

The meadow and woods adjacent to my community garden has great wildlife. This weekend I flushed a pair of wood ducks in the woods by the stream. I still haven't seen the noisy ring necked pheasant, but I keep looking. I'd like to check for the nesting bluebirds again today.

garden birds (Hortus Aves)
Belmont Victory Garden

Rock Meadow Conservation Land, Belmont

fence day 2

fence
gate fenced plot
chicken wire aerial fence
The fence is pretty much done. I need to add chicken wire at the bottom to the last two sides, fill in the dirt along the outside bottom, then move the rocks up against the fence to make more room for plants.

garden structures

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

new fence - day 1

corner rocks tie wraps
posts
My new community garden fence is looking good. I had super helpers. We bought posts, fencing and door materials, moved rocks from the perimeter, pounded in posts and attached the fencing all around using tie wraps. Its a green vinyl coated fence with 2 by 3 inch openings. 5 feet high. I'll dig in chicken wire about 4 inches deep and 1.5 feet tall all around the bottom later. (This is because of the very aggressive woodchucks all the gardeners tell stories about.) The door posts are 4 by 4 inch pine posts. My husband is making a door today. Its going to look really nice.....

garden structures

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garden plan

garden plan
Here's a drawing of my current plan for my community garden plot. (It's almost legible - my writing is not the best.) I've changed from rows to beds. I'm going to experiment with companion planting this year, so I hope to mix in herbs or flowers with many of my crops.

Sally Cunningham the author of Great Garden Companions recommends tansy with beets. I have some nice tansy sprouts from winter sowing. What do you think about putting this aggressive (and pretty) plant in my plot? Tansy may repel potato beetles and squash but more importantly and it attracts a broad range beneficial insects.

gardenplan
garden planning (drawings and diagrams)

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

work in the dirt Saturday

Today is a big work day: CSA volunteer morning at Gretta's farm. Then we are installing a fence around my community plot.

Friday, April 18, 2008

first day of the sprinklers

sprinklers
A little yellow and gray warbler was having fun under the water. He was too quick for me to photograph.

welcome home gift

garden gift
My parents have returned from the South to their Massachusetts home. (Another sign of Spring!) Skippy and I are visiting today. I have a little package for them - to help start their garden. A few seed packets (nasturtiums, beans, spinach and a summer crisp lettuce). Also plant labels and marker pen. I have a lot of seedlings for them too, but they're not ready yet.

garden gifts

sure signs of spring

row cover for broccoli

covered  row
under the row cover covered broccoli
This morning I covered my broccoli and kale seedlings with row cover to protect against the caterpillar of the cabbage white butterfly. Gretta says there are also flea beetles around. Both are a real problem and will eat the seedings down to nothing. So these guys get to be covered all season. Later I'll make taller hoops.

cabbage white butterflies (Pieris rapae)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

spring flowers

azaleas
forsythia scilla
Spring comes very fast once it starts.

lots of pea sprouts

peas
My neighbor was surprised at how dense I planted my peas. Well I didn't expect them all to sprout. How dense do you plant your peas? I have a nice row of sprouts about 8 inches wide and 3 feet long. I'm planting similar rows as soon as the previous sprouting comes up. The photo shows Pisello Nano, a very short (1 foot tall) green shell pea.

mouse and trowel nominees

Here are the 2008 Mouse and Trowel nominees. Good luck to all. I am glad to see that a lot of the blogs I voted for won nominations.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

plot aerial

plot aerial
I thought I was going to fall and kill myself, but no, I survived perching on a tall thin stump to take this photo. I think from this view you get a good sense of the plot and surroundings. You can see the meadow to the right. The surrounding plots. And you can see all of my plot. I have now finished turning the soil, and I've marked out the plot perimeter, doorway and the beds. Now I have to try to stay away from the plot for a few days to catch up on my work and the yard work at home. It won't be easy....

