Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Surpise! Yep I still post too!

So I've been away, from home and the blog, sorry about that. Thanks to Mich my garden flourished while I was gone and I came home to healthy plants. I thought I'd share my garlic picture. This is the first time I've grown garlic and I am really enamored with it.
The hard neck garlic makes a handsome tall plant when everything else is little. When it starts to get hot it makes this crazy corkscrew shoot that makes great stir fry and then you pull it and hang it and in a couple of weeks you have awesome garlic. Of course then you have the problem of wanting to use it all and not save cloves to grow it next year. Its always a struggle!
Next I have my pepperoncini. I planted two plants, this is only the first harvest. I have another 2 pints of them in my fridge waiting to be pickled. These are very mild so I'm putting one of my scary hot "wild cross" peppers in each jar so they have some heat.

The ground hog is still a problem. My garden is now completely enclosed in fence. Its tough to work around but at least I get some of my veggies.

Friday, July 16, 2010

knee high

So I know corn is supposed to be knee high by the 4th of July, and that is about where my knowledge of corn growing ends. So of course I planted some this year! Originally I was planning to grow sunflowers and corn and try the "three sisters" approach that the Native Americans used. You grow corn then let your beans use it as a trellis and squash grows at the foot of it all to control weeds and shade the soil to help it retain moisture. I figured I would skip the squash and just do the beans and corn. Apparently I got the wrong kind of corn, because it is a week past the 4th of July, and while being more than knee high, it certainly isn't tall enough to be growing beans up it! Oh well, it is the gardener's way to experiment, and make the best of it if something doesn't go as planned. I am going to try the beans in buckets on the roof, with a trellis woven between the guard rail boards, and am just hoping the corn does something!
I'm going to have to call dad and ask if that is what corn is supposed to do...
On another up side, I have pulled out most of the cabbage. It never got to be big heads, but the fist size heads I did get were tasty. We had stirfried cabbage and coleslaw. I think I will try a fall batch too. The zinnias are also taking hold. They will have a little competition though, I have interspersed them with some compact squash plants. I don't quite believe the "compact" claim, but so long as they don't try to take over like last year, we should do okay! I may have to stake or cage the zinnias a little to keep them from crowding the front of the bed where the squash are. Apparently everybody is reaching for the sunniest part of the yard.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


As I was saying, I like to put any empty space to use as garden space. So to make the patio a little more interesting, grow a little more food, and satisfy my ever growing need to play in the dirt, I annexed a portion of my father in law's patio. In it's rain soaked state it doesn't look like much, but he has already enjoyed a few cherry tomatoes, and there are lots of baby tomatoes and peppers just waiting for the sun to come out and ripen them!
He has a patio set that we all often enjoy sitting around and sharing a meal or cocktail hour after one or all of us have had a rough day at work. The patio was kind of bare when he moved in, and it is amazing what 8 buckets of dirt and about 15 plants did for the space! It isn't quite a lush oasis, but at least it doesn't feel like we are sitting in a desert. My cheapness ruled again. The buckets are from cat litter and empty butter cream frosting buckets from the grocery store bakery with a few kid's buckets from the dollar store thrown in for color. The back row of plants is set up on a board set across a few bricks to give the arrangement some height and help the plants get a little better air flow. All in all it cost about $40. A garden doesn't have to be fancy or expensive to improve your space!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Front garden

The peppers and zinias out front have really taken off with all of the heat we have been having. So much so that they have crowded the calendulas out. So I rearanged a few things. The big purple pholx died. Not sure if it was due to disease or lack of water, but I pulled that out and replaced it with the calendulas that were suffering because they were completely covered by the canopy of the peppers. Hopefully now everything will flourish!

I have tasted the first of the purple hot peppers. I think if anybody is silly enough to try taking a bite out of one, they will get a surprise they won't soon forget! Those suckers are SPICY!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Yum! tomato salad!Suffering through the heat in the city has been worth it for gardeners, assuming they are all getting as good of a crop of tomatoes as I am! Granted I am being more careful about feeding and watering this year than I have been in the past, but knock on wood, all of the baby tomatoes on the roof are looking wonderful! Besides diligent watering, I applied extra calcium and so far have found very few affected with blossom end rot. I also covered the drain holes in the buckets with duct tape in hopes that the soil will hold water better. So far, so good, but I may have to drill new drain holes a little further up because it is working so well in the smaller buckets that when it does rain they are filling with water and drowning the plants. Too much of a good thing, is a bad thing!

