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, June 30, 2015

today's harvest

harvest IMG_3003

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me first bee sting

I got stung by one of my bees last Saturday. Ouch. It really hurt. It made me hurry to finish the hive inspection. (more ...)

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today's garden work

- Weeding! of course
- Removed suckers and added ties to tomatoes
- Set up the last of the tomato support strings
- Transplanted escarole and broccoli seedlings

honey bee flowers

bee pot IMG_2977 Today my sister helped me fill and plant flowers in four big "honey bee pots" in my vegetable garden. These fit at the end of the rows between my raised beds. I want to attract my bees to my garden to pollinate the vegetables. So I selected flowers at the nursery that had honey bees on them.

I enjoyed walking through the nursery and noticing how different flowers attract different bees. The honey bee pots I ended up with are not a mix of flowers I would have selected otherwise. Sort of an unusual combination.

An amazing plant is Campanula takesimana "Elizabeth". It is both beautiful and was just covered with honey bees. I've never seen this plant before. I bought two of these. Also a large-flowered upright chamomile, a couple deep blue Veronicas, snapdragons and a small-flowered orange zinnia.

chamomile IMG_2983elizabeth IMG_2987

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Monday, June 29, 2015

nothing like big pretty tomato plants

tomato leaves IMG
I hardly dared hope for great tomatoes as I planted my tomato seeds this spring. Last year, all my tomato plants had leaves that shriveled up, plants that grew spindly, and very few if any fruits on the plants. (Here's a link to the sad posts.)

But  - Yeah!! - I have beautiful tomato plants so far. Big uncurled leaves. I planted in beds that did not have the compost that seem to cause the problem last year.

garden work

My sister helped me in my garden today! What fun. In two hours we got so much done. We transplanted lots of little pots of seedlings that I grew from seed, petunias, dianthus. Also some purchased thymes and basils. Then we attended to my tomato plants: we removed suckers and lower leaves, and added support strings. We weeded several beds sparing a rogue tomato plant, as well as scattered cilantro and dill plants. Thanks Sis!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

again, I think my bees are going to swarm soon

A couple weeks ago, I was very worried because I thought my bees were about to swarm and had foul brood. After lots of advice, it turns out (more ....)

where do my bees go?

I've been watching which flowers my bees are on. (more ...)

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new compost bins

compost bins IMG_2172

About a month ago, my husband made me a pair of new compost bins. They are beautiful!! A big improvement over the 5 little round plastic ones I had before.

The photos show how he made them. Slats are spaced 1 inch. The front panel sits in a slot at the bottom and it then held in place with a removable screw and bolt. In the spring, I will remove the front panels to turn and use the compost. A really nice feature is that he made a step on the side of each so I can get up inside easier if I need to retrieve something or compress the compost.

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a new blog for my bees

I've started a separate blog just for my bees. It's "kathy's bee's". I'll post just titles here with a link.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

bee record keeping

I'm trying to figure out the best way to keep a record of my bees. First, I had Siri transcribe my observations, then just transferred that to a word document. But Siri doesn't understand me very well and see certainly doesn't know words like "brood box". (more...)

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

todays harvest

todays harvest IMG_2147 todays harvest IMG_2109

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

today's harvest

todays harvest IMG_1975

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

netting over blueberry bush

I was pleased to see that one of my blueberry bushes, the one farthest down hill, has berries. It escaped the gread mummy berry disease. Yeah! I covered it with a plastic netting called "cicada netting" that was available locally in Home Depot. It has small holes and I'm hoping will not tangle birds like the netting with larges holes.

Does anyone have better suggestions for blueberry netting?

blueberry bush with cicada netting

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fall planting

Fall planting season has started and it's not even summer! I haven't done any fall planting yet, but I'm noticing on my FALL calendar app that it's time to plant collard greens. I'd like to give this a try this year. I might even try seeding a couple fall cabbages, even though it's a couple weeks late.

What worries me, though, is that I haven't gotten my popcorn in yet. My calendar is telling me I only have a couple weeks left to do this! A good job for tomorrow. (Today I have to deal with those bees.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

bee news

Yesterday I inspected my two new bee hives. It's the first time I've gone two weeks between inspections so I was really curious what I would find. One hive looks perfect and just as I expected. It's 70% full, ready for a mite treatment and then a honey super. Maybe both at once.

The other hive - well, not so good. The top box looked nice: I saw the queen and lots of eggs and larvae she had laid. Lots of stored food. But the bottom box was different. Pulling and checking frames from right to left I came across a single dark queen succession cell. A wax igloo in the middle of the frame. This frame and the next 3 or 4, were surprisingly inactive. These are built out frames that had been used for brood, but now no eggs, larvae, or nectar. Maybe a bit of yellow-brown stuff (pollen?) at the bottom? (I'll go back and photograph this today as I am wondering now if its foul brood or some other disease.)

queen succession cell frame with brown cells and queen igloobrown cells

But that single queen succession cell seemed to make sense. Maybe my original queen can't keep up laying eggs in all the cells. BUT then, on the next frame, about 20 light colored queen swarm cells hanging down the center sideways and off the edges! So are they are planning to swarm! And succeed? Both?

queen swarm cells

What I think I'll do next (tomorrow) is (1) photograph those funny yellow-brown cells closer and see if a problem. Maybe I need to take them out. (2) Try to create more space in case they are is considering swarming due to crowding. I will move unused outer frames inward and adding a honey super. I am deciding whether to remove the queen swarm cells. A friend said she can lend me equipment if I do need to catch a swarm. But it may make sense to remove whatever swarm cells I can, leaving the succession cells.

We'll see. I'd love advice.

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visiting my parents garden

My parents gardens is especially beautiful this year. I am envious of their garlic. It is beginning to form scapes. The plants are big and deep green - no yellow leaves yet. My garlic has suffered from my under-watering and, though it is also beginning to scape, has yellowing leaves already. A friend has a recipe for garlic scape pickles that I look forward to trying soon.

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Monday, June 08, 2015

today's harvest

A whole bowlful of strawberries! Yeah!

first strawberries

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Sunday, June 07, 2015

today's garden work

My husband got me two nice plastic boxes that I filled with garden stuff, one for each of my vegetable gardens. The boxes are black so they won't detract from garden beauty. The stuff: Twins, clippers, plant labels and pens, gloves (which I never wear), sunscreen, tissues, wire for hoops, fertilizer.

I added a few leftover bags of topsoil (I don't know why we had these, I hate plastic bags of stuff) to my 6th bed, turned it, raked flat, then planted 1 row green beans (Maxibel) and 4 rows edamame soybeans (2 Butterbeans and something else). I used a two year old package of inoculant for the soybeans. Bed #6 is now half planted with room left for some succession plantings of green beans.

In planting the beans, I realized I have no room left for shell beans. I knew when I moved the asparagus earlier in the spring, I knew this would take the space of something else, but I didn't think ahead to what it would be. Well, when the sweet potato starts arrived (forgot I ordered those) I planted the in the next available bed. The soy bean bed. So today I figured out that my decision time had come: soy beds or shell beans. No shell beans this year.

Monday, June 01, 2015

today's garden work - clearing the blueberry patch

Today I cleared my blueberry patch. I pulled ferns and weeds and trimmed rhododendrons back to leave a cleared ring of about two feet around each bush. I dug up the prolific (and beautiful) native plox, piled it in a wheelbarrow and will relocate it tomorrow. The bushes look much better. If the berries start to ripen, I have bird netting ready to use.

I did the clearing because my new blueberries seem to have "mummy berry". Bummer. I was thinking the berry patch could have native ferns and wild flowers growing under the bushes. But last year, my bushes lost all their berries and this year the same seems to be happening. My bushes bloomed well this spring, fruit set, and now the young berries are shriveling up. Mummifying is a good description. I am reading this is caused by a fungus that propagates year to year through infected berries dropped on the ground and not swept away. It is agrivated by reduced air flow - from ferns and native flowers growing too close, I think. I'll gradually see how much clearing is needed.

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rain, yeah!!

After nearly an entire month with no rain, we have a 3-day rain storm! Yeah! It should soak deep into the ground and perk up my plants. (And it gives me a chance to catch up on indoor stuff, like my blog.)

These seedlings got flooded in the first hour of our 3-day storm. I moved them out of the trays right after the photo, so they are fine now.

flooded seedlings IMG_2796 Before the rain, I was sending up clouds of dust when I walked in my garden paths at my community garden. I mulched them, I tried to mulch everything. I tried to water regularly, but often didn't have time to drive over there. My garlic suffered, I lost a few and some are not growing as well as they should. I will have to buy new seed garlic this year - or save much of my crop and buy farmers Market garlic to eat. I am hoping my onions do OK. I think the potatoes will be fine.

Monday, May 25, 2015

bee notes

For the past 5 weeks, Siri has recorded my bee notes for me. A good idea in theory, BUT I'm going to switch to an old-fashioned paper and pen notebook. Aside from my cell phone getting streaked with bee's wax, its hard for me to translate what Siri records. Here's my best translation from yesterday's hive check:

I'm checking my beehives. It's early Monday morning, Memorial day. An over overcast morning and the smells are so amazing. The smell of flowers is heavy in the air (and burgers??). I'm going to check the beehives.

