Wednesday, August 3, 2011


So, I initially decided that ornamental hot peppers would be a good fit for my sidewalk planters because I figured if any of the numerous kids in the neighborhood decided to swipe one, the first bite should keep them from doing it again. So far, so good in that respect. I haven't seen any signs of half eaten peppers dropped on the street- even the squirrels leave them alone!
I figured I would get a few hot peppers off of each plant, and that those peppers would then get put to use in making salsa. This also has been the case, and I have enjoyed numerous batches of salsa and fajitas flavored by the little spicy treats, as well as enough to dry to last me well through until my next batch matures.
What I didn't expect, was that putting plants, especially edible ones, would produce so many conversations and compliments from the neighbors. Let's face it, concrete sidewalks faced by brick rowhouses can get a little monotonous and really HOT in the summer. Sure we have a few trees on the street, and in recent years my other gardening minded neighbor has upped her sidewalk presences in the form of a new sidewalk planting bed (she is on the corner, so having flowers on the curb line doesn't block people from opening car doors since they can't park there anyway) But even my 3 little planters have drawn compliments on how much it improves the look of the block! I have enjoyed hearing peoples comments and have encouraged others to put something out front, even one flower pot can do wonders- every little bit helps. In the midst of those conversations I have offered to let neighbors pick a few of the peppers, since the plants produce well more than I will ever have use for. And here's where the fun part comes in... the neighbors are starting to offer me things from their gardens in exchange! I guess I shouldn't be surprised that some of my neighbors have veggies and herbs growing in their yards, but after receiving several nice cucumbers and an offer of basil, cilantro and more tomatoes (just harvested 4 lbs from my own plants) it hit me, just how much produce is being grown on our block- and all of us still have room for patio sets!
At this point I have to thank William Penn for his brilliant concept of a "greene country towne"- and making it a point that even urban lots have a little plot for vegetation; especially after visiting Annapolis last weekend and noticing how close together the houses are and how little outside space each lot has. I know every bit helps and that it is possible to produce a good deal from planters and window boxes, but I think I'll stick to urban gardening in the Penn's "country towne."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I take that back...

So earlier this season I was extolling the virtues of home grown lettuce, and I still stand behind the joys of going outside and picking a salad. I may have over-emphasized the ease of growing it... and I am going to have to have have a little conversation with the squirrels who were digging in my alley pots before fall rolls around. So while I work on my lettuce growing skills (and bb gun aim...) I will add a new recommendation for easy gardening. Green beans. Every few weeks from early summer, through to 2-3 weeks before frost, soak a few beans in a bowl of water few a few hours, scratch a hole in the ground, drop a bean in, and work your way down the row, filling in any bare spots or space left on the trellis. This will guarantee a family's worth of green beans for the summer. I only have half of the trellis growing, and I'm already thinking of all the new ways we get to try green beans through the summer. Guess I better get a few more seeds in the ground tomorrow so I have plenty to practice with!

Friday, July 22, 2011


I will have to go back and look at my notes from last year, but I feel like besides the impatiens under the apple tree, the flowers are taking their sweet time in blooming this year. Either that, or I need to find more edible flowers to fill in amongst all the green!
With a new table (fountain/pond, tiered beds, and a touched up patio-it's off to the right), I think I should submit the yard to a magazine and show people the oasis that a small yard can be!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The summer heat is taking its toll on the pansies. My planning has paid off though. The peppers, zinnias and sunflowers have filled the containers at the front of the house with green. (with a little red, white and blue thrown in) Despite the greenery, I think I will start the plants in containers in the back next year. Since I wasn't sure of the age of some of the seeds, the fact that some of them never took means that there are a few extra peppers in one container and an extra sunflower in the other, so they look a little lopsided.The sunflowers are enjoying the heat radiating from the sidewalk and the brick front! I can't wait until more open. From the looks of it there will be 4 more flowers on this plant, 3 or 4 in the other planter, and hopefully a few more on the runt of the bunch.The mum has had its final hair cut of the summer (remember- 3 trims before the 4th of July for nice, full plants! I wish I remember where I read that). Hopefully the trims will pay off in a few months and the sunflowers will be replaced with sprays of colorful mums. And a few volunteer tomatoes....

Monday, July 18, 2011


It's been a little warm and humid in the city....I can't say that my tomato plants look beautiful, but they apparently feel beautiful because, but despite how ugly the plants look, they have been kicking out the fruit!

I have been keeping track of the weights of the tomatoes as they come through. This week alone I had a pound! Also collected 3 banana peppers, basil and onions from the roof. We will be having fresh tomato salad AND BLTs for dinner this week!

Monday, July 4, 2011

July garden update

Seeing Mich's amazing harvest motivated me to post an update. We have gotten a ton of kale, so much so that I don't have to buy it right now. The cabbage is almost ready. What do you do with 7 heads of cabbage, anyone?

My tomatoes aren't ripe yet but they are making me very hopeful. The verity that is likely to be ready first is the orange plum tomato
from Baker creek, followed by either Mich's Gold Nugget or Stupice form Seed Savers.

First pepper, Chocolate bell

Tiny optimistic watermelon, golden midget watermelon

Ridiculous space-invading pumpkin of unknown providence. Likely a kabocha of some sort. The black sling is there to support its weight and is made from the sleeve of an old t-shirt.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Planting an early variety of tomatoes has paid off...There before you is my Gold Nugget tomato of the season! The next day I had 2 more, followed by one more. Which of course meant that I had to pull one of the spring onions and a few pretty Thai basil sprigs.
And enjoy my first taste of summer...
The next set of early tomatoes- Silver Fir (named for their neat needle looking needles) are starting to turn red. Thankfully there are plenty more spring onions and the basil is filling in nicely!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cat nip

Several years ago we received as a gift, a relief carving of St. Francis of Assisi. He is known as the patron saint of animals and since we have quite the clowder of cats, there is bird feeder out all winter long and a bird bath all summer, I thought hanging the carving in the garden was a nice touch. Today I had to chuckle when I realized that I had hung it right next to the container of cat nip. Not only does he intercede for the protection of our furred and feathered friends, but apparently in my garden he keeps an eye on their treats as well!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


So far so good on the bonsai. It has been outside for about a month. And while I can't say it has gotten much bigger, greener or healthier looking, it is still alive. Since this is my first foray into bonsai, I am relieved to say that I have kept it alive for more than 6 months. I know they are supposed to live for decades, but I have to start somewhere!Following the advise of the bonsai gurus I have placed the tree in a gravel and water filled tray to help the plant hold moisture and keep a more even temperature since the tree is in so little dirt that there is a real possibility of it drying out.
I haven't found quite the right surroundings for it though. Since part of the artistry of bonsai is creating the illusion that even though the tree is small it is very very old and when viewed up close and with no references to size it should look like a full size tree, I have so far failed in this portion of bonsai tending. The Easter lilies surrounding it over shadow the delicate little leaves and minute size of the tree. As I continue to develop my garden I will have to keep my eye out for new varieties, sizes and colors of plants to help create an environment suited to my bonsai. I hope to eventually have a little corner where the bonsai can reside with several layers of pebble filled trays with other plants in correct proportion to help accentuate and add interest to the bonsai. Perhaps I will have to start that bonsai azalea or forsythia so I can have flowering trees in my forest!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


All winter long I browse through catalogs and books, searching for just the right plants and day dreaming about that glorious late winter day when it is finally warm enough to dig in the dirt. Then it is time to plant seeds and watch as the little seedlings turn into plants. Finally the day arrives that I can clear away the winter debris put the little seedlings outside. Then the full force of spring arrives. With cold days, hot days, cloudy days, sunny days, days on end of rain. The little plants just sit in the ground looking cold and seemingly pouting that the weather can't make up its mind. The end of May rolls around. Suddenly we are getting more sunshine than rain. There isn't a chance that frost is going to creep in at night and burn the tender leaves. And things begin to grow.
Then one day in June I go out into my garden and realize that stuff has finally taken hold. There is more plant life showing than there is bare dirt. All of the plants are full and green, the herbs are spilling over their pots, the tomato plants have blossoms and baby tomatoes and there are flowers open to welcome in butterflies and bugs.
I love gardening.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Yep. A purple topped turnip. The seeds came free with one of my orders and I thought "why not?" My first turnip harvest ever. They grew well, the young leaves were tasty in egg dishes, I think I'll plant them with more care next season.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I know, I know, I've been slacking. My garden hasn't though!

