Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring Cleaning in the FVG!

What a gardening weekend!! However, being exhausted and meeting fellow gardeners are two indicators that the Fenway Victory Garden's first "All Park Clean Up" of the 2010 season was a success! Saturday was glorious & sunny, perfect to welcome gardeners, friends, and members of the Boston community into the park to tackle spring chores. The agenda included: organizing the three composting areas, building new wheelbarrows, planting grass seed, re-numbering plots, building up a few plots that did not fair to well with the March floods, and collecting litter.

It was invigorating to see everyone out and ready to help! I also had recruited two friends to get their hands dirty with me - and they were in for a treat! We were assigned to one of the composting areas with three other people. Our tasks involved making three rows of debris into one [which would allow gardeners space to drop off new compost materials], garbage clean up, and making the ready-to-use compost pile into a more distinguishable pile for easy access.

Here are some shots from the morning's activities:

(the large compost area getting lots of attention; our finished compost area)

(one of the groups collecting litter along the Muddy River)

After the clean up ended, The Landsdowne Pub hosted a gathering for all gardeners involved in the clean up. After taking a break I returned to the garden to do some work on my own plot, wanting to take advantage of the weather! As luck would have it, a fresh, dry pile of wood chips were delivered! Everyone rushed to get their share!

Saturday's tasks:
  • planted marigolds in each of the front corners of the SFG boxes
  • planted a lavender bush
  • hung a pot of pansies
  • planted two dahlias
  • built a SFG trellis for the middle box (Box 2); unfortunately the trellis netting was defective and the squares are not perfect; i know it is not a big deal for the growing veggies, but I hate that it doesn't look as perfect as the other two...
  • took down a side of my potato box, allowing it to get more sun
  • added a wheelbarrow of compost to the 'addition'
  • planted grass seed in my future 'sitting area'
  • added a wheelbarrow of wood chips to the 'addition,' creating a small walkway - this area is really starting to come together!

  • weeded along my fence
  • added 5 wheelbarrows of wood chips to the aisle

On Sunday, I returned just for two hours to work a little more. I accomplished what I wanted to do, but I was definitely low-energy!

Sunday's tasks:
  • trimmed the wild rose bushes along the back fence (in & outside the plot)
  • added yet more compost to the back raised bed
  • sowed poppy seeds; hoping to eventually turn this area into a wildflower area

Here is how my plot is looking as the average last frost date approaches this week:

A final tip for people on a wait list at a community garden: VOLUNTEER! It is the best thing you can do in order to show your interest and dedication.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One of Those Days

First off, let me say that if you are a returning visitor, you may notice a few slight changes to my blog layout. I was frustrated with how narrow the posts section was and as a result, spent way to much time trying to give the page a mini-makeover. I only made a few subtle changes, but hopefully they will make a positive difference!

Today was one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong. I hit snooze too many times. I spent too much time in the garden center - and ended up with a few items more than what I went in for (although this is typical). I got stuck in traffic on Storrow Drive, a road that is difficult enough to let a single police car through when needed, let alone two firetrucks and an ambulance. Showing my ignorance to current Red Sox news, I found out that they had to finish Saturday night's game today at 1:30 - just when I was trying to find a parking spot. It rained most of the day. Then it was sunny. Then it poured. Then the sun came out - you get the picture...

The good news however, is that despite the weather, I was able to get a lot accomplished. My primary goal was to plant my potatoes and assemble my potato box.

This is my potato box, modeled after the Seattle Times article. For Christmas, I asked my father to build one for me. He followed the instructions perfectly, and even pre-drilled and numbered the boards for me (as you can see above). Thanks Dad! The box's design is supposed to maximize your yield and also make it easy to both, mound and harvest. Potatoes are relatively easy to grow but unique in that as the plants grow, you continue to cover them with soil. People have used buckets, trash cans, bags, or directly sow them into the ground. You just need to watch out because if the growing potatoes are exposed to sunlight they will turn green. Once the foliage dies and turns brown, it's time to harvest! My harvesting plan is to wait until they are mature, but I am curious about the 'new potatoes' so I may have to pick one or two to see how they are.

I was very excited to finally get the box up. I placed it in a sunny spot in my "extension" area. I left two of the sides together, but may take some of the boards down to provide more light to the growing spuds. I have mentioned the potato box a few times. I planted 5 Bintje potatoes (totalling 9.5 oz). We will see how much these yield in a few months! Each of the potatoes had started sprouting in at least one 'eye.' I added in a little vermiculite to help keep the soil light and to help with water retention. Sinfonian is someone else who has tried the potato box method and has some good tips and photos!

Today I also planted two herbs (rosemary & thyme), 6 strawberry plants and 15 freesia bulbs - that I picked up today at the garden center! I already used some of the rosemary for dinner - with [store bought] red potatoes and homemade rosemary flatbread. Yum!!

I worked on finalizing my extension area design, but am waiting until it is actually finished for the big "reveal." I planted another variety of carrot (Danvers) next to the garlic. Until now, all my carrot varieties have been short, so I am excited to get full-size carrots!!

