Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still Going Strong

I watered again today and could probably stand to do it again very, very soon. We continue to be short on rain. It's been so dry these past four weeks. Earlier in the week, we trimmed off some of the old leaves reduced to crispy-yuckiness by powdery mildew and drought, but most of the plants are still growing strong. Gave away four cucumbers this morning and ate a couple green beans (along with my friend Jessica, from NYC, who also enjoyed a cucumber). I need to get back to pick beans very soon before they get too big. There are still quite a few green cukes on the fence, and I also found a small tatume squash and a tiny lemon apple cucumber. As long as the weather stays moderate, we'll continue to have a lot of cukes growing and getting picked. If we get lucky, we might get some rain on Sunday, which will do the most towards keeping us going for another few weeks.

On Sunday, Tracy and I are off to visit a real farm near Amherst, MA, that's growing grain and beans. We're supposed to help sew grain bags. I'm eager to see the farm and talk to the farmers about how they get it all done.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Picking Beans

The rain this past Saturday was a huge help to the garden. Today, I went by to water (no rain in the forecast for a while to come) and there are plenty more cucumbers growing. I also picked three small ziploc bags of green beans and gave away two. I left one bag on the fence--I hope someone took it.

Yesterday, I was making dinner and needed a cucumber, so Noah and I ran over to the garden, and I picked two small green cukes and one small lemon apple cucumber. I also gave away another cucumber and some beans. In talking to people around the garden over the past few days, I have a sense that a lot more people are now picking vegetables than I thought. There are very few squash left at the moment, though there were a bunch growing last week. I'm glad that folks are feeling comfortable picking now.

We're losing more plants to powdery mildew right now. This is a common problem in all gardens, especially at the end of the summer, start of autumn.

We were pretty lucky when it came to insect pests this year. My theory is that we had very few beetle or aphid problems because this spot hasn't been a vegetable garden before. The cucumber plants in the 200 Foot Garden are huge and vigorous compared to what we had in our Roxbury community garden plot, where we had a problem with cucumber beetles. The powdery mildew will take a few more plants, but hopefully it won't have too severe of an impact. (I need to get over there with a bag and pick off the diseased leaves ASAP, but am having trouble finding the time.)

Our green bean production is low at the 200 foot garden, but I'm not sure why. It may just be because with the alternating planting that I did, the cukes and squash take up a lot of space and crowd out the beans. Next year, I plan to plant in a different scheme, with 10-foot blocks of single crops. For the beans, this should be a big help. In our Roxbury plot, we've been picking 2-3 pounds of beans (Blue Lake pole beans) twice a week, from 8 square feet of beans. And that's been going on for more than a month now. Next year, I'd love to have that sort of production from the 200 foot garden.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Do A Rain Dance

Looks like the rain got pushed back to Friday night/Saturday morning. I sure hope it gets here. This is my favorite time of year, but sometimes we get these stretches of extended dry weather that are torture on the garden. I watered again yesterday, but I know I can only get the plants just enough water to survive, not really to make progress on making those vegetables grow larger. We desperately need a good soaker. We haven't had rain since Saturday, August 29th (that's 12 days of no rain for those of you who are counting).

My neighbor Maeve helped me water a bit yesterday (and was rewarded with a cucumber for her efforts). And I picked a handful of green beans. As always, people said hello and thanks--one woman said it really brightens up her commute every day. There are at least half a dozen tatume squash almost ready to pick. The cucumbers are growing very slowly now, with the cooler, very dry weather. I did see a few lemon apple cucumbers trying to get started, so maybe the weekend's rain will give them a boost.

Monday, September 7, 2009

More Watering and Picking (my first lemon apple cucumber)

Tracy and I watered on Saturday morning and the soil looked pretty dry, though the plants seemed to be thriving. The big lemon apple cucumber I'd had my eye on was gone--someone found it before I could get to it. But we did pick a small one on Saturday and ate it--even though it looked like a cross between a lemon and an apple, it pretty much tasted just like a cucumber ( a very good one). The lemon apple cucumbers do not seem to be thriving--I don't know if many of the initial plants survived the rabbits.

