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, February 28, 2009

the gardener is on the beach

How are your bird ID skills? My mom knows them all pretty well. I just like to photograph them.

least sandpiper
snowy egret willit
royal tern
royal tern on the beach laughing gull
flight flying - ruddy turnstone?
flip flops Copy of IMG_4882

I'm only a little bit sun burned from a day on the beach.... (I wonder how my little seedlings are doing back at home in the cold snowy North.)

garden birds (Hortus Aves)

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Friday, February 27, 2009

the gardener is on vacation...

I'm visiting my parents in southern Florida. Talk about perfect weather!! I'm just going to post a bunch of photos.

breakfast in florida

This is my Florida breakfast. A grapefruit from the backyard and bread made with frozen zucchini and summer squash from my garden. Yummy.

grapefruit grapefruit picker
grapefruit flower orange flower

The grapefruit and oranges are heavy on the trees and the trees are in full bloom - at the same time! But I missed avocado season. The avocado trees are just starting to bloom now. I've never seen an avocado blossom before. Quite small. The bees are all over them.

These are avocado flowers:

avacado flowers
avacado 1 avocado blossom

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

a first portie soon

Looks like the Obama's have decided on a shelter Portuguese water dog. Here's an article at Boston.com. What a great choice! Skippy is my favorite Portie and he would love the White House life, I'm sure.

first Portuguese water dog

my growing late winter seed collection

more seeds!
old seed box new seed box

I've heard that you shouldn't go grocery shopping when you're hungry. Is there a similar saying for seed shopping in late winter? When you're really tired of snow and really looking forward to green, growing, sun and warm. But you already have seeds for at least seven gardens?

Whole Foods now has a new rack of heirloom seeds (Seeds of Change) back by the meat counter. I went in for kebabs and couldn't resist a few packets. Peas (Cascadia Bush Snap) will go in soon. Peppers (Nardello) looked sweet and red. And I forgot to mail order spinach (Bloomsdale).

My friend Elaine looked at my seed collection the other day and said - Are you going to grow ALL of these? I do have a lot of seeds. But then, I think I'll grow MOST (if not all) of them. I moved my collection tonight to a bigger box. They fit better in it.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

more open pollinated mail order seed souorces

Gretta sent me name of a couple more sources for organic open pollinated seeds:
High Mowing Organic Seeds (located in Wolcott, VT)
Turtle Tree Seed

And here's a link to a newly started seed company that is using a tomato photo of mine on their banner! (it was properly licensed - thanks Mike)
Ohio Heirloom Seeds

I'll add these and companies contributed in the comments section to my previous post, which I'll put near the top of my side bar.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

real onions sprouts and more sowing

seeds 6 seeds 5
seeds 7 seeds 1
seeds 4
seeds 8 seeds 3

My onions finally sprouted. It took 8-9 days. Of the 3 varieties I planted, I have low germination of one (red), none in another (White Portugal), and good germination of the third (Sweet Yellow Spanish). Pretty little sprouts. So brave and bright!

Today I planted seeds for lavender, thyme and celeriac. These are supposed to be started 8-10 weeks before frost.

I also started 4 pots of tomato plants - very early, just to see if I can get a very early tomato. These will need to be transplanted to large pots long before they can go out to the garden, not something I can do for many plants. But I've read this works for others. Sure would be nice to have a real tomato soon!

I used my coarse planting soil in the bottom half of the cells and new fine soil at the top. The sun is very warm a bright as it shines in the window on my planting trays. At midday, I think its brighter than the lights. The lights extend the daylight hours though.

2009 sow-what-and-when

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

winter garlic shoots

garlic shoots
plot

In my community garden plot, I was pleased to spot some garlic shoots today. These are in an area where I transplanted one year old top sets last fall. They're still tiny, but are up and green. The area I planted with larger bulbs is still snow covered. That's all the plant life I could see in the plot.

garlic (Allium sativum)

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community garden plots

gardens

Skippy and I walked through the community gardens and looked at my plot today. The sky was dark gray with a snow storm approaching from the west. But its nice to see that there has been quite a lot of melting. In many places, the ground is exposed and muddy.

my first seedling

seedling 1seedling 3 seedling 2

A seedling has sprouted! I'm so excited. I got out my macro lens and photographed it from every angle. My tray label says Rossa Lunga di Firenze onions.

Hmmm. After cropping a few of the photos, it occurred to me that somethings is odd here. What do you think - a stray radish seed?

In any case, its still my first seedling of the year. Yippee.

