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.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

skippy

skippy

I've been forgetting to photograph Skippy recently, though he's as cute as ever. My son took this picture last time they were down under the kitchen table.

harvests

tomatoes in a bowl harvest
A couple photos of my harvest. At right, newly picked from my community plot. At the left, my collected tomatoes waiting to be eaten.

Finally tomatoes today from my blight stricken community plot. Seems like the blight may be dissipating? Tomatoes actually ripening without rotting. I picked a few Opalkas and a nice Purple Calabash. I'm pleased. Time for T-sauce soon.

Someone asked me if any of my tomato varieties have late blight resistance. Of 11 varieties planted, Purple Calabash, Opalka and Box Car Willie survived the blight and are producing. Maybe these have a bit of resistance - probably just luck.

And, I picked first ripe pumpkin of the year - a tiny Baby Pam. Its supposed to be a great tasting pie pumpkin. I'm looking forward to baking with it.

Two tiny red chiles too. Thai Hots. And a fat carrot - Oxheart.

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storing blueberries

Prolonging the life of berries - an interesting article my sister sent.

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getting ready to plant garlic

garlic 2

I've been getting advertisements that its time to order garlic now. Here are some mail order sources:
Seeds of Change
The Garlic Store
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Johnny's Selected Seeds

I ordered top sets a couple years ago and they haven't done very well for me. They take several years to size up and I'm afraid I've lost them all in the process. Three or four years ago I grew supermarket garlic (softneck) and its done pretty good. I still get a few medium sized ones from this. My most successful has been the heads I pick up at the Farmers Market and from my CSA.

This year I harvested about 30 heads of garlic. I will plant about 3 or 4 of the biggest ones: 2 or 3 hardnecks and 1 softneck. (Its hard not to eat the biggest and best heads!) Plus I'll plant a nice CSA head I saved. And I'd like to find another head or two to add to the collection. About 30-40 cloves total. I usually plant in September or October.

I'm really pleased with my garlic this year. Most have very big cloves. Some only two cloves per head - but very big ones. They are a big dirty on the outside, because I didn't wash them right away, but crisp and very nice inside.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

tickle with a hoe

Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.
-Douglas William Jerrold, A Land of Plenty
I love coming across a great garden quote!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

garden aerial

aerial August 25

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse, 1854

My home vegetable garden has filled up with beans and basil. And tomatoes and cucumbers are doing great too. Nothing like summer abundance.

(The two big bushes at the lower left are still there. Soon they will be removed for my cutting garden. I like to imagine rows of flowers there.)

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Monday, August 24, 2009

tomato taste test results

tomato taste test 2

And the winners were .... Cherokee Purple and Sungold!

I have eight varieties of tomatoes along the south side of my house. Seven were perfectly ripe and we tasted them side-by-side.

1. Orange Blossom
2. Mortgage Lifter
3. Big Beef
4. New Girl
5. Cherokee Purple
6. Brandywine Sudduth's Strain
7. Sungold

I think the way we did the test had an affect on the results. We tested the tomatoes plain, no food, no salt, one after the other. We were surprised that none tasted as good as we expected.

The big heirlooms, Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter were mealy with not much flavor. Big Beef and New Girl were more firm, but still not much flavor. Orange Blossom tasted nice and firm. Sungold was really sweet! Wonderful. Very nice if you like all the skin of a cherry tomato. And Cherokee Purple had a nice tomato flavor, looks great, and, since I'm not a fan of cherries, I pick it as the WINNER! (My husband picked the Sungold.)

I suspect if we taste tested with Parmesan, salt and basil the results would be different. Even just salt. Then the taste wouldn't have just been about consistency. I'm still a Brandywine fan .... And the winner for appearance was the big pink Mortgage Lifter.

tomato taste test 1 tomato taste test 3

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

fall planting

seeds
plot 2 plot 1

Here's what I planted yesterday. My garden has little patches of free soil here and there. A spot where fava beans were. One where blighted tomatoes were. The empty garlic patch.

