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, September 30, 2008

HOT! habanero chile

chopping an habanero
harvest of chiles and green beans habanero wings

I finally got the courage to try one on my garden habanero chiles - described as the hottest chile in the world.

I was warned to wear gloves, but I thought I'd try without first. I sliced the orange chile open and touched the cut edge with my finger and then tasted just a little bit, very carefully, only on the tip of my tongue. Well.... after scrubbing my hands several times with soap, drinking lots of water and washing it down with cheese and bread (and wine), I put baggies on my hands (since I didn't have any gloves) and even wrapped a towel over my face. Those are HOT!!! I will agree - wear gloves!

I was nervous about using them in our dinner. But went ahead and tried.

Recipe for chicken wings with chiles: Put 2 lbs of chicken wings in the oven at 375F for 2 hours uncovered in a thick cast iron pan. Add chopped chiles (I used 1 habanero and 1/2 Anaheim chile) and some barbecue sauce (I used Bulls Eye regular). Cook covered 30 min in oven. Pour off oil. Add more sauce. Cook uncovered another 30 min.

They were really delicious. But surprisingly, not very hot. I think I could have used at least twice the number of chiles, or added Tabasco or Frank's hot sauce as I usually do. My Anaheims are mild, and this one had a bug problem so I could only use half of it. For both chiles I threw away the seeds.

chile and bell peppers (Capsicum)

Skippy's vegetable recipes

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list

I've gone through my 2008 crop list and added comments about how well the crop did. The list is here and there's a link in the sidebar. My favorites so far this year are Easter Egg mix radish, Prizehead lettuce, Zephyr and Sunburst summer squash, Big Rock pumpkin, Lutz and Chiogga beets, all 3 varieties of kale, Russet potatoes, Windsor fava beans, hybrid broccoli, Mokum and Oxheart carrots, Brandywine and Giant Belgium tomatoes, Fortex pole beans, birdhouse gourds, Nufar basil, and Butterbeans edamame.

For flowers, nice varieties were Zebrina hollyhocks, Indian Summer rubeckia, Lyng's Graystripe sunflowers, Cosmic Orange cosmos and a great zinnia mix.

By the way - its still raining.....

Monday, September 29, 2008

ideas for next year's garden

I'm starting a list of ideas for next year's vegetable gardens. I'll book mark this list on the sidebar and continue to add to it.

Tomatoes:
Use rail and string supports
Space plants more than this year
Plant as far from the old patch as possible
Use salt marsh hay instead of plastic mulch
Start plants in two batches, one 1 week earlier than this year. the other several weeks later
Find a plant light set-up

Other plants
Asparagus patch
Leave an area where Skippy can dig
Garden bench
A shade arbor over the bench
Move my two pear trees to the plot
More lettuce
Write up a schedule of planting this winter because I always end up with no lettuce mid summer even though I have some good varieties now that grow all summer
Grow lots of cucumbers in my shady home garden, none at the sunny plot
Same with soybeans and green beans
Label plants better
Store my winter keeper beets in the refrigerator in plastic baggies
Two plantings of summer squash
Try some Chinese greens, pak choy, etc (I am having fun looking into Chinese veggies)
Move garlic to full sun at community plot (cloves too small at home)
Don't bother with onions from seed again, use sets and purchased seedlings


Varieties to grow again

Basil: Nufar
Bean, green: Provider bush, Fortex pole
Bean, shell: Flagrano, Tongue of Fire
Beets: Lutz, Chiogga
Broccoli: Green Goliath
Carrots: Mokum, Oxheart
Fava beans: Windsor
Kale:
Lettuce: Prizehead, escarole blonde full heart, red summer crisp
Marigolds: Tiger Eyes
Potatoes: Russet
Pumpkin: Big Rock
Radish: Easter Egg mix
Summer squash: Zephyr, Sunburst
Soybeans: Butterbeans
Tomatoes: Big Girl, Brandywine, Giant Belgium, Orange Blossom, Sungold, Opalka

More ideas:
grow a bigger fall crop of carrots
grow more and bigger varieties of potatoes
(can you do a fall planting of potatoes?)
grow more onions too (I think I'll buy seedlings next year)
keep trying to grow parsnips (plant some in pots to see what seedlings look like)
try growing celeriac

Sunday, September 28, 2008

still raining......

skippy under the tarp

I thought the weather was clearing when I went to the plot today. But no! Just as Skippy and I got there, the sky opened up. Skippy was pleased when I grabbed the tarp that covered my lawn mower and propped it up with garden poles. The two of us sat on a towel under it (Skippy is such a clean dog..) and watched the downpour. It lasted about 15 minutes.

After the downpour ended I worked in the drizzle, but Skippy was very glad to stay under the cover. My husband and son came and helped (well they did more work than me and lots more than Skippy). Two more stumps are gone.

Of the 10 stumps we started with, we now have three left to remove. We've removed six (!) and have decided to leave the corner one where it is.

(I'll have to do a post someday on how to remove tree stumps....)

community plot expansion project

Saturday, September 27, 2008

wet plot

wet plot

Everything is wet today - even Skippy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

wet garden

wet garden aerial

Nothing but rain in sight in our forecast. I hope my garden doesn't float away. But then there's not very much left in it anyway.

