PPCG 2019 Plot Plan & Spring Shade Map

For PPCG members, our 2019 plot map with garden assignments is linked here.

The below diagrams show the shade patterns on our plots in spring, for garden planning purposes. You won’t have much shade at all until around the first week of May, when leaves start to fill in. Please note these sketches were drawn roughly last year at broad intervals and may not represent all of the sun/shade in your plot. I noticed even ten minutes can make a difference. Also, shade does shift throughout the growing season.

Here’s a guide for plants and their suggested light levels.

Happy gardening, everyone!

 

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Deer Vs. Gardeners II

I used to say that while we had a few deer visitors every year at PPCG, the humans always took home more from their gardens than the deer did.

And then last year happened.

Going into our 2019 growing season, I’m going to assume that if we want more harvest than heartbreak, we’re going to need to start off with active defenses. The good news is that many of us found some reasonable solutions that worked well for us.

For more info about deer control, see this post. Here I’m going to focus on the methods that seemed to work well for our gardeners, along with a few sources and best prices. (If you find some better options, please share!)

Repellent: Plantskydd

At least one of our gardeners, Gary  (plot 31), had good luck with this product, which is sprayed on plants. OMRI-listed, it’s main ingredient is dried animal blood. For the best results, you’ll want to spray it early in the season, before deer get a taste of what’s in your garden. 

Pros:  One of the least expensive options in terms of initial outlay. No need to struggle with fence installation. Allows you to keep your garden open and easily accessed. Doesn’t wash off in rain. Organic.

Cons: Needs to be applied to new growth, so you do have to keep up with it. Since its main ingredient is animal blood, it (1) may not be an option for vegetarian gardeners and (2) will add nitrogen to your soil, which you may or may not want. Also, although the product specifies it’s safe for garden vegetable plants, you can’t spray it on any part of the plant that you intend to eat, such as lettuce leaves or tomatoes. There’s also a granular formula that you can sprinkle around your plants.

Available at: Amazon for $23.99 for a 32-oz. spray bottle or at Park Seed for $21.95. Check here for local dealer locations. You can also buy larger quantities in powder concentrate that you have to mix and a granular formula for sprinkling.

Fence Option 1: Multi-Purpose Netting

IMG_20180503_103531591.jpgJun (plot 24) and I (plot 30, photo right) used this product by Tenax with good success. At 4-feet tall, it’s an easy jump for deer,  but I’ve read that deer don’t normally like to jump into enclosed spaces as small as our gardens. For extra measure, I put a few obvious tomato cages inside my plot to clutter up the landing zone.

This product is sturdier than the netting described below, but not really sturdy enough to support  vines such as cucumbers. I installed it using 60-inch u-posts, slipping the fence onto the hooks on the posts as I wrapped it around the garden. 

Pros: Sturdy. Should last a few years. Relatively easy to install; I was able to do it myself. Most difficult part for me was pounding in the u-posts. Allows easy access to gardens–just unhook the netting from the posts. (The whole garden can be opened quickly and easily.) Even though it’s thicker than the deer netting below, it’s still unobtrusive and doesn’t cast significant shade. Can also be purchased in 7′ x 100′ rolls, enough to keep out jumpers from two garden plots. 

Cons: Costs about $24 for the netting plus $27 – $45 for 6 – 10 u- or t-posts. Not a good choice for folks who don’t want to go to the trouble of installation or who don’t like enclosed garden spaces. Not tall enough to prevent jumpers or “leaner-overs.” The 7′-tall fencing will need sturdy, more expensive posts to be installed properly.

Available at: Lowes in Weymouth and on Amazon.

 

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Fence Option 2: Deer/ Wildlife Netting

Product Image 2A few gardeners used a product like this one, which is finer and less stiff than the multi-purpose netting above. They installed it using bamboo or green plastic garden posts, attaching the fence to them with twine, zip ties, or tomato Velcro. I’ve also seen recommendations to hook the netting onto nails, screws, or cup hooks fastened to wooden garden stakes, which then could function a lot like the netting above.

Pros: Tall enough to keep the champion jumpers out. Reusable. Lightweight and unobtrusive. No problems with product casting shade. Depending on how it’s installed, it can be removed easily if you need better access to your garden for maintenance, etc.. The cost of the netting itself is reasonable, around $20.

