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, March 31, 2009

garlic shoots

garlic

Last fall I planted a mix of garlic cloves from my CSA and transplanted many 1 year old top sets. The shoots are now sticking out of the salt hay, nice and green. Lots of them. I've never been able to grow good sized garlic heads and hope these will do well in this new sunny spot this summer.

garlic (Allium sativum)

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Monday, March 30, 2009

crocuses mean its time to plant the peas

crocuses

The crocuses are in full bloom in my side yard. I haven't had time to rake yet, but they've popped up through the old leaf layer anyway.

Another job still waiting is to rake out my side yard raised beds and plant peas. It's time. I could have planted peas last week. I don't think it'll matter to be a bit late.

As I admire the crocuses, I'm thinking that these bright faces are a good sign that its time to plant pea seeds. Sometimes its hard to know when your last frost is and back-calculate 10 weeks. Sometimes its hard to know how warm the soil is. But early crocuses are a good sign that it is time. Another sign I'm watching is the daffodils, which are about 6 inches high in my yard.

At my community plot only a mile away its still too cold to sow peas. No sign of crocuses there and daffodils are not even 1 inch. Brrr.

Watching natural cues is called phenology. Its not something I have heard much about from gardeners. I (and most others) go by the calendar. But I love to see the progression of the seasons and how each event comes in its own time.

Here's some of the phenology advice I've come across:
When red winged blackbird females return it is time to plant peas.
When the chickadees build their nests, plant peas and spinach.
When dandelions are blooming plant potatoes, beets, lettuce, spinach and carrots.
When the iris bloom, plant the peppers and eggplants outside.
Plant beets, lettuce, spinach when lilac is in first leaf.
When lilac blooms, plant beans, cukes and squash.
Plant corn when oak leaves are the size of squirrels ears.
Plant your corn when apple blossoms start to fall.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

plot work - contruction of new raised beds

new raised bed contruction
plot work

Saturday was a really nice day for garden work. My husband is working on a set of new raised beds for the garden. He cut and assembled about half of the beds. I'll need to prepared the soil before I set them in place. At the south end of the garden I need to do some leveling before they go down.

Tasks:
Finished the fence bottom.
More of the rock pile moved to line the fence.
Several more loads of compost brought to the plot.
Wire compost bin made in back corner.
Turned a little bit of the soil.

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a discovery - over wintered beets and potatoes!

over wintered beet and potatoes\

I was amazed to find a pretty little Chiogga beet and two fingerling potatoes at my plot. They look great after that terrible winter. I'm looking forward to a taste of my garden tomorrow evening! (Maybe with some over wintered kale.) I'll have to search through the soil for more. I knew there was one end of the potato bed that I didn't search through good enough last year.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

thyme

red undersides of thyme
thyme leaves thyme

I planted a variety called German Winter thyme just over a month ago, on Feb 21. I am really pleased with how well its growing.

Its is nicely aromatic already. The leaf undersides are deep red and the tops are silvery/blue. I was interested to see the pores in the macro photos, which I can't see with my eyes.

Thyme is such a versatile herb. It goes with every food, I think. And I love the inevitable (and thymely) puns.

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scented seedlings

lavender tomatoes

A couple of my seedlings smell great already. The best is the lavender. I only have 4 tiny little plants, growing very slowly, but they have a strong and wonderful scent.

Other scented seedlings are basil, thyme and tomatoes. If I move trays of any of these, its like being in the garden and smelling the air and sunlight.

seedlings on the shelf

shelf

I have six and a half trays of seedlings growing now. Only four fit under my lights, but the sun's doing a good job with the others. The lettuce is starting to look pretty with red frilly leaves. The early tomatoes will need bigger pots soon. Onions continue to grow well though I decided not to trim their tops. Broccoli and peppers have their second leaves (1st true leaves) and my surprise seedlings sprouted well are thinking about getting second leaves. I hoping this will give me a clue to their identity.

Yesterday's planting list (one 9-pack of each):
Cabbage, Super Red 80
Cabbage, Savoy
Hollyhock, single mixed
Lettuce, Prizehead
Beets, Lutz
Beets, White Detroit
Mixed fall greens
Spinach, Bloomsdale

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Friday, March 27, 2009

gift bag

gardening gift
Anne Marie's seeds gift bag

This week I gave Anne Marie a bag of supplies to start a patio garden with her young daughters. It was really nice to have so many suggestions last week on what to include (link) - though if I included everything, she would have needed an acre of patio space!

In the bag was:
A planter pot (for lettuce and/or radish seeds), a bag of potting soil, compressed peat pots, wood plant labels, and a marking pen.
Also, seeds for lettuce (mesclun gourmet baby greens from Botanical Interests), radish (Cherry Belle BI), Burpee cucumbers (Sweet Burpless), Sungold cherry tomatoes (Reimer Seeds) and nasturtiums (Burpee jewel mix).
Also a print out of all the suggestions everyone gave me and a list of planting instructions that I think the kids can help to read.
I'm hoping these seeds grow and produce delicious and beautiful fruits and flowers. And lots of enjoyment.

pot and seeds for a friend

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

happy birthday Skippy

Several people reminded me this morning that today is Skippy's birthday. He's 4! I had forgotten its his day.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the tomato seeds are planted!

tomato tray

Its a big event, to get my tomatoes planted. I think this really means the garden season has started. At last!

