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: