Category Archives: lessons

There are always a few surprises

We have always ordered our seeds from Pinetree seeds, in Maine.  We like them because they are a small company and they promote seeds with a good germination rate.  On the few occasions that the seeds do not do well, Pinetree either replaces your seeds or refunds your money. We’ve noticed that when we let them know about a problem, it is probably not limited to us because those types of seeds often disappear from the following year’s catalog.

Last year we ran into our first case of strange vegetables.  We had ordered more of the Mr. Big Pea and decided to try Sugar Snap peas as well.  We very carefully planted the seeds in specific rows, one type at a time.  The plants came up, and we had a mix – some were the Mr. Big Pea (shell peas), others were just Sugar Snap (pea pods.) Literally from one plant to the next they could be different.  We investigated – peas can cross-pollinate.  Lesson learned – we shrugged it off, ate what we liked, and froze the rest (mostly the pea pods.)  I had the thought of using them in a stir fry; I think we still have a few bags, a year later.  Clearly not popular with us.

This year something’s going on with the squash.  We’re growing yellow squash and zucchini; they are in the same area.  One yellow squash plant is producing these:

2014-08-13 19.16.25Now, you would think that it’s a cross-pollination issue, right?  Except that there is a type of squash that looks just like that, called a Zephyr squash.  We know this, because we grew it two years ago.  It was not a particularly disease-resistant plant, so we only grew it that one year.  So it could be cross pollination (both types of plants are in the same area) or it could be a Zephyr squash plant.  Which is essentially a cross-pollinated summer squash/zucchini whose seeds are saved.

Maybe we should start our own seed company with the offspring of all of our mistakes.

The end…..for now

Today I ate the last dozen or so Sungold tomatoes.  I would like to note that it is November, and this is amazing.  I would have documented the occasion, but I was at work and forgot my camera.  The garden kept going all the way through the second-to-last week of October, finally succumbing to a hard frost somewhere over the nights of October 23rd and 24th.  It was a fantastic run.  I can only tally what we canned or froze, but here’s where we stand in our first large-scale effort to preserve our harvest for later use:

  • 22 jars dill pickles
  • 5 jars bread and butter pickles
  • 12 jars sweet banana peppers
  • 4 jars green tomato chutney (hurrah!  A use for unripe green tomatoes at the end of the season!)
  • 56 cups of diced tomatoes
  • 8 bags of beans
  • 1 bag of peas
  • 3 bags of corn
  • 3 bags of peppers (jalapeno & Fooled You)

It was not a stellar year for either the peas or the corn – although we did eat some fresh – but it was an amazing year for tomatoes.  We boiled, peeled, seeded & diced those suckers in 2-cup increments and froze them for use in cooking.  We’ve already used about 9 bags so far, and the taste is so much better than even the canned organic tomatoes I normally buy.  However, all these frozen vegetables take up a bit of room, as you can see:

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There’s no way to really calculate what we harvested and ate fresh – over the long weekend of Columbus Day, J harvested about 15 of our Bride eggplants, fire roasted them, and turned them into eggplant dip.  We ate one container, and froze the other two for future consumption as the recipe calls exclusively for Asian eggplants and we can’t get them around here unless we grow them.  So we’ll defrost that container, maybe for New Year’s, and think longingly of fresh summer vegetables. It’s just about enough time to have forgotten how hot and backbreaking it is to weed in the middle of summer.

Until next year……

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Mid-August Update

Now that we are well and truly past mid-August, here’s where things stand in the yard:



Main garden



Eggplants and peppers



Carrots, lettuce, potatoes, shallots



Corn – slow going, but it’s coming along
Pumpkins, watermelons and in the rear, the corn again

Our main garden and raised beds are doing well.  This week I noticed that the potato plants are starting to die off, which means I should be harvesting them soon.  (CRF did share that tidbit over tea.)  The back forty patch has not done as well as we would have liked, but that area was so wet right through June it is nothing short of amazing that anything is growing there.  The watermelons are pretty much toast – nibbled by some bug, they barely grew.  Two of the five mounds still have some greenery, but that’s it.  The pumpkins are growing, and so far we have eight small green Orange Smoothie pumpkins, and two Jack-Be-Littles.  It seems unlikely that the Howden or Lumina vines will produce pumpkins for fall.  (The Luminas got eaten by the same bugs that went after the watermelons, we think.)  And while I’m disappointed that I will not have white pumpkins for my porch (think of the color contrast between white pumpkins and orange flames, when J lights them up on Halloween!), our only expectation was that we would get the garden in back there this year – the area needed heavy brush-cutting, mowing, plowing and tilling.  Now that we’ve established an area, next year we can improve it and overall crop health.

What we’ve learned so far:

1.) It is gong to be possible to grow two crops of certain types of vegetables, such as beans and peas, in our hardiness zone.  (With our occasionally late frosts – we sometimes have them as late as the 2nd weekend in May – we thought it was only safe to plant after Memorial Day.)  Our goal next year will be to do two plantings of peas, and three of beans.

2.) Fertilizer – it makes all the difference in the world in the growing season in central New England.  We’re partial to Neptune’s Harvest, an organic liquid fertilizer you mix with water.  Expensive, but worth it for how it works and the fact that it’s organic.

3.) Squash plants – six of each (summer squash and zucchini) is too many.  Four each is more than enough.  When we try to plant six each again next year, someone remind me we don’t need that many.

4.) You really can have too many sungold tomato plants.  (Even for me.)  They don’t freeze well, so we have to consume vast quantities of them or give them away.  Part of me doesn’t mind putting the sungolds into berry boxes and distributing them, but a (tiny, little) selfish part of me dies a little death every time I hand over a box of them.  Next year we’re going to reduce the number and try some other tomatoes, like plum, so I can make sauce.

5.) Those strawberries are just for the chipmunk.  He will outsmart every trick you have to keep him away.  Just give up, and leave a tiny napkin next to the plants so he can wipe his mouth on the way out of the garden bed.

6.) The hammock is much more useful when properly installed.  Maybe someday I will actually get to sit in it for more than 10 minutes:

The view from the main garden – it looks so inviting when working in the hot sun!