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.

Porch Happenings

Tulips March 10, 2021

It has been a nice warm week with day temperatures in the fifties. Today, I sowed radishes and lettuce (Kagran Summer) together in one of the big containers on the back porch, I also sowed arugula in two grow bags. I am usually too late with porch arugula and it bolts before I can harvest; this is the earliest I have ever sowed it. Fingers crossed.

Freshly sown arugula, radishes and lettuce

2020 in Review

Plot September 8

Time for another gardening year review and for laying out the plans for the next year. This year was like no other, as COVID-19 changed life as we know it for everyone. Thankfully, our family made it through the year healthy, though my high school senior/now college freshmen daughter and my now high school sophomore son had a hard time with remote learning and with missed milestones and cancelled school sport seasons. For our community garden, the pandemic meant that for a long time we did not know whether the gardens would open at all. Finally, at the end of May, we got the green light and our water was turned on, so I got a very late start in the garden. As the garden coordinator, I put rules and measures in place to keep our gardeners safe. Everyone had to wear a mask inside the garden as long as other people were around and wear gloves at all times. Also, everyone had to disinfect the garden gate before entering and the shed lock and the water spigot and nozzle before use. I put a bunch of cloth rags (that I took home to wash after use) and disinfectant in the shed so gardeners could disinfect tools and supplies. All gardeners adhered to the rules and our season went smoothly. The plots looked the best they ever have, with tons of veggies and very few weeds, in part thanks to the pandemic, because almost everyone worked from home and had to socially distance and therefore had extra time on their hands.

We had a very cold and wet spring, so the growing season was delayed in general. The spring rains were a blessing for our gardeners who had planted spring crops. Again, I had been cautious and apart from sowing radishes, carrots and peas, I did not plant anything in the spring.

Eggplant, August 25

Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Cucumbers. It was a good year for tomatoes, but unfortunately I did not keep a good record of the varieties I grew. I started with four different types from seed (Break O’Day, Dr. Wychee Yellow, Green Zebra, Eva Purple Ball) and bought a couple more plants from the Neighborhood Farm in June (Green Zebra and two other varieties). I lost a couple of plants, not sure which ones. Dr. Wychee and Green Zebra plus some other “red ones” did well in the plot. For peppers, I only grew Thai hot peppers, and they did well, both in the plot and on my back porch. Eggplants did well in my plot, for the first time. I grew both Ping Tung and also a regular variety (gifted by another gardener) and while they had a late start they did well. The eggplant on the porch (Ping Tung) remained very small-fruited, so I am not sure I will repeat this next year. The two cucumber plants (one pickling, the other one a slicer) had a stellar start but then quickly wilted, I am not sure what happened.

Carrots and radishes, November 6

Root vegetables. The porch radishes were amazing; the radishes grown in the plot had some “damage”. They clearly were eaten by something. The carrots were delicious, but it took a few rounds of sowing before they came up successfully. As usual, the fall crop did much better than the spring crop. Beets did well, in particular the Chiogga beets – I planted two rounds of seedlings (one gifted, one bought). The ones I grew from seed (golden beets) did not do very well. They were small when I transplanted them and most of them were eaten by something. I did not plant potatoes this year.

Baby butternut framed by kale and Swiss chard, August 16

Summer and Winter squash. First time planting zucchini. Because I grew them from seed (late) and planted them late, I had a late harvest (August through October) but it was a great one. I really enjoyed harvesting zucchini this late in the season. The butternut squash did alright, I harvested three pretty big ones, the Delicata squash sadly died along the way. Somehow the stem was cut/chewed. Anyway, I love them and will definitely plant both summer and winter squash next year.

Pole beans”, August 13

Legumes. A disaster. Both peas (I sowed three rounds) and pole beans (also three rounds) never made it past the tiny seedling stage before the resident rabbit got the better of them. The porch peas did well, but it wasn’t a big amount, just a small bowl for snacking.

Lettuces, June 23

Greens. The lettuces did amazing this year. I planted a lot of lettuce in the spring (grown from seed and transplanted) and then fall greens (direct-sowed in August), which I harvested well into December as baby greens. The Swiss chard had a stellar year as well. I could hardly keep up with harvesting. They did have some leaf miner damage, but it was manageable.

Garlic harvest, July 18

Alliums. Great year for garlic (51 heads)! Some of those heads were humongous. The leeks did well too, I left an entire row for overwintering. And I have those Egyptian walking onions that show up all over my plot. They always do well and are delicious, shallot-type onions.

Kale, December 6

Brassicas. The only brassica I grew this year was kale. I started with three varieties: curly, Tuscan and Red Russian. I pulled the Red Russian because it was infested with flea beetles but the other ones did well. I only had one plant each in my plot, which was enough for my family’s needs as with my daughter now in college I am the only kale eater. There were some aphids, but very manageable. The Tuscan kale on my back porch stayed very small, I guess it need a bigger pot.

Porch herbs, May 24

Herbs. I had basil and parsley (and borage) in my plot. The parsley turned yellow after a while and died. This is the second year in a row this happened and I really want to know why. Another community gardener had the same experience. The porch herbs did great as usual, I had a ton of parsley and all the other common herbs. In late fall, I moved the two rosemary plants and the thyme inside to my kitchen and I still use them in my cooking.

Rhubarb, April 12

Perennials. There are only two: asparagus and rhubarb. I have only a tiny asparagus patch but it did well. The rhubarb was very anemic and I did not dare to harvest any. I am not sure what is happening.

