Thursday, August 18, 2011

Garlic (July)

Garlic was the first plant to come up this year and also one of the first to be harvested in late July. Being a hot July, the significance of the harvest and the approach of fall seemed remote but now it's two weeks from the start of school and the nights are getting cold even if the days are still hot.

Elsa and Josie really enjoyed pulling them up ~ and it's great to let them harvest a plant they can't really damage by pulling the wrong way at things they can't reach etc.

The two varieties shown here are from New Roots Farm in Newmarket (who make the most phenomenal hot-dogs from their own cows) and Meadow's Mirth Farm in Stratham (who grow the best potatoes anywhere). Both are excellent.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I was watering the trees between the Newington Public School and the Fire Department when I noticed some mockingbirds in the flowering pear tree by the side entrance. You can see both adults in the three in this first picture.

In the second picture you can see four chicks with their beaks open. They seemed pretty stressed. It was still about 98 degrees, down from 102 earlier in the day. You can see their mouths open ~ hopefully because they are hungry and not due to dehydration.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top Sunflower

Title says it all. I am six foot two inches tall, so this has to be at or above 10 feet. Tall in any case.... you can see some stupice tomatoes to my left as well.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Garden goes crazy!

With all the heat and occasional rains of late, the garden has really taken off. I looked back at the pictures I posted in June and it has been a total transformation since then.

For one, the sunflowers are now pushing ten feet or more high. These are close to the tallest in the garden, but the highest ones are already starting to bend under the weight of the seeds as the flowers mature.

That is good news for all the leafhoppers (aka "Hoppies") that live up on the higher leaves and are now out of the kids' reach. Catching hoppies has become one of their favorite pastimes, and I have noticed a slight decline in the populations as the kids are not afraid to pluck them right off the leaves, as long as there are no ants protecting them. They then provoke the hoppy to jump, usually onto the ground or some other plant for which they are not suited. I don't know if they can find their way back or not.

Tomatoes have started which, as I have written before, is the most anticipated moment in pretty much any garden, especially a northern one. Here is Josie with the first two taken on Friday, along with the first onion of any substance, as well as a cucumber and zucchini number.... I am not sure at this point. Probably about the 12th zucchini of the season from two plants. We had zucchini latkas for breakfast in an effort to diversify. It was a simple recipe of 2 grated zucchinis, 2 eggs, a little flower with salt pepper and parsley. I was pretty pleased with the results but I think I was in the minority. Leila's not a big parsley fan and the kids are suspicious of everything that is not drenched in maple syrup.

Right behind the first tomato in terms of excitement is our first watermelon shown here with Elsa's foot (size 10) for comparison. This is really taking off and I think the next rain storm is going to cause spectacular growth on all the melons. Their shoots are growing about 18 inches a day after each rain storm. I am watering about once or twice a week as needed which has close to the same effect. I like to water on Saturday or Sunday depending on the weather because it takes me about an hour to get everything done. It's a labor of love in any case.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Melon garden!

Here are some photographs of the new melon garden, taken on my iPhone (sorry). Apologies in advance for the image quality.

On the left are the italian zucchinis I've linked in earlier posts. I have nothing but great things to say about this variety. At first I thought the leaves had some type of powdery mildew but that is not the case.... they are just wacky heirlooms that have a very striking pattern. Even better is that they started flowering and bore fruit when they were only half this size. The kids love the large flowers and keep asking to pick up the ones that have fallen off... unfortunately that means walking on the bed itself which I really discourage. I think they understand.

Here on the right are my charentais musk melons which are doing much better than I dared hope with the cold spring we experienced. I think a lot of the credit goes to the cold frame keeping them warm when the nights in May were dropping to 40 degrees. I estimate it added 10-20 degrees during the day depending on how open I left it, and about 5-10 at night by trapping the air against the ground. These melons have tendrils that will wrap and climb around the chervena chushka peppers. If the peppers grow high enough it should not matter but at the rate the melons are expanding they better hurry. This is my second year growing these and I am really looking forward to harvesting them in mid-August if all goes well.

