Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Winding Down (not quite)

We didn't have our regular Tuesday work day last night, because we just don't have enough daylight left at 6:30 anymore.  Plus, the fall is so busy with back to school, it's hard for anyone to find the time.  However, Keff and I did hit the garden yesterday around lunch time.  It was such a gorgeous day, I couldn't stand to be at my basement desk for one more minute.

This late in the season, we don't worry much about watering anymore.  Instead, we spent time weeding and pulling down the old cucumber vines and fallen leaves that are starting to collect.  The series of 40-degree nights we had a couple weeks ago put a definite end to most of the cucumber and watermelon action.  The tomatoes are actually doing better than I would have thought.  I did find a cucumber buried in the leaves, and it was still lovely.  Here's neighbor and 200 Foot Garden supporter, Pearl, with the cucumber.

Though we planted a lot more tomatoes this season, it seems like we never got to see many red ones on the vines.  I've gotten reports (from Pearl and others) that people have come to the garden to pick green tomatoes by the bag full.  I'm not entirely pleased about this.  Though the garden is meant for everyone, it's also meant for everyone to share.  And I really, really want to see red tomatoes on the vines.  I'd hoped that planting more tomatoes would make it so no one person would take too many.  (That said, the late season weather was also kind of weird for tomatoes.)  Maybe the solution is to plant more cherry tomatoes.  We tried putting up signs encouraging people to not pick the fruit until it was ripe, but I don't think it helped. 

The good news is that there are still some tomatoes on the vines, and some might ripen.  But I noticed about a week or two ago, that all the big fruit had been stripped from the vines in just one or two days.

The tomatillos are producing, but having a hard time due to damage from Hurricane Irene.  Still, I picked a couple pounds yesterday and plan to make some green salsa this weekend.

(Tomatillos.  The actual fruit is inside the paper shells.)

Being out at lunch gave us lots of chance to talk to passersby, who had many questions about tomatillos, peppers ("Did that big plant come from just one seed?").  For me, half the fun of this garden is getting to talk with people about the garden and how vegetables grow.

For now, we've got the garden cleaned up a little bit, so it looks nicer.  And we've still got a month left of veggies to harvest.  The greens--chard, collards, dinosaur kale, and mustard--are all still going strong.  There are peppers yet to come, along with a few tomatoes and tomatillos.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It even looks good

The other day, Keff and I were harvesting from the 200 Foot Garden, and he put together this basket from what we picked, to give to the folks who own and manage the property that we use, as a way of saying thanks (and to show them that we really do produce veggies from little speck of land).

Now the tatume squash are all about done, but cucumbers are still producing, and the tomatoes are teasing us.  There are hundreds of them, waiting to turn red.  We just need a little bit more patience.  (Though there are some ripe yellow perfection tomatoes in there, if you hunt a little.)  The Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes are turning red, but getting picked so fast, I almost never even see them orange.

The watermelon vines are longer than we've ever seen, but no fruit yet.  I don't know if we'll see any or not.  Maybe next year.

The basil and chard and kale seems to be getting picked regularly, which is good.  They like it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

harvesting and working (and those darn SVBs)

We lost yet another work day to thunderstorms last week, but Keff, Noah, and I did get some work time in on the garden on Wednesday.  We weeded, trimmed yellow leaves off tomatoes, cut off leaves with powdery mildew, tied up drooping tomato stems with twine.  I also discovered that our tatume squash have squash vine borers (SVBs), which are one of my least favorite pests.  The SVB moth lays her eggs on the young plants, and when they hatch, the larvae promptly burrow into the stems and grow there.  You can cut them out, but the cure often kills the plant anyway.  We lost about half our squash plants to SVBs.  We'll have to try harder next year to keep them away (it's not easy).

The good news is that we did manage to harvest a bunch of squash and cucumbers.

Here's a photo of the cukes:

The lemon cucumbers are simply fantastic--crisp and light.

