June and in Massachusetts, Time to Plant Carrots

Well it is June and in Hull we have the porch furniture out, put up the sun shades and are eating festive dinners on the porch. The sounds of birds are in the air. The greens are going full tilt and it is getting to be time to plant carrots for a Frost Kissed Carrot Harvest and Carrot Day Celebrations in November or December.

If you have not ordered your carrots this is your last chance. Here is the link.

Arugula and on the left a head of butter lettuce

There is too much in these green harvests for Katy and me but we have willing neighbors and friends who are happy to relieve us of the surplus. Plus we have news that some children and grandchildren will be here later in June. The first Arugula Swim of the year is coming up on June 4th.  In an Arugula Swim my swimming friends come to Hull and the prize is arugula. It is also graduation season and the only thing I am bringing to potlucks is salad.

The photos below are from a succession bed planted in late winter with various greens. Readers of these posts know that my strategy for this kind of bed is that fast growing crops like radishes, my new favorite, are harvested first. Then the slightly longer maturing ones, like lettuce, are harvested. This leaves room for the kale, collards and chard harvests all summer and fall.

My publicly stated goal in the garden is healthy soil. I say I want to build the soil by always adding more to the surface of the garden with annual gifts of seaweed and compost and then to trust the natural processes to bring those nutrients into the soil. The process of the nutrition going from the surface into the soil supports the formation of networks of living organisms, which in turn help the soil retain moisture and nutrition. Each year I want the garden to produce more. I try to do as little digging as I can so that networks develop and the complexity of and richness of the soil develops over the years. I now understand what a privilege it is to be growing in the same soil for decades. I am blessed with good fortune.

But is soil actually the goal? I say the goal is the soil and the harvested vegetables are the byproduct of that goal. But I don’t think that is actually true of this Carrot Day Massachusetts Project. If I am to be honest the goal is actually community. Carrot Day will not save the earth by sequestering carbon in soil, by getting children excited about eating a really good carrot and then to change a bit how we live. As readers know from the annual posts here at Carrot Day, written by Dr. Laney Siegner, regenerative agriculture and its potential for carbon capture is an important tool in slowing climate change but this little patch will not do much. What this garden is really about is community, our neighbors, friends, children and grandchildren. For me the most important member of that community is Katy Lacy.

When thinking about my life with Katy I now divide it into two chapters. The first chapter was with cats and now we are living in a chapter without cats. In the cat chapter, many things happened, we lived together, got married, had children, grew gardens, lived in houses, and built careers and then the children got partners and and they all built lives.

Much is the same in the “non-cat chapter.” That chapter began on June 23rd, 2021 when our last cat disappeared; she was probably taken by a coyote. The next day our first grandchild Izzy was born. In the “non-cat chapter” there are gardens, houses, marriage, children, childrens’ partners, careers, and childrens’ lives. These things have all persisted but there is one big addition — grandchildren and with grandchild came the pleasures of seeing echoes of our younger-selves. We, especially Katy, send more time away from Hull.

As we are away from Hull so much it no longer felt wise to have cats and the loss of cats has forced me to change my gardening habits. When we had cats the bunnies stayed away and I did not think about bunnies. But now every gardening move I make I take bunnies into account. There are fences or boxes around the vegetables bunnies eat, such as carrots, lettuce, and beans. And there is freedom in other sections for the vegetables bunnies don’t touch like arugula, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers. The protective boxes I made from the old fir decking that we had on our porch. We replaced the decking so the grandchildren would not get splinters. Katy and I were fine with the children getting splinters but we are not fine with the grandchildren getting splinters, they can learn splinter induced lessons at home.

The reason I am going on this tangent is because Katy really likes these fences and boxes. I put them there to thwart the bunnies but it also makes it easier for people other than me to go into the garden. Katy said to me this week that the garden was now like “the garden at French Laundry.” I don’t think we are at that level of neatness but it did make me happy.

I have not been very welcoming to others, including Katy, in the garden. Once our daughter-in-law Maud said to Katy, “I just wish I could go in there” to which Katy replied, “I’m not allowed in either.” Before the bunny protections it was very difficult for anyone but me to know where to be or how to move but now with the bunny protections it is much simpler for others to be in the garden and I hope I become more welcoming.

