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!