Friday, August 28, 2009


Tomatoes! I finally have ripe tomatoes! My early efforts in the garden have also turned up garlic and some very poorly weeded, but not too small onions. They tasted great, we had some last night! Also, the raspberries are starting to ripen - yum! Tom served me some last night with homemade whipped cream I had made and frozen earlier this year. A little bit of garden happiness!

Oh, I forgot to mention what kind of tomatoes they are! The big ones are "Sioux" from Pemberton Farms. The pear-shaped ones are "Beam's Yellow Pear", the tiny gold ones are "Gold Rush Currant", the red cherries are either "Tommy Toe" or "Peacevine", I can't find the tag, and the purple cherries are actually volunteers from last year that turned up in my asparagus bed, but I can't remember the name right now. Apparently my compost bin does NOT get hot enough to kill seeds! They sure are good, though.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bummer of a year

Well, this has been a real bummer of a year in gardening. I haven't been posting, because there hasn't been much to post! Well, I do have some good news: I'm pregnant! The bad news is I've been too busy barfing and sleeping to get much done in either my garden or my community garden.

Between the slugs and the rain, about all that has survived at the community garden is some of the Federle paste tomatoes, but they haven't gotten green yet. There might be ripe corn by now, I'll have to check and see this weekend.

At home the weeds pretty much overtook everything, while I hid from the rain and then later the heat inside. We're starting to get some "Gold Rush" currant tomatoes, Tom says they taste good. I also got about one serving of green beans.

The flowers, however, are going to town! My butterfly bush is almost as big as the garage, we've got zinnia and a million zillion self-sown black-eyed susans. The Red Milkweed was gorgeous, and the phlox seemed to be brighter than ever before. Even the Bee Balm obliged by blooming this year.

The one food item I've had success with is fruit! I just picked about a pint of black currants for drying and making into scones. The spring black raspberries were delicious, and the fall raspberries look to be a gianormous bumper crop. The blueberries were tasty, and the quantity wasn't bad for the first year, and I had so many strawberries I was giving them away. Even the grapes are starting to ripen, and we finally got a plastic sheet over them, so we should be able to rescue some from the birds. I had gooseberries at one point, but I think the birds got to them, because they weren't there when I got the black currants. And soon, I'll have about 6 golden delicious apples from my little trellised apple-frankentree.

And that's about it. All my lettuces went to seed, the kale and broccoli got taken down by millions of slugs, the carrots never germinated, I missed the "good" window on the radishes, and the tomatoes had a very, very slow start. But oh! I forgot about the potatoes. Those are starting to die back, and I suspect there are tons of red, white, and blue potatoes waiting for me under the soil! I'm letting them cure a few weeks in the ground, but then I'll let you know!

Next year I'm scaling back. Kinda makes sense if I'm having a baby, right? No community garden, and I'm going to switch to just a few raised beds instead of half the yard as a garden.

I'm glad we have the CSA farm share! They at least managed to produce everything but tomatoes, even if their lettuce was a bit flea-bitten. It would REALLY be a rotten year if we only had to eat what we could grow!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rain, rain, rain...

I wish it would stop raining. 20 days last month it rained, and so far July isn't looking too good either. Gar! My tomatoes need sun to grow!

Also, if you're in the Northeast, look out for the late blight that's spreading among tomatoes and potatoes. The sun hasn't come out, and some big-box chains were selling infected plants... it's EVERYWHERE this year! So far my plants aren't affected. I think I'll stop on the way home and get some serenade or copper dust...

Monday, June 8, 2009


Wanna know what the best thing ever is?!?!? FRESH STRAWBERRIES STRAIGHT FROM THE GARDEN!!!!! YUUUUMMM!!!!! Sorry I didn't take you a picture, but I was too busy stuffing them in my mouth! Maybe tomorrow you will get a picture. But for now, just imagine me sighing with happiness every time I put one of those yummy things in my mouth. Fresh and juicy and sweet and tart and... I don't know what all those other flavors were. But I'm sure I've never tasted them before. :-D

"Snackscaping" indeed!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Birdies have fledged!

I went to peek at the birdies today, and when I opened the house, one of them flew out at me! I got all worried that it would die, so I picked it up and put it back in the house, but as I did so, a different bird flew out at me! So then I picked it up and tried to put it back in, but as I was doing so, the first bird flew out of the house and onto a nearby tree! Then the second one flew onto our porch! It missed the railing and tried to land on the wall. It was soooooo cute! Then the birdies proceeded to experiement with their wings, flying all around the yard and into nearby trees. It was so adorable! One of the birdies hasn't flown out yet, but I did see the mommie and daddie birds going back to feed it. I hope they got back in okay tonight to sleep!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Baby Birds!

I forgot to tell you! There's a family of chickadees that has moved into the bluebird box! The chickadee parents take turns flying to the suet feeder and the nearby lilac bushes and back!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Big Gardening Weekend!

