Remember the sneaky squash that volunteered to grow in our garden? It now has one decent sized fruit.
Remember the sneaky squash that volunteered to grow in our garden? It now has one decent sized fruit.
Some kind of pumpkin or squash has sowed itself near the steps at the foot of our taxus bush and since it's so pretty, we've been allowing it to grow. Maybe it's one of those 'Trombocino' squashes that I brought home from work last year.
We picked up the first round of vegetables from Hearty Roots, our CSA at the Red Shed Community garden.
Neighbor, Paul joined us taking home bok choy, arugula, spinach, kale and green garlic.
From Hearty Roots, we also purchased a chicken share! These are happy livin', free rangin' birds. Brandon fried up our first 5 pounder (and took the first HOT bite). Mmmmm! It was delicious!
This year we have signed up for a vegetable share from Hearty Roots and a local fruit and egg share from the Greenpoint-Williamsburg CSA, also available in our neighborhood. We're excited about all this good food!
Watched this last night and I recommend it. It's a very touching story about farming and community and eccentricity. Check it out.
Planning for the garden this year, I have big changes in mind. I've made a monumental (somewhat painful, yet) exciting decision: to quit growing vegetables in my tiny space.
There: I said it.
Growing vegetables is such a virtuous activity that I feel slightly guilty giving it up to grow more pretty things. On the other hand, I'm terribly excited about the possibility of space for new ornamental plants! I believe this new plan will make a more unified garden.
Using photoshop to help imagine what some new foundation-plant purchases might look like, I've also spent lots of time studying books and websites trying to decide what plants will work best. I have in mind 3 woody items: 1 columnar juniper and two shrubs that offer at least 2 seasons of interest.
First, I fell in love with a new Physocarpus cultivar, 'Coppertina' (left) and also liked 'Centerglow.' Then I learned that both of these grow 8-10 feet high AND wide in 3-4 years which is much too large and vigorous for my space. The less inspiring 'Summerwine' (right) is supposed to stay within 6 feet, but I found some rumors that it also can get much larger than expected.
Look how nice the P. 'Coppertina' would have looked if only it would behave to my specifications and stay small!
Next, I began swooning over a shrub I had never encountered previously, Leycesteria formosa 'Golden Lanterns,' which is a bright leafed cultivar which looks mighty pretty. It's supposedly hardy to zone 7 which I am in, but they say it can sometimes die back to the ground in cold climates, behaving more like a perennial. I think I can live with that. Look at those crazy blooms!
This is how it might look along with a variegated Abelia I am also eyeing. I'm still contemplating whether each item is right. Don't get me started on roses. I'll save them for another post. And clematis...
Brandon is not particularly pleased with this decision and we will most certainly miss growing tomatoes, but there were too many posts last year (not to mention my unpublished garden-journal entries) where I expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the work of vegetable growing. I like the end product, but I tend to procrastinate with the planning and execution and I hate having half of my tiny garden bare all winter.
Until I have more space, I have resolved to shop more often for local vegetables and to subscribe again to the CSA we enjoyed last year.
We grew a variety of beautiful squash and pumpkins at Wave Hill as we do every year. I took this wonderfully shaped one, called 'Trombocino,' home for Brandon to cook and he really liked it.
Actually, these kooky food photos are sort of a theme for him...
He's a nut. That's why I love him.
If anyone is still checking, please forgive my long absence! I could make any number of excuses, but my garden journal from last year reflects the same pattern of late-season laziness. Though certainly messy, the garden is looking rather exuberant despite my neglect. I haven't been posting but, I have continued to photographically document what's going on in the garden. Without further ado, here's what's been happening in the last month.
The most exciting aspect is definitely tomatoes. The regular rains and nice hot days of July and August were perfect for growing these plants. Of the six types we grew, (including Sun Sugar, Double Rich, Lemon Boy, Early Girl) only Garden Peach was a disappointment. All others have been a wonderful success. We've enjoyed extras from our farm share as well.
The tomatillo plant (on the left side just above the marigolds) is large and has attempted to take over the path, but there are few fruits so far despite the many flowers. I hope we'll get something before a frost.
There are several tall plants looming over head when you sit on the steps and drink coffee. These 6 foot sunflowers were effortless. The yellows were originally planted by a former roommate. Now each year the birds help sow them so we have a new crop.
These lovely browns I grew from seed for the Flower Garden at work, taking a couple of seeds home. Folks have asked me — what is that flower? — not recognizing the old favorite in this more sophisticated hue.
