A: About 1/2 in per day (July 26 evening- July 29 morning).
A: About one inch per day. (July 19 evening – July 22 morning)
Braving the cold and watching the approaching Nor'Easter, we found what appears to be a perfect tomato at Market Basket, New England grown, labeled "Backyard Farms". Looking that up, we found a 42-acre hydroponic greenhouse in Maine. This is how you feed locavores in the Northeast winters.
The last two beds to be "double-dug". After this morning, all of the main garden beds have been loosened and cleared of big rocks to a depth of about 18".
We spread half-made compost and bamboo trimmings 12" deep, which will decay and add to the organic content of the soil.
Yeah,it was work.
Sometimes we get busy at the garden and forget to share our photos on the journal. The photos below were taken by Paula Herman, who sent them to me. Enjoy!
We've all seen name-brand seeds at bargain outlets, and I've always wondered if they were really a bargain. I sort of always assumed that the discount was mitigated by a lower seed count. So this year, I decided to find out, at least with a small sample.
We purchased packets of organic Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce and conventional Cherry Belle radishes from both Burpee on-line and the same varieties off-the-rack at Ocean State Job Lots in Medford. Burpee makes it difficult to compare prices directly, because the packs purchased on-line are sold by seed count, while the retail packs are sold by weight. Until today, I had no idea how many radish or lettuce seeds are in a gram.
If you want to skip the details that follow, the astonishing result is (drum roll)…the Ocean State seeds really are a bargain – by a lot!
The Burpee BSS bought on-line (left, above) sells in packs of nominally 1000 seeds. We weighed the seeds at about 1.15g. At a price of $4.95 (with free shipping), the price based on the nominal seed count is 50 cents/100 seeds.
The Burpee packet bought at Ocean State retails for $3.19, or $1.91 after the discount, with an advertised weight of 1.5g, which we measured at closer to 1.6g. Extrapolating from the relative weights, we're estimating 1400 seeds, which is consistent with the relative sizes of the little piles. The result is about 14 cents/100 seeds, less than 1/3 of the cost of seeds online. Even without the discount, the retail cost is less than 1/2 of online.
The Burpee Cherry Belle radishes (conventional) bought on-line is packaged as nominally 500 seeds, which we weighed to be 4.55g, priced at $4.95, or 99 cents/100 seeds.
The nominally 4g packet bought from Ocean State actually weighed 4.5g, so nominally the same 500 seeds, for a discounted price of 27 cents/100 seeds, almost 1/4 the price from Burpee on-line. Even without the 40% discount, the retail seed would be less than 1/2 the price of on-line.
So the conclusion from these two data points is that Burpee seeds purchased from local discount retailers are significantly less expensive than those purchased on-line directly from Burpee. Ocean State has a pretty good selection of popular varieties of Burpee vegetable and flower seeds, including many organics, but only a fraction of the selection available on-line. I don't think they carry any other brands.
This is pretty much a straightforward apples-to-apples comparison with very conclusive results, but of only two seeds from one supplier. We also don't know at this point how well each will germinate, how well they were handled, or other quality factors. They were both packaged for 2015, but it's possible that the cheaper seeds were actually 2014 seeds which passed germination tests and were repackaged for 2015 – or not – we have no way of knowing (that's me being skeptical again). Three of the seeds were grown in the USA, but the retail radishes were grown in Italy. The BSS seeds purchased on-line came in a foil packet, the other three in paper only.
Even at full retail price (like at Mahoney's or Russell's), the Burpee seeds packaged for retail would be significantly less expensive. In the future, I'll be looking for comparisons of other brands when I find them. For example, I think Verrill Farm sells some High Mowing Seeds that I should be able to compare. If you see anyone selling Johnny's, High Mowing or Baker Creek off the shelf, let me know.
We're still getting a harvest like this, in the first week of October. This is no accident, but the result of careful planning, sequential planting, and good garden hygiene to fight the late-season afflictions like mildew, blight, stem borers and aphids.
