Sunday, December 7, 2008

Indoor Salad Greens

It may have snowed yesterday, but inside, it's toasty warm and things are still growing. Back in early November or late October (I'm not sure, because I was bad and too lazy to write it down here), I let everything in my window boxes die and replanted. I really only lost my rosemary, which I'll have to replace, and my orange mint, which I never really liked or used. I resowed Arugula (top) and the Rocky Top Lettuce mix (bottom) in these window boxes. I think they could due with a bit of fertilizer, but I'm so lazy about that. I'll probably eat the lettuce in a salad with a sprinkling of tiny arugula leaves, soon.And, I also resowed my basil, which seems to be growing healthily, if slowly. I am day dreaming of some winter pesto... =)

November 24th: Compost Update and Fall Cleanup

Over the last 2 years, I've experimented with different ways of composting my food scraps. At first, I chopped my scraps coarsely and threw them in a bucket on the roof, with no drainage. That resulted in a pretty soggy and smelly mess. Then, during the growing season, I began chopping my scraps and liquefying them in my blender to use as top dressing for my watermelons and tomatoes. (I know, gross. But, sometimes a gardener will do crazy things in the name of good compost. The blending and addition of water allows for double quick decomposition. In this blenderful, you can see my banana peels, beet greens, and orange rinds.)
Out of growing season, I continued to blend and dump my liquid scraps into a compost bucket with drainage. This all worked pretty well, except that it is kind of a pain to bring my scraps on the roof, and this made me lazy so the scraps would be stinky and messy. But, I think I've finally come up with the perfect compost system. I have placed a bucket on my fire escape, so now I only have to open my window to deposit my blended scraps. I leave the bucket covered loosely, to keep flys out, and that's that. This makes things easier and I do it more often now, so the scraps don't get stinky. When planting time comes, I'll just take the whole bucket to the roof and use the finished compost in the garden.

This process doesn't work quite as well for large garden scraps, but I have developed a separate annual cleanup system for these. Right now, the outdoor garden is definitely dead until Spring. Back on November 24th, I took advantage of a warmer day to do my final garden clean up. It probably took less than an hour, and involved cutting off all of the strawberry runners that I'd let run wild, hacking apart what was left of my tomato plants, and pulling up the shriveled squash and watermelon vines. I put all of these remnants in my compost buckets and covered them with soil from other buckets. It is now an annual ritual to rotate some of the soil between buckets in order to cover all compostable plant matter. This worked fantastically last year. By the time Spring planting time came around, almost everything was decomposed completely and my buckets were in good shape for planting. I'm hoping I'll see the same results by Spring 2009!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Winter Garden Update: Back to September 19th

Man, even in my backlog posts, I have to explain my delays between posts! The reason I have no real garden news between July 25th and September 19th, aside from laziness, is that I was traveling from August 14th - September 2nd. Ok, sure, that only covers half of the time I didn't post.... What can I say, life happens!
Back on September 19th, things were starting to wind down in the garden. Happily though, the garden takes care of itself when I'm away, and I found some nicely ripe Hillbilly tomatoes! Success at last!

Also, even though the plant itself was dead and dry, a large Yellow Squash was hanging out in its bucket. These squash are typically harvested and eaten much sooner, so that their skin is soft like a zucchini's. This squash's skin was very hard, like other types of squash you see at the market in the fall. I decided to try eating it anyway, by cutting it into chunks with my butcher knife and baking it with apples, flour, butter and cinnamon. It was pretty yummy! Just couldn't eat the skin itself.
Here's my harvest, from left to right: Yellow Squash, Black Krim tomato, 2 Hillbilly tomatoes, and the last Bloody Butcher tomato of the season.
A closeup of the Black Krim, which I would vote as the tastiest of my 3 varieties this year. It had a saltier and richer taste than the others.
A closeup of the Hillbilly, which was really just beautiful. I wish I had pictures of these sliced open, because they were beautiful inside too! I let a friend sample these, and she said she liked the Hillbilly the best. I guess it's just personal preference.

September 16th: Filmed for a Documentary: Down to Earth

I'm famous! Or at least, maybe I will be. I know I signed a release that said I'd be credited in the film. I hope I make the cut! Unfortunately I don't have any pics of them filming me, but hopefully when the documentary comes out, I'll get to post some stills.

