NCF Progress Final Post 11/5/2011

Our farming adventure

I'm using raised bed plot #35 at the Needham Community Farm's new location at the old Nike missile base. Lily is enthusiastic to help out. I will relate our adventures, in reverse chronological order, here.

Saturday, November 5

Pulling up the marigolds
Our farming adventure is finished for the year. On Saturday we cleared our bed of vegetation. Lily enjoyed pulling out the plants.

Wednesday, October 15

Thai basil leaves ready to be dried in the microwave (should have trimmed the stems)
Today's theme: who's been eating my kale?

Could it be you, delightfully colored worm? (I've taken a few of you home with me...)
Cross-striped Cabbage Worm
Or you, tiny, subtly decorated caterpillar?
Imported Cabbage Worm on my Kale
Or perhaps you, friendly grasshopper/locust?

Eggplants continue to emerge.
I just noticed recently how much eggplant blossoms and leaves resemble horse nettle.
Japanese eggplant blossom
Horse Nettle Blossom
And it turns out they are both members of the Solanum genus (of course, so are potatoes and tomatoes...)

Wednesday, October 5

White-tailed deer, Needham Community Farm, Needham, MA

I came out early to the farm in order to grab a Japanese eggplant (one of two that our plant managed to produce) and immediately spotted a two-point buck who had made it into the farm enclosure but couldn't find his way out. I kept my distance, not wanting to panic him, but my presence certainly upped his motivation level. Here is a short clip (not at all pretty) of the escape.

I assume he was OK.

Wednesday, September 28

Japanese Eggplant, Needham Community Farm, Needham, MA
Did a little tidying today. Pulled up the old tomato plants (the blight got them). And pulled up the gourd. And weeded. Here are the process shots.
Tomatoes gone. Marigolds in dramatic bloom. A couple of cucumbers.
Gourd gone. See below for gourd yield.
Now if I could only figure out what to do with them...
We ate the cabbage (fantastic!) and let the basil go to seed. Some kale left.
Probably just a couple more visits before we take down the remainder.

Wednesday, August 31

The NCF class is now officially over. I'll come out a few more times to harvest what is left. On September 11 we'll have a harvest dinner to celebrate our successes. The public is invited.
The tomatoes were badly wrecked by Irene.
The gourd is now producing like crazy.
Kale, basils, etc are doing fine.
Bird notes: On Wednesday I discovered a piping broadwinged hawk near the entrance. On Thursday Lily and I listened while a couple of barred owls exchanged "who cooks for you" in the Ridge Hill Reservation woods.

Saturday, August 27

Bumblebees on gourd flower, Needham Community Farm, Needham, MA
Away for a week and look what happens. Gourds!
As well as continuing infinite harvest of basil and kale. And our first (and probably only) Japanese eggplant! (Photo to follow).

Progress shots below.
Lots of giant but not yet ripe tomatoes.  We'll see how they weather the hurricane...
Gourd continues to rule the bed
Everything else looking healthy. Three ears of corn.

Thursday, August 18

Harvested quite a bit of kale, collard greens, tomatoes, basil (sweet, Thai, and lemon) and picked our first cucumber. Three ears of corn and one tiny eggplant. But no peppers or gourds. And Lily has discovered a taste for kale. (Maybe we'll get her a t-shirt).

Here are the progress shots (before cutting the gourd back yet again). 

Wednesday August 10

What I thought was a gourd in the previous post was actually a cucumber! Meanwhile, the gourd is blossoming like crazy, to the delight of the bumble bees (who are in them two at a time sometimes)
but the blossoms are just falling off. Perhaps its putting too much energy into expansion. In the photo below it has attached itself to our little garden pinwheel.
The bees are also loving the tomato blossoms.
What do you think? Next week for actual ripe tomatoes?
Here are the plot updates, before I cut back the gourd.

Meanwhile more birds have discovered the garden, especially the abundant chipping sparrow families. I counted at least forty chippies today. I wonder if they are gathering for migration.
Note the kingbird on the far left in the above photo. It chased away an entire flock of crows.
A mix of adult and immatures. Below is a close-up of a streaky young chippy.
And there were also young cowbirds,  which I found unexpectedly charming. They clearly regarded themselves as part of the chippy family.
Adding color and music --a perching goldfinch.
And what was that perched on my tomato cage, tail flipping?
A young eastern phoebe. I hope it has an appetite for horn worms.

Thursday August 4

I forgot to post these.
Got a few tomatoes heading towards ripeness.
At least one gourd has gotten itself started.
And finally, a hint of Japanese eggplant.

Here are the progress shots

Saturday, July 30

What is eating our tomatoes?
Kale, kale, kale. It's what I concentrated on and what we are eating, roasted, every day. Meanwhile, something is eating everyone's tomatoes. Hornworms. I'm going to go out early tomorrow to see if I can catch some in the act. Come back, red-winged blackbirds! (Actually, birdlife now includes large families of barn swallows and a northern harrier pair).

Here are the progress shots.
Tomatoes are growing fine, a few plump fruits getting ready to pick.
The gourd is out of control. I actually had to cut it back a little. It would take over the whole plot if I let it.
The kale and basil would be even bigger if we weren't eating it.
Planting thought for next year: mizuna, awesome in ramen.

Saturday, July 23

Red-winged Blackbirds. Uh oh.
Visited the plot this afternoon in the 90 degree heat. Things are looking pretty good. The collard greens are coming back (I put down more egg shells). Chipping sparrows and red-winged blackbirds galore. Right now they are probably helping keep down the bugs. Later, we'll see.

Here are the garden photo updates.
I wonder how I can get the gourd to grow towards the tomatoes...
Clipped some kale, basil and spicy basil today.

Tuesday, July 19

Collard Greens, destroyed by ?, Needham Community Farm, Needham, MA
It took just a few days and our plants are looking huge! Some may be ready to harvest in small quantities. Not our poor collard greens, unfortunately.
We've actually got tomatoes on our tomatoes.
Our gourd plant is growing large yellow flowers.
And the kale plants may be robust enough for us to start taking leaves.
I'm also beginning to enjoy the garden ecosystem, with all its insects and arachnids. Probably more than I should. Here, for example, was a june bug on our sweet pepper plant.
I chased it away.

We are thinking that slugs are responsible for the collard greens problem. Egg shells don't seem to have been an effective remedy. So I built a little stick wall. See if you can get across that, slugs.

Thursday, July 14

Tall Marigold, Needham Community Farm
I came out this morning to check on things and weed a little and to my surprise, tiny tomatoes have already made an appearance.
Add caption
Here's the overview for comparison with previous visits.
Basic, Cucumber, Gourd, and the blooming marigold
Everything else looks fine except for the collard greens (far left middle).

Sunday, July 10

I'm teaching on Thursday nights for the next five weeks so Lily and Lisa have taken up the farming challenge (at least temporarily). They put in cucumber and dill and some tiny basil plants. This in addition to a large basil plant (that might be ready to harvest already) and a Japanese eggplant plant (an experiment) that Lily and I put in last weekend. The NCF has put in an irrigation system so we don't have to be quite so weather conscious every day.
So a week and a half later here's how things stand.
The tomatoes now have cages (and a few yellow blossoms).
The gourd and basil and cucumbers are spreading out.
And the kale, peppers, fancy basil, cabbage etc, seem to be doing OK. We spread broken egg shells around some of the more vulnerable plants to dissuade the slugs.
The mud has also attracted an amphibian guest, a young green frog, who can be seen hopping around the edges of the boxes.

Friday, July 1

Lily and I got our vegetables into the ground last night. We had to race the setting sun so I'm not certain things are spaced the way they ought to be. But they are in and as of this afternoon were still living.

4 tomato plants and and a couple of marigolds. I still need to buy tomato baskets.

This one was labeled "gourd." I'm leaving it some space to spread out.

5 kale plants alternating with sweet pepper (hot pepper on the bottom left corner). The middle row includes some exotic basil. The top row is a mishmash of extras from others, including collard green, cabbage, and corn.
I've volunteered to provide some bird nesting boxes. Assembling/painting them might be a good activity for the kids. (It looks like there is also some interest in bat boxes!)