I got rained on while planting, so the packs look ragged.

Its late for fall planting. My calendar says I should have planted a few weeks ago. Last year I did my last planting on August 27 and only some of the greens matured by the first frost. The peas and spinach didn't. (I've never gotten fall peas to produce.)

It so hot now to think fall is coming. My count down calendar says 52 days to first frost (around Oct 15). We'll see how these seeds do.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

mexican cole claw

cole slaw ingredients
frying taco shells taco with slaw

I got the idea for this Mexican cole slaw recipe from a TV show on fish tacos. Its great with any kind of tacos - and maybe even any meal. Perfect with fresh homegrown cabbage. The unexpected combination of cabbage, lime juice and cilantro is just fantastic.

RECIPE
1 cup cabbage, sliced
1 scallion, chopped
1 tsp lime juice
2 tsp sour cream
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 slices pickled jalapenos

Mix all ingredients. Use more or less of everything to your taste, but don't use too much sour cream (or jalapenos!). Makes 2 servings.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

tomato taste test soon!

I have 7 varieties of tomatoes on my counter now! New Girl, Orange Blossom, Big Beef, Sudduth strain Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter and Sun Gold. I'll check for more tomorrow and then we'll have a serious taste test. Any bets on the winner? The Mortgage Lifter (a gift from Ohio Heirloom seeds) sure is good lookin'.

edible front yards

I got an email I thought was interesting: someone is looking for front yard garden stories for a book. I love to see vegetable gardens in the front yard!

For this new edition of the book (Metropolis Books, 2008) we are
looking for more reports from across the country from those that have
decided to engage in "full frontal gardening". Have you replaced the
lawn in front of your house or apartment building with a completely
edible garden? We will be selecting one garden story from each zone,
with each contributor receiving a copy of the book. Questions and
submissions: assistant@fritzhaeg.com

We will need:
- a 500 word story about your garden
- 4 or 5 photos of your garden at the highest resolution (include the
street or sidewalk in one)
- your name, mailing address, size of garden, date established, and
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone
http://www.fritzhaeg.com/garden/initiatives/edibleestates/2010stories.html

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mishapen radish

mishapen radish
Last year I gad such beautiful radish. This year I over did it with the manure and have lots of funky root vegetables.

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harvests

first butternut squash harvest 1 - summer squash
harvest 3 - beets
harvest harvest 2 - eggplants
onions

Its hard to believe the bounty of mid summer. My fridge is full of every vegetable there is, it seems. All fresh and beautiful. Such variety. So many photos to take - and recipes to try. Its really wonderful.

These are photos of: my first butternut squash, a day's worth of summer squash, three types of beets (Chiogga, White Detroit and Lutz), my first eggplant harvest, a basket full of everything I brought home from my plot yesterday, and my storage onion harvest.

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my garden plot after vacation

plot 4
first orange pumpkin savoy cabbages
plot 2
plot 1
plot 3

Always fun to see whats new in the garden after being away for vacation.

- The small pumpkins are turning orange. The big ones are getting enormous. I found 2 today and wouldn't be surprised if there are more to be found under the vines.

- The butternut vines are starting to mildew. But no signs of stem borers. I picked my first butternut squash today AND I counted 16 more! Amazing for 3 plants!

- The savoy cabbage is heading nicely as well as a couple more red cabbages.

- The tomatoes seem to be doing better against the Late Blight. The 5 plants left look big and healthy. Still no good ripe tomatoes yet, but looks like I may be able to get some soon.

- Can't wait for that popcorn. It is 7 feet tall and looks really nice.

- I have one sweet potato vine that's growing very well now. Skippy partially dug it up a couple weeks ago and I noticed there are lots of tubers down there.

- The chiles are starting to ripen. Nice red Thai Hots, Nardellos and sweet peppers coming along. Eggplants too are growing well.