Cons: Must be secured properly. Potential tripping hazard. Does a number on our lawnmower. Ideally, should be marked with flagging tape so deer see it and don’t blunder into it. Could be chewed or torn. A little fiddly to use. Best installed with a second set of hands. To make full advantage of the height, you need tall support posts, which may cost more than the netting itself.

 

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Barrier Cover: Bird Netting

Bird netting is similar in weight to the wildlife netting above, but sold in dimensions that allow you to drape it over large sections. This option is a good, inexpensive one if you want to protect certain plants or sections of your garden. 

 

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Pros: Perhaps the least expensive option. Allows you to section off areas of your garden, leaving open access to other areas. 

Cons: Like the wildlife netting, it’s fiddly to use. Must be secured properly! (I used clothes pins, attaching the netting to twine stretched between stakes.) Potential tripping hazard. Gets tangled in our lawnmower. Depending on how it’s installed, can make garden access annoying. Your plants won’t like bumping up against it, so your netting supports have to be taller than your plants at full height.

 

Available at: Lowes in Weymouth and Home Depot in Quincy. (See photos below.) 

 

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Final Thoughts…

Repellents, fencing, or cover netting…there’s no perfect solution here, but we managed to find a few workable options that allowed us to recover last summer. Pick the one that works best for you and go for it–early in the season. It’s better to set up your repellents and barriers as soon as possible, before deer get a taste of the good stuff  in your garden.

Happy gardening, everyone!

 

Getting Started at PPCG (Part 6): Maintaining Your Garden

After you’ve planted, you might be surprised by how much attention your small garden will require, sometimes on a daily basis. You’ll also be surprised by how much it yields if you put in the effort.

Watering

Those baby seedlings and transplants can’t be abandoned; one hot dry day will do them in. Once they’ve been established, you’ll grow healthier, stronger plants by watering less frequently and more deeply, which encourages root growth beyond the surface of the soil. See more Watering Tips.

Mulching

The benefits of using mulch in your garden include:

  • regulating soil temperature
  • maintaining moisture
  • suppressing weeds
  • adding organic matter to your soil
  • protecting crops from soil-born diseases that can be splashed onto your plants when you water

Types of organic mulch include straw, salt hay, wood chips, seaweed, chopped leaves, buckwheat hulls, stubble-harvest-straw-agriculture-158198.jpegand grass clippings. But take note:

  • Leaves can form a matted, water-resistant barrier if they are not chopped or composted first.
  • And thick layers of grass clippings can turn into a stinky, slimy mess.

In addition, some gardeners like using plastic mulch.

Keep the mulch away from the base of your plants. I usually put down mulch in my walking paths first, then fill in with more mulch closer to my plantings as they get established. The goal is to smother weeds, not your plantings.

Last summer, I applied a thick layer of newspaper topped with wood chips. The worms loved it. Most newspaper dyes are okay; check if you’re not sure. The Boston Globe, for example, offers this info. I’ve also heard that lawn refuse bags make great weed barriers.

Gary makes use of free seaweed, collected from beaches. Louise (plot 25) favors buckwheat hulls. And I noticed that Marie (plot 11) uses salt hay.

We do not use the composted leaf mold offered for free by Braintree because we cannot guarantee that the product is free of chemicals and other unwanted matter. For this reason, we’ve started our own leaf compost pile in our garden.

Fertilizing

It’s difficult to talk about fertilizing without knowing your soil, so here’s one more pitch for getting your soil tested. Before throwing down any fertilizer, if you know exactly what your soil needs, you won’t be making blind guesses that can be detrimental to your garden, the environment, and your wallet.

Depending on the needs of my garden at the time, I’ve used products like Garden Tone, composted manure, blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, and compost from my home composter.

Want more information about organic fertilizers? Here’s a good place to start.

Pests and Diseases

Heads up, gardeners: the deer are active at PPCG this spring.

I’m not sure there’s much we can do to protect ourselves from determined deer because we cannot exclude them with tall fencing around our garden perimeter. In this case, it’s helpful to think more in terms of deterrents and “acceptable losses.” On a more positive note, I will also say that in every year I’ve gardened at PPCG since 2010, I’ve always harvested more than I’ve lost.

In the past, I’ve sprinkled my plants with cayenne pepper and dangled old CDs from

string around the perimeter of my garden. I’ve seen other gardeners use pinwheels. And Louise (plot 25) has covered her lettuce and pea shoots with bird netting (available at Home Depot). If you notice forks growing out of Gary’s plot, it’s because he’s hoping the sharp tines will deter rabbits. With all of these efforts, there’s not much to lose except a little bit of our time.

