thoughts from New England

gardenin’ once again August 11, 2007

Filed under: gardening,house — tim @ 3:43 am

seems like all I do on here is post about the garden. I need to schedule my time better and focus, man, focus!


  • yellow squash are taking off — we’ve picked 3-4 so far and have about 8 or 9 lined up to go.
  • Purple Peppers finally are starting to flower and grow little peppers. Whatever was devouring them is gone now, so they have had time to recover. The tires are doing well.
  • Cherry tomatoes in the hanging basket are coming in first — probably because of all the sun and their small size.
  • Banana and cherry bomb peppers are coming in slowly but surely, picked a few of each so far.
  • tomatoes are doing okay. The grape tomatoes are going, but not as well as last year. The Roma tomatoes are really doing well in spots, and the Burpees are getting huge.
  • Cayennes and Thai hot peppers are developing nicely.
  • the basil has been very productive all season
  • same with the lettuce
  • the herb box is still going strong!
  • I have two pumpkins so far, and they’re already pretty big!


  • some of the tomato plants are continuing with the wilt. Nothing major and nothing fast — but slow and steady. I will have to dust again.
  • a handful of the Roma are developing a blossom rot or something on the bottoms of them — mostly these are on the innermost tomatoes, so I can only hope that it’s because they get very little sun and retain a lot of moisture. (looks like it’s blossom-end rot — which can be solved by adding calcium to the soil)
  • we accidentally let our cilantro and basil get sunburned during last week’s “heat wave” — they got very brown in spots and something’s been eating the basil. The cilantro still will not grow correctly no matter how much nipping of blossoms I do.
  • there are still squash bugs eating the squash and pumpkins, although it’s not as bad as last year. I still throw away about 1-2 yellow squash a week because of rotting on the ends.
  • I have one cucumber plant, which finally has  few blossoms. I am not holding my breath on these.
  • I have one zucchini plant, which has yet to produce even as much as one small stump of a zuke, but it’s healthy and strong. I just waited way too long to plant it.
  • I planted the radishes too close together, and while some are developing OK, they have taken waaaaaaaaaaaay longer than they had been predicted to take. 21 days, my butt.
  •  something’s eating the sweet potato leaves. I don’t know what, but something is.
  • The habanero looks like it’s drying up despite an adequate amount of water.

Next year we will hopefully be in our own house and have room for a real garden. My dream is to have a greenhouse built off the side of the basement and protruding halfway up the first floor, so I can really start growing things early on. I’d also love to have a root cellar & wine cellar underneath the kitchen, with access from a trap door in the kitchen floor. I looked up how to build a root cellar this week, and I think it’s definitely doable.

How to build a root cellar:

  • Step one: dig hole
  • Step two: cover

That’s it! Well, almost. 🙂

H and I have been talking about what house we’re looking for — the market is certainly going to be in our favor this fall/winter, so I look forward to being able to find a house that we like in a much lower price range than it was even a year ago. More bang for our buck, you know.


I Squash You, Bug; or: Japaneetle Bees July 17, 2007

Filed under: bugs,garden,gardening — tim @ 12:37 am

So I’ve discovered the source of my discontent in the garden — squash bugs. These lil critters look like this:

I’ve searched out the pumpkins and yellow squash for their eggs, and I’ve found quite a few. They look like tiny little orange/red dots on the underside of the leaves. I must have killed a city’s worth of these guys today. Hopefully I’ve been able to drastically reduce their numbers enough so the squash can live to see another day. I’m kind of kicking myself because I meant to grow butternut squash this summer for this exact reason: they are strongly resistant to pests such as the squash bug. But this spring, I had forgotten that piece of information and only remembered that I had to powder the tomato plants around my birthday to prevent mass horned tomato worm infestation.

The solution to the squash bugs, besides crrrrrrrrushing their eggs, is some stuff called Red Devil or Natural Guard. Well, that’s the organic solution, as it uses a fairly organic means to eliminate these guys. Today I cut one of them open with my pocketknife and made him pay. That was only moderately satisfying.

The internet has been a great help to me in finding resources for gardening; I also was wondering why some of my tomato plants were wilting on the bottom leaves. A phone call to my dad revealed that I needed to cut the wilting leaves off right away– there was an infestation of some sort. The weirdest thing was, I couldn’t see anything at all!

Thank you, interwow: Tomato Russet Mites. So small, you need a 14X magnifier to see them! Good thing I cut them off, now I think my one or two affected plants will be okay. Still, I’m going to get some wettable sulfur in order to properly eliminate them.

