2021 in Review

Plot September 27, 2021

It is the end of December and time to review the past gardening season, what worked well and what did not. We had another year of COVID, but this spring, summer and fall were eased by the introduction of vaccines until omicron hit just a couple of weeks ago. In the community garden, life was back to almost normal, except that we did not have any gatherings or communal work days. Everybody logged their communal work hours individually.

I did not mulch with hay this season (except the garlic) to get rid of the pill bugs and I seemed to have some success. The downside of course was that I had many more weeds than in other years, especially early in the season, when things had not filled in yet. So, I will go another year without hay.

Tomato harvest, August 6, 2021

Fruiting crops (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants) It was a good year for tomatoes in the community garden. I had a really good harvest and could not keep up with eating them fresh, so I had to roast some of them. Yum! It is so nice to use your home-grown vegetables in the middle of winter. I had planted a total of ten tomatoes: one each Striped Roman, Paul Robson, Black Krim, Valencia, Break O’ Day, Poll Robson Angolan and two each Green Zebra and Baker Family Heirloom. Unfortunately, the labels fell off, and I could not identify them all in the end. The central stake/garden velcro method worked well for me. I will not go back to cages for tomatoes. I had good luck with pickling cucumbers this year (pickled twice) and the slicers did okay. Definitely better than last year. I think, I had powdery mildew but it did not hit until late. I shall investigate. I only grew hot peppers this year, a Thai pepper on the porch, which did very well, and Jalapeno on the porch which also did well. The Jalapeno in the plot also did well. Eggplants were not great this year. They stayed tiny and never ripened. Not sure what the problem was.

Butternut squash, October 21, 2021

Squash. I had planted three varieties of winter squash: Butternut, Delicata and Lakota. Only the Butternut really took off, the two others were measly, the Delicata died early and the Lakota had one tennis ball-size fruit in the end. The Butternut had five fruit, one of which mysteriously developed soft spots and mold and I had to toss it. Four squash was just the right amount for this winter. I did planted one zucchini this year. Strangely, it did not produce as well we in previous years but I had a few zucchinis.

Porch radishes, May 16, 2021

Root vegetables. I planted beets, carrots and radishes. The porch radishes were great. The plot radishes were eaten by something and very woody. I am not going to bother again. The carrots were delicious as were the beets, but they were small this year. Perhaps I did not thin well enough.

Kale, squash, basil and marigolds, October 21, 2021

Brassicas. I only planted kale this year. Three plants, which was plenty. They stayed small though and I suspect it is because they were shaded by the corn and tomatoes. Next year, I will plant them so that they get more sun.

Lettuce harvest, May 21, 2021

Greens and lettuce. I planted chard and lettuces. The Chard had the same issue like the kale, I had planted it partly shaded by corn or tomatoes, so it stayed smallish. This will need to change next year. Lettuces did great in the spring, as usual, and the fall greens did well too. I just harvested some mustard greens last week and there are still greens in the ground.

Peas and garlic scapes, June 15, 2021

Legumes. I planted peas and pole beans this year. The peas did well. I had a decent harvest and no loss due to birds. The beans had a hard time growing and I had to resow twice. The harvest was good, but I did not have enough plants to make it worthwhile. I will need to plant more next year.

Garlic braiding, August 17, 2021

Alliums. It was a good year for garlic. 64 heads pulled from the ground. Later in the fall, I noticed that I had onion maggots. Some of the hardneck bulbs were infested. I cleaned them all up (separated the cloves and discarded the diseased ones) and it seems to be fine now. I will need to look into it for next year. Hopefully the eggs do not overwinter. I planted the new crop as far away form the old site as possible.

Glass gem corn, October 19, 2021

Corn. For the first time in years, I dared to plant corn. I planted it in early June. Such a delightful crop. It’s a surprise. You don’t know what the colors are until you “unwrap” it. I just loved it. The rodents seemed not to be interested and I harvested around a dozen ears from six plants in the plot. I also planted some on the porch but those plants stayed small. I saved seeds for the plot for next year!

