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, January 29, 2016

the perfect stick!

dogs with stick IMG_4829 dogs with stick IMG_4819
dogs with stick IMG_4835

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app update - reminder bug

Now that our Flower & Herb Calendar App is out, my programmer Amelia and I are working on our next App update. We'll update the Vegetable Calendar App to fix the reminders function, which has bugs for users of iOS 9+, and iOS7 or 6 (e.g. iPhone 4 users). We expect to get this update out in about a week. Thanks to the users who let us know about this bug.

And thanks again for using our apps! Let us know any other questions or suggestions for the apps.

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

mid-winter hive check

I was wondering about my bees today and so I dropped an email to Tony at my local bee club and asked if I should be checking them in the winter. The answer was "Yes, I should". But not like a summer inspection. (... more)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

at the northern edge of a giant snowstorm

skippy watches storm at sudbury river IMG_4778

We only got a couple windswept inches of snow yesterday, but Skippy watched it fall at the Sudbury River. Boston was way up at the northern end of the giant snowstorm that hit the coast south of us. I only have a little bit to snow blow this morning.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

new app! --- flowers and herbs

Our new app is out! A planting calendar for Flowers and Herbs. $1.99 at the apple Store. 60 varieties with sowing times and methods. The calendar starts soon with winter sowing of varieties that need cold stratification.

Apple store link: Skippy's Flower & Herb App

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

bee hives in winter cold

winter bees IMG_4863

My bee hives are dwarfed by the long winter shadows. I'm wondering how the bees are doing. We've had a couple weeks of temperatures in the 20's and below. (...more)

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winter tunnel update

winter tunnel at end of January IMG_4831

I've been looking for my bottle of castor oil for a week now. There are vole holes in my winter tunnel and wanted to give the soil another dose. I finally found it. Of all places - in my new garden shed! I forgot about that spot. There it was with the empty pots and garden sprays. I'll have to get used to having a shed.

Today I opened up the tunnel. I'm really pleased with how everything is doing. Fortunately, no more vole damage, except a small bite in a Daikon radish. And the plants are still fine after a week with low temps below 20F. In the afternoon, even at 28F, there's lot's of condensation on the plastic. Unlike the rest of my garden soil, the soil inside is not frozen.

So I mixed up some castor oil and applied it. I'm a bit concerned I may have used too high a concentration. I used 1/4 cup castor oil, 1/4 cup liquid soap in 2 gallons water. That's 1.5%. About 4 times what I find is recommended now that I look. We'll see.

I'm thinking my tunnel might soon be covered with snow and I might not open it again for a while. Just as good as the plants inside now are small for harvest. I think my layers of plastic and double frost fabric probably reduce the faint sun we have. So the plants won't do much growing until March probably. Wow, I wonder if they'll survive til March?

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

potato order

I've decided on my potato selection for this year. 4 types, all from Fedco Moose Tubers:

Natascha, v. early, yellow skin/yellow flesh, waxy, high yield, high scab res
AmaRosa, mid-late, red skin/red flesh, waxy, high yield, high scab res
German Butterball, late, yellow-russet skin/yellow flesh, med/dry texture, med/high yieid, exel storage
Russet Burbank, late, russet skin/white flesh, dry texture, high yield, high scab res., exel storage

Last year I restrained my self to one variety, spaced the eyes out nicely, and ended up with a very poor harvest. I'm looking forward to abundance this year!

Jan 18: I've just placed my order. Some things are already selling out at Moose Tubers. Fortunately they still had the four varieties I want, but conventional only - the organic ones were sold out. I was surprised at their shipping charge of $15 on my $21 order (10 lbs total), but I want these varieties and I suppose 10 lbs isn't like shipping little seed packets. (Thanks for the correction below.)

In placing the Burbank Russet order I see this note: "This dependable standard requires heavy feeding and regular moisture for exceptional performance." I'll have to remember that. I neglected both with the Russets I grew last year and had a very low harvest.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

winter tilling

I read at LSUAg that winter tilling can reduce problem insects in the soil. Our soil is about to freeze up, so I turned a few beds that had problems last year. My sweet potatoes were badly damaged by wire worms and other unidentified things. My carrots had root maggots. (Now that I think again, the carrot problem is from flies - not a soil issue. I'll use row cover on them next year.) But the sweet potato bed had soil problems. I won't plant them in that same bed next year. Maybe they can go in the winter tilled carrot bed. I'll do what I can to build up good soil structure this spring. Beneficial nematodes, lots of compost, fish emulsion, biochar, etc.

winter tilling IMG_4680

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

winter harvest

 winter salad tunnel IMG_4668

It seemed like a good day to open my winter tunnel. I was really curious how things looked after our cold snap down into the single digits last week. Surprisingly, it was not too bad. There were some areas on the edges, especially the north side, with mushy plants. And some plants are doing better than others. But lots of the plants look really good. The kale (Vates) and spinach (Kookaburra) look perfectly happy, romaine lettuce (Trucas) too. The leaf lettuce (Italienischer), escarole frissee, and the daikon radish looked frost bit.

I picked a whole bucket full of greens. I picked a lot of the greens at the edges that were having trouble, and most of the leaf lettuce. I picked the bok choy only because it looked so good and I though why risk it. I didn't pick any spinach. It's still small. I wish I'd planted more and earlier. That said, I wish I'd planted more of everything. We've been eating store bought greens the past month. But this tunnel is a good experiment. More next year!

