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Dear Friend and Gardener – July 17, 2014

New bean rows

New bean rows

Dear Friend and Gardener: Where do I begin? With these new bean rows that I put in early this morning? Contender bush beans that promise to be ready for harvest in 50 days, on August 31?  We’ll see.  But, they should be bearing well before frost. The rest of this bed separated by a pile of mulch, and two hills of Lakota squash which are coming along very slowly. We have had fairly good rainfall, but we have not yet had many hot days.

Milkweed and peas

Milkweed and peas

Or I  could begin today’s story with this milkweed row – er – I mean sugar snap pea row – er – I don’t know what row. Here is the question. Do I  give up the pea harvest in the hopes of welcoming hungry monarchs?  We used to have clouds of monarchs in August feeding on a mint field. They do like mint a lot. But of course, they need the milk weed for their caterpillar babies.  We rarely see monarchs any more, but there seem to be lots of other butterflies that like milkweed so it stays. I may get a few peas. What would you do?

Summer squash

Summer squash

This squash hill is doing better than Lakota. I can’t actually remember if this is the zucchini or crookneck yellow squash. The other hill is not doing well either. I really do think we need more heat.  This squash is planted at the end of a bed of cippolini onions. They are doing fine.

Garlic and lettuce

Garlic and lettuce

The garlic has done well and should be ready for harvest soon. I did cut off all the scapes, cut them into tiny pieces, put them on a cookie sheet and froze them for an hour before putting them into freezer bags. I can use these in cooking in lieu of a chopped up garlic clove. Using the scapes this way doubles the garlic harvest.  On the other side of the row is lettuce and self seeded cilantro. I pulled out the last of a patch of spinach this morning.

tomato plant

tomato plant

On May 20 I planted four substantial tomato plants that I bought at Andrews Greenhouse in Amherst. I think this one is Mortgage Lifter, an heirloom. All of them are looking good.

Grafted Jung tomato

Grafted Jung tomato

This is a grafted tomato sent to me by Jung seeds. It looked nearly dead when it arrived. It has perked up substantially, but it doesn’t look very enthusiastic. It is growing in the same bed as two of the other tomatoes so there is no difference in the soil and the garden is in  the sun from 10:30 am on.

Grafted pepper from Jung

Grafted pepper from Jung

Jung also sent a grafted pepper to test. It looks much happier than the tomato and they are growing side by side.

Red raspberries

Red raspberries

Of course, there is more to the edible garden than veggies.  Red raspberries are just starting to ripen. I got these from Nourse Farms, an excellent local nursery.

Blueberry bushes

Blueberry bushes

The blueberries will be ready to start harvesting by the first of August.  Blueberries and raspberries are the easiest and most delicious crops to grow.

We have been eating our own lettuce for the past month, and spinach, too. It turned out I really didn’t know how to handle rapini, so most of that early crop went into the compost bin. I do get to use our own fresh herbs – chives, sage, basil, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, tarragon, oregano and thyme, all of which can be harvested now and into the fall. If you are a cook, you really can save a lot of money by planting an herb garden for using fresh, or drying yourself. Many herbs are perennial, but even if you buy a six pack of basil you’ll have enough for the summer and to freeze for little more than the price of one bunch at the store. One gardener told me she chooses which crops to plant depending on how expensive it is to buy. Berries are expensive, so are bunches of herbs, or garlic. Something to keep in mind.

Except for the herbs and lettuce, I haven’t been harvesting much so far, but broccoli, cauliflower, pole beans and those squash plants are slowly coming along.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts

Do you think I allowed enough space between my Brussels sprouts? They are growing in a specially fertilized bed – lots of compost – after last year’s failure.

How is your vegetable garden coming?

I want to thank Dee Nash for hosting Dear Friend and Gardener, a wonderful virtual garden club where we can share our tips, triumphs, and those less than triumphant moments.

