Sunday, July 26, 2009

The End

This is our last night in Winthrop. All of our possessions are boxed up and ready for the movers, who will be here bright and early tomorrow morning. We were lucky to have one final sunny day here. And as I'm writing, a cool ocean breeze is blowing into our apartment.

To be honest, I've been wanting a larger home and more land for so long now that I never stopped to think about how much I will truly miss this apartment. I doubt that I will ever be able to live in a place like this again. I wish that everyone had the chance to live on the ocean and to experience everything it has to offer- the sights, sounds and especially the smells.

Sunrise 1
I had posted earlier that my favorite time to take in our views of the Atlantic is early in the morning, when the air is still and all you can hear is the distant sound of seagulls. I thought it was only appropriate to bid farewell by sharing some of our favorite pictures taken during this time. Goodbye Winthrop! We'll miss you!

Sunrise 2

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rain, Rain, Rain

Today, I woke up at 5 am to the sound of torrential winds and rain. My first thought was of my meyer lemon tree, which I had left outside despite warnings of stormy weather. I ran out onto the balcony (still in my undies no less) to find it on its side, the poor thing wedged underneath a fallen deck chair. Luckily, aside from a few broken young branches and spilled soil, it was still in good shape. Is it a sickness to be so emotionally invested in your plants?

The seedlings spent yet another day inside. Growth has been very slow. I was planning on building some shelves fit with grow lamps this winter. Until then, I'll just have to pray for sunnier days.

Asian Greens 2

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

beets 1 Asian Greens 1
Let's start with the bad - Germination thus far has been pretty sporadic. About a week and a half ago, I seeded a couple of trays with beans, beets, broccoli and zucchini. Last weekend I started the Asian greens and peas. Making a semi-decent show of it are the beets (left) and Asian greens (right). I re-seeded some cells last weekend with more beets and they are just starting to push through the surface to join the others. The Asian greens have been by far the most vigorous (I sowed these seeds on Sunday). The lesson I've learned here is not to be so stingy when it comes to the number of seeds you sow per cell. I started out sowing 1 beet seed per cell and have since sowed 2 more in the cells that showed no signs of life after 7 days - a bit of a waste of time if you ask me.

Next, the ugly - The beans, broccoli and zucchini have been a bit of a catastrophe if you ask me. Two out of 8 beans and 1 out of 8 broccoli plants have emerged. The first (and I suspect only) zucchini plant is just starting to break the surface. I can only partially blame the weather. When I sowed the beans, I had coated each seed with a bit of inoculant. NOT A GOOD IDEA WHEN YOU ARE SOWING IN TRAYS!!!! Maybe it was a combination of weather, too much moisture and inoculant that did it, but when I dug up some cells to see what was going on, I noticed that the beans showed no signs of germination and would disintegrate upon the slightest pressure (the insides oozing out and releasing an awful smell). When I investigated the peas, I discovered the same thing. Coincidentally enough, the two bean seeds that did sprout were ones that I had chosen not to coat with inoculant. As a result, I spent this evening disposing of and reseeding my beans and peas. If anyone out there has had success with inoculating legumes started in seed trays, please let me know. Me, I don't think I'll ever do that again. Lastly, I have no idea what's going on with the broccoli and zucchini.

Lemon Tree Growth 2
Lemon Tree growth Lime Tree Growth 3
Now let's end with the good- Currently, my meyer lemon and kaffir lime trees are both experiencing a major flush of leafy growth. Given the fact that this summer has been so mild and rainy thus far, I suspect that this is the flush that should have occurred last month. Better late than never I guess. I can't wait to see the end result of this growth spurt!

Lime Tree Growth 2

Monday, July 20, 2009

Seed Box

Seed Box
I love finding new uses for old items (or in this case, things in the back of the closet that have never been used at all). While boxing up some odds and ends for the big move, I found this metal lunch box in the trash pile. I thought to myself, "what a perfect place to keep seeds!" I'd like to see a mouse get through this. (Then again, I probably shouldn't underestimate a mouse.)