We've liked using cotton mason's line to outline the borders of the beds in the garden, because it's nice white and visible, and it doesn't stretch. Unfortunately, after a few months in the weather, it just comes apart, and we've been spending a lot of time replacing it. I think next year we'll be using sisal binder twine or something else that will last the whole season. We can still use the mason's line for row markers, which don't have to last more than a few weeks. Garden and learn!
First cukes, all of the spring broccoli, an amazing harvest of gorgeous carrots, and the last of the 2014 garlic. Lots of onions, more potatoes, okra and cabbages and the usual abundance of greens. The bush beans and summer squash have slowed down from their early surge but will probably bounce back after a short break.
Biggest 2014 harvest yet. First carrots & beets, main crop of potatoes, lots of cabbage, garlic, onions & greens, and the perpetual lettuce keeps on coming.
First zukes! Yes, it's that time of year.
First potatoes, last of the peas and fava beans, first serious harvest of onions, and garlic. Lots of "perpetual lettuce" and other greens, and bush beans. Pole beans went in today after the peas came out.
Picking peas last night, I found it difficult to distinguish the mature flat-podded snow peas from immature shell peas, because they are right next to each other and are roughly the same height – the line between them is fuzzy. The sugar snaps are reliably taller than the other two, so next year I suggest that we plant the snap peas in the middle, and simply note on the garden plan if the snow peas are on the left or right of the snaps.
Q: Why did we plant the tomatoes through red plastic mulch this year?
A: It's an experiment. According to a UMass Extension report on the use of plastic mulches "Researchers at the USDA and Clemson University noted that certain crops performed better when grown in red mulch as opposed to black mulch: tomatoes, which yielded 20% more fruit; basil, the leaves of which had greater area, succulence, and fresh weight; and strawberries, which smelled better, tasted sweeter, and yielded a larger harvest. Penn State researchers found yield increases for tomatoes and eggplants on red mulch compared to black. Anecdotally, gardeners in Berkshire County saw marked increase in overall plant size, fruit size, and yield of tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers when plants were grown in red mulch as opposed to straw mulch."
We have noted that weeds are growing under the mulch, which might be a problem later in the season.
The particular perforated product we are trying is "Better Reds", by Dalen Gardener, about $8-10 for 8 3'x3' sheets.
Today's firsts were peas, peppers, basil, cilantro, baby potatoes and garlic scapes, and we harvested the winter rye a little early so we could get the nursery bed going. The lettuce rotation continues to provide a good harvest, but the radishes are just about through for this spring. Plenty of greens keep coming.
|We got our first okra flower, which is early, and may be the result of warming the soil with black plastic.|
And Lisa found one of these on the fennel (a juvenile American Black Swallowtail caterpillar).
The last of the spring spinach, lots of lettuce, bok choi, a little swiss chard and collards, most of the rest of the spring radishes, lettuce thinnings and the first salad turnips.
Spinach, lettuce, baby bok choi, the main crop of spring radishes, and baby lettuce thinnings..
Radishes, spinach & lettuce.
We had another beautiful day for planting yesterday. We planted a second-round of radish seeds, added a few more lettuce and cabbage seedlings to what we had put in before, and planted first rounds of parsnips, soybeans, salad turnips, and parsley.
Steven watered. Dick weeded. Corinna and Martha thinned our early radish shoots, always a difficult task for tender-hearted gardeners. Susan cleared a plot of winter rye, then planted soybeans at one end, with the help of a young visitor. Elizabeth put in parsley seedlings and a screen to shelter them from too much sun. Several of the guys started in on a watering homunculus that will ring the garden, reduce hose dragging, and bring more flexibility to our watering routines.
The deadline has now passed for signing on for this year’s garden. For the 20 slots available, 15 people paid their $75 and signed up. We’re 10 returnees from last year and 5 new members. If things work out as before, that means we’ll usually have 8 to 12 people working in the garden each Saturday morning and one evening during the week, yet to be decided. Members will also drop by individually when extra watering needs doing or sometimes just to hang out. We welcome visitors whenever one of us is there.
Our first harvest of sweet potatoes, leeks and rhubarb, and the last of the watermelons. None of the watermelons this year have made it out of the park – it’s just too much fun to share them on the spot. Those eight big sweet potatoes were from just one plant! We’ll wait a few weeks to dig the rest, after the plants start dieing back.
