Thursday, September 29, 2011

Worm Composting

Worm Factory installed

This is a picture of my new worm composting system in place near the boiler, which will hopefully keep the worms cozy this winter in the basement. I considered worm composting in the past but never did anything. Now that I have my Square Foot garden that needs regular additions of high quality compost, the idea is more attractive. A lot of our kitchen scraps can go into the composter without making a trek out to the compost bin behind the shed. In the winter with a new 3 foot snow fall, that sounds attractive. And my wife was actually interested in the idea of having a worm composter in the house, so that made it easier.

In addition, there are now a lot of well-designed compost bins available which make composting easy and eliminate a lot of the mess, Sure, you can build an economical bin out of a Rubbermaid storage container. And there are lots of helpful tips on the internet, such as the one suggesting using the wife’s turkey baster to siphon the excess worm “juice” out of the bottom of the bin so the worms don’t drown. There are also some nice wooden bins built from cedar, but they are really designed for outdoor use. That is not practical in New England.

The new bins I looked at are compact, efficient and cleverly designed to eliminate or minimize most of the messier details of raising worms, and they are designed to be kept in the house without leakage, odors or escapees. Two I considered were the Can O Worms and the Worm Factory. I went with the Worm Factory 360, the newest model with a taller base and an improved ventilation system. The Worm Factory 360 also is manufactured in the US from 100% recycled food-grade plastic. I ordered mine from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm and it came with one pound of worms (supposedly about 1000 worms, but I really doubt it – although the package did weigh a pound). Below are some photos showing the setup of the composter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Making Butter

Inspired by an article by Thomas on A Growing Tradition, I tried my hand at making butter. It is amazingly easy and fast. Thomas provides detailed, step-by-step instructions, so check out his article if you want to try this. Below I have a few photos documenting my first attempt at this.

Whipping butter using a mixer

Monday, September 26, 2011

Harvest Monday–26 September 2011

Eggplants, tomatoes and peppers

Not much from the garden last week. I cut the two small eggplants the flea beetles left me. A third one turned brown before I got to it. A few peppers and tomatoes, plus lots of green tomatoes off of the now dead tomato plants. I cut the eggplants and then pulled the plants so I could clean up the bed that was infected with halo blight. It took me two hours to unwind the dead pole beans from the trellis and stuff them in a trash bag. Then I had to police the garden, picking up any dead vegetation on the ground or in other beds. Found out Sunday at the garden pot luck that three other plots in the garden also had the blight.

Green tomatoes

I got a lot of green tomatoes last week. Here are two pounds of them being weighed to make green tomato chutney. I used this recipe by Shaheen posted on her blog a few weeks ago (lots of vegetarian recipes there). It was easy to make and is very tasty.  I substituted Splenda for the sugar to keep it low-carb and that worked fine. The recipe made about a pint and it keeps in the fridge. First use for it was on hamburgers. It would be good on any grilled meat or with a good sharp cheddar.

Now head on over to Daphne’s Dandelions and see what others are harvesting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rich and Charlie’s Famous Salad

It’s Pot Luck time in the community garden.  The past couple of years I have brought a large bowl of Rich and Charlie’s Salad and will probably do so again this year. This is a great salad, it feeds a crowd, and the left-overs are good even several days later. The recipe comes from an Italian restaurant chain in St. Louis. My brothers acquired the recipe years ago and passed it on to me. It is very simple to make and can be prepared ahead of time.

  • · 1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
  • · 1 head Iceberg lettuce, washed and chopped
  • · 1 can hearts of palm, drained and sliced (optional)
  • · 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • · 1 red onion, diced
  • · 1 4 oz. jar chopped pimientos, drained
  • · 1 pkg. shredded Parmesan
    Layer the romaine, iceberg, red onion, artichokes, hearts of palm, pimiento, and cheese in a large salad bowl. The salad may be covered and refrigerated at this point. When ready to serve, toss with the salad dressing.
  • · ½ c salad oil (Canola or blend of Canola and olive)
  • · 1/3 c red wine vinegar
  • · Salt and pepper
Thoroughly blend the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad and toss.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Got Rodents? Get A Harrier

Harrier hawk in pine tree

The past couple of years we have been fortunate to have a pair of Eastern harrier hawks nesting in our backyard. Why us, I do not know. It can’t be because our neighbor raises homing pigeons and flies them every day. Harriers prefer juicy, furry critters to bony birds. We have had an explosion of squirrels, rabbits and chipmunks. Now with the harrier couple and their three fledglings in the neighborhood, the few chipmunks left seem to neurotically run from bush to bush.

As far as birds go, the harriers have shown an interest in wild turkeys. We apparently also have a nest of turkeys somewhere in the back. One morning a giant ruckus erupted in the trees as a large turkey hen clumsily chased a hawk through the tree tops, sending a shower of pine needles and dead branches raining down out of the trees. The hawk retreated, leaving the angry turkey perched precariously in the tree tops. Who knew they could fly like that? Moral: don’t mess with a turkey hen who has chicks.
Some more photos below. Sorry for the quality of the pictures. They were taken with a compact camera on full optical zoom so they are a little fuzzy.

UMass Extension Vegetable Program

The Agricultural Extension Program at UMass Amherst has a Vegetable Program for growers of vegetables. While the Program is aimed at commercial growers of vegetables and herbs in Massachusetts, their web site has lots of useful information of value to home gardeners throughout New England. For example, they have a page on the halo bean blight that hit my pole beans after TS Irene.

In addition, they have an email newsletter called Vegetable Notes that is well worth subscribing to. It provides an update on disease and insect prevalence in New England and suggests what measures can be taken to protect your garden. The advice is oriented toward commercial growers and is not necessarily suited for organic growers, but is still useful to us home gardeners.

The September 8 newsletter provided a lot of useful information on how to deal with the effects of storms Irene and Lee, which included flooding followed by outbreaks of disease and insect infestations. Certainly in our community garden, we have seen many of the problems described in the newsletter. Fortunately for us, flood water in the garden was only a few inches deep and was clear and not full of mud, but we still got the mildew and rot that followed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Harvest Monday–19 September 2011

I haven’t done much in the garden this week. The tomatoes are about gone, just a few green ones still on the tops of the vines. On Thursday I had a random harvest of tomatoes, a bell pepper, a cucumber, and my last and very woody Icicle radish. I did replant the radishes so hopefully they will enjoy the cooler weather we are now having (night temps in 40s). The salad bed was also re-planted and is coming along, but probably another week or two before I start cutting.

Tomatoes and a radish

I cut the first of the kale for a batch of Portuguese kale soup, most of which was frozen. This variety is Beedy’s Camden, supposed to be similar to but more tender than Winterbor. I did not buy seeds last winter because I usually pick up a 4-pack of plants at a local nursery. This year I could not find Winterbor anywhere and I don’t like the Red Russian which seems to be the fashion now. And then I could not find seeds either without doing mail order. So I bought some plants from a local gardener in town, which turned out to be this variety from Fedco. It is interesting. Grows lower and more spread out than Winterbor. Leaves are not as dark blue-green and curly.

Beedy's Camden kale

The pole beans are now completely dead from the halo blight (see my post) and there were no more unaffected beans on the vines. The bush beans gave me another good picking but probably my last. What was depressing to see was that some of the bush beans now show signs of being affected by the blight. In the picture below, you can see some of the lesions on the bean on the top of the pile. My task this week is to remove and dispose of all the dead bean vegetation and vines on the pole bean trellis. I may also have to pull the bush beans.
Bush beans

To see what others are harvesting, go on over to Daphne's Dandelions

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Emerson Stamp’s Dry Rub Mix

It’s Fall and a guy’s thoughts turn to wood smoke, Oktoberfest beer, and football. One of our favorite events is the Oktoberfest at Nashoba Valley Winery here in Bolton. They have a bluegrass band playing in the gazebo on the lawn, their own microbrews including a pretty good Oktoberfest, and apple wood-smoked pulled pork sandwiches. Match that with a New England Indian summer day and it is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Given the season, I thought I would share my favorite dry rub mix. This recipe is from Emerson Stamp, an old timey barbecue pit master from Alabama (I think, please correct me if I’m wrong). The recipe was originally published in the Boston Globe around 1997-1998. It was popular enough that it has survived on the intertubes as well as in my recipe file. It was my first introduction to the use of dry rubs in barbecue and I have been barbecuing since a boy (the job my dad gave me was to man the squirt gun to douse any flare-ups on the open barbecue grill we used).