Inside Seed Box

Saturday, July 18, 2009

More Signs of Life

Bean Seedling
A couple of bean seedlings have emerged. It's interesting to see how large and robust they are compared to the beets and broccoli (below). Last night, I sowed a few more beans and broccoli, as well as some peas. I'm a bit paranoid that I may have seeded the broccoli too deeply and so this sowing will be my insurance policy. Still no sign of the zucchini.

broccoli seedling
I'm getting concerned that I may have waited too long to start my fall crops. I'm less concerned about my salad and Asian greens since they have shorter maturity dates and can be harvested at different stages of maturity. Nonetheless, I'm wishing for Indian summer this year. My first priority is to get the fall plantings of carrots into the ground as soon as we get in the new house. I figure that everything else will stay relatively happy in the seed trays until I can get a large plot dug and fenced.

Also, I found an interesting article on "grow[ing] your best fall garden" in this month's Mother Earth News. From what I read, I'm definitely cutting it close since our new home is located in hardiness zone 6. I guess it's a good thing I was planning on experimenting with using fabric and plastic row covering this fall.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Signs of Life

Signs of Life
When I checked the cell trays this morning, I was pleased to find that a few seedlings had emerged. I had sown my fall crop of broccoli, zucchini, beans, and beets last Saturday night. Five days later, the beet seedlings have started to emerge! I'm a bit surprised considering that the seed packet indicated that germination took between 14 to 21 days. I was certain that the beans would be the first to germinate (7 to 14 days). Just when you think you know what to expect, mother nature throws you a curve ball. Still no sign of the broccoli, zucchini or beans.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sowing Seed

Seed Starting Kit
A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a seed starting kit from Johnny's Selected Seed. It came with 4 cell trays of varying sizes, 1 20 row seed flat, a clear acrylic dome and 5 leak-proof trays. The cell trays and dome are a bit flimsy but the leak-proof trays are sturdy enough. Overall, not bad for the price. Also, I was really impressed by the delivery time. I placed my order Sunday night and received my package the following Tuesday. I will definitely be ordering from Johnny's again. I have my eye on the 6 row seeder (not really practical for the home garden, but the look of ultra-neatly planted rows of salad greens and carrots is so appealing!) and broadfork. I think my next purchase will be some hardy winter greens like mache, claytonia and spinach.

Seeded trays
The other day, I started seeding some beans, zucchini, broccoli and beets in order to get a head start on the new garden. However, after reading other local gardening blogs, I feel as though I should have done this earlier. Oh well, we'll keep our fingers crossed and hope that we get to harvest some of these veggies this year. At worst, it will be a learning experience. (Note to self: I better reread some of Eliot Coleman's season extending ideas.)

Gardening blog 015
I think I may start the peas and asian greens tomorrow as well. I've read that peas don't transplant well but I'm willing to take the risk in order to better insure a harvest. I'll direct sow the carrots, more beets, more asian greens, and the rest of the peas when we get the garden dug. Heck, with the way the weather's been, I may consider getting a head start on the salad greens.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Balcony Plants

Deck plants
I thought I'd do a post on what I have currently growing on my balcony. In a little over two weeks, we will be closing on our new house...every exciting and stressful at the same time. I hope my plants enjoy their new home.

Unfortunately, my strawberry plants are not producing well this year. These are plants I started from crowns a year ago. Some of them didn't make it through the winter, which is to be expected. I should have re-potted with fresh potting soil...oh well.


My dwarf top hat blueberry bush was loaded with flowers this spring. Too bad the birds have gotten to most of the fruit. I'll have to consider making a fruit cage or at least apply some netting in the new garden.

Top Hat blueberry

My lemongrass has definitely seen better days. It was started from a few stalks I purchased at the Asian market and flourished throughout last summer. It even overwintered pretty well inside our apartment. I think I set it out too early this spring and the ocean chill got to it. I'll probably chuck it and start all over again next spring. I'd like to come up with a plan to grow lemongrass in my garden, freeze most of the harvest in the fall, overwinter a few stalks inside, and plant the root divisions the following spring.


