Friday, July 31, 2015


My garlic had been drying in our bike shed for three weeks. The occasional dirt shower had to be endured as we got our bikes out to use. All the appropriate vampire jokes were told. But it was time to cut the garlic down and finally clean it up and put it in storage. Going down to my basement when I run out of garlic is so much easier than running to the bike shed.

The yield wasn't spectacular. Out of the five years I have had this garden, it ranks fourth in production. I did get some nice bulbs, but I also got a lot of small bulbs. Above is the range from big to small. The big was 2.6 oz and the small was 1 oz. While it isn't a huge yield, it is more than enough for me. And to share. I dumped about six bulbs on my townhouse mates' counter. I'm sure they will eat a lot more of it over time. I grow way more than I can eat.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sprouts, Cucumbers, and Lettuce

I finally got around to spraying the Brussels sprouts with soap again. The broccoli needed spraying too. The aphids are taking over slowly. I find soap works OK if you cover every tiny part of the plant and spray regularly. I probably ought to look up how long it takes for eggs to hatch and aphids to reproduce to make sure I'm not getting multiple generations not being sprayed, but I've never done that. I try to spray once a week, but in reality it tends to be more like every two which isn't enough to keep them down.

But as long as my little Brussels sprouts stay aphid free I'll be happy. It sure does seem like a lot of work though. Especially this week. We are getting a heat wave that is lasting over a week. I'm a true heat wimp. I've been known to faint in the heat. Needless to say, I do all my work in the early morning during weeks like this.

Other bad news is that I saw my first wilted leaf. I never got wilt in the cucumbers at my last house. We had cucumber beetles, but they didn't seem to spread it. Here we get it ever year like clockwork. I've learned to use a row cover early and only let them out after they have started to run. It delays the inevitable. It is too bad the wilt has started as I'm trying to learn how to make fermented dills and I could use more cukes for experimenting. But it will take it a while for the wilt to take them down. Probably weeks. The bacteria starts with one leaf and it travels very slowly up and down the stem and the leaves die one by one. Hopefully it will be a while still before it gets transferred to all the other cukes. I'm trying Lemon cucumbers for the first time and they haven't even set any cukes yet.

But there isn't all bad news in the garden. I sowed some lettuce last weekend. It is up even with the heat. I'm using this as a little nursery row. I'll transplant them to better spacing when they get bigger - and all the other lettuce has bolted.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Harvest Monday, 27 July 2015

This week I had a much lighter harvest than normal. This is pretty typical in the transition from spring to summer for me. If I could actually eat all foods, I'd be harvesting things like tomatoes and peppers and legumes. I can't even touch a tomato plant as I get sick from that. At least the legumes I can grow for my townhouse mates. I don't grow much mind you, but I have a soft spot in my heart for beans. I've always loved them. And since I've never seen a bean beetle in my life, they have been easy to grow. Well at least until the rust takes them down.

Early summer harvests for me tend to be cucumbers and zucchini. I eat a lot of the cucumbers in cucumber salad, but I also pickle them. Before it was always refrigerator pickles, but this year I'm into fermenting, so I've started making pickles that way. One of the tricks to keep your pickles crisp, is to use something that contains tannins. Often these are grape leaves, which I don't grow here. But luckily for me, grapes grow wild all over. I picked a few from the bike path to make my pickles. These won't go into the tally since I only put things that I grow into that. But it was still a harvest and a very useful one.

I had a new harvest this week - amaranth. It wasn't big. I just picked the tops off of each plant. Hopefully they will bush out a bit.

The side shoots have started in the broccoli. Sadly I've noticed a huge infestation of aphids in some parts. I'll have to go out and deal with that today or the shoots will be inedible. I love the first shoots as they tend to be pretty large.

And of course I harvested chard.

And some onions.

  • Alliums, 1.56 lbs
  • Beans, 0.44 lbs
  • Broccoli, 0.49 lbs
  • Cucumbers, 2.45 lbs
  • Greens, 1.83 lbs
  • Summer Squash, 1.64 lbs
  • Weekly total, 8.39
  • Yearly total, 248.40 lbs, $502.37

  • Fruits
  • Currants, 1.11 lbs
  • Fruit Yearly total, 37.51 lbs

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Melons and Dirty Boots

Yesterday I was dutifully turning the melon vines back into the bed and away from the path and I saw my first melon forming. Whoohoo! So I looked carefully and found a couple more that haves started. This year's melons were a bit late after slugs took down the first sowing. But it looks like I'll get melons after all which makes me happy. Now all I need is hot weather and not too much rain when they are ripening. Last year's melons were the best ever because of the weather. I can always hope for a repeat. But even if they turn out to be just decent melons I'll be pretty happy.

