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, March 31, 2016

cilantro soy pork meatballs (with kale or bok choi)

meatballs IMG_5275 meatballs and kale IMG_5306 matballs and kale IMG_5307 kale IMG_5291
This is SOOO good I had to share the recipe.

I made it earlier in the winter with bok choy from my winter tunnel. Last night I made it again with kale that I sauteed with garlic and sesame seeds. Last night I also used cilantro fresh picked from my tunnel. That cilantro is amazing! I've never grown such flavorful cilanto with big green leaves. It overwintered very well.

The recipe is partly from Shrinking Singles Pork Meatballs with Ginger Soy here. I'm sure the local pork I used from Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds down the road from me also adds flavor. That, plus lot's of cilantro. I modified the recipe a bit and renamed it for the cilantro. Yumm, I LOVE cilantro.

Meatballs
1 lb ground pork (I used breakfast sausage from a local farm)
2 small eggs (or 1 large one), whisked
4 large cloves minced garlic
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 onion, finely chopped
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
2 Tbs tamari soy sauce
2 Tbs chia seed
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Meatball glaze ¼ cup tamari soy sauce
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 Tbs honey
2 tsp Sriracha sauce

Bok choy
2 large or 5 small bok choy cut into pieces, about 2 inches
2 large clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp crushed hot chili
1 tsp corn starch mixed with ¼ cup water
2 tsp soy sauce

White rice
Peanut oil for sauteing

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix all meatball ingredients. Make into meatballs, about 1.5 inches. Brown in skillet with peanut or similar high heat oil. Place on baking sheet and cook in oven until done, about 20 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking, make the glaze. Combine all ingredients. Cook briefly in the meatball skillet, scraping up any browned meat remaining in the pan. Pour sauce over the meatballs and cook them another 5 minutes in the oven.

Saute garlic and chili in peanut oil until beginning to brown. Remove from pan. Saute larger stem pieces of bok choy until beginning to brown then add the green pieces and return sauteed garlic to pan. Add corn starch mixed with water and soy sauce and stir til thickened, adding more water as needed. Serve over white rice. Note: Last night I made "Asian Kale" instead of the Bok Choi in the recipe above. I boiled the kale 3 minutes, then sauteed with chopped garlic and sesame seeds. I added a bit of soy sauce when it was done.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

today's harvest

today's harvest IMG_5669
I haven't harvest anything since early January. Today I picked a big handful of curly kale, a nice bunch of cilantro, and some purple mustard leaves. Yeah! Fresh garden greens!

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updates are out for Skippy's planting apps

Updates are out for many of our calendar apps, including Skippy's:
Vegetable Planting Calendar
Spring Planting Calendar
Fall Planting Calendar

Of course, if you have these apps, you already know this, because the updates show up automatically at the Apple App Store.

Updates for our Flower & Herb Calendar and the Winter Calendar will be out soon. The update corrects the reminders function so it works with any iOS version.

Note: If any apps freeze after installing an update, just delete the app and reinstall it from the app store. You won't need to pay again.

Happy planting!

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seedlings trays

seedling trays IMG_5269 - Copy seedling trays  IMG_5267 - Copy seedlings  IMG_5231 - Copy These are the seedling trays I'm using this year.

1. I plant most of my seeds in 2" x 3" thin plastic pots, 24 per tray:

I've planted in plastic 6-packs for many years. I've made 100s of paper pots and I've used peat pots. But these are what I've come to like. I like them better than plastic 6-packs because I can plant fewer seeds of more varieties. Also it's easier to give away one or two pots than to cut apart a 6-pack. They are thin plastic, but I can usually use them about 3 years before they rip apart. My only complaint: too bad they're not compostable.

Growers Solutions 2401: $1.28 per tray
Greenhouse Megastore 2410, $8.00 per 10-pack (almost out of stock now)

2. I'm trying plug cells this year for peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. I'm using trays with square cells, 128 cells per tray. I'll transplant the plants to deep single pots later, probably mid-April. I like to use 3.5" square, 5" deep pots for transplants:

p85D from Growers Solutions: $69.95 case of 450
Greenhouse Megastore: $69.90 case of 450 (out of stock now)

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Monday, March 21, 2016

spring snow photos

IMG_5173 IMG_5181 IMG_5162 IMG_5176 - Copy (2) IMG_5161 IMG_5179 IMG_5169 IMG_5164
Photos from my back yard. Not much snow. It'll be gone by tomorrow I bet.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

it's spring! and a snow storm is coming in tonight

It's the first day of spring and we have a snow storm coming. It seems like this winter brought hardly any snow and now that winter's gone - snow! Tonight's snow will cover the bed with my recently planted pea seeds. They'll be ok buried in the soil. And my 5 inch garlic and daffodil sprouts are hardy enough to survive some snow. The snow is predicted to melt within a couple days. Maybe I'll get some pretty snow photos to post tomorrow.

