Wednesday, December 30, 2009
After an incredibly busy holiday season, I am finally going to clean out the garden tomorrow (New Year's eve), maybe get in a few lettuce and chard plants under my cold frame, then hunker down with my garden catalogs until it comes time to flip on the grow lights and start a new season.
Can't wait to bring you all along on another year of city gardening!
Sunday, September 6, 2009
When the girls acquired their gardens, I told them that I would be available to help them get their gardens growing. I so enjoy helping other people have their own little gardens of Eden, especially if I get to help with all the fun planning and picking of stuff and leave them to do all the day to day trimming and weeding! I have even been contemplating what kind of horticultural education I would have to undertake in order to successfully start a business to teach people not lucky enough to have a mom or friend who is willing to pass along gardening knowledge. I even had a great name... the Garden Tutor. Of course my inspiration of being the first person to think of being the savior of gardeners who can't quite get their gardens to grow because they have no idea what they are doing, with a great business name and plan were dashed when I searched "garden tutor" and actually came up with 2 other businesses with the name and the plan that I came up with. On the negative side, I am not the first person to think of this, on the positive side, neither of the companies were in the Philadelphia area, and they are apparently doing well enough to post current portfolio pictures on their websites. There must be a need for this service... I will just have to come up with an even more clever name.
Off to check and see what goodies the roof has produced today...
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I wonder where she has been hiding all this time. I know tomato worms are remarkable similar in color to tomato plants, but at more than 2" long and bigger around than a pencil, you would think I would see the thing before it showed up with a hoard of eggs!
I had to laugh though, as much as I dislike the critters, if you look at them from the back end, they have a single horn and a nose shaped rear that kind of makes them look like a little unicorn. That "nose" and horn make a good camouflage and protection. I have seen one before, and know what their heads look like, and yet when I saw the horn and "nose" I thought I was looking at its head!
Monday, August 31, 2009
The peppers are still producing new flowers. I have had pink paprika peppers and some have turned to red while waiting on the kitchen counter to be eaten. I haven't eaten one yet though, so you will have to stay tuned for a report on taste.
The scallions that are sharing pots with some of the tomatoes and peppers are starting to be a usable size. I plan to use one later this week as garnish for fried rice, and also in some homemade salsa. Our neighbors gave us some nice little chili peppers to use for heat. Grilled pepper fajitas here I come!
So far I haven't seen the little bugger in person, but I believe that there is a squirrel stealing tomatoes. I have gone up a few times thinking that there should be several ripe ones, only to discover only 1 or 2 ready to eat. And I have found a few that see to have been nibbled on, just far enough away that they couldn't have fallen off the plant and been nibbled on by a passing bug or bird. Next year I may need to get crafty with squirrel deterrent systems!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I figured I could look around and see what else I could fill the vase out with. I clipped a few purple butterfly bush branches, some nasturtiums, marigolds, a geranium branch, peach bean blossoms, chive flowers(!) and mint. I never realized that I had such a variety of flowers in the yard! By the time I got all of them into the vase, I was really struggling to find room.
So, in honor of having watched a few too many public television cooking shows this weekend and the fact that I don't think many people truly appreciate the idea of being frugal (according to Merriam-Webster dictionary: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources), I present to you, the Frugal Bouquet...
(should I admit that the vase is really a neat looking hexagonal mustard jar?...)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The tomato plants have a little disease problem and are a little whimpy looking. They are still producing though, and I have sprayed them with copper spray (much more diluted this time so I don't burn the leaves). I have also been monitoring their soil moisture more closely and have had fewer blossom end rot victims. I picked more than 20 tomatoes this week! Most of them are small romas, but they are still tastier than anything from the store. I am going to order tomato plant food next year from Garden's Alive and get them on a feeding schedule to hopefully better combat the lack of nutrients inherent in container gardening.
I think we'll have tomato, basil, mozzarella and green onion salad tomorrow for dinner....
