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.

Monday, November 28, 2016

my first seed catalog!

Now I have my reading material! I'm excited to see all the pictures and descriptions of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. I think I might get my seed order in early this year.

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So many vegetables to choose from. And this is only ONE catalog so far.
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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

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today's harvest

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I picked a few flowers from among the vegetables. Also a bunch of baby carrots - there are lots still left in the garden. Those hairy dirty things are a few uncleaned celeriac. There's also for the table baby bulb fennel in the center. All these vegetables - plus stored sweet and white potatoes - went into a dish of roasted root vegetables for Thanksgiving.

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EU cookie question

I have a question for European Viewers of this blog. Are you able to see a notice on this blog that explains Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies? I'm hoping this notice is there and shows up for EU users even though I can't see it here. Thanks for letting me know.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

fall crops - what's growing in my garden now

My sister was surprised that I still had vegetables in my garden. Here's what's there now. I think the cold will move in soon. I'm keeping an eye on the forecast.

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From top left: celeriac, green onions, escarole, green romaine lettuce, carrots, mini broccoli, leeks and cilantro, thyme's and oregano's, my winter tunnel set-up with many greens under mulch, and read leaf lettuce.

Monday, November 21, 2016

fall garden - photos of my garden this week

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Lots of greys in the landscape. Shadows and crispy air. I took the photo above by climbing up on the NW corner of my garden fence. I tried a new angle in the photo below. I climbed up in a large bush on a slope at the NE side of the garden. I couldn't get all of the branches out of the camera path. They filtered the light and made it glow red in places.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

storage of vegetable - and other items, like honey, fruits, etc

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I've been winging it so far in storing my vegetables and honey. But my honey has all crystallized and my potatoes are sprouting.

I have a pantry with a temperature system that I can set 60-75ºF. Or I can leave the system off and the temperature will stay about 50ºF since it's on a cement slab. The room also has a dehumidifier. In addition to this pantry, I have a fridge, and a good sized deep freezer. And there are other areas of the house with different temperatures. So, where to store what?

I have a great book on vegetable storage, "Root Cellaring" by Mike and Nancy Bubel. Roger Swain reviewed the basics of vegetable storage in my recent class. And, I've had advice from my readers on a recent post about my vegetable and honey storage.

So, I've looked up winter storage conditions for all the crops I grow. I've figured out where in my house (or garden) I should be able to store them with conditions at least close to optimal.

1- Leave in the ground until just before it freezes Parsnips, carrots, turnips, winter radishes, celeriac

2- In garden under winter tunnel
Greens: escarole, spinach, lettuce, mustard greens

3- Frozen
> In deep freezer
Pesto's, dried fruits, roasted peppers, pears in syrup or plain, raspberries

4- Cool and very moist, 32-40ºF, 90-95% humidity
> In plastic bags in the refrigerator
Carrots, beets, parsnips, Chinese cabbage, celeriac, leeks, broccoli (short term), horse radish

5- Cool and moist, 32-40ºF, 80-90% humidity
> In mesh bags or baskets in the refrigerator
Potatoes, cabbage, apples, pears, endive, escarole, sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, eggs
(I'll need bigger fridge once I (hopefully) get apples and pears and better potato crops)

6- Cool and dry, 32-50ºF, 60-70% humidity)
> In my food pantry (set for 50ºF)
Garlic (better at 50% humidity), onions (hang braided)

7- Moderately warm and dry, 50-60ºF, 60-70% humidity
> In my food pantry (set for 50ºF)
Winter squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, canned goods

8- Warm, 70-80ºF
> In the utility room
Honey

If you have experience storing these crops, please let me know your advice. I feel I'm a novice here.

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today's harvest

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I don't even know why I'm posting this silly photo. I'm trying to change up the way my harvest looks, since the past month it has been pretty much the same - lot's of greens. So this is a "selfie" of me, my sister, and today's harvest.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Roger Swain's vegetable variety list

Here's a list of vegetable varieties Roger Swain recommended in my master gardener class:

Onion: Stuttgart
Peas: Oregon Giant snow pea (3.5 ft tall) "the finest pea out there"
Lettuce: Black Seeded Simpson (has the best taste)
Cabbage: Murdock (big!), for storage: Danish Ball Head
Turnips: Hakurei
Kohlrabi: Kossak (big)
Potatoes: Green Mountain
Carrots: Dragon (purple), Nantes (orange)
Eggplant: Hansel and Gretel (small cluster forming fruits, Hansel is deep purple, Gretel is white)
Pepper: Habanada (a heatless habanero)
Corn: Mandan Bride (a Flint corn for grinding - don't grow sweet corn, buy locally)
Beans: Fortex, Brockton Horticultural, cow peas
Cucumbers: Silver Slicer, Salt and Pepper (pickling)
Melon: Sarah's Choice
Watermelon: Sugar Baby

I think I'll select several from this list to try next year. I liked Mr Swain's comment that you don't need to grow all your favorites every year, just pick a few. For me "a few" is about 50, but it's a good thought to rotate through different varieties.