I got a TON of gardening done this weekend! This is the median that I am adopting. I'm planting it with prairie plants! It's pretty sandy, but the soil isn't too bad. Someone has planted it before. So far I've put in a white coneflower, some red and yellow gallardia, and white dianthus. I have plants ordered as well: yellow black-eyed susan, purple coneflower (which is pink) and purple coneflower. Also tons of little bluestem which is a native prairie grass. It should arrive this week. Can't wait!

I also did some work in the community garden plot. Everything is planted, except for the things I have to re-plant due to insect eating. The first narrow row on the left is the blueberries and cranberries. Then comes a wide row of paste tomatoes "Federle". Then a row of cherry and slicing tomatoes: Beams Yellow Pear, Brown Berry, Goldrush orange currant, Tommytoe red cherry, peacevine red cherry, Sungold yellowy-orange cherry, Red Brandywine, Glacier siberian, and some other slicing tomatoes in various colors that people traded with me. I planted a bunch of peppers, but people ate them. I have to replant - fortunately I planted extras! I re-potted them, and I'm going to plant out again with cages around them and diatomaceous earth everywhere. The slugs even ate the peppers at home, but I replanted with more of my extras. I also planted Dorinny Corn from Wood Prairie, soybeans from seed, and some celery which promptly died. However something ate all my Indigo plants! Argh. Such a wild garden.

At home, however, things are looking beautiful! Well, except for the colorado potato beetles humping on my taters. But even so, they're pretty. The Mason Bee house is winding down, with mixed results. I think I put them out to early, and the warm patch confused them. Still, I started with 6 tubes and ended up with 8. Not bad for freezing them in 19 degree weather then putting them out and having my apple tree not bloom at all this year. But next year there will be babies! And probably a few new tubes to supplement.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chickens!!! Whooo!!!!!

In an astounding display of support, Town Meeting members in Arlington voted last night to allow for the keeping of up to 6 hens (with plenty of restrictions) in Backyards in Arlington!!!! Whooo hooo! More details here:, with more to come after this weekend!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Gardening weekend

This was a great weekend for gardening!  Cool, but not too cold, sunny in parts, cloudy at times.  Just fine.

I went out to the community garden both days this weekend.  The three raised beds are done!  I added more compost to them, and this upcoming weekend I think I'm going to go to the Lexington compost facility and get even more, but the basic structure is done!  Yay!

These raised beds are made using the lasagne method: 4 layers of newspaper or heavy brown paper, 1 thin layer of twigs and branches (1 -2 inches), 1 layer of brush and straw from previous plants (1 - 2 inches), 1 layer of salt marsh hay (2 - 3 inches), 1 layer of shredded pine bark mulch (1/2 inch), and a thick layer of compost from various sources (4 inches or more).  It's going to sit for at least 2 weeks - I'm not planting there until after May 15th.  If I'd had all winter, I would have put the free horse manure from down the street, but alas, I didn't get until a couple of weeks ago.

In the background you can see the strawberry beds, which have a gianormous amount of weeding to be done.  The blueberries look like they're starting to grow, so it's just a matter of time now!

One thing is, I wonder if anyone knows what this weed is - I thought it might be vetch.   I feel like I might be digging up some kind of really awesome natives, but Alix and Meg both swear that most of it is purple loosestrife and the rest is just weeds.  Well, at least the strawberry plants are still blooming!

I also worked some in my own home garden.  I:
  • potted up Federle paste tomatoes
  • started Dorinny Corn
  • started more Aparagus "purple passion" from seed
  • Divded a bunch of Hostas
  • Moved the "American Highbush Cranberry" Viburnum trilobum to over by the house.
  • Added two new natives to the garden - Fothegilla minor and Viginia Sweetspire. 
I was all sad that I hadn't seen my Mason Bees in a while, then I looked down and low and behold, there was one feeding on a dandelion!  I thought it was a fly, until I heard it fly away, and saw that iridescent flash of green.  Hoo-ray!  Now I am wondering how many of those flies I've been seeing are just flies!  I bought them clay, but it was "clay", like from the art store, and now I'm wondering if that was a mistake, or if I should mix it up with my regular soil, I don't know.  They don't seem to be using it.  Maybe the females aren't awake yet.  My fruit trees haven't really started to bloom.  I hope they're doing okay!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Community Garden update, also Lettuce!

Spent a lot of time in the community garden on Tuesday, and after all that work, here's how it looked:
You can see the first of the 3 raised beds I'm installing, and the beginnings of the second.  We put down the newspaper and cardboard to block out the existing weeds.  I like newspaper because I won't be finding it in the garden for years to come - in order to lay down this paper we first had to pull up remnants of ground cloth that was who knows how old.  There was still some left, but I just ran out of "oomph".

Then we used the 4x4 boards as borders, and piled in there the twigs and brush from the plot that we had raked up.  Then we topped that with shredded pine bark (it tends to break down very rapidly) and salt marsh hay (few weeds), and finally I put a good 3 inches of compost on top.  I imagine everything will be broken down enough in a month when I go out to plant!

