2014 Season

2014 Alliums (end of season notes)

Garlic: harvest & varieties good, planted slightly less & closer together in fall
Leeks: excellent variety, spacing and hilling good – start all seed @ March 7
Onions: sets were excellent, seeds better than plants, red better than yellow – start seed @ March 7, try new yellow variety?
Scallions: broadcast early in onion bed (not with tomatoes)
Shallots: did fine with sets around tomatoes

2014 Brassicas (end of season notes)

Broccoli: early crop good (though oddly colored), late crop did well (especially in Potato bed) though seedlings weakened in hot weather – spray seedlings daily in heat, transplant @ July 19th for best yield
Brussels Sprouts: start extra seedlings, spray @ first signs of aphids, plant farther apart (3 rows: 3,4,3 plants per row)
Cabbage: generally excellent – replace Red Express with Mammoth Red Rock in spring, repeat fall varieties, transplant @ July 19th for best yield
Cauliflower: best yet, grew fall crop only, orange variety smaller & prone to aphids – transplant @ July 19th for best yield

2014 Flowers, Grains, etc. (end of season notes)

Borage: self-seeded plants did well between tomatoes – grow with tomatoes
Herb Beds: generally a good season, uprooted plants survived replanting – tweak plan & crops
Nasturtium: early aphids did a lot of damage – give less space & treat aphids asap
Okra: great variety: good yield, flavor & length of season, black plastic good – top plants for branching?
Sunflowers: good crop, hit by rust or fungus (but less than last year) – remove affected leaves asap
Three Sisters bed: better plan than last year, more room for squash – add structure, plant corn in grid (9”)
Rhubarb: transplanted to sunnier location in spring, more productive than last year

2014 Greens (end of season notes)

Arugula: sad 1st planting, later plantings (including zucchini bed) better – more sun next year, grow as mesclun?
Basil: awesome on all counts, seedlings & placement perfect
Celery: overall success, worked well with Beets, blanching was helpful – focus on improving flavor & texture
Chard & Bok Choi: harvested from same plants all season – broadcast on ends of bed
Cilantro: 3 sections well-timed – give less space & replant first section for 4th planting
Kales & Collards: great again, but hit with aphids late in season – spray @ first sign of aphids
Lettuce: mostly perfect (Little Gem, Black Seeded Simpson, Red Salad Bowl, Pirat & New Red Fire good) – try a green salad bowl variety, leave space for planting board, transplant into Bush Bean bed again, seed more evenly & thin better
Mesclun: not working for us again – just say no or replace with arugula, mizuna & mustard
Mustard: great variety & amount – grow as part of a mesclun mix?
Spinach: Emu not available, varieties grown were less reliable, fewer productive plants – try to get Emu

2014 Nightshades (end of season notes)

Slow, shaky start for seedlings due to cold conditions – start seedlings in warmer place

Eggplant: slow with low yield – find early prolific varieties (Mangan, Galine), fertilize more, black plastic?
Peppers: most did well, despite vandal damage – grow greater variety of types
Tomatoes: best yield to date, good mix of types, resistant varieties did best, red plastic and CDs worked well – consider taller, better support structure next year, don’t plant sickly seedlings
Cherry types: grow Sun Gold & Super Sweet 100 again, possibly grow Green Grape again
Sauce types: probably grow Amish Paste & Verona again, grew well, but some had a hard interior
Standard types: grow Ramapo, Red October & Bolseno again (2 plants each), maybe grow Pink Beauty (sweet & productive, but crapped out early) & Druzba (productive, but one plant hit by disease)
Specialty types: Green Zebra & Red Zebra did badly, again – find a resistant variety
Tomatillos: purple and green varieties did well, slightly smaller fruit – grow just green?