The tomatoes are just starting to turn red this week, and I think this rain we're getting with both the tomatoes and the cucumbers (and keep people away from the tomatoes long enough to let more of them turn red).  I picked a lovely red tomato on Thursday from the garden, and it was delicious.  The tomatillos are also starting to set fruit--I love their little paper lantern husks.

Tomorrow is our regular Tuesday workday (maybe the storms won't rain us out), and we'll put up some new signs and keep tying up tomato plants to give them some more support as they sag from all the fruit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

rant from YA author John Green about lawns

I love this video blog from one of my favorite YA authors, John Green, about the silliness of lawns and his desire to have lawns converted to vegetable gardens.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

good work day

We had a good work day at the garden this evening.  Keff, Yvonne, Tracy, and our daughter, Kira, were all there.  Lots of hands helps spread the work around nicely.   We did some weeding, watering, and I spent more time tying up tomato branches and trimming tomato plant leaves off the ground (we want to avoid blight).

The garden looks truly amazing.  All the plants are vigorous at the moment.  The squash and the cucumbers are reaching up towards the top of the fence.  We've had a little bit of powdery mildew, but not too bad, and some blossom end rot, so we put down some crushed egg shells around the tomato plants. 

I think people have already picked the first tatume squash and cucumber.  I had my eye one one of each yesterday, and today they were gone.  Neither was quite ripe--I'm tempted to put up a sign that says "please don't pick the cucumbers until they're round at the bottom."  The cucumbers are blooming like mad--if a good fraction of them set fruit, there will be plenty of cukes to go around.

The mustard is enormous.  I'm talking to a group of senior citizens at the 99 Kent Street apartments tomorrow, so I think I'll pick some mustard greens and bring them with me to hand out.  I wish I was going to have more to give out, but the big stuff isn't quite ready yet.  I think we've got at least one more week until the tomatoes are ripe.  The good news is that there are easily more than 100 tomatoes on the vines right now, and with 7 cherry tomato plants there will be lots of snacks for passersby.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

the peas are gone, here come the cucumbers and squash

On Tuesday, we had a busy work day, taking down all 180 feet of snow peas off the fence.  Tracy and I snipped the vines at their base, so that we could leave the roots with their nitrogen-rich nodules in the ground (as natural fertilizer).  We hauled the vines into a big pile, where Noah, Keff, and Yvonne helped remove the last few pea pods (we got at least another 1-2 pounds).  Hannah was a first-time volunteer, and she helped me water while Tracy joined the others in sorting through the rest of the peas.

We ended up with a huge volume of spent vines, a pile almost as big as a car.  Luckily, Yvonne has access to a large compost pile, and I was able to take two loads over in the back of the Subaru that we have the summer, to add them to the pile.

Here's Keff near the pile of pulled vines.  This was just the start--the final pile was TWICE this big!

Some of the lovely, sweet snow peas.  (These are actually some we picked on July 2nd.)

Here's some of the chard that's growing in front of a row of cucumbers (and you can see the old peas in the background, too).

I was over at the garden today, and spent about two hours tying up tomato and tomatillo plants to the fence--they're already so big, they're starting to need some extra support.  We have lots of tomato blossoms and some small tomatoes already growing.  I've seen a few tiny tatume squashes already forming, and the cucumbers are starting to march up the fence and setting out plenty of flowers.  We had some rain last night, which is helping everything continue to put out some very large, healthy leaves.

Many people stopped by while I was working today, to express their gratitude for the garden and to chat about it.  One young guy visiting from Michigan said it was one of the high points of his visit to Boston so far.  That kind of feedback certainly makes working in the hot sun a lot more enjoyable (though I'd do it anyway).

I wonder how long it'll be before the first cukes, squash, and tomatoes are ready to pick?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

work day today

We'll have our regularly scheduled work day at the garden today at 6:30pm.  Today we need to take out the snow peas, to give more room and light to the cucumbers, squash and tomatoes.  Plus the snow peas are almost done, anyway, because they don't like this heat.

If you're in Brookline tonight, please stop on by.  We could really use the extra hands.  (I promise you'll leave with some delicious snow peas.)

Here's a photo of us all hard at work on the June 21 work day--lots of weeding that day.  You can see the snow peas climbed all the way to the top of the fence and beyond:

and here's a closer look at some of the snow peas (from a few weeks ago):

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Work Day Today (but we'll be back on July 5

Due to a number of scheduling conflicts, we won't have a 200 Foot Garden work day today, but we'll be back on our regular Tuesday schedule next week on July 5.

There are lots of snow peas on the fence, so if you're in the neighborhood, make sure you get some while they're still around.  (We'll need to start taking some of the vines down over the next few weeks, to make room for cucumbers and squash vines.)

(We're still looking for folks interested in watering on a weekend watering team.  If you're interested, please e-mail me.)

Hope to see you next week!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

good stuff

We had a great work day yesterday.  The weather was perfect and the work went quickly, with Keff, Nathan, Tracy, Noah, and me all hard at work.  We weeded, watered, planted a couple tomatoes and marigolds, and we also thinned out the chard, kale, and mustard greens.  The mustard greens sprouted really well, and we picked a big bag that we split up between us.  I had them in a salad for dinner tonight, and they were delicious.  Incredibly tender and mild, and taste just like the start of summer to me.  Noah picked more than 200 snow pea pods, and I'm sure between altogether we picked well over a pound.  We brought more than half a pound home with us, and with the rain we're getting, there will be plenty more (as long as we keep them picked) on the vines soon.  The pea plants are reaching high above the top of the fence, as tall as my head now.

Monday, June 20, 2011

next work day is Tuesday, June 21

Just a quick post to say that our first "regular" work day will be tomorrow, Tuesday, June 21, at 6:30 pm.  So if you're in Brookline and want to get your hands dirty in the garden, come on down to 99 Kent Street and help us out for a little while.  We'll be doing some weeding, planting of marigolds, watering, and picking some snow peas (which are now about 4 feet tall!).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

peppers and peas

On Friday, I got to make good use of our enhanced watering tools--a 100' hose and caddy, which means we'll be able to get water on the garden a lot easier this year.

Nathan put in about ten peppers earlier in the week, and they look great.  We have five sweet peppers and a variety of five hot pepper plants.  (And we might do more.)  The seedlings look good--even the watermelon and squash have sprouted.  The tomatoes look terrific.

(one of the new peppers)

The snow peas are blooming fast now, and the plants have reached the top of the fence.  We're going to have a LOT of snow peas.  I hope they'll keep blooming for a while--I'm at a playwrights conference in Idaho for two weeks, so I fear they'll be gone by the time I get back.  Tracy will handle coordination of watering and volunteers while I'm gone (we need lots of help).  I imagine the garden will look quite different in two weeks.
(snow peas to the top of the fence)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Good news (we have water)

Our planting day on Saturday went well, though planning a work day on Memorial Day weekend might not be the wisest move, if we want lots of hands.  Noah and Keff helped haul seedlings and water, while Tracy and I planted 46 tomato and tomatillo plants, followed by lots and lots of seeds.

The bad news was that we couldn't get any water from the outdoor spigot, so we had to fill watering cans from the bathroom in the main building.  This meant that we couldn't water the seeds, just the seedlings, and just enough to keep them alive in the hot dry weather.

We watered the tomatoes every day this weekend, from the bathroom sink, and felt we could skip watering yesterday, since it wasn't quite so hot.

Today was hot and sunny again.  We thought we'd get a storm around 6pm, but it blew by with lots of thunder and lightning, but no water.  So Tracy and I went over to water, and discovered that the spigot had been fixed.  Having water was excellent news--we brought out a hose caddy that we found in the greenhouse and a new 100' hose that I bought on Monday.  With various other hoses connected, we were able to get water all the way to the first 30 feet of the garden.  We'll still need the watering cans, but the whole task will go much faster now (we don't need to use the wagon anymore).

(Of course since we watered, a second storm has blown through, with rain this time.)