Giant sunflower, August 15, 2021

Flowers. A great year for flowers. I had this giant sunflower, which made me so happy. Lots of Zinnias and dahlias as well. I planted camomile, but it got leggy and eventually died. Also marigolds for the tomatoes. I loved the Zinnias. I harvested them well into October. I will plant even more next year.

Basil seedlings, March 24, 2021

Herbs. In the plot, I planted basil and parsley this year. The basil did well, but I don’t think I made traditional pesto this year other than garlic scape pesto early in the season. Next year for sure. The Thai basil did great and I made Thai basil pesto, which was delicious. (We served it over fish). More basil next year. I had plenty of basil for garnishes from my porch herb garden. I replanted basil on August 15, both on the porch and in the plot, and that was a great idea. The basil never bolted and I had fresh basil until well into October. Basil succession it will be from now on!

Asparagus and green garlic, May 8, 2021

Perennials. I grow asparagus and rhubarb. The rhubarb is still sickly. I am not sure what the issue is. I might just have to pull it and plant a new one. I love rhubarb and I miss it. The asparagus did well. It has gotten kind of clumpy and I think, I will divide it in early spring.

Thai pepper harvest, October 16, 2021

Porch. I grew mostly herbs on the porch this year, which I find to be the best use of the space. I also grew one hot Thai pepper plant that did very well and yielded a lot of fruit, which I turned into homemade Sriracha, it is so flavorful and spicy that it will likely last the whole year. I am definitely doing that again next year. I also had baby eggplant, one tomato plant, none of which did very well. In the spring I planted lettuces, which did well followed by corn, not so much. The cucumber also did not do well. I think lettuces, herbs, hot peppers (I also grew a jalapeno that did great) is what I will do next year. Lots of parsley and basil. And flowers.

Plot November 15, 2021

Plans for 2022. I had ten tomato plants, which was a great number and I probably will grow the same amount or maybe scale it back to 8 next year. Key again will be to do a mix of early, mid and late tomatoes, so I have a steady harvest from late July to late October. The hot peppers did great, I will definitely plant a Thai pepper for homemade Sriracha and a Jalapeno again on the porch. Probably not in the plot. No bell pepper though. Eggplants: I just love them. Next year, I might try a couple of traditional Italian eggplants or the slender Asian variety. The dwarf varieties just do not seem to work well for me. As for cucumbers, I will plant two or three pickling and perhaps two slicers. I feel the pickling cucumbers are of greater value for me because we all love them and they keep for a while. I sometimes feel I am too late harvesting the slicers in time and then they are too big. I will plant carrots and radishes again, but radishes on the porch only and not in the plot. I will plant one zucchini and make sure it has plenty of space and sun. One winter squash will be plenty for next year as I am the only one eating them. Maybe I will try Delicata again, because I love it so much. Or honeynut. Peas and beans again. For beans, only pole beans and more next year. Peas for snacking only, so I will plant a ton for early harvesting in the spring. I will plant lettuces from seed again, different varieties. Perhaps I manage to succession plant this year, that would be great, so I could have a steady supply in late spring and early summer and then again in the fall. I want more Swiss chard for next year, perhaps three healthy plants. Also three kale plants. No other Brassicas, I think, because of the aphids and because I just have had not much luck with cauliflower or Brussels sprouts. I will grow leeks next year, I really missed them this year. The garlic went into the ground in early November. As for flowers, I will plant more Zinnias and dahlias. I really loved the Zinnias. And I loved the giant sunflower, even though it took up space and shaded some of my crops. Maybe cosmos again, and nasturtium, and of course marigolds to keep the tomatoes company. As for herbs, I will have my little kitchen garden on the porch again, with basil, (a lot of) parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, mint and more. In the plot, it will be basil and parsley. This year I will make basil pesto for sure. I also loved the Thai basil pesto, so I will grow Thai basil on the porch again. As for the perennials, I will divide the asparagus and hope for the best for the rhubarb, although I might just have to replace it. On the porch next season, I will grow my herbs, hot peppers and perhaps some flowers. And lettuce and radishes in the spring.