In one day's harvest I got 9 ounces of cherry tomatoes. I got a third of that per harvest for the first week's harvests, half of that for the second week's harvests, and now I figure at the early July rate for local tomatoes at the farmer's market- $1.50 a pound- I have already paid for my packet of Golden Nugget cherry tomato seeds! If I figure in the fertilizer, I am working in the black in another 2 weeks or so! (or in maybe 'in the red' is a better thing for a tomato harvest... black usually means blossom end rot!). If even 2/3 of the tomatoes and peppers on the roof, out front and on my father in law's patio ripen perfectly, we are going to have so many tomatoes that I am going to have to give away or freeze half of them so they don't go to waste!

I'm thinking about rigging up some shade clothes so I can plant more lettuce and some scallions... this buying it at the market in order to have a salad is really getting me down!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Well, I guess you have to be careful what you wish for. After a week of 90 degree plus heat every day, everyone was complaining that they wished it would cool off and rain. Boy did we get our wish!

Friday, July 2, 2010

new territory

I am constantly looking for new territory to turn into garden space. This summer's addition is the front sidewalk.

We don't have a front lawn here in the city, but many people have street trees with flowers planted around the base or large planters along the house. We are thinking of talking to the City about getting a street tree, but in the meantime, planters will have to suffice.

When dad was in town a few weeks back, we built a cover for the trash can and recycling bin. We had some of the siding plywood left, and created 2 planters to match. I cheated a little with the planters. They don't have a bottom to them, they are actually just boxes, open top and bottom, with a Rubbermaid tub inside! I had to prop the bins up on bricks at one end in order to get them to sit straight. I'm happy with them so far, and the neighbors seem to enjoy seeing calendulas, zinnias, phlox, marigolds and peppers more than they liked seeing the trash can. Wonder why....
I am hoping that nobody decides to help themselves to the flowers or the peppers growing out front. So far so good. As a mild deterrent, especially from the college kids in the area who might be prone to tasting a pepper on their walk home from the bar, the peppers are hot ornamentals! I'm not sure HOW hot they, but I am guessing that biting into one and not expecting heat will be enough to keep the same person from "sampling" twice. I am intending on enjoying salsa this summer though.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The backyard garden is coming along slowly this year. I decided to try cabbage. It should have been ripe a few weeks ago, but is finally coming to heads now. I am hoping it is still tasty!

When I remove the cabbage from the front row of the main bed, I will fill in with a few compact squash plants, which will be kept company by the zinnias that are doing exactly what they were supposed to do, and filling in a I am ready to pull the early crops out. My successive gardening is a long way from perfection, but I am seeing the added benefits of choosing plants that can timeshare on my limited garden space. The squash plants are getting a head start in a large pot by the back door. Hopefully by the time they go in the ground they will be big enough to resist all the pests that so love to munch on baby squash plants!
The butterfly bush had a rough start to the season, as I had a major infection of spider mites. I have blasted my plants with the hose and treated them with insecticidal soap, and everything seems to be recovering. I may give everything another once over with the soap just to make sure they don't come back!
I am not sure if it will turn out successfully, but so far so good with the corn. Still a few days till the 4th of July, and half of the stalks are already higher than my knees. Here's hoping that works in PA like it does in OH and the rest of the Midwest!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I realized that last summer, part of my tomato production problem might have been due to poor pollination. To counter this possibility this summer, I made sure to include a few flowers in the roof garden. The red ones are rudebeckia, a relative of black eyed susans, that I had planted last summer. The plant put out 2 ugly flowers way at the end of the summer. I had forgotten to pull it out while cleaning up the end of season debris, and when I went up this spring, the plant was a foot tall and had flower buds on it. It has since matured and given me many lovely flowers for my vases and birthday bouquets!
The lavender was at Paul's request. I was happy to acquiesce because I was hoping that the strong perfume of the leaves would help draw pollinators to the roof. I am not sure if my flower strategy worked or if the bees have just figured out that there is a garden up there, but I have been seeing quite a number of my favorite winged friends....

Sunday, June 27, 2010


It is official. Summer has arrived on Calumet Street. I ate my first homegrown tomato of the season!

The pepper is getting sliced up and added to salad for dinner.

Good thing the basil plants are getting up to size. I think I will be having tomato, basil, mozarella salad in a few days!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

roof update

It's been awhile since I have posted, and let me tell you, the garden has EXPLODED in the past few weeks. We have been having 90 degree plus weather, so I have had to be diligent about watering, and I gave everything a handful of fertilizer. We should be reaping our reward soon.
Every tomato plant has baby fruits and lots more blooms. There are pepper blooms on all of the plants and baby peppers on several. I am really bad about keeping track of what kind each seedling is, so I am now seeing what I planted. It seems I have a large number of gold nugget cherry tomatoes, at least 2 window box romas, and several Beaver lodge slicers. I am not sure if any of the Russian ones that I had leftover from last year made it because they produce fruits about the same size as the Beaver Lodge. I will have to get my catalog out when they ripen and compare.

I have had a little problem with blossom end rot. I must not quite have my soil fortified quite enough with calcium, or I missed watering somewhere along the way. I have hopefully prevented any further damage by duct taping over the drainage holes and giving all the tomatoes a handful of crushed oyster shell to provide calcium. Here's hoping it works! I should be eating my first tomatoes within the week. then summer will have officially started!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Anyone with enough space for a good size window box that can get slightly less than full sun, is paying too much for lettuce in the summer months. Even if you only eat three heads of romaine, it is cheaper and more convienient to grow it yourself! .

My small garden patch of lettuce and spinach has produced in one week enough greens to provide the two of us with 3 dinner size salads each! Last week we probably had 1/2 that much, but now it will continue full steam ahead for another 2 months, assuming I reseed every few weeks. If I figure that it would take a head of romaine a week to provide us with this quantity of lettuce, and a head of romaine is $1.50, in 3 weeks I will have paid for both the lettuce seed mix and the spinach seeds!

With a careful selection of varieties, and the addition of any of a number of edible flowers, one lowly flower bed could be transformed into a treat for the eyes and the tastebuds. Not only is it pretty to look at, but think of the amount of fuel you are saving because the lettuce doesn't have to be transported several hundred miles, the plastic bag that will not have to be used to get it from farm to table, and the knowledge of exactly what kind of fertilizer and pesticides were (or in my garden, were not) used in its production. In addition to all of that, you and your family will be more likely to eat your veggies, get more fresh air, exercise and stress relief in the process because you will be outside for at least a few minutes one or two evenings a week tending your garden.
What are you waiting for? Start a lettuce patch today!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

wait for it....

Wait for it...

wait for it....

wait for it....


So far so good in the realm of flowers! I have never seen this many rose buds on the bush, I had completely forgotten about the white irises, and had the peony not bloomed this year it probably would have ended up in the compost bin! It's amazing what a little early season feeding will do for plants!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Evil green sausages

Okay, okay, so this round of evil green sausages are more the size of pen cap, but they are every bit as evil! This year the cabbage worms have found the cabbage plants. Now don't ask me how these buggers managed to figure out and make their way from a minimum of 4 houses away (I know at least 4 houses away because not only do I know my neighbors, but from the roof I can see into everybody's back yards, and I haven't seen anything but tomatoes, peppers and herbs), but some how they knew, and they came. So much to my dismay, when I went out to work in the garden one fine morning, I first got to spend 15 minutes picking soft green caterpillars off of the cabbage plants before they gnawed off the entire plant. I thought I got them all, but it seems I will have to get outside super early one of these morning and do another round of drowning (I picked them off the plants and threw them into a cup of water so I didn't have to worry about them coming back to the little plants).
With every new crop comes a new challenge to understand and conquer.

