Monday, June 23, 2014

Harvest Monday 23 June 2014



Last week I complained of no garlic scapes for poor  me. Then the  Mass Extension newsletter arrived Friday with the news that farmers across Massachusetts were harvesting (or sadly in some cases, composting) garlic scapes. Sure enough, a trip to the garden showed I do have scapes, shown above, which appeared almost overnight. I will be enjoying my scapes and not composting them.


The Mass Extension newsletter had some more advice on garlic culture:

  • Garlic is forming bulbs now and needs adequate moisture, at least equivalent to 1” per week of rain.
  • Likewise, removing competing weeds now is vital to maximizing bulb size.
  • Removing the scapes also helps increase bulb size.
  • It is way too late to fertilize garlic now, after the summer solstice. That should have been done in the spring.
  • Finally, remove any runt, deformed or discolored plants now, since they may be diseased and even if not, they will not be producing useable bulbs. The garlic above is a stunted plant removed from my Viola Francese row, so I will have some green garlic to add to a dish.




So, the garden goes from promise to bounty in a week. Above are, left to right, Green Wave and Dragon's Tongue mustards and Beedy’s Camden kale  These were blanched and frozen.




The Win-Win choi is doing well and I harvested a couple of heads, which will be used in a stir fry. I also pulled more radishes, Zlata and Cherry Belle, some of which were starting to bolt. I also pulled a few Hakurei white turnips which I didn’t photograph. And I have also been picking lettuce which I didn’t photograph.


Of course, just as the garden decides to pick up and needs attention, we are leaving for a week. My son is going to water for me and harvest the garlic scapes. Hopefully it doesn’t get real hot so things can hold until I get back. I have never figured a good time to be away during gardening season.


That is all from Bolton this week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens, visit our host for Harvest Monday, Daphne's Dandelions.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Garden Update 16 June 2014




My first harvest out of the garden this year is radish Zlata. This is a Polish variety and the name means “gold”, although to me it looks tan. The radishes were beautiful, but fairly hot and not as juicy and sweet as the Cherry Belle radishes below, but I would still grow them again.




The next day my garden neighbor with the eagle eye pointed out the Cherry Belle radishes ready for pulling that I had missed. Along with those I cut some mustard greens. The purplish one is Dragon Tongue from Territorial and the green one is my usual Green Wave mustard. While Green Wave is its usual spicy, peppery self, the Dragon Tongue has more complexity and is not quite as assertive/hot. I think this is going to be a good choice. And overall, I’m happy with the relative lack of flea beetle and cabbage root maggot damage this year among the brassicas. The weather may suck, but it sucks for all!




Elsewhere in the garden, the tomato transplants are doing well. Above is Jaune Flamme, grown from seed and already flowering.




Sunkist, above, is an orange slicer developed in New Hampshire. The transplants are doing vey well and showing vigorous growth.




Blue Beech, above, is a paste tomato from Fedco. The seeds originally came from Blue Beech Farm in Vermont and are supposedly adapted to New England summers. The Striped Roman and Gilbertie I grew last year were duds, so I hope this one does better. These transplants were purchased from my neighbor, Jem Mix, and are beautiful.




Some of the radishes are ready to start harvesting. Above are Zlata radishes.




The bed above has Saffron shallots grown from seed. The previous year I tried planting shallots from bulbs, an expensive fiasco since every single bulb rotted over the winter. Seed shallots don’t multiply, producing a single bulb per transplant, but that is better than nothing.




Most of the beds are now planted out. Above are mustards and chard in the middle, with cucumbers along the sides with the trellises. All of these were started indoors because of germination problems last year with the lousy weather. I could have done a better job with the chard and mustard, but I think the cucumber starts done in peat strips were very successful. Now we just need some sun and warmth for the cukes, peppers and tomatoes.




On Friday, I checked on the garden and found the row cover on the bed above ripped open and pushed into the soil. Peering in, I saw something had been digging in the middle of the bed. Standing up, I turned and found myself 4 feet from a large snapping turtle, no doubt looking for a nice place to lay her eggs. I guess I’m flattered that out of all the acreage in the garden, she found my raised bed the perfect spot. I came back with my son, a big garden tub, and a snow shovel. While I was gone, she hoisted her self up into the tomato bed, which is about 10 inches above ground level, and plowed a furrow down that bed. We managed to get her into the tub and hauled her back to the brook. Now to figure out the spot in the garden fencing she got through.


See what other gardeners around the world are doing by visiting our host for Harvest Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Seed Starting Update

I documented the kickoff of my seed starting efforts back in March. The results turned out to be  less than satisfactory. I managed to kill about half the starts, usually because I forgot to water them after coming home from a late night at work.. By replanting I was able to salvage the tomatoes except for Opalka, a paste, which I replaced with purchased plants of Blue Beech. The peppers, given their long germination time, didn’t fare as well, so I planted out without Padron, Jimmy Nardello, sweet Red Cherry, and Tiburon Ancho.


I used 3/4” soil blocks for the tomatoes, intending to put them in 2” soil blocks when they got their first true leaves. The trouble with that size soil block is it has very small mass and quickly dries out if not watched and watered frequently, particularly in the bone dry inside air during a New England winter. They are also annoying with their tendency to fall over and roll around in the tray, scrambling any attempt I make to keep them sorted and identified. The 3/4” blocks are attractive because they are efficient and conserve space on the heat mat. I may try to devise some type of physical barrier to keep them upright and stationary in the trays I use.




The peppers were an experiment. I tried starting seeds in a medium, planning to transplant the germinated seedlings into 1 1/2” soil blocks after they germinated. I used a diatomaceous earth medium called UltraSorb, an automotive product used as an oil absorbent for garage floors. This was placed in a Styrofoam egg carton with holes in the bottom for drainage. The contents of each cell is easily marked on the size with a ball point pen.




This scheme did not work very well, but I am impressed with the UltraSorb. The major problem again is keeping the seeds/seedlings moist. The quantity of UltraSorb in the cells is small and coupled with its great aeration properties, the cells dry out quickly. It would be nice to use the carton lid for a tray to bottom water the cells, but the style of carton I have has the projection you see above to protect the eggs from crushing that interferes with that.


The other problem with the egg carton method and starting 10 types of peppers and eggplant is the wide range of germination times. With one grow light, a lot of space was taken by all the brassicas so there was no room for the heat mat. Once some peppers in the carton started germinating, they had to go under the grow light (without heat), so that extended the germination time for the rest. The big plus from trying this was the amazing, bushy root structures that the seedlings developed in the UltraSorb (which I did not photograph). That’s why I am going to try this again, hopefully with some better techniques to keep the medium from drying out.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


The end of May my son and I did a road trip to South Carolina to visit my daughter in the Clemson area and celebrate my birthday. We did a day trip to Asheville, North Carolina and spent a pleasant day at the Biltmore Estate, admiring both the mansion and the magnificent gardens. Since the estate features a large working farm with an extensive kitchen garden display, I was hoping to tour that. Unfortunately, they decided it was too much work and discontinued it. But they still have an active vineyard, so as retaliation  we spent a pleasant hour plus in the tasting room sampling every single one of their wines, which are very good.




The tour of the mansion did not allow photography inside so I have no pictures. But I do have a picture from the balcony in the back, looking out over the lawns to the distant mountains. What a view! I can just imagine myself in a lounge chair with a mint julep or a sweet tea, enjoying the mountain breezes on a warm summer afternoon.




After touring the mansion, we walked around the gardens. Frederick Law Olmsted  was the landscape architect and he designed a magnificent setting for the mansion. The conservatory was the focus of many of the gardens.




Orchids were prominently displayed around the mansion and the greenhouses of the conservatory had many examples.






Next we toured the extensive grounds, walking through the walled (or Italian) garden.




Some of the water lilies and koi in the garden pools.




Next we walked up the hill to the gazebo sheltering the statue of Diana, the goddess of the hunt.




The picture is somewhat ruined by the large tent in the background. Understandable, since this is a popular spot for weddings. Just imagine your wedding under the gazebo with this for a view.




What a great day. We went back to Asheville and had dinner at the Lexington Avenue Brewery. Asheville is a hotbed of craft brewing and has spawned dozens of local breweries and brew pubs. Sierra Nevada has built a brewery in the area and New Belgium is building there as well. We got great seats right in the window where we could view the street scene while enjoying a couple of locally brewed frosties and some good food. 


On Saturday afternoon we went to Greenville, SC for my birthday dinner. We spent a pleasant day on the Reedy river walk and found a nice place for cocktails. Then we staggered over to Soby’s for a delicious dinner. I did not get much gardening done that week but I had a great time.

The Garden Is In!

I have not been posting lately but at least I have been gardening. It was a tough winter and a tough tax year (I worked 800 hours in 3 months), so I was kind of burned out. A cold, fairly wet spring with a lot of gray, overcast days did not help. Helping me along is the fact I’m now the coordinator for the Bolton Community Garden. Even if I wanted to ignore my own garden, I have to make sure everyone else gets off to a good start this year.




My seed starting efforts this year produced mixed results. I killed half my pepper starts, so that means no Jimmy Nardello, Padron, Tiburon Ancho, or sweet Red Cherry peppers this year. Those are plants I can’t find locally, which is why I start my own. At least the Shisito survived, which I was hoping to compare to the Padron, so that’s good. I found some Ancho Poblano starts which should be a good substitute for the Tiburon Ancho, But the Jimmy Nardello is a real loss. This is a great pepper and I can’t understand why it is not more widely grown around here.


For the tomatoes, I salvaged most but killed the Opalka starts. I reseeded them and they didn’t germinate! For Opalka I was able to substitute Blue Beech, an heirloom paste tomato from Vermont which I hope will be a more than adequate substitute. Here are my modified planting lists for peppers and tomatoes (and they are all now in the ground except for Trinidad), and the Blue Beech already has flower buds.



  • Aconcagua (Cubanelle type Argentine heirloom)
  • Carmen
  • Shisito
  • Lipstick
  • Jalapeno
  • Ancho Poblano
  • Revolution (bell)
  • Trinidad (spice pepper, Habanero-type without the heat)



  • Esterina (yellow cherry)
  • Jaune Flamme
  • Juliet
  • Chocolate Pear
  • Big Beef
  • Sunkist (yellow slicer from NH)
  • Blue Beech (paste from VT)




The garden is now almost completely planted, save for the cucumbers, which go in those unplanted squares. Since I had such germination problems with direct sown cukes last year, I have started them indoors in peat strips. Those will be planted this weekend, when the rain stops and warm weather returns. It is 61°F/16°C now, so I hope the bean seeds don’t rot until warmer weather returns tomorrow. It doesn’t look like much but I am equal to or ahead of other plots in the community garden. The raised beds are a big advantage, particularly in these weather conditions.

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