Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Plot update: Better Late Than Never edition

First, a news blast that, by the time I publish this, will be old news, but I have just learned that the Sounds of the Garden concert scheduled to take place in the Minton Stable Garden at 6:30 tonight has been canceled due to the weather forecast. It has been rescheduled; once the date is confirmed I'll post it here and, of course, it will appear on the MSG website. It's a shame that the show won't happen tonight; I had missed Lloyd Thayer's performance last year so I was happy to learn that he was scheduled for this season's show and that tonight worked for me. I'm not sure if the new date will.

So, instead I'll blog about the usual. Life in my plot has been moving forward. The black-eyed susans are dominating as they did last year, the echinacea volunteers I inherited last season are proving themselves as an excellent cut flower. My Kentucky wonder pole beans are reaching the top of my trellis (see the rear of the above photo) and a few flowers have already appeared.

But the most encouraging news of my Monday photo shoot was about some plants that are behind schedule, due to the spring weather extending into summer and late sowing. They seem to be coming along nicely and I have decided to remain optimistic about the long-term.First, a few of my tomatoes are now bearing fruit. I have six plants in my MSG plot (I had planted out five, but when I cleared away my spent peas, I discovered another that had self-seeded--based on previous years I suspect cherry tomatoes). Only my two Cherokee Purples have reached this stage, but given the weather we've had and other gardeners' reports of blossom end rot, I have decided to look at the glass as half full.

Next, the sweet basil I planted a month late out of despair because the seeds I planted at home were not thriving are coming up. Unless we get a ridiculously early first frost, I am confident that they will amount to something harvest-worthy.

Finally, it appears that I'll have a small patch of zinnias after all. I should probably clear away some of the invasive California poppies and black-eyed susans and give them some more sunlight and growing room.I spent a little time on Monday weeding, a process made easier because of the effectiveness of the salt hay I had spread around earlier. The strawberries continue to spread into the other areas so I have to remain vigilant. I cleared out some more of them to make way for my new raspberry patch. It's not clear if I'll see any berries this season but based on the fact that the plants that Asa put in last year bore fruit, I wouldn't rule it out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Minton Stable Garden has a new website

Earlier today a notice was sent out to the gardeners: the official Minton Stable Garden website is now up and running. Thanks to the efforts of Roxane, another new Steering Committee member, we can now access an events calendar, plot map, photos submitted by gardeners, general information, a list of relevant links (including one to this blog), and a more thorough history (thanks to documents sent along by a former Steering Committee member). Whether you are a member of the garden or not, it's worth checking out to get a broader perspective of how significant this piece of property has been to the community.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bitter broccoli, besieged beebalm

In my previous post, I was beaming with pride over my broccoli crowns, then expressed my intention to harvest at least my largest this past weekend. Well...once again, there was too much happening, so it wasn't until today that I made it over to the Minton Stable Garden, to find nearly all of it a little past-peak. Not to mention that there was more of it than we'd be able to eat this week. Starting this Sunday, gardeners will have an opportunity to leave surplus veggies in a cooler that will be picked up by a local food pantry the next morning. I think it might be a little too late for my broccoli to participate. I picked most of it today and left one crown still growing, though I think I'll need to harvest that one in the next day or two.

My daughter wanted to try a little of the broccoli. Like she does with all of her veggies, she ate it raw, but she couldn't finish one little floret, because she found it "sour," then later declared it "really bad." I tried it raw, too, and yes, it had a very bitter, strong taste. I felt rather discouraged and regretted that I hadn't picked it sooner. However, I later stir-fried it with some chicken and snowpeas and it tasted alright. Sesame oil to the rescue.

Since we do not have a kitchen scale, we weighed our yield by the not-so-scientific method of having my daughter hold the bag of broccoli while standing on the bathroom scale and subtracting the weight, and then putting it on the scale by itself. Our estimate is that we had about 2 pounds, but since I haven't checked the price of organic broccoli lately, I'll have to postpone my harvest tally.On a different matter, a few days ago I noticed white spots on the leaves of the beebalm in the perennial bed in front of the house. It is most likely a case of powdery mildew, which may have been caused by 1) not quite enough sunlight--they really prefer full sun and these flowers spend their mornings in the shade, 2) too many plants crowded together, and 3) too much moisture from all of the rain. On tomorrow's to-do list: pull out the affected plants and thin out the bed (I did manage to trim back the yew since I took this photo). This video recommends some fungicides, but I'll wait and see if the problem worsens.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Update on my plot

As much as I liked being away, I was eager to check in on my plot in the Minton Stable Garden upon my return, especially now that summer has decided to grace us with its presence. I had been concerned that the tomatoes that I had nurtured from seed (for a change) would fall victim to this year's scourge, late blight. Last week, Kathy, another Boston-based blogger, published a photo of how her tomatoes were affected, and since then has reported that her potatoes are also showing signs of damage. Fortunately, I haven't seen any brown spots or rotted stems on my plants in my MSG plot, though there are a few brown spots on a few leaves of one of my plants growing in containers on my front porch. My most advanced is this Cherokee Purple shown here, which has started to flower but can probably use some pruning.My pride and joy of the week is this broccoli which is forming a head, currently four inches in diameter. Actually, all five plants are at a similar stage but this head is the largest. The tomato stems you see in this photo are courtesy of my next door plot neighbor (Not Asa, but the other abutter, whom I still haven't met). Like last year, we are once again on top of each other in some places, though another gardener and I were speculating that her tomato plant shading out my broccoli may be beneficial in this summer heat. I am not used to having such success with broccoli so I'm a little unsure of when to harvest. I'll probably not be eating at home the next two nights, so no later than this weekend, I think.In other vegetable news, my pole beans have started making their ascent, and I have harvested another half pint of peas, though they are pretty much done producing. To no surprise, my remaining two heads of Romaine lettuce have bolted. The sweet basil I planted from seed a month ago in some boxes along a wall behind my house are failing to germinate, so today I planted a row of seeds in my MSG plot where some my lettuce had grown. Better late than never, I suppose. Despite a freezer at home still clogged with pesto from last year's harvest, a year without basil is unthinkable. I may also buy a flat or two to transplant in some containers at home.