In the background you can also see the perennial rows, where there are strawberries and rhubarb already, and I just planted four blueberry bushes and some cranberry bushes.

You can also see my cute little cart which makes getting things out to the garden down the 500 yard path WAY easier.  I intend to go back out both mornings this weekend and spend a lot of time on the remaining beds!!!  I thought we would have had them done this Tuesday, but a rainstorm came up and my husband wanted to leave before we got rained on.
The lettuce in my home garden, that I planted out about a month ago, is looking really, really good.  It's covered to protect it from frost, cold winds, and also whatever is eating my peas (I'll get you, you pesky....  rabbit?).  So far that strategy has worked very well!

I'm looking very much to a tasty salad this weekend!  Now if only my carrots would sprout and give me yummy carrots!

A few of my asparagus babies are also up now - I could eat four pieces right now, if I wanted to, but those would probably be the last!

Last night I started from seed:
Beams Yellow Pear Tomato
Brown Berry Cherry Tomato
Gold Rush Currant Tomato

The tomatoes I planted last week are almost all up and doing good!  So are the peppers!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Peas and toad lilies

Something is eating my peas!  The stems are all that are left - all the new leaves are being eaten right off.  What could do such a thing?  I looked for slug tracks but didn't see any.  I thought perhaps my beetle problem was gone since I started adding organic matter to the soil, to make it more moist, but maybe not?

Also today I:
  • Planted out cranberry bushes from Johnny's Selected Seeds - "Howes"
  • Planted out my own mystery cranberry seedlings from the grocery store cranberries
  • Planted out sweet alyssum seedlings
  • Planted out Lovage & Salad Burnet
  • Started seeds for lettuce, more spinach, swiss chard "bright lights",  and beets - "bulls blood" and "chioggia"

And, my Toad Lily is blooming today!  First ever!  Hooray for native flowers!  You can see the native virgina bluebells in the background.  So pretty!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sing a song

I forgot to mention the coolest thing that happened to me this weekend.  My next door neighbor has a 5 year old daughter that is just so cute - very precocious.  She learned about composting and nature on Earth Day and wanted to help me in my garden this weekend.  I figured - what the hey.  She slowed me down a little, but she was willing to take direction, and was just so darned enthusiatic.  The next day I also let her help, in the morning, and she also came out and helped me plant blueberries at the community garden.

So Saturday (I think) she comes running over to me - "Pam!  I have something for you!"  It was a card, with writing on it, and I thought, how cute, I got a thank you card from a 5 year old.

But her mom says, "Sophie, sing it like you did before!"

And I got serenaded, to the tune of "clemantine", by a 5-year-old:

"I love planting flowers!
I love planting flowers with Pam!
Pam is the best flower planter in the world!
Thank you Pam!  
I want to do it every day!"

It was awesome.  :-)

From spring to summer in 1 week!

What a glorious gardening weekend!  My serviceberry has begun to bloom, and it is so pretty!  

Mostly, though, I can't wait for the delicious sweet-tart berries! Mine taste like sour apple & watermelon jolly ranchers - I love them so much! I'll have to put a net over one of the branches so that I can fend off the birds and have some for myself.

You can see my birdfeeders in the background, kind of. I got a birdfeeder inside of a cage so I could keep the stupid squirrels and grackles and pigeons away. So far I've seen the black-capped chickadees, wrens, sparrows, and the downy woodpecker get inside of it. And I have a safflower feeder for the cardinals. I hope it works! My upstairs neighbor started out asking me to get rid of all the birdfeeders, but I think if this makes the pigeons go away she will be satisfied. They were pooping on her car.

The apple trees have started to bloom!  Oh happy day!  All my mason bees are out - all six tubes opened up!  I was worried some of them had been subjected to the Deep Freeze (our winter) for too long.  But no, they are awake, and peacefully buzzing away.  

I have also seen tons of bumble bees.  I hope one of them finds my Humble Bumble Home! 

What I need to know now is how long before I give up on my apple grafts?  I don't think any of them took.  All of the rest of the branches have leaves, but the grafts have none.  :-(  I have read up on techniques, and found one that was easier than whip-and-tongue, and I am going to try it next.  Fortunately, I ordered double the scion wood so that I could try again!   I would so much like for this to work!  I really want to expand my Frankentree to true monster-hood!!!

My bokashi been looks.... okay.  Actually, it looks utterly revolting.  But I think that's how its supposed to look.  It smells kind of sweet, which is odd.  Aren't rotting things supposed to stink?  But this smells like a super-sweet apple cider vinegar.  So odd.  I am told that is how it's supposed to smell when it's working properly.

