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, May 31, 2011

birds in my backyard

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I have a cardinal nesting in my backyard in a climbing hydrangea vine. I noticed the nest because there was a pale blue egg with lots of brown speckles on the ground. It had a small hole in it (the size of a wren's beak) and was empty. I looked above and found the female cardinal sitting on her nest. Since I found the nest (last week), she has been faithfully sitting - so I think she has laid more eggs.

There is also a pair of wrens are in a bird house by the garden in my side yard. The female wren is spending a lot of time in the house, so I assume she has eggs or chicks even by now. The male sings to her often.

The sparrows in the back bird house had peeping chicks that I heard last week, but I think something may have happened to them (wren?). The parents are still tending house though, so either the kids are just quiet or they have a new brood on the way.

I have seen a catbird and robin in the yard often and I keep watching to see where their nests are. How many bird nests can fit in one tiny yard? I think they have nests up in the neighboring trees though and just come to my yard for water.

I did see a bluish warbler the other day in my waterfall and got a photo (below). Maybe someone can tell me what type of bird this was.

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baby pears

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I was very happy to find a bunch of baby pears (my first!) on one of my espaliered trees in my community plot. I have two trees trained on a 5 foot fence. One tree (a Bartlett) has been there for 3 years now and the other I planted last spring. Last year both trees looked bad - with some bugs in the leaves (red spots - scale I think), so this spring I used a dormant oil spray just before buds opened. The fruit has set on the newer smaller tree - no bloom or fruit on the older tree. But the leaves look very good on both trees. Maybe next year I will have fruit on both trees. Soon, I will bag the fruits I have now and hopefully protect them from the garden critters.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day weekend garden work

My plot from the southeast:
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What a fantastic weekend for gardening!

Our weather has gone from cloudy and cold (40-50*F) last week to hot and sunny (80's). Some plants love it, some don't. I am very pleased to see the sun!!!

My weekend accomplishments:

Transplanted tomato seedlings
Planted popcorn seeds
Weeded the garlic beds
Transplanted pumpkin and squash seedlings
Constructed squash support
Watched a hummingbird visit wild bluebells
Mowed about half of the community gardens paths
Discovered a big fat toad in my garden
Hilled potato plants
Discovered baby pears and apples forming
Began pruning my espaliered pear trees
Watered the new transplants

We continue to eat lettuce in abundance from the cold frame. Its bolting as we pick it. Also lots of escarole, parsley and thyme. My husband removed the panels from the cold frame yesterday. The open frame is now filled with bolting lettuce and many trays of seedlings. I planted out eggplant seedlings into the soil in the frame last week. Eggplants and pepper seedlings are very small and I'm babying them. This hot weather should be just what they like.

I am planning to layer newspapers and then straw on the squash bed. This bed is at the forefront of the photo above. These layers should keep the weeks down and the moisture in this summer.(I hear the Boston Globe uses all soy-based inks.) I have added extra compost to this bed, which the squashes enjoy.

My plot from the northeast:
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My plot from the southwest:
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My plot from the northwest:
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Jobs waiting to be done (always more...):
Plant bean, soy bean, sunflower and nasturtium seeds
Transplant leftover tomatoes, peppers and eggplants into bigger pots to bring my parents and give away later next week
Transplant lettuce, pepper, cucumber and melon seedlings
Plant dahlia tubers
Keep weeding and watering
Plant more beets, radish and lettuce
Check on the toad
Keep the bird bath full

Saturday, May 28, 2011

skirt for garden bulletin board

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My husband made a nice skirt for the base of the garden bulletin board that a Belmont boy scout recently made for us. He used pressure treated 2 by 6's and filled with topsoil. I'm deciding what to plant in it. What do you think? Black-Eyed Susan's? Daffodils and day lilies? Native wild flowers like tansy or Joe Pye weed? A couple low blue berry bushes? Marigolds, cosmos... sunflowers.... there are so many choices.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

sad seedlings

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This is a picture of my sad basil and pepper seedlings. They were in seed cells that didn't drain well in my closed cold frame during the very wet, cold weather last week. The seedlings have a problem called damping off. Its caused by a fungus that attacks the stem and makes the plant fall over and die. :( I brought the trays inside yesterday and put them under lights to warm up and dry out.