My yield has died down a bit since the strawberry-and-lettuce rush, but I still have a little to report since my last tally two weeks ago. Half of my snap peas developed into snow peas, which were selling for $2.99 a pound at the Harvest Coop this week, less than the $4.59 that the snap peas fetched before my Canada trip. So even though my methods for reporting are not so scientific, I'll try to make some adjustments to preserve some amount of accuracy and integrity.

Previous benefits total: $87.07
3/4 lb. snap peas at $4.59/lb.: $3.44
3/4 lb. snow peas at $2.99/lb.: $2.24

New benefits total: $92.75

Total costs so far: $167.07

Current balance: -$74.32

We'll see what the future brings as far as harvested broccoli, pole beans, and tomatoes. The other gardeners I've run into this week are bracing themselves for blossom end rot and more blight. Why do we put all of this effort into our tomatoes (especially heirloom) when the risks of problems are so high? Anyone who has compared a store-bought tomato to one grown at home or even locally knows the answer.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Missing my garden

I've been away most of the time since last Friday, first to New York City and Norwalk, Connecticut, and now eastern Ontario, to be with relatives and for other reasons. I did squeeze in a brief visit back to the Minton Stable Garden on Monday, where I picked about a pound of peas and another head of lettuce. There has been some communication among Steering Committee members about some of the disorder in the garden, including toys blocking the paths, as well as garbage and other items strewn about. The gravel paths were established when the garden was redesigned around 2004, but these past couple of seasons it seems that the weeds have taken over. I spent most of my hour at the MSG jabbing at the crab grass, dandelions, pigweed, clover and other weeds that have come up between the pebbles with my cultivator, but in many cases I had difficulty pulling out the roots, so I'll be back soon to finish. The committee sent out an email to all the gardeners about keeping the place tidy and reminding them about weeding the sections of path abutting their plots. It's the community gardening equivalent to shoveling the sidewalk in front of one's house after a snowstorm.

I was too busy to take any photos of the MSG, so I'll share a few from the gardens I have encountered in my travels. In the Chelsea section of Manhattan, I had a chance to walk along the High Line, a old elevated freight railway that has been redesigned as a park. An interesting feature is that some of the plants that had been sprouting up on the abandoned rail bed have been incorporated into the new landscaping. It was a little surprising to find intentional plantings of various species of crab grass and something that looked a lot like purple loosestrife, which has been known to wreak havoc on river habitats.Today at Upper Canada Village, an attraction consisting of historic buildings and actors portraying life in the mid-1800s, I envied a few large vegetable gardens, including this very tidy one that could feed a small town.As nice as the weather has been, I'm a little anxious about how my plants in Boston are doing. Allan, one of the MSG gardeners, sent us a link to some information about a tomato blight that has caused some devastation, so I'm eager to check my plants for brown spots on stems or some other signs. However, it appears to have been harming plants bought from big-box stores, so perhaps the heirlooms and other varieties we've started from seed won't be affected.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

See how they've grown

My visit Wednesday to the Minton Stable Garden in the rain turned out to bring more relief than I had expected. We have had another week of weather that varied only in the intensity of the precipitation--rain falling in gentle drops, as a fine mist that rendered umbrellas useless, and steady waves of thunderstorms that seemed like they would never end. If the conditions left humans irritable and depressed, how were the plants responding?I had thought I'd seen the end of the strawberries, but still came away with a handful that were in their prime; a few were even the 2008 size. My tomatoes had also shown signs of growth and my pole beans (above), which I thought I had planted a bit late, were about 6 inches high and undisturbed. Also, my echinacea had begun to bloom.
Of course, I didn't need to be concerned for the plants known to endure day upon day of temperatures that often don't make it past 70 degrees F. As you can see in the photo of the vegetable end of my plot, the remaining heads of lettuce had not bolted, and the broccoli had grown a great deal. Despite the tangled mess my snap peas are in, I still harvested about a half pound.A few days ago at the Harvest Coop I noticed that snap peas were priced at $4.59 a pound (which seemed kind of high, so I wondered if the weather was negatively impacting the overall harvest). In total, from my yard and MSG plot, I have picked about one pound total, so now I'll calculate the value of my harvest for the past week:

Previous benefits total: $75.50
1 pound of snap peas at $4.59/lb.: $4.59
1/2 pint of strawberries at $3.99/pt.: $2.00
2 heads of Romaine lettuce at $2.49/each: $4.98

New benefits total: $87.07

Total costs so far: $167.07

Current balance: $-80.00

The garden has grown so much that it's difficult to see across to the plots on the opposite end. Compare this shot with the beginning of the season in late March, and even these photos from early May.And to end, here's my latest garden envy photo: someone already has raspberries!