Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Harvest Irene!

Well, I harvested all of my watermelons, yellow squash, Chimayo peppers and scallions ahead of the hurricane on Saturday morning. I was worried I might lose everything to the wind. This morning, I woke up to an almost sunny day and thought, gee all that fuss was about nothing!
First I tasted a pepper. I took a tiny nibble of the tip and thought, Hmm, that wasn't hot at all. I took a bigger bite and it tasted like a sweet pepper. Then, I took a bigger bite towards the top and was like, Hmm, actually... this is hot. Ha! Still, it was a nice slow burn and I liked it! I'll have to think of something to cook them in.

I knew that the small watermelons weren't quite ripe when I harvested them, but what can you do when a hurricane is bearing down on you. I ate the red parts of this mini guy and it was tasty!
The yellow squash are just a little old, but I skinned one, sliced it very thinly and fried them up to put on a home-made pizza. Mmmmm!! I also stuffed the squash blossom with goat cheese and fried it up in an egg. Mmmm!

I don't know what to do with all those scallions!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chili Peppers! 2011 Watermelon!

As always, I've been a bit lax with the garden and the blogging by this point in the summer. But, there are successes despite me! I have a nicely sized watermelon for the first time since 2008! This is really an accomplishment. I sure hope it tastes good! You can see that the leaves are yellowing and spotted, so the plant is definitely on its way out. My other watermelon plant looked about the same and has 2 smaller watermelons growing. =) They'll be nice little softball sized treats, I hope.And for the first time ever, I have peppers! These are Chimayo chili peppers, a variety from New Mexico. I'm excited to try making something spicy with them! They are extremely prolific, despite all of my neglect.
My yellow squash is putting out fruit, even without hand pollination. I'm going to eat this baby. You better believe it.
Zucchini, too! Though, it's not doing quite as well as the yellow squash, I think. I really have to watch the curcubits better. I should probably fertilize them more than I do. That's probably part of why the watermelon vines are dying sooner than I'd like.
Tasty fun times await!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Featured in the Village Voice

Last month Celeste Sloman, a photographer for the Village Voice, contacted me about a slideshow she was putting together on rooftop gardens. She came by as I was putzing around the garden on a normal Saturday morning, July 23rd. I had a lot of weeding and cleaning up to do! Check out slides 8-13 and also the other slides showcasing roof gardens all around the city!
These scallions are out of control! I need to eat them. Also... boy do I look like a dork!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Featured on TV: Joy in Our Town

Back in June, a representative at the Trinity Broadcasting Network contacted me about participating in a piece on their local public program, Joy in Our Town. I jumped at the chance to be on TV and talk a bit about rooftop gardening!

The program aired on August 1st and August 5th, and the Trinity Broadcasting Network was kind enough to send me a DVD with the full episode and let me post it here:

Please do excuse my washed out pastiness! I didn't realize how much makeup one needs to look acceptable on TV and I had just pulled an all nighter at the office. Ooof! Enjoy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Featured on Reuters

It's been a very busy summer for me, part of which has involved some media attention for the garden! Recently, Chris Michaud from Reuters contacted me for some information on roof gardens and quoted me in his article here:
Lots of other news outlets picked up the article around the world, including a popular site in New Zealand. Check it out! And welcome new readers!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Big June Update: Early Red Tomatoes!