Cold, wet weather is hard for a cold frame. I didn't know whether to leave it open or closed. In retrospect, I suppose I might as well have opened the panels since there was no sun to warm it up. Any extra airflow might have helped.

I'm realizing that while raising all my seedlings in my cold frame this spring may have saved lots of lighting-dollars and time, some of my seedlings are small. In particular, basil, peppers, eggplants, and cabbages. Less so, but a bit smaller are my tomatoes. Next year I'll remember to keep these seedlings inside longer.

The ones that seem to be really happy outside early are marigolds, cosmos, onions, kale, leeks, lettuce, escarole and frisee, arugula and other greens.

I did baby my squashes, melons and cucumbers by keeping them inside until is was very warm and these are doing great. Next weekend should be a good time to plant these out in the garden.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

cold and damp spring

We have had such a cold and wet spring! I can't believe it. We had a miserable, dark and snowy winter and now a damp, dreary spring. Arggh. Today I bundled up in a jacket and turtle neck. My mom even wore a fleece scarf. Young girls dressing by the calendar wore shorts and sandals, and we shivered just looking at them.

I'm hearing that there is concern already about late blight. Its out there, they say. I posted an announcement on our garden bulletin board (below) reminding gardeners to buy locally grown tomato plants. I have heard gardeners suggest that tomato plants should be kept inside for a while longer to avoid the dampness.

I am having trouble with my cold frame. It doesn't have much air circulation. And, since its still chilly, I've been keeping the panels closed at night. Today I realized that several of my seedling trays are showing some rotting. The stems and leaves have some black areas and leaves are wilting. Worst are the basil, peppers and melon seedlings, so today I brought them back inside. I'll leave them under lights for a while to dry out and stay warm. I'll also leave the cold frame panels open and see if I can get more air circulation.

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google earth image of the belmont community gardens

Microsoft PowerPoint - Presentation3

Isn't Google Earth amazing! It looks like this image is from mid-July of last year. I can see my squash plants are still looking like well-behaved separate hills. By August they were a tangled mess and spilling into adjacent beds. You can see the 16 new plots we added at the upper right.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

birds and critters I saw this weekend

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American robin 048 chipmonk 038
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my plot

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On Saturday, I spent most of the day gardening at my community plot. It was warm and overcast. With a week of rain arriving the next day, it was a perfect day to transplant seedlings and plant carrot seeds. Skippy hung out under the lilac tree and I:

- finished preparing the soil in the last 3 beds
- weeded the garlic
- spread salt hay in the rest of my paths
- planted 3 types of carrots seeds: Mokum, Kyoto Red, and Bolero
- transplanted a perennial flower called Trilobia that I started two years ago
- transplanted annual flower seedlings: pink cosmos and big yellow/orange marigolds
- transplanted vegetable seedlings: red cabbage, Chinese cabbage, fennel, celery, Chinese broccoli, beets, leeks, and lots of onions.

I found a triplet of squash plants of some type that has sprouted near the compost bin. They are big seedlings. I can't remember what pumpkins or squashes I discarded there, but I love to have a mystery to watch.

Other volunteers this year are borage sprouts, lots of dill and a few sunflowers.

I left out the other half of my seed potatoes for other gardeners. As usual I bought too many this year. I was pleased to see three of four gardeners take some of these and plant them in their plots.

Our gardens are very active this year. Many past years, I would have been on my own in the gardens, even on a Saturday in early spring. Not so this year. Lots of activity. And, along with the activity, lots are really fantastic gardens growing. I will have to bring my camera the next time I walk through.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

oak leaves and garden plans

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Its an old saying I remember reading: "Plant corn when the oak leaves are a big as squirrels ears." My guess is this weekend will be perfect timing for planting corn.

A couple months ago my son asked me to plant popcorn again this year. I had decided I didn't have enough room and hadn't set aside space for popcorn. But I'm not one to refuse a gardening request. So I revised my plan (below) to make room for corn.

