Robbins Farm Garden - A Cooperative Learning Project

Robbins Farm Garden is a cooperative community garden project at Robbins Farm Park in Arlington, MA. Since 2010, we've grown vegetables organically as a group, created an educational resource in the community and continued the agricultural tradition of the farm at the park.
We garden Saturday mornings April - November and Wednesday evenings June - September. The project is run through Arlington's Recreation Department. Membership is limited to 20 gardeners and applications close on May 1st. Our annual $85 in fees covers all of our seeds and supplies.

2018 Seed Selection Meeting - February 3rd

Save the date - our annual Seed Selection Meeting will be on Saturday, February 3rd in Community Room of the Community Safety Building from 9:30 am to Noon(ish).

Everyone interested in the crops & varieties we will grow at Robbins Farm Garden this season is welcome. Prospective new members of the garden group are especially encouraged to attend and join in the discussion. Bring your seed catalogs and great expectations for the season to come!

You will find the Community Safety Building (Arlington Police Headquarters) at 112 Mystic Street. When you enter the building, go directly up the stairs; the community room door will be on your left.

2017 Alliums (end of season notes)

Garlic: very good, do again
Leeks: very good, do again
Onions: sets did well, seed varieties did great, but lost a few Walla Wallas to rot, start picking them earlier
Scallions: did well, try broadcasting for higher yield or give more real estate, thin assiduously
Shallots: very good, do again
Walking Onions: did well, don’t forget to replant bulblets next year without Melissa

2017 Brassicas (end of season notes)

Broccoli: both crops were good, better color than last year
Brussels Sprouts: did better than last year, early sprouts hit with some sort of slime, later sprouts were great, some aphids in crowns at end of season
Cabbages: green variety did well (even in bed after spring broccoli), savoy variety needed a few more weeks, red variety was slow & small
Cauliflower: seedlings eaten by bunnies, reseeded & those that survived did great (were not transplanted), Snow Crown slightly earlier (and more purple) than Denali
Kohlrabi: both varieties did well, but should have been planted a week or two earlier

2017 Flowers, Grains, Herbs, etc. (end of season notes)

Basil: did great, even late into season, grow fewer plants? Intersperse with cilantro?
Cilantro: crowded between rocks and squash, 1st seeding failed, later seedings did well, was very hardy
Nasturtiums: did super well until hard frost, no aphids
Okra: seedlings did well, most survived transplanting, consider transplanting later or covering with plastic, experiment with pruning to increase yield
Popcorn: some bunny damage, but did reasonably well, good harvest
Rhubarb: did well, look into long-term maintenance requirements
Sunflowers: few plant with small flowers, try moving away from Jerusalem artichokes
Sweet Clover: transplanting worked well again

2017 Greens (end of season notes)

Arugula: crowded between rocks and squash, all plantings successful, early plantings bolted
Bok Choi: both crops did well, transplanting into failed soybean bed worked well
Collards: single row worked well
Cress: 1st planting did well, 2nd planting mostly failed, try something else next year?
Kales: did well, but only after several plantings and caging due to bunnies eating seedlings
Malabar Spinach: good seedlings this year, not as tall as last year
Lettuce: Pirat, Little Gem, Sandy and BSS/Nevada good, replace Red Salad Bowl with New Red Fire
Mustard: 1st planting mostly bombed, 2nd planting did well (lasted into November)
Perpetual Spinach: did well in bad location (lasted into November) no screening required!
Spinach: both seedlings and seeded crops did well, grew in the same space, screen cover a success
Swiss Chard: slow start, bad germination, reseeded… use Rainbow Mix next year, start in warmer soil?, fertilize more heavily, screening worked well (removed mid-season)but remay might have been better

2017 Legumes (end of season notes)

Beans (bush): green and yellow varieties hit bad by bunnies, only Dragon Tongue did well
Beans (dried): bunnies hit seedlings hard and repeatedly, few survived to produce beans
Beans (pole): bunnies attacked seedlings (most recovered after caging), Blue Lake outperformed Kentucky Wonder
Fava Beans: did great, caught aphids early
Peas: 1st crop had poor germination, but highly productive. 2nd crop timed well, both plots produced
Soybeans: destroyed by bunnies, even with disco decorations