IMG_20180423_075227139.jpgThis year, I tried inter-planting lettuces with bunching onions and bordering my garden with shallots, leeks, and garlic. Maybe the scent of allium will deter rabbits and deer from chowing down on my lettuce. It’s worth a try, and if nothing else, this particular inter-planting makes good use of space. (Update: the deer did, indeed, skip over my lettuce, but chowed down on a perennial flower and trampled carrot seedlings. I counted myself lucky he didn’t eat the peas and decided, not without pause, to install a fence around my plot. He can still jump over or wiggle under the 4′ plastic mesh–and if he does, he’s going to cause a lot of damage–but at this point, if he gets my plantings, he’s earned them.)

Want some more ideas for deterring wildlife? Try here.

Regarding insect pests and diseases, we have a new gardening resource (stored in the shed) that will help us identify them in our garden. It’s also available here online.

  • Consider using hybrid plants as a front-line defense against common diseases.
  • If you have any diseased plant material, please bag it up and remove it from our site to protect other gardeners.

Specific insect problems at PPCG

  • Vine borers have plagued some of our squash crops.
  • Some of the gardens along the treeline bordering the park have been affected by winter moth caterpillars dropping from the trees overhead. If you garden in one of these spaces with trees favored by this caterpillar, you may want to use row covers over your leafy greens until their season passes. Remember to remove the covers if you have plants that need to be pollinated.
  • In 2017, we also had a localized infestation of earwigs, which the gardeners controlled with a trap (buried bottles filled with oil and soy sauce).
  • If you notice that one or more of your plants looks like it’s been snapped off at the base, you may have cutworms. There’s a simple remedy for cutworms, but you have to act before they do their damage. See the following fact sheet link.

Here’s a good fact sheet with more info on general insect management and here are more fact sheets on specific pests, but please remember that we do not permit synthetic products.

Happy gardening, everyone!


In case you missed it…

Part 1: Organic Gardening and Soil

Part 2: Our Growing Season and Gardening Resources

Part 3: Garden Design

Part 4: Plant Choices and Sources

Part 5: Planting

Getting Started at PPCG (Part 5): Planting

Before you dig, check to see whether your soil is ready to be worked.

Working your soil when it is too wet creates big clumps, air pockets, and compacted areas.

Consider whether a no-till option will work well in your plot. (Again, see link above.)

Rockspexels-photo-634548.jpeg

Some of our plots have a fair amount of rocks that you’ll want to remove before you plant. Please do not pile them at the edge of your garden, where they are hazardous when we mow; instead, use a bucket from our compost area to collect and discard them in the brush behind the composters.

For tips on planting seeds and transplants, see this tip sheet from UMassAmherst.

Your seed packet or plant tag will also have information on how to plant and space. If you are purchasing seedlings, ask if they’ve been hardened off. (See tip sheet for more info on hardening off.)

After you’ve planted, your garden will probably look sparse, but remember that your plants need room to grow and will fill in quickly. Every year I’m amazed by how different my garden looks at the end of the season.

Intensive gardening involves techniques that maximize yields in a given space.

Before I say anything else on this topic, I’ll mention first that intensive gardening requires a lot of planning. If you are just starting out in the garden, you may do better your first season by keeping things simple and planting with traditional guidelines.  

Traditionally, crops are planted in straight rows with ample spaces between plants and rows. Most of the information that you’ll see on your seed packets and plant tags relies on traditional spacing guidelines. In many cases, you can fit more plants in your space than these guidelines indicate.

Certain plants in particular can handle some crowding. Peas, carrots, and radishes, for example, can be planted in bands, with rows of staggered seeds. My seed packet of Mini Mak radishes from Johnny’s instructs, “Sow in 2-3″ wide bands or single rows, seeds about 3/4 – 1″ apart (about 35 seeds/ft for bands and 15 seeds/ft. for single rows).” Based on this info, you can see how much more you can grow in a given space.

One of the simpler ways to make efficient use of our small plot area is to grow vertically. Consider growing pole beans, for example, instead of rows of bush beans

Another intensive practice includes successive plantings, which means harvesting one crop and immediately following with another. You might follow an early carrot harvest with a planting of bush beans. Or you might follow one harvest of bush beans with another. Interplanting involves fitting one crop within another’s space. Quickly-maturing radishes, for example, might be fitted among carrots and harvested first, freeing up space for the still-growing carrots.

