Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday harvest post - last tomatoes

It's Monday again, time for another report about the past week's harvest. You can also check out the yields of other garden bloggers who have added their links to the bottom of Daphne's post. It seems that as I write this, there are only a few of us diehards participating this week. Hopefully, for the sake of the other gardeners, it's because they are simply too busy and not because they have nothing to report.In my case, I think I'll be counting the number of upcoming harvest posts on one hand. On Saturday, I picked what I believe to be my last standard-size tomato, from one of my front-porch containers. As you can see by the photo below, calling it standard in size is a bit of a stretch. The others, in the first photo, came out of my Minton Stable Garden plot, and as usual, I'm showing their unblighted sides. You may also notice that I'm getting a few snap peas from my fall plants that have only grown about 8 inches high. I probably have a few more but I have been so unimpressed that when I visited the MSG today, I had forgotten to check.The best news of the past week is the arrival of more raspberries on my new plants; I may actually accumulate enough to fill one of those small containers. I'll do another not-so-scientific estimate of their value after I pick a few more. I found out that organic broccoli was going for $2 a pound at the farmer's market, and since I don't have any idea how much I have picked in weight since I last included them in my tally, I'll postpone my estimate another week until I weigh and buy some and use that information to make another estimate. No science fair awards for me!So, just tomatoes and pole beans in my tally this week:

Previous benefits total: $127.05
1/4 pound (estimated) of green beans at $0.99/lb.: $0.25
1 1/2 pounds (estimated) of organically grown tomatoes at $3/lb.: $4.50
New benefits total: $131.80

Current costs total: $171.57
New balance: -$39.77

As I have said before, I am tallying my harvest out of curiosity and do not pursue gardening to save money on food expenses. But I can still look on the bright side: I haven't spent any money on the vegetable garden in weeks.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wildflowers in the rain

Today I fulfilled one of my duties as a Minton Stable Garden Steering Committee member by supervising a work day. I don't know if the term "supervise" accurately described my role. It was more like I was Queen Elizabeth, Terry (or Allan or Kim) was the prime minister and the other 8 workers trying to get their hours in were a very effective House of Parliament. The objective today: advance work on the wildflower/habitat area that was begun last month on the MSG grounds.Terry and Asa, who are also on the Steering Committee, are the coordinators of this project. Prior to today, they had convened a planning meeting and held a work day a week ago to break ground of the two roundish plots. One had been completely dug up while the other was covered in newspaper and compost to kill off the grass and prevent weeds from returning. Today, Allan and Kim provided most of the native perennials and could identify them and recommend optimal places for them to be planted.Shortly before work began, around noon, I met with Terry to review what needed to be done and put out the signup sheet. After a morning of checking the weather forecast (100% chance of rain!) and trying to determine whether or not to continue plans for the work day, we stood on the grass with a light rain falling, figuring if no one appeared, we'd postpone it a week. But there was no guarantee that next Saturday's weather would be more conducive to planting, and there were a few gardeners out there who really needed their work hours (4 each season is the requirement). Sure enough, a few minutes later, they came, gloves in hand, ready to work. And this is really the best time of year to divide and plant perennials, and the people who were passionate about this project were eager to get them in.The variety of natives included milkweed, beebalm, lobelia, aster, purple coneflower, and even blueberries. Anyone in the area interested in more detail could stop by and read the little markers that a worker diligently provided for each. Asa stopped by later in the session and was quite impressed; given the weather and projections of low turnout, she thought there'd be about a half dozen plants in the ground. But we had the plots pretty much covered, leaving one small area open for new inspiration.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday harvest post - vegetable medley for one

