Monday, August 31, 2009

Roof Top Gardening

The tomatoes are really starting to look sad. I did get another good batch of fruit from them this week, though I worry that in the coming week there will be less ripe tomatoes. The over night temperatures are supposed to get into the 50s; good sleeping weather, not good tomato ripening weather. If we start getting frost too soon, I may have to drape a sheet over the bird netting to help keep the little 'maters warm at night.
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

The Frugal Bouquet

Everybody likes getting flowers, and I am always giddy with excitement when my garden produces enough flowers that I can have a vase full for me, and one to give away. I have been cutting random flowers here and there all summer, and figured there would be just enough rudbeckias in bloom that I could take some to a friend for her birthday. I went out with my clippers and my flower basket, and to my dismay, discovered that I only had 2 fully formed flowers and about 6 sick looking ones. Not really a great bouquet.
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

Roof Top Gardening

There is nothing like standing on your roof and gazing over rows of tomatoes and peppers. In the midst of a barren wasteland (and it really is wasted land, all that wide open, flat space and sunshine just begging for tomato plants and solar panels!) my little patch of green is heaven. I had more peppers this week, including some of the paprika ones that are now turning pink, I can't wait to taste the difference when they finish changing. I am only leaving them on to turn red on one plant. When peppers are allowed to turn red on the plant, the plant thinks it has accomplished its task of producing fully ripe fruit, and thereby seeds, and stops producing flowers and more fruit. It's no wonder red peppers are so expensive at the market.

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

Weekly update

There is hope for another round of squash! All of the partial plants that I pruned down and twisted back over the garden, have lived! I had to spray with sulfur solution to combat a new case of powdery mildew, but otherwise, they are filling out nicely and even have blossoms!
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.

Ah, summer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Well I think the cucumbers have mildew, I'm not sure what to do about it. If they were sqash I'd do a hack and hope, but with the sensitive cumbers I don't know what to do so this maybe the end of the cukes. the squash bed had been emptied, i hate that furry speed bump, so I put in some kale seeds and I'll but in carrots and parsnips later. I really need to go ask that neighbor lady if I can borrow her trap...
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

Roof Top Gardening

The tomato plants are making a slow recovery and for this I am very grateful! The peppers have continued to be fruitful. After picking my peck for pickling (which are currently marinating in the fridge in two different pickling solutions) I am happy to see that not only are the peppers continuing to ripen, the plants are also putting on new buds.
The tomatoes are slowly ripening, and while there are not as many buds as on the peppers, there are a few little yellow flowers hanging out up on the roof. I am being extra careful to make sure that they have plenty of water, I have found a few more blossom end rot victims, and will be feeding them again shortly. I hope to get another month and a half of production out of my experimental garden. The tomatoes may be slow to pay for themselves, but I think the peppers have made up for them!
I had enough produce this week to make tomato, pepper, scallion, basil salad for Paul and I for dinner. The only things not from the roof were the salt and pepper! YUM! This is what summer is all about!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekly update

Another week already, and boy has summer finally come! The average high so far this month has been 84 degrees, the veggies are loving it! I had several squash, but as you recall, they were taking over the yard and killing the grass as you can see. I did a little creative transplanting.... right into a trash bag! I would have put them into the compost pile, but since they had a case of powdery mildew, and a few squash borers to boot, I decided not to contaminate my compost pile. I did manage to salvage a few parts of the plants, and hopefully if I keep them well watered they should fill back in and produce a few more squash for me. I think I am going to have to create a chicken wire tiered shelf thing and get the squash to grow up the levels of that, instead of taking over the flower bed, then the yard, and getting powdery mildew from sitting against the dewy grass. Some day I will be rich and famous for patenting a new system that revolutionizes urban squash gardening. Or at the very least I will have the strangest looking squash plants in the neighborhood.

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

sweet pickled peppers

I picked a peck of pickled peppers from the parapet plot.

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

Weekly update

Again, the beans and squash are taking over the world! The beans (on the left of the picture) have mad it up and over the fence. Lots of little peach and white flowers, and LOTS of green beans. I cooked 1/2 a pound or so last night, and there is still about a pound in the fridge. I also had another zucchini. Last night I had it shredded and made into zucchini pancake/latka things. Tomorrow night I think I am going to chop some mushrooms, onions, garlic and the middle of the zucchini, put it in the hollowed out halves and bake it. I'll let you know how it turns out!
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!

crop update

Well despite the ground hog (who is eating the grape tomatoes, the summer squash and for some reason didn't eat but did kill the winter squash) I'm still getting quite a haul. And before you get mad remember I have (friendly) compulsorily share going to the landlord.
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

ick/ yay

So, summer has finally arrived, the city really is in the picture, somewhere. A week worth of temperatures above 80 all day and well into the evening. It has even been staying in the mid to high 70s at night. Perfect weather to ripen tomatoes. Unfortunately it is not great weather to gaze at a twinkling city, or see the meteor shower that we are supposed to be having this week.