As I plan and work in my garden each year, I realize that I am adding more and more plants that do double duty. This is an example of one of my latest small floral arrangements (so far I have managed to get about this many flowers once a week!)The large pink and white geraniums and purple and yellow pansies are garden work horses. They flower before most other things, are easy to obtain, and are edible. They are also easy to propagate, so I can buy a plant or two, and with a little effort, keep them in my garden for years. They are also edible and add a fancy touch to salad and sorbet!
The yellow spiky ones are columbines. I bought one in the middle of the summer last year because it was past its blooming peak, perennial, and on sale cheap. It out did itself this spring with sprays of flowers brightening the garden for over a month. They aren't edible for humans, but the cone shaped flowers are good for attracting humming birds and bigger butterflies/moths to pollinate and brighten the garden. They don't last very long as cut flowers, but since there are so many on the plant, and their interesting shape adds a lot of character, I think columbine will also be a part of my garden for a long time to come.
Also tucked into the vase are lavender flowers and thyme. They both smell wonderful and can be eaten. When I'm feeling adventurous I may steep some of each in sugar syrup and see what kinds of wonderful cocktails I can make with the infused syrup. I use both the greenery from the plants and the little purple flowers of each to add some body and scent to arrangements. I made some lovely bath salts from lavender leaves and epsom salt. I've learned my lesson though, next time I will put the leaves in cheesecloth because so I don't have to pick them all out of the drain mesh.
It's still a little too early for most veggies, but it is prime time for sugar snap peas. I'm not sure why I always have such a difficult time getting them started, but they have finally started growing up their trellis, and I have had a handful of these heavenly little sweet crunchy morsels. Hopefully I will get a few more before the heat kills the tender vines off. Since the plants don't last through the heat of the summer, when the heat really starts to hit I put the beans in the ground so when the peas die off the beans will be big enough to immediately take over the trellis.Another early veggie that is finally hitting its stride is the cabbage. They have been hiding under row cover to help prevent their being eaten by cabbage worms and I finally uncovered them to let them finish filling out. The head in the picture is about the size of a tangerine. The kind I grow is called pareils and only get about the size of a grapefruit. Since I put them in in two batches, this means that I have single dinner size heads that mature over a 2 or 3 week period. Right now it is looking like I will get about 6 heads. Braised cabbage and coleslaw, here I come! I added a few cucumber seeds and squash seeds in the spaces between the heads so when the cabbage comes out the next veggies are ready to take over their spots. Someday I will have it worked out that my garden produces something all year round, with cold frames holding lettuce, cabbage and chard for the winter; peas, cabbage and spinach for spring; and squash, beans and tomatoes for summer. Then as those die off the next round of greens go in until its time to pull out the cold-frames.
All and all the the plants in my garden seem to need to have at least one virtue beyond beauty in order to earn a place. Being edible, attracting pollinators and interesting critters, growing at a time when little else will grow and being good for cut flowers means I get the most bang for my buck and best use of space. Waste not, want not!

Friday, June 10, 2011


Greetings all. Today I harvested my first 2 bulbs of soft neck garlic. I'm finding garlic to be a wonderful thing to grow. I get to put it in the ground when I pull out my tomato plants and I put it out of the ground when I want to put my tomato plants in. They keep pests away and are lovely and tall when everything else is short and needs protecting. Also I picked the scapes of my hardneck garlic. The scape is the blossom stem, kinda like chives on steroids. Its super strong tasting. They are great in pesto and potato/pasta salads. Oh my cabbages are finially starting to make heads, first time they've made it this far. Usually some sort of monster gets to them first. Its very exciting, to me at least! I'll try to put up more pictures soon but this heat wave has been keeping me inside as much as I can stand.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Roof Update

