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, July 31, 2009

FAQs

I will finish answering these soon. Please ask more questions! I'll post a link on the sidebar.

Camera/photography Questions:
1. What camera do I use?

I have a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi. A fantastic camera that I highly recommend. Its relatively light and small for a digital SLR, a good size for my hands. I used to take it everywhere with me. But now, I end up taking most of my photos with my cell phone. They have surprisingly good resolution.

I keep saying I'll use my Canon more. It does take a nice photo. I have two lenses. A general purpose Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens (reviewed here). Also a wonderful Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens. This lens gives wonderful background blur.


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 2. How do I organize my photos?

I take 20-100 shots a day. I delete at least half right away. Then I select a couple I like, edit if needed, and upload to Flickr. A subset of these go onto my blog. The folder of all the saved photos gets archived onto an external hard drive, organized by date. If I want to find a photo, I generally just search Flickr or my blog. The important thing on both Flickr and the blog is to title or tag the photo with a useful name that I and likely to find again my searching. I can download the original resolution image from Flickr. Based on the photo date, I could go back to my archived folder and find more photos on that topic, though I have rarely actually done this.

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3. What software do I use to edit my photos?

I use Microsoft Office Picture Manager as a quick tool to view and crop. I use PhotoShop CS3 to do lots of other things. I especially like "auto levels" and "shadow/highlight". I use PowerPoint to make collages. To export, I use DocPrint PDF Driver and then convert the PDF to a jpg using PhotoShop.

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4. How do I get high resolution photos into my blog?

I use Flickr. It allows you to use higher resolution than Blogger.

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5. How do I make collages?

With PowerPoint. To export, I use DocPrint PDF Driver and then convert the PDF to a jpg using PhotoShop.


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6. How do I take "aerial" photos of my garden?

From the 2nd floor window - right above the garden.

I'm trying to find a way to get an aerial shot of my new garden that has no house nearby. I've considered a tall ladder, climbing a nearby tree, a weather balloon, a drone. I'm still thinking. I like the drone idea though if the prices some down a bit.


Blog questions:
7. How do I format my blog?
I have done it all with HTML code in the template box. I directly edit the code there. I started with the template "565" (below) and from there edited lots of things. Not knowing HTML, I have edited using the trial and error method. I haven't updated to the current blogger, so I can't use their widgits and have to write my own or find code on the web.

Blogger Template Style
Name:     565
Designer: Douglas Bowman
URL:      www.stopdesign.com
Date:     28 Feb 2004


Dog Questions:
8. What kind of dog is Skippy?

He was a Portuguese water dog. Skippy died suddenly on August 27, 2016 of a burst spleen tumor. He was 11. He was a wonderful dog. My first dog and I was very close to him.

I now have Suzie, born June 1013. And Charley, born the same day Skippy died. All are Portuguese water dogs. We chose this breed because my husband is allergic to most dogs. He is fine with this breed. All on my dogs were breed by Heather Shilo at C-Lion Portuguese Water Dogs. She's located in Bedford MA.


Garden Questions:
9. I did a good job with succession planting, but no matter when they get planted, the lettuce, spinach, and radishes are finished by the first or second week in July. They all want to bloom, and then get bitter. When I plant for a fall crop in August, some years it grows, and others they don't. Do you have a way to extend the season?

Boy, what a great question! But I think every crop is different.

Lettuce: Grow heat resistant lettuces in the summer. They're called Summer Crisps. Start planting them in June. Plant more every few weeks. I am usually able to grow lettuce all year. My problem is remembering to do the succession planting.

Radish: I think of  radish as seasonal crop. Maybe you can look for a bolt resistant variety and extend the season a little.

Spinach: Again, a seasonal crop. I get one crop in early spring, sometimes one in the fall, and good winter crops. For a fall crop, you can try growing seedling in pots on a table in the shade, or try using shade cloth. I've grown fall spinach in pots in my 60 degree garage under lights and brought them out when the weather cools off. But, since our NE weather goes so fast from very hot to cold, its hard to do this. It works some years and not others. My best crops of spinach are in a winter tunnel. If you plan it so the plants are pretty big by early November, then you will have spinach all winter (if you plant enough of them). They get big and delicious in March and April.


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10. How big is your garden?

1992 - 2013, I had a garden next to my house. Over time, trees grew and it got very shady. This garden had 5 raised beds, about 9 x 3.5 each and one big bed about 10 x 10. So, about 250 sq ft.

In 2008 - current, I got a local community garden plot, a mile from my house and full sun. The plot is about 30 x 30. So, 900 square feet.

2013 - current, I have a big backyard and a large vegetable garden. It has 7 raised beds and a perennial border along the front. The fenced area is about 20 x 60. So that's 1200 sq feet. I also have a blueberry patch, space for fruit trees and a 10 x 5 ft herb garden next to the house.


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11. What are the dimensions of the posts and wire of your community garden fence? Where did you buy the metal posts and wire? And more importantly, how has it worked out for you?

The fence is 5 ft tall. The poles are driven in a ft or so, so I guess they are 6+ ft. They are the ones sold to go with the 5 ft fencing at Home Depot. My garden is about 25 ft square, so we have 25X4 total ft of fencing.

The 5 ft fencing material is hung to start at the ground. We then dug a 1 ft trench and lined the garden with 2 ft chicken wire, half underground and half above. This keeps the burrowers out, plus the small rabbits that can squeeze through the larger fencing holes. In areas we couldn't dig down the chicken wire angles outward underground. The chicken wire is secured to the 5 ft fence with small tie wraps.

After two seasons, I can report that this fence has worked great. The chipmunks come over, but that's all.


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12. Is there anything I can plant this late in the season? (August-September)

You can try out my on-line fall planting calendar. Here's the link. Enter your first frost date and it gives dates for planting. Also my new apps at a link a the top of my sidebar.

July and August are the months for fall planting. I plant peas, kale, spinach, escarole, mustard greens, lettuce, bok choi, baby carrots, beets for greens, and radish. The peas never work though - just my challenge. People in NE used to grow fall peas but now the weather goes from hot to cold too fast.

Even in September or October, you can plant seeds to come up early in the spring. Plant cilantro and dill in the garden for early crops. In a cold frame, plants seeds for spinach, mustard greens, kale, escarole, radicchio. They'll sprout and the baby plants will take off and grow fast once the sunlight gets stronger, March and April.


Food Questions:
13. What do you do with all your vegetables?

I store many by canning, pickling, freezing and drying them. Most, we eat fresh. A big salad every evening with dinner. We don't buy vegetables in the summer or fall. I bring my vegetable dishes to outings, serve them to guests at my house. And I look forward to having too much. I give them to my mom, siblings, and neighbors. Or I take them to the local Food Pantry. I always feel good doing that. One spring I brought 16 beautiful heads of bok choi an a big basket to the Pantry.

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14. What won't you put in a martini?

Well, tomatoes, beans, greens, pumpkins, eggplants, kohlrabi, turnips, or rutabagas. But I think just about anything else is fair game. And seasonal, fresh homegrown tastes best.

Favorites from my garden: cucumbers, celery, radish, onions, carrots, watermelon, apples, fresh and dried pears, strawberries, raspberries. And once in a while I like a store bought olives. Especially the big green Castelvetranos.

BTW, here's my martini recipe (serves 2): Chill shaker, gin and glasses in freezer. (We store them there.) Add to shaker: about 1 cup crushed ice, 4 shots gin (or vodka) and a splash of dry vermouth (~5 drops). Shake well. Pour into two glasses. We like to add the ice too. Add vegetables and/or fruits to taste.

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15. Where did you get your paella grill?

www.buyspain.com (We have a 42 cm pan.)


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16. What can I do with kohlrabi?

Compost it! (If you feel bad about that, put it in the bottom drawer of your fridge til its brown and then compost it.) Sorry, I've never brought my self to eat it, though I do hear it's very good.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

coming soon

This is a reminder to myself to post the following: an update on my compost tumbler, update on my Botanical Interests seeds, and a list of FACS (with things like "what kind of camera do you use?", "how do you format your blog?").

this is the garden

garden 3

this is the garden:colours come and go,
e.e. cummings

this is the garden:colours come and go,
frail azures fluttering from night's outer wing
strong silent greens silently lingering,
absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden:pursed lips do blow
upon cool flutes within wide glooms,and sing
(of harps celestial to the quivering string)
invisible faces hauntingly and slow.

This is the garden. Time shall surely reap
and on Death's blade lie many a flower curled,
in other lands where other songs be sung;
yet stand They here enraptured,as among
the slow deep trees perpetual of sleep
some silver-fingered fountain steals the world.

A beautiful hot day yesterday. To lovely to pass up. I did garden maintenance nearly all day. Weed whacking and trimming the paths and front area that we are trying to shape into a a gathering area. The weeds here are still aggressive, but after being trimmed a few times now, thick grasses are filling in. I imagine a group of Adirondack chairs under the tree... flowers below the sign posts... maybe a grape arbor... and occasional gatherings with speakers or pot luck dinners.