I’m not sure where this rub fits in the taxonomy of rubs, if there is such a thing. It’s not Kansas City and it’s not Memphis. It has a lot of allspice, marjoram and cumin which provide a lot of the flavor and fragrance. The paprika mostly adds color. The rub is fairly low in salt and has no sugar, which is fine with me, and I don’t add additional salt when I rub the meat. The heat comes only from the black pepper content, so it is not very hot. I have tried a couple of other rubs but I still prefer this, perhaps just due to habit. I use this rub mostly for pork and beef, but it is OK for chicken as well.

Emerson Stamp Dry Rub Mix
  • · 1 T (15 ml) dried thyme
  • · 1 T (15 ml) dried marjoram
  • · 3 T  (44 ml) ground cumin
  • · 2 T (30 ml) ground allspice
  • · 3 T (44 ml) paprika
  • · 1 T (15 ml) garlic powder
  • · 2 tsp. (10 ml) celery salt
  • · 1 ½ T (22 ml) kosher salt
  • · 1 ½ T (22 ml) freshly ground black pepper
In a bowl, combine all the spices. Stir and store in a jar with tight fitting lid in a cool place out of the light until ready to use. Rub the meat with the dry rub, wrap and refrigerate overnight. Sprinkle with a little more rub before placing on the grill or in the smoker.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Halo Bacterial Bean Blight

Halo Bean Blight

I reported on my discovery of this bean problem in my Harvest Monday post. Unfortunately, I was not able to identify the problem plaguing my pole beans (picture above) using the nifty Visual Diagnostic Aid I posted here. So I turned to “teh google” to find what appears to be my problem: a bacterial bean blight called Halo Bean Blight. I have documented what I found below.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Harvest Monday–12 September 2011

Bush beans

On Monday afternoon, the weather was good and I had a chance to spend some time in the garden picking beans and planting some more fall crops. The beans above are bush beans, both Provider and Jade. Most of these were blanched and frozen.

Blue Lake pole beans

These are the first of the Blue Lake pole beans, I lost a lot of the early beans from some kind of insect or disease. At first I thought that this was possibly insect damage, since the pole beans have been bothered by beetles, but now I am not sure it is insect damage and not disease.

UPDATE: This is apparently a disease called Halo Bacterial Bean Blight. I’ll post more details on what it is and what to do about it on Tuesday.

Halo bean blight on pole beans

Friday, September 9, 2011

Soggy Bottoms

Garden flooded by tropical storm Lee

Before Irene we had a front come in and stall, dropping enough rain to saturate the ground. Then Irene, which fortunately (for us, not so for folks west of us) tracked to the west of us so winds and rainfall were significant but not catastrophic. Now we have the remnants of Lee, which has dropped rain on the area since Tuesday. The garden is once again flooded, worse than after Irene. My beds are sitting in a stream of  running water 4-5 inches deep and I have to wade around in rubber boots to tend to plants and harvest produce.

Wading around in the water, my boots being sucked into the muck, the weather semi-tropical with humidity, I could be trying to garden in the bayou. Stooping down to pick beans, I risked dipping my bum in the water and getting a soggy bottom. Since we had just attended a Serra Hull bluegrass concert, a musical prodigy who played with Alison Krauss at the Grand old Opry when she was just 11, I was reminded of the music from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Soggy Bottom Boys. Meanwhile I kept an eye peeled for any ‘gator who might me lurking around, waiting to ambush me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Square Foot Gardening Symposium

David receiving his SFG Instructor certificate

I attended the  Square Foot Gardening Symposium in Elkridge, Maryland (just south of Baltimore) the end of August. It was a great experience and I met a lot of nice fellow gardeners. The picture above shows me receiving my certificate as a certified Square Foot Gardening teacher from Kim Roman, the local coordinator and instructor, and Tracy Mastergeorge, the SFG office manager.

