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.
The first crop of 2019 seedlings, planted on Saturday, are up and growing under lights. The brassicas (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages and cauliflower) were the first to break ground, quickly followed by the greens (lettuce and spinach). The alliums (leeks, onions and shallots) and celery have yet to appear. Thanks to the seedling crew for getting things started!
Save the date – our annual Seed Selection Meeting will be on Saturday, January 26th in Community Room of the Community Safety Building from 10 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.
- Fertilize EVERYTHING on a more regular basis – and not just with compost. Research to find ideal frequency & nutrients needed, by crop. Consider foliar feeding, e.g. with Stress-X or other seaweed-based fertilizer, which also helps to discourage foliar diseases.
- We need to be more ruthless in our thinning. Research ideal spacing, by crop, & adhere to that when thinning.
- Use an organic critter deterrent (spray and/or in small, ventilated bottles hung throughout the garden, possibly allowing us to avoid chicken wire around crops where the wire interferes with tending/harvesting.
Garlic: did well, fertilize in spring next year.
Leeks: did well, but not quite as robust as in some years.
Onions: sets did fine, seed varieties all did well, counting problems with seedlings, consider fertilizing mid-season.
Scallions: grew stronger and faster in sunny spot near gate, bed near bench took all season to mature. Scallions near bench were in thick hedges, consider distributing the seeds in thinner rows to make harvesting easier.
Shallots: did well, but didn’t have enough, consider fertilizing mid-season.
Walking Onions: provided spring scallions, first bulblet planting not as successful as second.
Broccoli: first crop slightly discolored (try fertilizing mid-way), second crop solid, but all headed up the same week. Late crop covered with insect screen, but lots of cabbage worms matured under the screen. No noticeable lasting damage from the worms.
Brussels sprouts: grew 3 varieties due to old seed (difficult to tell apart) some didn’t mature, aphids only on leaves.
Cabbages: early green did well (red variety was small), late varieties good (except Aubervilliers hardly headed up). consider covering spring cabbage bed with agrofabric when transplanting seedlings.
Cauliflower: early crop variety did well (some headed up very early), late crop didn’t all mature.
Kohlrabi: good way to use space in center of zucchini bed, but difficult to harvest, try starting as seedlings or maybe making a raised-bed, like leeks?
Carrots: first crop basically failed: poor germination and die off, second crop planted earlier than usual did well. Make sure to keep soil moist after sowing.
Celeriac: strong seedlings, plants did well; too close together. If we’re going to continue planting these, maybe we should plant half as many?
Celery: strong seedlings, most plants did well, may have wrapped too early, research blanching and companion plantings. We need to keep an eye on these once they are wrapped and it rains. A couple of them rotted. Needs calcium (eggshells) and boron.
Parsnips: poor germination despite pelleted seed (straw mulch or soil temperature?), those that matured were good, harvested late Late harvest after poor germination reinforced the need for serious thinning, as most of the parsnips harvested were a good size.
Basil: plants did well, some insect damage (wooly bear caterpillars)
Cilantro: first planting good, but spotty germination afterward
Nasturtiums: did well (took over Malabar Spinach), consider planting with zucchini. Overtook the malabar spinach seedlings, consider bigger gap between them.
Okra: strongest seedlings ever, all matured, need mid-season fertilizer.
Popcorn: new variety similar to old variety, slightly less productive.
Rhubarb: hanging on, but not thriving – research ideal conditions. Rhubarb definitely loves sun, so moving it to a sunnier spot would help.
General: consider insect screen for more crops, esp. Collards, Chard, Lettuce, Spinach.
Arugula: first planting good, but spotty germination afterward.
Bok Choi: both crops did well.
Collards: did well, some insect damage early in season.
Kales: chicken wire worked well for bunny protection, some insect damage.
Malabar Spinach: strong seedlings plus self-seeded plants did fine on side without nasturtiums.
Lettuce: germination a problem all season (lots of transplanting), early seedlings did the best.
Mesclun: grew fine in shady bed, need to establish schedule & find someone to adopt. Good way to use up old greens seed at end of season.
Mustard: green not as robust as red, need to establish schedule.
Perpetual Spinach: did well again, even in terrible location.
Spinach: seedlings bolted a bit, seeded crop had spotty germination. Needs lots of calcium (eggshells).
Swiss Chard: some die-off (rot or fungus) early, try transplanting to fill gaps, use larger piece of screen to cover Poor productivity- need to research possible causes of rot/die off problems. Screen definitely helped causes problems.
Beans (bush): chicken wire worked well for bunny protection, germination problems with yellow varieties, lasted just long enough to meet first pole bean harvest. Infilled yellow bean several times; could germination issues be related to the company we ordered from (not our usual source)?
Beans (dried): saved (from bunnies) by chicken wire, though not as many perfect beans due to lots of rain late in season It would be helpful for these beans if we could remove the chicken wire once the beans were tall enough. We couldn’t do this because several of the squash plants had grown through the chicken wire.
Beans (pole): saved (from bunnies) by chicken wire, purple variety was early & good, green variety was later & good, Romano types weren’t as good as Garden Of Eden.
Fava Beans: best yield yet, but hit by wooly bear caterpillars.
Peas: uneven seeding & washout from rainstorm, yet good yield from spring planting. Fall planting had typical poor germination (high soil temp).
Soybeans: chicken wire worked great to prevent bunny damage, germination not great, replanted some areas twice.
Eggplants: all needed staking, Asian type most productive, Italian type hit by insects and dropped off early, white variety less productive.
Peppers: did well, reasonable yield. Matured a little slower than patio plants at home. Pick off any flowers on seedlings or low on the plant. Avoid extra nitrogen.
Potatoes: all did well. Might do better following the bean bed in rotation.
Tomatillos: grew 3 plants (rather than 2), healthy, productive plants but small fruit.
Tomatoes: awesome! Left extra leaders, fertilized every 2 weeks, mulched and finger pruned. Only disappointment was determinate Defiant. Possibly increase spacing between plants since the extra leaders spread I think I lost control of the pruning at some point in the season. It’s a quandary because we don’t want to decrease the number of tomato plants but things were definitely out of control. Oh, and the clover died off because of the shading from the tomatoes. Rutgers tomato did poorly- probably should take it (and the Defiant) off the list.