Thursday, November 19, 2009

November Clean up

I came back from a long trip abroad at the beginning of November and took the opportunity to clean up the garden on a particularly nice day. You can see, my flower boxes are over run with grass weeds. Before taking this picture, most of my pots were too, but luckily, these weeds were really easy to pull up. That black cement mixer in the distance holds all of the weeds removed.
And despite being untended for 3 months and unwatered for 2 months, I still found some things growing nicely. A couple patches of arugula:
Tiny lettuce seedlings that must have sprouted very recently, as the weather cooled down from summer.
A healthy little swiss chard:
And a somewhat dried up beet.
I ate them all (except maybe the beet), and put the garden to bed for the winter =)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Big, Juicy Arapaho Blackberries

The garden is suffering some neglect of late, as I am busy studying for the NY bar exam. What joy! But, even if the rest of the garden is unfit for viewing, these Arapaho blackberries have ripened to a big, gorgeous black. I never really expected them to get this big, but they did, and are firm too. That is, firm enough for easy transportation and plucking without terrible squashing accidents, but still plenty soft for juicy smushing in one's mouth. I suppose they are the perfect blackberry for shipping in mass fruit production. The only drawback for this variety seems to be that far fewer berries grow on the canes compared to the Lochness blackberries. I had thought about removing them and replacing them with more Lochness, but now that I've tasted them, and enjoyed nice big fruit a full month after the Lochness were done, I don't think I have the heart to get rid of them. Maybe having a variety of plants is best, so I can enjoy a little bit from the garden throughout the entire season.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Big Bowl of Window Basil

I don't post about my indoor window boxes often, but that doesn't mean they don't manage to produce quite a bounty! Every year, every season, I can count on an enormous basil harvest. Maybe I'm just lucky and my southeast facing windows get plenty of sun, but I'm able to grow bumper crop basil from seed, even in the winter. The plants may grow a little slower in the winter, but they still grow pretty enormous. I like having a basil forest in my window, since it filters the light a nice shade of green through the leaves. Forgot to take a picture before plucking it bare though! This heaping bowl of basil's going to make some nice home grown pesto...

Basil grows better for me than indoor lettuce, or even arugula. In fact, I really struggle with indoor lettuce, as it always seems to be pale and straggly. Go figure! This all just goes to show that you never know what will or will not succeed until you try it. Conventional wisdom be damned! My only tip for successfully growing basil indoors are to pinch the leaves a couple times early on, to encourage bushier growth. Otherwise, the basil will just grows straight up on 1 stalk. I can grow 2-3 plants in a 30" window box, but all of this basil came from 1 bushy plant growing alone. One squirt of diluted fish emulsion fertilizer will help, though I only do this once or twice a year.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I'm Featured on AOL's Garden Site!

Several weeks ago, the woman who manages the AOL Garden site left a comment asking to work with me on a feature for their site. Of course, I'm always thrilled to get any press I can, so after e-mailing back and forth, we put together a list of tips for urban veggie gardeners!Check out the full article here: An Urban Veggie Garden. And, Welcome to any new readers from AOL!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Second Harvest of the Week

On this rare sunny day among all the rain lately, I couldn't resist going on the roof to check on the blackberries again. Monday's somewhat sour taste of nearly black blackberries had me craving some ripe ones! Well, to my surprise, there was quite a lot ready to harvest besides the blackberries! I got some more spinach, lettuce, peas, the last 2 strawberries I expect to get (unless the everbearing variety I planted makes some fall fruit, which I won't be around to eat) and a couple more amazing raspberries!
I know I said I love blackberries far more than raspberries, and I might just replace all my brambles with Lock Ness blackberries. But, perhaps that would be a mistake! I LOVED these raspberries! They're SO soft, they just fall apart. But they're incredibly tasty. It almost makes me heady, thinking about them. I wish more would grow!
Surely, that's not to say these blackberries weren't fantastic. And there were so many to pick today! You couldn't see them all in the bowl, as many were covered by my salad greens. Look at all the ones still to come!
The Arapaho blackberries also appear to be coming on. They look so interesting, as they ripen. Very firm. I wonder how they'll taste... =)
In pea news, I'm beginning to think that fungal inoculant really did it's job. The peas were loaded this year, and are making big juicy pods. Some of these are probably too big to sauté and eat as I normally would. On Monday, my guest taught me that I can shell these fatties and eat the peas inside! They were so sweet! But, I'll leave these on the vine so I can get some seeds for next year. I wasn't able to buy any Sugar Ann's in my latest seed purchase because Baker Creek was out of stock.
And, in this second year of peas, I have found some more stowaway snow peas. I'm not complaining! Snow peas are wonderful, and it seems like they develop a little later than the snap peas, so it extends my pea season. I wonder if it's possible that snap pea seeds sometimes just don't grow true? Were these seeds really from a sugar ann plant gone awry?
Finally, the showiest plant growing in my garden this year is starting to get interesting. I think this is a Yellow Straightneck Prolific Squash, but it is possible it could be a Black Beauty Zucchini. I planted both varieties but 1 didn't make it. This one has a nice female flower, which you can tell has a squash-making ovary. I had thought that the male flowers normally open first, but it doesn't look like they are ready yet. I hope that doesn't mean this female will go to waste. It helps to grow more plants, so the flowers can cross-pollinate and these kinds of problems don't happen. If only I had more buckets...
Here's a close-up of the squash flower. Pretty!
And here's my harvest, all separated out in my kitchen. =)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Garden Guests and Dinner Party