Friday, March 18, 2016

cold temps returning

I've been so lucky with a couple weeks of warm weather and my winter hoops have been left open. But our next five nights will go below 30F, so I'll have to cover the frame. I'm even hearing that my newly planted peas may get covered with 6-8 inches of snow on Monday. OMG! That seems like more snow than we've had all winter.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

today's garden work

Happy St Patrick's Day! It was my first day of garden work this season in my backyard garden! It was beautiful.

- Inspect beehives (more...).
- Re-install my two bird houses as they had fallen over. One is down by the pond and the other is on the new arbor by my garden gate.
- Set-up tepees for pole beans in the back corners of my garden. It will be a long time until I plant beans on these, but I wanted to get them set up.
- Label each of my garden beds with the type of plants I'll plant there this season. I have some nice big wooden plant markers for this. I usually forget what's supposed to go where and have to keep trying to find my garden map, or wing it and plant the wrong thing, so I'm feeling like labeling the beds is a big innovation for me.
- Plant lettuce and arugula seeds in free areas of my winter hoop bed.
- Clear weeds, debris and mulch from my bean/pea bed. The bed had some salt marsh hay as mulch and I put this in the paths between a couple of my raised beds. Last year I had grass between the beds, but grass is hard to maintain when shaded by plants and trampled by the gardener. I'll move to salt marsh hay mulch this year between all of the beds.
- Plant one package of Super Sugar Snap peas at the back end of the pea/bean bed.
- Cut fallen branches from the woods for pea trellis material. Put them in place over the newly planted peas.

Not to be repetitive, but what a great day!

planting peas IMG_5129 planting peas IMG_5139 planting peas IMG_5133 planting peas IMG_5137

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

garden plans and bed preparation

home garden plan 2016

community garden plot plan 2016
I've finished up my garden plans. Just in time to start preparing the beds for planting.

ROTATION: To make new garden plans, I rotate my root crops (especially onions, garlic and carrots), as well as my tomatoes and potatoes. I try for a 3 year rotation. I don’t worry about rotating things like squash, greens, beets, cabbage, corn, beans, basil etc, though they usually end up in a different bed because of rotating the roots and solanacea. It’s recommended to follow a rotation of heavy feeder, light feeder, legume (soil builder). I try to do this, but in a small garden growing lots of different varieties, including many heavy feeders, it gets hard to do move things around properly. But that's the idea I shoot for. I like to keep similar plants together. They're generally good neighbors. They need the same soil amendments and fertilizer. For the brassicas, they all need to be covered against cabbage worms. In most beds, I add in scattered flowers: dill, marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers, hyssop, etc. to attract beneficial and pollinators.

Next step: COMPOST. I like to add 1 to 2 inches of compost, but only to beds that will have heavy feeders. I don’t usually add compost to light feeders (garlic, leeks, onion, shallot, carrots, parsnip, carrot, potato, turnip) if I composted that bed well the year before. I also don't compost legume beds. This year, I'll add compost to my onion and potato beds. I think they need it. Also it's funny, some people consider onions and potatoes heavy feeders and others list them as light. The heavy feeders will need more than just compost. I'll also fertilize as they begin their growth. Especially tomatoes, corn, and cabbage family. I use Garden Tone or a fish emulsion. But not too much. I wait til the leaves show a little green, then I fertilize. Too much fertilizer gives bushy plants with less fruit.

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

the walking herbalist

The Walking Herbalist is a website with a blog and podcast produced by a herbalists Marc and Mindy. In their most recent podcast: The Walking Herbalist Podcast – EPISODE 13. The Holistic / Reductionistic St. John’s Wort Show, they review a number of things including, of course, St John's Wort. But they also mention the recent NOFA conference that I also went to, the upcoming Gardener's Gathering (a free conference on March 26, 2016 at Northeastern University where Marc and Mindy will present “Indoor Seed Starting for the Urban Gardener”, and my planting app (!), which they are reviewing. Cool. Thanks to Walking Herbalist for talking about Skippy's Planting App! I look forward to seeing them at the Gardener's Gathering.

chickens foraging in the yard

chickens in the garden IMG_4894
They're laying great now. I'm getting just over 3 eggs a day from the four hens. I think they like the nice spring weather. I have to do a spring coop cleaning soon. They've built up a nice layer of poop for my compost bins at the bottom of their coop.