Some plants don’t respond well to crowding. Tomatoes, for example, require a lot of space and are susceptible to diseases if not given adequate air flow. They’ll yield more if they are given sufficient room to spread. Still, you can maximize the number of tomato plants you can fit in an area by planting them in staggered rows.

Companion Planting

Companion planting is the idea that certain plants grown in combination with each other yield benefits. There is very little science backing up most companion- planting claims. For example, I often see the advice to plant marigolds as a pest deterrent, when in fact, there’s very limited evidence backing up this claim. Worse, in my own experience, marigolds draw Asiatic garden beetles, which strip both the marigolds and my basil plants. That’s not to say you shouldn’t plant marigolds if you like them or have had positive results with them in the past. There simply isn’t enough research to recommend them broadly as a pest deterrent.

Another popular example of companion planting is known as “Three Sisters.” In this case, corn is planted with pole beans and squash. The corn offers structural support for the climbing beans. Beans provide nitrogen for the heavy-feeding corn. And squash provides shade to help keep the soil moist.

Want a few other companion planting ideas? See this link.


Continued…

Part 6: Garden Maintenance

In case you missed it…

Part 1: Organic Gardening and Soil

Part 2: Our Growing Season and Gardening Resources

Part 3: Garden Design

Part 4: Plant Choices and Sources

Getting Started at PPCG (Part 4): Plant Choices and Sources

PPCG is an organic garden, but you do not need to grow seeds and seedlings labelled “organic” for your plots. Choose organic plants if you want to support sustainable agricultural practices and don’t mind paying a little extra for them. You will likely find more choices of non-organic plants.

As you are deciding what to grow, also consider…

What do you like? What will you enjoy harvesting from your garden?

Is the plant or seed labelled heirloom/open-pollinated or hybrid?

pexels-photo-432793.jpegHeirloom varieties can be tastier and are a must if you want to grow to save seeds. Hybrids can offer greater ease because they are often bred to overcome problems, such as common diseases. Check out this article from the L.A. Times on heirloom vs. hybrid tomatoes.

What’s the level of difficulty for a particular plant?

Here are a few challenges we’ve had at PPCG. (Consider this list a “heads up,” not a “no-go zone.”)

  • Cabbage is tricky to “head up.” (Exception: Rosemary in plot 14 has grown some beautiful red cabbage.)
  • Broccoli bolts to seed readily in warm weather, before anything is harvested and takes up a lot of space.
  • Corn is another space hog that yields little.
  • Celery requires very specific growing conditions.
  • Squash is prone to powdery mildew and vine borers. This is one plant that some people have succeeded with while others haven’t. Stay tuned for a post on this subject. In the meantime, if you really like squash and want to give it a go, try finding a variety that is resistant to powdery mildew. And see our Getting Started (Part 6) post on garden maintenance.

How quickly will your plant mature?

There is a wide range in time until harvest among varieties of the same type of plant. Especially if you are planning to try to fit in successive plantings, you may want to choose a variety that matures quickly.

tomato-food-nutrition-plant-161554.jpegFor tomatoes in particular, consider whether your plants are determinate or indeterminate. Determinate tomato plants tend to produce tomatoes all at once, which means you’ll have a lot of tomatoes to eat and process in a big batch. For a steadier flow, read estimated maturation dates carefully. A mix of varieties can spread out your tomato harvest.

Seeds or Seedlings?

A number of crops can or must be directly sown by seed in early spring and summer. These include: carrots, radishes, peas, beans, turnips, beets, and zucchini.

Other crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers require a long growing season and must be started indoors before being planted out in the garden when warmer weather arrives.

Where to buy? Our gardeners have a few favorites…

For seeds, our gardeners like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Fedco, Burpee, Territorial Seed, and Baker Creek, to name a few.

For organic products and tips, try Gardens Alive.

For plants, watch for excellent plant sales at Holly Hill Farm (especially their wide selection of tomatoes, organically grown!), Brookwood Farm, City Natives in Boston, Southside Community Land Trust in Providence, and Marshfield Agricultural Commission (I couldn’t find their online link; it’s on May 19, 2018 at the Marshfield Fairgrounds).