Equally exciting was the fact that, despite the lack of water, the cucumbers, mustard greens, and dinosaur kale had already started to sprout (just 4 days after planting--the soil was quite warm this past week). And the snow peas are now blooming.  Now that we can water a lot easier, I think we can have a better harvest than ever. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

planting day this Saturday, May 28, 10am-noon

The snow peas have come up very well along the fence and are more than a foot high and attaching themselves nicely to the fence itself.  They should start blooming very soon.  Finally the weather is cooperating enough for us to give them some company.  Keff and Yvonne have been raising tomato seedlings that are ready to go in the ground, and we also have some seeds to plant (and weeds to pull).  We'll have our first big planting day this Saturday, May 28, from 10-noon. 

Nathan's been raising pepper seedlings, but they aren't quite ready yet.  So even if you can't make it on Saturday, there will be plenty of other chances to get your hands dirty.

I hope you can join us.  (The garden is right near 99 Kent Street in Brookline, in case you've never been.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

NY Times article on community gardens (with cool numbers)

Back on May 1, the New York Times had a fun article about community gardening in New York CIty.  I loved that they figured out that 67 community gardens on 1.7 acres grew 87,700 pounds of vegetables, including 29,682 pounds of tomatoes, and 5,505 pounds of chard.

Someday, we're going to have to figure out how to measure how much produced we grow at the 200 Foot Garden.  Maybe a scale and a notebook hanging on the fence?  Who knows.  For now, our exact amount will have to remain a mystery.

quick update:  we've had a long stretch of cool rainy weather, which has been good for the snow peas, which are now starting to climb up the fence.  The weather has also kept us from planting the tomato and pepper seedlings that Keff and Nathan have been growing, and from getting new seeds in the ground.  Right now, we're planning a planting day for Saturday, May 28, to get more seeds and plants ready to go.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Peas are up (and sidewalk getting replaced)

As you can see from the thin green line snaking up along the fence, the snow peas that we planted have sprouted and are doing quite well.  We've got nearly 180 feet of snow peas, ready to climb.  The weather has been damp and warm, which has suited them well so far.  A sunny weekend will help out a lot, too.

The soil is still pretty mounded pretty high, and we'll need to smooth it out before we can plant more seeds, but we'll need to wait another week or so, to make sure that we don't bury the snow pea seedlings. 

It turns out they're replacing the sidewalk at the bottom 20 feet of the garden.  So far, it looks like the workers have done a good job at not trashing this section of the garden, but it's hard to know how careful they can be when they have to pour the new concrete.   It seems likely we'll lose the snow peas in this section, but since they're hitting it early, hopefully we won't have any big disruptions like this for the rest of the season.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ground Ready to Go (and watch for peas)

We had good weather for our first workday of 2011 on Saturday.  Tracy, Kira, Noah, and I were joined by Nathan and Keff to help move the three yards of compost to the garden and dig it into the soil.  Sarah joined us to help plant snow peas. 

(a family that shovels together, sticks together, right?)

We only had one wheelbarrow and three shovels, so it took a while.  Keff brought down a trash can that we could load on the back of his electric wheelchair, to carry additional compost.

We all noticed that the soil has greatly improved since we started gardening the site in 2009.  I remember when we turned it over for the very first time and there were almost no earthworms.  On Saturday, we saw plenty of worms (and lots of grubs, too, for some reason).

Once we got the soil worked, Nathan, Sarah, and I (plus a two-year-old girl who stopped to help) planted half a pound of snow pea seeds--it was just enough to seed the entire fence line, all 180 feet of it.  If they all come up, we'll have a serious crop.  I think it'll look really cool.  I wonder how long it'll take before they sprout?

Plenty of people stopped by to say how glad they were to see the garden back again.  Some had questions and were curious about the project.  (A few had critiques, as well.)   I hope we'll see some of them on future workdays.  Lots of folks are looking forward to a productive harvest this year.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Compost is Here

Our three yards of compost arrived today.  This is something we'll need to do, year after year, because the soil is fairly poor, and we take a lot out of it every season.  We'll be moving the compost onto the garden tomorrow morning (Saturday), from 10am-Noon.  We've just got one wheelbarrow, but plenty of shovels for turning the compost into the soil.