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

peepers singing

The peeper frogs started singing today. They are so enthusiastic!

From Wikipedia: The spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) is a small chorus frog widespread throughout the eastern USA and Canada. They are so called because of their chirping call that marks the beginning of spring.
I'm hoping to make a planting calendar app based on natural events someday. I'm probably relearning what previous generations already knew. In any case, I think when the peepers sing, it's time to plant eggplant and pepper seeds indoors. And it's time to get ready to plant pea seeds in the garden next week.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

our seed swap was wonderful!

seed swap IMG_5313seed swap IMG_5314
We had a really nice crowd of gardeners that came to our Seed Swap last Sunday. I loved the event. Thanks to everyone who came by. We had lots of seed changing hands. And everyone had fun. Victoria put together a super seed planting demo. I couldn't even get a photo of it with the people always crowded around her table. Thanks Victoria, and everyone else. I think this will be a fun event to expand on and do annually. I'll book mark here Mr Brown Thumb's very helpful article on How To Organize Seed Swap.

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hive check - "dewinterizing"

At midday today, I opened my second hive, my remaining live hive. The bees were very active, bringing in lots of yellow and orange pollen. I see a few scattered crocuses around in my yard, but I bet they've found another yard with many early spring crocuses and snowdrops. (more ...)

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Monday, March 07, 2016

green bean varieties resistant to Mexican bean beetles

I'm putting together a collection of green beans that have some reported resistance to Mexican bean beetles. Getting ahead of this pest in our organic community garden is going to be one of my things to focus on this summer. They are voracious!

Some resistant varieties are listed here at the Weekendgardener. Our community gardeners have come across others. Varieties include:
Emerite, Logan, Wade, Black Valentine and Chinese yard long beans

I've ordered some of each of these for our community gardeners to try. Growing in our garden will be a serious test of bean beetle resistance!

Please leave a comment if anyone aware of any other resistant varieties of green beans.

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Sunday, March 06, 2016

2016 planting list

Finally I have time to start my seed planting! I started flowers in milk bottles outside a few weeks ago, but today I planted lots of seeds in seed trays. I am going to be planting more flower seeds this year - for my bees.

BTW, all my planting times come from the Skippy's Planting Calendar apps.

February 14, in plastic bottles outside
Anise Hyssop
Wildflower mix, Save the Bees
Wildflower mix, Bring Home the Butterflies
Wild NE Aster, small white

March 6, indoors under lights
Heliotrope
Bunching onions, Nabechan
Onions, Red Wing
Onions, White Wing, failed, old seed, 2013
Onions, Pontiac
Celeriac, Brillante
Leeks, King Richard
Leeks, Bandit
Cabbage, Chinese, Wong Bok, failed, old seed, 2009
Cabbage, Napa, Mini Kisaku 50
Cabbage, Savoy, Alcosa
Cabbage, Red Express
Cabbage, Murdoc
Kale, Toscano
Kale, Vates
Kale, Red Russian, failed, old seed, 2008
Escarole, Natacha
Escarole, Tres Fine
Hollyhock, Single Mix

March 6, begin stratification in refrigerator
Echinacea, Purple coneflower

March 13, indoors under lights
Parsley, Dark Green Italian Plain,
Parsley, Single Italian failed, old seed, 2009
Thyme, Creeping
Thyme, German Winter
Marjoram
Basil, Nufar
Basil, Dolce Fresco
Snapdragons, Costa mix
Marigold, Queen Sophia

March 17, in the garden
Peas, Super Sugar Snap

March 17, in the garden under covered hoops
Lettuce, Romaine, Winter Density
Lettuce, Romaine, Truchas
Lettuce, Butterhead, Skyphos
Arugula

March 19, indoors under lights
Basil, Genovese
Basil, Superbo
Beets, Touchstone Gold, failed, underwatered
Beets, Red Ace
Beets, Chiogga
Beets, Merlin, failed, old seed 2011
Pepper, Emerald Fire Jalapeno
Pepper, Ancho 211
Pepper, Ace
Pepper, Canary Bell, failed, old seed, 2011
Pepper, Joe E Parker, failed, old seed, 2011
Pepper, Thai Hot
Eggplant, Kamo, failed, old seed, 2011
Eggplant, Tiger, failed, old seed, 2011
Eggplant, Prosperosa, failed, unknown cause
Liatrus, Purple Blazing Star
Cleome, Magenta
Marigold, Durango Outback
Marigold, African

