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

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lilac Day & Garden Tasks

I hope that everyone had a wonderful and beautiful Mother's Day. I was not able to be with my mom, but spent the day doing a few gardening tasks and visiting Arnold Arboretum for their annual Lilac Sunday festival. It was very impressive, and although some of the lilac bushes had not yet fully bloomed, the air was filled with their fresh scent. Have you ever seen white lilacs?

Weekend Garden Tasks

  • sewed second succession of carrots (Finger & Short 'n Sweet)
  • thinned red onion plants
  • sewed first succession of Black-seeded Blue Lake Snap Pole Bean seeds (which I saved from last year's crop).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Three New Experiences: Mail Order Plants & Grafted Heirloom Tomatoes

I am excited for the following three reasons I am about to try for the first time:
1. Mail Order Plants
2. Heirloom Tomatoes
3. Grafted Tomatoes

I first heard about grafted tomatoes a few weeks ago upon receiving an article via email from Johnny's Selected Seeds (JSS). According to JSS, grafted tomatoes "can improve production, overall crop health and vigor, reduce or eliminate the need for pesticide use, lengthen harvest duration, and significantly increase net income." Below is a photo from JSS's article showing the difference in appearance between grafted (left) and non-grafted (right) tomato plants.

Here is JSS's step-by-step guide if interested to give it a try as they claim it is not difficult. I am a bit too intimidated by the process to try it myself, so I noted the technique, but moved on.

However, on Friday the topic of grafted tomatoes re-entered my inbox as I received another email - this time from Burpee - stating that they had 6 varieties of grafted heirloom tomato plants for sale. Still curious about the benefits of grafted tomatoes, Burpee's well advertised "limited time while quantities last" was all I needed to jump on the offer. Here is Burpee's article about grafted tomatoes. I ordered two San Marzano plants and one Big Rainbow.

Since I was expect to buy and plant all my tomato plants next weekend, these three tomato plants (expected to arrive next week) will likely be the first I add to my garden. I am very excited and will provide updates about all three of these new experiences in time.

Links of Interest #1

Below are a few things I have come across from a variety of sources that I thought I would pass along:

Vegetable Patch Quilt
Planter Box Bench (looks easy to build)
Garden Labels from Spoons

DIY Indoor Garden Wall
Creative Planter Ideas
Plant Pest Remedies Straight from the Kitchen
How to Clone Your Herbs
Mobile Container Gardens
The Most Profitable Plants in Your Garden
Four Ways to Use Baking Soda in the Garden
Natural Insect Repellents Using Herbs from the Garden

20 Summer Cocktails with Fresh Herbs
Keeping Salad Greens Fresh with a Towel
Getting a Tan from Eating Carrots

Local (Boston) stories:
Seaport Hotel Installs Giant Green Composting Machine
Buying Local - Seedlings & Plants
Harvard Pilgrim - Workplace Garden

Top 10 U.S. Farmers Markets
Garden Set Kids Toy from Ikea
How Much Do Residents in Your City Spend on Food?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Competition Among Peas

The Winner!

In a race to grab hold of the trellis, this little guy was the winner!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gearing up for Farmers Markets

MARK YOUR CALENDARS for Mass Farmers Markets (MFM) 2011 Events:
  • Tues, May 17th: OPENING DAY at the COPLEY SQ MARKET!

  • Mon, May 23rd: OPENING DAY at the CENTRAL SQ MARKET!

  • Wed, May 25th: OPENING DAY for the DAVIS SQ MARKET,and BENEFIT NIGHT for MFM at Flatbread at Sacco's Bowl Haven in Somerville

  • June 10th through July 3rd: The 4th annual Strawberry Dessert Festival

  • Wed. TBD in Aug or Sept: Redbones BBQ grills fresh+local veggies at the Davis Sq. Market. All proceeds to Mass Farmers Markets.

  • Sept 16 - Oct 2: The Big E, West Springfield. Mass Farmers Markets provides healthy food and ag info at the country's 5th largest agricultural fair!

  • Thurs or Fri in Oct or Nov: 4th Annual Urban Barn Dance in Kendall Square, Cambridge: a fun-filled celebration of the harvest with a locally sourced buffet meal, live music, and contra dancing!
for additional information or to find your nearest market, check out

Haymarket, Boston

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lavender Help Needed

These are my two lavender plants. One English (left) and one French-Provence (right). I purchased them last year and then brought them both from my community plot when I moved. I immediately planted them upon setting up my beds in November. They are looking pretty sad. I have read a little bit about lavender plants, but am still having a hard time figuring out if they are going to bounce back, or if I need to trim them back at all. One article said to trim them back to the woody part in the spring. However, most of the stems appear to be very woody. The English lavender definitely has evidence of new growth, as seen below:

Does anyone have any experience with lavender - especially keeping the plants as perennials in Zone 6? I would love to hear your advice.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hydroponic Store in Cambridge

A few days ago, I received a postcard in the mail for a new store that opened up on Mass. Ave in Cambridge. The word "garden" caught my eye, so it was spared going into the recycling bin.

I assume that GYOstuff hopes to attract city-dwellers with the idea of being able to have a garden indoors, since many people do not have access to a yard or even patio/deck. I personally do not know much about hydroponics, but plan to do a little research and visit the store soon.

a lizard in the garden turns 2

Today marks my second year as a blogger. It is a lot harder than I imagined to keep up with posting, but it has been a great way to share information and keep a journal of my gardening adventures. Thanks to all who visit and/or continue following my progress!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Garden Chores

Today, May 1st, ended up being a beautiful day! Trees and flowers are blooming around the city, the grass is green, and daytime temps are finally starting to average above 50. I spent almost the entire day outdoors - visiting Harvard Square for "MayFair" and having a BBQ in my backyard, surrounded by my garden. Have I mentioned lately how much I love being out there?

Saturday was not as nice of a day, but I was able to continue accomplishing little garden tasks, as I wait until the day I can plant the rest of my veggies (target date May 14th). Here was my list of my garden tasks for the weekend:
  • Move containers off the grass (to prevent too much damage to the grass)
  • Plant my new mint plant in a container
  • Hang my 'wind chime'
  • Put netting around my strawberry plants to protect from birds/critters
(Left) 3 plants planted this year; (Right) container leftover from last year

Overall, the tasks accomplished were nothing too challenging, but they made a difference and kept me busy for a little while!

Garden overview (5/1/11)

I contemplated planting my next succession planting of carrots and lettuce, but decided to wait another week. My peas, about 4-5 inches high, are doing great. Germination is not 100% but two late bloomers just started to poke through the soil.

Sugar Snap Peas on 5/1; planted 4/3