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.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

my first tomato

my first tomato
radish and tomatoes sandwich

My orange tomatoes have ripened first this year. This is a variety called Orange Blossom. Perfectly ripe today. I had a few slices on their own, the rest on a yummy steak sandwich for lunch. And then I had a second ripe orange tomato in a fresh potato salad for dinner. Delicious!

Of five Farmer's Market tomatoes I tried together last year, Orange Blossom one was the tastiest. It will look very nice with red and purple tomatoes when they ripen.

For the past three years now, my first ripe tomato has been on the same day - July 31! Here's my 2007 first, and here's my 2006 first. Hhmmm. Maybe next year I can beat this date....

I am still very disappointed in the tomatoes at my community plot. Gretta has a nice post on her site about septoria leaf spot, the disease my plants seem to have. These plants are almost completely defoliated now. This has to have an effect on the fruit. Fortunately, the tomatoes in my home garden are not affected at all. And I have one lone Cherokee Purple out at the community plot that I planted later and in a separate bed. These plants are looking very good, though the tomatoes are still green. I'm glad I didn't have all my eggs in one basket....

Solanum lycopersicum

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

skippy

skippy

Our community garden paths are lush now with the tall grasses and weeds of midsummer. So different from the mud paths and bare fences of spring. I'm hoping to get some time to weed whack a bit this week, though it is a busy one. It would be a perfect time to spend a morning in the garden searching through the squash vines and bean plants to see what's going on. Skippy would like that too.

Belmont Victory Garden
more pictures of skip
posts about Skippy

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

lots of carrots

three types of carrots
carrot sticks harvest bunches of carrots aond onions carrot and cranberry martinis

I have been pulling alot of carrots this past week. They are ripening fast.

I planted three varieties this year. In the top photo, Mokum is the bunch of five or so on the left, Oxheart is the two fat ones in the middle (also the sliced ones in the second photo with the giant cores), and two Coreless Amsterdam are at the right.

Mokum is an early variety that has been really nice. I recommend it and will plant it again next year. Nicely shaped bright orange roots. Gretta, the farmer at our local CSA recommended it to me. Thanks Gretta!

The Oxheart and Coreless Amsterdam are not ready for pulling yet. The first are big, but still very tart flavor. I think these will sweeten up later. Most of the Coreless Amsterdam are still quite small.

Last year I had trouble with my carrots. The root worms got to them. My neighbor Dave suggested that once the carrots sweeten up, the worms are probably more attracted to them. I bet he's right. So I am trying to pull all the carrots I can eat. Only minor root damage to far.

The other carrot pest in my community garden seems to be snails. They take big bites out of the carrots tops - but only a few carrots are affected. Not a concern worth worrying about yet.

Below is a photo of my carrot bed. I planted patches of carrots with onions in between. There are some big marigolds mixed in too that haven't flowered yet.


carrot bed

Daucus carota

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Friday, July 25, 2008

chinese beans

chinese beans

A real treat! My husband brought home these beautiful green beans yesterday. A colleague of his shared them with us. He grew them in his garden. I don't know the name of the variety, but these beans are really delicious. Very firm and crispy, with a tart lemony flavor. The shape and pale green color of these very long beans is really lovely. I just cooked them the way I usually cook beans, but I'm hoping to find a Chinese recipe for them. I am very excited that the gardener offered to share some seeds with me this fall!

Fabaceae

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

my first potato harvest

fresh potatoes
potatoes before potato bed after

I dug my first first potatoes today.

I have a very large patch devoted to potatoes this year. About 5 x 15 feet. I am happy it seems successful so far.

The plants grew nicely, flowered, and then this past week or so they started to die back. With all the rain, they got soggy (rotten stems, etc), and so today I chopped off all the stems and cleared the patch. Before and after photos are above.

I pulled a handful of potatoes that were up near the surface. Some were partly exposed and some I found with a shallow search in the dirt. I found a mix of red and pink and white baby potatoes.

I was very happy to mix these with our evening vegetables. They were excellent. Fresh and yummy. I like to parboil potatoes a few minutes and then sautée in olive oil with a mix of garden vegetables. Basic stuff.

Something about the combination of potatoes and beans is very nice. It is interesting that vegetables that ripen at the same time taste great together. Garlic, onions, potatoes, summer squash and beans are ready now and all are delicious together.