It has a little white fuzz growing on it, which is apparently desirable.  And there is "bokashi juice" coming out the bottom, which smells just like apple juice.  I have used it to clean my drains, and also (diluted) to water my plants.  They seem happy.  I can only assume it's working.  I got the "food grade" bokashi liquid.  I am seriously considering trying some in juice.  It's supposed to aid your digestion.  I'm also considering giving it to my cat, because her poop STINKS!!!!  It's also supposed to help with that.  Although I do wonder if it's unethical.  Technically it isn't experimenting, because tons of people have done this, but I worry.  

I let my cat (Aiko) out into my garden this weekend, so she could enjoy the sun with me.  First thing she does?  Pee on my hay.  Bad cat!!!!  *sigh*  Why do we love these ridiculous beasts so much?  Then she proceeded to get her leash totally wound up in the patio chairs, such that it took about 10 minutes to detangle her.  But letting her run loose is about as good as throwing her in front of a car myself, at least in my neighborhood.

Also this weekend, I met Daphne for coffee this weekend, and to show her my community garden plot. She was very nice! It was almost like meeting a doppleganger - she does jewelry work, she likes scifi, likes board games, and enjoys talking about gardens. Very funny. Oh, and she saved me from the ticks! Thank you so much! Did I mention I had a phobia of ticks?

As far as the community garden goes - I found out this weekend it's full of ticks!  Tom (my husband) bought some industrial strength tick repellent, and so far I think it's worked.   We spent about 5 hours down at the community garden this weekend, unloading and working on raised beds.  I SERIOUSLY underestimated the amount of work this would take!  We got about 1/3 of the way done.  I would show you a picture, but my camera broke!  I'm getting a new one, so I'll take some good pictures then.  Anyways, we got almost done with the first huge raised bed (4' x 15').  And Daphne - you were right!  There wasn't enough room to walk with both those 4x4s end to end!  I ended up sawing about 1' off the end of one of them.   Next time it will go much quicker, since everything is unloaded.  We're heading out there Tuesday to try and finish up the raised beds, since I get out of work early for the doctor.

I have decided my husband and I are the tortise and the hare.  He pushes himself as hard as he can - he even lapped me unloading wood from the car (and taunted me as he passed, no less), but before we were done with the work he was panting and resting in the car with the a/c on.  Meanwhile, slow and steady, I was plugging away.   It's definitely hard work, especially with the 85 degree weather we had this weekend!  I only lasted about 45 minutes longer than he did.  

We met one of the other community gardeners, an active older lady named Merita (or maybe Merica), and she asked if Tom was my son!!!  Doh!  He does look rather young.  But I hope I don't look that old!  It was funny.  She seemed nice, rather embarrassed about it.  Tom and I had a good laugh over it - it's not the first time.  She also showed me her asparagus, which reminds me that I need to by for the new garden!

Also this weekend I dug up tons of seedlings and divisions for the Arlington Garden Club plant sale.  I think I must have about 60 little plantlings for the sale!  And it costs me nothing!

The AGC plant sale is May 9th, from 9am - noon, at the Jason Russell house on Mass Ave.  Proceeds go to civic plantings in the town of Arlington.  I will have the following plants for sale.  Garden club members will have many more!
-Old-fashioned Lilac (lavendar and very scented)
-Black-eyed Susan
-Bee Balm (red panorama shades)
-Purple coneflower
-Marigold seedlings
-Zinnia seedlings
-possibly hierloom tomato seedlings, if they grow fast enough

Hooray for spring!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day!

A friend of mine has written a wonderful blog post about why economy and ecology are incredibly linked, and how the current economy prices energy and polluting goods the way they are because it takes too much for granted.... It's a good read!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More seeds started!

I started some warm weather seedlings last night!

Red Brandywine - slicing
Tommy Toe - cherry
Peacevine - cherry
Glacier - slicing
Federle - paste - 

Peacework Bell
Chocolate Bell
Garden Sunshine bell
Alma Paprika
Golden Treasure banana (sweet)
Sangria hot ornamental

Diamante Celeriac
Redventure Celery
Sage, culinary

Honey scented Alyssum "Summer Peaches"
Snapdragons "Chantilly"

And I'm also trying out some dyers plants
Indigo (blue)
Madder (red)
Weld (yellow)

I'm excited!!!

I also bought a cart for the community garden, and some extra landscape fabric to help control the weeds.  And a collinear hoe, which is supposed to be easier to weed with.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Community Garden

I'm so excited about my community garden plot! I spent about an hour today trying to get it cleaned up. Here's a picture before I started:

What, you say? It looks like a giant field of weeds, you say? Totally overgrown? Nah..... it's nothing a whole ton of paper mulch and compost won't fix! Oh, and a few raised beds.... I guess I have my work cut out for me.

On the plus side, it's a nice large garden! With very fertile soil! And cute baby bunnies that I scared the bejeesus out of. Of course, they also scared the bejeesus out of me, too! But I got better once I realized they weren't giant furry spiders coming to kill me. I swear, I have become such a city girl!

It will be an adventure to have a garden in the almost-wilderness like this. I've been living in densely populated areas for so long, I've gotten quite paranoid about bugs and things in the brush! Time to get back to nature!!!