Fall Planting

While I was working in the garden this morning, a fellow gardener told me that today was National Sunflower Day. So, here is my contribution. I love sunflowers. This one is ten feet tall, so I can’t even pick them to bring home. It is all good as now the entire neighborhood gets to enjoy them this way.

I did some weeding and clearing today and transplanted a scraggly looking Kagran Summer head lettuce and some basil seedlings. I also sowed more fall greens, radishes and more pole beans.

The glass gem corn is flowering and looking great. The squash vines are all over the place and there are many flowers, but so far, I have not seen a fruit. The cucumbers are winding down, I pulled the vines from the pickling cukes, there is only the slicer left and I might get a few more fruit from the plant. I harvested a few carrots as well.

The tomatoes are still going very strong. The chard and kale are very short for some reason. Not sure whether they are shaded too much by the corn and tomatoes or whether they just had a slow start. I pulled the parsley as it was dying. Again.

Mid-July

Dahlias, zinnias and asparagus

I spent some time in the garden today weeding the spot where I pulled the garlic a few days ago. I planted carrots and beets there and saved some space for fall greens that will go in the ground in a few weeks. I also sowed more pole beans, as some of the plants had been chewed down to their little stems by, I suspect, a rabbit. My harvest: a couple of pickling cucumbers and flowers.

Softneck garlic

I also cleaned the garlic today and hung it in our back stairwell to cure. In about two to three weeks, I will braid the softnecks and destem the hardnecks and store them for the long-term.

Softnecks on the bottom, hardnecks on the top behind

Peas and Carrots

This afternoon, I thinned my carrots (they are supposed to be rainbow carrots, but so far no deep red ones yet) and harvested my last handful of peas. I also took out the pea plants, weeded the plot (we had a lot of rain these past few days) and planted Kentucky Wonder pole beans in the spot where the peas used to be. I also planted nasturtium, which I somehow had forgotten to do earlier this season.

Carrot thinnings against a green backdrop of zucchini, cucumber, kale, Zinnias, onions, Chard, more carrots, beets, garlic and borage.

The garlic is starting to get ready, which is early. I typically harvest at the end of the month. But we had two heat waves, the last one just last week. With the heat and the rain, everything is speeding up this season. I also sprinkled Epsom salt around the base of the tomatoes to fertilize. Over the next few weeks, I will give all plants a nice seaweed/fish emulsion treatment. I have a few “naked” spots in my plot and plant to fill them with beets, carrots and lettuce.

Plot July 5, 2021

Porch Succession Planting

Before
After
… and in between (four glass gem corn seedlings)

We are having a heat wave here in Boston this weekend. It is supposed to last three days, and I decided to pull all the lettuce on my porch this morning. I had underplanted the lettuce in two containers with glass gem corn, and all eight seeds germinated. One of the containers (not pictured) currently only has four corn seedlings, and the bigger one (pictured here) was replanted with pickling cucumber today. Hopefully the cucumber and the corn will get along.

Porch lettuce harvest

Fully Planted

Today, I planted the remaining seedlings. I meant to do it last weekend (Memorial Day Weekend), but it was so rainy and cold (in the 40s at night) that it seemed wise to wait. In order to make space, I had to take out most of the walking onions and six humongous leeks. I planted 2 eggplants (Fairy Tale and Ping Tung), 1 pepper (the mystery one), 1 more tomato (Striped Roman), 3 kale seedlings, 3 Swiss chard plugs, 3 cucumbers (pickling, Dekah and Tokiwa), 3 winter squash (Butternut, Delicata and Lakota), 1 zucchini and 1 watermelon. I also interplanted the tomatoes with marigold, planted camomile and sowed glass gem corn among the squash and Zinnias with the Swiss chard. I don’t think I can fit anything else in my plot.

