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, November 28, 2012

today's harvest

harvest and Skip nov 28

Today, I harvested the last of my leeks, 2 tiny heads of savoy cabbage, 2 big heads of bok choi, a few tiny beets, a giant bunch of kale, and 4 or 5 big heads of frizzy escarole.

There was snow still in the center of the bok choi, left over from a light dusting we got last night. The air temp was right about freezing as I harvested, 33*F, I think. The ground is not yet frozen, but is icy cold. My hands got very chilly and muddy as I harvested. I took my time and enjoyed what is probably my last day out in the garden for a while.

After wandering and admiring this and that, oblivious to everything else, I realized Skippy had stolen my mittens. He snuck up to the chair where I put them and took both of them. Then he left the garden quickly with them and started barking at me. That teaser! I was taking way too long and delaying his walk. I chased him a while - we both had fun. I eventually got both mittens back, warmed my hands AND Skippy got a nice walk.

My harvest filled 3 grocery bags quite nicely. As I left with my bags, I was thinking how I enjoy this so much more than going to a grocery store.

Now all that's left outside in my gardens is kale. Our forecast is for more chilly weather to come.

harvest bags nov 28 harvest bok choi nov 28
harvest snowy bok choi nov 28 harvest nov 28
harvest esc nov 28

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving brussels sprout harvest

brussels sprouts 020

For Thanksgiving, I harvested my first ever crop of Brussels sprouts. They were tiny, the size of marbles. And not very many of them. We added some store bought sprouts and my sister made a nice dish of them for our feast day.

brussels sprouts 023 brussels sprouts 069

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

my how-to videos are ready


A couple weeks ago, Skippy and I shot some garden "how-to" videos. Well, it was certainly mostly the work of our video producer to put these together. Skippy and I just goofed off and had fun in the garden and Alan Mack (Spinning Horse Productions) did an amazing job to make it all come together.

I was pretty nervous to do this project, as I've never done video before (neither has Skip, though I don't think he was all that nervous). I hope these videos are helpful to gardeners. I would appreciate any input about content or quality. Demand Video (E-How) sponsored them. They develop products that address the specific topics for which people are searching information.

Topics they asked me to do for my "Fall Garden" set include:

How to harvest perennial onions
How to plant pea seeds in the fall
How to remove dahlias
How to store dahlia tubers
How to grow sprouted garlic
How to save seeds and start a life saving garden
How to harvest chile peppers
How to protect seeds with burlap
How to harvest summer squash
How to pick squash
Easiest way to grow leeks

I hope you enjoy these videos. Many of them have Skippy in them. The other black dog is Skippy's girl friend Koby - Alan's black lab. They look calm in the videos, but they had the run of the garden when the camera was off!!!

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Friday, November 16, 2012

2012 crop review


Beets. I grew a lot of different varieties this year. Bulls Blood, Detroit Red and White, Chiogga, Lutz, Cylindra, Early Wonder, Red Ace, Round Red Merlin, Blankoma. I like them all! But it was not a great year for my beets. I just never had enough of them. I planted a great crop for my parents. In March, I direct seeded a good thick row of Detroit Red in their garden. They came up well and produced all season and my parents were really happy with them. They gave me several bunches. Next year - MORE beets in my garden!

Broccoli. Super crop, again. I have have several really good years of broccoli. I grew "Diplomat" this year. Very nice. I plant it early under lights and it gives a nice big head and them side shoots til October. My fall crop was not worth the effort, especially since the spring one was still producing and I love the small side shoots. I had a 4 x 4 foot patch with 12 plants.

Bok Choi. I am almost jumping up and down about finding two SUPER varieties of bok choy this year! I love bok choy stir fried with garlic and ginger and in a nice sauce, in fried rice, or grilled outside with a peanut marinade. Win-Win Choi is a big plant with lovely white stems and deep green leaves. Mei Qing Choi is a "baby choi" that doesn't bolt even if its gets big - super for grilling. Yummy, yummy, yummy .....

Cabbage. Another super crop. I grew Savoy (Alcosa), Napa, and Red (Super Red 80). These worked well both as spring and fall crops. I love these three varieties for cole slaw and salads. Also braised along side a roast. I don't eat that much cabbage, but a few heads are really nice to have as they are one of the prettiest plants in the garden.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

thyme harvest

thyme bowl 014 I picked a big bowl of thyme the other day. My thyme patch has grown rampant in the past year and is overtaking the blueberry and bean space. I let the bunch dry about a week and now I am working on separating the dried leaves and stems. I'd like to have enough for my for winter use (and maybe for holiday gifts in pretty little jars.... I found some nice jars at Ikea....).

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starting to sprout sweet potatoes

sweets under the radiator 022
To get a head start, I put my sweets for sprouting in small bowls with half filled with water. I lined them up under the radiator for extra warmth. I will be collecting some pint jars (and toothpicks) for setting them up correctly soon. Here is a great link for reading about how to sprout sweets: Starting Sweet Slips.

I have three varieties starting. Two from my harvest from this year (Jewel's and Hannah's - these are dry textured, orange and white flesh) and a new one I picked up at the supermarket last week, (Beauregard - a moist orange type). These are three of the most common commercial varieties. I am thinking I will also try ordering a few heirloom slips from Sandhill Preservation next year. They have some very nice assortments: their choice of heirloom varieties, 2 types $5. Sounds good to me!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

today's harvest

two fall cabbages 046 late fall bok choi harvest 048 garden harvest nov 14 parsnips 049 skippy with late fall harvest 052 Today I harvested big and baby bok choy, tiny heads of red and savoy cabbage, a lot of lettuce and escarole, a big bunch of parsnips, and one overlooked carrot.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2012 crop review

At the end of the year, I like to go through my crops from last year, one-by-one, and write down the successes, failures and what I'd like to do different next year.

Going alphabetical the first is:
Apples. Well I'm starting the list off with a failure. No apples this year from my dwarf Fuji tree :-( I forgot to spray it with dormant oil before the buds broke this spring. The tree got badly infected with something. No flowers and no fruit. Also, growth of a maple to the east has shaded it more. Last winter we took down a big branch, maybe not in time to affect this year's flowers and fruit. Hopefully next year added light and timely dormant oil application will give us some apples. An added note, this summer I pruned the tree back quite a bit. I removed a lot of sucker growth and shortened the length of all branches.

Asparagus. I was able to harvest one small meal from my 3 year old patch this year. It was yummy. It seems that the spears grow faster than I had realized and that I'll need to harvest daily to catch them at the right point for eating. Many escaped me this year and got to big for eating. I expanded my asparagus patch this year and put in about 10 more new crowns. Its now about 4 x 5 ft. I fertilized with liquid fish fertilizer and kept it watered and weeded well this year. The ferns looked really nice. I cut them down a couple weeks ago and they are providing mulch for the plants now. I'll add some hay to the top next time I am at the plot. I am definitely looking forward to a BIG harvest of asparagus next spring!!

Basil. I planted a big patch of basil under the tomatoes. Then, when late blight was spotted nearby early, I started spraying the tomatoes with copper. This seemed to seriously damage the basil. The leaves looked burnt. I pulled all the plants after a couple weeks of spraying. Next year, no basil under tomatoes. The basil grows better in my sheltered side yard garden anyway and is more convenient to harvest there. I am thinking of planting all herbs in my side yard next year.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

It was 70*F today. Balmy! The whole weekend was warm and melted all our snow. My Brussels sprouts should be growing fast. Only just over a week til I am hoping to harvest them for Thansginving Day dinner.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

snow .....

snow on marigold 057 snow on kale 042 snow on gnome 049 snow on hydrangea flowers 037
The wind is coming out of the northeast again and this time we have fluffy white snow coming down. Snow is gathering on my unraked yard and on trees still holding their leaves. Snow on pumpkins with the squirrels tunneling in to eat the seeds. Snow on fall roses and yellow marigolds, kale and Brussels sprouts.

Yesterday was the first hard frost in the Boston suburbs. My dahlia turned black and marigolds wilted back. My sheltered geranium and rose are still blooming. I brought my Meyers lemon inside to overwinter in the living room.

It seems that winter is here.

Midnight: 3 or 4 inches of snow have fallen by now. My husband put snow tires on his bicycle tonight and he got out my car scraper for me. Plows are scraping the roads now and its only early November!

4 more years for the white house garden!!!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

election day question



Will the White House Kitchen Garden will get four more years?

White House Kitchen Garden - photo by katieb82981

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Sunday, November 04, 2012

to the start of another week - cheers!

carrot martinis 037
Today I pulled the carrots I sowed in August. Pretty baby carrots. Somehow a rabbit seems to have found his way into the garden and ate off most of the carrot greens. I am fascinated that he only ate the carrots. Next year I am planning a chicken wire tunnel over the carrots.

I ended up harvesting about a dozen heads of lettuce today as there may be a hard frost tonight. Some lettuce plants I dug and moved into my cold frame to see how they do there over the winter. I also harvested leeks, walking onions, Savoy cabbage, bok choi, baby beets and baby carrots.

To end the day, we tried a new combination of veggies in a martini: baby carrots, walking onions and an olive. I highly recommend it!

baby carrots 012

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garden work

This weekend, I am preparing my home gardens for winter.

First thing, I took down the six tomato plants growing there. As I did this, I realized I've never taken down tomatoes here before a frost. The plants had stopped growing from low light so I removed them. Always a first for everything. The forecast seems to maybe have a frost here in the Boston suburbs soon.

I'm getting more experience with my cold frame each year. I suspect everyone's cold frame is different, with their own temperature and light levels. My particular issue is that the house next door blocks my light when the sun is at it's lowest. I have great sun March to Sept, then nothing Oct to Feb. It seems if I plant seedlings after I remove my summer crops from the cold frame, there isn't enough time for them to grow big enough to produce winter harvests. So, once again, I have my cold frame full of small seedlings that I know (from the last two winters) will not grow again Feb or March. I will have good greens then, which is super, but I'd love to get some fresh greens midwinter too. I do have an idea for another experiment: I have a big crop of greens at my community plot now. They are fully grown and more than we can eat. I will see if I can transplant these, squeeze them into my cold frame for mid winter harvests. It's always fun to try something new.

Tomorrow's To-Do list:
Finish lifting my dahlias and begonia tubers.
Plant my spring flower bulbs. I have about a million bulbs to plant (well maybe 200) in hopes of a fine spring and an easy winter.
Transplant some greens from my community plot to my cold frame.
Put the covers on my cold frame and repair any rips in the plastic for winter.
After this work - see if I can find a nice little veggie to go in a fall martini!

Friday, November 02, 2012

late blight resistant tomato seed

Does anyone have experience with late blight resistant tomatoes?

After all the problems we have had the past few years, we would like to provide our community gardeners with late blight resistant tomato seedlings next spring. I am looking into the best varieties.

I am thinking of trying these:
Defiant PhR (Johnny's Seed)
Mountain Magic (Johnny's Seed)
Plum Regal (Johnny's Seed)
Ferline (Thompson and Morgan)
Legend (Reimer Seeds)

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

garden work

Today Skippy and I finished digging my sweet potatoes. I am glad to have lots of orange and white sweets in my larder for winter storage.

I also dug my dahlia tubers. They will go in plastic bags and hang from rafters in my basement.

Yesterday I visited a wonderful new small farm a mile from house. I talked with the farmer about tomatoes and late blight. I bought a bunch of his big fat carrots and a bag full of French horticultural beans. Someday soon I am hoping I can add some photos of his small farm.

















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