Robbins Farm Garden is a cooperative community garden project at Robbins Farm Park in Arlington, MA. Since 2010, we’ve grown vegetables organically as a group, created an educational resource in the community and continued the agricultural tradition of the farm at the park. We garden Saturday mornings April – November and Tuesday evenings June – September. The project is run through Arlington’s Recreation Department.
We’ve been making our own seedling soil for a decade. Yet, this is the first time we’ve attempted to document it as a recipe. For germinating seeds, like the leeks, onions and shallots we started yesterday, we use a light, less nutrient-rich mix.
- Coconut Coir – 1 brick (rehydrates to 0.33 cu ft)
- Compost (sifted & sterilized ) – 12 cups
- Vermiculite – 3 cups
- Sand (rough builder) – 3 cups
- Garden Tone fertilizer – 2 TBS
- Wood Ash – 2½ TBS
- Limestone (ground) – ½ TBS
For transplanting the seedlings into 6-packs and small pots, we shift the mix closer to fertile garden soil by increasing the compost and nutrients.
- Coconut Coir – 1 brick (expands to 0.33 cu ft rehydrated)
- Compost (sifted & sterilized ) – 24 cups
- Vermiculite – 3 cups
- Sand (rough builder) – 3 cups
- Garden Tone fertilizer – 4 TBS
- Wood Ash – 5 TBS
- Limestone (ground) – 1 TBS
About the ingredients:
The coir is made from ground coconut shells, and is a pH-neutral, sustainable alternative to peat moss.
The compost is all vegetable-matter based, from a home compost pile and from the ones at the main garden.
The Garden Tone organic fertilizer is rated at 3-4-4. For our eggplant, pepper and tomato seedlings, we often substitute Tomato Tone.
The wood ash is collected from a home fireplace, sifted to remove charcoal chunks.
The limestone buffers the pH of the compost. We use pure ground limestone. (Our garden soil tests high for magnesium, so we’re wary of adding more.)
Save the date – our annual Seed Selection Meeting will be on Saturday, February 1st in Community Room of the Arlington Police Headquarters from 10 am to 1 pm.
Everyone interested in the crops & varieties we will grow at Robbins Farm Garden this season is welcome. Prospective new members of the garden group are especially encouraged to attend and join in the discussion. Bring your seed catalogs and great expectations for the season to come!
The Arlington Police Headquarters is at 112 Mystic Street. When you enter the building, go directly up the stairs; the community room door will be on your left.
- Many of the seedlings were affected by putting too much Coast of Main fertilizer in the potting soil – some peppers and lettuce died, some eggplant and onions were stunted, tomatoes were okay.
- Several crops were affected by rodent predation: corn, eggplant, tomatoes, watermelons and, to a lesser extent, both winter squashes.
Garlic: very good, do again
Leeks: be more careful in planning for raised bed later in season, otherwise very good, do again
Onions: Sets did well. Seedlings suffered from over-fertilization of potting soil, most did well
Scallions: did fantastic in crappy soil, try rows @ 2” apart next year
Shallots: did well, but didn’t have two full rows of seedlings due to over-fertilizing potting soil
Walking Onions: did well, provided beautiful scallions in spring, transplanted bulblets over several weeks
Broccoli: early crop very good – fertilized when heads begin to form. Late crop did well too, good number of side shoots after main heads
Brussels sprouts: no aphids this year, some sprouts stayed small, but overall good. Plant on north side of bed next year to keep from shading bed
Cabbages: early crop did well, except some had rot at the base (disease?). late crop didn’t mature well, lots of cabbage worms – two types and late into season, also shaded by Brussels sprouts
Cauliflower: early crop was very good, do again. Late crop was the best yet, but plants had signs of Black Rot on the leaves (look into seed supplier and succession planting in beds)
Kohlrabi: fantastic, do again
Carrots: single crop of different varieties worked, most did well (Mokum not as good) a fair number of split roots this year
Celery: late (seedlings had to be replanted), but all were stocky and healthy, didn’t lose any to disease
Parsnips: good germination & thinning, but not as perfect – some stubby and with nodules – research
Basil: lost some seedlings to over-fertilized soil, plants that survived were okay, some dark spots (disease?)
Cilantro: both plantings were excellent, even though second planting began while shaded by squash leaves
Herbs: Chives all did well, divide in spring; Lavender old growth died over the winter but sprouted tons of new growth in spring; Lemon Balm did great, divide in spring; Rosemary that Steven wintered over was awesome; Savory did great, divide or root prune in spring; Tarragon was sad as usual (research), Thyme doing great (replaced English thyme plant in spring)
Nasturtiums: best ever, dense & productive without the mid-season die off, caught spring aphids early; no fall aphids
Okra: new variety a winner: didn’t lose any seedlings, pretty, uniform, vigorous, productive & tender when oversize. Try pruning early in season to make plants bushier
Popcorn: great germination on new variety, very pretty but tops of ears munched by caterpillars and entire patch was attached by some critter (rats or raccoons?) before all could be picked, thin to 1 plant per space if we grow again
Rhubarb: did okay, some leaf damage – beetles?
Sunflowers: 3-4 germinated and produced well, lower leaves eaten by Asiatic and Japanese beetles
Arugula: very good, do again
Bok Choi: early crop bolted, late crop didn’t germinate well, transplants did better than those left in place
Collards: not as robust but did okay, some leaf damage, check variety and seed source
Kales: did fine (dinosaur did better than usual), some leaf damage, try Redbor next year?
Lettuce: first several crops did great (except for over-fertilized 2nd indoor planting), some rot on denser plantings, thin better, try some disease-resistant varieties next year
Malabar Spinach: not stellar, can’t compete with nasturtiums
Mesclun: did okay in poor real estate, wasn’t reseeded, so became Red Russian kale bed later in season
Mustard: did well, reseeding well scheduled, green lasted longer than red
Perpetual Spinach: germination not great, but did okay in poor real estate
Swiss Chard: did okay, well thinned, research if more fertilizing and/or changing soil pH would help
Beans (bush): Dragon’s Tongue did great, Maxibel were very productive and attractive, Antigua not nearly as good, chicken wire protected bed from bunnies
Beans (dried): weren’t productive (maybe shaded by dense corn plants) bunnies kept away with chicken wire fencing when seedlings were young
Beans (pole): purple did great, try to find Garden of Eden seed again, Kentucky Wonder & Blue Lake did better than Kentucky Blue (beside Philosopher’s Stone)
Fava Beans: did great – productive, no aphids or wooly bear caterpillars
Peas: spring crop productive, Tall Telephone germinated poorly (next to Philosopher’s Stone), Sugar Snaps didn’t seem right – check seed source. Fall crop was highly productive, planted at the right time and covered with shade cloth to keep soil cool
Soybeans: did very well, but needed to infill plant twice, some Japanese beetle damage to leaves
Eggplants: failed to thrive – Orient Express & Japanese White Egg produced better, Black Beauty way too slow (try different variety next year), JWE & BB fruits had lots of small holes – insects (research)
Peppers: not a good year – disease? nutritional problem? over-watering? Potted plant experiment was inconclusive – pots were shaded and plants were from nursery. Lunch Box did better. Corno di Toro and Cheyenne did less well.
Potatoes: very good, do again
Tomatillos: always take too long to produce fruit, fertilize more?, mysterious picking happened mid-season, topped plants when Brussels sprouts were topped to reduce # of smaller fruits
Tomatoes: beautiful plants, excellent productivity, good fertilizing & pruning, Actinovate used in soil before planting and every few weeks for most of summer, lots of hornworms! Also serious rat predation – inflatable snakes helped late in season, maybe try chicken wire? Topped plants near end of season to put energy into ripening fruit. Place taller cherry tomato bed on north side of other bed. Consider non-wood stakes to limit soil-borne disease. Ramapo plants were strange – check seed supplier. Randy Boys not as vigorous or productive as others.