The tomatoes are finally in!
The peppers didn't do so hot due to the bugs or whatever got hold of them in the greenhouse box, I planted the ones that still had a leaf or two hanging on, added a few fresh seeds and I'm hoping for the best (and a few spare plants from Amy...)
The tomatoes, despite being really leggy, seem healthy enough. The cool thing about tomatoes is that they will grow roots on the stems if you bury them. This means that since I put them in deep enough pots, I was able to pull off the lower leaves and plant them so that just the bushy tops are above ground. Don't try that with most other plants or you will rot the stems in a matter of days!
I am following my mantra this year. I gave them each a handful of food, made sure that there was plenty of dirt in each bucket, and didn't overcrowd. Most pots only have one tomato and a few onions or a little marigold or basil plant. Hopefully this will result in tomatoes that receive enough sunshine, airflow and water and produce the best yield yet!
It's back to watching, waiting and yelling at the little plants to grow faster or face being thrown in the compost pile!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Getting dirty...

Many a day I get home from work, drop my lunch bag in the sink and head to the back yard for a little fresh air and sunshine. Enjoying the sunshine often leads to seeing some weeds that need pulled, pulling the hose out to water a thirsty plant, trimming off some dead flowers and generally getting dirty. Previously the fact that I am often wearing jewelry and clothes that don't look good with dirt and grass stains would lead to the garden going un-weeded or me standing later at the wash tub, scrubbing dirt from under my nails and off of the cuff of my dress pants. I have since solved this conundrum. It started with my habit of leaving a pair of clogs or flip flops near the door so that I could go out to the compost pile without having to take off my socks or get my feet dirty. My husband like the idea so much that a pair of slip on shoes in his size soon joined mine on the mud rug.
After the laundry room/mud room was renovated I had a row of hooks perfect for leaving a pair of slip on pants and a t-shirt that I didn't care got dirty. Now any time the mood strikes I know there are grubby clothes handy and the garden gets weeded! When I got engaged and had no desire to scrub my ring with a toothbrush every time I came in from the garden, I would leave my ring on the window sill. Not the safest place in the world for a diamond ring in a household with 4 kitties -2 of whom are kleptomaniacs.The solution: this is one of 4 decorative boxes and bowls throughout the house, strategically placed so that when I offhandedly decide to garden, wood work or wash dishes, I have a safe place to deposit my jewelry. I have still occasionally panicked and not remembered where I left my ring, but a search through the depositories always results in its recovery.
After adopting these few little habits, my clothes have never been cleaner and I have never had less panic over losing valuable jewelry. So to borrow LaVar Burton's phrase "But you don't have to take my word for it!" (no idea why that popped into my head! and now I will go to bed singing the Reading Rainbow song...)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

first flowers

I love this time of year. It is still cool enough to wear a jacket most mornings. The ice and snow have given us time off for good behavior. The sun is up long enough to wear sunglasses to AND from work. And my garden finally has enough flowers in it again to provide me with a lovely bouquet.
Charlie Cat made sure that they smelled (and tasted) as nice as they looked! Since it is made up of pansies, chive flowers, thyme and geranium, all but the geranium are not only edible, but tasty! (I'm not sure about the geranium. I lost the tag and so am not sure if it is one of the "scented" ones that are good to eat or not)

Here's to a happy gardening season of tasty and beautiful things!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


So I believe that my decoys are doing their job. My cabbages look gorgeous!
I actually witnessed a Cabbage white fly into the bed the white noticed the decoy and seemed to fly backwards. It was comical.

So here are my experiments. The first image is my potatoes in a bag. It looks really happy but I won't know until fall if its making potatoes.

This next one is ground cherry. They are the dessert of the tomatillo family. Last year we bought some of the berries and they tasted just like canned pineapple. I really hope these are as good.

Here is Bryan's strawberry patch. We put it in a window box to try to keep the wildlife away. So far so good.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The pepper seedlings aren't looking so hot. What ever bugs got in and have been chewing on them sure are doing a good job of it. Hopefully when I put them outside in the next few days to start getting acclimated, they will perk up with the added sunshine. The tomatoes on the other hand are looking great! I don't think I have ever had "seedlings" that are nearly as big as the ones from the nursery. I probably have babied them a bit too much though.... they should really be out getting some fresh air during the day. Carrying them from their greenhouse to the porch each morning is a hassle though!
The forget-me-nots, impatiens, coleuses and spider plants are looking great next to the pansies. I always want to tuck a few more plants in... but this year's motto is "do not overcrowd" so I left nearly as much space as the packet suggests between plants.And now for some garden activism. I think we should have a letter/ email writing campaign for seed sellers to include pictures of what the plants look like at 2 or 3 stages of growth. I went out to weed the lettuce, chard and cabbage beds today and hope that I end up with the proper crops and not beds full of full grown weeds with nary a proper green in sight! Here's to full disclosure! Here's to making gardeners lives' easier!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