I think they are fantastic and so does our resident squirrel. He has infuriated us by climbing the stems and tearing down any flower even before the seeds are ripe. Brandon constantly throws objects at the squirrel. I've resorted to making cut flower arrangements on the porch.
Next up would be the cute little dwarf dahlias I planted at the end of June. Again, effortless requiring no staking and adding a bright spot of color in two areas. I adore the combination with the self-sowing orange celosia. Thanks again, Betsy, for your generous donation. They are delightful!
Though a prominent position is deserved, these glorious acidanthera were placed off to the side where they can't be seen from the path.
Both of these lovely vines, love-in-a-puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum) and cypress vine (Ipomea quamoclit) have been dueling it out on the front fence. I think the red flowered cypress vine is winning, which is fine since we have love-in-a-puff in another area where it can climb on to our Taxus shrubs.
We inherited morning glory and spend much of the spring and early summer fighting back the billions of seedlings which are thankfully easy to spot and rogue out. They are lovely, though, in the a.m. hours so we left a bit on this small portion of the front fence.
When we were in Texas in July, Brandon's great aunt and cousin gave me pieces of several cactus that I potted up once we were home.
In other plants-in-pots news, I cut the top off my Dracaena marginata for the second time. This low-maintenance plant was originally acquired for my desk when I worked in an office. A co-worker christened the plant "Herman" since I had not named him. I went along with it, so when I first decapitated him I called the rooted pieces the Sons of Herman.
The Sons have done quite well and I gave that plant away to a friend (who later left the country temporarily leaving the Sons in my care again). Now I have the Head of Herman rooting in a new pot with plans to give him away. The original Herman has resprouted from the base and will remain mine as always. I'm not sure if that made any sense.
Euphorbia marginata has been going strong for weeks and we've used lots of it in indoor arrangements as well.
This beautiful gladiolus bloomed one more time after I had cut back the early blooms.
I saw Bulbine planted in the ground and blooming at Stonecrop last year and tried it myself. I'll have to dig it up before a frost arrives.
Brandon took these pics of this unidentified, amazing insect.
Lots more Monarch have visited this month.
With the long-awaited arrival of baby tomato plants, I spent some time over the weekend focusing on the vegetable side of my garden which always seems to play second fiddle to my flowers.
Due to a bit of hesitance to use my compost or to pay for some other amendment, I must admit that I haven't really added much to the soil this year and all the plants look hungry. I went ahead and sifted a big batch of my most finished compost, which is still not completely broken down, and took a chance using it as a top dressing for the whole vegetable bed. Though sifting removes the largest particles, I'm a little concerned that the leaf matter in particular will tie up nitrogen while it continues to decompose. However, there is lots of good humus in there and I think it's worth the risk rather than leaving everything starving for nutrients.
It appears I still have just the six worms I found and added to the tumbling compost bin. I was hoping that by now they would have, well, gotten to know each other and started a big family. They just need some time, I suppose.
What else is going on? Collard greens are coming up just fine and the thyme I was wondering about seems to be ok too. Cilantro looks more or less happy, but needs thinning. Yummy greens – especially the arugula have been providing us with wonderful salads.
Oregano is always too monsterous while rosemary and dill along with a self-sown marigold are progressing rather slowly. We finally had a good rain just after I spread the compost so hopefully we'll see some results.
Will I ever have my mini-heads?!
They look pitiful. It was my fault I planted them late. They germinated, but right away something chomped them – slugs? I don't know. Now it's getting hot and until I weeded on Sunday they had lots of competition.
Aside from an occasional lapse, we've been going without tomatoes since last summer waiting to taste the real homegrowns. My where-to-get-tomato-seedlings issue was once again solved by "tomato-head" boss, who grows at least 25 varieties of tomato each year. I love getting his plants since he's grown and sampled so many and hand-picks for taste and disease resistance.
At my request for small-fruiting types, he brought a selection of his favorites: Sun Sugar, Ilde, Lemon Boy and Garden Peach. From another co-worker I received two others, plus a tomatillo plant which we've never grown before.
The day after we planted them, walked out to find that something (a bird??) had snapped the top off of 'Ilde' which happened to have two stems. Left it in place, it appears to be resprouting from a remaining axillary bud. I may get a replacement seedling, but perhaps it won't be necessary.
Also ordered some "permanent" stakes made of steel with a plastic coating that should last longer than the bamboo stakes I've used in previous years.
Yes, that is a sea of weedy purslane surrounding the tomato plants. We are allowing it since it is also edible - quite tasty in salads and grows all over the place whether we like it or not.
My sister Mary came to visit this weekend and since a friend had requested a photo of the two of us in my garden, Brandon snapped one for us while I was out pulling weeds.
