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, February 29, 2008

one week update

one week
This is the one week update for my winter sown bottles. No sprouts yet. No, I didn't expect there would be any yet. Just thought I'd check. I was impressed with all the condensation droplets inside the bottles. Since the temperature is in the teens now (11 F last night!), it seems to be staying MUCH warmer inside the bottles. Grow seeds, grow!!

winterplanting

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

gardening books

Earlier this winter I had a surprise email from a publisher. It turns out I sold my first photograph. (Yeahh!!!!) The publisher found the photo at my Flickr site. I'm not even sure what photo it is but it shows plants mulched with salt marsh hay. The photo is now in a paperback book titled "Complete Guide to Perennials (Miracle Gro)".

Since I'd like to see my picture, I'm ordering a copy. I'd also like to order another gardening book. What's the best gardening book? (Ordering gardening books seems like a nice wintertime "gardening" activity).

The best selling "gardening" book on Amazon is "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". I've already read that - I didn't really need a lecture about why to grow my own food - I'd prefer a nice how-to book.

So my picks were "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" by Edward Smith. Also "Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden" by Sally Jean Cunningham. I'm looking forward to reading these. Are there any great gardening books I'm missing?

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

blanketed beds

snow beds

Saturday, February 23, 2008

snow amounts

With another 10 inches of new snow on the ground, I'm hearing all sorts of snowfall stats on TV. We have had 50 inches of snow so far this year. Last year we had a grand total of 17 inches all winter. The average winter snowfall here in the Boston area is 43 inches. So, we're having a wild winter. And March is yet to come and often very snowy.

signs of spring

mallard pair in the snow hellebore bud
ducks in the snow hellebore leaves
I like to watch for signs of spring. Even though we are buried again under 10 inches of snow, there are some signs around. The water fowl are starting to pair off, the squirrels are chasing each other with great excitement, and the hellebore buds are swelling (I peeked last week before the snow).

sure signs of spring

winter seed bottles covered with snow!!!

Nine inches of snow are now on top of my seed bottles. Where is spring????

bottles


winterplanting
S&P

Friday, February 22, 2008

to add-ads or not to add-ads ...

that is the question...

Ten of the 31 blogs on my favorite blog list (31%) have ads on their site. My first day of ads got me only $xxx with 707 page views. And then there are the sites with the cool "ad-free-zone" buttons.

Such decisions...

gardening helper

Skippy watched as I planted seeds in milk bottles in the kitchen.
skippy in the kitchen
more pictures of skip

winter planting

kitchen project handful of dirt
seed packs on bottles dill bottle
bottles outside
Finally - I got to this project I've been looking forward to. A dozen milk bottles, a dozen packets of seeds, and a bag of dirt. It felt good to get my hands dirty again. Even if it was in the kitchen sink.

I found this method of planting at wintersown.org, My Skinny Garden, and A Gardening Year and am giving it a try for the first time this year. I have read that it works great for perennial flowers like black-eyed susans, coneflowers and hollyhocks.

I wondered if it will work for any vegetables. I tried dill and onions. I hope to find another bottle or two and try some lettuce later.

I can't wait to see what comes up. I'd love to have a garden full of flowers this year. They get pretty expensive to buy.

Here's the list of seeds I planted:

Delphinium Magic Fountains mix
Delphinium Fantasia mix
Hollyhock Zebrina
Rudbeckia Irish Eyes
Rudbeckia Indian Summer
Shasta Daisy Alaska
Purple Coneflower
Wild Heliopsis (I collected)
Wild Tansy (I collected)

Dukat Dill (I collected)
Onions, White Portugal
Onions, Sweet Yellow Spanish

winterplanting
S&P

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

google ads

Yippee! I made xxx! I added Google ads to my sidebar and in 4 hours I earned $xxx US. That'll add up to big bucks in a year: $xxx! Wow....

sunlight and shadows

sun saucer
path glowing branches
In late February, the sunlight is becoming beautiful. Even early in the morning it is bright and happy. I tried to find the best way to photograph it. Is it shadows or shine or refracted colors that capture it best? Whatever, its starting to feel nice.

sill

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

lettuce seeds

lettuce seeds
This year I have a ton of left over lettuce seeds. I only ordered a few new ones. Since I have such a nice collection, I did some research on lettuce types and characteristics.

There are five distinct types of lettuce: leaf, Cos/romaine, crisphead (Iceberg types), butterhead, and Batavian/summercrisp.

Lettuce is a fairly hardy, cool-weather vegetable that thrives between 60 and 70°F. At high temperatures, growth is stunted, leaves are bitter, and the plant bolts. Some types and varieties of lettuce withstand heat better than others. The crispheads are slowest to bolt, then summercrisps, butterheads, leaf lettuces and finally cos types.