Baltimore Teachers

Above is the class picture with Kim in the middle and Tracy and her son in front. It was taken on the porch of the residence at Samaritan Women in Baltimore. Fortunately, hurricane Irene held off and the sun came out Friday afternoon so were able to visit and see the gardens. Then it was a race for home on Saturday, trying to stay ahead of the storm.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Harvest Monday–5 September 2011

Since Irene we have had nothing but beautiful weather here in Massachusetts. Tuesday night my wife and I attended a Sara Bareilles concert at the Bank of America Pavilion on the Boston Waterfront. This a great venue, an open air tent on the waterfront. On Thursday, we were back down on the waterfront for a Sierra Hull concert, this time at the Institute of Contemporary Art Plaza. This was a nice break from the garden, which is starting to show that summer is coming to an end. My harvest for the week is below, and you can wander over to Daphne’s Dandelions to see how other gardens are doing.

On Monday, another gorgeous day, I got down to the garden to repair the storm damage and check the harvest. My son and I raised and re-installed the trellises. Off season I am going to change the position of the trellises to relocate them to the opposite sides, between the boxes. Having them along the sides with the wide rows blocks access to the boxes and also is shading neighboring boxes now that the sun is getting lower in the sky.

Wow, my first harvest of Swiss chard in two years. I have the worst luck with it.  Last year I planted three times and had everything eaten in the seedling stage. This year the seedlings survived but didn’t exactly thrive. A couple of plants have been shaded by the parsley, which is growing rampant in the adjacent square. I also pulled three beets. I may add some of the beet greens to the chard. The beets will probably go in a salad.

Chard and beets

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Building My SFG - Part III, Filling Beds with Mel’s Mix

Once the beds are constructed and set in place, it is time to fill them with Mel’s Mix, the perfect synthetic (and organic) soil mix. Three 4x4 foot boxes require 24 cubic feet of Mel’s Mix to fill them (4 x 4 x 0.5 x 3 = 24). This much Mel’s Mix requires one 4 cubic foot bale of compressed peat moss (expands to 8 cubic feet), two 4 cubic foot bags of coarse vermiculite, and eight 1 cubic foot bags of 5 different kinds of compost.

Five types of compost

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Apple Dumplings

Nashoba Valley Winery

It’s apple season here in Bolton and the PYO orchards are getting ready for their big season. The pictures in this post were taken at Nashoba Valley Winery on Wattaquadoc Hill Road in Bolton, Massachusetts, which runs a PYO operation as well as a winery making fruit and grape wines from their own fruit, a microbrewery and a distillery. They also have a gourmet restaurant, J’s, in the farmhouse on the property. This is one of our landmarks, a winery and orchard situated on a hillside with spectacular views. Using agricultural restrictions and assistance from the state and the Bolton Conservation Trust, the town was able to save this beautiful parcel from development.

It’s a crazy life. In August we townies vacation on the Cape or Maine or the mountains of New Hampshire. In September and October, we become a tourist destination. Folks from the Boston metro area come out to Bolton to see foliage and pick apples. Some of the things the orchards offer to tempt the pickers and leaf peepers are apple cider donuts and apple dumplings. The following apple dumpling recipe is not a local recipe, it is actually from the Miss Hulling’s Cafeteria cookbook, a now-defunct cafeteria chain in St. Louis. Although I don’t do sweets or carbs anymore, I have made this recipe many times. With all the butter and sugar, the dumplings are sweet and rich. Half a dumpling serving is about all I could ever handle at one time.

Apple Dumplings

For the syrup: Mix 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a saucepan. Bring to boil and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup butter.

For the pastry: Combine 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons baking powder in a bowl and mix. Cut in 3/4 cup shortening. Add 1/2 cup milk all at once and stir until flour is moistened. Roll out 1/4 inch thick and cut into 6 five-inch squares.

To assemble, place a peeled and cored apple in the center of each square. Fill the core of each apple with 1 teaspoon sugar (I like to use brown sugar) and 1 teaspoon of butter. Pull the corners of the pastry up and seal, moistening the edges with a little milk. Place the apples in a buttered baking dish and pour the syrup over them Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until apples are tender.

Serve warm with cream or a scoop of ice cream.

