Spring In the Wings

Overall, this winter hasn’t been a bad one here on the South Shore–right?–but it seems to be going out with hooks.

So I’ve put together a list of a few garden-related doings to get us to the end. After all, opening day at PPCG is only a little more than a month away, and then we’ll be within easy reach of peas.

Boston’s Community Garden Scene

Next week on Wednesday, February 27, the Trustees, which owns and operates the largest chunk of community gardens in Boston, is showcasing a documentary film about Boston’s community gardens at More Than Words bookstore. Pre-registration recommended. Reduced rates for members.

Gardening Aside

By the way, More Than Words is one of my favorite indoor spaces, a used bookstore run as a nonprofit, so if you’re just looking for a nice place to get out of the cold, go check it out. I don’t know their schedule this year, but in the past they’ve held big sales on/around March 17. (And while I’m on the topic of used bookstores, have you been to the Montague Bookmill in western Massachusetts? It’s a great road trip destination with a few good hiking spots nearby.)

Countertop of Greens

Grow a crop of microgreens before you need your sunny/lamp-lit spaces for seedlings. Here’s my favorite how-to video. Or sign up for Holly Hill Farm’s workshop on growing microgreens on March 9 from 1 – 3. Or buy a bunch of greens and shoots at their weekly farm stand. See their website for details; locations vary.DSC_1648

Season Extender

Do you have a little yard space? Holly Hill Farm is also hosting a workshop on building cold frames on March 9 in the morning. Email cprentice@hollyhillfarm.verizon.net for details and to register.

A Day of Gardening How To

The 44th annual Gardeners’ Gathering is being hosted by The Trustees at Northeastern University on March 23. Free and open to everyone!

For Your Sweet Tooth, the New England Way

Brookwood Farm is holding its annual Maple Sugar Days Festival on March 23 & 24, from 10 – 4.

A Different Boston Gardening Scene

This year’s Boston Flower and Garden show runs from March 13 – 17.

Local Stars

Ugh, have you seen that report on declining insect populations worldwide? Planting native species can help attract and sustain beneficial insects. Author Russ Cohen presents Nibbling on Natives in Your Back Yard and Beyond. Free and open to everyone at Hingham Public Library on April 7 from 2 – 4.DSC_0345

Library Harvest

Have you used Hoopla, a free source of electronic media that’s available at our public library? Hoopla currently has a surprising number of gardening books, such as Countertop Gardens, Indoor Kitchen Gardening, High Yield Vegetable Gardening, and Thrifty Gardening. Or how about Dogscaping, How Carrots Won the Trojan War, or A Woman’s Guide to Cannabis?

Braintree’s Hidden Garden Source

Go check out all of the living things growing indoors under lights at Gardin, which outgrew its location at New England Wildlife Center and moved to its current warehouse space at 137 Bay State Drive, near the Braintree high school.  This place makes you want to turn your whole house into a terrarium. They have a huge array of indoor and outdoor growing supplies, some of which are hard to find elsewhere in our area, plus friendly, informed service. Matt helped me pick out a grow light for starting some microgreens and herbs on my countertop.

Plus, they have a turtle. This guy has the best turtle home ever.

Hang in there, everyone.

 

 

 

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.

As you are deciding what to grow, also consider…

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

You’ll get the most from your garden if you grow plants you enjoy. Myself, I have an ambivalent relationship with kale. It grows easily and early, before almost anything else. But by mid summer it’s still producing and taking up space and getting a little tough. Really, it’s okay to “edit” your plot. Avoid the “kale trap.” It’s your plot to enjoy.

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

pexels-photo-432793.jpegHeirloom varieties are often considered tastier and are a must if you want to grow to save seeds. By growing heirloom and open-pollinated seeds, you’ll be helping to maintain genetic diversity. On the other hand, 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 and successes we’ve had at PPCG:

  • Cabbage is tricky to “head up.”
  • 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.
  • Squash is prone to powdery mildew and vine borers.
  • Peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, zinnias, bunching onions, peas, green beans, and lettuces and other salad greens are all fairly easy crops that have good yields in our gardens.

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 produce tomatoes all at once, which means you’ll have a lot of tomatoes to eat and process in a big batch. Indeterminate tomatoes grow and produce indefinitely. 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 grow much better when directly sown by seed in the garden. Root crops such as carrots, radishes, turnips, and beets are good examples. Crops such as zucchini and beans can be transplanted, but often do better or grow quickly enough that they can be sown directly in the garden.  Other crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers require a long growing season and should be started indoors before being planted out in the garden when warmer weather arrives. Read your seed packets for recommended growing information.

For ease, most of our gardeners buy plants from nonprofit organizations and garden centers that are ready for the garden. See below for resources.

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. Find more resources on seed growing here on our blog.

For organic products, try Gardens Alive or Gard.in in Braintree.

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.

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