White hive: The top box has 3 1/2 frames build out it looks like they're all food frames. The bottom box has 3 1/2 frames of food. There are five full frames of brood. I can see eggs and larvae of all stages. I was getting afraid that it had so much food that there would be no brood. I did not see a queen - this hive has a marked queen so I should have seen her, but did not. Certainly plenty of evidence she is here and active. There are a lot of ants on top of the inner cover. I swept them out.

Green hive has the equivalent of two frames of food in the top box. The bottom box has equivalent of two frames of food, two empty frames and the rest brood. I can see eggs and all stages of brood, but again I did not find a queen.

Flowers blooming today are honeysuckle, ajuga and wild phlox. The temperature is about 60-80F.
Most of these notes, I could translate or revise to make sense, but Siri can't distinguish when I say "food' and "brood". Well, she just doesn't know the word "brood" I think, and she will substitute random things. Sorry Siri.

Here's a comparison of my two hives five weeks after installing them. (Both had a second box added 2.5 weeks ago and their frame feeders removed the following week, so they each have 20 frames total now.):
Bee Record.xlsx

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

freight farming?

Have you read about freight farming? In Boston, this is where food may be coming from now. Wow. This is the future! Freight cars transformed into aquaponic vegetable gardens. Lights, nutrients all delivered artificially. It removes the variables of weather, airborne disease spores and sunlight availability. Amazing.

As an outdoor gardener, I question this approach. Do we want to eat vegetables raised in a "freight car" environment? Yes, I do buy the aquaponic tomatoes and lettuce in the grocery store IN THE WINTER in New England. But has our environment become so pathogen infested that this is needed year round? In cities like Boston, the pathogen level plus the transportation cost must be benefit by this?

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What about food nutrient levels of the artificially tended produce? Do these compare with organic field-raised vegetables? And the expense of air conditioners and year-round artificial lights? Does this make the difference useful? I am imagining a ring of freight cars full of salad growers around cities. Not a bad image, but why not a ring of farm fields around cities? Are giving in to the fight for easy food production?

It doesn't just happen! To grow food without chemicals and WITH natural light and air takes some effort. But it produces food that provides flavor (!!), nutrients, visual pleasure. Variety. Traditional. -- I can't imagine all those year round AC's balance out.

in the paper: effort to save bees, butterflies

This was in the Boston Globe yesterday. (link to article)

US effort attempting to save bees, butterflies
The Obama administration hopes to save the bees by feeding them better.

A new federal plan aims to reverse America’s declining honeybee and monarch butterfly populations by making millions of acres of federal land more bee-friendly, spending millions of dollars more on research, and considering the use of fewer pesticides.

While putting different types of landscapes along highways, federal housing projects, and elsewhere may not sound like much in terms of action, several bee scientists said this is a significant move. They say it may help pollinators that are starving because so much of the American landscape has been converted to lawns and corn, which don’t provide foraging areas for bees.
Yeah! Less lawns and corn! I mowed my lawn the other day but left most of it to grow taller because it has flowers in it. Clover, ajuga, blue and yellow flowers I don't know the names of. The robins like the mowed lawn, but that's about it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

organic potting mix

organic potting mix IMG_2572 This year I used an organic potting mix for the first time. I didn't realize that it would be any different and forgot I had made the change. When I bought the soil, I was really happy that the big bags sold at Costco were organic. Later I began to wonder why my tomatoes weren't growing as fast and were pale. The onions got yellow at the tips. Some things grew just as well: the peas and even the peppers. The main problem was really the tomatoes. In addition to the organic soil, I seeded them in smaller pots than usual.

Finally it occurred to me that they needed more nutrients. I transplanted them to bigger pots (birthday party cups!) and gave them some fish emulsion. I want to get them planted out in the garden soon in a bed with lots of compost and some TomatoTone.

organic potting mix IMG_2569organic potting mix IMG_2571

Monday, May 18, 2015

bee notes

On Monday's I do my hive checks. For now I'm doing these checks weekly.

garden work

At my community plot:
Dug potato trenches and planted 2 lb Canela russets
Turned the winter rye cover under in three beds
Moved perennials so the big helianthis is now behind the daisy and echinacea
Transplanted leeks, shallots, bunching onions and lots of standard onions
Watered everything well (its a dust bowl here today! no rain in weeks)

garden plot











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