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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

flowers in my garden

black eyed susans rudbeckia
cucumber marigold Fireball
nasturium basil flower
alpine strawberry blossom fall aster
honeysuckle purple giant benery zinnia
weed flowering kale
morning glory creeping bellflower

another flower

hydrangea Quickfire
Hardy Hydrangea, Hydrangea Quick Fire™. This is a new bush in my front yard. Its been in bloom all summer. I'm wondering where I could squeeze in more.

It started blooming as a white lace cap and gradually turned pale pink, and now a deep rich pink. Wonderful.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

honey CSA

I think this may finally happen!

Last year, I read somewhere about a honey CSA. Since honey's one of my favorite things and since we had poor pollination last year, this seemed like a super idea. I've been looking around for a bee keeper and finally came across a woman who maintains beehives and is interested in running a CSA. I am SO excited!

The idea is to set up probably 2-5 hives in a location near the community gardens in Belmont. The beekeeper will decide how many shares to divide the honey into and cost per share. Benefits will be very local organic honey, garden pollination, and an educational component. Interested CSA members can watch, learn, and potentially participate.

I was talking with the beekeeper about where to locate the hives. Bees like warm sunlight, southern or eastern exposure. They should be at least 20 feet from a walking path. We have several possible locations picked out and will make calls to get final approval.

One potential problem is beehives are high risk now with colony collapse disorder. While vegetable CSAs always have something to distribute even in a bad year, a honey CSA has the potential of coming up completely dry. (Kind of like a tomato CSA would have done this year.) But the rewards could be very sweet.

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harvest - russet potatoes and broccoli

IMG_2238b

Big Russets and a serious head of broccoli. I feel like a real farmer. I really enjoy running down to the garden instead of the supermarket! We ate these immediately. Pan fried potatoes, sliced thin and steamed broccoli. Yum!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

more basil harvested

second basil harvest

This is the basil I harvested on Saturday. We trimmed the leaves off the stems, added olive oil and processed it. Its waiting in the fridge now til I buy pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Then we (i.e. my husband) will turn it into pesto and freeze it. Its a bumper crop this year and should easily last us til next year.

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late blight again - the topic that just won't go away

As I clean up for next year, the Late Blight topic is coming up again. To bag and dispose or to compost?

There are two different camps out there:

Composters:
HortBlog
Gardener's Corner (Interesting last comment here where they recommend leaving the tomato plants to overwinter in the field as is so they will self-sow.)

Disposers:
Maryland Cooperative Extension
Dave's Garden
Cornell University Extension

I hate the idea of bagging and disposing, but I am in this camp. It is impossible to predict what our winter weather will be and harder yet to predict the conditions in the compost pile. So best to do what we can to avoid worse blight worse next year.

It seems to me reasons to compost are:
- you garden in a heavily infected community garden where many gardens will not be cleared and hence there is little chance of reducing the number of spores AND you have a reason not to try improve the situation anyway
- you got minimal Late Blight very late (September) and live in a cold area and feel the risks are low compered with the effort to dispose
- you plan to just forgo tomatoes and potatoes for a few years anyway
- you plan to spray all sorts of chemicals next year
- you don't care about potential spread from your garden to a nearby Organic Farmer

Regarding the last point, I just read this story about Old Path Farm, Utica NY (and there are lots of stories like this around). Late blight is an extremely destructive disease.

I am looking forward to our Seed Swap Day this Saturday, when Gretta Anderson, a local farmer from Shared Harvest CSA, will come and speak. Her topic will be "Late Blight: Sharing the collective experience of local organic growers this summer".

And here is a question left today on an earlier post on this blog:
I thought that the problem with the blight this year was that it came so early. Don't NE gardens usually get blight every year, but much later in the season (like, now?) If that's true, then there is no reason to worry about the disposal of the blighted plants at this point. The whole reason for burying them earlier was so that the blight couldn't affect your neighbor's (or your other) plants at their peak moment of the season. I am not an expert, that's just what I thought was the case from everything I read. Is that right? September 28, 2009 2:29 PM

I answered: I don't know. I thought the reason for disposal reason was to reduce the spores around next year. I am going to start a new post on this topic. Thanks for the question. September 28, 2009 3:22 PM

Please leave your opinion. Hopefully this topic will be gone next year and we won't have to belabor it ad infinitum.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

my popcorn is delicious!!!

popcorn
popcorn and skippy popped corn

I tested a few kernels of popcorn and they popped well we made a batch (1 ear). Small bright white kernels. Add salt and melted butter. First thing, we brought it to my 17 year old. Here's the conversation:

(I put the bowl down near him.... Munching sounds start.... more munching sounds..)

