This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Monday, October 23, 2017

my best tomatoes this year

I'm about to finish up the last of my tomatoes. Two weeks ago I picked all the green ones on the vines and they have been gradually ripening. Yesterday I made a nice batch of sauce, probably my last one after a summer of making a batch a week. I only have a couple of my favorite tomatos left.

My favorite slicer this year is an heirloom variety called True Black Brandywine. I bought the seeds from Baker Creek. It is not related to Brandywine and doesn't have that mealy flesh. Its flavor and texture are fantastic and it's beautifully colored - deep purple with green shoulders.

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My best sauce tomatoes were San Marzano and Opalka. San Marzano gave me a huge number of middle sized tomatoes. Opalka had fewer tomatoes but they were enormous and perfect for sauce.

I grew about 20 varieties this year - a couple of each. Next year I'm planning to grow many fewer varieties. Probably:

Slicers: True Black Brandywine, Orange Blossom, Pink Beauty, Cherokee Purple, and Mortgage Lifter
Sauce: San Marzano and Opalka

I'd love to hear what tomatoes did best this year for other gardeners.

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no frost yet

I didn't get a frost last week in either of my gardens. My mom's garden frosted and many others around, but no frost yet in my area. And none are in sight for the next week and a half. That means I'll have a VERY late frost this year. At least 3 weeks late. Wow. My plants summer plants have stopped growing anyway, because there isn't enough light for them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

celeriac

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It's the first time I've grown a good sized celeriac. This one is softball size. I've never had one bigger than a baseball before. I gave them more space. I guess they like to spread out their roots. I put 3 or 4 in a row - about a foot or so apart. And compost, lots of compost.

frosty night

I'm wondering if my garden got it's first frost last night. I covered some baby lettuces and picked the last of my peppers, eggplants, and popcorn - just in case. My thermometer now says it's 33. Brrr. Once it's light and warms up a little, I'll go down and check.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

pickles, jam, jelly, and sauce

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This is a line-up of all my canning from this fall, so far. From left: tomato sauce, End-of-the-Harvest pickles (Ball book of canning), Daikon and Carrot pickles (Food in Jars), Bread and Butter pickles (Food in Jars), Sandwich pickles (Ball), Apple Sauce (Food in Jars), Raspberry Jam (Ball). And on the top: Apple Preserves and Crabapple jelly (both from the Ball book of canning).

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Saturday, October 07, 2017

backyard colors

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

today's harvest

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I picked my first ears of popcorn today. The variety is Calico, the same as I grew two years ago. That crop would never pop for me but was very pretty. I'm leaving the ears on the stalk longer this year - until the husk is fully dried. And I'm hoping it will pop.

I also pulled a bunch of shell beans - Black Turtle Soup. I'll hang them til they dry, then shell them. I have a lot more still waiting for harvest.

And I picked all of my pepper that were close to mature. I want to have as many as I can for roasting and freezing tomorrow.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Charley and my potatoes

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I dug a bushel of potatoes this year. Pretty good for me. I had three rows about 6 feet each. Probably 18 plants. I grew only two varieties this year. I dug one row of La Ratte fingerlings early and we've eaten them all already. These are Green Mountain. A great producer, storage, and all purpose cooking. They are delicious baked, fried, or sauteed.  Charley likes them a lot!!

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Friday, September 29, 2017

butternut squash portrait

All my butternuts got together for a family portrait. It's been a good year. Eleven big squash from four plants.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

crabapple jelly

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My mom has a crabapple tree that was full of very big crabapples this year. So I picked a basket full. I've never made crabapple jelly before. The apples are really tart (pucker), but the jelly is wonderful. And I love the color. (I used the recipe in Ball Home Preserving pages 107 and 109.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

flowers (and some pollinators) in my garden now - the last of the season

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This collection has 10 different "ornamental" flowers (actually not only ornaments, but valuable companions) and 8 vegetable or herb flowers. These are all in my backyard vegetable garden. The vegetable flowers here are eggplant, pepper, squash, broccoli, carrot, bean, basil, and cucumber.