My thoughts for my garden next year:
Potatoes: I'll grow just one variety (rather than 4 as I have been): Green Mountain
Peas: definitely try Oregon Giant snow pea (plus my old favorite, Sugar Snap)
Eggplants: I'll try Hansel and my favorite eggplant from last year
Corn: I'd try Mandar Bride if I had a grinder
Beans: Brockton Horticultural sounds good to try

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Friday, November 18, 2016

today's harvest

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Another bunch of salad greens. This one has red and green romaine (Cherokee and Monte Carlo), escarole (Natacha), some cilantro, and pretty baby red beet greens (Bull's Blood).

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charley and suzie

It seemed like time for a few pictures of Charley and Suzie. Suzie is 3 and a half years old, Charley is 2 and a half months. They are very happy romping together in the fallen leaves.

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Skippy would have had fun today too. But he had 11 great seasons of playing in the leaves.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

today's garden work

Charley really wanted to participate in all of my garden chores today. He made the work a bit of a challenge. He stole anything he could and then I had to chase him - he's fast! He walked all through the garden beds (my plan is to teach him next year to stay off.) And he put anything he could find into his mouth.

- Plant 6 packages of tulip bulbs around my patio, adding bulb booster to each hole.
- Cut back my long row of perennials to the ground and compost.
- Prune my red twig dogwood bushes.
- Plant a last few heads of garlic to fill out a bed I prepared earlier. (I now have about 90 heads of garlic planted - it's a staple in our cooking.)
- Remove the extra frames of honey I fed my bees to boost their winter storage.
- Continue with brush and small tree removal from the edges of the woods near my garden.(Amazing how fast things grow and steal the sunlight!) Stack it for burning in late winter when we can get a permit.

master gardener class with Roger Swain

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I keep writing about this. What a treat the class was!! It was so great to hear Mr Swain talk from 9 am to 3 pm all about vegetables. I have 12 pages of notes. I wish I had a tenth of his knowledge. And a tenth of his ability to entertain a class. Super.

Anyway, here is a list of some of the highlights in his presentation:
- Local food production: 20% local food production is a good goal for New England. Currently it's about 5-7%. NE has the land resources for higher local production. It would not impact large areas of forest, would not leave the land bare like the 1800's. We have a untended, overgrown land and using it would be better.
- Home vegetable gardens: The more the better. It's better for land to be gardened than to let it go to weeds and invasive plants - open land needs to be tended to maintain health.
- Seasonal food: is one of the reasons for increasing home and local gardening. People have forgotten what it's like to eat seasonal food. Seasonal local food is much better for us than cheap supermarket food.
- Mr Swain grows about 30% of his food, which is way above average. (I think he meant 30% of ALL of his food. Not just 30% of his vegetables. Impressive.)
- Giving food: is an important part of vegetable gardening. If you get to the end of the season and haven't given food away it's a real shame.
- Organic gardening: Instead of "organic", he likes an approach he calls "PMO" pretty much organic.
- Raised beds: Make raised beds simply by digging sunken paths and piling the soil up to make a raised bed. This it easy to do, makes it easy to change the bed configuration next year, there's no pressure treated wood, and no rotting untreated wood to worry about replacing. They still provide the benefits of raised beds with warmer soil and paths to walk on avoiding bed compaction.
- Soil preparation: A rototiller is the worst invention ever! It puts oxygen into the soil, which removes nutrients, it destroys soil structure, and it raises buried weed seeds to the surface. Instead, use a broadfork to loosen and aerate the soil a little. - Weeding: Use a Dutch hand hoe and slice under weeds with the blade. (I've found that there are lots of different hoes called a Dutch hand hoe. He had one with a straight 12 inch wood handle and a triangular metal blade. They come in right- and left-handed versions. There are beautiful one at sneeboerusa.com, but probably nice ones at many on-line sources and local garden shops.)
- Mulch: Use thin (1 ml) black plastic on the beds. It lasts one year, then you can throw it out and not worry about storage. You could get the thicker 6 mil stuff, but it cost 5 times as much and doesn't last 5 years.
- Planting: In home gardens, grow plants close together giving every plant only the space it needs. Plant in patches rather than rows.
- Chipmunks and voles: Use have-a-heart traps. But don't release the animal somewhere else like in your neighbors yard (in MA it's illegal to move any wild animal from one place to another). Kill the animal. Killing pests comes with the territory of gardening.
- Bug control in general: "The bug on the rose is evil, but so is the person who sees only the bug."
- Zucchini: Use black plastic mulch, cut holes in it and plant, and then cover the plants with Remay fabric over low hoops. This keeps the plants about 10 degrees warmer and also keeps the vine borer wasps out. Remove the fabric when the first female squash flowers appear.
- Potato beetles: At the 1st/2nd instar, spray with BtSD. (I am thinking this approach may also be appropriate for bean beetles, though I didn't ask him.)
- Corn ear worms: Just lop the top of the corn off before you eat it.
- Blueberry maggots: They are not toxic to people...
- Potatoes: Save your small potatoes and regrow them for about 4-5 years. That's how long it takes for pathogens to become a problem. Every 4-5 years, get a new stock of certified disease free ones and start again.
- Winter: Use winter rye ground cover. In the spring, use a weed whacker to turn it into coleslaw. (I didn't get the full story here. I don't know if you need to turn this into the soil to disrupt the roots, or if you can leave the "coleslaw" on the top of the soil while the roots compost? The question is whether the roots will regrow.)