"Do you like it Sam?"
"Hmm"
(munching...)

"Is it as good as your usual popcorn?"
"Better."
(munching, I tried to wait for elaboration...)

"Ohh. What's better about it?"
"The flavor."

And that's very true. I completely agree. (And very nice to have such an involved conversation with a teenager.) The kernels are smaller. But they taste delicious. A very subtle nice flavor that tastes like, well, popcorn. (Instead of microwaved Styrofoam with fake butter flavor added.)

So good we made another batch tonight. Its going fast! My 30+ ears definitely won't last long at this rate. (Another 28 or so days.)

Another definite for next year's garden!

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marigolds

marigolds Fireball

This has been a fantastic marigold in my garden this year. I don't know the name, but I think I bought plants at Bonny's Garden center. I was thinking of collecting seeds, but these may be hybrids, so I won't bother.

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tomato hornworm killed by parasitic wasps

tomato hornworm carcass with parasitic warp eggs

Among many fascinating sights I found clearing out my garden. But too ugly to post a large photo. Garden Rant has a nice post describing these.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

a beautiful gardening day

Copy of sept aerial

Today I cleaned up my side yard garden. What a fantastic day.

Chores:
- Photograph in the morning light everything that was blooming.
- Photograph all the spider webs.
- Harvest basil, soybeans and cucumbers.
- Pull, bag and dispose of all the tomato debris.
- Pull and compost the peas and stack the pea poles.
- Support the garden fence better.
- Trim and adjust the rose shoots.
- Trim the grass/weeds between the garden beds.
- Empty compost tumbler and spread onto 2 cleared beds.
- Dismantle an old decayed compost bin.
- Hand sift compost from bin and spread on the 2 cleared beds.
- Topseed 2 beds with green manure mix (from Johnny's - a mix of vetch, field peas, clover and winter rye)
- Clean up and have a cranberry martini.
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An aerial series of this year's garden so far: April through September.

garden aerial aerial aerial aerial aerial wet aerial 2 aerial August 25 Copy of sept aerial

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Friday, September 25, 2009

recent harvests

watermelon harvest broccoli harvest
harvest immature butternut

These are some of my harvests from the past couple weeks.

I picked one small but delicious Sugar Baby Watermelon. I was very pleased with this and will plant these again and try to do better next year. I had two plants and will try 6 next year.

The tiny little melon on the plate with the watermelon is the single cantaloupe I got. A Charantais. Unripe miniature and not good tasting. It was not a good year for melons, and I made several mistakes with this crop. I scattered a few plants of different types here and there in the garden, mostly under things. Under the corn, under the squash. They were blocked from the little sun we got. And they probably needed richer soil. I' like to try again, and plant them in very rich soil where nothing will block them.

I've been harvesting a lot of broccoli shoots and a few big heads now and then - still from my spring planting. I think the shoots are like supermarket broccolini, which I've always wanted to grow. I've never been able to figure out what broccolini is.

My husband processed the basil into nice pesto. (Here's our recipe.) That's about 1/4 of my crop. Its been a good basil year.

And my eggplant have beat the Blight and are doing great now. I have big plans for eggplant Parmesan this weekend. (Here's that recipe.)

Finally, the unripe Butternut squash I harvested out of curiosity. It smelled nice, like a melon when I sliced it. Nice tender skin like a summer squash. Faintly greenish orange flesh. Tender seeds. We grilled it with olive oil and salt. The taste - well, bland and mealy - generally not to our liking. I'll wait 'til the rest are properly ripe.

bluebirds in the gardens

3 bluebirds

Bluebirds! Just passing through maybe. Flashes of blue and russet. I definitely saw 4 of them today, and there may have been a whole flock of a dozen or so. They are quite shy and I didn't have binoculars.

We have a great bluebird restoration program at Rock Meadow. But this year was not its best year. There was only one nest attempt and this one was disrupted by sparrows. The previous year was very successful with (if I remember correctly) 6 broods raised. Bluebirds need mowed areas to forage and there are large areas ready for them now. Hopefully as they pass through, they'll remember the nice houses and fields and check back in the spring.

Some information on Eastern Bluebirds: They have actually never been on endangered lists, but numbers declined drastically since the early 1900's when they were one of the most common birds of eastern US suburbs. Probably the most significant factors in their decline were the introduction of House Sparrows and European Tree Swallows, pesticide use, and loss of habitat. Since 1970, bluebird numbers have been steadily rising. The most significant factor in their recovery is volunteerism: putting boxes in appropriate habitat and discouraging House Sparrows. (bluebird history)

It seems a timely topic after the panda opinions expressed today. ABC News report: "Conservationists should 'pull the plug' on giant pandas and let them die out, according to BBC presenter and naturalist Chris Packham".

