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 Wednesday evenings June – September. The project is run through Arlington’s Recreation Department.
We’ve been starting our cucurbit (squash family) seeds indoors under lights to get a leg up on the season for a few years. Last year, we noticed that the germination rate for these seeds was unusually poor. This was brought into painful focus when only 1 of 33 of our Baby Bear pumpkin seeds germinated. A clue presented itself when we noticed that this pumpkin variety was the only one of our cucurbit seeds that was offered as treated seed.
[It’s important to note that we start most of our indoor seeds in sterile soil. In fact, we sterilize compost and make our own soil mix using coir, sand, vermiculite, wood ash and organic fertilizer. However, we decided to risk the non-sterile mix for the cucurbits because we start them just 2 weeks before they’re planted in the garden and they seem like such robust seeds.]
Following our notes from last year, we started all our cucurbits in sterile soil this year. The results are now in, and they are striking. The one-to-one comparisons are shown in the table below. Each of the varieties shown were grown under the same conditions from the same seed from the same source for that year (2017 for non-sterile and 2018 for sterile).
On average for all the cucurbit seed, the germination rate went from 53% for non-sterile soil to 94% for sterile soil. As for the pumpkins, we opted for the treated seed this year… and the germination rate went from 3% to 83%.
The newly-transplanted tomatoes, eggplants and okra are seeing real sun for the first time today in the greenhouse. They will be ready to go outside and get full sun soon, in preparation for being planted in the garden. We will have well over 100 seedlings (including all the wonderful peppers, tomatillos and basil) when planting day comes…
After a long cold winter, it’s finally time to work at the garden again. We will resume our regular Saturday hours (9 to noon) and hope to catch up with our planting, harvesting and cleaning up.
We look forward to seeing you there!
In attendance: Alan Jones, Mike Smith, Steven Lee, Allie Durak (from Magnolia, she asked if she could sit with us).
Ecofest was well populated. We got a mix of visitors, a great many who were attracted to the big screen display showing a slide show of our garden. Some oohed and ahhed over the seedlings. A few were potentially interested in joining, one of whom does worm composting! Somewhat more were interested in talking with us about problems they were having with their garden.
I told people to come visit us Saturday mornings, 9am-Noon. For those who wanted to know when our first Saturday would be, I told them to contact us thru our website “contact” link. Three gave us their email addresses anyways.
So as soon as a first gardening date is decided, I’ll let these people know.
Save the date – our annual Seed Selection Meeting will be on Saturday, February 3rd in Community Room of the Community Safety Building from 9:30 am to Noon(ish).
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!
You will find the Community Safety Building (Arlington Police Headquarters) at 112 Mystic Street. When you enter the building, go directly up the stairs; the community room door will be on your left.
Garlic: very good, do again
Leeks: very good, do again
Onions: sets did well, seed varieties did great, but lost a few Walla Wallas to rot, start picking them earlier
Scallions: did well, try broadcasting for higher yield or give more real estate, thin assiduously
Shallots: very good, do again
Walking Onions: did well, don’t forget to replant bulblets next year without Melissa