Monday, August 24, 2009
The beans, despite me not planting a second round, are still producing, slowly, but we have enough for dinner about once a week. I'd say they have returned on their investment. A pack of bean seeds was about $2.50 and we have had about 3 pounds of beans, that's cheaper than the market, and I still have more seeds that I can plant next year. They are also prettier than the ivy and junk that used to climb up the fence.
The transplanted lettuce is looking good. I always forget just how long it takes lettuce to really start growing, but at least it wasn't completely beaten down by the 5 hour thunder storm we had the other night (wow was that crazy!)
If you look at the bottom left corner of the picture, you will notice a new addition to the garden. One morning we were out in the garden enjoying a cup of coffee before heading off to work. Something above Paul's head caught my attention. There was a humming bird hovering about 2' above his head! Such fascinating creatures! So we got a humming bird feeder. We got a pack of the pre-made nectar, but I think I want to see if I can find a homemade recipe. I can't imagine that red food dye is good for such a tiny creature. Since hanging the feeder I have seen either the same humming bird twice in one day, or two different birds about 2 hours apart. Either way, the bird seemed more interested in the pretty peach bean blossoms and the butterfly bush, than the feeder, but it did stop by for a little sip. I am going to have to leave my camera by the back window so I have it next time I see one come by.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The tomatoes and herbs are still doing well. I've made one jar of freezer tomato sauce, dried some tyme and camomile and I think I'll be freezing some basil soon.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
This by the way is what squash borers do. They eat their ways through the squash vine, starting just above the soil and working their way out toward the leaves. Eventually where they went in, near the ground, becomes so week and rotten that the whole plant dies. I am going to have to do some research and find out what I can do to prevent this (besides getting the majority of the plant off the ground with my crazy, tiered squash growing contraption).
I have continued to get a good supply of beans, chard and flowers. I have even been lucky enough that the cats have yet to find the vase of nasturtiums on the kitchen counter or in the bathroom... let's see how long this lasts! Especially since the flower plants are having their second wind and I can pick them as fast as they go bad in the vases.
I put in some lettuce seeds. They are slowly putting on leaves. If I keep them watered, I think they will need thinned soon. Next year I will keep them going all summer, I have missed having fresh lettuce just steps away from the kitchen!
Fresh green beans for dinner tomorrow = ).
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Well, I not actually sure how many are in a peck, but I have more than I can eat in a day or two before the next batch is ready. And they aren't pickled just yet, but they will be! I love pickled peppers on sandwiches, pizza and on their own out of the jar. YUM! I have researched a few recipes, so when I decide on one, I'll let you know how they turn out. If you live close enough, I may even let you try some!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Still plenty of flowers hanging around. I have a vase of nasturtiums and a vase of rudbeckias on the counter. We'll see how long it is before the cats find them!
I think I'll go pick some mint and have a mojito!
So what is doing well?
Basil: bring a machete
Tomatoes: also bring a machete and a compass
Cucumbers: I made fridge pickles!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I had to zoom a little, but there it is...
Apparently I didn't get all of the blossom end rot under control though = (
I am going to let the few that I picked that weren't affected ripen for one more day, on the counter so they get no chance of developing rot!
Tomorrow, I eat tomatoes = )
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Still a little tricky to see, but there he (she?) is, a praying mantis hanging out on top of one of the paprika peppers. I think it might be a baby since the wings didn't seem fully developed. I say that this is a friendly visitor because some people actually PAY to have praying mantis eggs sent to them so they can release the critters into their garden, especially organic gardeners. No, this is not because organic gardeners are hippie nutcases who want bugs for pets (though in Asia and Africa apparently people do keep them as pets) it is because they are what are known as beneficial insects. Beneficial insects are things like lady bugs, praying mantises and dragon flies that enjoy eating garden pests such as aphids, white flies, mosquitoes and spider mites. Some beneficial insects are not terribly discerning and may eat non-pests and pests alike, but a lack of bugs is a risk I am willing to take. I would rather have to hand pollinate some of the plants than have them all die because a bug ate all the leaves!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
When I first started my quest to produce veggies, flowers, and hopefully fruit in a little urban plot, I figured I would the worst I would have to contend with was a few unavoidable diseases, bad soil and maybe an occasional neighborhood cat passing through the yard. Boy was I wrong! Maybe it is our proximity to Fairmount park, a 9,200 acre park system that sprawls its way through Philadelphia (it has more land than the entire country of Monaco- 500 acres and Central Park- 843 acres! anyway...) and which our neighborhood is borderd on 2 sides by, about 3 blocks away one way and 6 blocks away the other way, besides the small parks and verdant university campus in between.
We have neighborhood cats. Every city seems to have them and they don't seem to cause too much trouble. They may even be keeping the squirrels and chipmunks from using my garden as a salad bar. I haven't figured out yet if a cat was knocking the birdbath over of if it was a opossum or 'coon. The opossums that pass through, which the dogs next door thoroughly enjoy harassing, were part of the reason that the fence needed repaired. On the plus side, one was kind enough to get himself into a bucket which he was too short to get back out of, and was promptly relocated by my dad a few blocks away down by the Schuykill river. One down 4 to go...(that we know of) Raccoons did kept a few of the mulberries from hitting the ground and stinking up the flower beds, of course the fact that they like to use my lettuce and snap pea bins as litter boxes kind of negated that fact, especially since all the seeds ended up in my flower beds anyway. Some bird mesh seems to be keeping that problem at bay. Despite the cats there are a few squirrels around, they like to plant peach pits in my pots in the fall. I'm not quite sure who's compost bin or trash can they are stealing them from... I have also found corn cobs, melon rinds and a few other choice bits of produce. Oh well, I just turn them in and make more compost out of them.
Some of the slightly odder things we have seen in the neighborhood include a turkey, waddling down the middle of the road just 2 blocks over. A pheasant, who knew they even still lived in the wild!? and a heron. That was really impressive, it was a great big blue one and flew over just about on my level, about 40' away while I was standing on the roof one evening. Must have been heading down to the river for dinner. We also get such a variety of song birds that I think I need to invest in a bird identifying book. So far I have seen cardinals, blue jays, robins, cackles, crows, sparrows, finches, wrens and mockingbirds! I think we also have a few woodpeckers in the neighborhood.
Sometimes I wish that I could take a picture kind of like and X-ray and have it reveal all of the animals living around us. It's amazing what living in a neighborhood surrounded by trees will hold, only to later let them wander through a supposedly wildlife free yard. And to think that I thought there was no wildlife in such an urban neighborhood!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Amy checked the plants for me while I was away. She did a wonderful job, I returned to a yard full of happy flowers and plants, I am glad that the garden decided to have a few goodies to offer her as she tended it for me. If you ever go away on vacation in the summer, be sure to enlist a trusted friend, preferably a gardener, to tend your plants while you are away, there is nothing worse than to come home to a yard full of desperately thirsty tomatoes and flowers!
The roof has been a great climate for the peppers and tomatoes. Both enjoy full sun and lots of warmth, something a flat roof excels at providing, especially one like ours that does not have any trees overhanging it, and too think that the excessive heat on roofs is a problem for some people, I say put tomatoes on everybodies' roofs! Anyway, plants that get the correct amount of sunshine tend to be fairly compact, those that don't, get tall and leggy, kind of like in the greenhouse when you can tell your seedlings aren't getting enough because they are leggy and scrawny. You don't have to look closely to see that all of the tomatoes and peppers are compact little plants. Granted, they were all chosen for their compact nature, but I had one left over that I planted down below. It is twice as tall and has half as many leaves!
The weather still has managed to cause some troubles. Some of the tomatoes have suffered blossom end rot. This ugly malady, luckily, should be fairly easy to remedy, or at least partially counteract. It is caused by big fluctuations in temperature and big fluctuations in soil moisture levels. It is also exacerbated by a lack of calcium available to the tomato plants. So, I gave all the plants a handful of slow release fertilizer (it's the middle of summer and everything is due for a snack anyway), I am being more careful that the plants have water on the hottest of days, and I will be giving them each a handful of crushed egg shells to help increase their calcium. Here's hoping it works because I am really getting hungry for good tomatoes!
The peppers have already given several tasty treats. We have had a few mild banana pepper like ones, and one which I found out the hard way, which had a little kick to it. My mom did warn me when she gave them to me that one of them was hot. Next year I'll take better care in labelling everything. I always think I will remember, but clearly that i not the case!
The paprika style ones are getting big. They are a pretty creamy color and stand out nicely against the dark green leaves. I can't wait until they start to ripen!
I thought that by this time of the summer I wouldn't need to worry about the bird netting any more. One night of having forgotten to tie it back closed as show that that is not the case. No major harm done, but one of the peppers on the end looks like somebody tried to land on it for a rest.
Maybe next week's post will include a picture of a blushing tomato!
Monday, July 27, 2009
First off, as you can see from the picture, it is not the nasturtiums that are trying to take over the world, now its the squash. And mine seem to be being as promiscuous as Amy's are. I thought I had planted several yellow squash and several pattypan squash. I just found baby pattypans today. All the other ones seem to be green though.... Oh well, I like green squash just as much. Though I'm not actually sure if it is still considered squash, or if now I'm supposed to call it zucchini. I'll have to look up what the distinction is. Next year though I am only going to put in 2 or 3 squash plants. I need room for my cucumbers! (of course I say that, and yet somehow I will end up with just as many next year... I wonder where I will squeeze in the cukes!)
The nasturtiums have suffered a little bit in the heat, but I'm keeping them clipped back and I am guessing that they will continue for the summer, and as it goes back to being cool, will flourish again. They are still putting out enough flowers that with the butterfly bush I can keep a vase of flowers on the counter most days, that is if the cats don't decide that I put the flowers there solely for their entertainment and enjoyment while we are at work.
I had to pull a few things out. As I was saying, the squash are trying to take over, so I had to replant all the flowers that I had carefully put in their second little bed, in front of the main bed so they wouldn't get squished out. Oh well, now I know that when I build my raised beds that there will have to be a low section in the back so the beans can have as much climbing room as possible, a high section in the middle so the squash have a place of their own, and a low bed in the front so the flowers can still shine.
The flowers didn't go to waste though. I moved them over to the pots and beds that I had pulled lettuce out of. The plants had given me 2 good months of fresh lettuce daily, and it is my own fault that I didn't keep up with my succession plantings so I could be eating it all summer. My chard is still doing okay, so I will have to enjoy that for a few weeks while I wait for more lettuce to come up.
In addition to having had squash for dinner a few nights now, we had a handful of green beans. YUM. Right now I am getting Vortex beans. One of my mom's contributions. They're great. They grow about 6" long so you have less ends to snap in order to get enough for dinner (if you don't know how to snap green beans you are forbidden to be a gardener...) The other kind I planted have the pretty pink/coral blooms that the package promised. I need to put a few more seeds of each in and we'll be eating those well into the fall as well.
We have also had lots of peppers. I either chop them up and throw them on salads, or saute them with some onions and use them as quesadilla filling. Soon I'll be making fresh salsa from my own tomatoes to put on top!
So far, so good. I'm going to have to figure out how to make things a little more productive if I plan to get a family's worth of veggies out of the garden, but for being only the 3rd year, I'm really happy with production. Now that it is finally warm maybe we will be getting enough produce that I will only need to be getting fruit at the market!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I'm not exactly sure how it dawned on me, but ice cubes came to mind. I threw a generous handful in each pot.
I'll let you know if the flowers perk up.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
YAY!! baby tomatoes basking in the setting sun! can't wait till those little buggers are ripe!
Monday, July 6, 2009
Oh, and my lilies bloomed!
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.... just wanted to make sure the song was stuck in everybody's head!
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
You will notice that the hose has made it up to the roof. It is securely lashed to the railing so as not to go sliding off and for me or somebody to reach over the edge, without thinking, to grab it. I would like to take a moment now to thank the City of Philadelphia and PWD for making sure that I have enough water pressure to get the water 2+ stories up to my plants! I didn't relish having to carry jugs of water up if the pressure wasn't sufficient. Eventually I hope to figure out a way to capture and reuse rain water for the roof, to save money, resources, and provide better water for the plants, but that is a ways off in the future. There are lots of house projects on the "to do" list before that!
So, as I commented in the ground garden update, we had a week of non-everyday rain, but we have had enough rain and cool enough evenings that I have only given the pots about 1/2 gallon of water each this week. I expect to have to water 2-3 days a week in the heat of the summer but the container mix with the vermiculite and the water 'crystals' seem to be doing a good job so far!
There are tomato blossoms, peppers blossoms and even a baby pepper! My mouth is watering
waiting for that first fresh tomato... it probably won't even make it off the roof, just get pulled off the vine and eaten right there on the roof. I may or may not share with Paul....
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Of course that doesn't mean I can bury my nose happily in the catalogue and drool over all the yummy stuff I will someday produce, right in my own back yard.... or roof!
Monday, June 22, 2009
The nasturtiums are still going nuts, the beans are creeping their way up their trellis, the lettuce is keeping the squash and cucumbers company, and the little flowers in front are starting to look like real plants. The butterfly bush has a few buds on the tips, so I'm excited about that. I haven't quite figured out why the calla lilies haven't come up yet. I don't' know if the ground just got too soggy and they all rotted, or if it hasn't been warm enough long enough for them to come up. I hope they come up soon! If not I guess I'll have to find some other bulbs to put in the corner behind the bench. The buckets are off the "grass" and on the roof, so that opens things up a bit. Otherwise, we are all just waiting for the sunshine to arrive.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
It was a bit of a challenge getting up there. The ladder is kind of steep, and the hatch is rather small. It's a good thing that the buckets had handles though, it made it much easier to carry them and hold them off to my side so I could squeeze through the hatch with them. You can see my thrifty habits in the mismatch of buckets used as pots. No sense in paying $15 for a pot that I can't carry up the ladder when I could ask friends and family to gather up any spare buckets they could find. The yellow ones were my contribution. Kitty litter was bought in buckets instead of boxes specifically for this purpose. Each of the buckets has several 1/4" holes drilled about 2" up from the bottom, on the sides. My mom and I decided this would be the best place for them so the water wasn't leaking out onto the deck boards, and they will be able to hold a little bit of water in that last 2" of soil. The soil is not quite as planned. I didn't find the coir I wanted, and mom had a bag of container mix that she ran out of containers to fill with. So between that bag, a bag of organic garden soil, a bale of peat moss, some vermiculite, some water saving crystals and some slow release fertilizer, we created our own container mix. Here's hoping they like it!
You can just barely see it, but here you can see my bird deterrent system. After having had one of the peppers completely mowed down by a bird the first night it was up there, we thought that bird mesh was an important item. I hope that the plants will have enough space to fill out in there little mesh cage. If they don't I will just have to spend another creative afternoon devising a way to protect them. I am also not sure how I am going to get in there to pick off old leaves and tie their next round of stake ties. I guess I'll get there when I get there. And speaking of stakes. I figured I might need a few for the tomatoes, because even determinant tomatoes can get a little heavy, especially when they put on fruit. I hadn't thought about the fact that it is MUCH windier up there and that even the peppers would need staked at such a young age. Thankfully mom and dad thought that far ahead, and brought me a stack of tomato stakes, made from scrap wood. I cut an old t-shirt into strips to use as ties. I have found it is a little gentler on the stalks than twine.
One last thing. The peppers and tomatoes at the top of the picture are the ones my mom grew. The ones at the bottom of the picture are the ones I grew. Looks like I have a lot of learning to do about starting seedlings! Mom thinks part of my problem is what many gardeners have, I coddle them too much. Instead of bringing them out in the bright window sill, waving my hand on their little leaves and giving them room to grow, I kept them in their little pots in the greenhouse, where even the best "grow light" can't beat sunshine. Next year the cats are just going to have to deal with the loss of their favorite window sills for a little longer.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
We are still getting a lot of rain, which apparently is making up for our winter precipitation shortfall, but at least now, the days get to be 75-80 degrees instead of staying in the 60s. This has helped alot of stuff finally take hold. The beans and squash planted along the left fence are finally looking like plants. The beans are climbing up their "dreamcatcher" and I'm dreaming of fresh green beans! The flowers are taking hold too. The nasturtiums are going NUTS! There are spots of yellow, orange, coral and red all over the yard. A few of them were crowding each other, and my mom transplanted them in between other plants so they all have more space to fill out. One thing I did not know about nasturtiums is that they will climb. They are currently sharing the trellis on the right with the peas! They don't seems to be hurting each other though, so I figure I'll let them go. And speaking of peas. I picked a dozen pods! I have to make rice so I can use them in a pilaf since there really aren't enough for dinner yet.
In the bottom right corner you will notice all the buckets. They have tomatoes and peppers lovingly transplanted by my mom, waiting to be moved to the roof deck. While my mom was helping my dad install bathroom pipes (the other project this trip) my brother was up on the roof screwing down deck boards. He doesn't get to build a whole lot in his tiny apartment in Paris, so he wanted to use some tools and see a project finished while he was here. It looks great! I can't wait to get the plants up there. I have to wait until I get bird netting though. We put a bucket up as a test for where the bottom rail needed to be, and when we went up the next morning, the birds had clipped all but two leaves off. I hadn't planned on the deck this year, but now that we have done it, I am really excited to see how many tomatoes we will get. I need to rig up a way to get water up there easily, and a few other details, but there will be updates about those later.
The tiered corner is really filling in. The lettuce, cucumbers, herbs and flowers have made a nice surround for the birdbath. I haven't had much time to sit and watch for feathered visitors this past week, I'll have to make some this week!And finally, the lettuce. I have planted it in years past, but somehow it never seemed to work out. This year however, we have been eating almost as much salad as we can stand, and the lettuce just keeps coming! In the back bed it is filling in around the squash plants. I need to start a new run so that when this bolts we will still have lettuce. You will also note that the bok choi is gone. It was yummy! We had it stirfried with garlic and a little oil. Replacing it is Swiss chard which had been thined from one of the window boxes in the tiered corner. I will need to put some more bok choi nearer to the end of the summer when the flowers are starting to fade.
ba dee ba dee... ba dee ba dee... that's all folks!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Sorry I haven't been updating. Just hadn't had anything as interesting as Michelle. So, here are 2 of my 4 garden boxes, plus the beautiful sweet peas, which are trying very hard to look like orchids. The first box is our side box. It has peas climbing up the fence in the back and 4 tomatoes plants. They are Mountain early, grape, Siberia early, moonglow orange. I have intercropped them with carrots, nasturtiums, and beets.
The second box has 3 Amish plaste tomatoes plants and 10 pepper plants. 6 californa wonders, 2 orange bells and 2 south philly fryers. The fryers are grown from seeds saved from Fordi's Mom's garden a year or so back. These are intercropped with red Romain lettuce and 2 kinds of spinach.
And here are the sweet peas:
Monday, June 1, 2009
So far I have eaten lettuce, radishes, nasturtiums and bok choi. I have also picked several daisies, irises and roses. Pretty good harvest for only being the week after Memorial day!
I have to throw in a few more bean seeds so that there will be a staggered harvest. And I need to throw in some more lettuce and start spinach so we have greens all summer. So nice to know that my work in January, February and March is finally paying off!