Thursday, July 21, 2011

quick pic update

It is hot hot hot in Massachusetts right now. The garden has been growing well for the most part. The strawberry harvest in June topped out around 20 pounds, and the second crop is starting up any day now. I am wondering if squash are just not going to work in this location with the squash vine borer problem. I have killed several adult moths, and kept my squash under row covers as long as I could, but I am sure that since I've seen the adults that the borers are on their way. Hopefully we will get at least a few squash before they take over. The peas and beans did well and there are hundreds of tomatoes just waiting to ripen.

snow peas growing
It is amusing to see peppers growing on my miniscule plants!
8 ball squash! I hope the SVB stay away for awhile!

Some purple beans, snow peas, and blueberries!

Monday, June 13, 2011

june strawberry harvest

Everbearing strawberries, planted as bare root stock in spring of 2010:

First harvest is ramping down now but we got a good haul - over 550 edible berries at this point, estimated at 13.5lb.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


A little about what I'm going to attempt to grow this year:

beans {purple bush, cranberry}
blueberries (bluecrop, bluejay, elliott)
corn {rainbow, strawberry popcorn}
herbs {lemon balm, lemon basil, catnip, oregano, spearmint, sweet basil, tarragon}
lettuce (some mix of red and green romaine, tango, red leaf, butterhead)
peppers {red sweet, bell}
squash {white scallop, butternut, pumpkin, round green}
strawberries (everbearing, 2 varieties, wild yellow, perhaps june bearers)
tomatillos {verde, purple, dr. wyche's yellow}
tomatoes {roma, yellow cherry, red cherry, nebraska wedding, kellogg's breakfast, bison red,

For reference, I am in zone 6, near enough to zone 5 that I consider us to be in zone 5. I thought I would share a few pictures of the seedlings in their current state:

wild strawberries
roma tomato
sweet red pepper
tomatillo verde
Some parsnips, carrots, snow peas, and lettuce seeds went into the garden beds on Friday so hopefully they will sprout over the next few weeks.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Not so springlike here...

Such a mixed weather week. We had a couple of days where it was up around 50 and I could get out to start clearing out the cold plot. However, that was quickly followed by a storm that dumped 10" of new snow right back on top.

In true form, it was 5o again today and thus begins the seemingly never ending melting process in ye old rural America.

This of course leaves me frustrated but not deterred from carrying on with plant based activities. I would be lying if I said I am not chomping at the bit to get the turnips, rutabagas, carrots, spinach, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower in the ground. I was incredibly pleased that almost the entire cold plot was permafrost free when I was out digging. I am hoping to be able to get some seeds in the ground next weekend.

I am amazed at how well the seedlings are doing indoors this year. The cat tried to chomp on this particular romanesco broccoli but apparently did not like the taste enough to do anything more than maul it.

While the weather was cooperating I was able to check on last years herbs to see if we would have anyone returning for a round 2. It was a real lift to the spirit to see pretty green things peeking out!

Lemon Balm - started from seed spring 2010

Blueberry - cutting from established bush spring 2010

Oregano - Transplant from established neighbor plant spring 2010

I am happy to see the lemon balm and the oregano looking healthy and strong. I value these two herbs highly. The lemon balm is used all over our house for internal consumption and external applications varying from cleaning to personal care and hygiene. The blueberry is perhaps the most exciting development as it's got beautiful new green bud growth showing. It was an experiment last year with one of my favorite experiment partners. She took cutting from her established high bush blueberry plants to see if they would propagate. We spent an afternoon repotting those that survived to sport new roots and I was the happy beneficiary of two of the cuttings. I am hoping they will be robust enough to blossom and fruit this year.

I have been starting seeds indoors for weeks now. I do a flat of 18 pots at a time per week. The end goal is to have robust tomato and pepper plants that have a reasonable head start on the short growing season here. I also need to be able to can some tomatoes in advance of the sprout that will be joining the clan right in the midst of canning season. I had an abundance of leftover pots and saved seeds from last year after pulling everything out and taking inventory.

This gave me an excellent opportunity to share with friends.

So I invited a couple of like minded individuals over to throw a potting party. Lesson number one learned, next year this will be a kid free event. We had three toddler boys and one sweet baby girl who seemingly was cutting teeth and not happy to be present. While I am all about kids being involved in the growing process, it was just a bit too much commotion to be able to reasonably convey the necessary information for growing and sustaining seedlings. All parties involved agreed that next time, men folk get to hang with the kids and we can kick back, relax, have some wine and enjoy the process. That being said, it was great. We had fun and I got to pass on some of our seeds and materials.

Next week, I have signed up to attend a free organic gardening class being sponsored by MOFGA. They are hosting this class in a huge amount of locations on this date. Find one close to you and get growing!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Friends with benefits

The snow is melting! Well, raining away anyway. The snow banks on our land our only 4 feet high now. It shan't be long now. I can start to see smidges of my cold plot appearing which is a great feeling. I have a host of broccoli, varied cabbages and cauliflower under the growlight that I am excited to plant once the soil is workable. That being said, I have to stop my procrastinating and wade through the marvelous selection to pick out carrots, spinach, parsnips and arugula to put in the cold patch as well. Last year we planted 500 carrots, 250 each of Danvers and Dragon carrots. While it may seem to be alot, it proved to be insufficient for our needs and I need to make sure to get a 2nd 500 started so we can have carrots when the cold weather returns. While the Danvers is a wonderfully robust orange carrot, my family was far more interested in the exciting purple color of the Dragon carrot.

So as I plot out the course of my cold plot, it got me thinking of companion planting. We don't use any chemicals or other nasties around here and thus turn to plants, herbs and flowers which offer a natural pest protection for the crops. Some are sacrificial in that we don't grow them to eat necessarily but are there to be eaten by other things. Others provide dual benefits of harvestability and pest protection.

Some of my favorites :

Daikon Radish - Great for interplanting amongst many things. They deter flea beetles, can draw borers away from squashes and I found they kept grubs away from my carrots beautifully. In addition they can keep leaf miners away from spinach, deter corn borers and deter rust flies. I use radishes in abundance in our garden. We never end up eating the radish part as that is sacrificial but the leaves are tasty as a green in salads or anywhere you might like a tangy green. They do taste like a mild radish! They also sport amazing pods that are similar looking to pea pods which also go great with salads and are handy to use in stir fry.

Marigolds - Last year we used Jolly Jester marigolds. I put them in as a border for three of our garden plots. I will probably opt for a smaller marigold next year. The marigold chosen must be scented to work. The Mexican marigold is supposed to be great in deterring Mexican flea beetles. Considering the amount of problems we had with them last year on our black beans, I think this will be a good option for us this year. The marigold is a fabulous and attractive way to deter bad nematodes, whiteflies and rabbits.

Lemon Balm - Lemon balm is so resourceful. It deserves it's own post for a different day. We use it in abundance for bites, stings, tea, bug repellent, crushed on pasta or fish and many other things. In terms of pests however, it is good for deterring a plethora of bugs, including the dreaded squash bug, when used an herbal powder. Crush some dried leaves and shake around.

Chives - Handy for repelling aphids. Some evidence it drives away Japanese beetles. Improves the flavor of tomatoes and carrots.

Rosemary - Wonderfully tasty way to deter bugs such as cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies. I have had little luck transplanting little sprouts. I think this year I will invest in a mature plant which I can experiment with propagating cuttings. I do have some seedlings under the grow light which I think will let mature indoors for awhile.

Sage - Like the radishes, I intersperse sage among several of the plots for it's beneficial properties. I must say I don't care for sage much taste wise. It is a pretty plant though and neighbors always know to come and get it for harvesting since I won't use it. It is a great friend to all the plants in the cold plot. It deters cabbage moths, beetles and carrot flies.

So these are a few of my favorite friends of the garden. Any handy tips you are using?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Seed starting!

I'm very excited to say that we started our first batch of seeds! In spring of 2010, seeds were started six weeks before transplant, but I thought it might mean tomatoes sooner if started earlier this year. I will probably do succession seedlings as a backup in case these don't pan out, but in the meantime gardening season 2011 has begun.  Tomatoes, tomatillos, and romanesco have all sprouted.  Waiting on the wild yellow strawberries, but not holding my breath. I may try again with those soon. Peppers were started today. Here are some romanesco the day they came out.
romanesco day 1
This year I used coconut fiber pellets for initial seed starting. The kids love expanding them, and they are easy to deal with before transplanting to larger containers. It might mean more work in the long run, but the seedlings seem to love to sprout in the germination station, and you can't beat the entertainment level for the kids. The heat mat helps, I'm sure, as does the south facing window.
romanesco day 5
We belong to a local CSA and received a good number of cranberry beans in last year's share, so I saved the last batch to see if I could grow some as well. I wasn't sure how well they would do, so I tested a batch in a wet towel and they all sprouted.
cranberry bean sprouts
This means I will be direct sowing some cranberry beans in a few months, once I find a spot for them. The tomatoes are also looking happy so far.
tomato seedlings
That's about it for now. I am working on the garden layout plans still but will hopefully be able to share those soon.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dreaming of greener pastures...

It's February. It's the month of seemingly endless suffering. We get ice and snow storms typically usually accompanied by the coldest temperatures of the year with downright brutal winds. I like green things but let's face it, my "garden" looks like this :

After being cooped up in the house for weeks on end, it is easy to get lost in the melancholy but it's time to get the proverbial ball rolling and start preparing for the bounty of spring and summer. It's fun to daydream and remember when it all looked alot more like this :

Last year was an amazing growing season. We certainly learned a host of lessons on what to plant, when to plant and more importantly I think, HOW MUCH to plant. Needless, to say one does not need 47 lettuce plants. Oh, and when you get "double yield" cucumber seeds, they mean it. All great topics to delve into for future posts.

But all in all, the table was continuously graced with home grown colors that continue to make me smile.

So in the midst of last weeks arrival of a fresh foot and a half of snow, I brought out my dirt and my pots and got started on my brassica. They want to be outside as established plants before the last frost so I thumb my nose at you old man winter and I shall bring forth green things in the house where I can nurture them and smell the wonders of earth, even when I can't see it outside. Here, in my own way, with my romanesco, cauliflower and cabbages I look forward to greener days in the not so distant future.

So as the canned goods from last harvest dwindle down and the groundhog tells us we can expect a light transition this year, let's daydream! What are everyone's plans for earthly greatness this year?