My kaffir lime is doing very well. I purchased it as a start back in January. It came in a 2 inch pot and has since put on considerable size. I'm hoping to be able to harvest some leaves and fruits within the next couple of years.

Kaffir Lime

Finally, my rosemary is looking lovely again this year, deep green and tinged with burgundy. I hoping it will flower one of these days.


Belle Island Reservation

Saturday, we went to the Belle Island Reservation in Winthrop/Revere, MA to explore the salt water marshes and wild greenery. Here are some of the more notable pictures of our visit.

white flowers 1
purple flowers 2
shaggy carpet 1
marsh landscape 1 purple flowers 1
salt water marsh 1
white flower 2 yellow flowers 1

Friday, July 10, 2009

Boston Harbor Islands

Boston Harbor Islands

I went out onto the deck at dusk to take a some pictures of the Boston Harbor Islands. I wish I had a wide-angled lens to capture properly our view of these islands, which stretch across much of the eastern horizon. Between us and these islands is a vast and open space of water frequented by sail boats, cargo ships, and fisherman. And for a time during the year, the surface of the water is speckled with lobster buoys. My favorite time of the day to take in this view is early in the morning at low tide, when the air is crisp and the distant sounds of seagulls is all you can hear.

Boston Light
Boston Light on Little Brewster Island, which "was the first light station established on the North American Continent".

Grave's Light
Graves Light, named after Charles Graves, who was an early settler of Charlestown, MA.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

This Year's Crop List

Seeds 2008

The downside about moving into a new home in late July is that we'll be missing out on a good chunk of the growing season. The upside, however, is that there's still time! With all of the work that goes into breaking sod and building fences (in addition to having a full-time job and parenting), I don't expect that we'll be able to get much into the ground before early August. Hence, this year's growing list will be limited to the traditional fall crops with maybe a few exceptions. I'll also plant a green manure on any unused space in preparation for next year. Since this will be my first backyard veggie garden, I'm sure I'll make many mistakes and experience all kinds of trials and tribulations. But to me, much of the fun lies in the drama of it all!

For a long time, I imagined that my vegetable garden would be filled with strange and unique heirloom varieties. That was before I went to the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and found that the last of this year's seeds were on sale (I just couldn't resist!). Needless to say that this year, I'll be growing mostly hybrids. The heirloom tomatoes will have to wait until next year. Here is my crop list for this year so far:

From the supermarket (Burpee)
  • pea - dark seeded early perfection
  • bush bean - burpee's stringless greed pod
  • beet - chicago red hybrid
  • carrot- nantes half long
  • broccoli - george's favorite blend
  • summer squash - burpee's fordhook zucchini
  • lettuce blend - prizeleaf, royal oak leaf, salad bowl, red salad bowl and ashley
  • mesclun - black seeded simpson, red salad bowl, lollo rossa, royal oak leaf, arugula rocket and radicchio red verona
From Johnny's Selected Seeds
  • tatsoi
  • turnip - hakurei
  • yu choy sum (flowering brassica) - green lance
  • pac choy - bonsai
  • radish - round red altaglobe
  • carrot - napoli
  • fall green manure mix
fall green manure mix

I'm sure this list will grow as we get closer to the fall and winter. I haven't quit figured out exact sowing dates for most of these seeds yet but I'm hoping to start some in flats also purchased from Johnny's (more on that later) within the next few days!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stormy Weather

Today brought with it more rain to the Boston area. Unfortunately, our windows have remained closed for much of this summer so far. The howling northeasterly wind that accompanies the incoming Atlantic tide brings with it an ocean chill more reminiscent of December than July. Oh well, you can't fight Mother Nature. But what you can do is post more pictures from this past lovely weekend.

salad greens going to seed.

The salad greens began to bolt a few weeks ago and have now gone to seed. I really don't mind so much since the accompanying yellow flowers are so pretty - another reason to let the plant complete it's life cycle (aside from saving seed).