While I was at it, I took a few macro photos of Skippy. At least I think that's him under all that winter fur....

skippy 2 skippy

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

more seeds in the mail! - mail order seed sources

If you're mail-ordering seeds for your garden soon, here's a list of US companies offering all heirloom open pollinated seeds:

SOURCES FOR ALL OP SEEDS:
Baker Creek Seeds
Bountiful Gardens
Fedco Seeds (Waterville ME)
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Seeds Trust
Sustainable Seed Company
Synergy Seeds
The Garlic Store
The Victory Seed Company
High Mowing Organic Seeds (Wolcott VT)
Turtle Tree Seed
Ohio Heirloom Seeds (check out my tomato photo!)

I like to grow a mix of heirloom and hybrid (F1) varieties in my garden. So I'll also list my favorite hybrid seed sources, too:

SOURCES FOR HYBRID AND OP SEEDS:
Botanical Interests
Burpee
Johnny's Selected Seeds (Winslow ME)
Territorial Seed

sand hill seeds

Another seed order arrived today. This one is from Sand Hill Preservation Center, a small family run farm that grows their own seed and strives to protect heirlooms varieties. They offer many rare and unusual varieties. I'm always amazed at the length of their list of tomato varieties (567 this year!).

Well, I'm amazed at my package too. I ordered A LOT this year. 21 packages. Guess I'll have no trouble filling up my extra garden space.

... Blue Pod Capucijners peas, Oxheart carrots, Prizehead lettuce, winter radish mix, Crane muskmelon, Tall Telephone peas, White Detroit beets, etc .... Also two types of popcorn (Faribo White Hulless and Tarahumara White), plus they threw in an extra package of free seed: Baby Golden popcorn. How great!

Anyway, Sand Hill is definitely one of my favorite seed sources. Some day I'll try their sweet potato slips, which look great too. Still wish I had the time for their chickens. I almost ordered a few buff Orpingtons last year. Maybe some day....

I was interested to read a recent post about seed sources at one of my favorite blogs, Bifurcated Carrots. He points out the importance of supporting sources that preserve open pollinated heirloom seeds. Fedco Seeds also has an informative page about supporting non-Seminis seed sources.

This year, I'm looking forward to saving my own seed from several heirloom open pollinated varieties and participating in the Seed Savers Exchange. Bifurcated Carrots has a post about this organization too.

fall planting calendar

I've started an on-line calculator for a fall planting calendar based on your first frost date. The dates are based on my experience and the calendar at Heirloom Seeds. Still a few months before I'll need to use this. Let me know if any of the dates seem off or if I should add other vegetables.

I get such a kick out of putting in dates and pushing the button! You'd think I was a kid with a new video game (or my mother in law with a slot machine...) This is the longest code I've "written" and it is such fun that it actually works.


On-line calculator for spring planting calendar

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Monday, February 16, 2009

the $3.99 mid-winter tomato

I don't usually eat tomatoes in the winter. But by mid-feb I'm REALLY hungry for one. I saw a pretty "heirloom" tomato at Whole Foods. A 16 oz tomato at $3.99/lb. (Wow! Multiply that by the number of tomatoes you grow in the summer!)

Oh well - it did have a brief tomato smell as I sliced it. And looked (ahhh...) ...nice. I don't have the best report on its flavor though. After a preview of the taste I added lots of garlic and capers, etc... It was ... mealy and, well, ... flavorless. Maybe just not the variety I like? Also probably was picked green, artificially ripened, and traveled forever. Who knows wherefrom.

OK. I'll wait 'til July. My first tomatoes usually ripen late July. My schedule says to plant seeds on March 19 and April 5 (six weeks before my last frosts). (Two dates since I have two gardens with different frost dates. Not sure yet if I'll do both dates or split the difference.)

(PS. No onion sprouts yet, but I'm watching....)

Calculate your planting dates here
tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

happy valentines day to veggie gardeners!

Roses are red and so are tomatoes

Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm growing a garden, to share with you...

Here's an article about healthy red foods: Roses Are Red, and So Are Lots of Foods Good for You and Your Valentine It has nutritional information about 'foods in the red zone'. Yippee for beets, red peppers, radish and raspberries!

Friday, February 13, 2009

watering onion seeds

watering onion seeds

Thursday, February 12, 2009

first seeds sown

Right on schedule, my onions are sown: one flat each of white, yellow and red onions. 11 weeks before my last frost date - April 30.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

getting ready to plant: trays, soil and labels

seed try
trays soil and old trays

Now that I've got seeds and a plant shelf, next is trays, soil and labels.

Seed trays
: I like seed trays with small cells (1" x 1.5" cell, 12-packs, 96-per tray) so each seedling gets its own. Except for the seedlings that get bigger (like tomatoes, peppers and large squashes), these little cells work well. The goal is one seedling per tiny cell. Plant a couple seeds per cell and thin.

I saved as many old seed trays as I could. I have quite a few, but most get ripped during transplanting. I went by Agway just now to look for new trays, but the kind I want aren't in. I'll check back next week.

Onions and celeriac are the first seeds I'll plant. The recommendation for onions is: fill cells with soil, compress to make a uniform surface, then sow 5 seeds in each 1-1 1/2" diameter cell and cover with 1/4 inch of soil. If the seeds are too shallow, the onions will tend to push themselves up out of the plug. Thin later to 3/cell and then transplant each cell 6" apart into the garden.

Potting soil: I have been using the largest cheapest bag of fertilized potting soil. Last year Miracle Gro. This year I have Scott's. I don't even know what's in these big plastic bags. Soil? Soiless? Of course its not organic. Someday I should look into the best potting soil to use. But there are always so many issues: economy, availability, how well it works, and an environmentally friendly product.

Plant labels: I use small labels for seed trays. Last year I used little wooden ones. They look nice and are biodegradable, but single use. And I hate to throw things out. Some of the poorer quality wood labels I bought last year didn't hold ink well. The ink ran and I had no idea what was where. This year I'm trying plastic labels. I think I can probably remove the ink with a solvent later and reuse them forever. I'll give this a try.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

southern Florida strawberry farm

IMG_1023
My dad just sent me this photo he took this morning. Looks like a great way to maximize space and minimize water use. I'm wondering if this sort of set up would be useful in any of my gardens some day. Another idea to keep in mind ....

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new plant shelf - ready to go

pose with shelves
shelf 2 boxes

I had a lot of suggestions from gardeners about their seedling shelves. The best deal seems to be the assemble it yourself. This is a 35" wide x 54" tall x 18" deep metal shelf system with 4 shelves ($67.54). I have 1 shop light fixture ($8.97) hanging with adjustable chains on each of three shelves to start. Each fixture holds with two 40W 48" fluorescent bulbs. I can expand and use the forth shelf later if I need more space. Each shelf holds two planting trays, lengthwise. They hang over the edges a bit. I bought a mix of Grow Light bulbs ($9.99) and full spectrum bulbs ($6.47). Together with a plastic floor mat, it cost about $165 and is very sturdy.

Here's a commercial set up for comparison. The Delux version has 8 bulbs for 8 trays ($439.95 not including shipping). Mine has 6 bulbs for 6 trays now and room to go to 8 bulbs and 8 trays.

I looked up some information on lighting:

From Gardeners.com: "Cool white bulbs are a good source of blue and yellow-green light, but are a poor source of red light.... Plants grown under cool white bulbs will be stocky or even slightly stunted. Warm white bulbs emit plenty of orange and red light, but less light in the blue and green spectrum. If you are growing seedlings under 2-bulb fluorescent fixtures, you can usually achieve a good color balance by combining one cool white and one warm white bulb....Full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs produce a balance of cool and warm light that replicates the natural solar spectrum. These lights are excellent for seedlings."

Also, from here: "Seedlings thrive with 15-20 fluorescent light watts per square foot."
I figure I have 80 Watts per 3 square foot shelf - about 25 watts per square foot, if I keep the lights low to the plants.

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coyote!!

Eastern coyote
coyote slope

Yesterday Skippy and I went for a walk in Estabrook Woods, a 1200 acre undeveloped tract of land in Concord, MA (about 12 mi from my house). We walked about a mile out on the trail at dusk. Very quiet and beautiful with the snow cover and trees glowing red. I always watch for coyotes, as they are pretty plentiful here now. Even near our house. But I've not seen one until now.

Unfortunately, I'm not so calm about wild animals and was not able to get a steady photo with the focus in the right spot. The coyote wasn't very far off (100 ft). He was a stunning animal. About same size as Skippy (55 lbs), maybe a bit bigger, with a rich thick coat of fur. He looked very well fed and healthy.

After leashing Skippy and taking the photos, I panicked, turned and ran the mile back to my car. Silly. From looking at my second photo, it looks like he ran away from me as fast as I ran from him.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sunday night pizza

pizza

I wanted to share a photo of the delicious pizza we've been making often this winter. The sauce is from my garden last summer. I threw in many different tomato varieties, some carrots, basil, onions, cooked it down and froze it. The pizza also has the last of the cayenne chiles I grew, dried and crumbled. A delicious pizza. A taste of my garden on winter weekends.

We make a fairly simple pizza. My son makes the dough in the bread machine. A simple recipe from Beard on Bread, by James Beard. Mix 2 1/2 cups white flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp active dry yeast, 1 cup warm water. Add more flour or water to give good dough consistency. That's all.

For the topping: sprinkle on lots of coarsely chopped garlic, a thin layer of pizza sauce, crumble on some cooked hamburger (ideally a nice local ground sirloin), then mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, crumbled dried chile pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

We grilled this one outside. That was the less simple part of this dinner, since there was about 3 inches of ice to chop for access to the grill. But the flavor of the grill really makes it perfect! A couple of winter radish martinis puts it way over the top - but why not!

Skippy's vegetable recipes

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