New pad

So I helped some friends move into their new digs a few weeks ago. GREAT PLACE! It's on the third floor, they have their own elevator, and no direct next door neighbors. It's a quiet neighborhood, awesome 360 views of the city and the park. Fully furnishd and the decor is great, very nature inspired. And let me tell you, their rent is incredible. All they have to do is keep an eye on my tomatoes and peppers for me....

They are living in the pots on the roof if you didn't figure that out ; )

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

First taste of spring

I know spring has officially been with us for about a month, and despite the tulips that bloomed in my garden, I can now officially say spring for me has begun. I had my first homegrown salad of the season tonight. Granted most people wouldn't call 10 baby lettuce leaves a salad, but to me it is the symbol of all the tasty things that are to come.
In addition to picking those 10 little succulent leaves, I harvested mint, oregano and parsley. The mint I plan on turning into a julep or mojito in very few minutes. The oregano I plan to dry for a friend who can't keep anything more than plastic plants green, and the parsley I unfortunately donated to the compost pile. It's not that I have anything against parsley, it's just that I seldom have use for more than a handful, and when one cuts an entire plant back by half, it is well more than a handful! I didn't just harvest these plants for the tasty tidbits, I cut them back so that as they grow, they continue to branch out, thereby creating bushy plants rather than tall spindly things, they are sturdier that way. The mums from last summer got the same treatment. I believe I read somewhere that before the 4th of July, mums should have been cut back 3 times to produce the fullest plants possible. I will try this theory and let you all know how it turns out.
In addition to pruning and weeding, I also redistributed the baby spinach and cabbage that are holding down the fort in the main beds until the summer crops go in. The spinach plants have 4 or 5 leaves each and the cabbage are close behind. From the number of plants that have made it to this stage, I guess I had better start figuring out good ways to preserve cabbage!
Some of the summer plants that I started in my greenhouse and window sills aren't doing quite as hot as the plants in the ground. I am not sure what I am doing wrong, perhaps I am transplanting too early or water too much/ too little, but my baby tomatoes are kind of sad looking. Here's hoping enough survive that I can share them, and if not, that Amy has enough extras that a few can move to my garden! The peppers on the other hand are having a field day! And with 4 kinds here's hoping that everybody likes peppers! The flowers are kind of chugging along, I can plant a second round directly in the ground to fill in any holes.
Off to admire the apple blossoms....

Friday, April 9, 2010

April in my garden

This spring I was out earlier then past years and I planted cabbage; early jersey, bok choi, kale, radishes; French breakfast, and snow peas. The cliff flanking my yard is very beautiful its a wash of pastel flowers that I know nothing about. If you can't eat it, I don't plant it. The landlord put in perennials a while back so these are all his fault.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

the first round in the ground

The rain has finally given way to warm days and nights. Apparently we have been privy to living through the wettest March in history 3.5" in 2 days alone. Several times we had a cold snap that caused temperatures to dip down to 29 degrees and I had to find newspaper and row covers to protect the baby lettuce and chard from potential frost. It seems to have worked, the baby plants that didn't get eaten by birds or drowned, look quite healthy ; ) and now that drier days are here, the plants are flourishing.

Lettuce, chard, spinach, peas and cabbage are all great first crops of spring. These plants enjoy cool weather and sun that doesn't beat straight down for hours on end each day. They are also great for people like me who want to cram every bit of productivity into their space. Since all of those crops mature quickly and don't mind cool weather they can be using the space before flowers and veggies can go in, and I will harvest them and thin them as I begin to put the warm weather loving plants in and keep them in around the new baby plants to keep the beds from seeming empty until the plants fill out. Near the end of the season when the warm weather plants are starting to die off, I can plant seeds between the warm weather plants and the process work in reverse.
Besides the obvious benefit of being edible (and quite tasty at that!) I believe greens were created for people like me who can't wait to get out and play in dirt as soon as it doesn't have frost in it. It is also a very simple crop to grow. Lettuce and chard were the first things my mom gave me to grow from seeds. You may not get a great crop from poor soil, but so long as you don't drown them or drought them, you will get an edible result. Over the past 5 years or so, my spring crops have become more and more productive. Last year I think we had salad at least 3 nights a week for dinner without me having to buy lettuce from the middle of April until June! Since one of my beds only gets partial sun, I continued to get a lighter harvest of lettuce and chard through the rest of the summer, and if I had thrown some more seeds in and concocted a row cover/ cold frame, we probably would have been eating it until December like my parents were.

