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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

today's harvest

today's harvst_9657


fall seedlings

fall seedlings_9639 fall seedlings_9638 fall seedlings_9629 fall seedlings_9627 fall seedlings_9627 fall seedlings_9626 Weather permitting, these little seedlings will all grow to full size and before cold weather and low light prevents their growth. I'm hoping to also have extra to cover and harvest during the winter.

The seedlings include all sorts of varieties of: lettuce, arugula, escarole, broccoli, bok choi, mustards, and Asian greens.

garden aerial

garden aerial I'm hoping this is an "in-between time" and that once again this year the garden will be full. I have lots of fall seedlings planted. Weather permitting. It looks like the last "ladder" photo I posted, but I've planted lots of little fall seedlings since then.


Sunday, September 07, 2014

pear harvest

PILES OF PEARS 1925 A great year for pears. I picked about 150 today. Bartletts and Kieffers. They filled my trug and I had to struggle to get the bucket into and out of the car.

I've read recently that its best to chill freshly picked pears at 30*F for 4 days or so. Then they can ripen at room temperature. Last year I didn't know this and didn't get the best ripening I am hoping chilling will help. I have lots of pear recipes marked in my canning book.


pullets join hens

I have big news about my little pullets. They have joined the big hens in the coop! Yeah pullets!

Every day at about 4 or 5 pm, I've been letting the new pullets out of their dog crate to roam free. They forage in the woods and generally stay under cover. I used to let the big hens out regularly too, some times all day, but, after seeding the lawn, we found they were eating so much grass seed that I kept them in their coop.

Well, now the seed has sprouted and today at 5 pm I let all four hens out to forage. At night fall, all go back to their roosts. In the past, the pullets have always gone to their private dog crate and the big hens to the coop.

Tonight I found them all in the coop!!!! Maybe I can put the dog crate away and have one happy chicken family now.


a perfect late summer day

It was a fantastic day for a Garden Tour! Sunny, low humidity, low 80's. The fall garden colors are approaching. And the late summer harvests are in full swing. I have to admit that our Gardens did not get much of the Garden Tour traffic. We're the outsiders. We got a couple visitors. But our new-effort fund raising did quite well with just the standard Meadow walking traffic. Most walkers seemed happy to consider a donation or to buy T-shirt. Our Garden fees pay for upkeep of the Meadow, Parking lot and our Gardens. Its the first time we've gotten together to do fundraising. It was fun!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

preparing for our Garden Tour

There is a local Garden Tour that includes our community Gardens this Sunday afternoon. Woo-hoo! Come visit us!

Sustainable Belmont has organized the event and it includes a number of local organic gardens. Our community garden is the first stop on the Tour. There are many exciting gardens on the tour.

The Green Garden Tour – September 7th, 12-3 pm Come visit some of the most sustainable gardens in Belmont and talk with their miracle-workers! You will find everything from hoop-houses to compost know-how; beautiful perennials to delicious annuals…and yes, a bunny tractor! Pick up some new knowledge, commiserate on the dry season and enjoy the day with us. Printed maps are available at the Beech Street Center that day (12-3) or download the brochure: Sustainable Belmont Green Garden Tour 2014. You can also follow this link to our Google Map of the Green Garden Tour 2014.
We are doing our best to spiff up our late summer gardens before the event; a bit of weed whacking here, some mowing there. We'll also be doing some fund-raising by selling our Garden T-shirts. The shirts were designed by a community gardener. We have 2 colors available: sky blue and gray-green. We've priced each shirt at $16. From this, about $11 dollars of each sale will go to our garden programs including Rock Meadow Conservation, Food Donations, Organic Gardening Education, Distribution of Late Blight Resistant Tomato Seedlings, and our Native Flower Gardens. Its the first time we've done any fund raising, so we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

today's harvest

harvest _9576 From my community garden plot.


Monday, September 01, 2014

late summer garden cleanup

garden after cleanup 9513 What a beautiful Labor Day weekend! Here's my new garden. I put a ladder out in the yard and did what I could to get a good perspective. Its hard to do as good as that second floor window over my garden that I used to have. But this new garden is awesome. Its teaching me all sorts of things about growing vegetables and getting a new garden up and going.