Or check out garden centers such as Christopher’s (across from BJ’s in Weymouth on Rte. 53), the plant stand on Southern Artery in Quincy (in the Goodwill parking lot), Almquist in Quincy, Kennedy’s in Scituate, or for further afield, try Peckham’s in Little Compton, RI. Do you have other favorites? Let us know!


Continued…

Part 5: Planting

Part 6: Garden Maintenance

In case you missed it…

Part 1: Organic Gardening and Soil

Part 2: Our Growing Season and Gardening Resources

Part 3: Garden Design

Getting Started at PPCG (Part 3): Garden Design

Whether you can visualize your garden’s design in your head or you need to sketch it on paper, it’s a good idea to plan your garden before you plant! I like to use graph paper to help me keep everything to scale and remind myself just how much I can (and can’t) fit in a 6′ x 12′ plot.

Electronic garden planners–some free and others free for a short trial–are also readily available. This spring, for example, I tried out the Old Farmer’s Almanac garden planner, which offered plenty of bells and whistles, such as month-by-month planning for successive crops. After a one-month trial, I ended up not subscribing to the service because I was frustrated by specific ways that it didn’t allow me to individualize my plan. Still, it’s definitely worth a try if you work well with computerized planning.

Think about sun and shade at Perkins Park

We have some shade to deal with at Perkins Park, but it isn’t always a bad thing, especially for crops that thrive with a little break from the sun.

The sun rises on the side of our garden opposite the shed and sets roughly behind the shed. Expect the shade to shift throughout the season and to broaden as leaves grow on the trees.

Currently I’m working on a shade map to help us better understand which plots get the most shade and when, but this project is a season-long one. In the meantime, if you are new to the garden, try to observe the shade coverage a few times throughout a sunny day to get a rough idea of how much light your plot receives, and don’t forget to account for leaf growth in overhead trees. Generally, the central-most plots receive the most sun.

Also think about planting in rows parallel to the sun to help your plants receive equal lighting.

summer-sunflower-flowers-sky-54459.jpegWithin your garden, think about which plants will grow tall and shade other plants.

Tomatoes and plants grown on trellises, for example, will cast broad shade, which may or may not be desirable depending on the plants you are growing near them.

Consider which plants can tolerate shade more than others.

Here’s a handy chart to use as a guideline, but always be sure to read up on your plants’ growing information.

Plan where you are going to place pathways, supports, and barriers.

Knowing where you are going to walk will help you gain access to all of your garden and minimize compacting your soil.

Supports such as tomato stakes and trellises should be installed before or at the time of planting.

It sounds obvious, but from my own experience, here’s another important tip: if you are planning on installing barriers to keep out deer, make sure that you can still have ready access to your garden.


Continued…

Part 4: Plant Choices

Part 5: Planting

Part 6: Garden Maintenance

In case you missed it…

Part 1: Organic Gardening and Soil

Part 2: Our Growing Season and Gardening Resources

Getting Started at PPCG (Part 2): Our Growing Season and Gardening Resources

Our growing season is short here in New England, which means that if you want to fit in a few successive crops, you have to plan carefully. You can try to extend your growing season by using things like tunnels and other frost protection. These lettuces that I planted out on April 1 survived a few bouts of temperatures down in the 20s under a grow tunnel, but I’m not IMG_20180423_075227139.jpgsure they’re doing much better than if I’d put them in about two weeks later, in mid April. Although they weren’t harmed, it might not have been worth the extra effort of fussing with a tunnel.

Other plants, like tomatoes, can suffer setbacks for the rest of the growing season if they’re exposed to cold temperatures.

Consult a frost chart to know when to plant.

Cool season crops, planted in spring, include onions, leeks, chives, lettuces, spinach, kale, broccoli, and peas. These plants not only thrive in the cool weather, but in many cases won’t grow well in the heat of summer. Broccoli, for example, can bolt to seed before you harvest any florets if the weather warms before the plant has produced.

Warm season crops include tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, melons, and squash.

Check your plant tags and seed packets for growing information. Johnny’s Selected Seeds is a great resource for growing information. Browse through their online information and request a catalogue. Seed Savers is another good resource. UMassAmherst offers a wide range of fact sheets.

Jon P. (plot 1), one of our new members with professional gardening experience, also highly recommends CreateTV (BELD channel 831, Verizon 474, Comcast 959) for gardening how-to.


Continued…

Part 3: Garden Design

Part 4: Plant Choices

Part 5: Planting

Part 6: Garden Maintenance

In case you missed it…

Part 1: Organic Gardening and Soil