2014 Root Crops (end of season notes)

Beets: did better this year, but still not big enough, some leaf minor problems, second harvest a bust
Carrots: excellent early crop (rows were farther apart), late crop didn’t have time to mature – consider replacing second planting with a faster-growing crop?
Jerusalem Artichokes: very attractive and productive – reduce space allotment
Parsnips: most did well, some uneven germination, transplanted seedlings grew but split, overwintered small plants – overseed and thin successively
Potatoes: green sprouting worked great, Purple Viking was worth the wait, Yukon Gold underperformed, lost a few red & gold plants to rot
Sweet Potatoes: received ½ order (supplier shortage), slow start due to cold, disappointing yield (both varieties) – try new vendor and/or varieties?
Salad Turnips: did well, wormier than last year – try not growing near fence in late season
Turnips: did well after garlic, less grub damage – thin more aggressively

2014 Squashes (end of season notes)

Squash Vine Borers and Mildew still problematic – frequent surgical intervention and overplanting (to compensate for plant loss from borers) and focus on productive, mildew-resistant varieties

Cucumbers: pickling type did better – try different standard type
Delicata Squash: Sugar Dumpling more productive, standard variety squashes small
Kabocha Squash: serious mildew issues, disappointing yield – try resistant variety
Melons: uneven germination, transplanted, major mildew, difficult to tell when ripe – failed experiment?
Pumpkins: unimpressive germination and yield, produced wide range of sizes
Yellow Squash: shorter season & more mildew than zucchini – try Success PM (mildew resistant)
Watermelons: uneven germination, transplanted, low yield
Zucchini: excellent variety: mildew resistant, early, productive and very hardy
Zucchino Squash: poor germination, 7 seeds = 1 plant w/1 huge squash, mildew killed plant before ripe

2014 Legumes (end of season notes)

Bush Beans: Dragon Tongue & Rocdor great – try new green variety
Fava Beans: poor yield, hit hard by aphids (spray at first sign) & rust or fungus – try different variety?
Peas: all 3 early varieties triumphed, poor germination for late variety – position snap peas in middle next spring, try Sugar Sprint in fall
Pole Beans: perfect planting time, excellent harvest – plant purples & make structure all reachable
Purple Pole Beans: excellent on archway – plant some between other types of pole beans
Soybeans: short harvest window this year – try another variety?

Technology to the Rescue!

You may have noticed a curious addition to our tomato beds this week: compact discs. They are an experiment to try to deter the birds from eating our tomatoes.

The trouble started when our first full-size tomatoes ripened. We showed up at the garden expecting to pick ripe tomatoes, only to find all the ripe ones already partially eaten.

We suspected squirrels, raccoons or bunnies. Then we began to wonder if the ever-present birds might be the culprits.

The presence of birds is generally a delight in the garden. Yet, we definitely draw the line at deeding them our tomato crop.

We're not the first to keep birds from their garden with CDs dangling from strings. It's generally acknowledged that their movement in the breeze and reflectivity can make birds uncomfortable enough to stay away from adjacent food crops.

At the very least, they should make for interesting conversation.

Update 8/28: The CDs have made a noticeable difference. A few additional tomatoes have been damaged, but the remainder of the crop has been beautiful!

What's with the red plastic?

Q: Why did we plant the tomatoes through red plastic mulch this year?

A: It's an experiment. According to a UMass Extension report on the use of plastic mulches "Researchers at the USDA and Clemson University noted that certain crops performed better when grown in red mulch as opposed to black mulch: tomatoes, which yielded 20% more fruit; basil, the leaves of which had greater area, succulence, and fresh weight; and strawberries, which smelled better, tasted sweeter, and yielded a larger harvest. Penn State researchers found yield increases for tomatoes and eggplants on red mulch compared to black. Anecdotally, gardeners in Berkshire County saw marked increase in overall plant size, fruit size, and yield of tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers when plants were grown in red mulch as opposed to straw mulch."

We have noted that weeds are growing under the mulch, which might be a problem later in the season.

The particular perforated product we are trying is "Better Reds", by Dalen Gardener, about $8-10 for 8 3'x3' sheets.

The Great Three Sisters Experiment


This is our "Three Sisters" plot, which demonstrates the traditional method of planting corn, squash and beans together. This year as an experiment, in the left half we turned the bed over as usual before planting, but on the right we only aerated the soil (stuck a garden fork in the ground to its full depth and just wiggled it a little, every six inches or so) and left most of the clover cover crop that wintered over. The seeds were all planted on the same days and as far as we know nothing else is different between the two sides. The right side is so far doing noticeably better for one reason or another, or maybe both, or maybe luck. To be continued...

Today's Harvest - June 21, 2014

Today's firsts were peas, peppers, basil, cilantro, baby potatoes and garlic scapes, and we harvested the winter rye a little early so we could get the nursery bed going. The lettuce rotation continues to provide a good harvest, but the radishes are just about through for this spring. Plenty of greens keep coming.