I had to zoom a little, but there it is...

Roof Top Gardening

So, I may have over done it a bit with the copper spray. I don't see any more of the diseased leaves, but I got lots of yellow leaves in their places. The peppers were not affected and still look great. Looking back to the older posts, the plants have all really filled out. It still amazes me how fast plants grow in the right conditions (even if their caretakers occasionally take too good of care of them!) Summer has finally arrived, in full force. The up side is that there were a few red tomatoes FINALLY hanging amongst all of the green ones. YAY!!!
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

welcome visitor

After all of Amy and my's rants about the critters who are eating our gardens, I would like to introduce you to a friendly visitor.
Can you find him? Look hard, I promise there is a critter in the picture...
Alright, I'll pull in for the close up...

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

Roof Top Gardening

Another week has past. Another week without ripe tomatoes = (
I have had a good number of peppers. We have had at least 2 of each type (4 types) and of the long yellow peppers we have had many more. They make excellent fajita filling when jullianed and sauteed up with some onions and garlic. The plants themselves are doing well. I have a bit of a disease problem, but few treatments with copper spray and some pruning should take care of it. No more blossom end rot that I could see. The handful of slow release fertilizer and more careful watering seem to be keeping it at bay. As added protection, I crushed up several dry egg shells and added them to the base of each of the tomato plants. The calcium that dissolves into the soil when the shells get rained on is supposed to help strengthen the plants as well.
Nothing much else exciting going on up on the roof. Though with summer's heat fully set in, I now more fully understand the allure of being "Up on the Roof" and every time I go up in the evening to check the plants and watch the setting sun reflect off the city, I get the Drifter's song stuck in my head.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

evil green sausages with beady yellow eyes...

and big teeth!
While I have conceded the fact that there is wildlife, and it will continue to try to use my yard as its territory, I didn't figure on caterpillars on the roof! After all, how would they get up there?! Bees may not even be able to find my garden oasis and pollinate the lovely little yellow tomato flowers.
However, this year I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a tomato worm, or more precisely, 5 tomato worms.
I remember when I first saw one. A harmless looking little green caterpillar, hanging amongst the leaves on one of the tomato plants. I thought to myself, 'how bad could it be? how much could such a little thing eat? its the only one and maybe it will turn into a beautiful butterfly' Wow was I wrong! The book is called "Hungry Hungry Caterpillar" for a reason!
A few nights later I was on the phone to Amy, sitting on the roof, enjoying the setting sun reflecting against the city, watching all the tomato plants grow, when I noticed that one of them seemed to be missing a lot of leaves. I peered around, trying to figure out what could be causing such a strange phenomenon. Then I saw it. The seemingly innocent caterpillar I had seen a few day previously, only now it was 10 times larger, and munching its way through my tomato plants!
My shock and surprise had to sound through the phone as I described this strange creature using my tomato plant as its dinner. Amy said, 'oh, that's a tomato worm, I haven't seen one of those in ages, they look like big green sausages' Sausages with teeth! I'm glad I found the things when I did, apparently they go from breakfast links to bratwursts quickly, taking your tomato crop with them.
I pried them 3 of them off one by one and threw them in a bucket. I figured, I can put them out in the grass down the block. As I surveyed the damage though, my resolve not to kill things lessened, and by the time I got down the ladder, the evil tomato worms ended up in a bag in the trash. Nothing gets between me and my fresh tomatoes!
The next evening I went up to see if the tomatoes had made any progress in recovering from the evil green sausages with teeth and to show Amy what needed done up there while I was away, only to find more leaves missing. We poked around amongst the leaves, and found 2 more gnawing their way through my salad. This time I didn't carefully pry them away, I reached in and yanked them off the tomato stems. Its amazing how they can cling! And wow do they feel funny, kind of like the texture of a partially ripe peach. I kind of wanted to squeeze to see what would happen, but then realized that I really didn't want to know if they are filled with green goo like I think they are. This time they didn't even get put in the trash can with a few pieces of greens to munch their way through while waiting to perish, these two got flung across the roof tops, from where they either had a long journey to other tomato plants, or they ended up being dinner for a hungry bird....
ah the circle of life.