Well, May came and went without taking any pictures in the garden, but I did get up there enough to plant these gorgeous nasturtiums (got them at the Union Sq. green market) and do enough watering to keep things alive. Last Sunday I even got around to weeding, pulling up my spent pea plants and planting some new things in their place.
And here are the earliest red tomatoes I've ever had!! They're not quite ripe, as I like them really dark red, soft and fragrant. But they're almost there! Now if only the weekend would be hot and sunny...
You can see how much the tomato plants have grown. The other 2 are just as big as this one. I set up the automatic watering system on Sunday (June 5th, I know... too late like last year! but at least I had been watering a little). This plant had looked like it was going to die. I was worried that these red tomatoes would be the only ones I'd get because I'd underwatered. But, it looks like the watering system did it's job and I can't even tell it was ever in mortal danger! On the left is one of the white potatoes I planted in April. Seems to be doing well, though I honestly don't know much about growing potatoes so we'll just have to see when it's time to harvest.
Here are the blue potatoes. They suffered a bit down below because I didn't add soil when I should have, but I did add soil on Sunday. So, hopefully I'll have more potatoes than I planted =)
I got around to planting this watermelon seedling on Sunday, which had been growing on my windowsill for a while. I had some trouble with my watermelon seeds getting killed by fungus. On Sunday, I direct sowed a few more seeds in the hope that I can get a couple more plants growing. This one seems to be doing decently, though. I'm sure it's happy to be planted properly in the sunshine and heat we've been having.
I think these are the black beauty zucchini seeds I planted on Sunday.
I think these are the yellow prolific straightneck squash I planted on Sunday. I always mix them up with the zucchini because they look so similar.
This year, I tried something new and sowed some pepper seeds. I had some trouble getting them to start, but eventually got 2 plants, which I planted out on Sunday. One is a chimayo hot pepper plant from seed someone friendly sent me back in 2008. One is a King of the North red bell pepper I bought from seed savers exchange. I also mixed them up and don't know which one this is, but it has one tiny pepper forming! I hope it grows fast, as it was a bit stunted indoors.
Here is a beet plant next to my other pepper plant. We'll see which one is sweet and which is spicy when they grow up =)
This might look like weeds to you, but it's actually asparagus! When I received the asparagus plants in the mail, they looked like a bag of dried roots. The directions say to plant, water and wait. I waited for quite a while and they finally came up out of the soil. They actually looked just the way asparagus looks when you get it at the store, but they were much smaller and thinner. When first planting asparagus, I have read that you should let the plants grow without cutting them to eat for the first 2 seasons. This allows them to "fern out" the way they have here and gather energy to grow more next year. When you buy asparagus at the store, the "spear" is what has grown here and turned into feathery leaves. Who knew?!
On Memorial Day weekend, I went home to Long Island to help my parents in their garden. For my efforts, I got a pot of well established and delicious chinese chives (gao choi). They came out of a garden bed that we reclaimed from an awful amount of ivy. You see how the bottoms of the plants look whitish-purple? Where the plants start growing green is where I had cut them on May 29th!! They've grown a ton in just 13 days. Very strong plants. Chinese people have a saying that goes "strong like gao choi." I can see why.
Those scallions I planted at the end of April also grew like gangbusters. I should chop them and cook something.
Now an update on a few well established plants. These are my Northsky and Chippewa blueberry plants. As large and lush as they have grown, they remain a disappointment and I realize now that it's because there are no bees to pollinate them and they are not self-pollinating. Every year, they get covered in flowers and I have so much hope!! But then my hope is dashed when the flowers are gone and no blueberries form. What to do? Hand pollinate? Or just pull them up and start over with something else? Start a bee hive? Wah.
This Briteblue blueberry plant is much smaller but at least it produces something for me to eat!
These Loch Ness blackberries suffered last week from my lack of watering, but there are still some on the plant. They should ripen up nicely.
This Arapaho blackberry plant did not suffer as badly and is covered in these pretty little fruits. It'll be a while yet before they are large and black and yummy! My summit and anne raspberry plants are growing nice and lush as well, but I probably won't have fruit from them this year. Next year should be plenty!
This lilac I planted in April is doing very nicely =)
Here's a shot of the garden as a whole. Doesn't look as nice from far away! But, things are growing. In the near corner, you can also see a cold frame my father made me this spring. =)
That's a wrap for now!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hydroponics Results

Well, I have put an end to my rooftop hydroponics experiment. While the air pump was bubbling in the hydroponic setup on the roof, I had kept one lettuce back, mostly because there was no more space for it in the tray on the roof. This one, I left on my windowsill and hand watered just about every day, just enough to leave a little pool of water in the holding tray. Every day, the lettuce either used up the water or it evaporated. The result is the much larger lettuce you see on the left side here. It had been planted at the same time as all of the others but is clearly much larger! I think that means the rooftop hydroponic setup was a failure. I think it is probable that there was simply too much water and the plants were drowning. They need more air around their roots to breathe. The only other thing I can think of is maybe the roof is too sunny for lettuce to grow nice big leaves? I have read in some places that some plants grow smaller leaves when they have lots of sun, but I'm guessing it was mostly the drowning.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Planting Time!