This is going to be one of the shortest harvest posts of the season. We are dealing with illness at home and I'm ready to pass out from fatigue. But everything will turn out okay. Plus, I still have a harvest to report, with a new addition--one of the raspberry plants that had self-seeded from one of Asa's in the next plot is now bearing fruit. Just a few berries, but it's a start.The first thing I did upon arrival at my MSG plot last Tuesday was dispose of around ten blighted tomatoes, including these two that had degenerated into ooze when I handled them with some old newspaper. One of the other gardeners had read somewhere that a cold winter would kill off any remaining blighted plant matter, but I'd like to investigate that more.I felt like I had hit the jackpot when I discovered two blight-free tomatoes, including one that had fallen to the ground. And I continue to harvest a few pole beans, broccoli side shoots, and cherry tomatoes, though only enough for a vegetable medley for one. The term "vegetable medley" reminds me of airline meals; my serving wasn't much larger.Back in the garden on Thursday, I had a similar yield. One of my broccoli plants is growing a new head, though it will probably be a third of the size of the original. Using a camera to document, I plan to hold off on estimating the value of my broccoli and raspberries until I get some more. But I will continue with tomatoes and beans, using the same prices from my last tally.Previous benefits total: $123.72
1/3 pound (estimated) of green beans at $0.99/lb.: $0.33
1 pound of organically grown tomatoes at $3/lb.: $3.00
New benefits total: $127.05

Current costs total: $171.57
New balance: - $44.52

It's been hard to believe given the last week or so of really pleasant, seasonable weather that I wouldn't have a tomato harvest that would put me in the black. Sigh...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Barbecue and blogging milestone

The skies cleared up enough yesterday that the MSG/SNA barbecue could go on as scheduled. The event was attended not only by gardeners but members of the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association; many people were affiliated with both. When my daughter and I arrived at 6:00 my priority was nourishment. Until my plate was filled with corn, potato, and pasta salads along with a burger off the grill I could not go about the business with catching up with some of my fellow gardeners, including a few I hadn't seen since the barbecue we had in June because many of us have such different schedules. We all had different reports about our vacations, the start of school, and creative projects, but when it came to gardening everyone complained about their tomatoes.As usual, I forgot to take photos until dark, which seemed to arrive too early. As I took out my camera drops from a brief light shower fell on my display, so it went back into my pocket until the main performance by Brian, who had been providing nice background music the whole time, and Joe, who added special lyrics to "The Garden Song." Some of his parody described the realities of gardening, from slugs eating the harvest and emergency runs to the A&P, but I was particularly amused by his lines about being a Steering Committee member that were inspired by his partner's complaints, I mean reports of her activities. Unfortunately, I don't have a decent photo that includes Curtis, who performed the essential task of holding up the sheet of lyrics.

My daughter's best friend in the garden was unavailable and it was too dark to read, so she amused herself with my camera. Her candids of people having a good time came out much better than mine, although the flash was blinding.

And so I've come to the end of this, my 100th post. After all of my dismal reports of rotted tomatoes and rained-out weekends, I found it a happy coincidence to have something positive to cover. I know that a few of my readers have passed this milestone already, given the length and frequency of their blogging, but I'm feeling rather pleased with this accomplishment. There were times in the past fifteen months that I wanted to quit, due to lack of topics, lack of comments, lack of desire to write about lackluster results, and lack of gardening activity in the off-season. But then I look back on how the act of blogging has forced me to get off my butt to really notice the progress of my gardens and learn more about improving my practices and it all seems worthwhile. I don't know if I have another 100 posts in my future, but I appreciate the attention, the comments, and the camaraderie among other gardening bloggers. Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Early/Late Benefits of Gardening update

Another rainy Saturday in Boston. The potluck barbecue that the Minton Stable Garden and Stonybrook Neighborhood Association were planning to hold today has been postponed until tomorrow. The JP World's Fair, which was supposed to happen rain or shine, ended up being canceled. So here I am at home hosting a playdate indoors, seems like a good time to get caught up on the blog. Since Monday's post will probably cover the barbecue, I'll break from tradition and tally my harvest today, so this post in one way is early. However, since I had no update last Monday of money saved this post is late.

My harvest seems to be winding down. The cooler temperatures of fall are already here, yet my vegetables still need summer to progress. As a result, many of my pole beans seem to be stuck in an infant state, tomatoes are ripening more slowly, and broccoli side-shoot production is down from last week. My fall snap peas are around 8 inches high and already flowering (actually, that may be due to the warmer temperatures of late August/early September). Temps should be returning to the 70s starting tomorrow, so I haven't lost hope.Earlier this past week one of the neighbors had spotted and reported a garden thief who was helping herself to whatever produce she could grab. When I visited the garden the next day, I couldn't find any tomatoes in my plot ripe enough to harvest, but I doubt the thief was attracted to my plot as there are many redder and more reachable fruits in other plots. On Friday, I found one of these tomatoes in the above photo (excuse the silliness) on the ground, and the other had some rot on the other side. Because the plants had been healthy for most of the summer, I had ruled out late blight, but now I'm starting to notice that the rotted sections on the fruit that look more and more like this fungus. Since I haven't had this problem in other years and the epidemic is so widespread, I now suspect that tomatoes have fallen victim to it as well.

As for tallying the value of last week's and this week's harvest, I took a blighted tomato out of the equation, and the amount of broccoli and cherry tomatoes is negligible. The price of organically-grown tomatoes has come down a little, but green beans remain constant at 99 cents a pound, though in one place they were $1.59.

Previous benefits total: $110.73
1 pound (estimated) of green beans at $0.99/lb.: $0.99
4 pounds (estimated) of tomatoes at $3/lb.: $12.00
New benefits total: $123.72

Current costs total: $171.57
New balance: -$47.85

With less harvesting to do, I have more time to deadhead, as you see below. Fewer flowers hanging over the path, and a little space for the zinnias, which are finally blooming.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Plot update and Monday harvest tally

I'm tired; it's been a busy day and I spent part of it here. Also, rode over to the MSG on my bike to harvest and post flyers for our upcoming potluck barbecue. I have just imported dozens of photos from the past week's events and and will pick out the ones that document the yield of the past week.There is not much new to report. Over at the MSG, gardeners have heeded our call to check in on their plots and weed the adjacent paths, so things look much neater. I had finally amassed enough tomatoes to whip up my first batch of salsa. And the green beans keep coming, and I keep steaming them, oven-roasting them, and donating them to the food pantry. As you can see above, I harvested my first Cosmonaut Volkov tomato last Wednesday and I'm still picking a few Cherokee purples.

On Friday, I took some plot photos, including the one at top featuring mostly perennials, and picked more tomatoes, though with my labeled sticks hard to find, I'm not sure if they are Cosmonaut Volkov or Rose de Berne; though the color is similar I think the former is rounder and plumper. In this photo of the vegetable side, you can see that my fall peas are starting to climb, though today I noticed them already flowering so I'm a little concerned.In another plot across the path, a few bees were keeping busy.I couldn't make it over to the plot Saturday, but harvested a tomato growing in one of the containers at home, and today, I returned to the MSG to find a few broccoli sideshoots in addition to the usual.I have my harvest documented now, but I'm unclear about the cost of the tomatoes, so I'm going to poop out and prepare the estimated value for a future post. But first, something odd (at least to me)--a three-headed daisy.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The rebuilding of a garden

Is it a condo development? A new playground? No, it's our garden, being rebuilt from the soil up, captured on film in 2004 by Terry McAweeney. She posted the slideshow on YouTube a few days ago and revised it today with a short summary. Having moved out of Jamaica Plain a few years before and unable to garden on the property, I had stayed away for most of reconstruction, so many of these images are almost as new to me as they are to anyone who has moved into the Stonybrook neighborhood during the past five years. With the exception of the few workers who posed, I recognize most of the faces, which include former and present Steering Committee members and neighbors. As you can see in the slideshow, the community was involved even at that stage, digging up concrete from the driveway and foundation of the old Minton Stable, and spreading wood chips for the first paths of the new design. Looking at all the green today, it's hard to imagine the work that was put into laying down the foundation.