2017 Nightshades (end of season notes)

Eggplants: plants not robust, wormy fruit, poor yield - too much water? soil too cool?
Peppers: similar problems as eggplant, but not as bad, try growing a few in pots?
Potatoes: very good, do again
Tomatillos: did very well, some potato beetle damage, harvest later than usual
Tomatoes: not a great year, Green Zebra, Garden Treasure & Rutgers died early, Juliet & Sun Gold did well, leave more of the suckers? Try some plants in pots? Fertilize more?

2017 Root Crops (end of season notes)

General: keep volunteer dill and fennel out of beds
Beets: 1st crop (started indoors) did best, covering with screen helped, hit with ants & moss, just grow seedling crop & replant with fall peas?
Jerusalem Artichokes: did really well
Sweet Potatoes: slips started well, decent crop, but fewer full-sized tubers than usual, soil too cool? keep volunteer dill and fennel out of bed
Turnips (cooking): Golden Globe did well, Gilfeather didn’t have nearly enough time to mature
Turnips (salad): 1st crop did well, 2nd crop didn’t, try planting in onion bed with radishes next year?

2017 Squash Family (end of season notes)

Butternuts: Metro PMR wicked awesome, good spacing. Butterbush (3 sisters) bombed
Cucumbers: renegades did well, main planting did even better, picking and slicing types easier to tell apart
Delicata: best yet, good yield, less mildew but hit by borers
Pumpkins: grow Baby Bear (single plant did great), start seeds in sterile soil, be vigilant about borers
Watermelons: tasty, but stunted and unproductive
Cousa squash: wasn’t as special, and didn’t do as well, as we hoped. Just grow zucchini next year?
Zucchini: did well (one plant produced into November), 2nd crop should be started earlier (almost had time to produce)

Potato Dividends

As an experiment, Lisa, Shakti and I each planted leftover seed potatoes in pots at home. The results were good!
Single seed potatoes (Yukon Gold, Purple Viking and Dark Red Norland varieties shown below) each produced nearly 2 pounds of nice spuds.
Next year, we encourage others to join in the fun!

Onion trimming experiment

High mowing suggests trimming onion seedlings when they reach 5" to make them grow thicker and stronger.  We did not remember to trim them while they were growing under the lights, but decided to try a side-by-side comparison with some plants trimmed just after transplanting them in the garden.

Many of our transplanted walla-walla onions were very close to the recommended 5" height for trimming.  I selected a 5x5 grid of the onions (out of the 14x5 grid of walla wallas planted) and trimmed the tops.

Below is a picture ot the allium bed before and after the trimming experiment -- rows 3-7 from the back/right edge are the walla walla onions.  Most of the walla wallas near the bottom of this picture were close to 5", so the grid of 5x5 walla wallas on the bottom was selected for the trimming experiment.

Before trimming After trimming

Close up of one of the walla wallas before and after trimming -- the leaf was trimmed from 7" down to a little over 1".


A few of the walla wallas in the 5x5 grid were almost double the height recommended for trimming because they had been seeded a week earlier.  For the sake of uniformity, I trimmed these onions too, but left close to 3" of the onion top as opposed to 1-2" for the smaller ones.  Below is an example of one of the larger walla wallas before and after trimming:


The trimmed onion tops caught up with the untrimmed tops quickly.  By week 4, they were similar in size and it was difficult to tell them apart.

Trimmed onions, Week 4 (May 20)

Untrimmed onions, Week 4 (May 20)

Trimmed onions, Week 8 (June 17)

Untrimmed onions, Week 8 (June 17)

We harvested the onions on July 22.  There still was no strong noticeable difference between the trimmed and untrimmed onions. Both conditions grew well and had good sized onions, but the trimming did not seem to give much, if any, advantage to the onions.

Trimmed onions, harvest day (July 22)

Untrimmed onions, harvest day (July 22)



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