Monday, September 12, 2011

Harvest Monday - All About Tomatoes

Tomato production is coming to a sad end.  The plants are very brown and skimpy.  They no longer provide a barrier to the busy street traffic, as I can see right through them when I pull into my driveway.  However, harvests are not finished yet! I picked 20 Grafted  Heirloom San Marzano tomatoes tonight!  They are not perfect or all completely ripe, but they will still be great for salsa or sauces.  With close to 80 tomatoes between the two plants, they provided about 80% of my total tomato harvest this season. 

The three days of drenching rain we had last week did not help conditions either, having barely recovered from Irene.

I still expect to harvest some tomatillos (if I can find/get to them) and have some great looking eggplants growing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Event: FensFest 2011 9/10/11

Fenway Victory Garden's Annual FensFest is this Saturday - September 10th from 11-3 rain or shine.  Check out the great "simply stated" event postcard created by Emily Harris! For more information visit

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Event: Cambridge Urban Ag-Fair 9/18/2011

While in Harvard Square running errands and picking up fresh summer rolls from Le's (yum!) I noticed the below poster:
On Sunday, September 18th the Third Annual Urban Ag-Fair returns to Harvard Square. I remember hearing about it last year, but was unable to attend.  It looks like a great event, celebrating everything local. Unfortunately, this is the same day as another great event I plan on attending in NH - the Fidelity Jumper Classic.  Hopefully I can somehow attend both!

The "judged competition - enter your own home-grown flowers, vegetables, fruit, eggs & pickles" also caught my eye.  After all, I already grew a prize-winning cabbage!  I am not sure what I will have left growing in my garden by the 18th, but I would love to enter something.  Changes are it would be an eggplant considering I really only have eggplant, tomatillos and tomatoes left. 

For more information check out:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thanks Hurricane Irene

There is nothing like a hurricane (or tropical storm for MA) to force a person to finally update a neglected blog!  It has been almost three months since my last post - just plain embarrassing.  Three months without a post is not too bad in the winter (which, regretably I am also guilty of) but these past three months have been prime growing/harvesting time - providing no shortage of updates and news.  Travels to Colorado and Maine combined with training for a sprint triathlon and having a busier summer at work has made it difficult to write and keep up with my growing veggies.  Fortunately, I was made sure to at least maintain the garden's progress though photos and harvest totals.

With my garden secure as much as possible, I now wait for the storm to pass.  Here is a quick summary of what the past few months have involved, hoping to make up [a little bit] for lost time. 

Heirloom/Grafted tomato experiment update:
The three plants I ordered from Burpee have been doing pretty well, and I would say that all three experiments (mail order, heirloom varieties, and grafted plants) have been successful and worth it.  The seedings transplanted without problems a few days after receiving them in the mail.  I planted the Big Rainbow in a container and the two San Marzano plants in with the other tomato plants in a SFG box. I don't have anything to compare the grafted San Marzanos to, but I feel that there production is very high (having harvested 47 tomatoes between the two plants as of today).
Three seedlings recovering from shipping.
Close up of grafted stem.
Planted experimental tomatoes! 

A cluster of San Marzano tomatoes.
The flowers of the Big Rainbow were really interesting - very different than most tomato flowers!

A beautiful, Big Rainbow tomato.

Overall, I have been getting some great harvests and made a lot of farm-fresh food.  Tomatoes, eggplants and tomatillos have ruled.

Tomatillo craze:
My two tomatillo plants have taken over their SFG box.  Even having trimmed them back numerous times, they keep growing out of control. New to me this year, I have made a lot of salsa and have really loved growing them but I am not sure if I will grow them again in my current garden since they require so much space.  They have affected the success of almost everything else in the box (peppers, cucumbers, beans).

Tomatillos look like little lanterns.
Tomatillo takeover!

Failed/Poor Producing Crops:
My Sugar Snap Pea plants did not do very well this year.  The plants grew pretty well, but did not produce as many pods as last year, and then died off pretty early.  I used the same seeds as last year, so I am not sure if that was the problem.

As I mentioned above, my tomatillos have prevented my two pepper plants (Golden Summer, Red Beauty) from producing any peppers.

My Black-Seeded Blue Lake Pole beans also did not fair very well.  I used seeds from the very successful crop last year.   Again, not sure if it was the tomatillos, soil or using the harvested seeds that affected their growth.

Tomato results have been  mixed this year.  My regular San Marzano plant never produced a single tomato and was pulled out in July.  Out of the four volunteer tomato plants that appeared on their own, I gave two away and planted two in my garden.  One of them turned out to be Sunsugar or Sungold (noted by the ? in the harvest report) which produced almost as much as my Sunsugar I have this year; One turned out to be Yellow Pear, which failed after providing about two tomatoes.

Disease and pests
I feel that there comes a point were all tomato plants start to get discolored leaves, a fungus or a disease.  I am not sure if others in the area experienced the same thing.  It didn't seem to affect tomato production, but just looks awful.

I was curious to see if I would have any problems with pests in my new backyard location.  Until a few weeks ago, I had no problems.  Then I noticed multiple ripe tomatoes gone without a trace from my San Marzano plants.  I had been waiting to pick them until I had enough for a canning session.  Since only the ripe ones had been taken I thought that a person had jumped my fence and grabbed them.  However, a week later, after another round of missing tomatoes I saw evidence that it may have been an animal (raccoon, squirrel?) I am now trying to grab tomatoes as soon as I can before someone or something else does!

A similar experience to last year in my community plot, I have had baby bunny visiting my backyard.  All of my plants were full-size, so I was not worried about damage it would do.  He seemed to have no desire to eat anything but grass and enjoyed being able to sit in the shade the tomatillo plants.  It has now grown up a bit, but still visits from time to time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lettuce and Strawberries...on repeat.

Aside from Wednesday's crazy weather of severe thunderstorms and tornados, the weather has been sunny and mild. It has been great to spend so much time outdoors. This week's harvest continued to be all about lettuce and strawberries. I harvested a few more ounces of Salad Bowl and Boston lettuce, in addition to six perfect Junebearing strawberries, which are really living up to their name.

The Everbearing Strawberries look just like they did last year - not very appetizing. They are supposed to be more of a small, alpine berry (compared to the Junebearing variety), but I am not sure why they look so bad. I have not tried eating one yet - but maybe that will be the true test since it is the most important factor!

Other news...
The first pea flowers came out this week. They always remind me of birds...

I moved the largest of the mystery volunteer tomatoes to an open square near the rest of the tomatoes. I hope that it proves to be a successful transplant so I can find out what variety it is. I hope to move the remaining three from their current and crowded location, but need to get more soil to put them into containers.

My Golden Summer pepper plant is getting a little ahead of itself. At only 8" tall, I noticed that it had at least 4 peppers starting to grow. There is no way that it could support them, so I pinched off a few to encourage growth upwards!

Garden overview 6/4/11

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rosemary & Thyme Flatbread

My rosemary and thyme bushes are really starting to take off. So, I wanted to figure out how I could use a lot of each herb at once. I remembered a recipe from smitten kitchen (one of my favorite cooking blogs) that I made a while back - rosemary flatbread. It was absolutely delicious - and easy as she says it is. Since she commented that other herbs like thyme could be substituted for rosemary, I decided to make a batch with thyme.

Due to a limited parchment supply, I cut four 8" x 6" squares - which made the flatbread a little thicker than a thin cracker. However, both versions were very yummy!

Links of Interest #2

Terrace Herb Display (made from Ikea GORM shelf)
A Space Saving Vertical Salad Garden
Host a Green Garden Party
Vegetable Patch Centerpiece
Three-layer Worm Composting bin (made from Ikea TROFAST bins)
The Farmers' Market Myth - cheaper or more expensive?
Can Eating Local Honey Cure Allergies?

Homemade Herb-infused Vodkas
Five Ways to Eat Sugar Snap Peas
Hibiscus is in - although I have never had any food with hibiscus, it is one of my favorite flowers, reminding me of my time in Bermuda. I am excited to see it making a presence in drinks & food!

Using Plants As Air filters

Friday, June 3, 2011

Event : Garden Party & Flower Arranging at Frog Pond

Venture down to Frog Pond in the Boston Common on Saturday, June 4th from 10am-2pm for a free flower-arranging demonstration and workshop. Pre-registration is encouraged and can be done here.

In anticipation of Boston’s hosting the World Association of Flower Arrangers (WAFA), the Frog Pond will host a free flower-arranging workshop taught by a designer from the Cass School of Flower Design in Watertown. Create your own beautiful flower arrangement at no charge.

It looks like it is going to be a beautiful day - cool but sunny, and there should be plenty of baby ducklings and geese to see!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Strawberry Season

English Lavender

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. I spent the weekend up in Maine, seeing family and welcoming the start of summer with open arms. Although slightly cooler up north, it sounds like it was a great, hot weekend for most of New England.