This weekend I pulled dead pea vines, spring broccoli plants, early bean plantings and about half of my cucumber and summer squash vines. I cut down and pulled out my tomato plants, which have been hit by late blight (I will bag up the infected plants, let them fry in the sun a while, then dispose of them in the trash so I don't risk overwintering of the pathogen). This cleanup has opened up lots of space for fall plantings. I have a few trays of seedlings that have been growing slow, but I will plant out and see how they do. I have also been able to find some nice fall seedlings at local garden stores.

Also, I am trying out some hoops. My husband is helping with these (actually, he's setting these up for me...). I would like hoops with row cover over any brassica plants I grow in this garden including my fall broccoli, kale and bok choi. Cabbage worms are very bad in this area, though they should die off as the fall approaches. I'd also like to try tunnels for winter growing.

Below is the "before cleanup" garden photo and a closer-up shot of my buddy, Skip.
garden before cleanup 9508 garden and skippy 9515


so happy about Ecotulips

I got the checkout to work at Ecotulips!! I placed a nice order - its making me think about Spring. I even got a 10% off coupon code to work. Yippee. Their shipping rate for my big order was only $5, pretty good. And I feel good that I am saving the bees and buying tulips grown without chemicals.

I think I was probably just too tired last night to type an order form properly.

so annoyed

EcoTulips made the cover of Organic Gardenng Magazine and I loved the article and photos ... BUT then I spent a hour tonight trying to place an order and I can't get the website to work... Can't even find an email to ask for help. Too bad, as the article looked nice, it's time to order tulip bulbs, and I love organic. I'll probably buy locally, but not organic, tomorrow.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

new winter harvest calendar

To improve on my timing for winter harvest crops, I've added a Winter Planting Calendar to my online planting calendar. I added a link on the sidebar and here too: Winter Planting Calendar.

I was reading on the Johnny's Seeds website:

Winter harvest crops are planted in late summer or early fall for harvest throughout the winter. ... for harvest before and during the "Persephone Period," when day length is less than 10 hours and plant growth essentially reaches a standstill.
You can look up when daylight falls below 10 hours in your town using this site: USNO Duration of Daylight Calculator. For me, its November 10.

I've tried for many years to get a cold frame full of greens to eat all winter. One winter I was successful with a good crop of spinach. Usually I plant too late; the crop holds over the winter and begins to grow again in spring for a nice spring harvest. This is good too. Some winters, its just too cold and the crops are killed.

Using my new calendar I now know that its definitely too late to plant lettuce for winter harvesting. I have some seedlings I planted several weeks ago that should be good. But maybe I could get away with sowing some spinach and arugula seeds this weekend. I'm working on putting together a cold frame or some covered hoops in my garden.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

making pickles!

canning_9499 I don't have much experience making pickles, but I'm putting up as much as I can this year. I got the Ball Home Preserving Book (edited by Judi Kingry & Lauren Devine). In the past couple weeks I've made:
Dilled Beans
End of the Garden Pickles
Grandma's Dill Pickles

Not from this book, I've also made:
Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles
Annie's Salsa
Half Sour Pickles Deli Style, these were too salty for us and went to the compost

My favorite pickle recipe so far:
NY Times Sour Pickles, a fantastic, simple deli half sour dill pickle. Yumm!

I plan to make a few more recipes from the Ball book:
Cucumber Relish
Victorian Barbeque Sauce

Also, I have a bunch of pear recipes marked as I've got a big crop ripening on my trees. The recipes sound really good.

canning_9496 canning_9494 canning_9501


hen pecked pullets

My two new pullets still aren't getting on so well with the big hens. I've had the pullets two weeks now. They've been staying in a dog crate next to my coop. I let all four hens out to forage for several hours on most days. The big hens will tolerate the small ones at about 5 feet away. They also tend to keep them away from food bowls and the coop area once they're out. The pullets like to forage in the woods and they can escape the big hens there and scratch in peace.