Apple orchard

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Harvest Monday–29 August 2011 (Goodbye Irene edition)

This post is late, courtesy of tropical storm Irene. Power went out about noon Sunday and was restored about 5 AM Monday, good work by National Grid. Unfortunately, Comcast provides cable here in Bolton and I am still off the air today. Meanwhile, the Verizon landline worked throughout the storm. I don’t think Comcast is going to get my telephone business anytime soon. Then at 4 PM on Monday, National Grid pulled the plug again while I had Live Writer open with this post. Thankfully I had done a Save and didn’t lose anything. Finally at 1:30 on Tuesday we got cable back. So here is the post, and be sure to visit Daphne's Dandelions to see what other gardener's are doing.

On Monday last the harvest was mostly tomatoes. I got a few heirloom tomatoes: two Cherokee Purple (left, below) and two Mr. Stripeys (right).

Cherokee Purple and Mr. Stripey tomatoes

Below is a Mr. Stripey being sliced up for lunch. The flesh is yellow and flecked with just a little pink. The meat is firm and juicy and the seed pockets are very small. This is a superior slicing tomato with excellent taste.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Garden Update - 22 August 2011

Most plants in the  garden is pretty mature now, and some are history. I removed the snap and snow peas, the mesclun and lettuces, and harvested all the baby bok choi. I reseeded the lettuce, mesclun and sugar snaps, and set out some Romaine, chard and bok choi seedlings I started at home. Also put in more Icicle radishes. Given how long they take to germinate, I decided not to try a second planting of beets, given my first planting is still golf ball size or less.

I removed the last floating row cover from the collards/kale bed. The collards were ready for a second harvest and were starting to crowd the kale. The collards looked beautiful (front of the box, lower left) and the row cover kept the cabbage caterpillars off them so there were almost no holes in the leaves. They are a lot more appetizing that way!  The Beedy’s Camden kale (on right, lower right photo) is coming along and I might get a cutting in a week or two. The leaves are thinner and less curled than Winterbor and are supposedly more tender. Each year I make a batch or two of Portuguese kale soup (I use the Victory Garden Cookbook recipe). which uses up some of the tomatoes and kale from the garden. Last year I tried shredding the kale and sautéing it, which turned out great. I think Beedy’s Camden might be even better for that.

South African Green Beans and Peppadew

I recently went looking for Pickapeppa sauce, sort of a Jamaican spicy A-1 sauce. The store didn’t carry it but I discovered they carried a number of South African condiments, including Peri-Peri sauce (a hot sauce made from the African Birdseye pepper and used in the famous Nando’s Peri-Peri chicken) and Peppadew seasoning. I did a little research and found that the Peppadew pepper is a sport discovered in South Africa. The pepper is round and red like a cherry and has a sweet flavor with a slightly hot or piquant bite to it. The Peppadew company grows and bottles these peppers in South Africa under the Peppadew trademark. They try to keep a lock on the market by tightly controlling their growers to make sure seeds do not get out, but there are numerous people on the internet claiming to have seeds for sale. This would be an interesting pepper to grow.

The bottled peppers were not available so I bought a bottle of a dried Peppadew seasoning. The variety I purchased was their Pepper & Cilantro blend, with dried bell pepper, Peppadew, garlic, onion, parsley, lemon zest, and cilantro. The blend also has salt and black pepper so it makes a good seasoning by itself. I have used it on my morning eggs, on tomatoes, chicken salad, grilled fish and chicken breast, wherever I want to add a little different taste. All this got me curious about South African food and I found a recipe I really like, details below.

Peppadew seasoning

Monday, August 22, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Previously I had little knowledge of or interest in heirloom tomatoes. You can’t buy them at the supermarket, and the farm stands around here just have bins with large piles of “native” tomatoes of some unidentified variety. So I had no experience with the variety of colors and shapes and the wonderful flavors of heirloom tomatoes.

Then several years ago on a business trip to San Francisco, I was working a trade show by myself, eight hours a day of standing up without a break. When I got a day off, I treated myself to a trip to the waterfront, visiting Fisherman’s Wharf (really commercialized into a tourist trap now) and Ghirardelli Square. I had dinner at the McCormick and Kuleto’s restaurant in Ghirardelli.

It must have been early or a weekday, because the restaurant was not very busy and I got a great table on the balcony with a terrific view of the harbor. My waitress was quite enthusiastic about one of the specials that night, an heirloom tomato salad. My expense account budget was already going to be blown by this meal, but she convinced me to try the salad. Twelve dollars for four slices of tomato!

