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.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

my first lettuce harvest

lettuce harvest lettuce bed
I harvested three heads of lettuce yesterday. They made a delicious salad. I will try now to see if I can keep our salad bowl full until October without buying lettuce. I have to keep seeding....

Lactuca sativa (click here to see more lettuce photos)

harvests from my vegetable gardens

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checking on the brassicas

uncovered
cabbage worm kale
I have kept my kale and broccoli under row cover to protect them from the cabbage worms. Today I peeked under for a check. I found five fat green cabbage worms helping themselves to the broccoli. Not too much damage, but the idea was to have no damage. It looks like I will need to replace the cover with one that has fewer holes in it. I left the five fat worms out on the walkway for the hungry baby sparrows and robins.

I think also think the broccoli should be bigger by now. It should be heading. Not sure, but it seems like it. I'm thinking about moving them to my sunnier community garden this weekend.

Brassicaceae

Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group)

Friday, May 30, 2008

robin fledgelings

fledgeling 2
mrs robin fledgelings
I was enjoying watching a couple of American robin fledglings in my yard today. The mom is busy tending them. In the bird house next my home garden, the sparrows must have just hatched as I can hear a quiet peeping coming from inside. I bet the bluebirds at the meadow are busy feeding young, too.

garden birds (Hortus Aves)

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

fava blossoms

fava flowers 2
fava flowers 1 favas
Last year I planted fava beans (broad beans) for the first time. I was served delicious grilled fava beans at the East Coast Grill and was determined to grow some myself! I planted them in my shady home garden. But they were totally eaten by black aphids before the beans formed. This year, I planted them at my community plot which has incredibly full sunlight. NO APHIDS YET!!! The plants are blooming and I'm keeping my fingers crossed....

Vicia faba

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evening shadows

community garden plot

(I'm working on rolling that rock out of my garden...)

potato plot with marigolds

marigolds and potatoes
potato plot with marigolds flea beetles on potatoes
The marigolds I added to the potato bed look very nice. It distracts me from looking at the flea beetles and all the little holes in the potato leaves. So that's good. I'm not sure how to tell if they help. I probably need to give it some time and see if the beetles go away.

By the way, the wood slats between the potato rows are for me to step on without making footprints that compress the soil. I made this bed a little too wide....

Other potato companions are beans and eggplants. I planted soybean seeds in a row next to the potatoes and they are just starting to sprout. I bought a 6-pack of eggplant seedlings that I'll plant in this bed soon. It was the last pack of eggplants at the nursery I went to. I'm looking for another pack to add in. I'll plant these in those empty spaces...

Solanum tuberosum

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

flea beetles on my potatoes

I just got back from a quick check of my community plot. LOTS of flea beetles on the potatoes! I didn't notice them yesterday. They have chewed lots of tiny holes in the potato leaves making them look like fine lace.

It seems the recommended organic control for flea beetles is to either use row cover before the pests emerge (too late for this) or companion plant with marigolds and beans. This I can do. It will look pretty!

Solanum tuberosum

Monday, May 26, 2008

random news

My peas and favas are blooming!

I have given away or planted myself most the 70-80 tomato seedlings I planted. Only 15 left to go. And I think I have homes for these.

I moved spinach seedlings to my community plot today. Not growing well at home. Maybe its a plant that needs more sun.

My first soybean sprouted today.

I'll harvest my first head of lettuce very soon. This week I think. This will be an exciting event. Once I start harvest, I hope not to buy more supermarket lettuce until November. Although mid summer is always a challenge.

The only vegetable seedlings I will buy this year are parsley and eggplants. Don't know how many plants I raised, but alot! I think I saved much $$. But I wonder if I add up savings and divide by hours spent, did I earn more than pennies/hours? Likely not. I would like to think of Purpose for Gardening.

always more work

tepees
Something about a garden. I thought earlier this week that I had done all the work the garden needed for the year. I thought I was caught up for a while. But today my spouse and I put in several hours of the Memorial Day morning at the plot. A pleasant way to spent the early day.

We put up tomato poles, brought over an old bird bath support we found in the back of the garage, did fence reinforcements (my neighbor has had serious rabbit problems!) and set up a hose system. Also mounted my new mailbox - an event which deserved its own post (below).
birdbath and hose support

garden mailbox

skippy's mailbox
garden with mailbox box
For Mother's Day my son made me a mailbox for my community plot garden! Its beautiful. Metal flashing on the roof, a wood peg to secure the door. "Skippy" is hand carved on the door, which opens with brass hinges. The community gardens have few identifiers for the plots - so this will be mine. And maybe I'll get mail some day.

garden structures

garden gifts

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

borage volunteers

borage
I love volunteer seedlings. My gnome is tending some borage and dill plants that self seeded from last year.