The watermelons have started to flower (1 or 2) but that is about all I can report. I have never grown them before so I am being cautiously optimistic. The seeds themselves took a month to germinate and I almost through them out several times before they did. If patience is the secret to gardening... I am doomed.

Ironically, the cucumbers are behind all of the warm weather plants. I have no good explanation for this but the plants appear to be doing well. It may be that they set fruit early and it has slowed their development. It is a russian variety (Bushy) so it is hard for me to believe it is weather related. A dahlia I thought had died came up on the left.... and on the right.

Tomatoes and Sunflowers

Hosting a picture here for a discussion on Seed Savers Exchange forum.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gardening in hi-res

Most of my gardening pictures are uploaded to Facebook. Unfortunately, Facebook is more about tagging friends and less about image quality, so I always feel disappointed because many of the rewards of gardening can be found closer to the microscopic level. Take sunflowers for example. They tower like giants but running along the stems or the veins of the giant leaves can be found tiny ants, metallic yellow and green flies, and other insects. The leaves themselves form intricate polygons that resemble those formed by frozen permafrost in the arctic. How can you tag that? Or even explain it in fewer than 400 characters or whatever it is that Facebook allows.... And why exactly does Facebook want us to be so succinct? Sure it is not to improve our semantics and critical thinking.

Not that gardening is measured only by the millimeter. Each day I have been watching the peas grow taller, the cucumber family (Bushy Cucumbers, Charentais and Zucchinis) spread across the mulched bed. In a couple of weeks the brown bed will be covered by a thick, prickly green canopy of leaves. The Zukes look to be putting on quite a show. This is the first time I have grown this heirloom variety and it has 8 inch flowers and 14 inch leaves (above) that scream look at me, look at me, look at me now! [It's fun to have fun but you have to know how]. Zucchini don't strike me as very subtle... you pick them when they are small and if you wait a couple of days too long, you end up with something you'd rather play cricket with than eat. But small is good, and I am really looking forward to frying these in chick pea batter with ranch dressing or something equally decadent. Much better than fries, any day of the week.

Both my Blue Capucijner peas and my Blue Lake beans should be towering high right now, but the woodchuck has had other plans. He sneaks under the fence and pulls them down from the trellis, wantonly stripping the vines of all their shoot and leaves. After a week of shock, they are starting to rebound but it will set me back three weeks and make the peas for Josie's birthday a meager harvest.

But they are blue (or purple)! Perhaps it does not take so many when you are purple. It will be interesting to see. If they are any good at all, I am saving the seeds for these. I love the idea of being able to find the peas immediately... no searching through a tangled mess of green.

Tomatoes are best known for the flavor and not their appearance, of course. The measure of any gardener is usually not how large, but how early you have them. All across the internet we see the virtues of cold frames, or walls of water, or greenhouses, or stone walls facing south proclaimed to bring forth the sacred fruit while the ordinary languish in the cold damp May nights in the 40s. I admire the innovation inspired by the tomato. No other vegetable has inspired so many to think outside the box, or return again to the soil after failure. When cabbage worms ate my broccoli, "no matter" I thought. I can buy that at the farmers market. But not the tomato! When the tobacco hornworm caterpillar came I promised my children great rewards for each one they found. I planted marigolds to repel them, dahlias to trick the moths into laying their eggs in the wrong location. Mulched to reduce risk of blight. So here they are, my Stupice, in high resolution!

Friday, June 17, 2011

No clue what this is....

It is the thinnest creature I can recall seeing. Use the chicken wire for comparison. Anyone know what this is? It was right next to the peas and beans. Very odd.

Everybody must get stones....