This season has been much more about educating myself with pest than it has with the simple fact of growing things. I’ve found quite a few slugs among the radishes and I found one in the lettuce today. I need some skunky, cheap beer to get them to die. I also saw some odd worm munching on one of my habanero plant — it was very green on the outside and even greener on the inside. I don’t think it was a horned tomato worm, because I didn’t think they liked peppers. Still, I’ll be on the lookout and launch a preemptive shock-and-awe strike on them this summer.

Japanese Beetles are a pain — I was changing the trap bags this morning (which has become part of my Monday routine) and I remember how much this reminds me of my childhood. Well, Japanese Beetles, that is. My dad would always have to put traps up because they would just decimate our chestnut trees similar to Biblical locusts. K-ren, my youngest sister, was about 4 or 5 when she called them “Japaneetle Bees,” and the name has stuck in our family ever since. The Japaneetle Bees (which is a great band name, btw) have ravaged the wild grapes around the property, and had been munching on the peppers, the tomatoes, and the basil — although they haven’t gotten any of these too badly. I attribute this to the traps.

By the end of a week, the traps turn into a hanging bag of death, and I know I have to change them when more flies are on the outside than JBs. Still, it hasn’t been too bad this year — I think the wild grapes are holding them off.

Tonight we had a salad with homegrown lettuce — delicious as always. Did I mention that last Friday, Lidz and I picked wild blackberries from across the street? It’s true — we did. She absolutely loved them.

By the way, those bugs at the top of this post? Mating. Bet you weren’t planning on having to see bug sex this morning. Looks like you all got punk’d!


I need to take this blog more seriouser! July 13, 2007

Filed under: garden,gardening,local,vermont — tim @ 5:27 am

Yeah, I really do. Here’s some good updates:

Garden: the garden so far has a grade of a B. I’m not totally thrilled like I was last year, so maybe the novelty has worn off, but I’m also kind of disappointed by the outputs. The tomatoes are doing well except the Japanese Beetles, the bane of my existence, are loving to eat the leaves. The weaker plants have stopped being sickly looking and, while smaller, are actually producing tomatoes before the bigger plants. The peppers are doing okay, but not awesome. Something is eating the leaves on my purple bell peppers, which I cannot find. I’ve been spraying them with organic soap stuff, and it’s working on everything else but those are still getting chewed up a bit. The mystery squash turned out to be yellow squash, which I’m glad of because they’re easier to use and grow than acorn or butternut. I have about 3 of them so far with more to come.

The cucumbers suck and are just not growing. Well, maybe one or two are. The zucchini are so-so, we’ll see how they come out. Pumpkins are growing so they’ll do well. I don’t think I gave the radishes enough room because I had no idea that they would all actually sprout, so I’ve been thinning them out little by little.

The herbs are doing really well — we have so much basil that looks so healthy! However, this week I’ve been finding a few leaves that look like they’ve been eaten, so now I have another mystery to solve. Crap. Cilantro in its own planter is doing really well, but sharing w/parsley is not helping it.

The mint was great — we made mojitos on Tuesday night and watched the All-Star game and there’s plenty of mint left. The lettuce has also been good for one batch of salad and we’ll be ready for another batch tomorrow today — that makes us a big salad about once a week, which is a really nice perk. Once I have land, I will definitely be planting a good-sized lettuce patch.

We went to a Wilco concert at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont the other weekend and it was Lidia’s first concert. The sunset behind the band made for an absolutely beautiful backdrop for a gorgeous show — I’ve seen them eight times now and they never disappoint. Ever. They were fun, loose, tight, together, and above all, they put on a great family-friendly show. There were soooooo many kids at the concert and the setting was perfect.

I bought the book Buy Buy Baby this past week and I need to start getting into it ASAP. Oddly enough, I had to buy it, but I think that makes sense as marketing to the under 3 set is something that really bothers me. I am a very bad consumer and I need to stop consuming, so I am going to try and break this because what good is it, really? And what kind of example am I setting?

I think that there’s something to be said about getting back to the land; but not necessarily like that. I think that we can use a good combination of neo-Luddite attitudes with some awesome technology thrown in. I do enjoy modern conveniences, but I’m seriously thinking about lobbying to get rid of TV. What’s on that’s so important that the internet or DVDs can’t provide? I’ll do it as soon as the Red Sox season is over, I swear. 🙂

We’re trying to save for a house, but consumption isn’t really helping, you know? I need to figure out a way to get our electric bill down, it’s insane. I need to get on a budget, for real.

