Tag Archives: garden

Harvest tally

854 cucumbers

End of summer melons, pumpkins and squash

11 pounds potatoes

251 pounds tomatoes

25 watermelons

31 cantaloupes

49 pumpkins

4 pounds jalapeno peppers

Small amounts of carrots, kale, green beans, basil and onions

In the cupboard, fridge and freezer:

Edamame

29 gallons pickles

3 quarts frozen kale

4 quarts dried tomatoes

14 pints & 15 quarts salsa

3 quarts dilly beans

5 quarts frozen roasted tomatoes

Some critter is getting into the garden and nibbling on the squash

1 quart frozen pesto

6 pints pickled hot peppers

= not enough time to write blog posts.

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Late summer evenings in the garden

I love later summer evenings.

Andy & I in a late summer field. (Photo copyright Sarah Moore Photography)

The crickets hum as brown seed heads of grass wave in the breeze. There’s a coolness to the air – just enough to wear long sleeves. The light is soft and warm, covering the garden with a glow.

Our garden is tucked back away from the road, surrounded by a field and then woods. It’s a peaceful place. We drive up a hill to get to it. As we crest the hill, we look down on our little square of vegetables in the middle of a field of grass, oats, clover and low bush blueberries. I’m always excited to see how it has changed since the last time we were there.

On this evening I kneel in soft clover pathways and pull weeds from the carrots and beets. Finally, after a long day at work, I can let my mind wander. When I’m tired and grumpy, I always feel better by doing a little work and seeing what we have created. I hope I never lose the feeling of gardening as a miracle of nature.

Us in the corn. (Photo copyright Sarah Moore Photography)

Us on our truck. (Photo copyright Sarah Moore Photography)

Pest report

All we’re harvesting this time of year is bugs. Well, that’s not entirely true. We have picked kale and cucumbers and dug a few potatoes just to make sure that they are there. But the majority of what we’re doing is dealing with pests.

Eric Sideman writes a periodic pest report for MOFGA. We get a lot of good information from him. Here’s our pest report, or here’s what we’ve been able to identify so far…

We first started seeing Colorado potato beetles two to three weeks ago. I’ve always hated potato beetles, especially the juveniles. They’re so slimy and gross. Instead of squishing them, this year we’ve gotten great satisfaction out of feeding them to the chickens. At first the chickens didn’t really know what to do with them. We think they were thrown off by food that moves. Soon they started gobbling the bugs down.

We’ve been picking the potato beetles regularly (two or three times a week). We still find some every time, but we see very few adults. They are doing damage to the potato plants, but we’re optimistic that we’re staying on top of them.

Potatoes probably killed by leaf hoppers

Even with the beetles, the potatoes were doing great until the leaf hoppers moved in. These small, green bugs suck the juice out of plants and inject a toxin that clogs the food conducting tissue. Eric Sideman describes them as “catastrophic.” We’ve been spraying them with an organic insecticidal soap, but some of our potatoes and beans are not going to make it.

Around two weeks ago we first noticed the cabbage caterpillars. These small green caterpillars like to eat brassicas, which include kale, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. There are several species, but I haven’t learned the difference between them yet. The caterpillars are the same color as the leaves of the plants, so they’re quite hard to find. So far we’re trying to control them by picking and squishing them.

Fungus on the tomatoes, possibly early blight

Our tomatoes have some sort of fungus on them. One extension agent thinks it’s early blight. We picked off all the yellow and brown leaves, and we got some copper to spray on the plants to protect them from fungus.

On a positive note, here’s what Andy wrote in an email about the garden recently:

Lots of green tomatoes

“I just wanted to give you a garden update since earlier this week I sounded so grim.  The potatoes are still not fairing so well, but from what I’ve read, you can leave them in the ground for a few weeks as long as it’s not too wet. The heat and humidity has broken a bit so that bodes well for the suspected fungus infection that the tomatoes have. Fungus doesn’t like dry breezy weather and that’s what it’s been the last couple of days, and will be most of next week. So there is hope!

Pie pumpkin

Watermelon!

Yesterday I picked 68 cucumbers and Julia has made four gallons of pickles so far. We’ve got several pie pumpkins the size of cantaloupe and several cantaloupes the size of grapefruits and grapefruit the size…no wait, no grapefruit. The corn is growing like crazy and there at least half a dozen tiny baby Hubbard squash. No ripe tomatoes, but lots of green fruit.  Watermelons are growing well, peppers are hanging in there and the edamame are looking great. There’s more, but let’s just say that if we are lucky, most things will do well and we will have a feast to remember in September.”

Some of the onions are doing okay after the addition of wood ash

Corn

pH matters

It’s the time of summer when there aren’t enough hours in the day. In addition to gardening and swimming and planning a wedding, my job for the Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association is also much more time consuming and busy in the summer. I haven’t had much time to write, though it doesn’t mean nothing is happening in the garden.