I had a special treat of fresh Jersey strawberries that my parents brought up from southern NJ, which tasted heavenly paired with a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Then, as I returned home tonight to my garden I found that a few of my own Junebearing Strawberries had ripened.

Now, I know the rule that you are supposed to pinch back flowers on strawberry plants in their first year to help them establish for the future - but I am just too impatient to follow that rule. I let my three plants flower away. So, tonight I ate three great tasting strawberries of my own.

I swear that most of my plants doubled in size over the weekend. I love watching everything grow. In addition to the three strawberries, I harvested more Salad Bowl Lettuce (2.25 oz) and my first head of Boston Lettuce (4.75 oz).

5/30/11 harvest

Other growing news...
The volunteer tomatoes are taking over and will need to be moved soon:

My first tomatoes (Better Boy) are growing:

My second succession of Black-Seeded Blue Lake Pole Beans (planted only on 5/24) are about half the size of the first succession, planted more than two weeks earlier on 5/8. The warm weather really made a difference with germination:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2011's First Harvest

Let there be lettuce...and salad.

In between the rain storms this week I harvested some of my Salad Bowl lettuce (11.4 oz). The leaves were definitely getting out of control, and I wanted to make sure I did not let them go too long, where they developed a bitter taste.

I love the fact that I have already had my first harvest, as it was about two weeks before last year. However, I still have quite a few weeks before I will be able to harvest anything but lettuce. My Boston Lettuce is doing quite well, and I expect to harvest some of that soon, but I anticipate the next veggie to harvest to be...sugar snap peas!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tomatoes en route!

My Burpee tomato order is finally on the way - the plants should arrive on Wednesday!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


This past weekend seemed to be all about commencement. One of the great volunteer opportunities I have in working at a college is assisting at the annual graduation ceremony. For the second year in a row I signed up to be a "marshal," someone assigned to lead/direct a row of students during the commencement activities. Although a bit stressful at times, it is such a great opportunity to share the day with students. It also means that I have to look the part - wearing the whole outfit: black robe, a hood with my grad school's colors, and even the hat with tassel! Saturday's ceremony was ordinary and extraordinary at the same time, and everyone was thankful that the weather cooperated.

Immediately following the commencement ceremony, I went over to Russell's Garden Center in Wayland, MA to buy a majority of the vegetables I wanted to plant this year. I had everything calculated and planned out - expect for a few varieties of tomatoes. There are many varieties to choose from, but I just picked a few based on wanting a combination of cherry, paste and slicing tomatoes - with some 'new to me' varieties. I am very excited to have the 2011 growing season officially commence. This is what I came home with:
  • Marigold (Durango Orange, Durango Outback Mix, Bonanza Yellow)
  • Tomato (Italian Ice, Jet Star, San Marzano, Sunsugar, Better Boy)
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Cucumber (Diva, Northern Pickling)
  • Tomatillo (Toma Verde)
  • Eggplant (Black Beauty)
  • Pepper (Golden Summer, Red Beauty)
  • Parsley (Flat)
  • Zinnia (Cut & Come Again)

Tomatillos are new for me and although I have some research still to do, I hope to diversify my salsa creations this summer. I am also curious about the Italian Ice cherry tomato variety. They are going to be white/ivory! The Sunsugar cherry tomato was just too amazing last year (about 240 harvested) to pass up. I grew impatient waiting for my marigold seeds (planted 4/17) to grow, so I bought some plants. I just love the instant color they bring to the boxes. I left a few of the marigold seeds that actually germinated, but there may not be enough room for them all to mature.

On Sunday I was able to get everything in the ground, but a rain storm interrupted me mid-day so I had to stop. Luckily it stopped in late afternoon just enough to allow me to plant the rest. I cleaned up the tomato plants, trimming the lower leaves to promote upward growth and placed a few crushed egg shells around the base of the tomato and pepper plants for added calcium. I have a few empty squares as I wait on the arrival of my mail-order grafted tomato plants, wait to sow the next succession of carrots & lettuce seeds, and purchase two cabbage plants. Here are what the boxes look like after planting - it is great to have them full.

This week I really need to start harvesting some of the Salad Bowl lettuce, which will be my first harvest! Over the past few days, I noticed a few volunteer tomato seedlings among the weeds that have popped up in the SFG beds. I am hoping to let one grow a bit to see what it turns into!

This week looks to be very rainy. Hopefully my all my plants will survive the heavy downpours. I have heard from a few people that crops seem to be behind compared to this time last year. It has definitely been a cool spring. However, since weather can change in a second, who knows what this summer will bring. My fingers are crossed that it will be as good of a year as 2010!

Garden Overview 5/15/11