Today 2 guests joined me for my first successful garden fare dinner party! Here, you can see part of the harvest, including some small strawberries in the background, and this big salad of spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, beet greens, and shelled peas. We also had a nice bunch of sugar ann snap peas that I sauteed for a bit. The first raspberries and (somewhat unripe!) blackberries didn't make it to dinner ;-)
It was really fun to have visitors up in the garden, helping me harvest our food. In the first 3 growing seasons I've had so far, there has rarely been a time when the garden was growing enough food for 3 people. But, I am finding that the amount and variety of produce I am able to grow increases every year. This year, I'm not even growing tomatoes or watermelons! The fact that fruit production is increasing also helps, as rooftop fruit is such a special treat =)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Should be Summer, but Feels like Spring

The rain lately makes it feel like it's still April showers, so things in the garden are lush and verdant. I am the proud owner of one cute blueberry! This year, it seems that the flowers were poorly pollinated. I wonder if that is due to the rain and lack of pollinators. There were so many flowers before! Many of them dried up and the ovary fell off instead of turning into fruit. I'm not sure what can be done about it, but I should still get a few more berries. Hopefully next year will be better. The bushes themselves are still growing wonderfully.Check out my strawberries! I was away for a bit so didn't harvest some of them in time, but the good ones were DANGED good. And so much bigger than last year! I'm glad =) I thought I was doomed to puny strawberries forever. Many of these are actually a respectable size. How red and joyous they look, all hanging off their white buckets!My peas are also finally grown and producing. I thought it would never happen. Granted, I did sow them a bit late. I tried using that fungal inoculant this year, to improve production, but it is unclear if it worked. I guess it doesn't hurt to just use it, useless though it may prove.
The lochness blackberries are simply banging away!!! Look at all these fruit! Nothing seems to stop them! I hope they really fulfill all this promise...There are a few raspberries growing too! All 3 of the blackberry and raspberry plants I have left are producing this year, though the lochness is really the most vigorous. I may replace them all with lochness in the future. Let's face it, I love blackberries more than raspberries anyway.Here's a shot of the flower boxes. When I was home for 5 days, I took various cuttings from my mom's garden plants. They were ground cover types. Some didn't really have roots, but I figured I could try rooting them. It is unclear whether or not I have been successful yet. There are bunches of some pink creeping phlox; you can see one in the lowest right. There are some funny plants that grow pink flower balls on cute stalks; you can see one on the right, 2nd from bottom. And, I took a branch of juniper and buried it in the lowest left, hoping it'll root.
I'll leave you with a shot of all the garden. You can't see what's growing in the far buckets, but there is def. stuff growing in there!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rainy days

It's been raining a LOT the past week, and is supposed to rain again for the next couple of days. I took the dry spell today to check out the garden and sow some seeds. Recently, I placed an on-line seed order with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I replaced some staples I had run out of and got a few new varieties to try. Here's what came in the mail:

Rocky Top Lettuce Mix
Flamingo Pink Chard
Canary Yellow Chard
Golden Beet
Early Wonder Beet
Black Beauty Zucchini
Early Prolific Straightneck Squash (Yellow)
China Rose Radish (Free gift!)

