This is a journal of my home vegetable garden. Skippy and Suzie think it's their garden, but I do all the work. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community garden plot and a garden in my backyard. I try to grow all of my family's vegetables using sustainable organic methods.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

my Thanksgiving lettuce (variety Sandy) survived the cold

IMG_3976 - thanksgiving lettuce

Yes! It still looks great. This is a little area that's not under my plastic tunnel, so I want to pick it all for Thanksgiving. Its a great variety. Sandy. A 2015 AAAS Winner that I love. Sweet frilly green leaves. And - very cold tolerant!!

I have some escaroles, Frissee and Natacha, to mix with it. Also curly kale and baby beet greens. Maybe some mustard, Purple Streaks, and some tiny radicchio, Perseo, too. I see what kind of mix I end up with. The rest of the nights before Thursday will be warmer, so I'll stop worrying.

Soon I plant to go through all of the 2015 AAAS Winners that I grew this year and post their photos. Most did great for me. I think of December as sort of a "garden review" month.

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a cold night - did lettuce survive?

The temperature dipped to 19F in some areas of my yard last night. I have a bunch of salad greens out there marked for the Thanksgiving Day salad bowl. They're under a double layer of row cover. I'm worried about what I'll find when I check them. I may be buying lettuce ...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

skippy in the garden



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

new old garden shed


My husband moved this old shed for me. It was up in the front of our new house. He disassembled it, made it a couple feet smaller, and reassembled it next to my garden.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

today's harvest

lettuce harvest IMG_3927

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plastic tunnel is getting ready to assemble

IMG_3857 IMG_3859

Right now, the skeleton of a tunnel is standing. Bare white PVC arches over thin metal hoops. When night time temperatures dip to freezing (32F), I pull cloth over the metal hoops and then remove it in the morning.

I'm hoping to get some use out of the tunnel this year. Last year, voles or chipmunks ate everything inside once I closed the plastic up.

This year's attempt to keep critters out:
- 6 inches of hardware cloth dug in around the edges of bed
- castor oil/soap mix soaked into soil at edges of bed
- I'll secure the plastic to edges of bed when I close it up
- Watch carefully for holes the past weeks so I don't close it up with a critter inside

It would be nice to have salad greens all winter. We'll see.

I'm still not sure about the plastic tunnel concept. I've read that it works, but still haven't done it successfully myself. Mine is so far from any heat source (except the sun and soil). I suspect it's success depends on the winter weather - snow cover, sunny days, temperatures. Interesting to read:
- excerpt from Eliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook, overwintering in a tunnel
- Johnny's Winter Growing Guide

My tunnel will have two layers: (1) a layer of winter cold protection Agribon fabric on the low metal hoops (I actually doubled this layer because the roll's width was twice my bed's width - it made it easy to double it), and (2) an outer layer of greenhouse plastic that will go on the PVC hoops. Today, my husband and I used duct tape to attach long 1x2 straps of wood to the apex of the PVC arches to keep snow from collapsing the hoops.

At my old house, my cold frame was right up against the south wall of our house. My baby spinach would survive the winter and start growing in February. By March and April I'd have a frame full of spinach.

I wish the plants in the bed were a bit bigger. Next year, I start them a couple weeks earlier. (I followed my winter planting app dates - I'll adjust them earlier too.)

It's a nice warm November. Maybe I won't need to close it up for a few more weeks. The hawks do a good job keeping the critters out.



Saturday, November 14, 2015




plants in my garden now

IMG_3849 IMG_3808 IMG_3810 IMG_3813 IMG_3817 IMG_3820 IMG_3822 IMG_3826 IMG_3823 IMG_3824 IMG_3837 IMG_3834 IMG_3841 IMG_3844

Thursday, November 12, 2015

early seed catalog

I just got my first seed catalog! I thought they came out at the end of December.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Persephone period begins

It's November 10. Daylight hours have fallen below 10 hours a day at my latitude. Sunrise 6:28 am, sunset 4:27 pm. Aargh - not my favorite time of year... (Plants don't grow with less than 10 hours of light a day.) I had my countdown timer set to watch for this date. I've set it for February 2nd now - the date the Persephone ends.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

new garden fence

new garden fence IMG_3693

Friday, October 30, 2015

today's garden work

We certainly are lucky with our fall weather this year. Tee shirt temperature and nice rains. Blue skies and calliope leaf show.

Today's tasks:

  - Empty eight bags of compost and topsoil into the new garlic bed (why does the soil height always go down in a raised bed?)
  - Spread and turn under the new amendments. (Got to get s proper garden fork. Don't know where mine went. I leveled with the side of the shovel.)
   - Planted 140 cloves of garlic. They filled the bed full.
   - I labeled each row.
   - Spread salt marsh hay, about 3-5 inches, as a mulch to protect the plants against freeze-thaws and drying out during the winter.
  - I piled the rest of the salt marsh hay bale on other plants I'd like to winter-over without putting them under covers. I covered some broccoli, small red cabbage, kale and beets. I think the hay will give it a few extra degrees of weather protection in the event we don't have snow cover.
   - I broke off a nice length of horse radish root to try out. Smells great. I grate it in vinegar so it lasts.
   - Finally, I dug another section of my sweet potato bed. Lots of tubers. Just pretty scary looking with the surface grub and wire worm damage.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

looks like a good day for planting garlic

We had a torrential rain storm last night. My fall greens must have loved it. Now it's drying up and the sun is out. I brought a dozen bags of compost, manure and topsoil down to my garden yesterday. Also, a bale of salt marsh hay. I'm just waiting now for a new version of Photoshop to download (my old one didn't seem to work with my new Windows 10 OS). Separating the cloves as I wait. Once it's done, me and the dogs are going to go do some digging and plant garlic.

The new garlic patch is where my tomatoes were. I have three varieties from Territorial Seeds.
   8 oz Italian Late has 72 cloves!
   8 oz Music, 22 giant cloves
   8 oz Duganski, 45 pretty purple cloves

OK, I'm off to plant....


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

suzie by the pond

Suzie is in each of these pictures. She runs off when I photograph her too close, but I was happy to get her in the distance. She's been having trouble with her hips and so we're giving her special attention now.

IMG_3634 IMG_3623 IMG_3648


Monday, October 26, 2015

notes on Skippy's planting calendar app

- Use app for planning your 2016 garden: A gardener emailed me that she is already using Skippy's planting calendar app to set up her vegetables for next year (she says: "early but I want an easy place to remember what I want to order")

- Fixed glitch: The app had a glitch with the season transition. It was opening but displaying nothing. We've fixed this and an updated version is now available for download at Apple App Store updates.

- Android available: We've released an android version of the app. It's available here: Skippy's planting calendar android. Please let me know feedback on this version. Right now, I think it has the season transition glitch, but it will be updated and fixed soon.

- New features for 2016: We have several updates in the works for the app. By 2016 planting season, they'll be available as a download to update your version. As we get closer to completing them, I'll explain the features we're adding. We had so many good ideas from users and are excited to encorporate some .

Please let me know any feedback on this app. I'd love to hear how you are using it and any improvements you would suggest. And, if you have used the app this season, we'd love it if you leave a review at Apple or GooglePlay.


my new garden fence is being installed

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

pears - a bumper crop this year

I'm reviewing each of my crops this year. Here's the story on my my pears.

I have two espaliered trees, a Bartlett and an Kieffer at my community garden plot, about 5-7 years old now.

April 13, I sprayed with 2% horticultural oil at the swollen bud stage. I meant to spray again between green cluster and white bud, but forgot. (Spraying is done to control psylla, mites and scale.) I didn't see the trees in bloom this year, but was told they were spectacular.

I fertilized early in the year with fruit tree spikes, 3 per tree, since the leaves looked a bit yellow. They greened up nicely.