It's April 24th and these Stupice tomato plants have been sitting on my windowsill, growing faithfully for 2 months. Started back when there were feet of snow on the ground, here they are! They already have flowers in full bloom! Don't they look ready for the outdoors? =) I'm hoping for the earliest tomatoes I've ever had. Stupice has been my favorite and most successful variety since 2007, when I had 1 plant gifted by a generous gardener in the West Village. That year, it had been covered in healthy tomatoes all slightly larger than a normal cherry tomato. They were delicious, hardly ever split from a rainstorm and never had blossom end rot or pests. I'm hoping for more of the same!
I put each plant in its own bucket, where it will grow out the rest of the season. As usual, I buried the plants as deep down as I could get them without covering the healthiest leaves and flowers. In the planting hole, I put a healthy amount of crushed egg shells and bone meal. (It got dark out in the middle of the afternoon.)
Then the sun came out again! Doesn't this tomato look so happy?
I decided to try something new this year. Scallion seeds didn't grow for me, but I remembered that the scallions in the supermarket almost always have little roots at the ends. I bought a bunch at the corner market, chopped the tops for some food and decided to plant these.
Here they are, planted with some tiny chive and chinese chive seedlings. We'll see if the seedlings make it.
Also new in the garden are 2 Josee reblooming lilac plants, which are supposed to grow only 4-6 feet high. I'm hoping for some nice screening of my neighbor's windows and fragrant flowers. I bought a big bag of bark mulch at Saifee Hardware and have used some in this pot.
Here's my other lilac in the closer pot. The other pot is something my neighbor planted and left on my roof. Not sure what it is.
Finally, here are squash and zucchini seedlings I started. Hopefully they'll stay alive until the peas are done and I have space to plant them.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hydroponics Update

A week later and my hydroponic plants have grown a little, but not incredibly.
Here's a close-up of some red lettuce and a swiss chard in the right corner.
Here's a close-up of a speckled lettuce. Maybe it's speckled trout lettuce, but I can't be sure because it came in a packet of mixed lettuces (Rocky Top Lettuce Mix from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds).
I picked this red lettuce up out of the tray and there were long roots growing out of the bottom of the solo cup. I guess that's what I made those holes for.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Good News, Bad News

There's some good news and some bad news in the garden today. I'll start with the good news. Last year, I didn't hook up the automatic watering system until June 5th and depended on mother nature to water all my plants. That resulted in many dead plants, including (or so I thought) my Tulameen Raspberry plant, which I do dearly love. Turns out the Tulameen survived after all! You can see new leaves popping up from the bottom, here, surrounded by darker strawberry leaves. I'll be removing the strawberries after they have their season.
More good news, I planted my potatoes! Here are the white potatoes I got from FreshDirect, didn't eat, and let sprout on my window sill. Many potatoes that you buy at the supermarket will have been sprayed with some kind of anti-sprouting agent, to keep them edible for longer. These were probably sprayed, as not all of their eyes have sprouted, but a few did and I want to experiment.
They went into a half-filled 5-gallon bucket. I covered them with about an inch of soil after this picture was taken. Here's to hoping! When planting potatoes in containers, I've read many recommendations that you add soil as the plant grows because the potatoes grow from the stem of the plant. If you add soil, more potatoes will have the chance to form. I read one recommendation that you should aim to have 1 foot of growth above the soil line throughout the growing season. I won't get to add MUCH more soil, but maybe another 10 inches or so. These may also be spaced too closely, but it's an experiment. We'll see what happens =)
These are my blue potatoes, which are planted in a large blue bucket my neighbors left on my roof. I covered these with more soil after taking the picture. They will also be covered with more soil as they grow taller. I've read that potatoes like acidic soil. These are planted with some compost made from orange rinds, so should be plenty acidic!
More good (or at least not bad) news! The hydroponic veggies are not dead. They have even grown a tiny bit! But, they did appear to be drowning a little, so I raised them all slightly out of the water, by adding a small piece of bamboo stick between the peat pots and the styrofoam. It lets the peat pots sit just a bit higher out of the styrofoam hole than they were previously. I'm waiting for some exponential growth now =)
Ok, here's the bad news. The pigeons got to the peas! I HATE THE PIGEONS. They sometimes chomp on the peas and sometimes pull them right out of the soil and let them die above ground, like this one:
A couple of years back, I bought bird netting, but I was just too lazy to actually put any up. I've gotten over my laziness now. It doesn't look pretty, but vegetable gardening isn't always a glamorous thing. Function over form, people. Function over form.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Strawberry Tower