Using my nifty new spade, I took out the last remaining bit of weedy grass on the west half of my garden, disturbing a bunch of rather docile, yellow-orange ants in the process. The whole yard was full of this tufty grass when I started gardening there and I've been slowly erradicating it as I gain new plants. I popped in another purple allium like the other one near the fence and a blue aquilegia as well.
Planted leek and collard green seeds today, too. I hope they'll germinate.
Did anyone notice that the side of my garden reserved for vegetables has been ignored? With this April's crappy weather as my excuse, I'm embarrassingly behind on seed planting.
I enlisted Brandon's help today and we got a few things planted. He sowed cilantro, parsley and dill while I scratched in seeds for butterhead lettuce, arugula, and a mesculun mix. I hope it won't get too hot right away since the greens prefer it cool. Also, the starlings and sparrows were a little too interested in that area when we finished, but they've got more time than I do to be out there so I'll just have to hope for the best.
There were a few stray onions sprouting from last year so I moved them all together next to a once-very-large clump of thyme which may or may not be coming back.
My poor rosemary plant croaked, of course. The harsh temperatures in March proved too much for it. I should've taken Kelly's advice and mulched around the base.
My tomato status for this year is up in the air. Have you ever flipped through a garden catalog? There are typically 2-5 pages devoted to tomato cultivars. It's mind boggling trying to decide which is best unless you've personally grown and tasted them yourself.
Anyway, I have way too many succulents in my brightest windows and since I am too lazy to set up some kind of complicated seed-starting indoor lights set up I have no place to start them indoors from seed. This means I must find a source for seedlings.
Last year I tried one plant from the Union Square Farmer's Market. Another seedling was obtained from a co-worker and two from my boss, a major "tomato-head" who grows at least 25 varieties each year. I had high hopes for those carefully chosen varieties, but I broke one of them trying to plant it so was left, finally, with 3 plants: Russian Plum, Garden Peach and Black Crim.
Weather wise, 2006 was a bad one for tomatoes . Spring was long and cool. I had Russian Plum planted in April. It resented it's cold, wet feet and barely grew. The other two fared no better. In June and July came lots of heavy rain and gloomy weather not favored by tomato plants. When it turned hot in August they weren't too pretty or healthy or happy.
I did get a self-sown "volunteer" which I guessed to be Stupice, a Czech variety I grew in '05, But by the time the fruit was finallly setting, frost was due. We harvested maybe 3 ripe tomatoes along with a bunch of green ones that left much to be desired.
So I'm a bit discouraged, but hopeful. My garden is a little small for crop rotation, but my plan is to plant fava beans early, waiting to put tomatoes in their place once they're finished. By May I will surely have a source for seedlings.
Finally made my spring orders...
I decided to avoid the trademarked offering I mentioned in an earlier post which turned out to be grown by the ubiquitous Monrovia - the Starbucks of the garden world. I've been trying to support small businesses instead of big conglomerates.
Forest Farm Nursery had another lovely variegated ilex aquifolium. I chose that along with a Hypericum (St. John's Wort) with orange foliage, a variegated leafed Lily-of-the-Valley and one of those new Echinacea hybrids called 'Sunset.'
I'm sure I have over-ordered for the vegetable side since the area is roughly the size of a tablecloth, but I always think I can just sow a few of each thing here and there and somehow it will all fit.
My favorite edible to grow is lettuce greens. They are wonderfully easy and can be started early and enjoyed in your salad bowl in a matter of weeks.
Along with Arugula and a delicious mesclun mix which we liked last year, I chose Red Star, a head-lettuce that is supposed to be well suited for growing as "mini-heads." This irresistible concept involves harvesting the little lettuce heads early "for tender flavor and visual appeal." In other words, when they're still cute!
We always grow herbs for cooking and my favorite is basil. Last year I purchased a 4-inch from the Union square farmer's market and planted it along with the seeds I sowed so we could enjoy homemade pesto right away. That worked out well and I'll try that again. The photo below shows last year's encore mix with the basil seeds just germinating farther back.
New items for me this year include Fava beans which I am excited about since they're wonderful when fresh and another early crop. I also ordered black-eyed peas which I imagined growing along the fence in place of the morning glories that usually take over.
The poppy, my favorite flower, will be better represented this year since I've ordered 3 plants and two packs of seed to add to the two I grew last year:
Papaver orientalis 'Pizzicato Mix'
Papaver nudicaule 'Champagne bubbles'
Papaver orientalis 'Brilliant'
Cant wait to see everything!