These are the varieties of lettuce I have in my collection, ordered by type:
Leaf types:
Green Royal Oak: Early variety, tender and long standing. The leaves are heat resistant and dark green. Not bitter. 40 days
Black Seeded Simpson: A large upright, compact leaf-type lettuce with light green, wide, curled leaves. It is a very early, dependable and productive variety that is very heat tolerant and slow to bolt. Introduced in the 1870's by Peter Henderson & Co. Sweet and tender leaves, light yellow-green, very popular. 45-60 days
Prizehead: Despite the name, it is a non-heading, leaf lettuce. Leaves are upright, deeply curled, broad and light green. Prizehead was named after the island off of South Carolina and released in 1952 by Clemson Agricultural Experimental Station and the USDA. 55 days

Cos or Romaine types:
Red Romaine (my hand collected seeds): Delicious, flavorful lettuce brings color and zest to salads. The red coloring develops best in cool weather.

Summer crisp or Batavia types:
Cherokee: F1 hybrid. Thick, crisp, dark red leaves with good flavor. Very slow bolting with excellent tolerance to heat and bottom rot. 48 days

Butterhead types:
Merville de Four Seasons (Marvel of the Four Seasons) or its true (french) name, Merveille des Quatres Saisons. Also (Italien) Quattro Stagioni. This lettuce seems to go by many names. I have two packs, each with different variations of the name. Merveille is an old French heirloom lettuce originally introduced commercially in 1885. It produces 8 to 12 inch heads. The leaves are a creamy yellow to light green color and are tipped with a beautiful reddish-bronze color on the outer leaves. For beauty, Marvel of the Four Seasons is one of the most striking and gorgeous lettuces available. Features an excellent flavor and does well in all types of climates. Can be sown spring and fall and is resistant to cold. 40 to 55 days
Burpee Bibb: Bibb owes its name to John Bibb who developed this variety in Kentucky from Boston lettuce in the 1850s. The Burpee catalog says this Burpee bred variety is the sweetest Bibb lettuce ever. Heads have tender, dark green outer leaves that are tinged with brown and creamy yellow inside. 75 days
Big Boston: You can tell Bibb lettuce from Boston lettuce because Boston's leaves are wider and lighter green than Bibb. Big Boston has light green and brown-tinged leaves. This variety was apparently first offered in the US by Peter Henderson & Co. in 1890. Originally from France, it was renamed Big Boston by Henderson. 70 days

Miscellaneous Greens:
Fall greens mix (Sandhill Preservation Center): A mix of greens including lettuce, chards, greens, Chinese cabbage, spinach, and endive that is designed to be planted in the late Summer (early to late August here in Iowa) to be harvested from mid-September until the ground freezes.
Arugula (Eruca sativa)
Endive (Cichorium endivia), Blonde Full Heart: A popular escarole type and one of the few well known to American gardens. Elongated, non-heading broad leaves with a yellow heart have good flavor and color. This is a endive is adapted to a wide range of climates. 65 days

I plan to experiment with winter planting of lettuce ASAP in plastic bottles. My first garden planting will be March 20, I hope. Lettuce and peas will be my first vegetables planted in the spring garden.

Lactuca sativa

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Monday, February 18, 2008

a warm day in february

garden clean up
It was a day to be outside. Nice and warm (60's!), though dark and damp. Our snow cover is gone - for the time being. I enjoyed catching up on some of that fall clean up I never did. Still lots more to do.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

seasonal martinis

As I mentioned in my last post, I enjoy eating (and drinking!) seasonally. These martinis are some of my favorites. They aren't like the fancy sweet martinis on restaurant menus. I don't like too much flavor to overwhelm the beverage, just a bit of color or spice to complement the gin and celebrate the season. martinis chair
Summer martini: I like very fresh cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and little pink radishes.
garden martini martini with pepper.0
Fall/Winter martini: A spicy slice of chile pepper wrapped around and onion or olive, or carrots and celery.
black radish martini snow martini
Winter/spring: A frosty white version with cocktail onions and a black radish slice.

Always good in a Martini: Picholine olives and Peppadew red peppers.

Of course, the possibilities are endless. Many more veggies to try this year.

Topic: martini!

Friday, February 15, 2008

round black Spanish radish

two black radishes black radish seed packet
black radish martini black radish slices

black radish on salad
Last year I bought some radish seeds called a round black Spanish. Well, they didn't even sprout for me, but I'll try again this year and give them more sun. In the mean time, I was surprised to come across the same radish in my local supermarket. It was grown in Vermont.

It turns out that the round black Spanish radish is a nearly forgotten vegetable. It is quite bitter when eaten fresh, but is a good keeper and mellows with time. I was a bit hesitant to try it, but I found it delicious! A nice sweet taste and definitely lots of radish flavor.

I'm finding these days that my tastes have become quite seasonal. I like the taste of summer vegetables in the summer and winter vegetables in the winter. The round black Spanish radish is a nice winter vegetable - perfect for this time of year. I put it on a green salad with apples and onions. Also, not bad in a martini, though this may be an acquired taste. I like the icy white look of the rolled radish and cocktail onions.