Monday, July 6, 2009

Can you identify this flower?

Starfruit Flower 2

Give up? This purplish-pink beauty is a flower of the starfruit (or carambola) tree. It measures a quarter of an inch in diameter and is in full bloom for only about a day. It grows in pretty little clusters along the branches and main trunk of the tree and is very delicate to the touch.

I purchased my newly grafted starfruit tree last January during an excursion to Logee's Greenhouses in Danielson, Connecticut (I couldn't resist the novelty of growing something tropical in the midst of a New England winter). It came in a 5 inch pot, measured about a foot tall, and had 4 leaves on it (each leaf comprised of 5 to 11 leaflets). I have to admit, however, that by the time we arrived home, most of the excitement of this purchase had faded away. My exotic novelty had turned into my Charlie Brown Christmas tree. You see, starfruit trees are very prone to shock, evidenced by the leaves folding in onto themselves. I didn't have much confidence in its life expectency. Indeed the first couple of months were very much touch and go. (Note to self: just because your lemon tree loves its special food doesn't mean your other houseplants will.)

Fast foreward 5 months later, my starfruit tree has grown to almost 4 feet tall! It has developed these striking little flowers, beautiful foliage, and has become quite an attractive addition to the household greenery. Who would have guessed? Certainly not me. I suspect it will be at least a couple of more years before "Charlie" will fruit. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Anyone else growing starfruit as a houseplant? I'd love to hear your experiences!

Starfruit Flower 1 Starfruit Plant

P.S. Anyone interested in visiting Logee's will be in for a special treat. Their selection of rare tropical plants is amazing. Be advised, however, that you will find yourself contorting your body into extreme yoga positions trying delicately to maneuver your way through the labyrith of flora that is their greenhouses.

Starfruit Leaves

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Future Garden Spot

DSC_0078 DSC_0076
Here are some views of our future backyard. As you can see, there's quite a bit of shade in this beautiful lot (courtesy of a huge maple tree off the rear stone patio). Fortunately, there is a perfectly sunny spot in the middle for a nice veggie garden. The farmer inside me kind of wishes for a bit more sun, but then again, the hammock-loving afternoon napper that I am surely appreciates the shade.

I was glad to find that the present owners have a bit of the gardening bug inside them as well. As you can see, they currently have a small garden of their own (currently dominated by 3 feet tall mint). Also, they were kind enough to leave behind a couple of golden raspberry bushes, a blackberry bush, and a strawberry patch. To me, that's like Christmas in July!

Sunshine and Lemons

Meyer Lemon Tree

Another beautiful day in Winthrop. Sunny and clear as far as the eye can see. Apparently, we are not the only ones enjoying the summer weather. Our balcony faces due east and was perfectly toasty this morning. Being so close to the water also brings with it some added humidity as well, perfect conditions if you're a Meyer lemon tree. I bought this beauty a little over a year ago from an online nursery (mostly to satisfy my gardening itch).

Meyer Lemon Blossom Young Meyer Lemon Fruits

Meyer lemon trees (as with most citrus) seem to have three major flushes of growth sometime in Jan-Feb, May-June, and Aug-Sept. At the moment, there are about a dozen medium lime size lemons slooowly ripening. I'm guessing it will be several more months before they are ready for harvesting. Most if not all of these lemons were from flowers that bloomed late last January. For anyone interested in growing citrus, the key to success is in the fertilizer and soil. I made sure to plant my lemon tree in a well-draining potting soil mix and feed it three times a year with a slow-release citrus fertilizer. A little misting in the evenings (especially during the winter time) seems to do wonders as well. As you've probably noticed from the picture above, my lemon tree is leaning to one side, to be expected from the added weigh of the fruits. This will be corrected easily enough when I repot and fertilize it in a couple of months.

Below is a picture of the same tree last summer. Boy, what a difference a year makes!

Meyer Lemon Tree, Summer 2008