Heirloom tomato salad

I am glad I did because the salad was wonderful. I can not remember what else I had for dinner, but I remember those tomatoes, four slices of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes laid on a bed of salad greens and drizzled with truffle oil. What is truffle oil? It is olive oil that has been infused with the essence of white truffles, a rare and expensive fungus found growing underground.

Since then, I have been experimenting with planting various heirloom tomatoes. Varieties I have tried include Brandywine, German Striped, German Pink, Cherokee Purple and Mr. Stripey. And then I found my local supermarket carries truffle oil! So now when I have ripe heirloom slicers on hand, our favorite way to serve them is to slice them and drizzle with truffle oil with a garnish of chopped basil or other herb. The photo shows a slice of Cherokee Purple on top and a Brandywine. No lettuce for garnish but the essence of the dish is there, heirloom tomatoes and truffle oil.

Harvest Monday–22 August 2011

Tomatoes and beans are the story this week. I have been harvesting the tomatoes when they start to show color (or in the case of the Romas, when they drop). The tomatoes rapidly ripen on the kitchen counter anyway and I am hoping the plants will be able to devote their energy to develop the young fruits on the top of the plants before cold weather arrives.

A few heirloom tomatoes below. Upper left is a Cherokee Purple, upper right is a Brandywine. The tomatoes at the bottom are my mystery tomato that came in a 6-pack of Roma tomato plants.

Heirloom tomatoes

Jade beans, a cucumber and Broccoli shoots.

Beans, cuke and broccoli

More Jet Star and Roma tomatoes. The Romas are definitely starting to slump, but the tomatoes are not coloring at the same time, so sauce making may be extended.

Jet Star and Roma tomatoes

Again, more tomatoes and beans, plus another cucumber and a couple of Sunburst patty pan squash. I really like the patty pans. They got a later start than the Zucchini and put out just male flowers for two weeks, but are now setting fruit. The texture is creamy smooth and the flavor sweet and nutty, excellent for eating raw.

Veggie assortment

On Saturday, I removed the floating row cover from the collard/kale bed and cut a large amount of collard leaves. I am going to try freezing the collards after washing and chopping them.


Another large picking of tomatoes, some beans, and another patty pan. You can also see a Poblano pepper in the front. The beans, Poblano, and a tomato went into another batch of stewed green beans, some of which was frozen.

Tomatoes, poblano pepper, and beans

You too can join in the Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Harvest Monday–15 August 2011

This week it was mostly tomatoes and beans. I cut a lot of basil and parsley to make pesto, which I will freeze.

Basil and parsley

A couple of Jet Star tomatoes and my first Sunburst squash, hand-pollinated. The cover is now off the squash and I am taking my chances with whatever squash bugs are left.

Tomatoes, patty pan and broccoli

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Brick Ends Farm Compost

Earlier this summer I was in the produce department of a local Hannaford supermarket and noticed a pile of white sacks with a sign about Hannaford recycling its waste. I got the impression that the sacks of compost were made from Hannaford waste, but I am not sure that’s the case.

Brick Ends Farms compost

The compost was made by Brick Ends Farm, a non-profit organization dedicated to “restoring fertility to worn out farmland, initially through green manure crops and later through heavy application of organic compost.” The compost is made from organic produce and is usually sold in truck load quantities. The bag I purchased was the product of a collaboration between Brick Ends Farm and Kidz b Kidz.

Kidz b Kidz is a Needham-based non-profit organization with the goal to teach children about “empathy and the importance of helping others, and encourage them to find ways to use their artful hands and generous spirits to do good in the world.”  The compost is a project of Kidz b Kidz, using compost donated by Brick Ends Farm, and bagged by developmentally disabled adults from Bass River to give them meaningful employment. The artwork was done by kids at Kidz b Kidz, and the profits are donated to Boston Children’s Hospital. How much more feel-good could you get into one bag? The compost is great and it is packaged in a nice cloth bag with a string tie to re-close it.

