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.

Saturday, October 03, 2015


Friday, October 02, 2015

potatoes - a tiny harvest

Some things grew great this year and others, well, :-( didn't. On my "didn't" list, potatoes.

I thought they were doing well until last week when I dug them. An underground crop is a mystery until you go to harvest!

potatoes in a basket IMG_4129

This spring I planted only one type of potato because in the past I've had so many seed tubers left over that I can't find space for. Usually I crowd the seed, spacing them maybe 6 inches apart when 12 would be better. So I only planted my favorite, russets. And I tried a new variety, Canela, from Territorial, that is a high yield potato. I planted 5 lbs.

Potatoes will yield up to 20 times more than you plant. I usually expect about 10 times. So, I was hoping for 50 lbs, or at least 30. I ended up with about 15-20 lbs. It was a lot of work to dig the bed searching for spuds that were few and far between. (Even with Skippy's help...) Each plant had about 5 potatoes and their were hardly any plants.

potatoes IMG_3058 skippy digging potatoes d IMG_2946 skippy digging potatoes IMG_2950 potatoes IMG_3049

The potatoes I got were a mix of sizes, big and small. The usual scab I get with Burbank russets. They're delicious baked, fried or mashed - can't complain about that.

So, to try to figure this out my low yield, I looked back over my photos from the season. I think part of it is that they didn't sprout well. I remember I was short of time and the seed potatoes sat in their box a while. I didn't get them sprouting in a warm spot before planting. And I didn't add much compost to the bed. Hmm, come to think of it, I didn't give them any fertilizer either. On top of that, the mid summer weather was certainly not great for potatoes - very hot and dry. The plants had good foliage, so I assumed they were happily growing tubers. I'm not sure which of these was the biggest problem, maybe the combination. This gives me a list of things to make sure I do next year: sprout, compost, fertilize and water! Oh, and go back to planting more varieties and crowing them in.

2015-05-12 potato bed turned IMG_1352 2015-05-31 potatoes sprouting IMG_1525 May 12, the freshly turned bed. May 31, sprouts in the furrows.

2015-06-22 potatoes growing IMG_2052 2015-07-18 potato patch IMG_2394 June 22, growing plants. July 18, fully grown potato plants.


Thursday, October 01, 2015

nine ears of Calico popcorn

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I was thinking my popcorn was a complete failure, but no, 9 pretty ears. Yippee! I planted it late and then didn't water and lost most of the seedlings. I only had one row that grew well. With one row, I was surprised to get any pollination. I harvested today, even though the ears weren't fully dried on the stalks as it looked like a chipmunk started nibbling on an ear.


budded fall peas

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I've tried for the past 10 years to get a fall crop of peas and haven't been successful. Our weather goes from hot to frost too fast. But I've got my fingers crossed this year. Maybe.... My pea plants are budded and our weather is pretty nice, with nights not going much below 50 F yet. Our season generally seems about 2 weeks late this year. So maybe 2 or 3 weeks until frost. Maybe enough time for these peas.

I started spouting these peas (Burpeeana Early, 63 days to harvest) on August 8 indoors in paper towels and then planted them outside a week later. The weather was so hot that I planted them next to my popcorn for afternoon shade. I also planted Johnny's Sugar Snap peas at the same time but they have not done well probably since they had no shade.

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mystery tree - any guesses?

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This tree is behind my garden. It's full of beautiful white flowers in the spring. Now it has tiny fruits that are shiny red. I wish I knew what is was.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


I can't quite believe it. I collected honey from my own hives! It's a cool feeling. Yesterday I opened my white hive, ... (more)


Monday, September 14, 2015

skippy and suzie at the garden

A few more photos from my community garden:

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skippy IMG_3870 skippy and suzie IMG_3821

Sunday, September 13, 2015

our community garden

It's a drizzly cool day. Finally. It's been so hot and dry. I took my camera and walked through the paths of my community garden. The star of the day are the sunflowers: bright and tall. The squashes are ripe, tomatoes fading, kale's and Brussels sprouts are looking good.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

today's harvest

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turnip seeds

The turnip seeds arrived a day later than the rest of my Johnny's shipment. They're planted now too.

September 11, 2015 
Turnip, Scarlet Queen Red Stems


Friday, September 11, 2015

sowing for winter garden - 9 weeks before Persephone

I just got a package from Johnny's. More seeds to sow for my winter garden. Here's what I have going so far:

September 6, 2015 (10 weeks before Persephone)
Kale, Red Russian
Kale, Vates
Blanching Onions, Nabechan
Radicchio, Perseo

September 10, 2015 (9 weeks before Persephone)
Collards, Flash
Swiss chard, Peppermint
Cilantro, Calypso
Lettuce, Bibb, Winter Density
Lettuce, Romaine, Truchas
Lettuce, Butterhead, Skyphos
Escarole, Natacha
Endive, Tres Fine
Mustard Greens, Ruby Streaks
Daikon Radish, Miyashige

Looks like I forgot to order the turnip seeds. Maybe I'll find some in a store this week. And I noticed that escarole, endive and mustard greens are not on my app. A winter garden has to have these! I'll add them in the next version. I've never grown Daikon before, so this is an experiment.

My Johnny's package also had some Fall Greens Manure Mix, a cover crop. I'll try scattering this under my tomato plants soon, to get it going. I can also plant it now in my squash beds, which have petered out.

Lastly, the package had AG-19 row cover, which will be one of two layers I'll use to protect my winter garden from the cold.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

pickled peppers

peppers for pickling IMG_3684

I started with about 4 lbs of mixed hot peppers:

    Jalepeno pepper, Emerald Fire (a new AAS winner)
    TexMex pepper, Joseph E Parker
    Poblano, Ancho 211

I cut these in rings and canned them according to directions in the Ball Home Preserving book. They are delicious. Nice and hot! I only wish they didn't loose so much of their bright green color. I wonder if they retain it more with a pressure canner.

peppers pickled IMG_3703

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Wednesday, September 09, 2015

comparing slicing tomatoes

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From left: Sun Gold, Cherokee Purple, Huge Lemon Oxheart, Brandywine, Pink Beauty and Giant Belgium

Not shown: Beefsteak, Mortgage Lifter, Carbone, Iron Lady and Mountain Merit. The last two are late blight resistant varieties that I'm growing at my community garden plot.

tomatoes sliced IMG_3618

And here are some sliced tomatoes. From top left going clockwise the varieties are: Cherokee Purple, Orange Blossom, Carbone, Mountain Merit, Iron Lady and, in the center is Stump of the World. (I bought the Orange Blossom tomato as I miss growing this one - I ran out of seeds this year.)

I'd like to eliminate 2 or 3 slicing varieties next year and add 2 or 3 new ones. Orange Blossom is one to add!

My notes:
Sun Gold was tall and spindly this year. Grow two plants next year.
Cherokee Purple outdid itself with many beautify tasty fruits. Its still my favorite.
Huge Lemon Oxheart, definitely huge and yellow, but also mealy. I'd like to try a different lemon variety.
Brandywine: Great tasting, but shape seemed different, smaller, this year. I'll have to look up the strain.
Pink Beauty: I tucked this plant way in back. It still produced many delicious tomatoes.
Giant Belgium: Three or four spectacular big tasty fruits.
Beefsteak: This plant fizzled. A couple small fruits.
Morgage Lifter: Amazing number of big fruits early in the season, fizzed by the end.
Carbone: Two or three fantastic fruits. I tucked this plant way in back and it didn't get as much sun.
Stump of the World: My husband likes to eat these like cherry tomatoes. He says they're very sweet. I think I'll stop growing it because of the ugly name. (Where did that come from?!) It's incredibly prolific.
Iron Lady: Lots of tomatoes, medium sized fruits.
Mountain Merit: This is my favorite late blight resistant variety, a nice big meaty tomato.

Eliminate: Huge Lemon Oxheart and Beefsteak


comparing paste tomatoes

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From left: Tiren, Stump of the World, Cordova, Opalka, Heinz 2653, San Marzano, Nova
Not shown: San Marzano G3, Polish Linguisa

I'd like to eliminate 2 or 3 varieties. And grow less variety for my paste tomatoes. I really prefer the big meaty tomatoes, but they produce fewer tomatoes than the smaller ones. Of course one big Opalka is the size and meatiness of 5 or 6 tiny Novas.

My Notes:
Tiren: Very early, heavy producer, seems hollow, not so meaty
Stump of the World: I think not a paste tomato, a saladette, Huge production of sweet small fruits
Cordova: Good production, med sized round fruits.
Opalka: Amazingly beautiful and the meatiest tomato I have seen. Very few fruits.
Heinz 2653: Hard for me to distinguish this one from Cordova.
San Marzano: Similar to Cordova in size, maybe thinner and a bit longer. Low production.
Nova: Lots of tiny fruits.
San Marzano G3: This was my standard paste tomato, but it produced very few fruits this year in sprite of the front row seat I gave it.
Polish Linguisa: This one is performing stellar in my Mom's garden. It's a late producer of few fruits in my garden. Fruits are large, delicious and very meaty.

I think I will eliminate Stump of the World and Nova and double up on Opalka and Polish Linguisa


Monday, September 07, 2015

canned crushed tomatoes

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Sunday, September 06, 2015

preparing for canning

I just weighed up my tomatoes and hot peppers - I have 15 lbs of tomatoes and 4 lbs of peppers ready to go. I need to pick up some lemon juice or citric acid tomorrow at the store and the I'll get going on the canning. It should make about a dozen jars of tomatoes. I'm following recipes from the Ball Home Preserving Book: Crushed Tomatoes and Pickled Hot Peppers.

At the other end of the kitchen, my dehydrator is humming away. I have a tray of Thai hot peppers and a couple Flaming Flare peppers drying. They need a couple days to dry.

A few days ago, I cut up another 10-15 lbs of tomatoes and dried them down in my dehydrator. I used a nice recipe that I found on line at Make Your Own Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Oven, Dehydrator or Sun. They came out fantastic. My husband puts them on his fried eggs, chicken sandwiches and eats them straight up.I was in a hurry as they finished up and haven't put them in olive oil yet. They're just in a baggie in the refrigerator. A good task to finish up tonight.

today's harvest

Under the top layer of slicing tomatoes are eggplants, peppers, plum tomatoes and a couple cucumbers.

harvest IMG_3667


Saturday, September 05, 2015

sowing seed for my winter garden

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Even though my last year's winter garden was eaten to the ground by voles, I'm planting another one this year. I'm planting all of the crops included in my Winter Planting Calendar App (part of my Full Season Calendar App). I'm using the dates recommended there. It'll be a good double check of the app.

The app requires an input of my "Limited Daylight Date", which is the date when my area falls to less than 10 hours of sunlight per day (also called the beginning of the Persephone Period). This is November 10 for me.

The week of September 1 (this week), I'm planting kale, bunching onion, collards and radicchio. Next week, I'll plant Swiss chard, cilantro, lettuce and turnip.  I'm planting indoors in pots as the weather is still so hot and I don't have a good watering system outside. I'll just baby the seedlings indoors for a couple weeks, and then set them out.

For cold protection, I'm planning to use greenhouse plastic over PVC hoops again. I plan to use double cold protection this year: I'll add a second layer of Agribon floating row cover over the plants. For vole protection, I'm planning to dig in a 6 inch deep layer of hardware cloth all around the edge of the bed (as soon as the weather cools down a bit). I'll attach it to the outside of the raised bed. I also plan to soak castor oil into the soil at the edge of the beds. I'm thinking I'll be bold and set up two raised beds for winter this year, rather than the single failed one I set up last year. Why not.

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Friday, September 04, 2015

summer is passing

What a busy summer! I keep thinking I'll get a minute to write a post and then I need to pick the pears or process a big pile of tomatoes. Of course life is throwing other things at me too.

It's been a great year for my tomatoes, peppers, pears, and beets. I've made red sauce from 30 lbs of tomatoes and dried another 15. I expect them to keep coming in for a while - there are many still on the plants, though they are fading with the dryness and approaching fall. I'm planning to try making pickled peppers and pickled beets soon. That'll be something new for me. I have lots of raspberries frozen for pies. I bought a couple pounds of beans, added these to my meager harvest plus fond of  my mom's and canned some pickled beans. My husband started eating them immediately. Why wait! I'm starting to dig potatoes.

So yes, the summer is passing by. My squash vines have faded. Tomatoes foliage is suffering. And I can sense that change in the light with darker mornings and evenings. Other gardeners mention it to me. It's hard to accept that another summer is going to pass and be gone.

In spite, I'm going to try to get back to regular posting. Try...

Monday, August 31, 2015

my vegetable garden

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I've been experimenting with ways to photograph my vegetable garden. Above is a "panorama photograph" using my i-phone. And below, a regular photo.

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today's harvest

harvest IMG_2882


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