Baby Ping Tung eggplant, July 25

Porch. This year, as in previous years, I grew a lot of herbs on my porch. It is so nice to have your culinary herbs just a few steps away when you make dinner. I grew parsley (underplanted in two big pots growing tomatoes and peppers), sage, thyme oregano, rosemary, nasturtium (did not use them in cooking though), mint, chives. I also had radishes (which were amazing), lettuces (good), kale (not so great), hot peppers (great), eggplant (meh), Swiss chard (meh), tomatoes (meh). Next year, I will focus on herbs, greens, hot peppers and flowers.

(Mutant?) dahlia and asparagus greens, September 6

Flowers. Dahlias, cosmos, nasturtiums, marigolds in the garden; some dianthus and nasturtium on the porch. The dahlias were really late this year, so I was not able to enjoy them as long as in previous years. I will definitely plant more flowers next year.

October 30

Plans for 2021. I had a total of 8 tomato plants and that was a great number. I picked the varieties so they were fruiting at different times and that seemed to have worked well. I do need to amend the soil as some of the plants only had a few fruit. I will definitely plant more hot peppers next year, maybe some shishitos as well. Definitely Thai and jalapeno and perhaps some other varieties. I love eggplant, and I will have another two to four plants in the garden next year, maybe two Asian and two Mediterranean varieties. Definitely will be planting cucumber again, one slicing variety and one or two pickling (those pickles were delicious!). Definitely carrots and radishes next year. The porch radishes were great, so I will do those again, maybe more and in a bigger container. For carrots, definitely rainbow. One zucchini plant was enough, so that is what will happen next year, plus two or three winter squash. I love sugar snap peas and pole beans, so I will try them again next year. Fingers crossed the resident rabbit has moved on. Lettuces from seed and transplanting them worked well, I should try to stagger them better so I have a constant supply. One row of Swiss chard is plenty. The garlic is in the ground, the Egyptian walking onions are doing their thing. So, I will plant one or two rows of leeks in the spring, from purchased seedlings. Two or three kale plants are enough. I will likely not grow any other brassicas because of the aphid problem, but maybe I will change my mind. I will have the usual assortment of herbs on the porch, but would really love to have more parsley in the garden. I will research the yellowing issue and hopefully find a solution. Also, as always, tons of basil in the plot, and this year I will make pesto again. I am hoping, the rhubarb will recover but I think it has to do with my pill bug infestation. They just are having a feast eating all the roots. I am not mulching with straw this year and over the winter and hopefully that will make them go away. The asparagus will just give me a few handful of spears as every year and that will be fine. On the porch, I will have culinary herbs, hot peppers, flowers and lettuces. That just seems to be the best use of the space and my pot sizes. As for flowers, there will be more dahlias in the plot, I will try sunflowers again and cosmos (maybe zinnias?), and of course nasturtium and marigold.

Dahlia

I cut my second dahlia today. It is a gorgeous one (not sure what kind, it is neither one of the three varieties I ordered back in the spring), and I paired it with asparagus and mint.

I also harvested a ton of Swiss chard, three carrots (apparently only the yellow ones have made it so far from my rainbow carrot mix) and some tomatoes. Still growing are eggplant, some zucchini, leeks and the winter squash as well as much more chard and kale. There are also still a few tomatoes on the vine. All the seeds I sowed about a week ago (radish, arugula, fall greens) and the beet transplants have come up. Fingers crossed the bunny will leave them alone.

Seedlings

Today it will be hitting 60 degrees here in Boston. Spring is in the air. I repotted some seedlings, namely basil and head lettuce. My seedlings are doing fine, everything sprouted except, sadly, the eggplant. I reseeded some a couple of days ago, but the seeds are from last year so maybe that was the reason. Under my grow lights, I currently have basil, tomatoes, lettuce, hot peppers, kale, parsley (it final sprouted!). On my porch I sowed spring greens, arugula, radishes and mache. The spring greens are coming in nicely and some growth is starting to appear in the pot with the radishes/mache. Very exciting. Also, this is happening right now on my back porch:

I also went to the community garden to plant more peas, radishes and carrots.

Adjusting to Coronavirus

It is close to the end of March and I am starting to plan the gardening season. We had frost last night and will have more tonight and I am planning to get my peas in the ground in two days when it is a bit warmer again. I also started seedlings yesterday with my daughter. So far, so normal. However, the schools here in Boston have been closed for a week now because of Covid-19. The governor declared a state of emergency five days ago, restaurants are closed or do take-out only, people are encouraged to work from home, grocery stores now only allow a certain number of shoppers inside. The world is a very different place than just a week ago. Everyone is asked to stay home, which is hard for my two teenagers. My 17 year-old daughter copes with exercising, reading and asking me to teach her how to bake bread and how to grow your own food (she never showed much interest in gardening), and become more self-sufficient. So, we started by sowing seeds. For now, we started two types of lettuce (Bronze Beauty and Kagran Summer), eggplant (Ping Tung), Thai hot pepper (should have started those about a month ago, but alas), flat parsley (should also have been started earlier), basil, four types of tomato (Break O’ Day, Dr. Wychee Yellow, Green Zebra, Eva Purple Ball). We set them up under grow lights and with a heat mat in my bedroom.

We will need to adjust our community garden season as well. We will of course not have our annual spring meeting or our spring work day this year. We will need to think about disinfecting shared gardening tools and other surfaces.

So far, gardening has not been restricted by the city or the state, but should there be a “shelter in place” order in the future, we will likely not be able to tend to our plots. On the other hand, growing some of your own food will be more important this year than ever. The borders are shutting down, and migrant workers who pick most of our produce will not be able to enter the country and we will likely experience some sort of food shortage.

I will try to move as much as I can to container gardening at home, as this seems a feasible and safe option. For now, I am planning to grow herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, kale, chard, eggplant, hot peppers.