My boots have nothing to do with my melons. But I ended up tracking dirt all over my floor as I didn't notice how dirty they were. I was out gleaning at Kimball's Farm. I've never gleaned there before but I'm really happy I got to as Kimball's is one of the farms that comes to our farmers market and I buy a lot of apples from them in the fall. They are an IPM farm which I like. For instance they never spray their strawberries after they start blooming, so the pesticides won't end up on the fruit.

The farmer talked out the corn we were going to pick. His farm is just over the border in New Hampshire or at least the part we were on. The University of New Hampshire uses it as a test field for when pests and diseases come up from the south. So he knows exactly how many pests are around. They tell him when to spray and how much. Though he doesn't always follow the recommendations. Right now they are telling him to spray for corn earworms every five days. He knows that if he sprays only once a week instead, he will still have 95% of his crop free of worms. Which he thinks is good enough.

We got to glean in this field because it had been picked twice already. What was left wasn't economically viable to pay someone to pick it. But we gleaners are volunteers, so we were out sweating for our corn. Many of the ears that were left were small but still otherwise perfect. Occasionally we would get a patch that was big lovely ears. The biggest problem with picking was the 6' high ragweed that grew between the rows. We could have used a machete. It was a true jungle in the weeds. Some of the ragweed was taller than the corn and it certainly was thicker.

Friday, July 24, 2015


I was out in the garden this morning checking on things. First I noticed that the storage carrots were doing very well. I had good germination in both sets of carrots. The fresh eating carrots on the other hand were pretty spotty. So I resowed the empty spots. I don't know if they will come up or not as I can't cover them or water them every day as that would be bad for the ones that are already up. But maybe they will come up.

Then I noticed that my lettuce patch was getting crowded out by the bunching onions. They were supposed to have been picked a month ago, but I picked them by thinning as I needed them. And I didn't need them all so they grew.

They grew huge. Doesn't this look more like a leek than an onion?

So I cleaned up half the lettuce patch. I'll do the other half after I've eaten these.

And how do you get rid of a buttload of bunching onions? Well I slow cooked them down until they started turning brown then put them in an onion frittata . Or maybe it is a crustless onion quiche. I did use coconut milk, so it is probably more quiche like than frittata like. The nice thing about this is that I get to eat it for three more days as all those onions made a lot.

I've been having a lot of nice lunches from the garden recently. This is a vegetable pancake. I used to call them Okonomiyaki, but mine have little in common with the Japanese version anymore except for the heavy use of cabbage. I put in herbs like parsley, cilantro, or sometimes mint. And the toppings here were strawberry chutney and a horseradish mustard sauce.

I made a chard and onion soup that was nice hot the first day and nicer cold the second day. I ate it with leftover herbed quinoa and poached eggs. And you might not know it but I had stirred some sauerkraut into the soup. The day before I'd eaten my kraut on the side, but found it tasted really good with the soup.

Most of my lunches are inspired by what needs to be eaten. I had a couple of left over tortillas so I put in some guacamole and some fried eggs. Yum. From the garden I had coleslaw, sauerkraut, and cucumber salad.

Some fried eggs over leftover rice with sides of garden broccoli and some zucchini fritters.

Probably my most common lunch looks like this. An open faced egg salad sandwich. I adore egg salad. With sides of garden veggies with a little kraut.

Have you noticed a theme with my lunches. I tend to eat eggs - lovely pastured eggs with bright orange yolks. I know they are supposed to be breakfast food here, but I eat them for lunch almost every day. I eat whatever veggies the garden gives to me, but I prefer to eat some kind of green if I have it. And I'm eating a little of my fermented food every day too. I tend to eat it in rotation. So the first made gets eaten first. But when I finally get pickles that might change (the first pickles are being made now). I don't think I'd be able to resist eating dill pickles with my egg salad sandwiches.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Green Coriander and Onions

I had a very minor procedure done by my doctor on Tuesday and he said no strenuous exercise for two days. Gardening isn't strenuous is it? Well it turns out that all those little gardening chores is basically doing squats over and over which was just a bit stressful. Since it was such a lovely day, I really wanted to be outside. So I figured I could sit outside on my stool and pick green coriander. And what a lovely afternoon. I sat on my stool doing a normally tedious task, but the wind was blowing and the little tiny wasps were flitting about with the hoverflies. I should have had my camera, but of course I didn't. I still have a lot of flowers blooming and a lot about to bloom on the plants, but some of the coriander was starting to turn brown already.

I do collect ripe coriander to use as seed, but green coriander rules in the kitchen. You can eat them fresh (and yes they are better that way), but I dry a lot to use all year round. They are more intense and have a better flavor than the ripe kind. If I get another lazy day in the garden maybe I'll pick more to pickle. I bet they would keep their flavor well like that.