I took the photo above around 6 pm in the thick evening light of mid summer. The air is so full you can see it. Light bounces around and makes spots and streaks across the pictures. Skippy has been exploring the paths most of the day. Tired and hungry as he is, still I will need to pull him to get him to leave.

Here is a slide show of 6 more evening garden photos.


garden 2

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

today's harvest

lettuce harvest summer squash harvest
harvest broccoli harvest

Amazing how fast things are growing in the hot weather we FINALLY have this week. The garden is awesome. Overrun with squash vines. Fantastic cabbage heads. Corn is taller by the minute. I could sit and watch all day!

Today I harvested lettuce, dill, patty pan and zucchini squash, a giant Chiogga beet, a couple small onions, a green Thai hot pepper, and a handful of broccoli. Oh, and I almost forget, another cherry tomato.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

first tomatoes

first tomatoes
My first tomatoes of the year are two pretty little Sungold cherries.

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mom and dad's harvest

dad's harvest

My dad sent me this photo of the vegetables they picked from their garden this week. Looks like they are eating well. Many of these are plants I grew from seed this spring. My parents' garden always produces super broccoli. And they are ahead of me on the summer squash and cucumbers. I'm wondering if that is a garlic head in there? I'll have to ask them.

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my plot

plot 1
plot 2
Two views. The top one is the view from the west and the bottom one is the view from the east.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Late blight notice

late blight sign

Here's a sign I'll post at our community gardens tomorrow as I remove my contaminated compost pile. Let me know if you have any revisions to suggest!

And, I'm still looking for a vegetable disease expert for a presentation at our community garden. If anyone knows anyone to suggest, please let me know. I think we could use a topic for a gardeners gathering. A use for our newly cleared entrance area. Coffee and donuts, stewed zucchini and fresh lettuce leaves. Ahhh. What fun.

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popcorn

popcorn 3
popcorn 2 popcorn 1

My popcorn plants are almost as tall as me. They're getting tassels now but no sign of ears yet.

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mid summer wildflowers

joe pye weed
loosestife and queen annes lace goldenrod

I'm adding some pretty photos to follow the warty toad and blighted potatoes. The fields near our community gardens are beautiful now with bright mid summer colors. Joe Pye Weed is always my favorite. Its just starting to bloom. Also lots of golden rod, purple loosestrife, milkweed, vetch and Queen Anne's Lace.

wildflowers, weeds, invasives and natives

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

garden toad

toad

I think this is why the slug damage isn't so bad in my garden any more. Toads eat lots of bugs, slugs and snails. This big guy has been hanging out under my squash vines.

garden amphibians

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Friday, July 24, 2009

blighted potatoes

blighted botatoes

I thought the potatoes I dug were fine, even though the plants were heavily hit with late blight. But after three weeks of storage, I have realized they're not fine. The fingerlings and Russets that were hardest hit and that I cut down and dug first are turning brown and rotting in their bags.

[Late blight produces] characteristic coppery-brown discoloration of the potato flesh under the skin.... Infection of potato tubers arises from spores that develop on foliage. Tubers exposed by soil cracking or erosion of hills may come in contact with spores washed down from infected leaves and stems by rainfall or irrigation. Tubers infected during the growing season may partially decay before harvest. Tuber infection may also occur at harvest when tubers contact living spores remaining on infected vines. Little if any tuber-to-tuber spread of late blight occurs during storage if tubers are kept under cool, well-ventilated conditions. Ohio State Univ Extension Fact Sheet on Late Blight

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And here's a very helpful comment Soilman left me a few days ago:

Hiya,
Blight is a pain, isn't it?
I've given up with tomatoes. I just can't bear seeing them struck down with blight every year. Potato blight, though, can be managed. I get it every year (it's a routine hazard in the UK climate), but I've never had a crop failure. The key is to remove all the haulms when the blight starts to really get hold.
You then wait at least 10 days before you dig the potatoes; without the haulm, the blight spores get fried in the sun. Choose a warm, dry day to harvest the potatoes. If they're thoroughly dried before storage, you should be OK. It's always worked for me. One crucial point: NEVER put potato haulms on the compost heap. Burn them.

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And here's a what the CSA farmer at Piccadilly Farm in southern New Hampshire wrote about late blight yesterday:

A note on the Late Blight front: farmers in all parts of New England are reporting serious losses in potatoes and tomatoes. The spread seems to be snowballing, and any prolonged cool, wet weather exacerbates the problem. We scout daily and have seen no sign of Late Blight here. The tomatoes look great and are beginning to size up. Every passing week means more spuds sizing up and less loss on that crop if we do get the blight here. I know I'll be counting down the weeks until the relief of that last potato harvest in October (12 weeks...)! Coupling this stress for vegetable growers with the devastating financial crisis that dairy producers are facing, many regional farmers are having a tough go of it.


sliced blighted potatoes

These rotting potatoes were dug right after I cut down the foliage, so I guess that was the error. I have lots of potatoes still in the ground now though I have cut down all of the foliage. Guess I'll just be patient for a few weeks before harvesting more.