Fruit set in abundance on both trees. Last year I remember I counted 75 pears. This year I did not even try to count. I didn't thin or cover the fruit. The leaves developed spots mid-season. Scab? As they ripened, pears became mottled with something on the surface. Some Kieffer's were misshaped with dimples or larger divots that were stony at the base. I don't know the cause either of these.

2015-08-08 pears IMG_2634
2015-08-25 pears IMG_2807 (2) 2015-08-25 pears IMG_2807

August 25, I harvested about 30 lbs of fruit - all the Bartlett and half of the Kieffer's. August 31, I harvested the rest, about 20 lbs. 

2015-08-25 pears IMG_2810 2015-08-31 harvest pears IMG_2885

I put all fruit in the refrigerator. It's a small one with poor temp control. I tried to set it for 32, but ended up freezing about 30-40% of the fruit. The fruit that didn't freeze all ripened up really nicely. I left Bartlett's in fridge about 2 weeks, took about 3-4 days to ripen. Kieffer's were in fridge either 2 or 3 weeks and took about a week to ripen. They were sweeter with longer cold treatment.

2015-10-03 pears IMG_4149

Since I still have last years canned pears left over, I made different other items this year.
- Canned pear sauce (just like apple sauce, but pears - delicious)
- Frozen pears, I tried both dry and syrup methods (haven't tried any yet)
- Dried pears, both plain and syrup methods (we love both of these!)

2015-10-05 pears IMG_4272 2015-10-06 frozen pears IMG_4270

The Bartlett has several areas where branches don't look good and have lost leaves early this fall.

For next year,
- Apply both recommended applications of horticultural oil on the trees in spring
- If the trees set another big harvest, I'll thin to one pear per cluster, 6 inches between fruits about 30-45 days after full bloom when fruits are 1/2 to 1 inch diameter
- Get a new fridge with better temperature control
- Make dried pears again, try using a very light syrup

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

my fall harvest

These are vegetables I picked last Saturday, the day before our first frost.

fal harvest oxheart carrots IMG_3487 fall harvest celeriac IMG_3475 fall harvest black turtle beans IMG_3497 fall harvest beets IMG_3474 fall harvest Roxanne radish IMG_3488 fall harvest prosperosa eggplant IMG_3470 fall harvest sugar baby watermelons IMG_3490 fall harvest peppers and eggplants IMG_3499 fall harvest oxheart carrots IMG_3479 fall harvest bolero carrots IMG_3505

I'll have to post a photo of our watermelon martinis. Carrot or radish martinis are good too. I made a nice chili out of those Black Turtle beans last night. I'll post that photo soon too.


my cucumber experiment - cucumbers are not a fall crop

On August 7 (65 days before my average first frost), I planted several varieties of pickling cukes: Cucumber, Salt and Pepper (49 days), Cucumber, Miniature White (50 days), Cucumber, North Carolina Pickling (60-65 days). This experiment was a last ditch effort since wilt (carried by beetles) killed my summer cucumbers.

It seemed this experiment would work, going by the days. The rule of thumb for fall planting is to count back from the average first frost date by the days to harvest, and then add 2 weeks for the "fall factor": with less light plants grow slower. So those 49 and 50 day cukes had enough time. But it did not work.

August and September weather was great. Record heat - our first heat wave in September in 35 years. I kept the plants covered to keep beetles off, then removed covers when they bloomed. They bloomed well (bees loved them), but the plants never produced cucumbers.

My lesson: Cucumbers need mid summer light - they are not a fall crop.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

bread and butter pickles

bread and butter pickles IMG_4486 bread and butter pickles IMG_4475 bread and butter pickles IMG_4477

My cucumber harvest failed miserably this year (beetles), so I went by our farmer's market and bought a big bag of beautiful picking cukes. They smelled so good. Since I'm out of my garden onions already, I got onions. And some enormous red and orange peppers. I followed the recipe for Bread-and-Butter pickles in the book "Food in Jars" by Marisa McClellan (a really nice new canning book). They are delicious! Spicy and crunchy with a bit of sweetness.

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