I've been ridiculously productive today. Aside from cleaning up a ton in my apartment, I also planted up this experimental strawberry tower. The spacing isn't really ideal, as the space around the edge of each pot might be too small... but the idea is that the strawberries will grow out of that space, sort of like a strawberry pot. Here's to hoping. I transplanted some of my existing strawberries into the top container.
In other news, I also added some arugula, spinach and lettuce seeds to the hydroponic setup. Hope they sprout and that none of the plants drown. As of today, they were still alive. Haha! Also, I think all of my seeds from the seed experiments have failed to sprout. More to get rid of, more space for new seeds? =D

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Experiments in the Garden

Today was a busy gardening day! Or at least, labor intensive, as I lugged a large bag of mulch, some bone meal and a bundle of bamboo sticks home from Saifee Hardware on 7th street. I have a push cart I can use for these things, but I didn't expect to get such a large bag of mulch. Unfortunately, when I got to the store I found they didn't have any smaller bags, so it was time to show my commitment to this roof garden =) I'll be sore tomorrow.

Here, you can see the snow peas I planted out on Thursday morning. The seedlings I had in the start tray didn't seem to grow any in the last week, possibly because the tray was dry and I couldn't tell. I'll have to watch more closely next time. You can also see the mulch and the bamboo sticks I brought home today. On the mulch, I'm finally taking my own advice! The bamboo will provide support for the peas as they grow taller. They send out twining tendrils that search for objects to climb.
Because I'm trying to grow more large plants and permanent plants in my pots, I've felt that growing leafy greens in my 5 gallon pots isn't the best use of space/soil. I've seen people grow leafy greens successfully in hydroponic setups. Specifically, the NY Sunworks Science Barge showed me that you can grow bok choi floating on tank full of tilapia fish. So, I decided to run a hydroponics experiment on my leafy greens. Those lettuce and spinach plants from last week, plus a canary yellow swiss chard that overwintered in a pot, were all transplanted into small peat pots of perlite in this (really ghetto) hydroponics setup. I've filled this pan with a mixture of water from my aquarium and from a bucket of compost that filled with water over the winter. The green line in the upper right is an air tube connected to a small aquarium air pump in my apartment. I ran the air tube up through a sky light and onto the roof. The peat pots of perlite sit in a piece of styrofoam that floats on top of the water. Perlite is generally recommended as a good hydroponics medium because it provides good moisture retention and air flow. Here's to hoping this experiment works =)
Thursday morning, I also planted this Anne Raspberry plant, which should yield sweet yellow raspberries. It's hardy to zone 3, which is better than the other two raspberry plants I had planted, which I believe are both now dead. We'll see if the Tulameen raspberry manages to come back, but it's looking pretty dead right now.
The blue potatoes I ordered arrived last week and have been sitting on my windowsill to sprout. In case you didn't know what a potato sprout looks like, here it is. I was pleasantly surprised to find that blue potatoes have dark blue sprouts, too! Not so with the white potatoes I have sprouting in the background, which are growing a normal green.
Today, I potted up the Stupice tomatoes, as well. They were a little spindly, but I buried them "up to their necks", as more roots will grow from the stem that has been buried. This will make for a stronger plant when these are ready to go outside. =) I think they're looking lovely.
Busy spring time in this Manhattan roof garden!