It gave me great pleasure when two of the new gardeners who joined Amy and I for our armchair gardening this year asked me about planting lettuce. I had given Risa some seeds when we had garden night, and when I set my seedlings out, I sent her an email with detailed instructions on how to get her own started. She doesn't have a set up to start them inside which gave me maybe a 2 week head start but otherwise doesn't do much. Maybe when I get sophisticated and get hoops to make mini greenhouses I can get a jump start right in the beds rather than having to transplant the fragile little seedlings.... anyway.... The same day I sent that message out, Lis sent me a message, asking how hard it was to grow lettuce. I copied and pasted my instructions and told her to go to the garden center and pick out a pack or two of seeds that looked tasty. What a great and rewarding way to start gardening!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Today is the first full day of spring! and boy did I take advantage of it. Despite the late season cold that has gotten a grip on me (or maybe because of it) I decided I needed to spend an entire day in the sunshine. I am happy to report that I did just that, and have the dirt under my nails to prove it!
I didn't get a lot done, but somehow one never feels they accomplished everything they wanted to. What I did get done though is:
I cleaned out my compost bin. What a fun job that is! Especially since mine is in a slightly awkward spot at the back of the alley, with the woodpile in front of it. (for those of you new to my ramblings, despite the small size of our yard, we manage to cram a lot in, and do a lot of things that most people would never consider in a backyard that is 15' X 25'! stay tuned for updates on everything I manage to pack in!) Down on my hands and knees with a garden trowel in hand, I scooped out a large pile of gardener's black gold. Mine may not be as pretty as the professional grade, but it sure looks better than the dirt that populates my garden beds! I couldn't believe the amount that I pulled out, the worms and bacteria sure have been working hard over the winter!
After I got the bins of freshly collected compost out of the way, I built a shelf for the alley. We have two nice big windows in our kitchen, they look at a boring picket fence and our neighbors' windows and stuccoed wall, all of 6' away. I am determined to change that. I have purchased several types of seeds that work in shady locations and am sure I will end up with a spare begonia or two after the library plant sale. Hopefully between the bins on a shelf that puts flowers at window sill height, hanging baskets, short plants, tall plants, and everything in between, someone glancing from my window would never guess that it is an alley. And if I can also get some cut flowers to bring inside the house, all the better!
The next task to accomplish was finding homes for all of the lettuce and swiss chard seedlings. I started them several weeks back, and now that they have true leaves and have hung out in the open window sills for a few days to acclimate themselves to the great out doors, they were ready for permanent homes. I filled several window boxes with soil, compost, vermiculite, coir (think peat moss but made from coconut husks) and fertilizer; these are now lined up along the ledge that the wooden fence sits on. 6" x 10' of found space! The spot gets a moderate amount of sunshine, so hopefully it will be enough for good growth without letting the lettuce scorch in the hot sun. The plants that did not fit in those 4 bins are in my back flower bed. I left space behind them to plant some sugar peas, no sense in wasting that perfectly good vertical fence space! With a little twine it becomes an ideal trellis. For half of the lettuce and half of the chard I tried something new. After preparing the soil with a few scoops of compost and fertilizer, I rolled out some paper mulch. It kind of looks like glorified craft paper, only darker in color. The picture on the tube show plants that are twice as large with it than with out, we'll have to wait and see.
I also did a lot of figuring and straightening. I emptied some pots that were getting too beat up and broken, uncovered the last of the pots that I had covered to protect from winter ice, I said hello to the rosebush and the butterfly bush, and sorted out what needs to be planted and fed next.
Over all a very productive day. The sunshine even helped make me feel better despite my cold. Of course now my body aches from scraping compost out of the bin and working with a shovel all day, but that just means that summer is on its way. = )