In planning my corn planting I read more about corn pollination. Based on the remaining space I have & the space corn needs (at least four rows are recommended), I will only be able to fit one of my two varieties. This means that I will have to choose which one to try - the popcorn or the sweet - OR - plant the other variety along the backside of my plot, which gets overrun by the wild roses & vines. Decisions, decisions! If I have to choose one variety, I am leaning toward the popping corn.

Tomorrow is Patriot's Day, a Massachusetts holiday to commemorate the anniversary of the start of the American Revolution at the battles of Lexington & Concord. It is also of course, Marathon Monday as the 114th Boston Marathon takes place!!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gardening with Winter Gloves in April

This weekend's weather has been horrible - cold and wet. Temps got down into the 30's and some areas of New England saw snow! I stopped quickly at the garden today to throw a cover over my growing seedlings (peas, lettuce & carrots) and deliver some of my potato box materials. Hopefully the weather will cooperate tomorrow as I have a lot to do!

My First Seed Order

This week I received my order from Seeds of Change. Not counting my garlic order, this is my first true seed order. I originally bounced around between different seed companies trying to find an ideal balance between variety, price and quantity. My hardest decision was figuring out which potato to grow using the potato box method. After researching online, I found that a late maturing variety works best when growing potatoes in containers. Bintje potatoes were a versatile, late maturing variety with smooth pale yellow skin & light yellow flesh. Seeds of Change had this variety and offered a 10% discount through Facebook. Here are my cute, little Bintje seed potatoes:

In addition to the Bintje potatoes, I also ordered a two varieties of corn (Japanese Hull-Less Popcorn & Brocade Sweet Corn) and Black-Seeded Blue Lake Snap Pole Beans. I am excited to plant corn this year!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fire in the Fens!

One week ago (4/5) a brush fire spread through the phragmites (reeds) along the Muddy River. Fortunately the garden plots in the FVG were not damaged, but the visual difference the fire has made with the landscape is amazing! I have not heard the official cause of the fire, but according to a few articles, the brush catches fire pretty frequently.

I was not able to get to the gardens until this past weekend when I witnessed the damage firsthand. I do not believe that anybody was injured. However, visiting and resident geese were definitely affected. Given that baby geese/ducks are expected soon, I sadly imagine that some nests were destroyed by the blaze.

Muddy River (Pre-Fire 2/14/2010)

Muddy River (Post-Fire 4/11/2010)

More pics of the damage:

For better or worse, I expect the reeds to be back to their 20' height in no time...

In addition to surveying the damage, I also continued with my garden tasks. I was very relieved to find my peas sprouting (after seeing little evidence last week)! They survived after all! I have now sowed peas, carrots and lettuce! I was not meticulous in planting the lettuce and carrots seeds and know that I will have a lot of thinning to do once they grow a bit more!

I also:
  • added compost to my perimeter flower beds
  • planted three Dwarf Sunflowers on either side of the gate
Finally, I now have another lizard (in addition to my welcome rock) to watch over the garden in my absence! I added a colorful tin lizard (a present from my mom) to the middle SVG box.

I am excited for a few important packages to arrive this week with various things I ordered for the garden...soon to be revealed! I hope this weekend's weather is good so I can get back into the garden! This Saturday is also the first

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Review: Farm City-The Education of an Urban Farmer

This winter, during a brief stroll through a local bookstore, a book title caught by eye - Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. As I am not one to buy a lot of books, I immediately requested it from my local library!

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in food, gardening, farming or wanting a good laugh! Novella's amazing memoir will inspire any city dweller with her 'anything is possible' attitude as she transforms a vacant lot in an Oakland (California) ghetto into a FARM - with geese and rabbits and bees - oh my!

To follow Novella's current adventures (and about her new book due out in early 2011) visit:

I also found out that there was a Boston Globe article last summer!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Easter Celebration

...was in the garden of course! Today was about as perfect you could get for Easter Sunday-temps reached almost 80 degrees! To make the most of it I logged about 5 hours - the the most time I have spent in the garden in many months; and to top it all off it was the Red Sox home opener! People were everywhere!

I was anxious to check on the peas that I planted on 3/20 as I was afraid that the incredible rains we had drowned them or washed them away. I only saw signs of one plant breaking the surface, so I will have to keep an eye to see if the rest follow. When I planted last year in mid June they seemed to come up quickly. Maybe when planted earlier when the temps are cooler, they are slower to grow..? However, I am so happy to already be able to plant, remembering that this time last year I was 'plot-less!'

Today's garden chores consisted of:
  • stabilizing the fence between my plot and my neighbor
  • weeding the perimeter flower bed and three square foot boxes
  • raking leaves
  • trimming back wild rose bushes along the back fence
  • planting lettuce (Mesclun salad mix,Buttercrunch & Salad Bowl ) & carrots (Short n' Sweet & Baby)
  • drafting possible layouts for the 'addition' area which include a space for my potato box, corn and a shaded area
  • adding one wheelbarrow of compost (I forgot my shovel today which made it very difficult; I will need to add more when I return with my shovel!)