I was curious to see the carrot flower. Carrots are biennials and bloom their second year. To get the flower, I planted the top of a supermarket carrot in the spring. I won't collect the seeds as I imagine the supermarket carrot is a hybrid.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

my honeybees - preparing for winter

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I'm in the process of preparing my honeybee hives for winter. I have two hives on the far side of my vegetable garden nearest the pond. They're on the northeast side of the yard with a southwest exposure. The bees for both hives were added in early April, since both hives died last winter. One hive is much stronger than the other. The strong one has about 70 lbs of honey, while the weak one about 30-40 lbs. I'm guessing here from lifting the boxes. (Hives should have a good 70 lbs of honey stores going into the winter.)

This is what I've done and am planning to do for winter:

Done
 - Removed super and extracted honey: In early September I removed one full super (a short box with 10 frames for building comb and filling it with honey) from my strong hive. I took about 15 lbs of honey from this box.

- Fed weak hive: I've been feeding my weak hive so it can build up its honey stores for winter. There aren't many flowers left now, the goldenrod is gone. I only see the late aster in bloom now.  I feed them sugar water.

Planning to do
- Get bigger feeding bucket: I've been feeding the weak hive about a liter at a time, but they eat it so fast I can't keep up with the. The bucket seems always empty. So I'm planning to add a bigger container of sugar water.

- Build a box to absorb winter condensation: I'm planning to build a box (called a quilt box) that sits at the top inside the hive and insulates, helps with airflow, and absorbs moisture. It's my guess I lost my hives last year because of condensation dripping into the cluster of bees.

After this, they should be ready to go for winter. At least as ready as I can get them. Of course, I can always use advice. I've been keeping bees 3 years now, and have plenty more to learn.

More bee stuff: Kathy's Bees

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my home garden today

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Friday, September 22, 2017

what's growing now

I wanted to put together a list of what's growing in my gardens now. This is about the peak time I think for vegetable variety. The summer crops are on their last legs, fall crops are maturing, and winter seedlings are sprouting.

At home
Bed 1: lettuce, beets, popcorn, shell beans
Bed 2: marigolds, kale, murdoc cabbage, bok choi, lettuce
Bed 3: Belgian endive, beets, escarole, carrots, celeriac, parsnips
Bed 4: (set up with hoops now for winter tunnel) spinach, lettuce, escarole, mustard greens, cilantro, dill, also peppers and cucumbers at the ends that will be removed soon
Bed 5: Brussels sprouts, Lima beans, broccoli, cover crop, shell beans
Bed 6: parsley, winter radish, celeriac, broccoli, leeks
Bed 7: eggplants, tomatoes, peppers
Bed 8: basil, tomatoes, peppers, horseradish
Next to beds: asparagus, pole beans,
Under apple trees: winter squash
On the patio: gourds, beet greens, arugula, lettuce, spinach, and basil

At my community garden plot: mostly butternut squash, red raspberries, fall greens, and some cover crops.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

fruit harvest

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My fruit harvests this year, in addition to a couple cups of blueberries early this summer:
25 (wohoo!) apples, 2 peaches, 2-3 cups of red raspberries a week (they'll produce for about 4 weeks), and about 20 lbs of pears.

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I was very disappointed that about half my pear harvest "disappeared this year. No signs of deer, raccoons or other wildlife. Since my two espaliered trees are in my plot at a busy community garden, I have to think they were stolen. All the pears from the lower two branches were missing. These branches are very easy to reach from outside my garden. I was left with only the ones 6-8 ft up on the top branch. Theft is pretty common at our Gardens. I have plans next year to put up chicken wire around the trees and hopefully keep all the pears I grow - I want to at least know who I share them with.

Pears in a bucket

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