The latest chapter in the Newington Public School landscaping project is the installation of a river run stone swale to capture runoff from the Fire Department parking lot that was washing bark mulch down the hill. We also put in a line of boulders from the Newington Town Forest above the trees to prevent future plow or snow dumping damage from a bucket loader during the plowing of the Fire Department.

The work never completely ends though. We still need to install tree gators on the western red cedars to ensure they get enough water during the summer that will need to be filled this summer. The sprinkler system for the lawn should also be set up again. In addition, one of the red swamp maples will have to be replaced in a different location. It was located in a swale and the water was simply too much for it to survive the first spring.

We have come a long way since March 2010 when all of the trees that were planted when the school was built blew over. We hope you like what has been done so far.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Spring Garden Tour By Elsa!

Spring is nearly over and the warm hot weather this week may be with us for keeps. That's great news for the cucumbers, tomatoes and melons but not so much for the CAPUCIJNERS BLUE POD HEIRLOOM PEAS -aka POIS A CROSSE VIOLETTE (scroll down). Today, as I promised over the weekend, the peas have surpassed Elsa in height. They should grow over the top of the trellis which is only 5 feet, to be 6-8 ft high. It's a dutch variety that should have blue or purple flowers and pods, depending on your point of view.

The Cucumbers ("Bushy") also appeared today for the first time. You can see some tiny cukes forming behind the flower. This variety is good for both slicing and pickling. I would love to start pickling this year but I have a feeling my heart won't be in it once strawberries are in season and I will be canning jar after jar of jam. Elsa and her sister blew through about 25 pints of it since last fall. Go figure.

Garlic is doing very well but I just read a scary story via Seacoast Eat Local that garlic bloat nematode has been shipped to Exeter NH which is only 3 towns over from Newington.... It sounds like a dreadful pest that will destroy tomatoes, alliums and other plants, overwintering for up to four years.

Speaking of strawberry jam though, things are looking really good for the strawberries I got from Agway last year and planted in one of my raised beds. I normally shy away from anything that is not a local heirloom but I have been impressed that Agway sells many of the same varieties that respected organic growers sell. I don't know what their policy on GMO is and should ask the next time I go there. It will be exciting to have our own strawberries for Josie's birthday in a couple of weeks however. That will be a first for me.
Above you can see the fenced in bed where I put all of the woodchuck's favorites.... Detroit red beets (nearest), parsley, Spinach, and Bietola a costa fine chard (back). The supplier of the chard is Adaptive Seeds. I also got Ildkongen Marigolds from them, which can be seen in the front. They are a great company, shipped exactly what I ordered in one or two days... answered questions almost immediately. Not all seed suppliers do that. They are also one of the organic farms brought suit against Monsanto over its use of GMOs.

Elsa is not a fan of GMOs, I am sure. It will be interesting to see where she goes with her beliefs. Here she is in any case, standing in front of the Stupice and Peche Jaune tomatoes. The Stupice started flowering last week but I have not checked to see if any flowers have set.

It is hard to believe that I have a six year old that knows more about the cretaceous than I do.

The last photo below, was taken along Mountain Dream, the fanciful phrase the kids use to describe my neighbors driveway after I planted wildflowers there a few years ago. The idea was to move away from the green wasteland of lawn and actually support wildlife and conserve water. It has been a great success. Here, you can see the wildflowers are playing host to a horde of caterpillars that will then be consumed by the bluebirds or bats. As long as they don't eat tomatoes or melons, I am fine with that.

Enjoy your spring! It will be over too soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

PDA Seeks Grant to Cut Trees in Newington Historic Center

The subject line says it all. Town officials met with the PDA just over a week ago to discuss PDA plans to obtain an FAA grant to "manage" trees including those shown in this picture along the edge of the cemetery. PDA officials would not say how far down they planned to cut trees or what they actually proposed. After pressing, they indicated that if the land owner refused consent, they could do so without land owner consent.

Twenty years and millions of dollars at its disposal and the PDA has never cut down trees on Town land. It is troubling that the PDA is willing to spend federal government money to do this project but not its own.

The Town has asked for the PDA's grant application and its data on tree penetrations. The PDA agreed to provide this information but has not done so yet. More to come....

Weeding out!

Thanks to everyone who helped weed the beds at the Newington Public School on Saturday.

We had six adult volunteers, plus a number of assistants: the Grubes, the Muellers, Jane Hislop, Jane Kendall and Sharon Brown.

PHOTO: Bed above between the school and the fire department needed the most weeding. Two inches of mulch should be added next week. A swale will be added to address drainage from the parking areas above the school.

Also a big thank you to the Newington Fire Department for letting us use their grill and picnic table. Everything looks great and another layer of mulch should keep the weeds down significantly.

All of the beds were weeded out in about 3 hours including lunch which was grilled organic hot dogs, fruit popsicles and potato chips.

PHOTO (above): Daffodils were relocated throughout the beds for next year. The results met with audience approval.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 14: Spring Cleaning & Grill Extravaganza

Spring is here and it is great to see some life come back to the Newington Public School Landscaping after all of the time, money, and effort invested by many last year. I am pleased to report that other than some winter burn (see below) for which a full recovery is expected, things look great.

PHOTO: The Chanticleer Flowering Pear, Pyrus calleryana var. Chanticleer is in full bloom. Stop by and take a look.

Unfortunately, there is some weeding and other work that needs to be before mulch is delivered to the beds the week of May 16, 2011. Dandelions, grasses and other weeds have started to work their way up through the beds. They need to be removed with small hand tools before the mulch is delivered which will help maintain the beds and the appearance of the school.

PHOTO: The Dwarf Inkberries, Ilex glabra var. Compacta, were adversely impacted by the unusually cold winter and deep snow. Weeds coming through the mulch needs to be removed!

Ms. Guare has already brought the kindergarden class out and weeded around the sugar maple tree and did a fantastic job avoiding the Lilly of the Valley, but in order to get this done before LJH Landscaping arrives, I'd like to organize afternoon a group to go out on Saturday May 14 to help get things ready.

I would like have the Conservation Commission hold a "Weeding Day" on Saturday May 14, 2011, and offer food and drink, to feed any volunteers willing to help out. I think if we had 4-8 volunteers, it could be done in an afternoon. All are welcome, and the more people that come, the more time we can spend by the grill, rather than in the dirt. This will be a BYGT (bring your own garden tools) event.

PHOTO: Horsechesnut, Aesculus carnea var. Briotii, leafing out by the driveway to the school.

Please email me if you are interested in helping out so I can plan who will be there etc. Or even better yet, RSVP on Facebook.

Hope to see you there!

Justin Richardson

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fox Point & Onions

The Newington Selectmen held a meeting at Fox Point on Sunday to discuss the location of the proposed pavillion. The site of the former Mott House was selected. Right next to where the building once stood were onions growing. The house was last occupied in 1980 so I picked one of the onions on the off-chance it might be an heirloom or unusual variety since the land has likely been a farm for the last several centuries.

If anyone happens to know more about these onions please let me know.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Knight's Brook in Winter

These pictures are taken of Knight's Brook which winds its way slowly from ground-water discharges from the boiling springs aquifer through the Frink Farm on its way toward Little Bay.

I am putting these photos here because the DOT is looking to purchase conservation easements and/or land around Knight's Brook as mitigation for wetlands impacts (12 acres) from the expansion of the Spaulding Turnpike. The Commission voted this month to propose to jointly acquire a conservation easement with the DOT in exchange for using its conservation fund to help acquire the land or easements.

The photo above was looking from a field toward the woods on the Hislop property. This one is taken on the Brook itself which has a good flow even though it is the dead of winter.

It is a small watershed but the area around the Library, meeting house and the Old Town Hall is a large sand and gravel aquifer which releases water slowly throughout the year. The consistent flow makes the brook valuable from a water quality and habitat perspective.

Not that I would suggest drinking it.... there are beavers, muskrats and other animals that use the water and the aquifer itself is contaminated due to the former military base. The Town dump is also opposite its headwaters. It's unknown what impact that may have on Knight's Brook.

The land also has recreational opportunities and there are numerous trails that can be used, at least when it is not impounded by beavers which is frequently a problem.

There is a network of trails maintained by individual property owners. One of the more difficult questions will be how much and what types of public access are appropriate.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Preservation of Knight's Brook

The Newington Conservation Commission will discuss the DOT's proposal to preserve lands around Knight's Brook on Thursday February 24, 2011 at 6 PM at the Town Hall.

The DOT has made offers to two of the three land owners to acquire a conservation easement over 38 acres (+/-) of the Hislop property shown on the plan, and to purchase the Saba property (26 acres) in fee simple.

I have prepared a proposal to use the Town's Conservation Fund to help DOT's project to move forward in exchange for naming the Town as a beneficiary on the conservation easement acquired by DOT. This would mean that the property could not be developed or used for non-conservation purposes without the consent of both DOT and the Town.

The Town supports the DOT's efforts as long as the negotiations are voluntary and do not use eminent domain.

Part of the discussion involves prices for real estate and will therefore be non-public.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spring Garden Plans

It's February and I've ordered seeds .... I will have more than I need and let me know if you are interested. Note: The seeds from Amishland sound very interesting but I had to wait for a 20+ day back order to get them. Be mindful of that if you order your own.


1. Blondkopfchen

2. Stupice

3. Brandywine

4. Peche Jaune


5. King of the North

6A. Maria Nagy's Translyvanian (for paprika).

6B. Chervena Chushka (sweet Bulgarian pepper).


7. Blue Lake Pole Beans

8A. True Red Cranberry (gift from a Seed Saver I met online, link is to Seed Savers Exchange description).

8B. WIENLANDERIN POLE BEAN - swiss pole bean - Link to Bean Section.


8D. STORTINO DI TRENTO (Italian Marbled Shrimp Bean) - See Link above.

Onions (Allium family)

9. Onion Tropeana Tonda

10. Garlic: Meadow's Mirth and New Roots (2 local farms) planted last fall (no extra).

11. Leek, Blaugruner Farinto

Cukes & Melons

11. Charentais.

12. Bushy OG Cucumber.

13. Zucchini Alberello di Sarzana

14. Bozeman Watermelon (ripens in 70-80 days!!!)


15. Detroit Dark Red beets

16. Spinach, Bloomsdale OG

17. Genovese basil

18. Parsley Grune Perle

19. Bietola a Costa Fine Chard

20. Ildkongen Marigolds

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dahlias and Springtime!

I have been thinking about the new garden I made last year and watching spring approach with every drip off of the icicles outside the window.

The colors of summer are hard to recall looking out the window today. I am putting up some dahlia pictures to brighten your day and because I got offered some heirloom seeds from a collector in NH and these are about the only things from my garden that might be valuable in return.

Large pink dahlias, smaller dwarf red varieties below. The pinks are from a local farmer at the Portsmouth farmers market. The two dwarf varieties were from a local greenhouse but probably commercial in origin. These were saved in the root cellar (yes we have one!) and re-planted last year. The large pink ones will be moved out into the open so they don't lean and fall over due to the sun being on one side.

Another view.

I got these from the Portsmouth farmers market and saved them. Really looking forward to splitting them and placing them prominently.

Snow and sleet? What's that? I will put these closer to the house because the flowers are lighter in weight and think they will contrast nicely.

Same farmers market source.

Some are pure red as well. I can't remember if these are mixed in the same boxes of peat with the red-and-white variety above. I'd have to check in the root cellar.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another photo

Using this blog to host pictures on seed savers exchange.