On the home front, the onions are all planted out, as well as the rest of the leeks and scallions. The first batch of leeks did not fare so well. I had a hard time today getting the onions out of the celpacks. I hate those stupid plastic things. Next year I'm buying a soil blocker! I think part of the problem was the coir peat. It doesn't stick together on its own at all.

My garlic is up, and apparently I planted it EVERYWHERE. I shall have much garlic this year. Also up is my rudbeckia, rhubarb, asters, columbines, phlox, monarda, astillbe, scilla, just about all the perennials! I even have one clump of tulips blooming! The rest are up but not yet in bloom.

Also, I think my mason bees have started to come out! I think I saw them today - small and black with a cute little white patch on the face. They were soooo interested in my mason bee house from last year, which gets more sun in the afternoon than the new one. Although, on closer inspection of the photograph, it looks more like the leaf-cutter bees. It's hard to tell because they move so fast! I guess I'll find out when the nests are built. I did notice the tubes that didn't get in the deep freeze had been opened. I hope all the bees make it out!

I hope there are more days like this! I enjoyed it so much!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Community Garden!

So I finally tracked down a community garden!  I now have garden plot E5 at Dunbrook Meadows in Lexington.  The gardens are off the Allen Street entrance, and you can see them in the sattelite image on google maps.  
My plot is all the way at the top right next to the trees, in the top left.  It's very squishy and wet - the whole meadow is very boggy.  I will be putting in some kind of raised beds.  I don't think the plot is as shady as it looks - the sattelite image was taken early in the morning, and mostly the sun will be coming from the south (down on this map).

And today, it's supposed to be almost 70 degrees!  Yay!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Interesting article on sustainable food production

Found this really interesting article on sustainable food production that I thought people might like:


Friday, April 10, 2009

Seed Potatoes

My seed potatoes, and all of my other seeds that I ordered from Wood Prairie Farm this year have arrived!  I ordered a sampler pack of Rose Gold, Caribe, Cranberry Red, and Carola.  I wanted All Blue, but last year my taters got early blight (which happens late in the season), so I didn't want any late season taters.  The Rose Gold was sooooooooo good last year!

Pictures soon!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Today was a very fine day for working in the garden! Nice and (almost) warm, not too windy, the sun was out... it was great. I went ahead and planted out all my lettuce and arugula. Then the wind picked up, and I got all worried that maybe I hadn't hardened them off enough. So, I put a row cover over them. I got the hoops from Fedco, they're so cool! They're just 6 foot springy steel that you can bend and insert at any angle. I put the agribon row cover over it, and used "earth staples" to hold it down. It held up fine in today's wind. I hope my lettuces do okay!!!

I also tried my hand at grafting my apple trees - that is, splicing two different kinds together to make a frankentree! I've never done that before. Now's the time for it - the apple trees haven't *quite* woken up yet. I ordered scionwood (again, from Fedco) and used a "whip or tongue graft" from "Grafting Fruit Trees - A Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin". Useful little book. Basically you cut the dormant twigs at an angle, then notch both of them so they fit together tongue-and-groove style. I tied them together, so they have a snug fit. Then you have to wax them over so they don't dry out. That's what that nasty-looking yellow blob is. It really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be! I did 3 grafts today - "Chestnut", "Keepsake", and "Macoun", from Fedco. I put them on my made-to-order Frankentree that I got from Raintree last year. I hope I get apples this year!!!

The onions are next to be planted out, along with the rest of the leeks and the scallions. So far the broccoli is growing well. One of the baby kales died, but I kind of mangled it before I planted it out, so I think that's mostly due to my clumsyness!

The mason bees haven't emerged yet. I guess it's still not quite warm enough. There was a spider hanging out by their box, though, it made me a little worried! I'm sure they'll be fine.

So many buds and baby leaves today! Gooseberry, serviceberry, even my roses are starting to show leaves. I just can't wait!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I set out my Mason bees today. I put the tubes of bees in a box, with a small hole in it, so they can escape, but won't nest in those tubes again. The lady at Knox Cellars said to put them out when the temperature is reliably above 50 degrees during the week, and it looks like this is the week!!!!

My seedlings are doing quite well. Since it finally warmed up, I decided to plant out the Kale and Broccoli today. They've been out hardening off for a couple of hours each day for several days, so I expect they'll be fine.

Arugula, scallions, cranberries, and sweet alyssum are working well.

My onions have gotten floppy, though - I'm not sure if I should trim them or not.

And finally, my bokashi composter arrived this weekend. I've finally started loading it up! I'll let you know how it goes.

All in all, a good weekend for gardening!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bokashi composting

Not much going on outdoors, except for more bulbs coming up. My compost bins outdoors are still mostly frozen, so I'm quite overloaded with food scraps. Even the worm bin indoors is full.

I've decided to look into Bokashi composting, another indoor composting system. It seems to have the added benefit of not being susceptible to the stupid fruit flies that have gotten into my worm bin.