I have some great kale, which I am really enjoying. A few tomatoes and peppers trickle in. I am just now starting to pick a small planting of green beans. A few fall shell beans are ripening too. I have some odd radish I'll have to hardest and try soon. I have parsley and garlic chives. And my gourds are still growing. I planted a lot of fall greens, lettuce and other things, but its not really growing. (I bet I should have fertilized - I forgot this.) And I also have my four apples ready to pick on the little tree just to the left of this photo. I'm looking forward to eating these.

Fortex green beans

fortex green beans

Here's a variety I'll add to my list to grow again next year. Its a green bean called Fortex. As long as a dinner plate (10 inches), stringless, nice vines and best of all really sweet. Delicious.

Fabaceae

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

gourd art

Here's a fLickr photo group of gourd Art. Some really cute ones!
Decorative gourds

birdhouse gourds

gourd
another gourd biggest gourd smallest gourd

I am watching four nice birdhouse gourds growing in my gardens. I'll pick them when the stems dry and turn brown or before a frost. They're not quite ready yet.

I looked up what to do with them and found this nice site:


Birdhouse Gourds

When dried, these gourds are nearly as tough as plywood... it may take anywhere from 3 months to a year before gourds are completely fry. After picking, set gourds on several layers of newspaper in a warm dry place. Hanging them in a sunny place works well too... don’t put any holes I the gourds at this time or they will rot.

While curing, black, white and gray mold appears. This is a natural part of the drying process.... gourds that become soft or wrinkled should be tossed...

Gourds are completely dry when the seeds rattle inside... scrub with a stainless steel pad in warm soapy water to remove mold. Drill entrance holes for cavity nesting birds, removing the seeds through the hole... Holes should be 1 ¼” for house wrens, 1 ½” for bluebirds, and 2 ½” for purple martins... Add smaller hole at the top for hanging and in the bottom for drainage.

You can custom paint each house or use wood burning tools to decorate... Consider hanging a collection of gourds together for swallows or purple martins.

Here's a quote I found at the same site:

"When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, There is always the garden."
Minnie Aumonier
Decorative gourds

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

rough draft for next year

Microsoft PowerPoint - Vegetable garden plan 2009a

This is a quick early plan for next year's garden - to give us an idea of where to put the rocks for the bench. The new space we are adding is to the east of my gate in the community plot.

garden planning (drawings and diagrams)
garden planning (drawings and diagrams)

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plot work

plot work

Four stumps out, six more to go. One enormous rock gone, several middle sized ones yet to move. I'm still hoping to get a cover crop on this new soil before too long.

community plot expansion project

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

winter cover crop

sprouts and fork

Ouch - my first mention of the word "winter"....

My cover crop is sprouting. Little bits of green between the wood chips and the garden tools. I pulled my beans and squashes, limed and planted cover seeds last week. I have a mix called "Fall Green Manure Mix" from Johnny's Selected Seeds. As Johnny's writes: "A mix of winter rye, field peas, ryegrass, crimson clover and hairy vetch. The peas, clover and ryegrass will winter kill to provide organic matter and soil cover. The hairy vetch and winter rye will regrow in the spring to provide nutrients for crops to utilize."

Most of my garden areas still have crops growing. I won't clear them until frost. In these areas I'll plant only the hardy winter rye.

topic: soil

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harvests

beet harvest
kale harvest apple harvest

These are vegetables I harvested this week. Beet, lettuce and arugula from my plot and tomatoes, kale and an apple from my home garden. How about that apple! My first one.

My kale is delicious now. I'm still eating my spring crop. I pick the newer leaves - not the newest and not the big ones. Very nice in a quick saute with kielbasa. I mixed them with beets, since for one reason or another, I had beets but not beet leaves. I have a fall crop of kale planted out at my community plot but its still very small.

(As an aside, I hate those little holes that show up in tomatoes. Its from the stem of another tomato when you carry a bunch of tomatoes together. I should remove the stems when I pick them.)

harvests from my vegetable gardens
Apples (Malus domestica)

root cellar

How to store the root harvest?

I am researching root cellars since I lost a whole bagful of big garden beets. There were too many to fit in my refrigerator and I thought these would keep in my basement - but I was wrong :(

Root crops I grow (or would like to) include beets, potatoes, carrots and parsnips. My two bags of potatoes (so far) are keeping fine in my basement. My carrot harvest did fine in the fridge. I only had two gallon bags of these and there are only a few left now. The parsnips never sprouted :( and I'll try again next year.

I will look up the optimum storage temp for these crops and if there is an inexpensive solution for storage. Please let me know if you have information on this topic!

potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)

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Monday, September 22, 2008

zinnia photos

zinniazinnia fuzz zinnia crown
zinnia bud zinnia center


I was admiring my zinnias up close this afternoon. Beautiful flowers. I wish my eyesight was this good.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

chickadees enjoy the last sunflowers of summer

chickadee 1b2
chickadee on the sunflowers 2b2 perched chickadee on fall sunflowers 2

This must be one of the best days of the year for a chickadee. Abundant seeds. Warm sunshine. The chicks are raised and on their own.

