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: http://www.urbanagfair.com/

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.