He also talked about storing vegetables and listed many of his favorite varieties. I'll post about each of these separately.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

today's harvest

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the basics of growing a vegetable garden

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I have a giant notebook compiled from my Master Gardener class. Of course, the vegetable section was one of my favorites.

I was interested to see how our manual breaks down the major components of growing a vegetable garden. 1) Planning and 2) Maintaining growth momentum.

Planning includes site selection, soil, type of garden (raised beds, etc), how you will irrigate. It also includes planning what to grow, how much, and what to plant where. It includes deciding whether to grow from seed or use transplants, where to obtain these, and generating a planting schedule.

Maintaining growth momentum includes what you need to do after the garden is planted (or after seeds are in pots under lights). I'm thinking that this component includes both maintaining good momentum of plant growth, as well as - maybe more important - maintaining momentum of the gardener. For the vegetable plants, maintaining momentum requires using proper practices for individual plants such as fertilization, irrigation and mulching, weed control, pest control, succession planting, cold protection, harvesting, winter clean up and cover crops. (For the gardener, maintaining momentum for an entire season requires ...?)

So, I'm now moving into the planning season. I've already received a couple seed catalogs. At our community garden, we're planning programs we'll run next year. I'm looking forward to trying some changes in my garden including improving my soil, installing drip irrigation, interplanting, and trying some new varieties. I'm even planning for the weather; The Old Farmer's Almanac says that after a mild, snowy winter, our area will have a cool and wet summer. Ha! That's hard to believe! We're still in a severe drought here. I think I'll take that forecast with a grain of salt.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

my larder

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It's the end of another gardening season. My larder is as full as it's going to get this year. I have vegetables stored in different locations: my freezer, refrigerator, and new food storage pantry.

My new food pantry is separate small room just off our garage. Similar to a root cellar, we built it here since we have no basement. My husband build pine shelving to line the walls. With a cement floor it stays about 50 degree F like a root cellar, though we put a temp regulator in just in case. This room has squashes, potatoes, canned tomatoes, pickles, jams, and jellies. I have several batches of pickled beans, dill beans and three bean salad. I have pickled zucchini squash and pickled garlic scapes. Lot's of canned tomatoes. My garlic (I ended up with very tiny garlic heads this year) popcorn, and a few last onions hang in bunches behind the door. (Sadly, no fruits from this year ... pears or apples ... because of a late hard frost.) Oh, and there's also about 100 ponds of honey on the shelves.

In the refrigerator I have several jars of sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. Also carrots, beets, and celeriac in plastic bags.

My frozen garden produce includes lots of pesto. We put away a quart this year. It's stored a ground basil and pine nuts in olive oil. We add cheese and dilute it a bit with pasta water to serve it. I have baggies of frozen pizza sauce and roasted chile peppers. I also still have raspberries and dried pears from last year's bumper crops.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

I'm a certified master gardener!

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I'm certified!!

I've passed the 50 hours of classwork and 60 hours of supervised gardening, help line, etc, and two exams to earn certification as a Master Gardener. It was a challenging course given by the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association (MMGA). I recommend it highly to anyone in central Mass. Also, most states offer their own MG courses.

Every week we had full day lectures given by top experts in the field. They really did bring in the best. Topics included soils, composting, botany, insects, garden design, perennials, berry plants, pruning, vegetable gardening, and others. Every day I would go to class with such anticipation and leave feeling like I wanted to get right out in the garden and practice what I learned. It was fantastic.

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today's harvest

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Friday, November 11, 2016

today's garden work

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It seems I should be finishing up with my garden for the season, but I'm hurrying to get my winter crops set. This is what I did in the garden today.

- Clean out tomato debris from my winter bed (this bed has hardware cloth dug in 8 inches around the base to deter voles and also has brackets to support the PVC hoops)

- Spread compost and manure on winter bed (3 bags Black Earth compost and 2 bags composted manure) and dig it in (I dig it in only turning a shovelful here and there, trying to both distribute the amendments and preserve some of the soil structure)

- Plant seedlings in the winter bed, including chard, broccoli, bok choi, lettuce, and spinach - leaving room to seed more spinach

- Mulch the winter bed seedlings with salt marsh hay (I have no water at the garden, so I hope they take root OK)

- Put in place low metal hoops and tall PVC hoops for my double layer winter tunnel

- Clear out my watermelon bed for planting a few cloves of extra giant garlic given to me by a friend (most of my garlic - 70 cloves - was planted several weeks ago in my community garden plot)

- Amend the garlic bed with compost and manure, dig it in, and then plant the garlic (I need to mulch this bed later)

- Cover my lettuce bed with row cover since it might go below 30 tonight

I'm glad my new pup Charley and big sister Suzie are so good. They ran and played nearby while I worked. The leaves and cool weather are great fun for them.

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Veteran's Day 2016: To all veterans, I respect your service. It is meaningful to me that you worked and sacrificed in the name of our country and for of all American people.

the last of my garden tomatoes

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All my green tomatoes have now ripened in their baskets in my kitchen. They are sadly :-( the last garden tomatoes and green peppers for our salads. Tomato season has come to an end.

I have to say, however, that it's been a really super tomato year. I made sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, salsa, etc. I froze and canned about 100 pounds of tomatoes, producing 50 pounds now in my pantry and freezer. And, who knows how many tomatoes we ate fresh ... sliced on salad with mozzarella and basil ... yumm

I think this year should be crowned the "Year of the Tomato" (as well as the "Year of the Big Drought") for my gardens. I think I'll make some buttons for my sidebar.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

today's harvest

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Varieties: Cherokee and Monte Carlo lettuce, Peppermint chard.

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will President Trump keep the White House vegetable garden?

Michelle Obama is hoping that the White House vegetable garden will be preserved and used by all future presidents. She's added a stone plaque with the inscription, “WHITE HOUSE KITCHEN GARDEN established in 2009 by First Lady Michelle Obama with the hope of growing a healthier nation for our children.”

Also, she's "pressing the president to pass an executive order to maintain the garden after they leave the White House,” a source told The Post. The garden has grown from 1,100 square feet to 2,800 square feet under her leadership.

I think Mr Trump and Melania aren't vegetable gardeners. The rumor is they may be more interested in using the South Lawn for golf. Time will tell. Surely everyone doesn't need to have the same interests.

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the Persephone begins

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Today marks the beginning of the Persephone in my area. This is the date when Persephone, the vegetation goddess, returns to Hades and causes the earth to become barren and wintry. I guess she stays toasty, but not us. While she's gone, our plants don't have enough sunlight to grow. With some cold protection, our plants will hang out and wait for her return when they can grow again.

So the Persephone is the time when there's less than 10 hours of sunlight each day. Most plants need more than 10 hours to grow. Their growth is slowed or stopped, even if winter temperatures are mild.

Persephone dates vary according to your latitude. In my area near Boston MA, it starts today, Nov 10, and ends Feb 10. In Kentucky, it starts Nov 22. To figure out when the Persephone starts in your area, you can keep an eye on the vegetation goddess. There are also tables on line where you can look it up. The Univ of Nebraska Day Light Explorer is a really cool interactive graph to explore different daylight hours at different latitudes.

source: Mother Hubbard "Calculating Your Persephone Days"

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Tuesday, November 08, 2016

I voted! soon it will be over ...

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    kathy@skippysgarden.com














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