And, someday I need to figure out how to dispose of my compost pile. Its full of blighted tomato and potato foliage. I don't think anything around here is dry enough to burn. Maybe a big deep hole? I don't know ... Can I just dump it in the woods?

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community garden bill in congress

A bill to fund Community Gardens has been proposed in Congress. Here are a couple of letters that were forwarded to me.

Dear Gardener,
Please lend your support and encourage your congressional representatives (House and Senate) to support both of the bills referenced below. With over 150 active, vibrant community garden sites in Boston's city limits (and over 200 in the metro area), please cite the important role community gardens play (providing fresh economical nutritious food, building community, recreation, green space, and more) for our citizens! Jo Ann Whitehead, Garden Educator, Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN)
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Congress has just introduced 2 Community Garden related measures. One is a bill (HR 3225 - The Community Gardens Act), which creates a grant program to fund community gardens. Another is a resolution (the text is here) praising community gardens.

You can read the bill (HR 3225) on the Library of Congress website. You can find your local representative here. If you want to voice support for these, send your representative an email and either thank them if they are already a co-sponsor or ask them to co-sponsor HR 3225. Or write your senator and ask them to sponsor a companion bill in the Senate.

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weather complaints - a VERY wet and cool first month of summer in Boston

full rain guage Boston rainfall for first month of summer
Boston's recent climate data
naked girls plow fields for rain

Yes, I'm complaining again about the weather. Here in Boston, we only survive the winters because we dream about the beautiful summers we know will come. July 24 and we're still waiting....

Twenty of the first 31 days of summer have been rainy. I've only watered my garden once so far. My rain gauge is almost always full. And our temperatures have rarely exceeded the normal summer average. Daily departures for the month have totaled 97 degrees F below normal. The clouds hover and there's no sun to dry up the mud.

Too bad we can't send our rain to Arizona or India. Would that we could.... They are plowing the fields naked and we are bundled up in winter coats and umbrellas....

Please add your weather complaints here. Misery loves company.....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Skippy in the garden

skippy in the garden 2

I forgot my regular camera lens today and was looking for a subject for my macro/portrait lens. Skippy! He got a bit annoyed with me, but he's awfully cute....

skippy in the garden 7 skippy in the garden 6
skippy in the garden 3 skippy in the garden 1
skippy in the garden 4 skippy in the garden 8

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today's harvest

Copy of IMG_9771
lettuce harvest garlic harvest

The vegetables are coming in very fast now. Fava beans, summer squash, potatoes, radish, lettuce and garlic today. I dug about 30 heads of garlic which I will dry a few days and then braid and store in the basement.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

fava recipe

Just a quick bookmark for myself since I'm planning to go out to my plot tomorrow and pick a few more fava beans: A Recipe for Grilled Fava Beans. Nice fresh favas are good pod and all. Or you can pop out the beans from their skins.

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harvests

beet harvest harvest

These are vegetables I harvested last week. A big perfect beet and a big odd ball beet. (Lutz and Chiogga) I suspect both will taste delicious.

Also a nice bunch of radish. Half of my radish this year are very tough and fibrous. So hard I can't get a knife through to slice them. The other half are nice and crispy. I don't know what's wrong with the fibrous ones.

And some more lettuce. This year I have way more lettuce than I can use. One of my goals for this year's garden was to grow more lettuce than I needed. So far, so good. The challenge will be the next few weeks. The midsummer heat is always a challenge for my lettuce supply.

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pea green

peas and pod

I picked a big handful of peas yesterday. A very small yeild for my big patch and big hopes. But, still a very pretty bowl of green.

(I think my main problem with the peas this year was slugs and lack of sun. I would have thought the cool wet weather would have been perfect. I planted more two weeks ago and these are growing great. Much better than my spring germination and growth rates. They are in a very shaded part of the garden so they may do best here in mid summer.)

The peas topped off a yummy paella my husband made in his new paella grill. Can't beat it!

the paella chef and his sidekick
paella with peas bowl of shelled peas

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

photos from my garden

bean sprout bean sprouts
pea pod
alpine strawberry pea flower and baby pod
wet tomatoes
marigold nasturtium leaves
basil sulfurous cosmos
bee on cuke blossom
baby diva cuke pickling cuke
radish chinese pole beans
pole beans















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