garden update

There isn't quite enough going on outside yet to have a weekly garden update, but here is what is going on so far:
I'm trying out row covers to help get the cabbage and chard started. I don't think I watered under the plastic enough because the plants are slow to catch. I will soon be switching up the plastic in favor of row cover fabric to keep the hottest of the sun, and those crazy bugs that Amy mentioned, off my greens anyway, so I will have to wait for fall to try the plastic again.
I brought the birdbath top out of storage, cleaned it and filled it up. This year I am trying one of the floaty things that is supposed to keep the water clear and algae from forming on the dish insides. So far, so good.
The little bit of green visible in the lower leftt corner are the bulbs, chives, garlic and rose bush. A few purple hyacinths showed their colors. I am still working out the best times and ways to feed the bulbs so that the flowers come out full and happy. They looked a little better this year, so I will have to check my notes from last year, and hopefully improve again next year.
The trellis is strung up and waiting for the peas to decide to grow. I did another "spiderweb" but this year I used jute twine instead of bright orange acrylic yarn. I'm still finding bits of the blasted stuff in my compost bin.
The pots in the tiered corner herb/mum pots were rearranged. Again, I am trying not to crowd things in hopes that better airflow and more space will allow for larger, healthier plants.
In front of the far right fence I have erected a trellis from 8' tall plastic/metal stakes wired together to form a frame and more jute twine. That location will soon become home to my fuzz-less kiwis that are due to arrive in 2 weeks. Hopefully next summer I will be able to pick apples, kiwis, and if I'm ambitious, strawberries!
Lastly, the grass. Since the yard was a weed bed when we moved in 5 years ago, we used a little RoundUp to get the mess under control. Once the toxicity left the ground and we got rid of all the weeds and debris, we scattered grass seed more as erosion control than as a lush lawn. Tilling in compost and properly planting seed or even laying sod is in the long term plan for the yard, which will also involve building a permanent tiered structure of some kind for the herbs and include a small fountain or pond with a trickle of water. Since that day is still a ways off, grass seed with some mulch and a little sprinkle of long release fertilizer will hopefully at least give me something other than weeds and mud to scrunch my toes in this summer.

Monday, April 18, 2011

creating a garden

As I surveyed my garden recently, I contemplated locations for new perennials, where I should dedicate space for a bulb garden, and other ways to arrange the space, it occurred to me how many of the plants were given to me by other people. As house warming gifts my mom gave me the butterfly bush and the apple trees and Amy's mom gave me a piece of her peony that had been gracing her garden for ages. A long time neighbor of my parents sent along a few of the bearded irises that she divided from the patch I used to be able to look out of my bedroom window at, and another friend's dad sent along some of his irises that he divided. I also plant some of the marigold seeds that originally came from a mother's day project way back in second grade. My mom has been saving seeds from and planting them year after year, I have faithfully planted them, often end up with plants, but somehow my seeds never work, seed saving is another task I have yet to figure out.

This year I am hoping to obtain a cutting off of a neighbor's hydrangea and I am trying to get some forsythias to take root (as much as I love the bright yellow, they may end up being bonsai-ed, not sure where I would put a full size forsythia- but never say never!) In years to come I am sure that I will obtain other bulbs, cuttings and divisions, and will pass along more than a few to other gardeners.
I'm telling you all of this for two reasons: one, I am a sentimental fool, and love to look around my garden and see little bits of friendship from all of the people who have given me plants and two, dividing plants is a necessary part of gardening.
Plants getting root bound in their pots; carrying so many baby suckers that they are trailing on the floor; bulbs, rhizomes and root stocks getting so big and crowded that the plant can't get enough nutrients to bloom correctly, all of these are reasons to divide. Each type of plant has its own set of rules about how and when to divide it, any good garden book should be able to guide you. But what to do with all of the "baby" plants when you do divide?! (yes, there were 6!!! plants in a 6" pot!) Passing them along to friends, especially those that you know are starting a new garden, looking to expand their garden, or want to add more perennials instead of annuals, are good places to start. If they are newbies, you may even get lucky and they will accidentally kill it and in a few years you can pass more along when it is time to divide again. There are groups out there (like the seed saving group that Amy is now part of) who not only trade seeds, but also divisions of plants. It sure keeps the cost down if you can find somebody with the kinds of plants that you want, and somebody else probably wants the kinds of plants that you have. Guerrilla gardening is another way... only a few of the irises that I dropped along the train wall seemed to take this year, but that means I can try again 2 years from now when they need divided again! Just be careful not to introduce invasive non-natives such as bamboo or honeysuckle- in the right- controlled- location they are great, but they can cause destruction of the habitat rather than enhancement.
If you can't find somebody who wants them, another option is always the compost pile. Now when it comes to things like the peony and irises that came from someone else's lovingly cared for garden, and especially because they were given to me when I was starting my own garden, I try extra hard to find someone to pass the starts on to. Sometimes though, it isn't practical. Many plants, such as thyme, mint and oregano crowd themselves out of their pots so fast that I am chopping a chunk of the plant out every year and adding fresh soil. Often times someone will need more herbs and will take them (speaking of... does anybody need oregano, mint or thyme for this year? I thought I had divided them in the fall, but the roots still seem kind of tight, so I will gladly pull a start off for you if you need them) but just as often, everybody else I know will have a bumper crop of herbs, that's where the compost pile comes in. Even though it is "throwing a plant away" I like to remind myself that once decomposed, it will add nutrients back to my garden so that other plants will be big and healthy. If a flower start is extra tenacious and lives through being thrown in the compost bin, I take it as a sign, replant the start somewhere else in my garden or a pot and enjoy the beauty of the flowers. One of these is going on my desk at the office, the other 5 are getting added to my shade garden in the alley as soon as the temperatures go up just a bit higher.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


The bonsai has been hanging out on the laundry room window sill since Christmas. As far as I can tell, other than letting it get perhaps a little drier than it would like, it is healthy, perhaps a little too healthy because it has become one big lump of green. In the class that I took I learned that there are many different styles of bonsai. All of them are meant to be trimmed to resemble a full size tree in miniature, but some of them are more natural, and some are more sculptural. I didn't want to go extreme, but I knew that there was a cool shaped trunk under all the green. With my bonsai picture book for reference, a shiny new pair of ultra pointy nosed clippers, and knowledge that if some how I do kill it, I can obtain another one for about $20 in Chinatown, I set about to work. Half an hour, a tray full of clippings, and an appreciation as to why the instructor suggested getting a lazy susan or cake decorating turntable to facilitate the care and shaping of bonsai, later, I had my finished result. It has been a week and the tree seems healthy, but I think my next project will be to wire and shape the tree. I can see the trunk now, but somehow I feel that the branches are not quite as graceful as I would like them to be. I am beginning to really see the fascination with bonsai. It is at once a delicate operation, but also landscaping. A little bit of patience and the training of the eye is required to create a tree that, set against a size-less back drop, creates the illusion of an old tree, standing proud in the forest, gently blown and twisted (in the exact sculptural form that I desire). I think I will stick with just the one or two for now, but perhaps by the time I reach retirement instead of learning to bonsai, I will be learning how to take care of a forest of bonsai!

LOVE your park

Bright and early this morning, well not actually so bright, it was really overcast and chilly, I packed up my shovel, a few hand tools and a pair of gardening gloves, and headed to the bottom of my street. I met up with several lovely ladies who help take care of the half block size patch of green known as Inn Yard park. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people across the City of Philadelphia were also outside, in a citywide spring cleaning of neighborhood parks. As with most cities these days, finances are tight. The LOVE your park day (a nod to the iconic "Love" sculpture by Robert Indiana, which sits in the park across the street from City Hall) was initiated to help recruit neighbors from across the city to take care of their parks, not just on this day, but all year long and not just so the Parks & Recreation budget stretches a little further, but also so people can meet their neighbors and have neighborhoods they can take pride in. (photo of Robert Indiana's sculpture in Philadelphia by Bob Krist)
I go past Inn Yard park all the time. I know that the basketball court is a popular place any day that the temperature is over 50 degrees and the spring blooming trees never fail to make me stop and admire them. Being part of the neighborhood, and hoping to someday take my own kids down to play on the playground equipment, I figured I had better heed the mayor's call and start doing my part to maintain this valuable resource. We pulled weeds, mulched beds, spruced up the flowers that were planted by other volunteers last spring and fall, talked, laughed and got a little exercise. I am on the email list and plan to stay involved. To boot I found flower beds that could some shade plants, it looks like I will have a place to put the spare flower seedlings that I always seem to have!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Up on the roof

Back in February, when being able to go outside wearing a sweatshirt instead of a coat meant that it was warm, I climbed on up to the roof and ripped out all the remaining bits and pieces of tomato and pepper plants that had overwintered there. I have since been up to do the annual leak and problem check of the roof membrane, but today, I got to plant something!

I have decided that a few of the pots are a little on the small side, and so have a few new drywall mud and primer buckets waiting in the wings for me to scrub and get a load of compost to help fill them but that didn't stop me from taking advantage of the pots that are already up there. When I was at the garden center the other weekend, a bag of onion sets called my name, and I listened. Since it is possible to eat onions any time along their growth cycle, and Paul and I can go through a pound or so of onions a week, I figured a bag of 100 wasn't too big of a stretch. I put one row in the middle of my main garden bed. I figure that I will let those stay in all season and mature to full size onions. Next, I put a row about 6" in front of that row, where the cucumbers and squash will go. I can pull 4 or 5 out, plant the cukes and squash, then I can remove the onions outward as the plants spread. I also planted a few in the big pots that I plan to use for basil and annual flowers along the patio. I will do the same there as I am doing with the cukes, as the plants spread, I will pull the onions. Onions have nice tall, green leaves though, so if they don't affect the root systems of the flowers I may leave them in as background greenery.

We have finally had a few days of nice weather, and the onions are peaking their way up through the soil (I wish the peas would get the hint!) so today's planting expedition was in the pots on the roof. Here again I figure I can do something similar to what I did in the ground. I added 2 or 3 sets (that's what the baby onions that you plant are called, seeds take too long for most northern climates) to each bucket. Since I am only going to put one plant in each pot this year (I will not crowd the veggies, I will not crowd the veggies, I will not crowd the veggies...)I figure by the middle of May when the tomatoes and peppers go in, the onions will have a firm hold. By the beginning of June I can thin the onions and let the veggies take over, perhaps leaving one onion in each pot to mature. I hear onions are good pest deterrents, even if this is not the case, with the addition of a cilantro plant, we will be hopefully be eating salsa around the middle of July!
In the words of the Drifters (or Carol King, or James Taylor, or whoever really wrote it) "...right smack dab in the middle of town, I've found a paradise that is trouble proof..." and will be providing me with the makings of salsa to enjoy with my margaritas as I look out over the hot, steamy city...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pest Patrol

Besides the cursed ground hog my garden has other pests as well:
The cabbage white and the cabbage looper moth. Also squirrels, but I'll get to them in a bit.
Its not really the flyers that do the damage its their hungry, hungry spawn that they deposit on your Brassica that do the damage. I'm told that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so I looked into how to keep the flyers from laying there eggs on my plants. I wanted it to be non-chemical if I could. What I found was that these moths don't like to lay there eggs were other moths are. "Excellent" I thought, "I'll make decoys." This didn't turn out to be an original idea but I made my own and I'll let you know if they work for me.

Now the squirrels.

Photo by CaitieBeth
There is nothing in the world to deter a squirrel. People who put out bird feeders know this better then anyone. Making access harder just makes them want it more...
Your best bet it to leave something they like better around, really.
I also try to spook them. I have a small army of plastic snakes with sequin eyes that I put out in my garden. It seems lower the damage. You do have to move them around the garden every so often. I'm told there are smells that squirrels don't like, but my guess is I don't like them either. Also that I could put out blood or bonemeal to make them think there is a predator around. I might try that.
My pest patrol: