2013 Season

2013 Flowers, Grains, etc. (end of season notes)

Okra: attractive plants, good okra – research germination anomalies, warm soil before planting?
Sunflowers: did well this year – grow same variety next year?
Three Sisters bed:  better than last year, but the squash plants needed more sun, and the beans pulled the corn over – move the corn & beans to the center of the bed with the squash around the outside, plant squash same time as other squashes, plant beans 1 week later next year.

2013 Squashes (end of season notes)

Powdery mildew – grow resistant varieties where possible
Squash vine borers – grow resistant varieties where possible, experiment with non-surgical methods
Cucumbers: did well, excellent yield (many dozens) – give a bit less real estate, grow pickling type on arbor next year
Pumpkins: disappointing yield (@ 12), lots of powdery mildew
Watermelons: good yield (@ 20), some vine withering, a few rotted and a few were harvested too late
Winter Squash (Delicata): disappointing yield (@ 12), lots of vine borers – give more space?
Zucchini & Zephyr (Summer Squash): good yield, compact plants worked well in space

2013 Nightshades (end of season notes)

Eggplant: Italian, Asian & White, plants less robust – result of weather or fertilizing or location in garden?
Peppers: the best year ever, all varieties (bells, poblanos & chilis) did well – repeat varieties, staging
Tomatoes: many suffered from diseases, good long yield from remaining plants – grow more resistant varieties next year, cover soil with landscape fabric to warm it before planting, experiment with clover groundcover, repeat sucker experiment, plant some in lettuce bed, try a grafted plant, more normal-size varieties & fewer zebras next year?
     SMALL: Sun Gold*, Super Sweet 100*, Green Grape*  
     MEDIUM: Mountain Magic, Stupice^, Ramapo*, Paul Robeson^, Green Zebra^, Red Zebra^
     SAUCE: Granadero, Mariana*
     * varieties we should definitely consider next year
     ^ varieties that failed
Tomatillos: grew well, caging worked great – try one purple plant, start seeds a week or two later than tomatoes next year

2013 Legumes (end of season notes)

Bush Beans: all did well, wonderful varieties, didn’t last quite as long as last year
Dried Beans (3 sisters): planted closer to correct time to climb corn, good yield, tasty
Fava Beans: badly attacked by aphids, fairly low yield of very tasty beans
Peas: only early snap-type germinated, good yield. Broadcast late bush variety Super Snappy did well – try bush type shell pea in spring next year?
Pole Beans: Romanos planted early (where shell & snow peas crapped out) did well on trellis. Kentucky Blues planted after peas (which were slow this year) were last beans in garden.
Soybeans: good yield, plants seemed to mature over a shorter period than last year

2013 Greens (end of season notes)

Arugula: did well in shady spot, needed 3 plantings this year
Basil: started indoors and from seed in garden, all did well
Bok Choi: first planting did well, subsequent plantings did less well – one planting next year?
Cilantro: did well, needed 3 plantings (only got 2), not very popular – less next year?
Kales, Collards & Swiss Chard: seeded in garden, excellent spacing and productivity
Lettuce: need to plant every 2 weeks for continuous harvest – try new butterhead & romaine varieties?
Mesclun: did well, but not terribly popular – plant less or use space for lettuce next year?
Spinach: success! great germination and beautiful early & late season plants (left to winter over) – repeat next year?

2013 Brassicas (end of season notes)

Cold spring weather a problem for all early crop. Late crop started in garden and transplanted.
Broccoli: sprouting type was a bust, possibly weather stress. Late crop did better in potato bed
 – try heat tolerant variety next spring?
Brussels Sprouts: starting seedlings indoors produced more viable plants – plant further apart?
Cabbage: early green & red did well. Late green did well, red did not, savoy took a little too long.
Cauliflower: most early season produced tiny heads, a few heads produced normally & a few others took twice the time, late crop all produced well.
Romanesco Cauliflower: started indoors, plants produced tiny heads (like early broccoli & cauliflower) –give up or grow only late season

2013 Alliums (end of season notes)

Garlic: planted fresh stock this fall, sprang up fast!
Leeks: our best yet – transplant into 6-packs with other seedlings & plant later next year
Onion sets: our best yet. Planted farther apart than usual in single row around tomato beds
Onion seeds: great progress – transplant into 6-packs with other seedlings, plant rows closer together
Scallions: first planting did well, lasted – try broadcast planting early and harvest through season?

Field Day Report

We had LOTS of visitors, more than I think we had last year. Our table samples of cherry tomatoes, radishes, salad turnips, carrots, and even Jerusalem artichokes ran out -- the carrots ran out first.

We had people of all ages, from hand-held toddlers to seniors. We gave out lots of advice and got some in return! The scavenger hunt [coordinated by Oakes] required kids to get a leaf or weed from the Community Garden. Weed? Hard to find those! We had the kids try different leaves to find one whose smell or taste they liked:  spearmint or peppermint, lemon balm, sage, and when I got desperate, stevia and chives. One kid I couldn't satisfy!  

We also had some young adults visit us from Tufts, where they did their own gardening. They may steal some of our ideas for themselves (mediocre artists borrow, great artists steal), and may stop by next year to visit or get their hands dirty with us. Several other people were interested and may try us out next year. One even volunteered her son who she says loves to dig! Thanks to Alan and Sue and especially Elisabeth who heroically stayed until about 4:30pm.