We got our first okra flower, which is early, and may be the result of warming the soil with black plastic.

And Lisa found one of these on the fennel (a juvenile American Black Swallowtail caterpillar).


Perpetual Lettuce

For years, we’ve put up with uneven lettuce harvests -- too much some weeks and none at all on others. We knew that the key to a continuous harvest was to plant more regularly throughout the season, so we decided to schedule our lettuce space.

We divided the space in 4 beds (based on an 8 week seed-to-harvest schedule). The first plantings were sown indoors in March. In April, we began transplanting the indoor seedlings and planting seed in the garden. The plan is to harvest from each bed for 2 weeks, then immediately replant the bed and begin harvesting from the next bed.

Our first lettuce harvest was on May 24th and it’s looking like we’re on track to keep the plan going for the rest of the season. Voila, perpetual lettuce!

Special thanks to Dick for providing the post title.

The Babies are Almost Ready to Leave the House

Some of the seedlings that I'm fostering under lights are almost ready to go outside into the garden. Seen here are several different kinds of lettuce, leeks, spinach, red and green cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.  The cabbage and Brussels sprouts are a bit slower and will probably need another week under the lights.

Angst at the Garden

Waiting in winter, with snowdrifts high and sunlight low, we dream of Spring and Gardening.  We remember weeding in the sun, harvesting delicious vegetables, joy and laughter.  At our January Seed "Party", when we choose what we want to grow, visions emanate from seed catalogs -- we sooo want to start planting!

Then comes the Angst.

I starts with Opening Day.  Or rather, with Which Opening Day.  The forecast:  Friday night 100% chance of rain, a surprisingly no quibble forecast for New England.  Saturday morning continues with a small chance, while Sunday lives up to it's name with nary a cloud forecasted.  Do we get together Saturday, the time we've set aside for Gardening, or do we postpone until Sunday, when fewer of us can participate?  What do we tell the dozen prospective Gardeners who signed up at the EcoFest -- and when can we let them know?  Yes, cooperative gardening has a downside:  we've less flexibility in changing our schedule, since more people are affected.

A decision is made, because it has to be made, and we start with Saturday.  A dreary Saturday, with muddy soil and a foggy atmosphere, and foggy minds as some people are getting up earlier than they have been.  And yet the soil is not soaked, and the precipitation is holding off.  So we dig.  Or dig in some places -- in others, we hit ice.

We are saddened that the kale failed to winter over.  The barren stalks mock us.  But peeking under straw, we find young spinach.  And even that brings angst:  do we uncover it, giving it more sun and air, and possibly overexposing it to freezing temperatures?

To plant or not to plant?  More angst!  There is fear that peas planted in such cold, wet soil will rot (based on previous experience), so we hold off.

Leaves clutter against the snow fence.  Can we use them in the compost piles?  But leaves decompose slowly, need to be mixed with "green" matter to balance, and we won't have much of that for a while.  In July an abundance would be a blessing, but in April it's a space problem.  We move some into a corner that won't be used for a while, and remove quite a bit.  Sigh.  More angst.

Last year, peas shadowed and inhibited the rhubarb in the corner, and we discussed moving it.  But some online reading suggests it may be too young to move, as it's only entering it's third year.  So do we move it to what *may* be a better location now, or do we wait until it's more mature, and hope that it does better unshadowed this year by peas?  More angst.

Forgotten in our winter dreams was the reality of the uncertainty of choices.  Gardening is as much guesswork as it is science, as much luck as it is meticulous planning.  We can but muddle through.  But as a cooperative garden, we muddle through together!  It's an adventure, with paths taken and not taken, complete with surprises, like the harvest of delicious parsnips.

I'm ready for next week!


The Garden is Open - 2014

Not much to look at, we thought...until we looked a little more closely, and found the spinach under salt marsh hay had wintered over pretty well, and the rhubarb was just starting to show.


But the kale didn't do so well.

The garlic is ready to take off, so we lifted the heavy salt marsh hay, puffed it up, and spread it back down more lightly to keep the soil temperature even. We did the same for the emerging spinach.

We covered the bed where the lettuce will go in to help warm the soil. When we arrived this morning at 9AM, the soil was barely above freezing.




And the best surprise was that lots of parsnip kept well in the ground, and should be sweet as sugar. Our first harvest of 2014!





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