(I already got a head start on shoveling this morning, because part of the pile was blocking the driveway, so I had to move it.  Gave me a good excuse to get out in the sunshine.  I also had a chance to trim the trees by the garden a little, so we won't bump our heads on the branches, and we'll get a tiny bit more morning sun on those blocks.)

And here's how the garden looks in early April.  Not much now, but just wait a couple months.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

First Work Day of 2011: Saturday, April 9, 10am-Noon

It's time for us get back to work at the 200 Foot Garden.  I just placed an order for three yards of compost, which should be here Friday morning.  On Saturday, we'll gather at the garden from 10am-noon, to spread that compost out along the garden and turn it into the ground, so the soil can be ready for planting.  (We may even plant some snow pea seeds.)

If you can make it, we can definitely use your help.

One other thing to consider--we do need help in paying for the garden this year.  We received a generous donation from the management at 99 Kent Street, as well as from some other neighbors, which will cover the cost of the seeds and some of the supplies.  But the compost delivery will cost about $150, and we'll spend another $70-$85 this season on hoses and tools.  If you feel like making a donation, look at the right hand column of this blog--there's a "donate" button there that allows people to contribute.  Every little bit helps.

I hope we'll see some of you this Saturday.  Thanks very much for your support of the garden in the past.  We've got lots of exciting plantings coming up soon.

The seed orders have arrived, so I'm hoping to get some of those started in trays this weekend, and then we'll start looking for volunteers with sunny windows to help plant-sit them until they're ready to go in the ground.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting started on 2011

Okay, well, it's almost April.  And the garden doesn't look like this anymore (thank goodness).  We had a very snowy winter here in Boston, with almost 80 inches of snow, almost double our normal amount.  It's still very much chilly and blustery March here, but we've had touches of warm weather, and the crocuses are already up and the daffodils are just waiting for a few warm days to really let loose.

I'm a little slow in getting started this year, for our third season at the 200 Foot Garden, mostly because I've been busy with other various projects.  I don't know if we'll have use of the greenhouse this season--the new property manager at 99 Kent is checking out the possibilities of installing a fan.  Without a proper fan, the greenhouse is just too hot to be practical.  My guess is that we won't have it for this season, but maybe next year.

In the spirit of spring, I ordered a whole bunch of seeds for the garden on Saturday, from High Mowing and Victory Seeds.  Here's what we've got coming:

Tendergreen Mustard Greens
Vates Collards
Moon and Stars Watermelon
Tatume Summer Squash
Toma Verda Tomatillo
Mountain Princess Tomato
Moskovich Tomato
Rose de Berne Tomato
Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato
Yellow Perfection Tomato
Lemon Cucumber
Green Finger Cucumber
National Pickling Cucumber
Marketmore 76 Cucumber
Mammoth Melting Snow Pea
Genovese Basil
Golden Chard
Lacinato Dinosaur Kale
Early Jalepeno Pepper
Jupiter Pepper

Twenty-two different seeds.  Not bad for a long, narrow little garden.  We're actually not growing as many types of vegetables as last year--we're not going to grow pole beans or eggplant this year.  The Rainbow Chard didn't do so well, so we'll just do Golden.  And no standard kale, just dinosaur.

I love that this garden lets me experiment with new varieties.  All the tomatoes are new to me, as are the peppers.  I don't know how the melons will do, but we'll give it a shot.

Once the peas arrive, I'll put the word out to our volunteers (come join us!) and we'll plant snow peas along the fence.  They like the cool weather, and they'll be finished by the time the tomatoes are ready to go in the ground.

I still have a bunch of planning yet to do--need to order compost, rustle up some more donations (after spending $85 on seeds), and get volunteers lined up.  We're going to try a different watering system this year, too.

So much ahead, but that's the fun of it.  The good news is, with the seeds ordered, we're officially started.