Michael spotted a special visitor on the pole beans: Our mantid friend is a Tenodera aridifolis sinensis, aka a Chinese Praying Mantis.
A praying mantis is a voracious predator, (i.e., a "beneficial" insect), and its favorite munchies are insect & bug pests that we don’t want in our gardens! Isn’t it nice to know that Mother Nature is helping us out? (And kudos to Alan for the excellent click!)
We harvested the first few ears of our miniature, multi-colored popcorn today. The bad news is that the summer squash has finally succumbed to powdery mildew.
Today we harvested our first kabocha squash, our first watermelon and our first serious batch of soybeans. If you look closely, you might find the one little sweet juicy delicious slice of watermelon that actually survived the ravages of hungry gardeners to make the harvest photo.
I picked 107 pods from this one soy plant – that’s about 321 delicious little edamame beans. I noticed that the roots of this plant were particularly loaded with nodules of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Examining other plants, it was consistent that the largest plants with the highest yield had more nodules on their roots. Do more nodules make the plant healthier, or do healthier plants support more nodules?
Here’s what we harvested today. Can you find the eggplant impersonating a bagel?
We know that summer squash grow so fast that if you miss one during harvest you’ll find a Moby Zuke in a few days. But I’m a left-brained geek who likes numbers, so I planted some reference sticks next to a young Zephyr on Saturday, August 4 and checked it four days later on August 8. It had just about doubled in length and more than tripled in girth, well on its way to blimpness. That’s how fast a summer squash can grow. I picked it immediately before it could scare any dogs or small children.
Horrible name, beautiful plant.
It started cloudy, but as gardeners arrived, the sun came out in full force. Despite being past 9AM, the far left corner still had a bit of shade from the tall trees at the edge of the Park.
A white board of to-do activities, prepared by the planners, organizes our work. It’s harvesting time! Lush eggplant of both the long Asian and the fat Italian varieties are joyfully picked. Bush beans of all three colors –green, yellow, purple– are available, but the soybeans are not yet ready. Some summer squash, several cucumbers. A debate ensues over how much lettuce to pick, as what we may leave behind may bolt or turn bitter in the hot weather. Our next generation of seedlings were only planted last week, so are not ready for transplant to take the place of the picked lettuce. We also planted more lettuce today. Collard greens are plentifully abundant, although many gardeners prefer the swiss chard.
There is much promise of more to come. The tall corn displays purple and golden tassels. Immature pumpkins and watermelons hide in the trellis of leaves. We added more support (netting them with plastic mesh) to some of them. The winter squash has plenty of flowers, and the Jerusalem artichokes are blooming. The sunflowers seemed to have shaken off the early-season leaf eaters, and are climbing high. And even the weeds are prospering, encroaching from the paths even as the vegetables encroach onto the paths. We’ll have to do something about that.
We applied a spray of a small amount of potassium bicarbonate mixed with water to the squash and watermelon plants. Unlike the last two years, we’ve seen no mildew, so getting an early start at prevention seems to have worked. We did a pH test of the soil near the tomatoes, and added some lime. We’re watching closely for signs of blossom end-rot.
Given yesterday’s rain, the compost was deemed too wet to sift and extract, even though one pile is clearly ready. Instead, we turned both piles, to feed them air.
Water, water, water, says one of the garden planners, who says the fruiting plants (e.g. tomatoes and eggplants) especially want it. No one saw any pests, like the tomato horn worm of last week, and we have some bees buzzing around our flowers.
Not everything picked is 100% perfect. One tomato did not pass the eat-me test. Some parsnips decided to stop growing down after they encountered some rocks.
The biggest surprise of the day was the lack of visitors. Normally we get about twenty, divided between adults and children.
As the white board gets all checked off, people gather for tea, and we start the divvy-up process, a mix today of some things in piles and other things (like greens) taken in turns. Herbs like rosemary and chives are taken separately by those who want them.
As we finish near Noon, the sun decides to go behind the clouds again.
Note the green snow fence!