Today, I managed to sow some more lettuce since what I'd sown earlier didn't germinate very well. That might have been because it was old seed, or the soil was too dry. That won't be a problem this time around! I also sowed some Golden Beets and Early Wonder Beets. I'm excited to see how they turn out, and I really do need the beets to be early. My goal at the moment is to have a friend over in about 5-6 weeks for a big roof garden salad! =)

Hopefully by then, this strawberry will be big, juicy, and red.
I am not sure when to expect these blackberries to be ripe, but this is the first open flower.
There are many many buds getting ready to open, as well.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Back to the Basics: How Blackberries Grow

This blog has always been meant to serve two purposes: 1) keeping track of my garden progress, and 2) documenting exactly how things grow in the garden so I and other beginners can know what to expect from these plants. Lately, I've been doing a lot more quick progress snapshots than actual explanations of plant development. To get back to the basis, here's how blackberries grow.

Up until 2004, all blackberry plants grew in about the same manner. From each plant, shoots come up from the ground and grow into long "canes". These canes grow for a season without fruit, and go dormant during the winter. In the spring, they leaf out again and fruit develop during the summer. These are called "floricane" varieties. In 2004, new varieties were developed called "primocane" blackberries. These grow new canes that can fruit in their first season, go dormant over the winter, and fruit again the following summer. Raspberries also have both floricane and primocane varieties. My Lochness blackberry is a floricane variety. Here you can see the whole plant, with several canes grown last year:Last year, my Lochness blackberry did not produce fruit. This is the plant's second season of growth so it will produce fruit this summer. On each cane, shoots grew from buds along the cane, producing leaves and flower buds above. This picture shows 3 of these growth points.Here, I have pointed out the flower buds on each of the 3 shoots I showed you in the prior picture. It seems that there will be at least 1 flower bud, producing 1 blackberry, from each growth point. The middle shoot here has 2 flower buds.
This summer, new canes will also be growing, but again, they will not produce fruit. At the end of this season, I will have to cut down the canes that made fruit this year so that the new canes can be healthy and strong next year.

In other news, my arugula is growing well, but looks messy. My lettuce is not growing as well. I think the problem is that my drip system does not evenly wet the surface soil. It seems better adapted to watering individual large plants with deep root systems. Maybe the solution is to start my leafy greens in flats on the fire escape and wait until they are large enough that their roots can be adequately watered by the drip system before transplanting to the roof.
Here also are my first creeping phlox flowers of the season. I really love creeping phlox! The green bushy part is so vibrant =)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spring is a wonderful time!

Spring is a wonderful time because every plant holds hope and promise of the tastiness to come! Nothing has died yet from my failure to water, the pecking of pigeons, or the occasional insect pest. Instead, there are flowers, buds, and lush green leaves to enjoy =) This pretty white flower might just turn into a strawberry I can eat...These plants could be covered in big juicy blueberries!
Even this Lochness blackberry plant, which grew wildly long canes last year with nary a bud...could be heavy with sweet dark fruit for eating in yogurt, smoothies, cereal... Yum!Tiny arugula sprouts might just fill my salad bowl one day...Purple chive flowers might make some lovely pink vinegar... (We can just ignore the bug infestation you can see if you zoom in on this pic! =( Wah!)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

First Rooftop Foray of the Season

The balmy weather and my quickly growing pea starts helped me overcome my laziness and get out on the roof today for the first time this year. And what a nice visit it was! I spent about an hour looking around, cleaning up the dead leaves from the strawberry plants and planting some peas. Just 1 bucket so far. Maybe I'll get the rest in on Sunday. It was just so nice to see that the vast majority of my perennials survived the winter and have high hopes of flourishing this year! Certainly these blueberries are looking spectacular.The strawberries look lush and happy, like every spring.The chives are so strong it looks like they never died over the winter.The flowers are starting to come up again too, though it does appear my experiment with overwintering the bulbs in flower boxes had some casualties. I think my hyacinths just rotted away, as I can find no trace of them. A couple of the lily bulbs may have, as well. We'll see what comes up later. Maybe I'll try my hand at more of these low-growing creeping type perennials. They seem to have been quite successful.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Late Start to Garden 2009

I can't believe it's already April 2nd! I had serious plans for my garden this year. They were going to include 3 varieties of tomatoes, a more serious attempt at watermelons, and peppers! That was before I remembered that I am leaving the country for 3 months, starting July 31. That cuts my normal summer growing time in half! And, while I'm sure I could get some smaller tomatoes ripe by then, I wouldn't be able to glory in all of their deliciousness through the end of the season. So, I'm cutting out all those long growing season vegetables this year and sticking to things that will grow well early and quickly. So far, I've started a lot of sugar ann snap peas. I'll probably try lettuce, spinach, beets, and chard in addition. Same as I tried last year, but in greater quantities, now that I will have more buckets free.