Topic: martini!


radish (Raphanus sativus)

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

the big dog show

Skippy's cousin Sam was in the Westminster Dog Show yesterday! He looked awesome! Congratulations to Sam and his owners.

happy valentine's day

heart cookies valentine's day card
I got yummy cookies for Valentine's day! Delicious.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

tomato seeds

seeds
These are the tomato varieties I'm growing this year. I haven't grown tomatoes from seed for many years. By growing my own, I'm looking forward to having more unusual varieties. I have ten varieties so far. They should be planted indoors around April 5th.

Heirlooms:

Brandywine: One of the best-tasting tomatoes. Brandywine's luscious flavor is "very rich, loud, and distinctively spicy." The large fruits, often over 1 lb., have deep pink skin and smooth red flesh. 78 days.

Cherokee Purple: Unusual variety with full flavor. Pre-1890 Tennessee heirloom is reportedly of Cherokee Indian origin. Ripens to a unique dark, dusky pink/purple. Sometimes called a 'black' tomato, the color carries though to the flesh, especially at the stem end. Relatively short vines. 72-85 days.

Giant Belgium: Huge pink, somewhat Beefsteak type fruits. Plant produces good yields of 2 lb to 5 lb dark pink beefsteak tomatoes. Tomatoes are very sweet, meaty, and turn dark pink when mature. A low acidity tomato that is excellent for salads, sandwiches, and canning. So huge you only need one slice per sandwich. An heirloom variety from Ohio. 85 days.

Oxheart Red: An old-fashioned favorite with heart-shaped pink fruit that weigh up to 1 pound. Beautiful big, oval, pointed fruit with a fine sweet old time flavor! The meaty fruit have few seeds. Wonderful for sauces and cooking. 80 days.

Purple Calabash: Unusual heirloom. Oblate, very wrinkled, dark pink-purple flattened, with 3 to 4 oz. fruit. The ribbed, bulbous, and scarred Purple Calabash tomato dates back to pre-Columbian Mexico. The Aztecs combined this "xitomatl" with hot peppers and ground squash seeds to make a salsa that would accompany fish and meat. The flavor of the Purple Calabash is rich and concentrated like a slowly simmered sauce. Fantastic fresh, this tomato shines in sauces and pastes. 75-90 days.

San Marzano: 3 to 6 oz. paste type. The perfect start to the perfect pizza. Tall vines produce heavy yields of long, cylindrical fruit a week earlier than other San Marzano varieties. Delicious, balanced acidic flavor, and meaty flesh. 78 days.

Hybrids:

Big Beef: Nice combination of size, taste, and earliness. Full-flavored, globe-shaped fruits ripen early for their size. 1994 All-America Selections winner. 70 days.

New Girl: First early, great taste. Better tasting and more disease resistant than Early Girl. Holds better than First Lady II. Widely adapted. 62 days.

Orange Blossom: The best early orange tomato. Medium-firm, globe-shaped fruits average 6-7 oz., have a nice texture, and are mildly flavored, balanced with a little acidity. Developed by Dr. Brent Loy, Univ. of New Hampshire. Determinate. 60 days.

Pink Beauty: Perfect, pink, medium-size, 6-8 oz., flattened globes have full, rich tomato flavor. One of the best tasting tomatoes in trials. Healthy plants produce firm, blemish-free fruit. 74 days.

Solanum lycopersicum

Friday, February 08, 2008

skippy in the snow

skippy
We've had a very pretty snowfall over the past couple days. Fluffy white powder. Just what Skippy likes.

more pictures of skip
posts about Skippy

Thursday, February 07, 2008

garden timeline

Garden timeline
This shows the timing of my crops last year. Harvest spanned half a year.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

garden poetry

putting in the seed
This is a great poem, so I am posting it again. This time the full version. With it are some photos of Skippy and my garden from last spring. Ahhh, the Spring. Soon another will come ....

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

colored pencil faucet

colored pencil faucet
I've been playing with Photoshop.

Monday, February 04, 2008

dull, dark and snowy

faucet winter garlic
field barrow
Skip and I took a walk through the community gardens today. I thought I'd take some pretty garden photos, but no such luck. Its still dull, dark and snowy. Seems to be some real nice garlic in one garden. Idle tools in others. All the plots are still sleeping.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

lost week

Well I suppose it wouldn't be a true New England winter experience without your basic winter cold. Thank goodness that's out of the way now. But today, as I got outside to walk Skippy for the first time since I posted my smiling face last week, I felt a bit like a groundhog emerging from hibernation. The sun has gotten noticeably brighter and most of our snow has melted with the heavy rain last night.

Its nice to welcome in February. We're that much closer to spring planting. I look forward to watching the pea planting season move from south to north and gradually up closer to me. One of the fun things about reading garden blogs.















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    kathy@skippysgarden.com














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