Monday, August 8, 2011


This is a good time of year with all the vegetables from the garden. Dinner planning is easy, usually a little grilled meat or fish with a vegetable and a salad, and the grocery bills are significantly less. I usually look for tasty, low-carb recipes that use a lot of vegetables without increasing their volume. I remember spending hours following a Julia Child recipe for ratatouille that turned an eggplant and a couple of zucchini into a huge pot of grey, rubbery stuff that sat in the fridge for a week before I tossed it.

A frittata is sort of an Italian omelet and is especially useful when you have nothing else in the refrigerator for dinner. The Spanish have a similar dish called a tortilla and made with potatoes. It is a staple in tapa bars.You don’t need a recipe for this, I just sort of eyeball it. Of course, the frittata is best served with a large salad from the garden, to use up some of that lettuce and cucumbers. And it’s great left  over, for breakfast or lunch, cold or reheated. My sort-of recipe follows.

Harvest Monday–August 8, 2011

Vegetable harvest

We had rain this weekend so I did not visit the garden on Sunday. I visited this morning just to check on things and came home with with a bag of veggies. A couple of cucumbers, some Cubanelle peppers, a Lady Bell pepper, Sungold cherry tomatoes, a Raven zucchini, a third picking of Jade green beans, and Jet Star tomatoes. Not bad for having no expectations.

I picked a couple of the Jet Stars with catfacing that were starting to color. The larger one weighs 20 ounces, the smaller one 14 ounces.The one at the bottom of the picture was picked semi-green on Friday and is already ripening nicely. With a heavy load of tomatoes on the vines, I usually harvest the first ones to color up and ripen them at home, so the plant can put its energy into the remaining fruit. This year with the bizarre weather, some of the earliest fruit to set was affected by catfacing, caused by cool temperatures resulting in incomplete pollination of the fruit. The later fruits do not have this problem.

I have several pounds of green beans harvested last week in the fridge. I may try to blanch and freeze some of them using my vacuum sealer. In the past, I found the frozen beans to be mushy and watery. I may also try to freeze some stewed beans, larger beans that are simmered with onions, tomatoes and a chili pepper for about an hour. I will post a recipe later, but this is one of my favorites.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Visual Diagnostic Aid

I visit the garden almost daily and one of the first things I do is check all of the plants for signs of problems. This is how you find you have a pest or disease problem before the damage becomes too severe. With experience we learn to recognize many problems, but there is always something new attacking our plants. The trick is to figure out what is causing the problem from the visual clues we get observing the plant.

I learned of a really great visual diagnostic tool from the High Mowing Seeds blog. The tool is the Landscape Problem Solver from the Home and Garden Information Center of the University of Maryland. The site works by starting with a description of the problem, then offers a list of possible causes. Select what you think might be the cause and you get a page with detailed descriptions and photographs with information on how to treat or prevent the problem. The advice includes information on organic and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques.

This was a fortuitous find because I have just noticed a problem with my zucchini. I have my summer squash under floating row cover to hopefully ward off the squash bugs and borers. The downside is I have to check each day for female flowers and hand pollinate them. I have already harvested two zucchini and have two more successfully pollinated. But now I noticed a lot of leaf damage I am not familiar with. I took the photos below so I would have a reference to use when I go research the problem.

Leaf damage on zucchiniLeaf damage on zucchini

The leaves seem to have lots of small yellow/brown spots. Some of the leaves are starting to yellow and wilt. I looked under the leaves and around the raised bed for evidence of some kind of insect pest but found nothing. Using the HGIC website above, it seems like this type of damage is typical of squash bugs, which suck juices from the leaves. I suspect the bugs are capable of crawling under the row cover. I didn’t find bugs or nymphs or eggs under the leaves. Following the site’s advice, I will lay down some trap boards under the plants and check them each morning. Meanwhile. I sprayed the plant with insecticidal soap. And I decided to remove the row cover so I don’t have to hand pollinate. Hopefully it is late enough that the threat from squash pests is diminished.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Community Garden Update

It is now August and the garden plots in the Bolton Community Garden are looking green and healthy, despite the weather, insects and disease we have had to put up with. Below are some pictures of the Garden.

Bolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in AugustBolton Community Garden in August

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Garden Update 31 Jul 2011

We had unsettled weather this week. A lot of cloudiness, some rain, cool evenings, but daytime temperatures in the mid-80s. With the occasional rain and my resolution not to over-water my beds, I haven’t done a lot of watering this week, concentrating mainly on watering transplants and the salad box. All the beds are looking good. The peppers, in particular, are greening up and growing. One of the Poblanos has rocketed up about five inches and the Thai chili, while still petite, has set 4-5 fruit (picture below). The rest of the garden update is below the fold.

Thai pepper

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tomato and Pepper Update 26 Jul 2011

The tomatoes and peppers are looking pretty good. I have been trimming away and disposing of any yellowed or spotted  leaves and spraying with copper once a week. I am trying to prevent wilt disease from hitting the toms, which wiped out most of my heirloom tomatoes last year.
So far the heirlooms look healthy. This year I planted a Mr. Stripey since I couldn't find a German Striped or German Pink. It seems to be climbing straight up without a lot of suckers. Not many fruit yet but it is flowering a lot.

Tomato Mr Stripey

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Building My SFG - Part II, Building the Beds

The next step on my way to Square Foot gardening was to prep the garden plot to ready it for the raised beds. It was a very wet spring and it rained a lot during this preparation work. The soil was saturated and very gummy. I chose not to till the soil. I simply used a hoe, spade and rake to hack away at weeds and to roughly level the plot. Once I had the plot weed free and level, I covered the plot with weed barrier, pinning it down with U-shaped wire staples made for the purpose.

Plot with landscape fabricPlot with landscape fabric

I already had purchased my materials and on rainy days I assembled the 3x6 boxes in the garage. These boxes would fit in my SUV so they were built in the garage and installed in the garden to help anchor down the weed barrier. These boxes needed a little extra consideration, since the material was 5/4 and had channels molded into them. To reinforce the corners and allow material for screws to bite into, I bought composite balusters and cut them into 6 inch pieces. You can see the details below. This method produced sturdy boxes that for a 6 foot length were adequately rigid and did not bow.

Harvest 25 Jul 2011

After the lethal weather of last week (108°F on back porch in the shade), the weather has moderated. We had thunderstorms on Saturday which brought in cooler and cloudier weather. It rained a bit on Sunday and again on Monday, which relieves me of the need to water the raised beds. In fact, the cooler weather has allowed me to transplant some seedlings to replace the Romaine lettuce and the pac choi Shuko which have been harvested, and to add some more Swiss chard (I have terrible luck with chard).

My summer squash are still under floating row cover to ward off the squash bugs and vine borers, but they are starting to produce blossoms. I am reluctant to remove the cover because the squash bugs are now at peak around the community garden, but I have to deal with pollination. On Saturday I tried to hand-pollinate the zucchini by using a piece of jute twine as a swab to transfer pollen from a male flower to my first female flower. Time will tell, but I think I may have succeeded given the dark green color of the fruit, compared to the light green color of the baby fruit to the right below the female flower. Today I used a cotton swab from the pack I am now carrying in my garden basket to hand pollinate two more female zucchini blossoms.

First zucchini

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Garden Update 24 July 2011

On Saturday we had a community garden walk about. Gardeners were invited to show up to walk around and talk about our gardens while looking for weeds and garden pests. We had early morning thunderstorms, so with a short delay of game we started the tour at 9:30. Many of the usual suspects were found: flea beetles, slugs, Japanese beetles, squash bugs and their eggs, and striped cucumber beetles. And lots of weeds. I helped one gardener identify the plants in her “spinach“ bed as actually being common plantain.

The storm watered my beds for me, saving me that trouble. The peppers actually looked a little better after my epiphany that I was probably over-watering them. There is some new, bright green top growth on  the pepper plants, and fruits on the peppers Lady Bell and Cubanelle are developing nicely. I picked more snow peas and four more cucumbers. The bush beans continue to flower but a check shows the beans Provider have small beans that will be ready to pick in a couple of days. The soybeans are starting to flower (see below), with tiny lavender flowers that appear at leaf junctions.


The cherry tomato Sungold has a couple of fruits starting to ripen, so I will be able to taste them soon, my first tomatoes! The salad garden continues to crank out more salad greens than the family can consume. I finally harvested a couple of the pac choi Shuko, which will go into a stir fry this week. Picture is below, complete with some flea beetle damage. At least no cabbage caterpillar or slug damage.

pac choi Shuko
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