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.

Monday, February 23, 2015

new garden calendar app - beta testers needed

Note added 2-25-2015: Thanks so much to all who emailed me for Beta testing! I will not be taking any more testers. I hope the app will be available for sale by early next week. It will be either $0.99 or 1.99 USD at the Apple store. I'll post a link here too.
I've been working on an I-phone version of my planting calendar. It will be posted at the Apple Store soon and I'm looking for some beta testers. If you are a vegetable gardener who grows you own plants from seed and are interested in a free copy of the app and agree to provide me feedback, please email me at:

This app is similar to my on-line version (on the sidebar of this blog) but has more features. It includes transplanting and succession sowing dates, has more crops, allows crop selection and, of course, works on an I-phone. Once you set up your calendar based on your last spring frost date, the app will automatically open to the current date and show you what planting tasks need to be done that week.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

winter sowing

I collected eight plastic bottle at our Town recycling center. I cut them open then added potting soil and planted flower seeds. After taping the bottles, I dug out a spot for them in a south facing area of my yard and then buried the bottles. This method is good for all sorts of cold hardy seeds, especially flower seeds that often need a chilling period. The bottle makes a nice little greenhouse and the hole at the top is perfect for letting in just the right amount of moisture.

I've tried this a couple times before. Sprouting has always been really good the hardest part is getting the seedlings out of the bottles before they are fried or rot.

IMG_0289IMG_0290 IMG_0291IMG_0292 IMG_0328IMG_0329


Saturday, February 21, 2015

first seed sowing of 2015

It's my day of planting seeds!! I'm a few days late from my schedule - the winter seems like it might never end, so that's probably OK. I planted celeriac, onions, shallots and leeks. Varieties are listed here: 2015 planting list.

I also set up eight bottles of flower seeds using the winter planting method. I'll post photos and details tomorrow.


Monday, February 16, 2015

snow, snow, snow

snow covered garden IMG_0203
I'm watching to see if my garden hoops get covered with snow this year. The fence is 5 feet high. I certainly hope it doesn't get covered!

I'm also wondering if I'll be able to find places to put my raw compost if we get any more snow. After each storm, I dig out a couple of the bins up near my kitchen. (The garden bin is covered with deep snow with no path to get there - I certainly can't use that one.) The snow mixes with raw compost and and the bins fill up very fast. I need to clean out my chicken coop soon and I suppose I'll have to dig a hole in the snow and pile the coop waste in and plan to put it into a bin after the snow melts.

compost bins IMG_0217compost bin IMG_0200
And speaking of the chicken coop, yes, its still there. I dig it out after every snow storm and clean off the glass roof. The power plug failed a week ago and it took a few days for us to notice. The coop morning light went out and the water froze up. We fixed it, but the older hens stopped laying. I'm getting two eggs a day now from my two young hens.

chicken coop IMG_0192chicken coop IMG_0188
chickens IMG_0211chicken coop IMG_0191
We've dug paths in the yard to get to the bird feeders, compost bins, chicken coop, and for the dogs to get around. To get out to the garden area, I put on my snow shoes and slog through the snow. It seems we are flattening a new path every other day. Its really pretty, but a lot of work.

paths in the yard IMG_0215patio without a view IMG_0216
snow view IMG_0131
This week's snow storms are predicted for Tuesday and Thursday.....

Friday, February 13, 2015

planning my parents garden

My dad has kidney disease and has just started on dialysis. He has a pretty restricted diet as he can't eat foods that are high in phosphorus or potassium. His doctor has given him a list of all of his dos and don'ts. No tomatoes, no beets, no peas, etc. We looked at this list while planning what to plant in his vegetable garden this year. (I don't know if these vegetables are OK for all kidney patients, so please check with your own doctor if you have kidney disease.)

Kidney-safe plants for Mom and Dad's garden:
Summer squash
Green beans
(I don't know why winter squash isn't here. I have to ask if that's OK and if they want it this year. They usually like acorn squash a couple big pumpkins.)

A few of these non-kidney-safe plants for Mom:

And we talked about basil. Its hard to know whether to plant it with the new basil mildew. I was going to pass it up, but my parents would like some. I'll write a separate post about that.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

winter birds in Florida

I went to visit my parents in southern Florida (Naples area) last week. Talk about a great time to get a break from New England! It was sunny the whole time, 70's, and no snow! Fortunately I was able to get into and out of Logan between storms with out delays. I was lucky. Anyway, here are the birds I saw down there.

semipalmated sandpiper IMG_1606awillet IMG_1624a wilson's petrel IMG_1614aherring gull IMG_1588a roseate spoonbill IMG_1721bwood stork IMG_1689a white pelican IMG_1734byellow rump warbler IMG_1730bpalm warbler IMG_1738bgreat egret IMG_1682b red shouldered hawk and perrigrine falcon IMG_1654a - Copyperrigrine falcon with laughing gull prey MG_1652a white ibis IMG_1665aanhinga IMG_1679a pie-billed grebe IMG_1728bgreen heron IMG_1709a


Friday, February 06, 2015

winter birds in my backyard

goldfinch IMG_1524acardinal female IMG_1562a titmouse IMG_1504ablue jay IMG_1467a black capped chickadee IMG_1487aslate colored junco IMG_1515a chipping sparrow IMG_1496acardinal male IMG_1512a The big bluejays get first dibs at my feeder, while little birds wait in the trees for them to have their fill and move on. I love the little catkin-like buds on my star magnolia where the little birds wait. With all this snow I am trying to keep the feeders full. I should get a bigger feeder because the birds empty it in a couple hours.

The big guys in the sky are the red tailed hawks. A pair hangs out in our back yard. I took these photos while the female was perched watching my chickens through the new glass roof. Look at her craning her neck to see in!

red tailed hawk IMG_1459ared tailed hawk IMG_1444


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

snow covered garden

snow covered garden IMG_0130 I'm wondering if these hoops will get covered with snow this year....

Saturday, January 31, 2015

skippy and suzie break a trail to my garden

c IMG_0106 Yesterday I made it all the way down to my garden and took this picture. What a day! No garden visible, but still magical.

Someone suggested I use a dog sled to get down there. Huh!! If only I had one. But second best, my dogs did an awesome job breaking a trail for me. Suzie went in the lead, ears flapping and barely taller than the snow cover. Skippy went next and I took up the rear with my snow shoes. By the time the 3 of us passed, we had made a nice trail. Coming back was easy. Except that the trail wasn't very straight. Suzie did a bit of zig-zagging. Who am I to complain, I was so pleased to see the dogs make a trail.

c IMG_0104c IMG_0110

2015 planting list

I'll gradually fill this in. It will be listed by planting date. I have to start looking fast for containers for winter planting.

Feb 21 - Winter Planting
Asclepias - Butterfly flower
Bachelor Button, Blue Boy
Save the Bees Mix, Botanical Interests
Bring Home the Butterflies Mix, Botanical Interests

Feb 21 - Indoors under lights
Celeriac, Brilliant
Onion, Pontiac
Onion, Ailsa Craig
Onion, White Wing
Onion, Red Wing
Shallot, Prisma Red
Bunching onions, Nabechan
Leeks, Bandit (late)
Leeks, King Richard (early)

Feb 26 - Indoors under lights
Broccoli, Diplomat
Broccoli, Bay Meadows
Broccoli, Happy Rich
Broccoli Raab
Cabbage, Mini Kisaku (napa type)
Cabbage, Savoy Alcosa
Radicchio, Indigo
Radicchio, Palla Rossa
Radicchio, Chioggia Red Preco
Eggplant, Prosperosa
Eggplant, Calliope
Lettuce, Green Oakleaf, Panisse MT0
Lettuce, Red Butterhead, Skyphos
Lettuce, Red Butterhead, Avicenna
Lettuce, Green Loose Leaf, Italienischer
Lettuce, Red Romaine, Truchas

March 5
Beets, Lutz Green Leaf
Beets, Chioggia


Friday, January 30, 2015

i'm hoping to keep bees this year

I'm hoping to keep bees! Tomorrow my bee keeping class begins. It will be six 2 hour classes. I have a bee keeping text book that I have been reading and am half way through. I am looking forward to the class.

Last fall, a friend gave me two stacks of beehives. They're out in my backyard. I've been working on putting them in a good position. Where they are now is out of the way of the sprinklers. I was pleased to see yesterday that it's a warm spot as the snow around them is melting. I think this is good, but will ask in my class.

I'd like to keep bees both as pollinators, for my vegetables and fruit trees, and for honey. I suppose there are enough native bees for pollination, but it will be interesting to keep bees and to have honey from my yard.

The hives I have are only the outer wood boxes, so I will be purchasing new inner parts. In the spring I will purchase the bees - if I pass my bee class.

c IMG_0114


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

five mistakes that new gardeners make

A couple weeks ago I asked "What do you think is the #1 mistake that new gardeners make?" Robert Leavitt, a gardener and blogger who originally asked me that the question, has now posted the answers that he has complied.

In short, he found the mistakes are:
#5 Starting Too Big
#4 Not Choosing the Appropriate Soil
#3 Not Providing Regular Irrigation
#2 Planting Something Where it Doesn’t Belong
#1 Not Having Started Gardening Earlier Because of the Fear of Making a Mistake!

two and a half feet of snow!

The official snowfall measurement for our area is 30-32 inches. I haven't made the trek down to my garden yet. I'm not sure if I can. I think snow shoes or even skis will just sink into this fluffy snow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

we have 28 inches of snow so far and its still falling

coop snowed under IMG_0049 Microsoft PowerPoint - coop cam1.pptxcoop in snow  IMG_0041 I cleared a path to the chicken coop. The hens are fine. A bit of snow blew into their run, so when it finishes coming down and blowing around I'll lay down fresh straw. The hens are mostly staying put inside the coop today. I can watch them with a remote camera in the run. Only Bertha, my big, heavily feathered Brahma, is spending any time in the run.

I'm hearing some news about the storm being stalled over our area and that its not doing any weakening yet. So we have more to come.

selfie in the snow IMG_0075suzie in the blizzard IMG_0040 Here's a selfie. Me and my husband. I was snow blowing the driveway but I'm not so good at aiming the blower and I think most of it blew onto my head. Fun!

I want to go down and check on my garden soon. Maybe I'll be able to get a few more pictures today. But probably not much to see. From the house, I can only see the tops of the hoops.

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