After one week, I tried putting the pullets in with the big hens overnight. It turned out to be a one night experiment. The big girls chased the pullets and kept them confined to a corner. They were pretty shaken by morning. I am going to wait a bit more before trying another overnight.

chickens 9410 chickens 9409 chickens 9406


Friday, August 29, 2014

soil test results say the compost was the problem

I think the results from my soil testing are pretty clear. It's not looking good for the compost...
leaves compost_9367 leaves tom bed _9381 leaves greens bed _9374 leaves sub soil_9376

I did the testing because my tomato plants had terribly curled and leathery leaves, tall spindly growth, and very few fruits this year. I had brought in purchased loam and compost this spring, since we have a new property and I don't have my own compost yet and needed to new fill raised beds. For the test, I planted the same tomato seeds in samples of 4 different soils: 1) purchased compost, 2) the mixed soil from the tomato bed (a mix of purchased compost and purchased loam), 3) soil from my lettuce bed (no purchased compost or loam in this), and 4) soil from our yard below the garden beds. Representative primary leaves of seedlings grown in these 4 samples are shown in the same order above.

I think the secondary leaves of the compost-grown test plants look leathery and curled just like my garden plants. The mixed tomato bed soil is sort-of leathery, but the green's bed plants look great. The sub-soil plants are yellow reflecting the lack of nutrients in this soil.

I find it disappointing that purchased compost is toxic to tomato plants. I live in a fairly urbanized area and the compost I bought was made from local yard waste.

Janice, who lives south of me in CT, emailed me and wrote that she contacted an organic farmer last year about a source for good composted manure and he warned about toxic manures these days due to lingering herbicides in animal feed and recommended sticking with home composting and cover crops. It seems this animal feed toxicity is often a problem now in garden composts. Herbicides used on lawns aren't as toxic or persistent as for example, Roundup, which is what is sprayed on the Roundup Ready (GMO) corn used for animal feed. So my compost should have been OK if it was just suburban grass clippings and leaves with suburban lawn chemicals. But it seems its not OK as my tomatoes didn't grow well at all in it. I'm really disappointed that there are so many chemicals in use that we can't buy a safe compost product. I look forward to producing my own compost and not being in a position where I need to purchase compost or loam for my gardens.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

my backyard garden



imagining a new pantry for storing vegetables

I have this vision of a pantry full of stored homegrown vegetables. Shelves full of canned pickles and tomatoes. Baskets full of winter squashes and potatoes. A fridge with carrots, beets and cabbage. And a freezer with pesto and red sauce. Onions, shallots, garlic and dried chili peppers and herbs hanging from the ceiling. And jars of dried homegrown herbs on the shelves.

In our old house, I used a section of the basement for my winter pantry. Some years I filled it up pretty well with potatoes and squashes. Occasionally canned tomatoes too. Always pesto in the freezer.

Our new house currently has no storage space. I have onions stashed in the utility room and the shed. Pickles are lined up on the kitchen counter. But we have plans to build a garage that will have a room specifically designed to store my larder. We will design the size, shape, shelf configuration, etc. We are in the planning stages now and hopefully will break ground on the project mid September. Until then, I am enjoying imagining.

garlic and onions hanging

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Monday, August 25, 2014

late blight hit my tomatoes

My curled leaved tomatoes have been hit a final blow, late blight. I picked all the red and green fruits and cut down the plants. I'll bag the infected plants soon and let them heat-kill in the sun for a few days before disposing in the trash.

I was able to harvest a good bucket of tomatoes to use for a few weeks. Here's hoping for a better tomato season next year!!

tomatoes_9431 tomatoes_9432

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Sunday, August 24, 2014


edamame 9404 Edamame (or green soy beans) are one of my favorite things to grow. I planted two varieties this spring, Envy and Butterbeans. I planted Envy first and they ripened this past week. Soybeans ripen all at once, so I pull the whole plant, pile them on the kitchen counter, and pick the pods off as I watch TV in the evening. We freeze whatever we can't eat fresh. They are especially good this year.


today's harvest

Harvest 9393


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