Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sick Gardener = Sick Garden

So, I've been sick for a little under a week. Apart from getting up on the roof yesterday evening, I really hadn't ventured out from my apartment since Wednesday. Even though I'm capable of watering my garden without actually going on the roof, I usually still go up every day or so. Sickness and laziness got the better of me this past week and I didn't go up for several days.I'm pretty sure I watered my plants on Thursday, but then I didn't water them again until Saturday evening because Friday night we got what I thought was heavy rain. Turns out I was fooled, and when I checked on my plants last night several of them looked crispy. And, I missed the bloom on some of the lilies I've been waiting so patiently for. Such is life!!! Still, even with just 2 petals this one is quite pretty...

In other flower news, my marigolds and cosmos have YET to flower and i'm pretty bored of waiting so I've stopped watering them. They are somewhat of an intentional casualty...

However, some of the other plants that have suffered from drought are my thyme (which was supposed to be drought tolerant! Hmph, but maybe the pigeons got to it), Tomatoes, and Strawberries. The Stupice in particular looks dry, yellow and brown. Eeek!Another casualty in the last couple weeks was my lettuce, but not due to underwatering. It fell victim to some strange bug I never saw, but whose little black eggs were everywhere. When I saw first saw the damage, about half was eaten. I moved the lettuce far from the rest of my garden (a benefit of growing things in containers), and in the next couple days the rest was eaten up either by the bugs or pigeons. Thankfully those bugs didn't get to anything else. I don't have the heart to post pics of that carnage....

In brighter news! My watermelons are looking good and hopefully ripening soon:And, the zucchini and yellow squash I seeded around the time of my last post has sprouted and grown quickly. Both plants already have flower buds:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Demented Watermelons, Fish Fertilizer, Window Herbs

So, early on in the watermelon growing process my 2nd largest melon was touching the surface of the roof on a hot day and got a little dry/burnt. I figured I would let it keep growing to see if it would fix itself or somehow or other survive. No such luck! It and any other melons that were scalded by the roof have become demented or aborted themselves. The big one even split open a crack at the scald point. The melons that grew early off the vine so that they were hanging in the air during early growth are the ones that survived (2 looking nicely these days). I decided to take off any messed up ones remaining on the vine, so I got a chance to see what pre-ripe watermelons look like inside. They still smelled pretty watermelony, but I bet they wouldn't have tasted very good:
Also, last week I decided that maybe I should start fertilizing some of my vegetables. I hadn't fertilized anything yet, and things seem to do pretty well without it. But, I didn't want them to run out of nutrients all of a sudden and die. I have some Miracle Grow but have decided maybe I'll leave that for my non-edibles. So, the best organic fertilizers I've read about are Fish Emulsion and Kelp Meals. There were several recommendations for the Neptune's Harvest products but they're not cheap and I wanted to see the product, maybe shake a bottle, before buying. So, I went to Saifee Hardware in the East Village where they have a truly amazing array of gardening products for such a non-descript store. They might not have as many live plants as they do at Plantworks, but they have a GIANT variety of fertilizers, soils, containers, hoses, etc. Neptune's Harvest is not an easy product to find in stores, but they had it. So, I brought some home and put it on my tomatoes and watermelons. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to tell... perhaps that's an experiment to run next year.

On the herbal front, my rosemary and orange mint from my previous purchase are doing well, but the English thyme died from being burnt to a crisp in it's little pot.... Doh. So, I bought some more English Thyme along with some baby and 1yr chives at the Union Square Greenmarket on Friday. I planted the Thyme and 1yr chives on the roof with my lilies and went on to make an indoor herb window box. Here is baby chives, basil I grew from seed, and orange mint from left to right.
I found early on that orange mint prefers being indoors to being in full sun. It burns easily but also comes back quickly. I have basil growing on the roof too, in a tomato bucket. It grows a bit better on the roof, but I figure I should keep some inside if I can. Here, I cut 1 tall basil plant into 3 pieces and stuck the extra 2 into the dirt. I hope they root and grow. I've read that chives are hardy and will come back next year on the roof, but they can also be kept indoors at a sunny window. My window has a south-east exposure. I hope it's sunny enough!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

First Harvest! Growing Watermelon & More

Here is my first harvest from my rooftop garden! 5 wonderful Stupice tomatoes. They are the perfect size small tomato, and I think I will just grow these and forgoe the smaller Peacevine cherry tomatoes next year. This sandwich is for CJ, but the bite of tomato I had was reaaaaally good.And, remember that baby watermelon I had last week? Well, it just about exploded!
The plants are just growing like crazy so I ended up moving them from their present location and finally hooked them up to the irrigation system. Now they can get water witthout me going up there every day.