This little guy was on the sunflower stems outside my living room window this morning. He didn't mind my camera too much and I got several close shots. He was making quiet chirps as he hopped and gathered seeds.

Today is the last full day of summer - tomorrow at 3:40 pm GMT is the autumnal equinox.

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radish - easter egg mix

radish bunch

Here's one of my favorite varieties of vegetables this year! Nicely shaped, beautiful colors, mild flavor, crisp texture. Yummy!

radish (Raphanus sativus)

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

more work on plot expansion

blue smoke
stump removal with come-along big stump

I'm lucky to have assistance with this project. We've got some gigantic stumps. (6 big ones and 4 or 5 little ones.) Too bad we couldn't just bury a charge of explosive under them, back up and let them blow. Nevertheless, we are making progress. And we'll sleep soundly tonight after all this work.


community plot expansion project

Thursday, September 18, 2008

thinking about next year already

As Skippy and I walked through the community gardens today, I was thinking about what I'll do with my garden next year. What a great place to do that - 120+ plots to look at. Lots of great ideas.

1. I LOVE this variety of marigolds. I will watch to find seeds for it.
marigolds marigold

2. I'd like to find a nice garden bench for my plot. A worn and comfortable one. Maybe Skippy could dig a spot underneath in the cool soil....
bench

3. I'd like to build a shade structure. I could sit here and relax.... change my camera lens... watch the birds.... I like this one that is very rustic and natural. Vines could grow up it. The bench could go under it. I should start collecting materials.
shade structure

4. I'd like to give my peppers and chiles more sun next year. I need to review what vegetables need more sun. My home garden continues to get more and more shady. And, I'd like to start a patch of asparagus. I notice many gardens have asparagus. It does well here.
peppers in the sun asparagus

5. I want to move my white climbing rose to my plot. Also my two espaliered pear trees. And, I keep admiring the Heavenly Blue morning glories. I'm sure I could collect some seeds from other plots. But I wonder if there are already too many growing here. Can one have too much of a fantastic flower?
rose on the fence heavenly blue morning glories

6. To build a raised bed or not to build a .... I love the look of a raised bed. I'm considering this for next year, if I come across good materials. A simple surface structure. I like the way they avoid soil compaction and define the space.
raised beds

7. Remove the weeds from the edges of my garden. The photo is sunchoke flowers, which are all around my plot. Beautiful, but at 10 feet tall, they're a very good sunblock. Next year I'd like a nice grassy path between my plot and the wild weeds.
sun chokes

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

today's harvest

harvest 3

a little vegetable humor.... or not....

These are my first yellow bell peppers. Finally. Along with a nice red Anaheim chile, an orange Habanero, and a Giant Belgium and Pink Beauty tomato.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

today's harvest

harvest

Red Summer Crisp (Batavian) lettuce, Easter Egg multicolor radish, Chiogga beets and Cherokee Purple tomatoes.

harvests from my vegetable gardens

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cooked beans

beans cooking cooked beans in orange bowl

I cooked up my shell beans yesterday. They aren't half as pretty cooked, but they were tasty.

RECIPE: To cook them, I the beans the beans in water 1 hour with 2 carrots, an onion and a bay leaf and then refrigerated overnight. The next evening I sauteed a sliced onion, carrot, garlic and piece of bell pepper in olive oil then added the beans and three oven dried tomatoes and cooked a bit. Then I added some fresh basil leaves.

Fabaceae
Skippy's vegetable recipes

Monday, September 15, 2008

shell beans

shelled beans

I planted several types of shell beans this year, but was bad about labeling them. I'm not sure what varieties these are. Nevertheless, I like the way all the colors look together.

I am not going to dry these beans, but will eat them fresh, or semi-dry, as they are in the photo. They won't need to cook as long as dry shell beans and are supposed to taste better. We'll see.

Here's a list of all the types of beans I remember planting this year, mostly just small patches of each. And some did not sprout, so all types are not necessarily represented here. Plus I planted some seed that I collected and saved from last year. And it seems to me the big gray beans are some pole bean I bought mid summer and forgot to write down. I don't remember what it would have been.

Beans: Royal purple beans has white seeds
Beans: yellow wax beans has black seeds
Beans: Provider (green bush bean, purple seeds)
Beans: Isar (a yellow fillet bush bean, black seeds)
Shell Beans: Flagrano (a bush bean, French Flageolet, pale greenish seeds)
Shell Beans: Tongue Of Fire (pole horticultural bean, large red striped pods & seeds)
Shell Beans: Black Turtle Soup (a bushy plant, small black bean)

beans in shells unshelled beans

Fabaceae

Sunday, September 14, 2008

fall fields

field 3
monarch on asters 2 bees
field 2

These are the fields next to our community gardens where Skippy likes to run. Everyday they turn a bit more golden. The white asters just opened this week. The Joe Pye weed and Queen Anne's Lace are turning brown. The monarchs are still here and seem to prefer the asters. The bees like the goldenrod. Some patches of goldenrod are just covered with bees.

Rock Meadow Conservation Land, Belmont

butterflies (Lepidoptera)

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