Seedlings before they went into the ground

The only thing not in the ground yet are green beans. I will plant some with the corn and squash once the corn has a good height and will plant a lot of beans after I harvest the garlic. Last year, I planted beans late in July and it was very successful.

Peas (and weeds), lettuce (and mint), tomatoes and Lakota squash
Cucumbers, lettuce, and squash (and a giant borage)
Parsley, baby lettuce mix, eggplant, camomile, tomatoes, kale, bok choi

Glass Gem Corn

Picture from Baker Creek catalog

Today I planted the glass gem corn seeds my neighbor had given me. First time growing glass gem corn. It is so pretty! I planted four seeds each in two wide containers on my back porch and will plant the rest (maybe ten seeds) in my plot, although I do not have much hope for those because of the rampant rodent problem in our city. I am hoping the seeds will germinate and the corn on my porch will be protected from the birds.

Planting Tomatoes and Dahlias

I spent a good three hours in the garden today, weeding, spreading compost and planting tomatoes, basil, parsley and dahlias. I planted a total of ten tomatoes: one each Striped Roman, Paul Robson, Black Krim, Valencia, Break O’ Day, Poll Robson Angolan and two each Green Zebra and Baker Family Heirloom. That’s a lot of tomatoes. I was going to go for eight, but alas ended up planting ten … I used the central stake method this time, which will be a first for me. I am just so tired of these flimsy cages. They will serve me well for growing cucumbers though.

I also planted dahlias in the back of the plot near the fence, where I usually put my flowers. No edibles there because dogs like to raise their legs on the other side of the fence. I planted two dahlias each of: Arabian Night, Lakeland Autumn, Park Princess (Cactus) and Star Elite (Cactus). I ordered three each from Holland Bulb Farms and all except one are looking healthy and have new growth. Very excited about the flowers. The remaining four (or three) dahlias will be planted in my front or side yard. Need to find a full-sun spot.

Tomorrow, I will go back to the garden and tie the tomato stems with garden velcro. I also will sow Zinnias and sunflowers (and harvest some leeks and lettuce).

Porch Planting

It has been (and will be) really warm these days and I could not wait any longer and planted my porch containers today: hot peppers (Early Jalapeno and Thai), Thai basil, Green Zebra tomato (with the parsley, and I am planning on using string to trellis it), Fairy Tale eggplant. I had fertilized the soil a few days ago.

Top: lettuces // tomato, parsley, Bottom: head lettuce // Fairy Tale eggplant

Thai hot pepper and lettuces // Jalapeno and Thai basil

Hardening off Seedlings

I have been hardening off my seedlings for about five days now, last night was the first night they spent outside. The nights are now consistently above 50 degrees, so I am planning to transplant them into the plot next weekend.

I have a ton of seedlings: 12 tomato seedlings (one each Striped Roman, Paul Robson, Valencia, Black Krim [all of those are from the Neighborhood Farm], 1 Break O’Day; 2 each Beaker Family Heirloom, Poll Robson Angolan (according to Sand Hill Preservation Center it is not entirely clear what variety this is, but I grew it last year and it was not a true Paul Robson) and 3 Green Zebra). I also have 3 peppers (one each Early Jalapeno, Thai and Chico Invite), 3 eggplants (2 Fairy Tale and 1 Ping Tung), 2 each Butternut Squash and Honeyboat Delicata, 3 each Tokiwa cucumber, Dekah cucumber (a pickling cucumber), National Pickling cucumber, 3 watermelon, 1 Lakota winter squash (a gift from a neighbor) and 1 Zucchini (all cukes, squash and melons have three plants per cell), 2 Thai Basil, 3 Genovese basil, 1 cilantro. I also started new head lettuce for succession planting.

On my porch, I will plant two peppers (Early Jalapeno and Thai), 1 eggplant (Fairy Tale), 1 tomato (either Green Zebra or Poll Robson Angolan) and maybe 1 cucumber (likely National Pickling or Dekah). Also the basil, Thai basil, cilantro. The rest of the seedlings will go in the plot and I will give some away.