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alpine strawberry blossoms

strawberry flower 2

alpine strawberries (Fraises des bois)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

pea tendril pizza for memorial day weekend

grilling pizza
A special first harvest this year. I have a bumper crop of pea plants, so I picked a bunch of tendrils. Many of the ones I picked didn't make it too the bowl because I ate them right away. Delicious! The ones I didn't eat immediately I added to the top of our grilled pizza. Yummy! And the extra bonus is that the holiday weekend weather is very nice for patio dining. Cheers!
skip and peas pea flowers
slice pizza


my back patio

Friday, May 23, 2008

tomato check

evening tomatoes
purple calabash seedling orange blossom seedling
Its hard to have my cute little babied seedlings sooo far away - 1 mile away at my community plot! I planted them yesterday and today I worried that I didn't leave enough of the cut worm collars above the soil level. And I worried about the winds. And the rabbits. But this evening I checked on them and all are just fine. They look happy and snug. And they seem to have grown in my absence. A relief!

Yesterday someone left a comment on my post asking about my cut worm collars. He referenced a Burpee collar that costs 3 for $10. It looks cool, but I still like my make shift collars. I cut off the bottom of the pot the plant was grown in with scissors and position it so the top is sticking out but the plant is submersed up the first true leaves. The photo shows close ups of a couple collars.

I hope the collar is close up enough to see. The cut off pot ends up about 1.5 - 2 inches tall. I position it so a little bit is above the soil, maybe 1/4-1/2 inch, the rest is below the soil. It seems to me that cut worms don't really climb, they are more likely to dig. (If you don't have pots you can cut, use toilet paper rolls or paper cups or try the fancy Burpee ones.)

A quick search of cut worms explains that these are nocturnal hairless (ugly) caterpillars that crawl around and nibble at certain tender growing things at ground level. They chop off young tomato and broccoli stems. It is very disappointing to come out the morning after planting and find decapitated seedlings! :(

All of the other seedlings we planted yesterday are doing great too. I can relax and sleep well...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

planting day!!!

aerial
If you click on this photo, you can mouse over the beds to see what's growing where.

Well, its really great to do the big planting day with a helper. Amelia from SmartTart helped me plant in my community plot today. We got a ton of work done. My garden is suddenly full of seedlings.

Here's a list of our accomplishments:

- 15 tomatoes planted (with collars for cut worms)
- 3 hills of summer squash seedlings planted (Zephyr, Starship and Sunburst)
- new cucumber bed prepared and 3 varieties of seedlings planted
- gourd, squash and pumpkin seedlings planted along the south side fence
- new bed prepared in north-east corner
- the new north-east planted with chiogga beets, onion seedlings (small white and Spanish yellow) and Stuttgarter onion sets
- seed more carrots seeded where my early seeding failed
- seed more parsnips seeded since none sprouted from my early seedling
(Did I forget anything here Amelia?)

What a productive day! And many, many thanks to my awesome helper!

A few comments:

- I have killed so many cucumber, squash and watermelon seedlings in the past two days that I am feeling miserable. They are soooo delicate. Next year I will remember to plant many extras of these. Somehow, I just slip and step on them or bump the stem and it breaks off. Arrgh. I planted another tray of several varieties yesterday.

- I planted some large squashes along my fence. I wonder, are heavy fruited varieties OK on a sturdy fence? Big Rock is a 20+ lb pumpkin, Lakota is a 5-7 lb heirloom squash, and my watermelons are a big variety. Can the vines support the heavy fruits or will they fall off before ripening?

- I planted my summer squash in hills. Right now only 1-2 seedlings per hill, but I'll add more to replace the ones I squished. My question is why hills? Several people have asked me this now. I have just always read to plant squash in hills. I assume it makes the soil warm up faster if it is hilled. Is this the right answer?

- We made little cut worm collars by cutting off the bottom of the plastic pots and using the 1.5 inch pot rim as a collar. The plant can be pushed through the collar and planted deep with the collar remaining at the surface. I don't know if there are cut worms at my new community plot, but I'd rather not find out with my babied little heirloom seedlings.

- I planed to only plant 12 tomato seedlings, but couldn't part with a few and ended up squeezing in 15.

