A journal of my home vegetable garden. Skippy thinks it's his garden, but I've been gardening here for 20 years. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6). I have a big community garden plot and a small plot in my yard. I try to grow all of my family's vegetables using sustainable organic methods.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

new chickens

introducing new pullets 9353 I just picked up my two new chickens at the post office. They (McMurray Hatcheries)shipped them much nicer this time, in a box twice a big as last time (for 3 chickens last time) and this box had a divider between the birds. I got two pullets (hens 15-22 weeks old). A Barred Rock (black and white) and another Black Australorp.

I was warned by Linda not to put them with the full grown birds right away, but to use a dog crate at first. SO I am using one of Skippy's crates for them. I expect to keep them in there a few days, then put them in the coop with the big birds.

So far, they are getting along great. They are cooing to each other and the big birds are staying near the crated young hens. My big hens have been pretty skittish and stay in the woods under cover when they go out of their coop now. I am not letting them out as much as before as I'm skittish too.

introducing new pullets 9351 introducing new pullets 9348 introducing new pullets 9356


Monday, August 18, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 8-18-2014


red sauce

red sauce My tomato bowl filled up again today, so time to make red sauce.

When I make red sauce I peel, seed and chop tomatoes, then simmer about an hour. More detail: I boil a big pan of water and then put a few tomatoes at a time in it for about 1 minute till their skin starts to split. Remove and cool. Then peel skin. I squeeze out as many seeds as I can, then chop the pulp. I put all tomato pulp in a big pan and simmer, stirring occasionally till it is as thick as you want it. Usually about 1 hour of simmering.

My mom has extra tomatoes too this year (what a great year!) and wants to make sauce, but my skinning and seeding steps seem to much work. (They go fast for me since I have a routine.) My brother said to whirl the tomatoes in a blender and then boil them down. She thinks this sounds easier than peeling them all. My brother said the blender is good enough so you don't have pieces of skin. What do you think? My mom will try this sometime this week and see how it goes. I am looking forward to her report.

I have tried before to just core the tomatoes and cook them down. Can't get any easier. I cut them in half, thinking I'd pull out as much skin as I could. Here's a post I did on this: short-cut red sauce. It was a really really delicious sauce with lots of tomato varieties also squash and carrots added, but I ended up taking a lot of time trying to remove the skin and wasn't successful at taking out much of it so I ended up pureeing it.

After reading my old recipe, I think I will add some summer squash and carrots to my red sauce tonight.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 8-13-2014


garden in the rain

I went out in the rain today to check my garden. I got totally soaked because I couldn't just check the garden fast as I had planned. Once there I had to weed and take pictures. I only had my cell phone, so they aren't the best photos. Skippy and Suzie came too and played while I wandered in the garden. We all got soaked.

garden 1 garden 2 garden 6 garden 5 garden 3 garden 10 skip and suzie

The photos remind me of things I need to do in the garden.
- The old pea vines need to come out. I'm waiting to do this until the fall seedling are ready to go in. I want to remember to get row cover ready to use for any Brassica's I plant as the cabbage worms are terrible here.
- The soy beans are ripening fast. I am keeping my eye on them as last year I waited too long to harvest. Getting the salt ready for fresh edamame!
- Lots of pretty eggplants coming along. I need to plan some eggplant recipes.
- I am thinking about whether to spray the popcorn tassels for corn ear worms. Its my first popcorn harvest here and I don't know if these are a problem. I guess my tendency is to not treat until I know I need to.

popcorn silks

popcorn tassels It is amazing how fast corn grows. Just a few days ago the tassels started showing and now full size tassel and silks.

popcorn popcorn tassels 2


ordering pullets

I'm ordering a couple pullets tonight. Another Australorp and a Cuckoo Maran. From McMurray Hatchery. For arrival next week.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

lost chicken

Penny feather My black chicken disappeared today.

The three chickens were out in the side yard, foraging, and I was in the front yard setting up some agility equipment for my dogs. I heard chickens Ginger and Bertha squawking so loud that I came over to see. It was just the two of them so I went to look for Penny, the black Australorp, my favorite. Usually if there's squawking, it's one chicken who got separated from the other two. I've watched before as one chicken squawks, the other two will mosey on over to her.

But that wasn't what happened this time. Down the hill I found a pile of feathers. Further along, another pile. One last feather by the woods near my vegetable garden. I looked in the woods but never found her. I worked in my garden a couple hours after that, hoping Penny would show up but she didn't.

I think it must have been a large animal to carry off a full grown, 5-7 lb chicken. I've seen a small coyote in our yard and a fox. My husband saw a big coyote. I'm told the big coyote has been seen by neighbors walking down the road. I suppose it was him who got my chicken. It was midday, broad daylight, about 2 pm.


Friday, August 08, 2014

corn is tasseling

My popcorn is tasseling! Also the pointy tips of ears are showing! I knew they would pop out any day now.


fall planting

Half of my lettuce did not sprout, so I have replanted it. Instead of just replanting the lettuce, I planted another whole tray of seedlings. How could one have too many?

tomato soil test day 7

test-2014-08-06 Looks to me like the "sub soil", the soil underneath my beds may be the problem. I did a soil test on this prior to plating and knew it was lacking in nutrients: pH 5.9, P very low(1.6), K low (63), Ca very low (500), Mg low (46), Sulfur good (14.2).

Maybe its not a toxic chemical in the soil or a virus, but could be the lack of nutrients? I fertilized once this season with granulated GardenTone, but think I will try a few treatments with a liquid compost tea or fish emulsion to get down into the lower soil where the roots are.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

soil test results

tomato test of soils9280 This is the test result at day 5. Seedlings are sprouting in three of the four soils: tomato bed, compost and greens bed. I'll give it more time before I make any conclusions.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 2014-0802 Beans, beans, beans! Plus a few beets and broccoli side shoots.

I need to find a good recipe for dilly beans....

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

fall planting

freshly planted fall seeds I'm about a month late, but I wanted to see if I can get some fall crops. I have lots of space where my peas, garlic and onions were. And my potatoes will be coming out soon. I planted:
Lettuce, Skyphos
Lettuce, Prizehead
Lettuce, Oakleaf
Lettuce, Valentine Red Mix (Botanical Interests)
Lettuce, Italienisher
Lettuce, Victoria Butterhead
Lettuce, Green Romaine
Lettuce, Red Romaine
Brussels's Sprouts
Win-Win Choi
Beets, Merlin
Beets, Blankoma
Spinach, Bloomsdale Long Standing
Escarole, Tres Fine
Escarole, Batavian
Fall Greens Mix (Sand Hill Preservation)

With a harvest time of 105 days, its pretty late to try planting Brussels's Sprouts. I've done this before it seems and end up with little sprouts that are almost ready by Thanksgiving, but ... not. Everything else has a shorter time to harvest:
bok choi: 52 days
beets: 48-55 days
spinach: 48 days
escarole, 42-90 days
lettuce: 42-48 days
mixed greens: 21 days


did my soil cause the curled-up tomato leaves?

soil test photo 1 In addition to my fall planting, I also set up a test of my garden soils to try to figure out if a problem in the soil caused my curled-up tomato plants. I'd like to know for next year. I have lots of Siberian Red tomato seeds, so I planted these in four soil samples:

1. Tomato bed (this produced plants with curled leaved)
2. Sub-soil (lawn)
3. Purchased compost (same compost that went into the tomato bed)
4. Green's bed (loam and compost from sources different than tomato bed)

I suspect the problem is with the purchased loam that went into the tomato bed. I bet it was treated with an herbicide (2,4-D or glyosphosphate) at some point. Sad that this is so prevalent. Lots of plants can't handle these chemicals and they get spread around all over. 2,4-D degrades rapidly in soils (half life = 6.2 days), so if this is the problem it should dissipate soon.

Fortunately, USDA tests of food crops grown in 2,4-D treated soils risks found that levels are not of concern. OK, but the tomatoes don't grow very well. The 2,4-D dietary risk assessment considered both acute and chronic risks from residues in food based on field trials --- so ... we can eat the produce.

Monday, July 28, 2014

today's harvest

Summer is outdoing herself. With all this rain and warmth, my gardens are producing so much food. harvest 9211

Today I harvested my shallots. Also, about half of my onions. I picked a row of beans. The cucumbers are producing more than I can believe, and the summer squashes are out of control. I only picked the big squashes quickly tonight, but will pick the rest tomorrow. Looks like I'll donate a big bag of squash to REACH. I put up 7 jars of pickles tonight.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

garden bugs!

grasshopper on basil 9060 hummingbird moth on silane black bee on thyme bee on thyme orange wasp bee on chicory bumble bee on thyme small bee on dill

All of these are beneficial bugs. Great pollinators. Ooops, wait a minute. I just looked up that pretty grasshopper. I read that grasshoppers are terribly destructive pests in vegetable gardens. He's on my basil. Maybe THAT'S who's been eating my basil. I've added slug pellets and they are not slowing the damage. I am reading there's not much you can do about grasshoppers as they are so mobile. BIRDS! come here, birds...

PS. BugGuide says the pretty grasshopper is a Scudderia. They are herbivores, but don't usually eat too much. Sounds like I shouldn't blame him.


Saturday, July 26, 2014


half sour deli pickles 9210 I processed a dozen of my cucumbers (45 harvested in the past couple days!). I made deli half sour pickles using this recipe: Half sour pickles deli style. A little modification, I substituted coriander seed for black pepper since my husband is allergic to pepper. They'll be ready to start eating in 3 days.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 7-23-2014


Monday, July 21, 2014

today's harvest

harvest 7-21-2014 I harvested a big bunch of dill for making pickles. I'm going to try this recipe: Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles. Or I might try this one: Bobby Flay Dill Pickles. Then again, maybe I'll do both as the first is for making lots of pickles to can, and the second is for a few fresh pickles. Yum, they sound good!

I haven't made pickles in very many years. I could use any advice. I have so many cucumbers this year, I'm sure I'll need to put up more.

This is the second half of my garlic harvest. Gardeners seem surprised I harvested it so early, but it was ready. (The bottom three pairs of leaves are brown or yellow and there are about 3 pairs of green ones left.) It was ready at the same time last year too. Maybe its my variety. (Also, I think it better to err on the early side than to risk rot or bugs getting into the cloves.) The variety I have is mostly 'Music' this year. Probably some 'Duganski' and other types too. I always save 10 nice cloves (biggest or most colorful) for planting next year's crop in the fall.


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