The goal of maximizing production, interplanting, using the edges to have crops such as butternut squash grow among the mint did make it hard to know how to be in the garden. I was more interested in production and soil than rows and order. I was forgiving to small children, with their light small feet, but not so generous with adults. In this post I am celebrating our new life without cats and with garden boxes and small fences and a more welcoming attitude to others in the garden. With time I can see that maximizing community is really more important than maximizing crops.

Happy gardening and happy new chapters in your lives and your gardening lives.

A new thing I did today was to harvest chamomille which we will drink as tea. It was great fun and smells so good.

Chamomile flowers drying

Fighting bunnies has helped me grow. I am still mad about how they eat the black-eyed-susans, the flox and the crocuses. I won’t fence everything in, even if it would make it look neater. I don’t care that much for neatness. I haven’t changed that much. The bunnies do leave the daffodils, lily of the valley, iris and many other plants alone. 

Here is to flexibility and acceptance and minor adversities to produce growth. However I am not going to celebrate growth so much as to encourage splinters from our porch in a grandchild. Growth can be overrated.

It Is Still Cold in Hull and It Is Spring

April 19, 2023

I have just come in from the garden after thinning greens and pulling a few radishes and below is the harvest.

I am on School April Vacation and I have just come back from Baltimore were I got to spend time with my Grandson Izzy. I loved watching and learning from him. I saw the way he paid attention and took his time and I am doing my best to learn attention and focus and calmness from his example.

Spring has come but it is windy and cold but with the help of cold frames the greens are growing.

This spring I even planted some early carrots in a cold frame. These carrots will not be frost kissed but I still will enjoy pulling them in June as I plant the fall carrots. I will be sure to let you know how they taste. Along with the carrots in the picture below are some young spinach and arugula plants.

Again this year I am using intercropping or interplanting. In this gardening method I plant in the same bed many different vegetables with the goal of harvesting and eating from that bed all season. In the bed, pictured below, are chard, beets, spinach, kale, lettuce, radishes and arugula. Right now I am picking and eating the thinnings of all. The first vegtables to be gone will be the radishes, then the spinach, then the lettuce. The beets, and arugula will last all summer, and the kale and chard will provide until fall. In the past few years it is the chard that has lasted the longest producing beautiful greens into November.  All these different varieties of plants do make the decision making around thinning harder but I don’t worry too much when I pull one plant instead of another. I am not seeking perfection but I do try to build the soil and grow as much as I can. Interplanting with the goal of continuous harvest helps with both. The soil is much less worked and the spacing interplanting allows means that the room the mature kale, chard and beets need will be utilized by other faster growing plants which mature much more quickly.  With interplanting you can grow more in less space.

I hope you try interplanting.  When thinning this kind of garden bed a rule of thumb I use is to pull the plants so that right after thinning the leaves of one plant barely touch or don’t touch their neighbors.  In a few days you will need to thin again as the plants keep getting bigger and bigger.  In the early phase of the bed it takes hours to thin with small yields but in a few weeks it will be only a few minutes and there will be enough vegtables for the neighbors.

Please use this form to order your Free Carrot Seeds. For those of you who signed up in Febuary I will be sending your seeds out at the end of the week.

With Love and Hope for the New Year and the Revieved Energy Spring Brings.

Be well, Ted

Carrot Seeds, the Lengthening Light, and Three Photographs

Today is the last day of February and I have a snow day. The days are getting longer by almost three minutes a day. I just learned that the rate of change in the lengthening/shortening of the daylight increases as the equinox approaches and decreases as the solstice gets closer.

It is something I felt but did not know.

The days are getting longer by almost three minutes a day now and by the time the end of June they will change less than a minute a day.

My friend Rick just explained that to me on our trip to the Winter Swim Festival in northern Vermont as we delighted in the fact it was still light after 5:00PM. He said daylight length is a sine curve and that the rate of change in the middle of any sine curve is faster than it is at the top and bottom.

The lengthening day, the fact that my seeds from Fedco have arrived, and a snow day meant it was a good day to write a new Carrot Day Post.

Please use this form to place your Carrot Seed Order for FREE CARROT SEEDS.

And what is a Carrot Day Blog without photographs. Below are three photographs I took in the last week in February.