If you're interested in learning more, these websites are great:
City Farmer
Kitchen Garden Foods

I had a hard time finding a good place to buy from, but I eventually settled on this place as the closest possible place (Missouri):

You can also order from Arkansas:

And Nevada:

And Arizona:

Or even, make your own...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Beautiful day!

Beautiful day outdoors today!

I spread around some alfalfa and kelp meal. I put out some grass seed, too, but I'm starting to think it might have been a bit early. I hope the birds don't eat it all. I also cleaned up excess mulch around the garden. I need to order compost soon!

My crocuses are blooming in startling profusion! I even saw a bee outside today. I can't imagine that it was a honey bee, but it sure looked like one.

I set out my seedlings to harden off for about an hour today. They distinctly resented it. I've watered them with "bio-tone" which is supposed to contain beneficial root microbes. I hope it helps. I also sprayed them with a weak (0.5%) solution of Kelp fertilizer. That's also supposed to help with root growth. I want to get my winter crops put out soon!

Tomorrow is the first hearing for the Hen Warrant, to allow hen-keeping in Arlington. Eeep! Speaking in public makes me nervous. At least I've practiced.

I can't wait for spring!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Let the gardening commence!

Spring is finally here, hooray!  Today my "little sister" from the Big Sisters program came over and we planted my first seeds of the season - PEAS!  She also wanted to look under all the rocks for snakes.  Apparently she talked her grandfather into buying her a corn snake, much to her mother's dismay, and wanted to find a friend for it.  So cute!

I have flowers blooming!!!!



Witch hazel:

I even found a fly busy drinking nectar and pollinating the witch hazel!

And I also got my new Mason Bee house set up.  I got it from Knox Cellars.  Native pollinators, your hotel is open!

Just in case the native bees can't find me, I got a few starter bees.  They're still sleeping in the fridge.  My husband thinks it's hilarious that they're in with the butter dish.

And finally I pruned, pruned, pruned.  All of last year's dead stalks have been cut down, and the roses have been cut back.  I left any stalks with seeds still attached laying on the ground, but the rest went into the compost bin!  

Now, I just have to wait for the aparagus!!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Garden Dreaming

I called my blog "Pam's Garden Dreams" for a reason... I am a total day-dreamer!  Not to say I don't do work, too, but with weather like the ONE FOOT OF STUPID SNOW we've been having lately, all I can do is dream.

I'm dreaming of...

A garden that produces enough to can for the winter, or maybe even to sell at the farmer's market...

A house I designed myself, with a real live root cellar...

A lot big enough to have real, live trees, in addition to a garden...

A small, diverse orchard with the best tasting apples ever...

The taste of fresh raspberries right off the vine...

Picking my first asparagus EVER...

Friendly bumble bees moving into my humble bumble home...

A couple of hens in a cute little coop with real, truly fresh eggs...

Maybe actually getting a farm of my own one day...

A yard where I can actually see wild animals, maybe fox or turkeys (but not deer!)...

A peaceful place to call my own...

Seeing my little lettuce seedlings sprout into tasty tasty salad!

Saturday, February 28, 2009


The first of the spring seedlings have emerged! I'm so happy. Here are some pictures!

The seedling setup in the kitchen:


Kale, Red Russian:

Broccoli, Early Green:

Lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson:

Roque D'Hiver Lettuce:

Lettuce, Yugoslavian Red:

I have a couple of other kinds of lettuce, and also Sweet Alyssum which has come up. I'm starting some Mountain Laurel, Butterfly Weed, Red Milkweed and Leeks, we'll see how they come up!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hens in the paper!

I'm in the local paper, for the warrant article on backyard hens in Arlington!

Bok bok!!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Snowdrops sighted!

Well, I have my first blooms of spring! Snowdrops, about to bloom!

The crocuses are starting to come up, too!

I think there might even be life stirring in my apple trees, but that might just be me getting over-excited.

I can't wait for spring!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to start a vegetable garden the easy way

I get a lot of questions on various gardening topics, so every time I write down an answer, I try and save it for posterity! Here is my take on how to start a garden the easy way:

If this is your first time having a garden, I would do things as easily as possible. Here's what I'd do:

1. Find a good site. Look for a spot that gets at least 6 hours of direct sun a day, preferably more. You want good drainage. I'd also test the soil for lead, at least where I live.

2. As soon as the snow melts, go cover the ground where you want your garden with about 4 sheets deep of black and white newspaper. Top that with about 3 inches of compost, either by the bag or in bulk (locally, from Weiss farms).

3. In the middle of May (locally), go buy small plants from a good nursery (locally, I've had luck with Mahoney's, Pemberton Farms, and Wilson's). Pay attention to how much space each plant needs, when deciding how many plants to buy. Easy plants to start with are: tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, chives, basil, marigolds, zucchini, and lettuce, at least around here. You can start beans, zucchini, and marigolds from seed, directly in the garden, around May 15, but for the rest I would buy plants, as they take more effort to get started.