And are the bluebirds just passing through? It seems they sometimes migrate south and sometimes overwinter in Massachusetts. Depends on the winter weather and the food supply. So maybe they'll stay around!

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tomatoes

A sad day - I removed half of the blighted tomatoes in my home garden (hopefully I'll get to the rest tomorrow) and actually bought tomatoes (!!) from the Farmers Market. I was pleased to see they are only $2/lb now. Tomorrow I plan to make another batch of red sauce. My last batch is being consumed very fast. This new batch will go into an eggplant Parmesan and some lasagna.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

fall thoughts

Copy of BVG
my marigolds Copy of my ripening pumpkin

Fall often surprises me with how fast it comes. Of course, I'd never be ready to finish with summer. But it does seem that in one day, all of a sudden, the summer garden turns into a fall garden. Whether I'm ready or not.

Its mostly something to do with the lighting I think. I'm trying to figure it out. When I take a photo in the summer, the colors are warm and yellow highlighted, but now shadows are too dark, highlights too bright, blues and yellows tend to be missing. When I look around, the sun is glaring in my eyes and I can't see into the shadows.

Of course the angle of the sun is lower, accounting for the glare in my eyes and the deeper shadows. Probably less moisture in the air since its a bit cooler, which may account for some changes in light quality. And the light now travels through more atmosphere, attenuating shorter wavelengths: UV, blues, some green. Some mammalian seasonal clocks respond to these wavelengths. Plants are very sensitive to these changes. The garden rapidly changes its character as the fall light quality changes.

Someone used the word pallet. The fall pallet in the garden is unique. The greens of chlorophyll are fading, replaced by reds, oranges, golds. The dry air helps to fade the greens. My pumpkins are now bright orange, the gardens are full to bursting with tall yellow sunflowers.

I read somewhere that perception of fall relates back to our hunter-gatherer ancestry. Back when we had to anticipate winter with instincts and stock up on food. I can't say I feel an urgency to go hunting, more of a sadness. Another garden is winding down. Another winter is between us and the next garden.

fall wild asters blue fall berries

wasps - ouch!!

wasp nest up close
I ran into this wasp nest yesterday while weed whacking the paths at the community gardens. Its underground. The entrance is just inside the fence of someone's plot.

I ended up with 4 or 5 stings that hurt like crazy. Fortunately I'm not allergic. However, I think this is probably the same nest Jennifer found the other day and she had a serious reaction. There were a surprising number of very mad bees that came out of the hole like a little cloud.

So I thought I'd look up what I could find on line. It seems this is a wasp of the Vespula species, a type of yellowjacket. It builds a gray paper nest underground. The nest begins in the spring and ends in the winter. A finished nest contains 3,000 wasps. Wasp nests are not reused the next year and all wasps but the queen die off over the winter. In the fall, new queens are produced and the workers feed these so they become fat enough to survive the winter. The queens mate then overwinter in a protected location and begin a new colony in the spring.

I will make a bright sign to post by the hole so no one else gets stung. Sounds like this nest will be short lived.

BTW, Here's a good factsheet on yellowjackets.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

garden red sauce

I just made my 17 year old son his late night snack: meatballs with red sauce and pasta. (Its exhausting keeping a teenage boy fed!) And, thrill-of-thrills, he complimented the sauce!!!

So, this reminded me I forgot to note my red sauce here (made September 4). Being a non-tomato year, this year's version includes all sorts of garden vegetables and only a few tomatoes.

It wasn't really a recipe: I threw what I grew in the pot and cooked it down.

A bit more detail: I put all the vegetables I needed to use up on the counter and a pot on the stove. To the pot, I added onions, garlic, and olive oil and sauteed a bit. Then I started adding more vegetables to the pot. Being lazy in the kitchen, I skipped peeling the tomatoes and peppers and added these whole or halved. I added purple, pink, red and orange tomatoes, beefsteak, romas and cherries. (I figured the Sungolds would sweeten it up like adding sugar.) I added red and green peppers. Plus lots of carrots and summer squash. After simmering a long time, I pulled out the tomato skins, pureed everything, poured it into baggies and froze them.

Would be nice if I get enough early fall tomatoes to make another batch soon. I really enjoy having my own garden red sauce after the fresh garden vegetables are gone. It makes great pizza sauce. And there's nothing like a little compliment here and there from a teenager!

kitchen sauce 1
sauce 3
sauce 5 sauce 6

© Skippy's Vegetable Garden

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Monday, September 21, 2009

photos of my plot

plot 1
plot 5 plot 3
plot 2 plot 6















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