Spring at Last in the Vegetable Garden

Ready for planting

Ready for planting in  the vegetable garden

Dear Friend and Gardener: Even  though I have planted seeds in the vegetable  garden, and a few seedlings that I started in the guestroom a few weeks ago, I can never resist  buying a few starts at the garden center.  I can never have enough parsley in the summer, and I don’t need very much chard, and I just want a headstart on the tender basil – so purchased starts are needed. Tomorrow should be perfect planting weather with clouds and showers predicted.  I also bought ‘Evolution’ an annual blue salvia, my traditional edging around the Shed Bed which holds the roses Belle Amour, Mary Rose, Leda, and Mrs. Doreen Pike. The rose are very slowly coming out of hibernation so it is too early to tell how much winter kill there has been.

Early garden for vegetables in  front of the house.

Early garden for vegetables in front of the house.

I did plant seeds (and forgot to note the date – Earth Day?) which  are starting to come up in the bed closest to the house – Early Rapini, Purple Top White Globe turnips, Patty’s Choice lettuce and Ruby and Emerald Duet lettuce – all from Renee’s Garden. I can see tiny plants coming up in rows so the variable weather did not deter these cool season crops.  I also planted a few cippolini onions from Dixondale Farms. The main vegetable garden  and onion beds are down in the Potager. A neighbor  is running a kind of one man coop and he puts together  a bulk order of various kinds of onions and leeks.   On Saturday I planted more seeds – DiCicco broccoli, Bloomsdale Spinach and more lettuces, again from Renee, in the more southern bed.  Those planting take me beyond the crest of the bank where a collection of daylilies is planted. I’ll plant Renee’s Garden Vanilla Berry nasturtiums as the transition between vegetables and daylilies. Nasturtiums act as a really good groundcover, keeping down the weeds, and lots of biomass in the fall to put in the compost pile. In addition, I can eat  the flowers, leaves and seeds.

Pansy studded salad

Pansy studded salad

Then in the summer my salads might resemble this one. Today was the day we priced the  1000 perennials that will be sold on Saturday at the Bridge of Flowers Annual Plant Sale. Lynda Leitner who has been giving the plants tender loving care and watering over the past month put our little subcommittee in a good mood with a beautiful lunch that included this charming salad.

This is my first post as a new member of Dear Friend  and Gardener,  the virtual edible garden club started by Dee Nash, Carol Michel and Mary Ann Newcomer. I have had a vegetable garden for many years, but I am planning to learn a lot from the other members!

Earth Day – April 22, 2014

 

Sarah Hollister's potatoes

Sarah Hollister’s potatoes

How can we celebrate Earth Day every day? We can grow a garden. Forget the lawn; grow veggies and herbs and berries, trees and flowers. Gardens, ornamental and edible can feed lots of pollinators and other bugs that need different kinds of foliage to nibble on, so that they can be eaten by birds and other wild creatures. Plants are pretty low on the food chain so that makes them especially important.

Edible plants feed us healthy veggies that didn’t put migrant workers at risk, and don’t cost gallons of gas to make their way to us.

You don’t even need a yard to grow plants. Container gardening is all the rage. Lots of vegetable varieties are now made especially for containers. Renee’s Garden is just one company that offers a long list of veggies and herbs that will thrive in containers.

Sarah Hollister's cucumber trellis

Sarah Hollister’s cucumber trellis

Greenfield has its new Sustainable Master Plan and one of its goals is to encourage more home gardening. If you haven’t gardened before start small. What do you like to eat? Fresh mixed green salads, with vine ripened tomatoes? Plant a little salad garden.

Are you always buying bunches of parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme? Plant a small herb bed and save lots of money over the summer and fall.  Add a few shallots and save even more money.

The library has a wide assortment of books for the novice garden for some armchair how-to instruction. Rodale has a great list of practical gardening books from Lasagna Gardening: A new layering system for bountiful gardens, no digging, no tilling, no weeding by Patricia Lanza; Michelle Owen’s Grow the Good Life: Why a vegetable garden will make you healthy, wealthy and wise; and Rodale’ Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening which will be useful as long as you live.

Get out and play in the dirt. The whole family can have a good time.

Sarah Hollister's blueberries

Sarah Hollister’s blueberries

These photos and many more were taken at the Hollister place last summer. My garden is not so neat, but it is still a lot of fun. I am  going to have to make sure to get some photos of container gardens before next Earth Day.

Greenfield Community Farm on Blog Action Day

Greenfield Community Farm – New Shed

Accessible healthy food is a basic human right. The Greenfield Community Farm helps insure this right to the Greenfield Community.

The Greenfield Community Farm out on Glenbrook Road is actually comprised of four gardens. First, there is a production market garden, operated by grant-funded David Paysnick and his assistant Daniel Berry, that grows produce for sale through the Just Roots CSA, at the Farmers Market, and Green Fields Coop. This garden includes a greenhouse where seeds are started in the spring, and a high-tunnel greenhouse that extends the season for tomatoes, and exotic crops like ginger. Extra vegetable starts, and seeds, are given to the Food for All Garden.

The market garden makes use of interns, from high school and college students to older people who sign up for a season. There are spring chores including working in the greenhouse and soil prep, summer chores including weeding, succession planting, and preparing produce for sale, and fall chores include marketing, farm upkeep, and mentoring a younger person. A full description of these internships is on the justroots.org website.

A second garden, unpoetically named The Education Site, is a currently colorful demonstration garden created by students, parents and educators where students from 8-18 can engage in meaningful and creative work on the land.

Community Garden

Shelly Beck

Shelly Beck, Community Garden Coordinator, oversees the final two gardens. These are the community garden plots tended by their gardeners, and the Food For All Garden that grows produce for the Stone Soup Café and the Center for Self Reliance food pantry. I visited with Beck to see how the first growing season and harvest went.

“Pretty well!” she said with joyful enthusiasm. I could see that the better part of the harvest had been gathered in, but cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale were still growing as were a few squash plants. Bright nasturtiums and marigolds bloomed here and there. Even hard core vegetable gardeners can’t resist a few brilliant flowers. It looked like a productive season to me.

The 50 community garden plots come in two sizes, 20×20 feet, and 20×10 feet. These plots were cultivated by experienced gardeners, novices, people who were interested in vegetables, some who only wanted flowers, and some who were particularly passionate about herbs. A Daisy troop took possession of one plot and inmates from the Kimball House, the Franklin County Jail’s Re-entry program cultivated another.

Volunteers built a handsome garden shed to hold tools (they can use more tools and wheelbarrows), and there is a drilled well to supply that all important garden element – water. Soil amendments are also available for plot holders. For those with the need there are also high raised beds to plant. More raised beds are in the planning.

Raised bed

Food For All Garden

“The Food for All plot has really been my plot this year,” Beck said, “but I’ve had lots of volunteers helping. Kimball House guys spend two mornings a week here, and community groups call and come. We even had a ‘weed-dating’ session!”

For those who are not part of the dating scene, speed-dating is an event where attendees spend a very few minutes talking to each other, exchanging cards, and then moving on to the next. “It’s more fun to chat over the weeds,” Beck said. “We’ll probably do it again, and we’d like more men to come.”

Beck had to explain to me that the Stone Soup Café is the pay-what-you-can café that is held every Saturday at noon at All Soul’s Church. Volunteers cook and serve up a great delicious and nutritious lunch. Those who can leave a donation. Even those who cannot attend, can send a donation to help cover costs.

Beck has taken an interesting road to bring her to the Greenfield Community Farm. She grew up in Massachusetts, but it was at Evergreen College in Washington State that she began taking eco-agricultural courses. “Evergreen immersed me in the world of growing things and sustainability. I never dreamed that organic would one day be so much of our culture so that you can buy organic produce at the Stop and Shop.”

In 1996 she moved back to Massachusetts and found a real home in Greenfield. She was a single mother with a child but she found housing at Leyden Woods where she started her first community garden. She began working Green Fields Market and said she really felt the community taking care of her.  She worked as a science teacher at the middle school, and  at Enterprise Farm. “It was a great place to see what farmers are doing on a big scale.” While she was there she helped put together the Mobile Market that brought fresh produce food deserts from Somerville to Northampton, senior centers, a YMCA and housing projects.

Nowadays, Beck’s day job is as Pantry coordinator at the Amherst Survival Center which offers free health care, and a free store in addition to a free lunch and regular pantry food distribution. She worked with local farmers and made sure that the food pantry offered fresh produce as well as the regular non-perishable foods.

Fall Festival at the Greenfield Community Farm

If you have a garden you must celebrate the harvest. This is doubly true if you have a big garden, with many gardeners big and small. Sunday, October 27 the Greenfield Community Farm is hosting a Fall Festival with workshops, a farm tour, garlic planting and a pot luck meal. All are invited to come and learn more about the gardens, and celebrate this first of many harvests. The website www.justroots.org. has full information about the Fall Festival and all the gardens. ###

Between the Rows   October 12, 2013

Walk on the Wildside with Sue Bridge

Wildside Cottage

How would you plan your retirement if you had already received a degree from Wellesley College, earned a further degree in Russian and Middle Eastern Studies, hitchhiked to Morocco, lived in Paris, worked for the United Nations, as well as in the cable TV world, and for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper?

Sue Bridge, with the urging of a Northampton friend, bought eight acres of hilly land in Conway. For the past seven years her retirement project has been to create a sustainable, self-sufficient home and landscape where she can live off the grid. The house she designed is energy efficient, well insulated with electricity and hot water provided by solar panels. It is also beautiful, inside and out. The sunny main living space is comprised of a kitchen, dining and living areas. French doors form the south wall of the living area which opens out onto a stone terrace with low stone walls overlooking terraced gardens and across to the hills beyond. The house is small but there is no sense of being cramped, only of spacious comfort.

For help in creating a sustainable landscape she turned to Jono Neiger of the Regenerative Design Group. Neiger and his group are proponents of permaculture systems. Bridge confesses she didn’t really understand what that meant when she began. Neiger came several times to visit; he’d walk around, make notes and walk around some more. Finally, after he had walked the land for several months and not a single spade of soil had been moved, she asked him if his crews were very busy. Did he have any idea when work would begin?

Then Neiger had to explain that work was well-begun. He had been building a scientific portrait of the land, how the sun, wind and water moved across the hill, and over the season.

It was not until Neiger invited Bridge to his own garden that she began to understand what permaculture is. On the appointed day she arrived at his house and garden before he did and was very confused. “Where’s the garden,” she asked when he drove up. The truth is that permaculture gardens do not look like the beautifully arranged flower gardens or orderly vegetable gardens that most of us are familiar with.

I was in the same position she had been with Neiger. I could see why she had named her place Wildside. I needed to have the garden explained. “This is not traditional farmland, but it is incredibly productive,” she said as we walked across the broad terraces  carved into the hillside. “Terraces are a permaculture trademark.”

The terraces help keep the soil from eroding, even in severe storms. “We had 17 inches of rain during Irene, but there was no erosion,” Bridge said.

To the east the living room terrace is an herb garden. One of Bridge’s specialties is five-herb tea. The terraces on the south hillside are first planted to vegetables that are harvested during the summer, the next terrace on the slope is for perennial vegetables like sea kale and Jerusalem artichokes, and the third is for pollinators, bee balm, garlic chives and other plants that attract pollinators.

Productive sweet potato vines in greenhouse

At the bottom of the slope is a small greenhouse where she grows sweet potatoes in the ground, harvesting more than 100 pounds of nutritious sweet potatoes, as well as ginger, and turmeric plants good for the digestion, and pain relief. The garden outside the greenhouse is mostly storage vegetables, beets, carrots, potatoes and squash. Of course, if you raise enough of this kind of vegetable you need a root cellar and Bridge has built a small one behind her house. Other edible crops are canned or dried.

Wildside rice

We walked past the path to the orchard with apple, peach, pear and plum trees and to the rice paddy in the Wet Meadow. It took heavy digging, but Bridge is growing rice!

The land rises slightly beyond the Wet Meadow. We walked through a stand of overgrown Christmas trees, planted by the former owners, then came into a sunny meadow where nut trees, including chestnut have been planted. The surrounding evergreens help protect them from high winter winds.

Mountain mint with Monarch butterfly

Bridge said she learned that eastern slopes are ideal for fruit trees and berries. On her eastern slope she grows persimmons, pawpaws, quince, Asian pears, shadbush, blueberries, elderberries, and black chokeberries. http://www.millernurseries.com/ sell chokeberriess. Chokeberries are not very sweet, but they are extremely nutritious and do make good jelly. Bridge has also tucked mountain mint and other plants for pollinators everywhere on this east slope.

I was fascinated by the “fertility bed” a long row of comfrey, bush clover and switch grass which Bridge cuts down twice a year and uses as mulch or compost.

Bridge has come to love Conway where she has found a great community with lots of grass roots action. “This is a friendly environment for me,” she said.

A broad community has found Sue Bridge to be very friendly, and inspirational. Her gardens have become a model of sustainable food production. Students from Wellesley and Smith Colleges, the Conway School of Landscape Design, Greenfield Community College and others come to see what she is doing and learn about the science behind what she is doing.

When I asked if she had intended to launch such an educational project in her retirement she said no. “I did not intend, but I do not resist.”    

Between the Rows   August 24, 2013

Welcome Pollinators

Tom Sullivan of Welcome Pollinators

When we think of pollinators we think of honeybees, being trucked to orchards in the spring or to pollinate vast mid-western fields in the summer. The decline of the honey bee, because of disease, mites, and the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), has been in the news for some years. The concern is that crops will be threatened by insufficient pollination and our food supply will be in danger.

Knowing all this, Tom Sullivan, a former bee keeper, is taking a larger view of the array of pollinators available to farmers and gardeners, pollinators that often work quietly, and almost invisibly.

I visited Sullivan in his small garden in “The Patch” where flowers, herbs, vegetables and fruit trees attract and benefit all manner of pollinators including some of the 356 (and counting) kinds of native bees. He showed me the simple bee box he made that would attract some of these native bees and give them the conditions they need to lay their eggs. Of course, buzzing bumblebees and all kinds of other pollinating insects like the tiny hoverfly were also working the flowers in the garden.

Tom Sullivan’s Bee Box

 

Sullivan did not come to his passion for pollinators all at once. He has a degree in education but as a young man he joined many others in their desire to go back-to-the-land. Living and farming inNew Hampshirehe found training at The Rural Education Center (TREC) founded in 1979 by Stanley Kaymen. There he met and was inspired by Bill Mollison who awoke his interest in permaculture, a system of sustainable agriculture. TREC soon became Stonyfield Yogurt and Sullivan was able to use his skill as mason and tile-setter to build the first Stonyfield Yogurt building in 1984.

His skill as mason has supported his agricultural dreams and efforts over the decades, and he was always taking advantage of opportunities to learn more. A move to theBostonarea found him working for the Boston Parks Department, doing landscape construction, and getting additional training through the Urban Environmental Practices Program at Roxbury Community College.

When Boston became “too much city” Sullivan moved out to western Massachusetts and ultimately to Montague City. His new friendship with Dave Jacke and Jono Neiger, both Conway School of Landscape Design graduates, led him to the School and his own graduation in 2008. By this time the news was filled with stories of Colony Collapse Disorder. Dan Conlon of the Warm Colors Apiary invited Sullivan to a 2008 pollinator conference at the University of Massachusetts. “I was just blown away,” he said.

As Sullivan gave me the tour of his garden he explained that his first desire was “to support the whole ecosystem with pollinator habitat expansion because our native bees, and so many other insects and native plants, are being affected by loss of habitat. There is also indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides, so freely applied by home owners and to a lesser extent by farmers. Multiple forces are at work that we must counter with abundant well-functioning ecologies.”

One way he expands pollinator habitat is by reducing his lawn. He does have a shady spot where he and friends can sit on a bit of lawn, but his yard is densely planted with vegetables and herbs mingled with flowers including bee balm, butterfly weed, garlic chives, and asters that attract pollinators. He went on to explain his Yard by Yard project. “If we only gave up 3 feet around the perimeter of our properties we’d add a lot [of habitat] and it would be beautiful — or even more so with a good design. Yard By Yard is a concept – my idea of making more connectivity between habitats with our yards being the conduit.”

While he has designed his garden to be attractive to pollinators, it is also attractive to visitors. A large apple tree provides an oasis of shade in this sunny garden, flowers are in bloom in every season, and a large handsome bamboo trellis supports green beans. Sullivan wouldn’t know what to do with vegetables grown in rows. They are arranged between curving paths which can lead you into corner where you’ll discover a real surprise – fig trees. The fig trees need to be brought inside for the winter, but they were bearing fruit when I saw them.

He has even planted the hell-strip in front of his house with pollinator friendly plants, again reducing lawn.

In other words, Sullivan’s desire to provide habitat for pollinators goes beyond what he needs for his small vegetable garden. With the recognized importance of our local food system and the growth of local small farms he wants to teach us all how we can participate in protecting and creating pollinator habitat. “The deepest part of me is teaching,” he said.

To this end, he has launched a website, PollinatorsWelcome.com, and a garden design and installation business. He has also found himself in demand as a speaker for garden clubs and other organizations like the Hitchock Center.  Later this summer he will be speaking at the Northeast Organic Farmers Association conference in Amherst, and then at the Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange.

Between the Rows  July 20, 2013

Welcome to the Greenfield Garden Club Tour on Saturday, July 6

Welcome to the Greenfield Garden Club Garden Tour.

Welcome seems to be the theme on the Greenfield Garden Club Tour which will be held on Saturday, July 6 from 9 am to 4 pm. This beautiful garden on a challenging slope in Gill has several garden rooms, from the small sunny garden with its fountain and pool surrounded by astilbes, ornamental grasses and bright coreopsis to the woodland garden with its gravel paths and colorful mushroom ornaments. Each garden has its own welcome sign, and its own seating. This gardener knows it’s all very well to invite a person into the garden, but there must be a place to sit and visit, or to meditate, depending on one’s mood.

This garden with such a variety of moods and welcomes is only one of the nine gardens, mostly in Greenfield, that will be welcoming visitors on the Tour. I have visited a couple of the gardens on previous tours and I am interested to see how they have changed over the years. If a garden is anything, it is change.

One garden has had to change because storms have decreed the removal of two large trees. Where there was shade there is now sun. The garden has also changed because of changes in the gardener’s energies and interests. More native plants, and less lawn.

One Greenfield garden is a veritable Eden of fruit trees including figs! Another garden illustrates how much can be done in a short (in gardener’s terms) period of time. In just three years this garden has turned a tangle of invasives into productive fruit and vegetable gardens, as well as a small pond to provide wildlife habitat, and hardy native woodland plants.

A Gill Garden

It is interesting to me to see how many of these gardeners are interested in sustainability. They are looking to sustain their own health by producing their own food, while they are also sustaining the health of our environment by eliminating lawns that can use so many resources.

One garden is planned as a pollinator’s paradise. In addition to planting a few vegetables as well as apples, rhubarb and an assortment of berries, the garden is filled with Echinacea, sundrops, New England asters, sunflowers, red clover and many other flowers that attract those important pollinators, native bees and beautiful butterflies.

In addition to these nine idea filled gardens, the Greenfield Club Garden Tour will also offer complimentary refreshments and a lottery where you might win a moss garden, a hypertufa trough or other prize. Tickets are $12 and are available at the Trap Plain Garden at the corner of Federal and Silver Streets. Tickets will be available from 9 am til 1 pm on the day of the tour, Saturday, July 6. The rain date is July 7, but only in the event of a washout.

Proceeds from the garden tour go to fund the Club’s civic projects, including and especially grants for school gardens.

**

Peony in bloom, without ants

While I was preparing for my own garden party, the work crew, daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters spent considerable time weeding the Peony Bed. Reactions to the ants crawling on the fat peony buds ranged from “Eeeeeuw!” to “What are the ants doing, (great) Granny?”

This is a common question. Ants do not seem to be anyone’s favorites insect. In fact, when faced with most insects, many non-gardeners, and some inexperienced gardeners tend to react with a yell for the bug killer. This is often unnecessary, especially when it comes to ants on peony buds. As it happens, peony buds have an exterior scale that exudes a sweet nutritious nectar and the ants are just chowing down. They are neither hurting, nor helping the peonies in any way. However, the ants are so fond of this nectar that they can ward off other insects that might cause damage to the bud.

When the peonies open there is no more nectar and the ants abandon the plant. Don’t worry about the ants, and definitely, don’t run for some poison.

We are organic gardeners and do not use any poisons in the garden. We don’t use weed killers or bug killers  – well, except for wasps nests right next to the door. That means our lawn is a flowery mead and not fine turf. I was horrified to read that after applying some lawn fertilizer/herbicide, or walking on that treated lawn,  you should remove your shoes before coming into the house. All summer. I prefer the flowery mead and see no need for the extra work that fine turf requires.

As for bugs, we don’t seem to have serious problems with bugs here at the End of the Road. Once, long ago, while chatting with my next door neighbor, we watched my 5 very young children climb out of their low, ground floor bedroom window to play in the yard when they were supposed to be taking naps. She just sighed and said that God protected drunks and fools. I don’t drink so you can see where that left me.

I put down milky spore disease nearly 30 years ago and now have only a handful of Japanese beetles every year. Maybe it is because our garden is so isolated. Maybe I am just lucky. Maybe I am still under the Almighty’s protection.

Many mysteries in the garden. I have always said so.

Between the Rows  June 29, 2013

 

Forbes Library Leads Off Garden Tour Season

Julie Abramson’s Garden

Julie Abramson’ s garden  is just one of six garden that will enchant garden lovers on the Forbes Library Garden Tour on Saturday, June 8, from 10 am til 3 pm. Julie’s is a collector’s garden that features some notable trees, clematis, and a colorful array of perennials and a rock garden. I was intrigued by the description of a rustic arbor covered with climbinbing hydrangea, PLUS two other arbors covered with roses, honeysuckle and clematis. Pure romance!

One garden combines formal and informal elements with wonderful and whimsical sculptures, and a tree house. Another garden is organically maintained with a focus on native plants. The terraced backyard features many beautiful trees and shrubs. One garden consists of six colorful garden rooms and a formal French vegetable garden. I cannot miss that. There is a lawn free garden! Perennials, shrubs, trees, vines and a grid of groundcovers, but no turf. The sixth garden surrounds a four unit condominium with a woodland in the front yard, and invidual private gardens. Clearly, there is  something for everyone. Gardens to inspire and teach.

The tickets are $15.00 ($20.00 on the day of the tour) and can be bought at Forbes Library, State St. Fruit in Northampton, Cooper’s Corner in Florence, Hadley Garden Center and Bay State Perennial Farm in Whately.  There are also tickets for wonderful raffle items for gardens on sale at the library; they include 2 yards of Bill Obear’s compost; gift items from Women’s Work; a garden consultation from Jim McSweeney, a planted container and gift certificate from Annie’s and gift certificates of $50.00 from Bay State Perennial Farm and $100.00 from Hadley Garden Center as well as other fun items.

What a wonderful way to start the garden tour season – and help the Forbes Library which is such an important library, serving many readers beyond the Northampton borders. Proceeds will benefit the Forbes Library

Planning a Vegetable Garden to Extend the Season Workshop at Winterfare

Winterfare shoppers February 4, 2012

My Planning a Vegetable Garden to Extend the Season Workshop at Winterfare on  February 2 will give attendees some things to think about when they are planning their vegetables gardens and some  tips. Hope to see you Saturday at 11 am at Greenfield Hight School.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Taking Stock of Experiments and Projects

The Roses had a successful year

Every spring we begin the gardening season with new energy and new plans. After a winter of reading and thinking we stride out into the spring sun to build and dig, to add and subtract with confidence and high hopes.

In the fall, while we are hoping we still have time to plant some bulbs (we do) it is time to review and see how our projects and experiments turned out.

Our big project this year was really big – an eight foot fence around the vegetable garden to keep out the deer. The fence protects the vegetables, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and lettuce that the deer really decimated last year, but it also encircles the red raspberry patch, and the row of black raspberries.

The fence is successful in that it does keep out the deer, and seemed to be keeping out the rabbits so we were happy. The crop rotation put the Brussels sprouts in a new bed where they did not do well so that bed got an extra helping of compost this fall. It is newly planted to garlic which will be harvested in July.

Garlic Harvest 2012

The garlic crop, my second, was a big success, and I give a lot of the credit to seed garlic that I got from my neighbor Rol Hesselbart. Huge cloves!

Floating Row Cover on planting bed

My first experiment in the spring was using floating row covers in the Early Garden right in front of the house. This protected spot was created by the lasagna method in 2010, an experiment that was wonderfully successful. The soil is fertile, well drained and gets sun all day long. It is a great place to plant greens early in the season. Last year the rabbits thought so, too.

I thought that the floating row covers which are designed to get crops off to an early start would also protect them from the rabbits because the covers are pinned down. I was right and I was able to harvest lettuces and other greens for my own meals. The rabbits had to make do with nibbling the lawn.

Apparently by August the rabbits had found a way into the fenced vegetable garden so the late planting of greens was attacked. It took me a while to remember that floating row covers work as protection. Better late than never. The row covers were arranged and I was able to get a small harvest there.

Some may remember the great Tomatoes in a Strawbale experiment that left my husband wounded and bloody. This experiment was not very successful. The hole in the strawbale to hold compost was so difficult to create that we did not make it very big. I did not think this was too important. I thought the roots would grow into the wet and rotting straw and get sufficient nutrition. I was wrong.

The strawbale was placed at the end of the Herb Bed where it was regularly watered. The two cherry tomato plants I inserted into the compost and straw grew and produced fruit, but without the vigor they had in the vegetable garden. When I recently pulled the frosted plants out of the strawbale I saw that the roots were stunted. They had not been able to grow strongly through the bale as I expected.

What could I have done differently? When I saw that the young plants were not really thriving I could have begun a fertilization schedule as I do with my potted annuals.

If I want to try this next year, what can I do that will bring more success? I can make a larger planting hole.

If I want to change the experiment slightly what can I do? Instead of using a strawbale, which has the advantage of being weed free, but is very dense and not as I nutritious as I thought, I could use a haybale. Daniel Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm in Gill told me that if I leave a haybale out in the weather all winter any weed seeds will rot and the hay can be used as a planting site or as mulch with no danger of importing seeds.

Because the point of an experiment is to learn, no experiment can ever be called a total failure. A hypothesis, such as tomatoes can grow well in a strawbale, is tested. The results of the hypothesis are evaluated and examined. The tomatoes did not grow well because the root system did not develop properly. Then a new hypothesis can be considered, and tested next year.

As a gardener I sometimes feel I am perpetually in a high school science class. And that is a good thing. Therefore, I have already picked up four haybales and stationed them in the garden for further experiments next spring.

What experiments did you try this year? Did you get the results you desired or expected? Did you learn enough to formulate a new hypothesis? Please let me hear from you by emailing commonweeder@gmail.com and we can compare notes in a future column. ###

Between the Rows  November 3, 2012

The chickens had a happy year, too.