3. Start by hardening off your plants, unless the nursery says they are already hardened off. That means taking them outside for gradually increasing amounts of time, to get them used to where they are going to go. Like first 1 hour in the sun, then the next day 2, then 3, etc., until they are used to the current, full day of sunlight. If you just put them right out into a sunny spot they will get sunburned or die from exposure. :-( Water your seedlings if the top inch of the soil gets dry.

4. After around May 15 (some wait until after Memorial day, depending on zone), plant your plants out so that when MATURE, the edges will be touching. This will leave a lot of empty space in between plants, which is ok. You can plant right through the compost and newspaper you laid down before to smother grass and weeds. Give the plants a good soaking once they're in the ground. If your layer of compost has shrunk down to less than 1", add more compost, hay, or shredded bark mulch (up to 4") to keep the moisture in the soil, and reduce weeds.

5. Water no more than once a week, and not at all if it rains a lot that week. The compost will provide most of the nutrients your plants need, but if you want to give them an extra boost, you can fertilize them with seaweed or kelp meal once or twice a month.

6. Pick stuff as soon as it is ripe!



Spring has sprung!

Spring has sprung! The bulbs in my garden are coming up in multitudes now. Tom pointed out the first snowdrop when the snow started to melt last week. Now that it's almost gone, I'm finding snowdrops and crocus everywhere! Yay!

Friday, February 13, 2009


I'm taking a backyard chicken class!

It should be fun!

I'm also working to change the town bylaws to allow for small numbers of hens on residential propertys.  The zoning bylaws are very hard to change - 2/3 majority, so we'll see what happens!  I'm puting together a proposal that includes limits on the # of chickens, no roosters, property line setbacks, cleanliness requirements.  Whatever I can do to prevent chickens from being a nuisance, so that hopefully the zoning ordinance will be possible to change.  Anyone have any experience in this?  I'd appreciate all advice and comments!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Seeds ordered!

Well, the bulk of my seeds have been ordered!  Yay!  Here's a selection of what I ordered.  Yes, I know it won't all fit.  Maybe one of each kind?  Maybe I'll win the community garden lottery this year!

From Seed Saver's Exchange, I'm trying:
Painted Pony dried beans - cool markings
Chyenne Bush Squash - no vine!
Brandywine tomato
Federle (paste) tomato
Tommy Toe (cherry) tomato
Golden Treasure sweet pepper

From Wood Prairie Farm, I'm trying:
Dorinny (dwarf) sweet corn
Flashy Trout back lettuce
Hulless Oats cover crop seed
Tavera Green Beans

From Fedco, I'm trying:
Yellowstone carrot
Atomic Red Carrot
Purple Haze Carrot
Noir de Russie Scorzonera
Crystal White Wax Onion (supposedly 1 year from seed to bulb, no "sets")
Claytonia (for a cold frame winter crop)
Large-leaf Round mache
Kolibri Kohlrabi
Redventure Celery
Diamonte Celeriac
Peacework Sweet Pepper

Crop Rotation

Crop Rotation means planting different crops in each location every year. It's a great way to prevent soil pathogens and pests from building up year after year. If you include a cover crop in your rotation, it even builds the soil! At the very least, you should try not to plant the same plant (or even plant family) in the same place for 4 years. Longer is better. This is one of the keys to easy organic gardening!

Here's my current sequence for pest & pathogen reduction: Potatoes/Tomatoes/Peppers -> leeks/onion/carrot/garlic -> Brassicas/radish -> cover -> Corn/Beans/Squash -> beets/lettuce/greens/mustard underneath beans
(yes, beans are in there twice, but the 2 year group is separated by 4 years)

Beets (Chenopodiaceae)
Swiss Chard

Brassicas (Cruciferae)
brussels sprouts
Garlic, leeks, onions
Onion-family crops thwart parasites and pests that trouble cabbage
Legumes build up soil nutrients for heavy feeders.
Carrot (Apiaceae)
Winter squash or pumpkins
(anywhere really)
Vining crops smother weeds, making it easier to keep root crops clean.
(fairly unrelated to other crops and each other)
Potatoes require digging which loosens up the soil for root crops
Grasses (Gramineae)
Cover cropsCover crops help build up the soil for corn.
Lettuce/sunflower (Compositae)
Carrots, parsnipsRoots loosen soil, making penetration easier for shallow rooted lettuce
Onion (Liliaceae)
Winter squash or pumpkins
fall planted garlic and shallots should follow potato
Vining crops smother weeds, making it easier to keep root crops clean.
Brassicas kill soil pests.
Potato harvest results in a clear planting bed for fall-planted crops
Peas/beans (Leguminosae)
Cabbage-family crops or cornLegumes fix their own nitrogen. Turn cover crops under to replace nutrients used by heavy-feeding crops.
Squash (Curcurbitaceae)Cucumbers

Tomato/nightshades (Solanaceae)eggplant
Mustard, rape, turnips
Potatoes can follow corn
Incorporate cabbage-family crop residues to help rid the soil of pathogens that attack nightshades
Corn as a preceding crop increases yield of potatoes

Garden Timeline

Here's my Garden Timeline.  It's a work in progress, but so far it's been very helpful!