Here's a slide show of some photos from my plot today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

soil samples sent

I just mailed out my soil samples. Just so I remember: sample 1 is from the new plot adjacent to my house, sample 2 is from my old raised beds, sample 3 is from my new community garden plot. I think its likely the soil adjacent to my house will be contaminated with lead and I will need to abandon this plot. We'll see. The results should be back in 1-2 weeks.

topic: soil

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Monday, April 14, 2008

photos of my new plot

my plot 1 my plot 2
my plot 3 my plot 4
plot dog 2 plot dog
Here are photos of my plot from all angles. (Plus the plot's guard dog.) My plot is just bordered by rocks so far. (My rock garden.) I hope to put up a new fence this weekend. I've turned about 2/3 of the soil so far.

We went to the plot early this morning to do an hour of digging. I had to tug on Skippy to get him to leave. He's quite at home there. He got a bad stomach ache from eating too much grass around the plot on our first day there. And he was pleased to be able to do some of his own digging in the dirt.

Now that the excitement of the new plot has worn off a bit, I've been able to make more accurate measurements of the plot. The long sides measure 25 feet and the short sides are 14 feet. That's 350 square feet! And I need 78 feet of fence.

I have had some good advice to skip the raised beds since I have good soil. I think the next step will be to mark out beds (about 3.5 by 7 feet each, like my home beds) with string and stakes. Then I'll put wood chips in the paths. I think I'll move the door way from the back side to the front corner, which means a little rock moving.

The fence will go just outside the rocks. I think the rocks will be a useful resource. They will make a nice bench. Maybe other uses.

more pictures of skip

tomato sprouts

tomato seedlings
Lots of little seedlings!

Solanum lycopersicum

Sunday, April 13, 2008

my new community garden plot

My new plot measures 12 ft by 21 ft. Its in the full sun, with the exception of a nice little lilac bush just outside of the plot in the northeast corner. It is surrounded by a low border of stones. No fence yet - that's one of the things on my to-do list. It up on a little rise, maybe a foot or so higher than most of the plots, which are to the south and west of mine. The plot itself is level.

The plot is on the east edge of the gardens, with no one to my east side. I border on a wide open meadow. I have a good view of a nesting box with a pair of bluebirds. I share my north fence with a friendly new gardener, who is thrilled to now have more space than her apartment stairwell for gardening. The other sides are paths.

The soil is very dark and rich as this plot appears to have been tended well over the years. It had some debris from last year's crop on it when I began work yesterday. I removed tomato vines, rosemary and basil plants. There is a nice oregano plant that I left in the northwest corner, and a few mini rose bushes that I left along the north edge. I also helped myself to some rhubarb that was discovered in a abandoned plot and put this in the northeast corner under the lilac bush.

While working my plot, the plot's gardener from last year came over and introduced herself. She said the plot was heavily shaded last year by trees to the east that were removed this fall as part of a restoration project of the adjacent meadow. She admired how sunny the plot was now, but said she just wanted to start fresh on a new plot. She now has a nice new plot, too.

Yesterday I cleaned debris from the plot and started turning the soil. I figure I'll just turn the whole plot first and then mark out beds. I may see if I can make raised beds using timber from old pallets available for free from the hardware/garden store nearby. I collected a soil sample to send out for analysis.

Things to do:
1. Make a good fence, high enough for deer, since I'm on the outside edge of the gardens.
2. Finish turning the soil.
3. Send out my soil sample.
4. Make an area with some shade for Skippy and a bench for me.
5. Remember to wear sunscreen and a hat next time I go there. (I have a red face from yesterday as I'm not used to gardening in the sun.)
6. Pick up the free pallets useful for raised beds, bench, shade arbor or fence.
7. Mark out beds. Make raised beds. Line with wood or maybe leave unlined this year.
8. Bring in wood chips for paths (supplied by town).
9. Find another garden shovel to leave at the plot.
10. Move my two espaliered pear trees to the plot edge on the new fence.
11. PLANT! Its already time to plant most of what I'm planning to grow there.

Belmont Victory Garden

Saturday, April 12, 2008

its plot assignment day !!!!!

my new plot
I was assigned a FANTASTIC plot!!! I could not have hoped for a nicer one. About 12 ft by 21 ft, with beautiful rich soil. Full sun. In the general location I was hoping for. AWESOME! And, a I met really nice group of gardeners at the plot assignment/clean up event today. More than 50 gardeners turned out to clean up the common areas, and 18 new plots were assigned to new gardeners. Such fun! I'll post more details later. I've got gardening to do now....

Belmont Victory Garden

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