Sunday, February 28, 2010


As you can see, I have been a bit of a slacker when it comes to updating the blog. The main reason for this has been a fortunate one--I have been moving forward in my fledgling career as a freelance writer. After spending a good chunk of my day facing a screen, on those projects and commitments as well as my fiction, it has been difficult to bring myself to do even more writing. Another reason is common among many garden bloggers: this is still the off-season. One can't simply upload a few photos and say, "Look, my organic Canton Dwarf bok choy is germinating!" Some folks can garden all year round; I don't seem to be one of them (see #7 below). Engaging topics can be as scarce as available plots in the Minton Stable Garden (the waiting list is now up to 40).

So I have decided to employ a strategy to help break my writer's block: lists. Make a list of something, anything, and maybe an idea will come from it. For example, in the northeast this is the time of year for waiting. Many gardeners are waiting for their seeds to arrive. Mine did yesterday, but now I have to wait for the right time to plant them. Here are some other things I'm waiting for, not necessarily impatiently, but waiting nonetheless.

1. Spring, obviously. Unlike the rest of the country and even other parts of Massachusetts we are just having a dull, wet winter. The rain has washed away the snow from this untouched garden path I photographed earlier this month.2. The Minton Stable Community Garden annual meeting, which will take place on March 29. Looking forward to catching up with some members I haven't seen since the fall, though a little nervous about co-running a large gathering. Right now I'm committed to giving a treasurer's report and collecting and recording many dues checks in a short period. And then there are the other questions: will we get through the agenda on time? What will spark controversy? Could be... anticipated proposal to keep bees in the community garden. One of the gardeners along with an experienced bee keeper would like to establish a few hives on the property. The Steering Committee likes the idea and there are already a handful of interested volunteers, but the membership must approve it, a plan to fund it needs to be in place, and there has to be an agreement on its location. Stay tuned...
4. What will happen with the Rose Kennedy Greenway Gardens. I had learned back in January that the Greenway Conservancy, which has been granted control over the development of the parcels where the gardens are located, was considering removing them. Now, it seems that the Conservancy wants some gardens as well, but has reported on issues related to poor drainage and other problems with the existing gardens (which had been planted two years ago by volunteer master gardeners), and is trying to justify making significant changes that include building a pavilion. Save the Greenway Gardens and others are keeping an eye on these developments; for their reaction to the Conservancy's findings and information about upcoming community meetings check out their site.
5. Boston Natural Areas Network's Gardener's Gathering, which will take place March 20 at Northeastern University. Workshops, prizes, other freebies, and an opportunity to fill the room when the Mayor makes his annual appearance (so green spaces and community gardens stay on his radar).
6. My Olympia spinach and State Fair Mix zinnia seeds, on backorder from Fedco. I'm not too concerned about the zinnias but the spinach needs to be sown in late March.
7. My indoor herbs to thrive. Right now I'm down to one spindly coriander and and four starter pots of stunted basil seedlings. I think I can keep the basil but I'm not sure whether I should transplant them, change the distance of the grow lights, add fertilizer, or just move them to a sunny window.
8. The next installment of Daphne's Get Growing series. She and another blogger have been publishing these thorough how-to posts that cover basics from seed starting to composting. The series has been informative; I'm not sure if Daphne and Robin get paid for writing the posts but they should. They appear the first of each month, so I won't have to wait long for the next one.

This list-making won't prevent me from becoming a weekly (or even monthly) blogger, but the exercise has been useful for generating or reminding myself of some topics for future posts.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Things learned while ordering seeds

I am finally getting around to ordering seeds, once again, through Fedco. I'm aware of the existence of other reputable companies, but have decided to stick with Fedco because of 1) convenience--this was the only catalog I have received and I have been too busy to explore alternatives, 2) success I've had with most of the varieties I've purchased, and 3) their cool catalog, minimalist in style with its black-and-white newsprint, but full of commentary and interesting factoids. Yesterday, while anticipating the Boston snowstorm that wasn't, I tore out the form and began painstakingly transcribing the correct codes for my upcoming crops. I ended up with a few of last year's successes, a few that have worked well for other gardeners in the area, and other vegetables/herbs and varieties I haven't yet grown. I'm still compiling my list, but for this post I thought I'd share some information, new to me.

Black Prince Tomato: Fedco had not offered this variety for thirteen years because when it was first sold, the company "could not find a market for it." Now Google "black prince tomato" and most of the links up front are from other seed merchants, probably due to the popularity of heirlooms nowadays, and for the variety's rich flavor. According to one online source, this Siberian tomato originated in Irkutsk, Russia, and is known for its health benefits due to its abundance of the antioxidant lypocene. Though other reports indicate that the plant has grown successfully in western and southern regions of the US, I'm going to give the Black Prince a chance here in New England. Since it also grows well in cold climates in Russia, maybe if I try growing it, Murphy's Law will take effect and we'll end up having a warmer summer.Catnip: The fact that our cat (above, one of my daughter's many photos) goes crazy for catnip is enough reason to order it, but the Fedco catalog states that this herb can calm mild stomach disorders, aid sleep, and lower fevers if added to tea. Rats hate it, and crushing and rubbing it on the skin can repel mosquitoes better than DEET (according to an Iowa State University study).

Sugar Ann Snap Pea: I had mixed results growing it last season but it could have been worse. Fedco's crop was blown away by a hurricane. As a result, it's not available in 2010, so I'm ordering Cascadia instead.