From left to right and south to north, pecans under a pecan tree in Austin, Texas, the garden at 41 Western Ave in Hull, Massachusetts, and the pool cut into Lake Memphremagog in Newport, Vermont at the Winter Swim Festival. The temperature range was 84 in Texas, 33 in Massachusetts, and -5 degrees Fahrenheit in Vermont. 

Please order your seeds and join us in another year of growing, tending, harvesting and celebrating carrots and each other.

The Frost Came and the Carrots Were Good

I hope you had a good Carrot Day. It was a difficult year for carrots here in Massachusetts with the large population of bunnies and the drought. Droughts and wildlife are real and part of Carrot Day. That said there were many Carrot Day Celebrations. I personally celebrated in three of them and all were good. And the carrots tasted good.

This quartet of pictures show a range of outcomes from the year. The one on the left is from Jenny’s garden in Vermont, the next picture are June and Nikiesha, two teachers from South Shore Charter, where Carrot Day began. In the text June sent to me with the picture she said, “Sadly, this is our Carrot Day harvest due to the drought.” The third photo is of the plentiful harvest of carrots from the school garden at South Elementary School in Plymouth. The fourth is of a student with a big carrot he has just pulled from the garden at the Community Charter School of Cambridge.

A few days before Thanksgiving Christine Godfrey, the Liberian and the leader of Carrot Day at the South Elementary School (SES) in Plymouth, wrote me an email . She wrote:

“Hi Ted, 

I’m writing quickly, and I will send you a proper email later this week with all my pics. But man! We got crazy carrots again this year at SES! 

125 kids + 1 seed each = 32.6 LBS of carrots!” 

These are pictures for Carrot Day at SES.

For more pictures and information about Carrot Day at SES you can go to her Instagram account at @mrsgplymouth.

But Carrot Day is not only about successful harvests, it is also about unsuccessful harvests. One difficulties of our current American Culture is our general disconnection from the land. We have an artificial and false sense of the limitless of resources and a belief in infinite choice and the lack of a need to sacrifice. No matter the season we believe that we can choose any food on any day. Having a garden and especially a garden that has a hard season connects us with food and how difficult it is to grow food. When we see the plenty of the grocery store it is hard to understand the labor and the needed resources that produce that food.

Christine Godfrey of South Elementary School learned about Carrot Day from her sister Alene LaRosa. Alene’s children experienced Carrot Day starting about ten years ago at South Shore Charter and Alene has been part of many Carrot Days. While Christine’s carrots grew her sister Alene’s did not. Below is part of an email Alene wrote to me about this year’s carrots.

“Hello Dear Ted!

We had a difficult summer on a personal level for this family (our immediate family of four are all healthy and safe!) and I feel like our small garden reflected that. There was a need for growth on a foundational level, a return to “the soil” to fortify what was missed, perhaps in childhood or early on, and our garden I think was in the same position.  We got little yield and — no carrots!!   

I have to admit, in the hubbub of family challenges, and adding to that my working for the first time outside the home, I misplaced the envelope of carrot seeds you sent. I got out a previous year’s envelope with leftover seeds hoping they’d still be good. … But no luck, they did not germinate.  My tomatoes did okay… we got a few small ones.  A few good cucumbers, and plenty of herbs.  And even one beautiful orange pumpkin from Tom’s pumpkin vine!  But no carrots. …

And I feel like the lesson this summer — from the garden and within the circle of our family — was “tend the soil.” And tend it we did, and still are, as we learn and grow together.


I say yes to that!!!!! We need to find ways to “tend the soil.”

At the Community Charter School of Cambridge (CCSC) this year we got a late start and did not plant the carrot seeds until early July and then there was the drought. But I rigged up a watering system where I would fill a thirty gallon trash can and wheel it out to the garden and pour bowls of water over the garden. Once I even drove down from Montreal, where my daughter Josie was living, for the express purpose of attending a meeting. The meeting was on Zoom and I did not need to drive. I consoled myself that it was okay I did not ask if I could join by Zoom because the carrots were worth the drive. I gave them water that day and the rewards from that watering and the summer’s labor of tending (thinning, weeding, and watering) came on November 29th and December 2nd when we celebrated Carrot Day at CCSC.