- Skippy was very good today. He liked having extra hands around to pat him. Amelia did comment that HE gets all the attention on my blog, but actually just snoozes in the garden. (Shhh, don't tell anyone...) I do have to add that he is great company when I'm on my own and he does a good job defending the plot intermittently against unseen and probably non-existent threats.

- I thought my original plot outline would be enough space, but already I'm looking for more space. Today we narrowed several paths, and extended the north plot to both the east and west. I hope I'll be able to get into the plot to water and harvest later in the season.

- I'd like to get a NSEW directional sign for my garden. Anyway, most of my community plot photos are taken from the brush pile to the east of my garden. So north is to the right, south is to the left, west is straight ahead.

- I went back to the plot to water our newly planted seedlings because the rain predicted to fall between 3 pm and 4 pm did not. At 5:30 I went over and watered. Of course heavy rains came in later in the evening. But if I didn't water, it would not have rained ....

- I have a very cute new cayenne seedling from Amelia. It is an exciting seedling because she grew it from seeds she saved from plants she grew last year. She grew a variety of peppers including yellow wax, cayenne and another variety. Peppers do self-pollinate, but have a fairly high rate of cross-pollination if bees are around (reference site). It will be interesting to see what the chiles from this plant look like. I will plant this plant and my seedlings in a week or so. In the meantime, I will continue to baby it...

And finally, another thank-you to Amelia! I really enjoyed her help.

newly planted tomato plants new cuke plot
new beet and oinion bed lettuce
from the doorway

(By the way, Skippy dug that little hole to the left in the bottom photo. That's where he napped today while we worked.)

chile and bell peppers (Capsicum)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

rainy day

wet garden
newly planted tomatoes seedlings plot
I got 12 tomato poles up and 5 of 24 tomato plants planted! I also laid the plastic film on the tomato bed at my community plot. I hope to get all my tomato plants in the ground tomorrow, along with my cukes and squashes.

I'm glad to be able to use my Flickr photo site again. Photos say much more than words.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Gretta's planting list

I found this great list that Gretta (the farmer at our local CSA farm) posted of the crops she will be planting this year! An awesome list to peruse - maybe for bedtime reading...

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

big warmup is in sight!!


Elliot Abrams says "A Few More Cool Days, then a Big Warmup". Yippee!!!

Right on time for my tomato plants! Thursday should be a good for planting. I think I'll hold off on planting my home garden until then too. Thursday looks to be cloudy and wet, cool overnight. Maybe I'll cover the plants Thursday night. The warmup starts Friday.

And now that I've figured out how to access my Flickr photo site again, I'll even be able to post photos of the planting! For the past few days, I've not been able to sign-in to my photo site as I forgot my sign-in information. (Love these little random memory lapses... Actually more of a record keeping failure.)

I'm looking forward to the weekend. Elliot says it "will seem as if we are heading straight into summer". :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

one last night inside

Our forecast is a for low of 42F tonight, so I brought my tomatoes and other warm weather seedlings inside for one last night. I try to bring them in if it goes below 50F. The rest of the week is predicted to gradually warm up and I'm planning to plant these on Wednesday and Thursday.

My "warm weather seedlings" include tomatoes, squashes, peppers, basil, and zinnias. They've been outside "hardening off" for more than a week, day and night, now.

I was surprised at how many seedlings I've ended up with, so last weekend I counted them and made a seedling list. I decided how many I will keep for myself and in which garden they will go (home or community plot). I then sent the list to may parents and they listed what they want for their garden. The last column is my extras. I'll try to find good homes for these.

My tomatoes have gotten extra attention. I cut all of the cells apart and labeled each one separately. With all of the different varieties, I worry that I'll end up with an unidentified plant! I'd like to know what each plant is this year. I used labels that I can attach to the stem of the plant. Most years, I have no idea what individual plants are as the labels in the dirt seem to disappear.

I considered being sad, or some similar emotion, on the last night my seedlings are inside. But as a commenter yesterday said, she just went ahead and planted more seeds inside. A good solution. Actually I noticed the watermelon seedlings are not happy (i.e. they're dead). I'll plant another 6-pack or two of these as soon as I can. Its still a bit cold for these guys.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

its tomato and squash planting week!

This looks like a good week to transplant my tomato seedlings. Also my squashes, pumpkins and cukes. The temperature is staying sort of warm - about 50 F at night and up near 70 on sunny days. I've seen nearby gardens with tomatoes and squash already planted. I think its time to set mine out.