Having a kid who is suddenly soaking up everything you do and say really makes you stop and think about what you do and say. What kind of person are you molding? How will they develop and grow, and how much of that is a result of what you’re impressing on them? All things that I need to remind myself and think about.

In the meantime, make a panflute out of tampons.


Garden 2007 is here, baby June 17, 2007

Filed under: garden,gardening — tim @ 4:16 am

Well, I finally got some time to get things planted in the garden. I didn’t want to go bigger than last year, but I ended up having to get 5 more pots because I didn’t want to crowd anything like last year. Here’s my mistakes from last year:

  • overcrowding (4 grape tomato plants in one pot, 4 big pepper plants in a medium pot)
  • no tomato stakes — sticks & twine don’t work
  • not spraying for tomato worms
  • not catching the things that ate the zukes

So far, I didn’t have much luck sprouting anything except a few pumpkins and squash — none of the zukes or one of the other kind of squash came up. I planted the pumpkins and whichever squash this is — I honestly have no idea. Butternut? Buttercup? Acorn? We’ll see.

I bought a bunch of plants at Longacres in Lebanon:


  • Better Boy tomatoes (6) — planted 3 in their own M size pot, and 3 in a L pot
  • Olive (Grape) tomatoes (4) — 2 in a large pot, 2 in a hanging basket. This will be an interesting competition.
  • Roma (4), 2 to a large pot (New this year!)
  • Peppers:
    • Habenero (same pot as last year — tiny)
    • Cherry Bomb & Banana (NEW) (sharing a M pot)
    • Thai hots and Cayenne (each in their own S pot)
    • purple bell peppers, planted 2 to a tire, as seen above (NEW).
  • Herbs:
    • peppermint
    • basil (4) — it looked really fresh so I’m hoping to get a good crop from this
    • Cilantro (4) — try this again this year
    • Chives & Parsley are STILL going strong — using the same plants that survived all winter indoors
  • Lettuce: I have 6 mesculin mix plants in 2 pots on the stoop. I am eager to see if I can grow our own salad!
  • I also planted cukes, zukes and radish seeds in the ground to see what would happen. The radishes have already poked through, and it’s only been 4 days. They should be ready in about 3-4 weeks.

    So, it’ll be a productive and busy season in the garden again, but hopefully I learned enough from last year (like, get tomato cages on early — check) that this year’s will be more rewarding.

    Photos at flickr.

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    Fresh Herbs and How To Cook With Them October 16, 2006

    Filed under: cooking,gardening — tim @ 12:29 pm

    This summer, we had so many herbs that I have to admit, we didn’t do anything with. Sure, we had a “baby” that occupied a great deal of our time (and justifiably so) — but these easy-to-grow herbs, I have let them down. One of our basil plants is totally dead from frost damage, as are a few others. I did bring the parsley/chives box in but they need to be pruned and used soon. We could have been drying these, we could have been using these, but instead, the cilantro was a bust and the dill just died on me. The catnip even just instantly shut down and died within a matter of hours; it was tragic. Luckily, we still have mint — a lot of it. And now I am trying to figure out how I can salvage this last bit of summer freshness for the rest of the year. I suspect that most of it will get frozen and ultimately end up in either tea or ice cream. I’d like to make some Jalapeno Mint Jelly as well.

    I’m sure glad I found the Rural Agriculture Development Authority for Jamaica — their website has a vast array of information on all sorts of culinary herbs and the best ways to use them. Hooray Jamaica!


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    Harvest Time September 29, 2006

    Filed under: eat & drink,flickr,food,garden,gardening — tim @ 4:57 pm

    Pumpkins have turned

    Originally uploaded by bakebakebake.

    Well, the season’s just about over for my garden. Within the next few weeks I’ll be reaping the last of the hot peppers and drying them out, bringing in the planters and thinking about next year…The plan after the jump.

    (PS The squash I bought at a farmer’s market and was letting it ripen a bit more)


    The Wilt Shall Never Be Seen Again! July 27, 2006

    Filed under: gardening — tim @ 4:08 am

    Yesterday we returned from our trip to find that half of my beloved garden plants (at least, those in giant pots) had sucked the water right out of the soil and had begun to wilt. I’ll write more about my garden later, but this solution from You Grow Girl explains a simple and easy way to slowly water your plants right at the roots. I had contemplated rigging up dripping hoses and dripping water, water, everywhere, but instead I’ll go with this option. Unfortunately, it will probably have to wait till next year because the roots are too close together for me to go ripping them up.