March 30, indoors under lights
Note: This planting (2 trays) got aphids. Many plants were killed or stunted by either the bugs, me squishing the bugs, or the soap spray I used.
Eggplant, Black Beauty (3)
Eggplant, Properosa (2)(replant)
Broccoli, Cook's Garden Super blend (aphids)
Broccoli, Johnny's Mini (aphids)
Radicchio, Indigo
Radicchio, Perseo
Beets, Merlin (replant)
Beets, Touchstone Gold (replant)
Bok Choi, Win Win, failed, old seed, 2012
Lettuce, Winter Density
Lettuce, Skyphos, failed
Lettuce, Red Cross, failed, old seed, 2010
Lettuce, Oakleaf
Tomatoes, Amish Paste failed
Tomatoes, Sun Gold cherry (1 sprout)
Tomatoes, Mortgage Lifter (1 sprout)
Tomatoes, Box Car Willie (1 sprouts)
Tomatoes, Cherokee Purple, failed, old seed, 2008
Tomatoes, Orange Blossom (3 sprouts)
Tomatoes, Opalka, failed, old seed, 2009
Tomatoes, Pink Beauty, failed
Tomatoes, Brandywine (2 sprouts)
Tomatoes, Heinz 2653 (3 sprouts)
Tomatoes, San Marzano Gigante 3, failed, old seed, 2010
Marigold, Cottage Red
Echinacea (following cold stratification in refrigerator 3 weeks)
Cosmos, Sunshine mix
Salvia, Victoria
Tithonia, Torch failed

April 8, indoors under lights
Lettuce, Skyphos
Bok Choi, Win Win, 2013
Tomatoes, Mortgage Lifter (replanted, failed)
Tomatoes, Amish Paste (replanted, 6 sprouts)
Tomatoes, Box Car Willie (replanted, failed)
Tomatoes, Cherokee Purple (replanted, newer seed, 1 sprout)
Tomatoes, Opalka (replanted, failed)
Tomatoes, Pink Beauty (replanted, 3 sprout)
Tomatoes, San Marzano Gigante 3 (replanted, failed)
Pepper, Numex Joe E Parker (replanted, new seed)
Chamomile, Common
Lupine, Tutti Frutti Mix

April 12, indoors under lights
Tomatoes, Carbon
Tomatoes, True Black Brandywine
Bok Choi, Pechay
Lettuce, Italianischer
Lettuce, Ermosa
Lettuce, Avicenna
Lettuce, Ice Queen
Eggplant, Mitoyo
Rosemary
Bells of Ireland

April 13, indoors under lights
Tomatoes, Jersey Devil
Peppers, Anaheim
Peppers, Poblano
Peppers, Paprika
Peppers, Canary Bell
Peppers, King of the North
Lettuce, Oakleaf
Lettuce, Skyphos
Cabbage, Brunswick
Basil, Eleanora
Salvia, Scarlet Sage

April 15, indoors under lights
Broccoli, Blend
Broccoli, Mini
Radicchio, Perseo
Bok Choy, Win Win
Tithonia, Torch

Notes
March 25: I'm sad that I cant find the Blue Beech tomatoes seed I ordered a while back. :-( Maybe they'll show up soon. Otherwise, next year....

April 1: I'm having much poorer success than usual with germination! Mostly it's due to old seed. I usually don't note whether my seeds fail or not, but I did it this year so I could throw out old packages that are no longer viable. It did seem that they were accumulating in my collection. I don't like to throw out seeds unless I know they're dead.

April 10: Aphids! Arggh. I have aphids on two trays of seedlings. It looks like they came from some Easter lilies I got from Costco.

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Saturday, March 05, 2016

seed swap tomorrow

Remember to come by our Seed Swap tomorrow at the Belmont MA Library, Assembly Room, if you're in the area. It's 3:00 to 4:30 pm, sponsored by our community garden, the Belmont Victory Gardens. We hope to have a lot of seeds to share and gardeners to meet. We have a seed planting demo and some planting info. Open to everyone. Bring fresh seeds to share if you can.

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redwing blackbirds are 3 weeks early

This afternoon I hear redwing black birds at the pond for the first time this season. Last year I didn't hear them til March 27. So this is three weeks earlier! I wonder if I should adjust my planting calendars by three weeks?

A pair of mute swans arrived today too. The ice on the pond melted about 2 weeks ago. We've had buffleheads and ring-necked ducks diving since then. Also flocks of Canada geese making all sorts of noise all night. They're starting to pair off now. I think the swans keep the geese away, so maybe it will be quieter at night now.

I've had a bad cold so I haven't posted (or planted) in a while. It seems to be gone so hope I can catch up.

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