Today I decided to do the onions and shallots even though it would require a bit of climbing to tie up the tarp cover to the drying rack (really doc I swear it isn't vigorous). The onions and shallots had fallen 1-2 weeks ago. I would have done them a bit earlier, but I wanted a some time after the last rain for them to dry out naturally in the soil. I deemed them ready.

Only about half of them were down. The remaining are two varieties are still standing tall. I've been using the Walla Wallas as I need onions. They don't store well and I hope they last upright for a while. The longer they do the more I'll get to eat before they start to rot.

Harvesting was easy, but getting them on the rack was more of a comedy of errors. I made my drying rack a week ago, but instead of using old bamboo, I used new ones to hold it in place at the ends. It turns out the new ones are really slick and they moved as I was trying to put the onions in and as they moved, a couple lines of onions fell right through. Luckily the leaf bin is a pretty soft place to land.

After getting the onions in the rack. I had to tie up the tarp. I hadn't remembered from last year that the fence posts I tie them to in the back don't line up with the compost bins I put the rack on top of. It turns out that I can't cover part of the rack I built and put the onions on.

So I moved them all over a bit so they wouldn't get wet when it rains. Now I just need to wait a few weeks for them to dry so I can braid them.

I won't be getting to certain parts of my compost area for the next month, but I'm OK with that. I never put the onions over the one bin that is the working compost pile.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


My early plantings of basil were taken down by downy mildew. Every single one of them even though I scattered them around the yard. I'm a bit worried that the seed might be contaminated. But how would I know?

The current planting is big enough that I've started picking it slowly. It looks very healthy. No signs at all of the disease. Does that mean the seeds are fine, or that the conditions are just better for basil because it is so hot? I think in future years I might wait to plant basil until at last mid June. It will probably be happier.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is trying to find ways to prevent it from spreading without the use of chemicals. Red light seems to help. Now they used actual red light which wouldn't work in the garden at all. But people use red mulch in tomatoes to increase the number of fruit on the plants. I wonder if a red mulch under basil would help. I really do hate plastic mulches, but if it meant that I got basil every year, I'd do it. I hate row covers, yet I use them on so many things. Though I suppose the first line of defense might be to find another seed source. I don't know if mine is contaminated, but two years in a row I've gotten the disease and the extension service said that basil downy mildew had no reported cases in Massachusetts at the time. So it seems likely.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Harvest Monday, 20 July 2015

I kept my dehydrator going for a long time this week. I dehydrated mint, parsley, winter savory, and marjoram. Two of which got their photos taken. The other two were shy. This is my first harvest of the winter savory. Since it was seeded in the spring I've been letting it get big instead of smaller pickings. And I hadn't tasted it before. I really do love it. It seems to be somewhere between thyme and oregano in taste. And it has a hint of lemon in it too. It isn't a very common spice in the US, but it ought to be.

I also picked some lettuce which is really nice. I've been pulling a lot as it has been bolting prematurely. I taste a leaf as the plants start to bolt. If I detect that icky bitter taste, I'll toss it. If not, like the above oak leave lettuce, I'll keep it.

On the allium front - most of the garlic is in the bike shed drying, but I had to get a couple for the kitchen. I might have to do that again before it is all dry and cleaned up. I picked all of the tiny onions under the Brussels sprouts. The sprouts had shaded them out fairly early. I figured it would take longer. I also picked a couple more Walla Wallas.

I picked chard twice this week. It hadn't been picked in a while and was getting out of control. I think it is again. I love chard as it produces so well and taste so good.

The summer harvests are just starting to come in. Though only one is shown, I picked two zucchinis and a few beans every couple of days. The cucumbers are one of my favorite summer treats. Mostly I eat them as cucumber salads or make them into pickles. In the past I've made a simple oil and vinegar (mostly vinegar) dressing for them. But my townhouse mate induced me to try the Greek yogurt from our little local corner store, which happens to be a Greek grocery store. I love all the interesting things you can buy there, but I've never bought their yogurt. I'm guessing it is imported from Greece in a huge tub as it is packed in deli packs. I'm not a fan of American style yogurt. The only one I'll buy from the store is Fage which is technically a Greek yogurt. It is decent. But oh this unnamed Greek yogurt is to die for. And so much thicker than American style Greek yogurt. More like a cream cheese almost than a yogurt. And so tangy. I've been using any excuse to eat it. A cucumber dressing seemed appropriate. Though next time I'll use more yogurt. Or I could just make a maast-o-khiar (Persian yogurt, cucumber, and mint dish) and dispense with the idea that the cucumbers are the reason why I'm eating it at all.