Recipe:
Chop into 1 inch pieces: fresh baby potatoes, pole beans, onions and sumer squash
Chop fine: garlic
Marinate: vegetables with garlic and olive oil
Parboil for 4 minutes: baby potatoes and beans
Sautée 2 minutes large skillet in olive oil: parboiled baby potatoes
Add to skillet: onions, squash and beans. Sautée until squash is tender and browned.
Add sea salt to taste.


potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)
harvests from my vegetable gardens

soggy garden

today's rainfall
tomatoes seedlings

All right, already with the rain! My garden has had plenty of water. Turn off the faucet.

My rain gauge says I got 2.5 inches of water in the past 2 days. This has been going on for at least a week now. We get these incredible thunderstorms about 3 or 4 times a days. Today I was lucky to squeeze in a dry 1.5 hour visit to the plot to work. I ran into the house as the next downpour started. (Fortunately, I checked interactive radar weather site before I went out!)

It is unusual summer weather for this area. How can one plan for this? I am glad I have a wide variety of vegetable crops in my garden. Some are doing well, some are not... The tomatoes and cukes are not appreciating the constant moisture. Sad because tomatoes are mine (and everyone's) favorite crop. The lower leaves just are so soggy, they turn yellow and then brown ...

However many vegetables are doing great. My beets are great - Chiogga and Lutz. Yummy. Also squash is doing too good (I give bags of it to anyone who visits me - lookout). Carrots, beans, radish are good. Broccoli is great too. And fava beans. I have a super potato crop starting now it seems - though its still underground.

My flat of fall seedlings are outside on my stone pathway, "getting some sun". Not. But they're out there just in case the sun comes out.

For sure, a dry clear blue day would be appreciated.....

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Skippy

skippy sits
skippy at the gardens 2 portrait
skippy runs
swimming hole skippy by the water

It was pointed out to me that I haven't been adding many photos of Skippy. And after all - its HIS blog! Well, here he is. He posed for a few shots at the community gardens, and a few shots caught him in action.

The last two shots show Skippy at the swimming hole. This brook runs near the community gardens and is full to the brim with all the rain we have had this week. Skippy had a great swim!

more pictures of skip
posts about Skippy

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

harvest

harvest

Here's yesterday's harvest. Skippy and I went out to our community plot with a big empty bag and came home with it full!

At the very far left is a little bit of spring broccoli that is still producing florets. Then come some tricolored radish that I just started pulling. They are very pretty and perfectly spherical. The cukes, a pickling variety and a slicing variety called Rocky, and are coming in fast now, though they are still small. I try to pick the summer squash small before it gets out of hand. This harvest has two patty pan (Starship and Sunburst). They are nice and sweet. I'm starting to pull lots of carrots now (I had a bunch more that I didn't wash for this picture). This variety is Mokum, my early carrots. My two other varieties are still growing. There are two varieties of beets here: Lutz (dark purple) and Chiogga (pale reddish). I cooked them tonight with their greens and the Chiogga are especially tender and sweet. At the far right are onions that are starting to bulb nicely. And last of all, a nice bunch of basil.

Its actually been several months now since I've been in a grocery store. That's one of my favorite parts of growing a vegetable garden. I buy meat at the local farmer's market or fish monger, and our milkman (Crescent Ridge Dairy) delivers dairy products. We make an occasional trip to Cost Co and that's all. We just eat lots of fresh summer vegetables.

I haven't photographed my lettuce in a while, but I've been supplying our salad bowl since May 31 without any purchased lettuce. My challenge is to make it through the summer heat. Last year I couldn't do this and had to buy it mid summer. Right now all of my spring sowings of lettuce have bolted and this week we'll eat the last of it. I'm hoping my Summer Crisp Batavian lettuce will be ready to harvest next week. This is a heat resistant crop recommended by Gretta, my local CSA farmer.

Daucus carota
beets (Beta vulgaris)

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Capucijner pea harvest

pea and hand 3
peas on the vine capucijner pea harvest

Pisum sativum
harvests from my vegetable gardens

grilled favas

grilled favas

We have been eating the young beans whole and shelling the older ones. Marinate in oil, garlic and herbs. Then grill. Delicious!

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Monday, July 21, 2008

one of my favorite gardens

blue door
blue door 2

Not my garden, but I wish it was.

I'm taking pointers from watching this gardener. Well spaced plants. Lots of soil covers. Beautiful varieties - great big dill, big purple eggplants.... And I LOVE the blue door. I'm always thinking of what to do with may garden next year, and here are definitely some ideas.

Belmont Victory Garden

melons and winter squashes setting fruit

baby watermelon
baby lakota baby bottle gourd
baby pam pumpkin
baby lakota baby big rock

I am having fun watching for baby melons. These are now setting fruit. I have heard that I should remove all but two fruits of the larger varieties.

The fruits above are large watermelon, Delicata squash, a large-fruited bottle gourd, Baby Pam pumpkin, Lakota squash and finally a Big Rock pumpkin.

The male flowers below are watermelon, a Big Rock pumpkin flower and a couple of bottle gourd flowers. The white gourds blossoms seem to open in the evening and the yellow melon and orange squashes in the morning. I suspect the white flowers are pollinated by moths at night and I know the bees frequent the melons and squashes.

FYI: I looked up some information tonight on the fruit set process. Of course, squash and melon flowers are either male or female. Female flowers have a baby fruit below the blossom and males don't. Pollination is needed for fruit set. Fruit set also requires a certain temperature range (not too hot) and a healthy vine. Fruit set occurs if the fruit continues to grow several days after the flower has shriveled and fallen off. If the female blossom was not pollinated, the fruit will not set.

Now that I have lots of baby fruits, I'm hoping for at least a few to set. Maybe I'll get a great big watermelon or pumpkin this year!

watermelon flower giant pumpkin flower
gourd blossom gourd flower

Here's a photo my dad sent me of a Delicata squash that has set and is growing nicely in his garden. Its supposed to be a very tasty heirloom winter squash. My neighbor gave me the seeds and my parents and I are looking forward to trying them.

Heirloom Squash Delicata

Cucurbita pepo (squash)

Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum & Nakai, family Cucurbitaceae)
Pumpkin -- Cucurbita spp.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

grape arbor

grapes 3 grapes 2
grapes 1 grape vine

My grape vines have lots of fruit now. Unfortunately, I don't prune these, so we don't get edible grapes. I think, because too many clusters form, none of them fully ripen before falling off. (Does this make sense?)

I don't tend them because don't like the taste of them. The variety is Catawba.

However, the birds love them, especially the cardinals. And the vines make a nice shaded area above the grill on my patio.

From Johnson Nursery:
The Catawba grape dates back to the early 1800's being found along the Catawba River in NC. The red grapes have a crisp flesh that is very sweet, and juicy. Great for fresh eating, juice and a pretty pink wine. The vine is vigorous and productive. Zones 5-8

From Wikipedia:
Catawba grapes were introduced to wine-growers in the 1800s by Major John Adlum of Georgetown, D.C.. Grown predominantly on the East Coast of the United States, this purplish-red grape has a rather sweet flavor. It is typically in season from September to November and can be used in wines, juice, jams and jellies. Although usually classified as Vitis labrusca, Catawba is widely believed to have at least some Vitis vinifera in its background. The grape can have a pronounced musky or "foxy" flavor, which some aficionados consider inferior to the flavor of V. vinifera, though others find it distinctive and pleasant.

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harvest

today's harvest

This is what I brought home from the garden yesterday. Needless to say, we are eating a lot of squash these days....

Cucurbita pepo (squash)

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

honey bee in flight

honey bee in flight

Cucumis sativus

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tomato supports

supports 9
supports 1 supports 3
supports 4
supports 5 supports 7
supports 6
supports 8 supports 11a
supports 11

While I was searching the community gardens for ripe tomatoes, I took pictures of all the different methods of supporting tomato vines that are in use in the plots. We have 100+ active lots now and its a great source of gardening information.

I think the best are the top photo. A traditional Italian design. (Its Gino's garden.) Simple. The wood posts hold the metal pipe and strings wrap around the vines. This is what I would like to try next year.

I always like the tepee structures too. The second large photo shows these. Someone has some very tall tepees. They look good. (They also have the white residue I assume is from spraying a fungicide.)

I can't quite figure out that the structure is in the third large photo. But the tomatoes seem happy.

Yes, those are my tomatoes in the last large photo. A rustic, make shift design. That's what happens when you start with tepees and then shift mid season to an upright design to let in more air and sun. Too much construction work. I'm looking forward to improving on this next year.


Belmont Victory Garden

tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

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