The photo on the left was taken August 2nd. The carrots have germinated but they are being covered by purslane. The middle photo is of the same garden bed four months later with the hands of the CCSC sixth graders. The carrots are growing among the larger Swiss Chard and the early Japanese Mustard but the purslane, even though it is a very good green in its own right, has all been weeded out. The third photo is of some of CCSC sixth graders washing the carrots for their classmates to eat.

I love the joy that comes out when students pull carrots from the ground. While my instructions are short, a product of having pulled carrots with students for 25+ years, they sure know how to listen. The 6th Graders Humanities Teacher told me that she had not seen two of the students this engaged all year. When I asked the moms’ of the students washing the carrots if I could include that picture in the blog one of the moms wrote back: “Hello Ted, _____ was so happy about this experience. He even sent me a photo and brought a carrot home for everyone to try it. He was so excited! He said, ‘I got this carrot from Ted’s garden and I got the biggest and sweetest carrot.’ He then said, ‘the whole family can try it.’ I have to say it was the most delicious carrot I have ever tried and I love carrots so this was a treat for me.”

That is the why of Carrot Day. There is immediate fun and there is also the possibility of life long change. Both are worthy and frost-kissed carrots really taste good.

We had frost in Hull before Thanksgiving and many members of my family were joining together in Baltimore to celebrate Thanksgiving. I pulled frost-kissed carrots from the ground the a few days before Thanksgiving and brought ten beautiful carrots to Baltimore for our family gathering. The day after Thanksgiving I asked everyone what was their favorite food at Thanksgiving. There were many answers and I was the only one of the group who said frost-kissed carrots from Hull but everyone loved them as you can tell from the family photos.

That is four generations of Hirsch’s going from my father at 94 to the two grandsons at 15 and 17 months. The middle two pictures are from the Hull’s last carrot harvest. They were pulled today on December 11th. The third carrot pictures shows all the work of farmers from the first cultivation of Carrots for their roots about 900 BCE. The skinny carrot is either a wild carrot that I did not weeded out as it looks so much like the scarlet Nantes or red cored Chantenay carrots that I planted or some return to the seed’s origins. At Katy’s suggestion I tried the wild carrot and it was not too bad. It was woody but not bitter and had some carrot flavor.

The third Carrot Day Celebration I was part of was here in Hull on Sunday December 4th. Four neighborhood kids and several adults who lived nearby came over. We pulled carrots. I first gathered the kids together to show them how to find a big carrot. Before I got too far in the explanation one of the older kids took over and explained to the others how to find a good one. They each pulled a carrot and we washed them in a pail of warm water. The kids went off to play but they did not drop their carrots but ate and played for the next half hour.

If you have not yet told me about your Carrot Days I would love to hear about it. Be well, take care, eat vegetables, and if you have the good fortune to have land build your soil and grow your food. If you don’t have that blessing build your community as that is all of our soil and our soul.



On March 10, 2019 I began sending you messages about gardening, children, and schools. There have been 33 posts on Carrot Day Massachusetts since then. In 40% of them the word soil appears. These posts have been centered on me and the Hull Garden as I tell the story of building the soil to produce food for family and friends. I want us to grow and eat really good carrots and have that process be a gateway to growing and eating a great many fabulous vegetables. The idea is to inspire us to care about our food and to embrace practices that can be a part of the change that is needed to continue to have a beautiful world. There have been so many who have helped me tell this story with over fifty schools and hundreds of carrot growers sharing tales and pictures.

The central idea of Carrot Day Massachusetts is to build a community. Having access to land is a privilege and for those of us who have that access we can grow our own food. While growing that food we can build soil to produce health.

List of the most common nouns in Carrot Day Massachusetts and I believe these words show the focus of these posts.

Soil has been at the center of Carrot Day from the start but every once in a while the scientific level of this blog is elevated when Dr. Laney Seigner writes for us. Three of the bogs have featured Laney and her wisdom about regenerative farming, building healthy soil and carbon sequestration.

My daughter Cleo, a dear friend of Laney’s, just sent me a podcast where Laney was interviewed. I want to share it with you because it is all about soil. Soil has been the core of this project. We grow carrots to inspire our children and ourselves to develop the soil to grow the food. I love thinking of soil and community as analogous. Healthy communities produce healthy people, healthy soil produces healthy food. In this podcast Laney passes on this short and potent saying, “healthy soil means healthier food and healthier people.”