I'll probably add a photo of cleaned up greens here later. I'm hoping they make a few nice salads. I pulled some salad turnips. These were something I was testing for timing for my app, but "are not to my taste"(yukk). I think my husband like them sauteed just a little. They do look pretty.

winter salad tunnel IMG_4669 winter salad tunnel IMG_4685d
winter salad tunnel IMG_4675 winter salad tunnel IMG_4677

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Monday, January 11, 2016

a seed give away!!

GIVE AWAY IS DISCONTINUED - We've just come across information that Apple has started removing apps that offer incentives for reviews. Sorry. (1-13-2016)

I have a lot of seeds that I saved from last year. Perfect for a seed give away. Just leave a comment on my calendar app at Apple or Google Play, and I'll send a sample of seeds of your choice, until my collection runs out.

Our apps really are worth trying. There's nothing else like them on the market. Simple, easy-to-use and uncluttered, with no in-app adds or purchases. Enter your frost date and your crops and you get a nice weekly calendar of your planting tasks on your mobile device. There's sowing, transplanting and succession sowing information. The Flower & Herb App will also have instructions for plants that require special sowing conditions. Over 50 vegetables to choose from and over 70 flowers & herbs.

The Vegetable App is here: Apple and Android. When our new Flower & Herb Calendar App will comes out any minute now, and I'll post the link here. (all are $1.99)

IMG_4662b

The seeds I have are:
Pink cleome
Magenta cleome (one of my favorites)
White New England asters (these are the small wild ones that bloom late in the fall)
Tithonia (Mexican marigold, a giant plant with brilliant orange flowers)
Anise Hyssop (the bees LOVE this)
Judy's Giant marigold (3 ft tall with single orange flowers)
Tromboncino squash (named after a trombone for long curly shape, use as summer or winter squash)
Shung Wang pole beans (a crisp blocky white bean given to me years ago, one of my favorites)
Thai hot pepper (dries easily, nice and hot)
Basil Eleanora (basil downy mildew resistant - I bought a giant package last year)

After you leave  your comment, email your address to me at kathy@skippysgarden.com and I'll mail out the seeds. Thanks!!

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Friday, January 08, 2016

my 2016 variety list

I'm getting my 2016 variety list together. It's so exciting to be thinking about planting again! I can't wait.

I went through and sorted my old seeds, threw out seeds that were old. Especially the carrots and celeriac. I like to start fresh with those. Most of these seeds I have already, but I'll still end up with a good order to place. I'll see if I can get everything I need from one or two companies: FedCo and Johnny's. I put a link to this list on my side bar. I'll update it as the season goes. I haven't kept a variety list in the past, just a planting list. I think this list will be really helpful for ordering year to year. Also for keeping track of how the varieties do, what I get tired of, etc.

Arugula
Basil, Eleonora (downy mildew resistant) Basil, Superbo
Basil, Dolce Fresca
Basil, Nufar
Beans, green, Maxibel
Beans, green, Fortex
Beans, green, Jumbo
Beans, pole, Wax
Beans, pole, Shung Wang Chinese
Beans, pole, Gino's Italien
Beans, shell, Jacobs Cattle (...more)

Thursday, January 07, 2016

get ready to plant seeds!

We have an update out for Skippy's Vegetable Planting Calendar app. It now has 50 vegetables to select from.

If you haven't tried the app, it's very easy to use. Select from Spring, Fall, or Winter planting season (or all three), enter your frost date, select the crops you plan to grow, and the app creates your personalized calendar. Your planting tasks will be listed by the week. It includes sowing, transplanting, and succession planting dates.

It's a cute little tool to have handy on your mobile device for only $1.99. I do all my seed planting with it. And, I added a like button on my side bar. Please LIKE the app if you've used it!

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ordering seeds

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I thought I'd be a bit more orderly about this process this year. I usually just order throughout the year as I think of seeds I forgot to buy. This year, I made a list of my favorite seeds - the ones I want to plant this year. I'm going through my saved seeds now to check off ones I already have. I'll put those varieties at the front of my rubber-banded packs of seed types. Maybe I can order most of my seeds now and save on the shipping charges. Oh, such organization!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

early morning winter view

winter view IMG_4600

Saturday, January 02, 2016

2015 garden review

I'm working on reviewing crops I grew in 2015 and listing what to do different (or the same) this year. The list is long so I posted it here: Kathy's 2015 crops review. Once I finish this, I'll draw up my 2016 garden plans.

2015 vegetable garden crop review

Apples: My four little trees are in their second winter. I picked 5 apples from one tree last year, but the trees are all small and need to grow. They seem healthy. In the spring, I sprayed with horticultural oil. I didn’t fertilize, which I think I should do this year. I have ground up leaf mulch directly under the trees and I seeded clover and wildflowers between the trees. I’ll see if that grows this year. It will provide flowers for my bees and the legumes should help the sandy soil. The deer fence around the trees is unattractive and it would be nice to remove or replace it this year. 2016: Dormant prune before growth begins and train after growth resumes in spring. Spray with dormant oil in spring at first sign of green growth. Send out a soil test in early spring and fertilize by their recommendations. Work on legume ground cover below and deer fences.

Asparagus: I have a very small bed (about 5x2 ft) at my community plot. I moved it last spring because it was getting shaded by a lilac. I’d like to buy more plants and give it a much larger space. I don’t know whether it should be at my community plot or at home. I will see how my plans work out for space. 2016: find a bed for asparagus and order plants.
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