The biggest harvest this week by far was the spring carrot harvest. They had to get pulled so the fall cabbages could get planted. They look a bit tiny in this photo, but that is 20 pounds of carrots. So lots and lots of carrots. I'll be eating them for the next couple of months until the fall carrots start to get big enough to pick.

And last are the only weighed picking of the alpine strawberries. When I eat them it tends to be outside as I pick them and I rarely do. But one of my townhouse mates is out of town and she tends to graze on them, so I usually see very few. Since she was gone no one was picking them. I went out and picked the lot. Heaven forbid they go to waste. They are too good for that.

  • Alliums, 1.90 lbs
  • Beans, 0.08 lbs
  • Carrots, 20.23 lbs
  • Cucumbers, 1.07 lbs
  • Greens, 4.06 lbs
  • Herbs, 0.72 lbs
  • Summer Squash, 0.80 lbs
  • Weekly total, 28.85
  • Yearly total, 240.01 lbs, $481.51

  • Fruits
  • Alpine Strawberries, 0.14 lbs
  • Fruit Yearly total, 36.39 lbs

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


My front door and the gate to the vegetable garden

Though I'm mostly a vegetable and fruit gardener, I do love flowers. In a practical sense they attract and feed pollinators, so you will have them around when you need them in the vegetable garden. They feed hoverflies and wasps, which both help with pests in the garden. And they are beautiful.

The small perennial garden by my front door was put in this spring. Before it had some low bush blueberries but a couple of winters ago they died. I thought replacing them again wasn't a great idea. All the snow from the driveway gets dumped here. The branches break. I figured a perennial garden that dies back would be a better choice.

Of course not all the plants in here are just for show. The trees are peach trees. You will notice that we edged them off with cobblestones. We wouldn't want anything to compete too much with our peaches. So anything green inside gets pulled. To the left of the path are my recently trimmed gooseberries. And I have a sage plant hiding in there somewhere. I thought about cropping out the top of the photo to show the beauty more. But I find a lot of readers forget that I live in the city. This photo really shows the nature of our street.

I have a few flowers in the back too. The lavender is mostly over now. I've trimmed off most of the flowers, but have one plant left to do. But that is my back door. And my other garden gate. And to the left just out of the photo is one of my apple trees. It looks like a good apple year this year.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Two Sisters

As many of you know, I grow my corn and squash together. The main reason for doing it this way is that squash takes up a lot of space. My yard is small at only 9000 sqft with two townhouses and shared by two families. As you can see from my raised bed set up, I don't leave much room for the walkway as large paths take up space too. But it means that I have to control that squash.

In addition to Waltham butternut, this year I'm trialing Upper Ground Sweet Potato squash and Thai Rai Kaw Tok. There won't be a really fair comparison between the two as I plant the corn in succession and I plant the squash when I plant the corn. If I wait longer to plant the squash it won't have as much time to produce and our growing season isn't the longest. If I plant earlier than the corn, the corn won't survive as it gets smothered. So The UGSPS is bigger as it was planted a bit over two weeks earlier than the Thai squash.

UGSPS already halfway up the corn stalk

I have noticed that the UGSPS is aggressive. Waltham butternut will try to climb the corn, but only sometimes. Often it will clamber up a little and then stop. It is a fast grower, but it can't compete with UGSPS. The UGSPS will climb straight up and send out multiple branches that grow very fast. And all the squash will try to escape their beds. So every day I tuck the ends back into the bed and break off tendrils of the squash that have wrapped around the corn, and push the plants back to the ground. This method of growing a Two Sisters bed is time consuming, but so worth it if you have little space. We love our corn. It is such a treat in the summer. And squash is a winter storage staple.

And can you see what the two stalks of corn have in common? Each of them are producing three ears of corn. Not that I expect to actually get those. Last year my corn mostly produced two each, and the second ear was pretty sad. Maybe with three, two will be good. I can hope.

So why the difference this year? In addition to trialing different varieties of squash I'm trialing mycorrhizal fungi. In the spring for the peas and lettuce I saw no difference in the plants at all probably because the soil was too cold. But here it seems to be helping. Most of the beds all got the fungi, but one bed I only put it on one side of the bed. The northwest side. Usually the corn gets taller and produces better on the southeast side. This is the side on which I'm getting the three ears. However in that one bed where only some got the fungi, the corn is a little taller on the northwest side. So it seems to be helping. BTW I'm also doing a trial of it in my sweet potatoes. I haven't noticed a difference in growth there, but now the bed is so over grown I can't tell which plants are which.

For both beds the real story will be in the harvests. Putting out seemingly extra ears of corn is only useful if they all grow and fill out and produce more. OK it would be just as useful to make the corn more nutritious, but I have no way of determining that, so production and taste will be the deciders.