Garden Timeline for 2009

Mid winter (Jan - Feb)
Sharpen lawn mower 
Decide on a garden layout
-crop rotation
-succession planting

order seeds and plants!!!
order bees!

Late winter (Feb)
Give houseplants a cool shower in the bathtub.
Spray fruit with dormant oil
Prune fruit trees and cane fruit ( everything except Rhododendron and spring bloomers)

Cut back:
-bird feeding plants

Very Early Spring (Late Feb - Early March)
Fertilize asparagus
Rake up any garden debris or unwanted mulch
PESTS - handpick asparagus and rhubarb
SAND blueberries and cranberries
Soil test?
Check soil for microbial life?
Replenish mulch - green on garden, brown elsewhere

BEES - put out bees and bee houses!

Start indoors:
-use mycorrhizal fungi on seeds and transplants
-slow growing flowers that need 10 - 12 weeks inside
-pine nuts
-mountain laurel

Start outdoors:

Start hardening off:
-leafy greens

Early Spring (March)
Fertilize blueberries with Hen Manure
Compost tea - soil & foliar application to reduce pathogens
Feed soil in lawn with soybean meal, corn meal, or corn gluten
Any other fertilizer
Plant any new trees or shrubs

Start a few early warm weather seedlings:

Plant/transplant outside with protection:
-mustard greens

Plant direct/transplant out:
-leafy greens

Harden off:

Start seeds outdoors:

Mid Spring (April)
Set out early tomatoes with protection
Plant potatoes as soon as soil can be dug
Divide and transplant summer-blooming plants like asters

Start more warm weather seedlings indoors:

Start outdoors:
-swiss chard
-Switch lettuce & greens seeding from "cool" to "warm" types
-summer carrots

Transplant out:

Late Spring (May)
Harvest Asparagus, Rhubarb
After bloom, prune rhododendrons if neccessary
Spray lawn with compost tea

Start building projects:

Start outdoors:

Transplant out:

Start indoors early May:

Late late spring (After Memorial day):

Plant/Transplant out:
-Tomatoes (if soil T>65°)
-Peppers (if soil T>65°)
-squash (if soil T>70°) 
-beans (if soil T>60°)

Early Summer (June)
Plant out any remaining plants
Water as needed
Spray with seaweed
Spray and drench with compost tea, especially sick plants
PESTS - handpick or soap
Fertilize lawn, rake in compost

Plant out seeds (mid to late june):
--corn (if soil T>70°) 
--sweet potato slips

Transplant out any remaining warm weather crops (if soil is warm, > 65):

-leafy veggies

Mid Summer (July)
Water plants regularly
Spray with seaweed in early July only
Deadhead flowers
PESTS - handpick or soap
Save seeds

Start fall crops indoors:
-brussels sprouts

Start fall crops outdoors:
-root parsley

Transplant out:

-early tomatoes

Late Summer (August - Early Sept)
Water plants regularly
Spray indoor plants/herbs with seaweed
Save seeds
Order bulbs
Order fall plants and trees
Preserve crops
Set up cold frame

Start seeds for indoor herbs:

Pot up indoor herbs (4" or larger pots):
-thyme (dig up or root soft tip cutting)
-chives (needs short chilling period)
-sage - tip cutting

Plant out:
-cover crops

Plant out fall harvest:
-string beans
-cole crops
-fall peas
-swiss chard

-remaining onions
-herbs (including extra to dry)

Pull up overdone veggies:

Early Fall  (Late Sept - Oct)
Plant any new trees or shrubs
Clean up any diseased foliage or rotten fruit
Divide spring blooming plants, daylilies, hostas
Save seeds
Bring in and soak houseplants (including lemon, bay)
Mow lawn high
Overseed lawn
Compost tea watering & spray

Plant out:
-additional cover crops
-spring bulbs

Start cold frame crops:
-cool weather greens & lettuce

-remaining potatoes
-swiss chard

Late Fall  (Oct - Nov)
Soil test
Spray fruit with dormant oil
Gather leaves for compost & leaf mold
Clean, sharpen, and oil garden tools before storing
Plug in bird bath heater
Stock up on bird seed for the winter
Apply any fertilizer

Mulch garden
-Pine needles for blueberries
-Straw for garden
-Compost for asparagus - 3" deep, maybe straw also
-Thick layer on mums, roses

Plant out:
-additional cover crops
-spring bulbs
-more kale

Start indoors (for windowsill/light production)
-dwarf peas
-mini carrots

Early winter (Dec)
Spray fruit with dormant oil
Make cordials, jams, chutneys
Refresh potting soil for indoor plants

Mulch with Christmas tree limbs: