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.
A sign has been posted at the garden with guidelines for gardeners to follow in order to grow our food and keep everyone safe during this health crisis. A pdf of the sign is available here. The text appears below.
TO DO OUR PART TO STOP THE SPREAD OF COVID-19
WE ENCOURAGE GARDENERS TO:
• Stay home if you or those you live with are not well or not sure.
• Maintain physical separation of 6 feet or more.
• Avoid clusters, schedule gardening at different times.
• Use your own tools and take them home.
• Don’t leave things outside the fence while you’re working.
• Ask visitors to stay outside the garden fence.
• Use gloves and sanitizer to keep your hands clean.
• Cloth masks or bandanas can also help.
• Sanitize commonly-touched surfaces: gate, locks, water spigot, hoses, storage bin, seed box, fertilizer bags.
We left the smaller parsnips in the ground last fall and harvested them today.
The ground was already pretty workable, probably due to lack of rain, but still pretty cold.
The artichoke and allium seeds we planted on February 22 are off to a strong start. The front row has 1 pot of Tavor artichokes & 3 of Walla Walla onions; the middle row has 2 pots of Rossa di Milano red onions & 2 of Conservor shallots; the back row has 2 pots of Megaton leeks & 2 of New York Early storage onions. Next week, we move on to seeding our first brassicas and greens.
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 – 2 TBS
- Limestone (ground) – 1 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 – 4 TBS
- Limestone (ground) – 2 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