Next year, I'd like more things for the kids to pick please -- especially root vegetables. Somehow, the carrot you pick yourself just tastes better -- just ask them! We could leave them salad turnips and radishes perhaps, as we won't have enough carrots? Also, I think there's some extra delight they take when they pull something out of the ground, because they don't know exactly what they're getting -- surprise! -- until it's out.

--Steven

P.S. You have to be impressed with the young girl who could tell the difference between dill and fennel!

2013 Seedlings - overview

This was the year we dove head-first into seedling starting. Last year, we got our feet wet with early lettuce and spinach. This year, we took on a dozen more crops for a total of 350 seedlings! Here's what we did... and learned.

TIMING
We started the seedlings in two main groups: early (sown on March 9th) and late (sown on March 30th).

Our early seedlings were Greens (lettuce & spinach), Alliums (leeks & onions) and Brassicas (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages & cauliflowers). They were first transplanted into 6-packs, then planted in the garden on April 21 (6 weeks after sowing). We had a long cold early spring followed by a heat wave, so the transplants took some time to take hold and have suffered some heat stress. Yet, we've had an excellent harvest of early greens and most of the alliums and brassicas have hung on and are now growing well.

Our late seedlings were the Nightshades (eggplants, peppers, tomatillos & tomatoes), along with okra, basil and a smaller, second crop of lettuces. They went into the garden on May 27th (8 weeks after sowing). Unlike the early seedlings, they required transplanting twice: first into 6-packs and then into 4-inch pots. The tomatillos and tomatoes may have been slightly overgrown (over a foot tall, some with flowers) when planted in the garden. The eggplants and peppers were strong, stunningly perfect 6-9 inch tall seedlings.

TECHNIQUES
We experimented with sowing in soil blocks this year. The lettuces and spinach were planted directly into pressed soil blocks made with a press borrowed from fellow gardener, Donna Kray. It took some experimentation to get the soil consistency and moisture level right (quite heavy and wet). It also took some practice to perfect the pressing technique, but the seedlings did very well. The soil block presses come in graduated sizes – with the smaller ones fitting into the larger ones -- so they could also be used for the late seedlings.

The seedlings that weren’t in soil blocks were transplanted into 6-packs 2 weeks after sowing. The late seedlings were transplanted into 4” pots after an additional 2-3 weeks of growth. We made our own planting mix of coir, sterilized compost, vermiculite and sand. Unlike mixes using peat moss, no lime was needed to neutralize the acidity. We increased the amount of compost and decreased the vermiculite in the mix each time the seedlings were transplanted, always making sure to include a sprinkling of organic fertilizer.

TECHNOLOGY
Our seedlings began indoors under lights. Three 4' dual fluorescent fixtures were suspended below the upper shelf of a sturdy 4' x 2' x 6' tall shelf unit. Three 18" x 24" trays holding the seedlings were slid in on the shelf below. Two of the bulbs were Ecolux T8 and the others were older Paralite grow lamps.

The lights were run through a simple timer, set for 15 hours a day. The distance of the seedlings from the lights was adjusted by the number of trays (these trays have a 3/4 inch thick rim) and by switching out varying length S hooks made from heavy gauge wire suspending the light fixtures.

TEAMWORK
The only way we could grow so many seedlings was with the coordinated efforts of our dedicated seedling committee (Lisa, Michael, Mike, Sue and me). We gathered for planting and transplanting sessions, and took on caring for the seedlings at different stages of their development.

The grow lights in our basement made it easy for me to oversee the sprouting and early stages of growth. When it came time for the seedlings to be hardened off and given real sun, Lisa, Michael and Sue took over their care. We were able to spread the work and all reap the rewards -- awesome!

SEEDLING COUNT
Brassicas: 84
Greens: 71
Alliums: 100
Nightshades: 88
Other: 10
TOTAL: 353

Opening Day at the Garden April 6 (9-noon)

Greetings patient Arlington gardeners! The unseasonably cold weather has delayed Opening Day at the Garden until April this year, but we won't be dismayed. There is plenty of heavy and light work to be done and we look forward to seeing everyone at 9 Saturday morning at Robbins Farm Garden. Happy spring!

Arlington EcoFest 2013

A big thanks to Alan, Lisa, Steven, Mike and Oakes for their help with the Robbins Farm Garden table at this year's EcoFest. This uniquely-Arlington event is a terrific way to let more people know about the garden and to learn more about what others are doing around Town.

Oakes' trademark tri-fold poster boards with the wonderful array of garden scenes really drew people. The dual-screen slide show Alan put together looked really great -- especially with the Ken Burns-style auto-zoom-in and auto-zoom-out effects. And our supply of garden leaflets held out despite the high demand.

Many people stopped by to find out more about the garden. All were invited to visit and those with children were encouraged to bring them to participate without worrying about membership (allowing kids to get a hands-on experience without the parents having to get their hands dirty).

2013 Annual Seed Party Meeting

The Robbins Farm Garden Cooperative is holding its Seed Party Meeting on Saturday, February 2nd (Ground Hog Day) at the Robbins Library Community Room (downstairs) at 9:30 a.m.. Anyone interested in the crops & varieties we will grow in the garden is welcome. There are spaces left to apply to join the garden this growing season.

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