We gave away one or two more cucumbers, plus a handful of green beans, and we brought home a small tatume squash to have in our dinner.

We passed by the garden on our way home from the Harbor Islands on Sunday (where we had fantasized about having a big garden on top of the North Drumlin on Spectacle Island--it'd be the garden with the best view in Boston). Some of the vines appeared damaged, either through vandalism or rough handling (my suspicion tends to go with rough handling--it takes a lot of searching through the vines and leaves to find the veggies, and if you're rough, it's easy to pinch or break a vine). Also, the powdery mildew took out a plant or two.

I went back and watered again on Sunday, because it all looked so dry (this definitely gives me a solid workout, hauling all the water by hand a couple hundred feet). I gave away a big tatume squash to an elderly woman who lives in the main building, plus cucumbers to a grandmother walking with her small grandkids. Basically, if someone comes and talks to me while I'm working, I try to make an effort to get them something from the garden (that's half the fun, actually).

I really don't have a good idea of how many vegetables we're producing, because I don't know how much people are picking when we're not around. I don't think they pick much (there hasn't been a lot for them to take yet, though I know folks aren't shy about picking the cherry tomatoes), but they definitely pick some. Working with this garden is a challenge to my inner control freak, because people pick stuff when I'm not there--so I can't count it, I can't make sure they're being careful, I can't try to make sure it goes to people who really appreciate it, and I can't make sure people don't take too much. I just have to let it go and relax. I'm getting there, though it's taking some practice.

We're A Go for 2010

I had a meeting with Donna the property manager for 99 Kent Street on Thursday, and she agreed that we can continue to garden the strip of ground again next year. In addition to growing a vertical garden, we're also going to put in another row of plants closer to the sidewalk. She'd like to see some herbs in there, especially perennials like lavender and rosemary. I'd like to put in some colorful peppers and eggplant and other veggies that say "pick me."

Once the current growing season is over, in addition to working on the soil, I also need to sit down and work out a budget for all these additional plants, and also figure out how many volunteers we'll need to make it all happen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lemon Apple Cukes growing and I picked our first Tatume Squash!

After being away for the weekend, I finally got down to the garden to water and weave today (I take wayward vines and thread them through the fence). I also had a chance to poke around through the plants and see what's there. I picked two large cucumbers and a few small ones--I gave all but one of them away (I kept one of the big ones for dinner tomorrow) to folks who stopped to talk with me about the garden. We should have a lot more cucumbers by the end of next week.

I did find one lemon apple cucumber that's not quite ready yet, but maybe in a few more days. I can't wait to see what they taste like.

The beans aren't ready yet, but soon. I did pick and eat two beans, but that's about it.

Most exciting was that I picked the first tatume squash. It was probably about five inches across and looked a lot like a round zucchini. We had it for dinner, with basil, lemon, and Parmesan cheese over pasta, and it tastes just like zucchini, too. Great stuff. There are quite a few growing on the vines now, and with any luck we'll be giving them away by the end of next week (or sooner).

One big question is how much people will be willing to pick through the vines to find the produce. Right now, everything is pretty close to the ground and hidden under large leaves. You really have to search if you want to find anything. My hope is that soon we'll have more vegetables growing higher up on the fence where they're more visible, so people will take them.

I'm also not sure how this will work with green beans. Will people take just one or two? Or will they come back and pick enough to help make a meal (which would make the most sense)? I might put a basket out and put already picked beans (and other stuff) in there, if it seems that people aren't taking it.

The transformation of the garden has been pretty incredible over just the past few weeks. This is what it looked like on August 11 and what it looks like now:

I need to reattach all of our signs. They must have blown down in the big storm on Saturday. Someone was kind enough to wedge them into the fence, but I need to attach them more permanently (and maybe make a couple new ones).

Today the weather was perfect to just hang out and water and chat with passersby. A perfect way to spend part of the afternoon.