Soozie Eastman, Scott Shufitt, and a farmer friend of theirs came to visit me and my garden. They asked me questions about why I started my garden, and what the benefits of growing your own food might be. I only wish they had given me their questions in advance so I could have thought of better answers. As it was, I might sound kind of silly on film, and perhaps like I have a slight southern drawl (all 3 of them do, and I have a bad habit of mimicking the people around me).

They filmed me climbing up and down my ladder, climbing out of my roof hatch, fake-tending my garden, eating a tomato right off the plant, and standing proudly in my garden, and outside of my building. Unfortunately, it really was the end of the growing season and a lot of my plants were on their way out for the year. But, it was definitely a fun experience!

They have blogs documenting their documentary here:

Winter Garden Update: July 25th Tomato Harvest

Most of these are Bloody Butcher tomatoes, but the larger ones on the left might have been something else... I really dunno! =( This is what I get for not posting for months. Bad memory and bad records. Btw, notice the funny little one with wings, front and center. Reminds me of a pokemon or something. =)

Winter Garden Update: Back to July 18th

Yep, it's December 6th. Yep, it's been a while since I've posted. In fact I missed the whole second half of summer, prime growing and posting season! And yep, I should really be studying for finals instead of procrastinating by updating my out of season garden blog. But, here we are.
Here's a look back on the garden as it was on July 18th. This oriental lily was in full bloom. =)

My Yellow Squash plant was doing fantastically.
This Arapaho Blackberry was developing fruit, though I'm guessing next year I'll have to fertilize and water more (I know, I'm always saying that about everything).

This watermelon was looking small and yummy, and the Rainbow Chard was doing well.

The Bloody Butcher tomatoes were doing decently, though smaller than I expected. Again, need more fertilizer and water.

The Black Krim tomatoes were really getting some color, and clearly a different color from normal red tomatoes.

The Hillbilly tomatoes were sad though. The plant must have been suffering from nutrient deficiency and the fruit were suffering from blossom end rot. I thought the plant had gotten over it's blossom drop last week, but looks like things just changed in a not-much-better direction.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lots of Fruits to Come!

Check out this watermelon! I dunno if it will survive to adulthood as the other side of it is slightly irregular as if from scalding. I can't think how that happened, as the plants were well watered all week. But, it really has exploded from the tiny fruitling I saw last week.
This Arapaho flower is fast turning into a blackberry! I'm so excited!
This Black Krim Tomato is starting to darken up a tiny bit...
I ate this Bloody Butcher. Yum... Though, I will say, not as good as I remember the Stupice being last year. God those Stupice were wonderful!! The Bloody Butcher isn't as juicy, more meaty and I feel, less flavorful. I suppose it's a matter of preference.
And really, the biggest accomplishment of the week is that I have Hillbilly tomatoes!!! I thought it would never happen. For some reason, that Blossom Drop was hitting the Hillbilly hard. I also noticed that the stamens of the Hillbilly flowers sit lower in the flower than the pistil, so maybe it is hard to get this variety fertilized. But, I noticed 3 tomatoes forming today, so I'm hoping to get something worthy of eating.

Finally, here's the Yellow Squash from last week, grown quite a bit from the tiny seedling. I'm envisioning good stir fry....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tiny Home Grown Salad

Here are the makings of my tiny home grown salad. Sorry for the dark pics, it was late! First, beets! 3 wonderfully small beets! It took them just around 60 days to be of edible size, but I really neglected them, rarely watering. I didn't really think they'd make roots! But they did, and they were yummy!

Then tomato!! There's a ripe red Bloody Butcher in there...

Then Swiss Chard. I picked a baby plant to thin it out from the larger ones.
All 3 elements washed and prepared for salading!
Bright red water as my beets boil.

No picture of my finished tiny salad because I ate it too fast! But, here's a watermelon fruitling to make up for it:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Drip Irrigation & Garden Update

Over the last few weeks, I got very busy with work and work related evening events, such that I needed very much to depend on my drip irrigation system for properly watering my plants. I had no time to go up to the roof and check on them. For over a very hot week, I dutifully filled the bucket in my apartment and pumped water up to the reservoir, twice a day. When I finally made it up to the roof, I was dismayed to find that my reservoir had developed a small crack and was leaking the water everywhere. My plants were sadly wilted.

I decided I needed a more reliable system. Such a system would require some investment and some unsightly tubing within my apartment, but I couldn't let my plants die! So, a week ago on June 22nd, my father helped me install a commercially designed "Toro Blue-Stripe Drip Irrigation System". A bright blue tube runs from under my kitchen sink, around my apartment, out of my window and up to the roof. From there, the drip irrigation tubes and emitters were installed over each pot. A battery powered valve allows timed watering at whatever frequency and duration I want. It works! And I don't have to water too much about watering anymore. Yay!!!

As a result, my plants are looking nicely. My Bloody Butcher tomatoes are ripening. In fact, I got my first ripe tomato last Sunday, when I installed the irrigation. But that tomato was a bit demented so I didn't eat it. Still, ripe tomatoes a full week earlier than last year!! This is improvement! I think it has less to do with the variety and more to do with the fact that I planted out strong seedlings earlier, and watered them well for the most part.
Unfortunately, all of my plants and especially the HillBilly are suffering from Blossom Drop. I had never heard of this phenomenon before, but I looked it up on GardenWeb and found that sometimes, tomato flowers will just shrivel up and fall off without ever developing fruit. How frustrating!!!! My Hillbilly has no fruit at all, despite many many flowers. This Black Krim only has 3 fruit, large ones, but just 3.

Here's a closeup of the Black Krim tomatoes. Not black yet!

My Arapaho blackberries have developed flowers at the tips of the canes! Yum!!!!! I guess I didn't expect this to happen so soon.

The watermelons are just starting to drape over their bucket ledges.
Here's a tiny Yellow Squash seedling that just sprouted.

Here also are my beets. Just 3, that have been growing along and neglected for a couple months.

Real rainbow chard that is actually of edible size! I'd say this is a first.
And here are my white stargazer lilies in full bloom. Not a great picture, but you can see they are living happily in the dip in the roof where rain or my neighbors' air conditioning condensation collects to keep them watered.

Friday, June 6, 2008

We're back to today, June 6th! Phew!

Good thing we didn't get stuck in the past. We might have run into our May selves and caused a rift in the space time continuum.
Today, almost 2 weeks later, things are changing in the garden! I'm almost done rigging up my extended watering system, so I've brought all my buckets down from the pink air duct. I bought more carpet to put under the buckets and protect the roof from dents. And I also bought thin plastic saucers to keep valuable water and nutrients from washing away in the rain. The garden is looking bigger now!

My Bloody Butcher tomato plant has its first fruitlings. They've already grown quite a bit, nearly bigger than the Stupice from last year, but I think they'll be slower ripening because of it.
All of my tomato plants have grown quite large, and quickly.
My raspberries and blackberries have all leafed out and are growing like weeds! I can't wait for fruit! By then, I better have bird netting...

I moved my flowers, lettuce, arugula, and spinach to a spot in the middle of the roof, where they'll get plenty of sun and rain. They couldn't stay on the pink thing anymore because all of my plants near the pink thing are going to start growing tall, and I wouldn't be able to reach or see the flowers and leafy veggies. But, the garden is beginning to feel like a contained little green space. Kind of nice =) I put up willow expanding fences on my neighbor's windows too, so they can't come out and leave trash everywhere.

Back to May 25th!!!

We're time warping forward from May 22nd!!!

Birds have eaten my strawberries! GRRRRRRR! Bird netting shall ensue.

At least my tomato plants, just 3 days later, are slightly but noticeably growing.

Back to May 22nd!

Today, June 6th, I read a patent on "Time Warping" at work. So, I have decided to do some time warping of my own. Time travel happens on the blog when I am busy... Back to May 22nd in the garden!!!

Here's a tasty tasty strawberry! What a cute heart shape...
Here are lots of ripe peas that are also tasty tasty, even raw!

Here are my tomato plants, still growing steadily.
Here are my little containers of lettuce and arugula... I still haven't figured out why they turned purple...

And here is everything except the tomatoes in my harvest bowl! Yum!