Here is the podcast that tells some of the story of being the change we want to see in the world, one garden plot at a time.

Carrot grown in Jenny’s Garden in Vermont that has already had frost, I was told it did not last long on that windowsill.

Frost kissed carrots from Rob’s garden and the October 30th harvest from 41 Western Ave in Hull.

It is getting close and some of you have already had frost. I expect I will be writing you again in early December after we have celebrated Carrot Day here in Eastern MA. Please email me your pictures of your Carrot Day Celebrations to hirschted60@gmail.com

Be well and grow food if you can, Ted

The Rains Came to Hull and A Message from California

Here in Hull, when I last wrote in the middle of August, it was very dry. All the grass was brown and even in my deeply mulched garden the vegetables needed to be watered and the soil needed rain.

I am happy to report that the water did return and new growth has begun again. It is even raining right now. The sound of the rain on the skylights is cozy and hopeful and as thunder sounds water is coming to Hull.

As you can see from the photos of the butternut squash above there is a resurgence of green at the end of this summer. In August I cut back the mint and tansy to give the butternut squash room to roam and all three have responded with fresh green thanks to the rain. Each week as the squash grows I cut back a bit more mint and tansy as the bees are visiting the mature mint and I try to leave as many mint flowers as I can. It is a balancing act to give both the squash and the bees what they need.

The harvest of Saturday, September 17th when I pulled one cucumber patch and most of the zucchini and thinned the carrots and the turnip, beet, radish, spinach and lettuce greens.

On the 17th of September it was a joyous event to eat a salad of the young green thinnings with the cucumbers and tomatoes that are still surviving at the end of summer. There are so many small moments in the garden and each week is different and right now is the moment for the new crop of greens with the hanging on cucumbers and the tomatoes. As I ate I savored each bite and taste, first turnip, then arugula or radish or the mild lettuce and then the richness of the summer tomato and the crunch of the cucumber.  It was a celebration of that moment.

Now this blog’s subject is supposed to be carrots and I pulled a few carrots as I tried to maximize yield of those that remain. They were young and tasty but not yet great. But with the rain coming down and still another 8 to 10 weeks of growing still to come I have faith that the promise of their Juneteenth sowing will be realized and I will share them with the neighborhood kids and that those kids will grow up and eat vegetables.

New crop of greens, cayenne peppers, resurgent sorrel, parsley, and of course carrots.

I am wanted to share with you a message from Laney Signer, a true expert educator in agricultural practices that can sequester carbon and heal our world. Laney is also a regular contributor to the Carrot Day Blog and the mother of a brand new baby.

It is for our babies that we must fight to do all we can to reduce carbon in our air.

Message from California

As I contemplate Carrot Day 2022, now as a new mom of Juniper (born late June), I am struck by how farming and gardening seems to have prepared me so well for motherhood. The days of close observation, noticing subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes day by day, falling into a routine and rhythm (walk the fields, water/weed, harvest; feed, change, rock to sleep), there is a lot about my time spent with plants that lends itself well to analogies of mothering. I personify my plants and speak to them, just as I expand upon Juniper’s early expressions of personality and narrate the world around her. We have been walking out to the community garden at Green Valley Farm where we live in California since she was just a few days old, and I’ve been telling her about the progress our garden veggies are making. Living in this time of climate chaos plus a relatively year-round farming climate means we may not pull our first carrots on the day of the first frost, but rather we have a succession of carrots in the ground currently, some of which will hopefully be frost-kissed winter carrots. But who knows… We’ve had 100+ degree heat waves starting in May, late season rains and blessedly early fall rains last weekend, remarkably pleasant summer days in July, and a new spot carved into the sloping clay loam soil for growing vegetables for the land-based community this year. I got it started with the help of one other landmate, and since taking a break to become a mom, others have stepped in to tend to this lovely patch of earth and keep the successional plantings going. I thinned my row of carrots seeded in June recently, and pulled out some big ones to enjoy in a midsummer feast. The new carrots in the ground have just been thinned and are looking good, hopefully will be ready for the fall feasts to come. The joy of growing in community is not lost on me, as I am now out on the East Coast visiting family, allowing Juni to get to know her grandparents, the salty spray of the Atlantic, and hopefully meet her cousin coming soon. Meanwhile the community garden is tended by other hands, giving its best shot at responding to all the weather weirdness, responding to patient observations and responses of many sets of eyes. It is a real sign of social and climate resilience to build and nurture community gardens! And a signal of hope for the future, for me and for Juniper. I hope she comes to know many gardeners and farmers who shape her perspective in these early years, and beyond. 



I close with a couple more pictures of the Hull garden and my favorite garden bed. That bed, as predicted in an earlier post, is finishing strong with Swiss Chard. The Swiss Chard has outlasted all of its neighbors. In the block of photographs below, which show the same ground from April to now, you can see how it has produced one kind of food after another. I think the most beautiful picture might be the September picture on the bottom right.

The last image for this post is photo of the zinnias and the arugula flowers that still welcome the bees. If things go as I hope the baby marigolds on the left will be bursting at Thanksgiving and we will be getting close to Carrot Day here in Hull.

Dry Summer

On Saturday August 6th around 8:30 in the morning my Uncle Henry died. He was born in 1935 and was only slightly younger than my mother, born in 1934, who died seven year ago.

I am dyslexic. There were many things about my early life at school that were hard. But I was blessed to have a mother that saw me for who I was and she noticed that I liked to make things. I made things out of twigs, tinfoil, anything I could find. She thought that what I needed was to get to know her brother. So at 15 I traveled from Virginia to New Mexico to live with my Uncle Henry, his then partner and future wife, Mary Mikklesen and their toddler Matt. The plan was that I would be Henry’s pottery apprentice.  We did not know how it would work and how long I would stay but it worked well and I stayed all summer.

A little pitcher I made in 1975. After I left Henry glazed the pot with HP White and gave it to me that Christmas. I think this pot is the only collaboration on a physical object I had with Henry, but Henry’s influence is in everything I have made since that summer.

That summer changed my life: I learned to make pots, I learned to cook. It was the first step in me becoming an artist. Henry was my first and most important art teacher. While teaching me how to make pots Henry also told me how he thought a person should exist in this world. Fifteen is a good time to have a mentor and Henry remained a mentor the rest of my life and he and Mary were particularly influential and helpful to me when Katy and I became parents in 1989 and 1990. Henry and Mary were models for us on how to live and be.

One thing I learned in the summer of 1975 was how to garden in a dry climate. Everything in Henry and Mary’s garden in Albuquerque was planted in a shallow well. When you watered you just watered that well. I now plant in shallow wells, even here in relatively wet Hull. But Hull has not been Hull this summer as it is soooo dry. Last Sunday as I watered the garden I thought about Henry and that garden in Albuquerque.

But not all is sad in the world. It is tomato and cucumber season in the garden and we are eating well as the arugula persists. But for a change there is good news from Washington. We now have a good law to help with Climate Change. I was shocked and so surprise and happy that we will be taking steps to incentivize good choices that will do something about Climate Change. There is so much work to do and we must all do our part but it was nice that, for a change, the government is helping us make better choices. Choices that value our earth and other species.

I know I am fortunate to have a garden. If you also are fortunate and have a garden may gardening in your garden and thinking about past gardens and thanking your mentors help you make better choices.

Here in Hull tonight it is predicted to rain. May the rain fall on you and your garden.

Butternut Squash and Mint with a little Arugula and Kale

Summer, Juneteenth, Fourth of July and Frost Kissed Carrots

I planted my carrots on Juneteenth and they germinated about ten days later. Last year at Community Charter School of Cambridge a student and I planted our carrots on Juneteenth and in early December after we had frost they were a good size and delicious. I thought this would be a good thing to do every Juneteenth so I planted on Juneteenth again this year in Hull.

Carrots planted on Juneteenth have germinated and are just starting to get their secondary leaves

You can see the seaweed and sticks that give back to soil in this photo of the first leaves (cotyledons) of the carrots and on some of the plants the feathery true leaves of the carrot are just beginning to grow.

In our yard, the smallest in our neighborhood at one tenth of an acre, we grow lots and lots of food.  Where many would put grass we put garden.  In fact we have a front yard garden. 

There are two aspects of the Hull garden that I take great pride in.  One is the soil and the other is the yield per square foot.  I write in this blog regularly about soil and how I try to dig as little as possible and put lots of mulch on top of the soil and let the soil grow in its own interconnected way. Good soil is the first ingredient in high yield but there are a few other things I do to increase yield. Among them are trellising and succession planting, as well as using the edge where mint and flowers grow for plants to spread out of the garden proper.  The biggest invader of flower and mint space is butternut squash.

With succession planting you plant different plants together and harvest the faster growing ones first. Back in late March under a cold frame I planted radishes, lettuce, kale, chard, and beets. The radishes were first to be fully harvested, and now the lettuce too is all gone. Kale has been going strong and will continue to do well as long as it is harvested regularly and given the space it needs to fight off the aphids. The chard will not be bothered by aphids and by fall will be the dominant plant in this bed. In the past two weeks the beets have come in and are now being harvested regularly. Succession harvesting enables high yield and less soil disruption as multiple crops are harvested from a single sowing.

The photographs below are all from the same garden bed, with photos taken off the from April 3 – July 3. The photos show a bit of the succession of plants from this one garden bed.

One of the remarkable things about this little bed is how when one plant is harvested what happens to those around it. Plants that had been dominated and did not thrive begin to get the light they need and flourish. One thing is certain — yield does NOT INCREASE by having more plants. Over the years I have learned that giving each plant the space it needs produces more food. It takes strategy to get the most out of a mixed plant bed. Sometimes I will harvest individual kale leaves, sometimes the whole plant. Last week I pulled up a mature kale plant and in its shadow was a tiny four inch kale plant and a small chard plant. Now five days later the chard plant is taking off and come fall will be producing lots of food and will be shading out its neighbors.

My goal for the garden is maximum production in this and subsequent years. That means that there are times when the garden produces more than we can eat so I try to share with friends and neighbors. But this June we had a secret weapon, lots of people living with us in Hull.

Below are some of the pictures of our harvest and our garden feasts.

May your garden grow lots of food for you, your neighbors and your children and grandchildren.

Spring: Youth, Experience and Joy

Spring has been slow to come to Hull. In the last two weeks the high temperature has been below average 12 out of 14 days. But the sun continues its march higher in the sky and the cold frames have been stored in the basement.  As you can see from the photographs above and below the food is coming in despite the cold.

Last month I wrote about arugula and told my story about this amazing green. I also proudly celebrated the meager food that came from the garden and the value of cold frames. A month ago it took about an hour to pick a salad. Now in five minutes I can go out to the garden and get greens for three days. 

At the end of last month’s post I wrote, “I hope you can get out in the beautiful spring air and not just feel the warmth of the sun but the feel of dirt on your hands and the sense that the work that you do now will feed you later.  May that food be literal food from your garden or figurative food for your souls, and may the work you do now be honored in the months to come.” I love sitting on the ground slowly thinning and picking. Maybe that love comes from the almost fifty years of tending a garden. I know from practice and experience that the tending and the labor of the present will bring me food later. Perhaps that is why I love sitting on the ground for hours gathering little tastes. Or perhaps it is because I was taught by both of my grandfathers who shared their gardens with me? Or perhaps it is because I was taught by my parents, who usually kept a garden?

In the garden I have seen year after year that the work of the moment gives my future life joy. That is experience. But what were the preconditions that allowed me to have that experience? Certainly among them were the privileges of land and stability. Carrot Day is a way of encouraging the experience of learning that work/time/labor/focus now produces something that can be celebrated later. That is why this simple act of planting, tending and waiting for the frost can be more than fun; it can be a lesson in why effort is important, but fun is enough.

This year has been a hard year for schools. I have been thinking a lot about why this is so. It seems to me that one reason for the challenge of the year is that it is even harder now than before the Pandemic for students to believe that effort in the present will be worth it and that a reward will come later. That struggle, “the-discomfort-in-the-now-for-gain-later,” has always been a challenge in schools. Schools acculturate. In a school the knowledge and wisdom of the past is handed from one generation to the next. The problem is that the world changes and the wisdom and knowledge of the past may not be what the children think they need and sometimes the children are right but sometimes the children are simply children.

This dilemma is not new and at least since culture was codified by the written word the old have been complaining about the young and the young have been complaining about the old. In schools the adults want to be able to explain and tell the students to “work now and it will pay off later and it will be worth it even if it is hard now.”  But for many of us being told something and instructed on “our attitude” and how “to be” does not work. Being told to do something only works for some so now more than ever we need to figure out how the “group project” that is “a classroom” and “a school” can create space for the young to see that there is value in what the old know.

How do we set up situations where students can experience the joy that can come later from labor now? I got an answer to this question in the monthly Zoom Meeting of the the Middle School Network in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In a small group conversation I said that it seemed harder than ever to convince young people that putting in effort now will lead to personal benefit later and I wanted to know how others were handling that situation. Bo Lembo, the Director of the Gately Youth Center, in Cambridge, gave me an answer that rang true. Bo has worked with youth for over two decades and through his years of experience he has learned how to create space where students learn how to be a cohesive group and work now for gain later. He divides the year into four sections and he starts with joy, moves to gratitude, then to setting goals, and ends with celebration.

That feels right if we start with joy and end with celebration we might create a set of experiences for all of us that demonstrate that effort now brings reward later. I think Carrot Day follows that pattern, plant, thin, tend and then harvest.

Two weeks ago I sent out over 60 packages of carrot seeds. I still have over half of the carrot seeds left. Please order your free seeds here and remember to start with joy and end with a celebration and a love of hard work may come in the middle.

Harvest from the Hull Garden May 8th

Thinning, Spring, and Carrot Seeds

Spring is here in Hull and I have been opening up the cold frames to pick greens. Katy and I have had a few salads of lettuce, spinach, and turnip greens that were planted in October, arugula thinnings planted in November and radish, beet and lettuce thinnings planted in late February or early March. Those salads are delicious and precious as they take almost an hour to pick and contain 100’s of individual plants.

The most common of those plants in the salad are tiny arugula plants. The arugula in the garden just comes. 

Arugula has special meaning for me. A neighborhood boy calls me Arugula Ted. Several times a year I host an open water swim called the Arugula Swim and Potluck.  In May and June I harvest trash bags full of arugula and work hard to give it away. 

This arugula, which I love, is the wild pointy tipped type that has deep tap roots and often overwinters here in Hull. These plants came to me almost by chance as I bought one packet of seeds over 20 years ago from Johnny’s Seeds. I didn’t think much about them or even really think about what I was planting. Every year since it has come back. What made that planting 20 plus years ago magical and surprising were that the plants were identical or nearly identical to the “ruchetta” my parents brought back from Rome in the summer of 1965. 

We returned that summer of 1965 early from Rome because my mother had breast cancer and my brother and I were sent to live with family in Memphis Tennessee. My father and mother and younger sister went home to live in Woodbridge Connecticut where my father took care of my younger sister and my mother recovered. Later I asked my mom if she was worried that summer about dying from the cancer, and she calmly said no. She had three children under five and she felt there was no way she would not be there for us. I find it so interesting that in the summer of 1965 those seeds traveled with them and then persisted for the next thirty plus years in their yards. But that is arugula or as it is named in the Roman dialect “ruchetta,” it just comes.

Even though I know the arugula will come, I push it a bit by throwing seed stalks on the ground in November and put a cold frame on top. This will make a solid rectangle of green in April and May but to get to that there is a lot of thinning that needs to happen. As simple as this technique is it may be the only invention I have made in the garden, certainly I did not learn it directly from anyone else or from reading any book or article, and so I take great pride in this arugula planting.

Arugula under its cold frame, notice the the largest plants have the most space. The lower left hand corner of the photograph shows the reflection of the house at 41 Western Ave.

I hope you can get out in the beautiful spring air and not just feel the warmth of the sun but the feel of dirt on your hands and the sense that the work that you do now will feed you later.  May that food be literal food from your garden or figurative food for you souls, and may the work you do now be honored in the months to come. 

Thinning and weeding are joys for me and I hope you join Carrot Day and the joy of the garden.

Don’t forget to order your free carrot seeds.  There are still plenty left and I will be sending them your way soon.

Please use this form to order your FREE Carrot Seeds. I can’t wait to send them to you.