I planted 3 cells each of 16 different varieties - one or two seeds per cell. I have some very exciting new (to me) varieties I'm trying this year. Box Car Willie, Hillybilly, Mortgage Lifter, Opalka and Sungold. And my old favorites: Giant Belgian, Purple Calabash and Brandywine. Lets hope its a perfect tomato summer.


tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

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photos of Skippy

walking
friends swimming
playing running
yellow ball

Another nice day. I brought my camera on our afternoon walk and took a bunch of pictures of Skippy. He even looked up at me for some of them...

The big Saint Bernard Skippy met is Lola. Her blog is here. I read a bit about how her owner rescued her (here). Its always fun to meet other bloggers out there.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

tulips in my sister's california garden



These are photos my sister took of her backyard near San Francisco. I LOVE the top left one with tulips AND cactus!

My aunt sent tulip bulbs to both of us last fall. Mine are just barely starting to grow. But in CA they are in full glory - a preview of what's ahead! Its especially nice to see today - another bitter cold day in the NE. The good news is that a nice weekend is forecast. After all, March is supposed to go out like a lamb....

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work on the white house garden




I came across the White House blog with a diagram of the new vegetable garden. Looks really nice. Lots of lettuce. And I was looking at the photos of Michele gardening. My goodness, I have to do something about my gardening wardrobe! What is she wearing? I love it, but now I feel way under dressed....

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Monday, March 23, 2009

vegetable likes and dislikes

I read the other day that President Obama doesn't like beets. My favorite! I wonder if he has tried Chiogga beets. These are sweet and tender. My dad doesn't like beets either. Even Chiogga's. He ate nothing but beets and tulip bulbs for a few years during the war in Holland and I suppose that would do it for anyone.

I always say I like all vegetables. But then I remember there are a couple I don't like. One is Brussels sprouts (which my Dad loves). The other is turnips (or rutabaga). I've even tried fresh mild local Hakurei turnips sauteed to perfection, but they're still bitter to me. I've never tried kohlrabi and I suspect that's another one I wouldn't like.

Still my dislike list is shorter than my teenage son's. Its a lot easier to list his likes (in order, favorites first: broccoli, broccolini, carrots, corn, beans and peas). Six! I try constantly to expand this list. But its easier to just plant lots of broccoli, carrots, beans and peas.

photographing a snow drop

Microsoft PowerPoint - Presentation2

I found a new button on PhotoShop today - "Variations". It was already hard enough to choose what photo looks best. Now 10 to choose between. But I'll have fun playing.

Variations gives a bunch of different light and color settings all next to each other on the same screen. I think I prefer the lighter version of this snow drop. And the greener shades. Of course, it'll look different on its own or with my green blog background. And still not the same as it looked when I took the photo - out in the crisp spring morning air.

When I take pictures, I usually use PhotoShop to edit. I don't like to use a flash. So I often brighten photos and reduce the shadows. I play with the "shadows/highlights" feature for this. Then the auto settings. Then the color adjusts.

And, late on a Sunday evening, I even try the artistic filters....

snow drop
snow drop pencil snow drop watercolor

Sunday, March 22, 2009

planting surprise seeds

planting surprise seeds from Dan
surprise seed package surprise seeds in the pot

There's nothing like a good mystery.

A couple of weeks ago, Dan, a fellow garden blogger, sent me some seeds. We had arranged a trade. He sent me 6 Charentais melon seeds and 6 seeds each of two heirloom tomatoes (Hillbilly and Suddoth's strain Brandywine). I sent him 6 Delicata melon and 6 purple Calabash tomato seeds. BUT, in addition to the agreed on seeds, Dan added a package of SURPRISE seeds.

I have no idea what the surprise seeds are. They are small and round like cabbage or radish. And recently Dan told me I could plant them when I plant my broccoli. Those are the clues.

So, yesterday I planted them. I labeled them "SURPRISE". How fun. I'm really curious to see what sprouts.

Thanks again to Dan :)
surprise seeds
2009 sow-what-and-when

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

garden work

The gardens were just beautiful today. Sunny and warm. Birds singing. Wonderful.

Tasks accomplished:
Moved debris pile away from my fence to make room for grass path by my fence.
Added chicken wire to base of fence front.
Moved half of rock pile to along my fence.

Seeds planted yesterday:
Surprise seeds from Dan (1 6-pack)
Lavender (reseed pot where only 3 plants sprouted since 2-21)
Lemon scented basil (1 pot)

surprise seeds

final winter statistics

Dark, cold and snowy.
This winter Boston got 51 inches of snow.
For 24 days the temp didn't get above freezing.
Clouds covered the sun for 65 (of 90) days.
And I've never seen such messed up streets.

Its sure is nice to feel the spring sun!

Friday, March 20, 2009

tgis

TGIS

Thank goodness its SPRING!!!! A great reason to celebrate....
Topic: martini

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white house vegetable garden digging starts TODAY!!!

I have to quote a friend (Victoria) on this one:

"Woooo hooo!!!! The first vegetable garden on the White House lawn since Eleanor Roosevelt! Score a big one for the local food movement! Michele ROCKS!"

New York Times
Obamas to Plant White House Vegetable Garden
By MARIAN BURROS
Published: March 19, 2009
WASHINGTON — On Friday, Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of White House lawn to plant a vegetable garden, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets (the president doesn’t like them) but arugula will make the cut.
While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern.
In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”
Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It’s just below the Obama girls’ swing set.) Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.
Almost the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said laughing. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, would probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.”
Whether there would be a White House garden has been more than a matter of landscaping. It’s taken on political and environmental symbolism as the Obamas have been lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally could lead to healthier eating and lessen reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer.
In the meantime, promoting healthful eating has become an important part of Mrs. Obama’s agenda.
...

Here's the link:
New Vegetable Garden for White House Lawn

White House veggie garden proposal

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

a job for Skippy

skippy with stick
skippy and stick pile stick pile

Skippy is almost 4 and I'm thinking its time he contributed a bit more to the gardening effort. Today, as I was raking winter debris from the backyard, I ended up with a lot of sticks. These are perfect for supporting pea vines and I wanted to collect them in a pile.

So I explained to Skippy: "Put the stick in the pile". He understood the stick part and did great at coming to get the stick. Then he got confused - or had a better idea. He wrestled the stick, shook it, tossed it and then chewed it. Then I put it on the pile.

We kept at it though. And eventually Skippy did get a stick onto the pile. A half eaten and hardly useful stick, but a good accomplishment. We'll keep at it. The challenge is good.

About those peas: this year I'm going to use sticks instead of string trellises. I'll use the winter dead wood and also some pruned wood from my crab apple. I'm eying a lot of sucker wood on the crab apple that got away from me. It'll be perfect pea supports soon.

I'm hoping to get the peas in soon. I just need to catch up on the clean up. Once I rake the garden, the soil is thawed and ready for planting. Maybe this weekend....

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seeds for a friend

I'm planning to put together some seeds and seedlings for a friend who has never grown any vegetables and wants to grow some with her young girls. I'm trying to think of fun but easy varieties. She has a roof top patio, so they will be container vegetables.

I'm thinking I'll get her some of those little peat pots that expand in water and some cucumber seeds. And I'm thinking I'll pot up some of my basil, thyme and tomato seedlings. I think maybe Sun Gold (cherry) will be a good variety, though I wondering if a patio tomato might be better.

I'd love to hear any suggestions!

pot and seeds for a friend

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

growing

tomatoes
thyme celeriac
seedlings marigolds
chiogga
basil onions

Monday, March 16, 2009

primrose

primrose

Another sign of spring - the racks of $1.99 primroses are out at Home Depot! Love their happy faces.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

first garden work day of the season

plot
Another photo of my plot. This time with evidence of work that's been done. The soil is now thawed and ready for work. And the weather this weekend was beautiful for gardening.

Tasks accomplished:
Brought tools to plot.
Removed of salt hay from beds and stacked for reuse.
Spread 40 lbs of lime.
Gathered and spread about 5 wheelbarrows full of horse manure.
Marked out beds and added up footage of boards needed for raised beds.
And I finally mailed out my garden registration form and fee.
Took down my birdhouse.

The birdhouse removal has been requested by birders to facilitate bluebird repopulation, which has been quite successful recently. It seems that the aggressive sparrows and wrens who use these houses are too much competition for the bluebirds. No problem. I'm glad to do what I can to help this effort.

Also my indoor seeding continues. I added a fourth light so, with two lights and two trays per shelf, I now have good lighting for four plant trays. Most of this space is already seeded.

Today's seed planting list:
Lettuce, Big Boston (1 6-pack)
Lettuce, Valentine mesclun (1 6-pack)
Escarole, Blonde (1 6-pack)
Broccoli, Blue Wind (1 6-pack)

Friday, March 13, 2009

March in the community gardens

IMG_5476

Yesterday Skippy and I checked out my plot at the Belmont Victory Gardens. I took some photos and assembled them into a PhotoSynth. Here's the link.

Everything is still drab and mostly lifeless. It was cold (about 28*F). But the snow has melted in most areas.

I was interested to see which areas are melting first. My garden is in the center of the south slope that is clear and must be the warmest area. The low spots are the snowiest still.

I can see all the work I need to do this season. I want to clear a path around the back side of my plot (the area I took the photo from) and establish grass here. I'll mow it to keep the weeds from shading the garden. A lot of debris will have to be moved. And my garden needs to be leveled and new beds marked out in the newly expanded area.... I'll be busy soon.

I can see that lots of gardeners have been gathering compost and piling it on their beds this week. I will have to work on this too. I saw a beautiful blue metal and wood wheelbarrow down at my local True Value that I may go and buy soon. My small plastic wheelbarrow is not very good on the bumpy paths of the gardens.

orange orchid

orange orchid
trick or treat orchid painting

This is Lc. Trick or Treat - one of my favorite orchids. Its blooming a month late this year, but as beautiful as ever.

my old orchid photos

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