Garden on July 5th

Some crops seem to grow overnight. The pumpkins and potatoes are huge. The tomatoes and cucumbers and brassicas look great. But the onions and corn leave much to be desired. We’ve been trying to figure out why the onions have done so little even though they were the first seedlings we put in the ground. My father suggested the problem could be pH.

Many crops do best in slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7. Soil pH affects the chemical forms of nutrients like phosphorus and iron. When soil pH is too acidic or too alkaline, some nutrients convert to a form that cannot be absorbed by plants. Even in nutrient-rich soil, off-balance pH may cause plants to suffer nutrient deficiencies

In Maine, soil is often too acidic for optimum plant growth. Luckily, soil pH can be easily raised by spreading and mixing in ground limestone. When we got our soil tested in the spring, we found out that the pH was 5.6. We spread 350 pounds of lime and 65 pounds of wood ash (about half the recommended amount) and tilled it in. However, we expect that the lime hasn’t had time to completely do its work.

Potatoes are one crop that does grow well in more acidic soils, preferring a pH of 5.5. We didn’t spread any lime in our potato area, and the potato plants are enormous. The onions, however, prefer a pH of 6-7.

To see if we could solve the low pH in our onion patch, we dumped some wood ash around the plants. Wood ash raises pH and is more water soluble than limestone. We only had enough ash for part of the onion row. Today, after the rain had a chance to wash the ash into the soil, the part of the onion row we treated seems to be greener and larger. Before we spread ash on the rest of the onions, we’ll take a picture so we can assess the results more concretely.

We’ve decided to do an experiment with our tomatoes. Some people prune their tomatoes to improve their yield. Tomato plants sprout suckers where new leaves leave the main stem. When pruning, you cut these suckers off. I’ve always wondered whether pruning tomatoes really makes a difference. This summer we intend to find out. We pruned one side of the row and left the other half untouched. We’ll weigh the fruit we get from each side.

First batch of cucumbers and dill

Our first crop is ripening: cucumbers. We were very excited to make our first jar of pickles!

I’ve been adding lots of pictures to the Photos page of chicks, plants and more. Check them out!

In case you’re interested, I found this list of pH preferences for different crops:

  • Beans            6.0-7.0
  • Beets             6.5-8.0
  • Broccoli        6.0-7.0
  • Cabbage       6.0-7.5
  • Cantaloupe  6.0-7.5
  • Carrots         5.5-7.0
  • Corn             5.5-7.5
  • Cucumbers 5.5-7.0
  • Lettuce        6.0-7.0
  • Onions         6.0-7.0
  • Peas             6.0-7.5
  • Peppers       5.5-7.0
  • Potatoes      4.8-6.5
  • Squash        6.0-7.0
  • Tomatoes   5.5-7.5

The garden is filling up

Sunday was a big planting day. We transplanted pepper and melon seedlings and directly seeded more beets and carrots. Ten beds out of 14 are filled with plants or seeds. Others are partially planted. Each bed is around 100 feet long.

Tiny corn seedlings

We gave the plants a snack of watered down fish emulsion. This provides plants with an organic and natural source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. We hope this will give the onions especially a boost (they’re looking a little stunted). Perry, the Jersey cow who lives next door, munched grass nearby as we worked. Gabbie stayed in the truck the whole time, which is typical for her.

We hilled the potatoes, meaning we piled up dirt around the stems of our growing potato plants. This prevents light from reaching the tubers. When potatoes are exposed to light they turn green and slightly poisonous. Hilling also keeps weeds in check and provides potatoes room to expand.

Newly planted melon seedling

It was a typical summer Sunday for us. Andy milked Perry the cow (she belongs to Medomak Camp) while I made pancakes and coffee. We ate breakfast while listening to NPR (paying particular attention to the Sunday Puzzle). Then we headed out to the garden in our new truck. After working until we were too hungry to continue, we came home for lunch.

We love having Sunday traditions, and working in the garden is something we look forward to. So far, the work load has been manageable with a few hours on Sunday and occasional time during the week. Surprisingly, we haven’t had many weeds come up yet, but that could change. Gardening isn’t easy, but it’s doable. With the knowledge and desire, I think most families could grow at least some of their own vegetables without a huge time commitment.

I made a map of the garden, which shows where everything is planted and will be planted. We’ve still got some open space unspoken for. Any ideas on what we should grow?

A map of the garden

A quick garden update

Under clouds last Saturday, after a week of mostly rain, we happily transplanted broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, more tomatoes, basil and dill into the garden. It was a great day for transplanting – cool and wet.

Transplanted kale and broccoli

We planted two beds halfway with the brassicas (broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower) and covered them with remay to keep the flea beetles out. In the other half of those beds, we planted corn (8 rows in 4 beds all together). By yesterday, much of the corn had germinated.