In other news, my strawberries finally look like they're going strong. This one even has a runner, which will root and turn into a new plant for next year.And, I've got salad!
Rocky Top Lettuce mix:

Bulls Blood Beets:Rainbow Swiss Chard:New Zealand Spinach:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mouth Watering Red Tomatoes and More...

Having neglected my garden for a few days, I was wonderfully surprised to see that despite a little wilting, things have gone on to flourish without my care. Right now all I can think about is eating these gorgeous red globes, Stupice Tomatoes:
Also ripening are my small cherry variety Peacevine Tomatoes:
Not to be left out of the party, there are baby watermelons just like this, popping up all over my plants.
To think they all came from these pretty yellow flowers:
Lastly, my Rocky Top Lettuce mix has sprouted. It might be too late to get edible lettuce, as hot weather makes it bitter, but I figured I'd try.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Plant Love!

Male(left) and female(right) watermelon flower buds. SOMEBODY looks happy to... be growing... But, girl watermelon has some hairy legs. Might be a turn off =P

Anyway, check out the tiny watermelon ovary on the female bud. It has tiny watermelon stripes! One day, it's going to turn into a juicy, dripping, red melon that begs to be eaten. Is this plant porn?!?!

Here are the watermelon plants today. They grow so fast!
And in other news, the tiniest blush of red on my ripening tomatoes. Check out the tomato in the lower right.
Here are my lilies that are being munched on by pigeons. Grrr!! Who wants to be my human scare crow....?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Time Flies! Plants Grow!

Well it's been over a month since my last post, and there have been some changes on the roof garden. It's actually... starting to look green! =)

This is what it looked like on May 23rd:
This is what it looks like now. The original drip system wasn't working very well because the supply line was the same width as the feeder tubes. So, I got some wider tubing and set it up. Now I just have to fix some leaks at the 2 ends of the supply tubing and then fine tune the amount of drip that I want coming out of each feeder.
Some of my strawberries died, so I grouped the living ones together and transplanted my flowers to the window boxes (That's actually my neighbor's window):
Here's how big my watermelons have grown. I decided to move them to the front of the roof so that they'd have more room to spread out as they grow:
And my tomatoes have grown a lot too!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Busy Before the Downpour

Busy..... SHOPPING!!!! Ok, no Versace here, but Vermicompost, more containers for my plants, and a few herbs. I got my containers at kmart.
Then, I headed to the Union Square Green Market. There were lots of stands set up in Union Square, as there are every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Many had potted plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetables.

The herbs caught my eye... 3 for $5. How could I resist? Such difficulties I've had starting my own rosemary! And these smelled so good. So I grabbed myself an English Thyme, Orange Mint, and Rosemary (left to right in pic). Lovely! When I got home, I repotted the thyme and rosemary in 6" pots and transplanted 2 small basil seedlings I've grown into the leftover pots.
Then, I headed over to the Lower East Side Ecology Center's stand. I indulged myself and bought 3 20lb bags of vermicompost for $10 each. $$$! What can I say, it's all for my baby plants! I plan on getting new worms for my wormbin from them in a couple of weeks. They have a really great program for encouraging environmental conciousness in Manhattan.

When I got up on the roof today, I saw great improvement from just the last couple days! Very exciting! My watermelon seedlings, which had just come out of their shells yesterday had completely unfolded, and grown. They must really love that heat and moisture provided by the repot and the cloches. Here's a pic from the top of the Coke bottle cloche:

And, perhaps most exciting was that my tomatoes have BABY TOMATOES!!! They are so young! But these tiny little globes are definitely tomatoes. Both of my plants have flowers, but this particular plant is the potato leaf heirloom variety, Stupice, known for being "early".
Besides repotting the herbs, I dragged 2 of the bags of vermicompost up to the roof and my cat litter pans, which I'll be using for low growing items. I mixed up a slurry of Water-Keep super-absorbent crystals and mixed a good deal of them into vermicompost to fill 2 of the litter pans. Then, I got through transplanting 9 baby cosmos when the sky turned dark and opened on me! I didn't get anymore pictures before I had to run downstairs and hide from the rain. Here's a shot of the downpour:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Transplanting Seedlings

Because I hadn't been able to get on the roof regularly over the past couple weeks I had some trouble keeping seedlings alive due to lack of water. Since the last post where I planted seeds, a few of the marigolds and the basil that had been alive died. However, there were still several marigolds alive, and a few new ones had sprouted. Additionally, the 2 watermelon I planted and lots of cosmos have sprouted and look great from having been started under the sun. There are a couple small basil seedlings too, and a few of what I think are New Zealand Spinach. I'm not entirely sure though, and will wait to see what they turn into. Today, I dragged the rest of the compost up to the roof and filled 2 more 5 gallon buckets with approximately the same mixture as for the tomatoes, but with less peat moss because I ran out and without the crushed egg shells (though the worm compost has lots of egg shells in it). I planted 1 watermelon seedling in each bucket and placed a plastic bottle cloche over each. I hope that the cloche will protect them from the birds and retain heat, since watermelons flourish in hot weather.
I filled 2 of the "bulb pans" I got from Novosel with a mix of compost and leftover potting soil I had. I divided the Narcissus bulb CJ gave me back in January and planted a few in each pan (before I read online that you're not really supposed to divide these?). On top, I transplanted a few marigolds and 1 of the bigger cosmos into each pan.
I planted the Chinese Chives ("gao choi") that I got from home over the weekend in their own bulb pan. They look a bit droopy but they're strong and hardy plants, and I'm sure they'll recover soon enough.
Lastly, I filled 2 more bulb pans with pure compost and planted beet seeds in one and rainbow chard seeds in the other. These plants may have to be transplanted into their own 5 gallon buckets later, but right now I don't have enough dirt to plant them in. They were from the recent order I made with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds from whom I got the following for $12.30 including shipping:
Bull's Blood Beets
Silverbeet (Rainbow Chard)
Rocky Top Lettuce Mix
Sugar Ann Snap Peas
Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach
Gaucho Melon (free gift with order!)

I'll probably be waiting to plant the rest of these seeds later in the year, perhaps when it starts getting cooler. I'll work on getting what I've got planted established until then.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Awesome Boyfriend = Brooklyn Compost = Happy Plants = Happy Laura

The roof garden has changed a lot over the past few days. Saturday, I dragged the faithful and enduring boyfriend to Brooklyn with my suitcase, backpack, and old-lady-shopping-cart to the Annual Brooklyn Compost Giveback. We arrived at 1:57pm, 3 minutes before they closed the gates to plant heaven. We ran inside, bought 6 bags made for creating sandbags 2 for $1, borrowed a shovel and got to work. CJ did most of the work, but I held bags open! Frantically we filled 5 bags as the Giveback organizers yelled over the speakerphone about how much they loved us, but that it was time to go.Then, came the long trek home. Of all the other happy compost lovers there, we were the only ones without a car. But we had wheels! The NYC Sanitation department workers laughed and asked us if we were headed to the airport... > 1 mile to the subway pushing/pulling/carrying what was probably over 200lbs of compost. As we approached the subway stop, we saw an elevator above ground and thought, "Today is our lucky day!" Sadly, when we got inside, the elevator refused to go down. Down the steps CJ went, taking 2 trips to carry the 5 bags of compost we had collected. And every set of steps we encountered, the boy lugged those bags and reminded me exactly why I like him soooo much. What other sandy blonde law student would take the subway an hour from home to dig up and lug hundreds of pounds of compost back to manhattan for this crazy gardener? That's dedication.

So, today I bought a bag of peat moss, brought it and a few bags of the compost up on the roof and got to work. I filled up 6 30" window boxes with a 50/50 mix of peatmoss and compost. Then, planted my strawberries and gave them a good watering. I got 25 honeoye and 25 ozark beauty from gurneys and planted 9 of each variety. That's really all I had room for and the rest are sitting in the hallway with a wet paper towel covering them in case the ones up there don't make it.

I also repotted my tomatoes, which I had been worried about because they seemed dry every time I came to visit them over the past couple weeks (I was busy and couldn't make it by very often). But, when I took them from their 6" pots their roots had clearly extended from the plugs they came in and gotten through the rest of the soil. They seem to be doing well and both now have flowers. I melted holes into the bottom of 2 5 gallon buckets with a soldering iron and filled them with brooklyn compost, peatmoss, and vermicompost complete with worms and other undecomposed organic garbage (I received a wormbin for free several weeks ago but it was in bad shape and I've decided to start over). I also added about half a dozen's worth of crushed egg shells in each bucket for calcium, which prevents blossom end rot on tomatoes. I snipped off the lower leaves of each plant and buried it "up to its neck" in its own bucket and gave them a good watering. Tomatoes can be buried this way because they grow more roots from the stem, which produces a good strong plant.
So far so good in the rooftop garden!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Life Count!

Today I checked up on my plants and was happy to find that all of the plants that were alive a few days ago are still alive. I guess it's all about survival of the fittest.

Here's the life count:
21 Marigolds
1 Basil
In addition to the 2 watermelon and 23 Cosmos that I sowed on Saturday, today I sowed a few more seeds to see if they will have more success started outside:
12 New Zealand Spinach
6 Basil
24 Rosemary (they are really bad at germinating)
6 plugs of Oregano (scattered a few seeds in each because the seeds are so tiny it's hard to do otherwise)
6 Cosmos

I also rigged up a tiny drip irrigation system for my tomatoes. It's just some aquarium line, tee, and valves I got from petco. I poked a hole into a quart bucket and shoved the line in. Seemed to be working nicely while I was up there. Now I just have to make a bigger system for when I get my other plants started.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Death Toll Rises

So sad.... Sometimes these little guys just don't make it. This unlucky Cosmo died on the way from my dorm room to the roof. I accidentally smushed it with the cover to the flat, not realizing that the cover doesn't quite fit right.These few were evaporated by a blast of my alcoholic perfume... I was trying to kill gnats. Oops!
But... the news is worse than just these few. Much worse. Manhattan is a difficult place for seedlings to grow! Since I wasn't sure if it would be necessary, I didn't cover the flat of seedlings I posted about last time, so all of those were eaten by pidgeons. Those New Zealand Spinach must have been TASTY! At least I know that when I try again and succeed (because I WILL succeed), they will be yummy.

I also put out a flat a week later, on April 30th. When I saw that the first set had all been eaten, I smartened up a little, cut slits in the flat cover and taped it on. Today I went to see them and the results were a little more encouraging, although I did still have some casualties. Pretty much as expected, all of the poppies were dead but that was probably my fault for planting them too thickly to start. The oregano, 2 lavendar, and 1 rosemary did not survive either. All that was left was my marigolds, which were actually doing pretty well, and my watermelons, which were ok, but I decided to kill them anyway and start over because they were too leggy to begin with.

So now all I have is Marigolds, 1 Basil, and the tomatoes that a kindly NYC gardener gave me from his surplus (Thankfully they survived the week outdoors). Today, I planted 2 watermelon seeds and some Cosmos. I hope that they will do better being started outside in the sun, though what I have learned this week is that in addition to the pigeons, the roof is VERY dry. Even though it rained on Wednesday, my tomato plants were almost bone dry and I was glad they were still alive. Some of the plants in the flat also died from getting too dry. I am going to have to rig up an irrigation system pronto!

Death Count:
All 14 New Zealand Spinach
All ~30 Cosmos
All 5 Watermelon
All but 1 Basil
All Oregano
All Lavendar
All Poppies
All 1 Rosemary

But, I'm gonna keep on trying! Wish me luck!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Seedlings to the Roof!

Today, I traveled to the roof to survey the situation and to bring my first tray of seedlings out into the wilds of Manhattan. As I have described in the description of this blog, the roof is no pretty place. But on the bright side, there is a decent view, and there was even a bird chirping up there.
Here is the view looking towards the back of the building. The skylight is in the middle, and behind that you can see the hatch which I crawl out of to access the roof. That hatch is heavy, and most difficult to close. I will have to figure out a way to make it easier.
Here is the view looking towards the street/front of the building. I plan on making my garden over there, as the roofing material seems more solid there, and if I bring a hose up from my apartment window, it will be from this side.
THIS is what I'm trying to hide.
Here are my seedlings, out in the open for the very first time. These are the Cosmos, New Zealand Spinach, and some Marigolds. They look so smalllll!