Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I teased Amy awhile back that someday our blog would be famous and we would have people all over the world reading our blog and vicariously gardening with us. So now I just want to put it out there and see who all is reading.... I know we have moms, friends, and moms of friends reading is anybody else out there? Drop us a comment!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Roof Top Gardening

So far so good in my foray into roof top gardening. All but one plant (that I damaged on the way up to the roof) have survived and thrived. All of the plants are noticeably larger and have held up well to the extreme wind and other conditions of the highly exposed roof. We haven't had steady sun for a full week yet though, so we will work through that challenge when we get there.
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

Weekly update

A week without daily rain. Hallelujah! The garden suffered a little bit of yuck from the constantly moist soil, but I picked off bottom leaves and hopefully now that we are getting a little more sun, everything will stay healthy.
Little spots of color still abound in the garden from the nasturtiums, impatiens, begonias and petunias. I had to pull out a few nasturtiums though, I think these little guys are trying take over the world! The miniature rose has put out a few more blooms and the butterfly bush is budding. I love when flowers finally bloom!
The squash and cukes are starting to bloom too. Apparently squash have male and female flowers, I'm going to have to look in to how all this works, but only the females make veggies, which means the males turn into squash blossom fritters.... DINNER!
The ever changing nature of a garden is part of what makes it fascinating to me. It is ever changing from day to day, week to week and year to year. I just finished a book that talks about that and what kind of person it takes to be a gardener. Stay tuned for a review!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seed catalogue

So they really know how to get you. The seed catalogue people that is. I was all prepared to re-read this years seed catalogues in the fall to get ideas until the new ones came in January when I start my armchair gardening in earnest. What I didn't know, was that there is a whole season called Winter Gardening. All kinds of plants that go in in late July, early August, all the way to October or so, that thrive on cool days and nights, or hold well in the ground. Things like broccoli, greens, carrots and root crops. I am resisting the temptation this year. I have too many projects to start any more. I will be sure to put runs in of the spring stuff I had that can also be winter crops, but a true winter garden will wait a year or two.
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

Weekly update

We are still getting so much rain that the garden isn't changing much week to week.
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

Roof Top Gardening

The roof deck is in, and now, so are the plants. I could have done without the rain while I worked, but I guess it was better than doing it while it was 85 and the sun beating down. Now I present.... The roof garden....
I know it doesn't look like much right now. The whole thing is only 8'x12' and the plants are all still babies. By the end of the summer I am willing to bet that we won't be able to see the rest of the roof from this angle.
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

Weekly update

What a week (or two...) it has been! My parents and my brother were in town for a visit. We don't all get to see each other very often, and when we do, we do a lot of our visiting while fixing house parts. This trip included replacing the old, rusting sewer pipes that were making our basement very damp and a little smelly. We also installed an attic ladder that enables us to easily get to the roof. Before it involved hauling the big ladder from the basement and percariously balancing it on the edge of the roof hatch, now I just pull on a little handle and a ladder appears! The only issue I have found so far is that I have to cover the opening once I am up there because one of the kitties like to try and come up to visit. And now on to the garden.

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

Finely an update

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

Weekly update

So the grass was looking great... until I moved the chimnea that was covering the biggest bare spot. Oh well = (

I have pulled the bean cover back to make it more of a swooping bird protector rather than a whole protector. I may take it off all together and just leave the sideways tomato cages over to deter birds. The tray of pepper plants is hanging out in the middle of the bed between the squash/cucumber hills. I may need to transplant a few of the seedlings from the pots to the ground, for some reason the ground ones just aren't coming up. Of course I will carefully transplant the babies over, water them, they will take hold, and the seeds I planted earlier will finally decide to grow. Sigh.
In front, where the radishes used to be, the basil is hanging out, freshly potted into 4" pots, awaiting their permanent homes in Philly and Ohio.

Slowly but surely the yard is coming along.
The alley is coming along better.
If you can ignore my sloppy stack of wood in the back corner, and the pile of buckets waiting to become tomato and pepper pots. New to this collection are the flowers potted in any random pot I could find in the basement to cover the retaining wall. They have been there a few weeks now and are finally starting to fill in. The pots hanging from the fence were a whim. Big bare spot of fence that is the first thing you see when you come out of the house. BORING! So with some spare pots, a few wire coat hangers, a pair of tin snips and pliers, they were turned into these delightful hanging pots. Martha Stewart would be proud.
The peas and beans are making their way up the trellis, or as it was christened at the Memorial Day party, the"dream catcher."
The bin on the right has the peas that were started before the trellis was up. I added a few more seeds when I put the other bin's in. There is also a little lettuce in front of the peas. I fear that the depth of the bins is causing the lettuce to get shade longer than I intended, and therefore not grow as quickly. Next year I plan to fill the bins to the top, but my impatience got the best of me this year and I went ahead and planted before I got a second bag of potting soil. Either that, or the soil is not drying out as quickly as had hoped since the alley doesn't get full sun. I am thinking of wrapping the bins in black plastic to try to help the soil warm a little. Of course when it stays out of the 50s at night, it may warm up on its own. These peas haven't shown flowers yet, but the shelling peas have some good size pods. I have to keep an eye on them since I haven't grown them before and don't really know when they are ready to pick!
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!