Tomatoes

We have 102 tomato seedlings in the ground now (and more in pots getting ready to be transplanted). If it’s a good year for tomatoes, we might just be overrun. But we do enjoy canning tomato sauce and salsa, and last summer we roasted and froze tomatoes, which were great for soups.

The potato plants are huge, and we’ll have to hill them soon. Our clover is growing well between the garden beds. We’re hoping the clover will keep the weeds down and add nitrogen to the soil.

The potatoes are bigger every day!

We’ve planted two kinds of melons inside in trays – a cantaloupe and a yellow watermelon. I can just imagine the juicy sweetness, and I can’t wait. The melon seedlings are leggy, but they’re growing. We’ll put them in the ground in a couple of weeks.

Pumpkin seedlings covered by remay

Our pumpkins and squash plants are doing well. We planted the seeds directly into the garden on May 22. Cucumber seedlings we transplanted on May 30 are also growing well.

And we bought a truck! We found a 1994 Chevy Silverado 4×4 with a rebuilt engine in pretty good condition for $3,000. Now we can haul all the manure, veggies, chickens, wood and compost we want, without making many trips with our cars.

We bought a truck!

There’s so much hope and expectation this time of year. We watch the garden fill with lush green and wait with hopes of few pests and good weather.

In support of local food

I can imagine some future brides poring over wedding magazines – looking at dresses, shoes and flowers. I pore over seed catalogs – ooohing and ahhhing over heirloom tomatoes and hot peppers. Mmmmm…romanesco cauliflower, blue ballet squash, yellow sunshine watermelon…these varieties are definitely wedding-worthy.

I was asked in an interview recently why we decided to take on this project (check out the Portland Press Herald article by clicking here). Why grow and cook the food for our wedding dinner? Why take on another potentially stressful task to prepare for our special day? The question really got me thinking. Was our motivation primarily to save money, be self-sufficient, feel connected to our food source, make some sort of statement about eating locally or just serve delicious, fresh food to our guests?

The answer is a combination of all of these reasons. Andy and I feel passionately about eating fresh, locally-grown food. We love the taste of fresh food. We also try to limit our negative environmental impact, so we eat food that has required less chemicals and fossil fuels to be grown and transported to us and thus has had a lighter impact on the earth. We are appalled by the way animals are treated in factory farms.

We also value community, and we see eating locally as a way neighbors can get to know each other through mutual support. We hope to help preserve the traditional farming lifestyle of New England so children understand where their food comes from and what goes into growing it. For all of these reasons, and probably several more, we strive to eat local food grown in a humane and sustainable way. Writing this blog is, I suppose, a statement in support of small farms. We do what we can to make a positive impact on the world, but we also do what makes us happy. We hope that others will do the same.

Planting cucumbers in black plastic

It makes us happy to work on projects. We’re not the type of people who spend much time sitting around. When living in Portland, I used to run a lot. Now I garden.

It’s hard to explain why we get so much satisfaction from providing for our own needs. In the last year we’ve cut all our own firewood, smoked our own bacon and ham, brewed our own beer, boiled sap into maple syrup, canned pickles and applesauce and froze many different fruits and vegetables. Partly, we do this to save money, but it’s about more than just that. The food tastes better when we preserve it ourselves. The pile of wood keeps us active and outside while cutting and then keeps us warm all winter.

Potatoes

The wedding garden is also an experiment that we hope to learn from in planning future gardens. We are planning to start our own small, diversified farm in the near future, and we will need to do the same sort of planning that went into this garden, just on a larger scale. I’m keeping meticulous records (in this sense I truly am my mother’s daughter). For every crop, we’re keeping track of how much we planted, how much space it took up and how many pounds of product we get out of it. Keeping track of what it all costs will also help us plan future, larger gardens.

Bags of rocks to weigh down row cover -- using the resources we have

Money is also a factor in our decision. As both of us are the type to choose low paying jobs because we enjoy them, neither of us has ever had a lot of money. We are trying to keep our wedding expenses low so we can use our hard-earned savings for farm start-up expenses. Our most recent wedding budget has us spending somewhere between $6,000-7,000 total, with somewhere around $1,500 of that being for food. We were joking that few wedding budgets include things like chicken feed and potting soil. Our budget numbers are still very rough, though, and they could be way off. Check back later for an updated budget.

It helps in taking on this task that we don’t feel like we’re entering this endeavor as total beginners. Though we haven’t done it commercially, we aren’t brand new to farming. My parents moved to Maine as part of the back to the land movement, joining other city folk searching for a more meaningful lifestyle close to the land. As a child, I learned about growing food, raising chickens and preserving food. Andy grew up in the country too. He had his own garden as a child.

As adults, we’ve each spent two seasons working for other farmers. Last summer we spent the summer together working at Dandelion Spring Farm, just to make sure we still wanted to farm together before we bought land. Despite the relentless rain, we had a great summer. During summers when we haven’t worked on farms, we’ve usually had gardens in our yards or at community gardens. Our wedding garden will be the largest either of us has planted on our own.