In addition to the added popcorn, when I went to prepare the bed for the potatoes as planned, I can across two giant underground rocks that I couldn't move. So the potato bed had to be moved too. Here is the revised plan. We'll see how well I follow this.

Microsoft PowerPoint - Garden plan 2011b

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

garden work

I have been trying to keep up with the season. There is so much to do in the garden in the spring. I have spent a few afternoons at my plot this week - soaking up the sun and working hard.

Asparagus harvest: I picked my first asparagus ever yesterday. I couldn't believe how sweet it is! Only half of my harvest made it home. It is so sweet to nibble on! The rest was super sauteed with thyme.

Compost pile: I moved last year's pile to the other side of my garden plot to make room to expand my asparagus patch. I will divide and spread out the crowns I have. Some are a bit too close to the shade of my lilac.

Potatoes: I planted 4 varieties on Friday.

Salt hay mulch: On Monday I turned over 2 raised beds at my community plot and spread salt hay in my paths. I saw that Diane and Glenn had spread hay on their paths and it looked so nice that I thought I'd do the same. I bought a bale last fall and used it as a mulch on my garlic over the winter. Salt hay is an amazing garden mulch with no weed seeds and lasts forever. So I pulled it off my garlic and got the rest of the bale that I stored under plastic and spread it on my paths. I love it!

Peas and favas: I planted peas three weeks ago and favas last weekend. The peas are up 2 inches now. I'm watching for the fava beans.

Sowing: And then there is the seed planting. I plant a few pots every few days. The cukes and squashes are sprouting now. I love how they push themselves out of the dirt.

Fenway community gardens

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I wandered through the Fenway Victory gardens in Boston during their Open Gardens Day last weekend. Beautiful! They have wonderful spring bulbs, rock pathways, birds, and roses on arched gates. I now have many new ideas for my garden.

They have a several community designated plots. One is full of wheelbarrows of different sorts for gardeners to use. Another has several large planting beds for seedlings and divisions gardeners want to share. They also are beginning a demonstration garden to show ow to build raised beds and grow vegetables. All of the vegetables they grow in this plot will go to a local food bank.

Too many photos. Here's a link to my photo show: Boston Fenway Garden's.

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

new seeds

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I got a few new seeds on vacation in Europe. The little nasturtiums look very sweet on the package photo. The pumpkins look nice too - Bright orange with nice ribs. I was reading through the German on the back of the pumpkin package and mentioned to my son - gee, they get to be 70 kg. How big is that? He paused and looked at me, then to make sure he heard right, he asked again. Yes, 70 kg I said. Well, Mom, that's more than 150 lbs. Hmm. That's pretty big.

We'll, I didn't realize I was buying a giant. I'll plant a few seeds and see what comes of it. Maybe they'll take over my garden. I don't think so - I'll put them on the edge. The nasturtiums should be nice.

The little pepper is called Iddy Betty Bossy. These are peppers we bought at the supermarket and my son loves super hot peppers. He asked that I grow them. Peppers are particularly good for saving seed as they generally breed true (if they aren't hybrid). So I planted one of them.

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aerial aerial
April 31 and April 9, 2011
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March 20 and February 1, 2011
aerial aerial view
Jan 12, 2011 and December 24, 2010
Aerial Nov 21, 2010 wet aerial
November 21 and October 6, 2010
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August 28 and August 5, 2010
garden aerial aerial April 22 2010
May 30 and April 22, 2010

As my garden starts to take shape for another season, I looked back on last year's photos. The garden was very shady last year (that backyard tree just keeps growing!) and I had all my tomatoes, potatoes and peppers at home following the late blight the previous summer. Not good crops for partial sunlight.

This year, the tomatoes, potatoes and peppers will all rotate back to my community plot where they can have SUN. AND, we had a giant branch removed from the backyard shade tree and I'm hoping the garden gets more sun this year.

I just went back to look at my garden plans that I drew up in the middle of the winter. My side yard garden will be planted with dill, cucumbers, peas and beans this year. Not on the plan, but I'll put some kale and cilantro here too. The peas are up an inch or two already.

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