I have some fancy thermal plastic this year. Its from Johnny's and lets near IR through, but not visible light. This is supposed to warm up the soil well. I'll try this under my tomatoes in both my community plot and at home.

My plan is to plant half of my tomatoes in my home garden and half in my much sunnier community plot. I'll see what does better where. It can be an experiment. I have 10 varieties, 24 total plants, both heirlooms and hybrids.

As for squashes, the ornamentals (gourds and pumpkins) will go in my bed along the house and the edibles (summer squash, winter squash and cucumbers) will go to the community plot.

I was very lucky to find a gardener who would like to help plant on Thursday! So I'll have extra hands and we can set plants out in my community plot. I think Wednesday will be a good day for transplanting in my home garden.

Wednesday also my parents will stop by and pick up their plants. I have about 50 or more seedlings ready for them. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chiles, squashes, etc. I've gotten very fond of my little sprouts after tending them for the past two months. I'm glad they will go to a good home!

Cucurbita pepo (squash)

chile and bell peppers (Capsicum)
tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

rose leaf

rose leaf
When I turned over soil of my new community garden plot this spring, I found a few plants that looked interesting. I put these in a bed at the side of the plot. A found what looked like oregano, tarragon, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, lots of onions and a pretty little rose. The rose leaves are lovely. I have no idea what sort of flower it will have, if any. But I am curious to see. As for the other plants, I've found out that the "sweet potatoes" are actually Jerusalem artichokes, an aggressive weed in the gardens. The onions too are weeds that come up all over and I throw them on my compost pile now. But the herbs, rhubarb, and the little rose seem like good tenants.

mystery garden rose: Falstaff maybe?

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

carrot seedlings

carrot shoots 2
After three weeks, I have carrot sprouts! All three of my varieties. Lots of very tiny seedlings. I put my macro lens on my camera to get a photo. We got nearly an inch of rain last night and they have a bit of mud on them today. But they are looking good.

No sign of parsnip seedlings yet. Since I've never grown them before, I'm not sure what to look for. I'll keep watching....

Daucus carota

garden birds

bird bath wren 3
wren 2 orioles 1
Here's the bird bath I made with a plastic plant saucer and a rock on top to hold it in place. Pretty basic. I hope the birds enjoy it. The cute wren is in my community plot bird house. She's spending alot of time in the house, even when Skippy and I are in the garden right near by. A very sweet and quiet pair - for house wrens.

The three Baltimore orioles were making a commotion in the community gardens today. Looks like two males and a female? Or is it two females? Many orioles arrived in our area this week. Great flashes of bright orange!

gardenbirds

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Friday, May 16, 2008

soaking morning glory seeds

soaking morning glory seeds
My mom told me this morning that she just planted her morning glory seeds. She said she soaked them overnight in water then planted them directly in the garden. I was pleased to be reminded of the morning glory seeds I saved last year. Mine are have a dark purple flower. My Mom's are blue. I'll have to remember to collect some of her seeds this fall.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

community plot work

plot
lilacs song sparrow
I did a number of little tasks in my community garden plot today. Its a wonderful place to spend the morning. The lilacs are in full bloom and so many birds singing.

I planted seeds for three varieties of sunflowers, nasturiums, two varieties of soy beans, and a row of radish. I am running out of space, so I am planting along side the beds I laid out. This will make my paths smaller, but why not?

My potatoes, fava beans, onions and beets are doing well. The carrots and parsnips are growing VERY slowly. I transplanted some very tiny and delicate lettuce a couple of days ago and covered it with white row cover to protect it a bit and increase the humidity. Its looking very good underneath.

I started preparing the bed where I will plant tomatoes soon. I marked the locations that 12 tomato plants will go in with little sticks. I need to collect enough poles for these. I noticed other gardeners have tomatoes in already. No rush with mine - the plants are still small.

I made hills in the bed where I will transplant my squash in a few days. The bush summer squash will go in the hills and the vining winter squash and watermelon will climb the fence. I'm still trying to figure out where I can put the cucumbers.

I set up a pot saucer as a bird bath on the far side of the plot. The birds are wonderful in the community garden. So many different songs. I have to look up who sings "old sam peabody peabody". I heard this bird today. My bird house in my plot has a nice pair of house wrens nesting. They are defending the house from a pair of pretty song sparrows. Chickadees are nesting in another birdhouse nearby. Tree swallows swoop all over. A bright pair of Baltimore Orioles was there last evening.

Lastly, I watered everything well. Its been really dry. The dark soil looks very nice with a good watering.















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