- I have a dozen parsnip plants getting big now. And 4 or 5 celeriac. These are new crops for me and it will be exciting to harvest these later. I'm not sure when to harvest. Maybe the parsnips are a spring crop?

- I also have a nice row of winter radish growing. A mix of pink and white ones.

- Have some spaces to fill. I'll have to look up what can be seeded now. I think fall greens, lettuce, spinach, arugula etc. A good thing to plan on doing tomorrow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

vacation

vacation

We've been on vacation. Nothing like a couple days in the back woods of the White Mountains, NH! This is Dry River viewed from our hike up the Dry River Trail heading toward the south side of Mount Washington and the presidential range - near Crawford Notch. We only hiked a few miles on the trail. But we did a lot of swimming - especially Skippy. A true water dog!

Back to the vegetable garden tomorrow.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

tomato photos

giant belgium
Giant Belgium
orange blossom big beef
Orange Blossom and Big Beef
cherokee purple new girl
Cherokee Purple and New Girl
sungold brandywine SS
Sungold and Brandywine Suddoth's Strain
hillbilly
Hillbilly
morgage lifter san marzano
Mortgage Lifter and San Marzano
purple calabash Purple Calabash

Here's a photo of each of the varieties of tomatoes I have growing now. One plant of each. I have 5 plants left (of 16 planted) at my community plot and 8 (of 8) at home.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

melons and martinis

Charatais melon
Charantais melon
crane fruitsugar baby watermelon
Crane melon and Sugar Baby watermelon
anne Arundale plant with fruit
Anne Arundale melon plant under the corn stalks

My melon plants are looking really scrawny still. The cool, wet weather has not been good for them. They've ended up buried beneath tall corn or rampant squashes. But this week is finally perfect melon weather - 90*F and full sun. Fruit is setting. But it seems late to me and I'm wondering if any will have time to ripen.

The real farmers have plenty of melons already. I had a very nice melon from Picadilly Farm (NH) last night. The good news is I've discovered another delicious martini! Perfect for the hottest days of summer. Cheers!

melon martini

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Friday, August 14, 2009

this week's harvests

harvest
carrot harvest beet harvest
onion harvest

I pulled a bunch of beets this week: Chiogga, Lutz and White Detroit. Also carrots: Oxheart, Mokum and Bolero (a lot of funky shapes!).

And my onions grown from sets: variety is Stuttgarter. Onions will stay in the garden 3 or 4 days to dry for storage. Its a good time with several days of dry weather ahead.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

bees in flight - busy pollinating my vegetables!

honey bee in flight
(BugGuide ID request for this bee)

I heard a nice story on NPR the other day (The Buzz On Bees: Coping With Vanishing Colonies, August 7, 2009). Mostly about urban bees.

I didn't know there are 227 bee species in New York City - all year-round residents. And 4,000 across the US. Its wonderful to think of such biodiversity in backyards.

Unfortunately, bee numbers are still declining. "There's been an estimated ... 36 percent decline .. since last year."

I was interested in the description of a recent study. So far, no single factor explains bee decline. "All of the research over these past years have left us still kind of scratching our heads. In fact, one of the largest [studies] we just published earlier this week, where at least 61 or so variables were investigated in colonies afflicted with the CCD or colony collapse disorder kind of syndrome. And the long and the short of it is, is that no one factor really seems to have a strong correlation with the disorder. And so what seems to be the case is that there's a combination of many different factors…" (vanEngelsdorp, et al., 2009, PloS ONE)

Probably many different problems all together are affecting bee populations.

My experience with bees this year has been positive. My cukes and pumpkins are being pollinated fine and I see lots of bees in both my gardens. More than last year. I also notice a lot more flowers and around my neighborhood and our community gardens. More interest in gardens here. That's got to be good for the bees.

bumble bee in flight
(BugGuide ID request for this bee) Xylocopa virginica (Eastern carpenter bee)

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