Sunday, May 31, 2009

Edible Update Speed Round

silver hts genovese basil - in EB and seemingly OK
silver hts rosa bianca eggplant - in EB and seemingly OK, growing
greenscaper tomato - in EB and bottom leaf sets wilting
herbfarm - all OK, thyme starting to yellow at bottom a bit
northsky & northblue blueberries - OK - leaves lost their red tinge
lavender - providing steady harvests of fragrant buds
usb/simpson/prizehead - harvested for the first time this week (thinned out)
cilantro/parsley/chives - good, cilantro thinned
usb/simpson/deer tongue - coming along very nicely
black valentine beans - true leaves coming in
watermelon radishes - true leaves are in and flourishing
danvers carrots - progressing nicely amongst radishes
rainbow chard - OK, a little slow in growing but true leaves coming in
lacinato kale - same as chard
golden beets - thriving - true leaves coming in
ronde de nice summer squash - bursting through ground
vegetable marrow summer squash - still sleeping
italian mix microgreens - sprouted
asian mix microgreens - sprouted
calendula - sprouted
waltham broccoli - sprouted
black krim tomato - sleeping
rainbow cherry tomato - sleeping
sage - sleeping
catnip - sleeping
rainbow mix coleus - sleeping
double-yield cukes - thriving in 4" pot
rainbow chard/lacinato kale - OK in 4" pot
brussel sprouts - OK in cell pack
bridge to paris peppers - doing well in 4" pot
sweet basil - doing well in cell pack

First Harvest 2009

I'll let the pictures do the "typing."

Pepper Thoughts

I've been pondering the possible issues on the balcony that has turned into a place of dread for seedlings and transplants everywhere. It is a windy, open spot and this past week has been a particularly gusty one, not to mention pretty cool in temperature. Yes, there are many people growing peppers and the like successfully on balconies and rooftops; however, one of the interesting notes in The City Gardener's Handbook is the idea of microclimates existing in such spaces. The example is the converse of my situation - a perennial that, "according to the canons of zone maps won't tolerate New York cold," but was thriving on an eighteenth-floor terrace (it was a south-facing terrace with walls that all but eliminated the wind and retained the radiant heat of the building).

You'll notice in the picture that the white side of the EB cap is facing out, as opposed to the recommended black side. While I was transplanting, I had noted the soil temperature at the surface was over 100 degrees F and 90 degrees at about 5" deep - on a day during which the high was probably 80F. This balcony gets sun pretty much the entire day, which is why I chose it as a site for sun-lovers such as peppers. Coupled with the summer wind, it may be more akin to a desert, and not really ideal for anything. My blueberry bushes are there too and unfortunately, those are in a planter that is not being moved any time soon.

So, on that balcony in EBs I have a rosa bianca eggplant transplant that seems to be doing well, a tomato plant gift from greenscaper that is hanging on, and two basil plants that went in after the peppers were pulled up. I may grab a few more test subject peppers this Wednesday (and maybe more eggplant just in case).

Stay tuned. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Good morning heartache

What can I say? They're dropping faster than I can get them planted. Additional pictures on flickr (click through slideshow on right).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Challenges posed to rooftop gardeners

Yes, those are EBs in bondage. Warm weather today here in Brooklyn woke up many of the direct sowings I made this past week (see flickr feed for details). A wind rolled in and the black plastic mulch cover of the EB was whipping the seedlings about. Fortunately I was hanging out with my father-in-law so I asked about this slick knot I saw him use to roll and secure a rug. Of course I thought I had a handle on it, but when I went up to secure the mulch cover, I was stuck with some butcher's twine and ten thumbs.

I do have some lumber in early stages of prep for a GRG-style setup, but haven't gotten around to getting everything together. This will provide the windbreak as well as the support (when needed) for the plants.

Tomato Update

Here are the two tomato transplants that were adopted from greenscaper that haven't exactly taken to their new EB home. He forwarded me a link that will change my transplanting technique forever. From now on, I won't be handling transplants with kid gloves, as I was a bit disappointed that these sturdy-looking plans that greenscaper raised from seed are now struggling in my hands.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Guerrilla SIPping?

In my web travels I've seen several video features on guerrilla gardening, so given my present activities it got me thinking about expanding the concept to SIPs and urban food production. What if, say, we left a DIY SIP complete with edible somewhere, with a brief info card about the SIP and the edible? Would someone take it to their home and care for it? Would it remain where it was left (in which case the donator could monitor and care for them)? Would it be vandalized and end up in the waste stream? Would it be successful if one out of every five left opened someone's eyes to the possibility of food production in urban settings? Should we start by leaving them near home gardening sites visible from the street, in the hope the home gardener would take it in?

In my mind the most significant cost of doing this would be the potting mix...everything else can be re-purposed waste (buckets, tubing, etc.). The edible would have to be a no brainer...and I seem to be better off with greens and lettuce than tomatoes.

Let's call it Covert SIP Distribution. The term "guerrilla" in my mind better aligns with causes of deeper significance. Gotta have perspective, folks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This one's for a patio farmer I know on the other coast

If I had any inkling of diligence when it comes to that little box in Blogger that says "Labels for this post," I'm sure this blog is the soda bottle planter, bush basil capital of the internet. But this one plant of three that I am tending holds a special place in my re-purposed plastic world (a world into which, I may add, Ms. Mapleton-Bklyn has been hurled deeper than she could have ever imagined). It is the survivor of a rampant aphid infestation and is now bigger and more globular than the other two. Yes, that is the first time in my life I have used "globular."

Anyhow, also on the bottle SIP herbfarm the others are doing well; in fact I'm running out there in a little while to clip some oregano for a sea trout destined for dinner. There is one tomato and one pepper, both awaiting transplant and both adopted from greenscaper. Unfortunately, the two tomatoes planted last weekend in an EB are not doing well. They were leggy and long overdue for transplant and I've read that this is not a good combo for a transplant. I also popped them straight outside, but probably should have "hardened" them a bit considering that they were in an apartment environment all winter. I'm taking greater care of the one tomato and pepper...they're up to five hours outside in sun.

Caving In

This past Wednesday I caved to the "siren song" of Silver Heights Farm. Damage = two Genovese Basil and one each of Early Jalapeno, Thai Yellow Chili, Garden Sunshine (sweet pepper) and Rosa Bianca eggplant. There was an aphid issue that I did not discover until unpacking but I seem to have managed eradication for the time being. Yes, organic IS slower, and with more bugs. Destination for these, EarthBox SIPs.

I am going to the market again this Saturday and I beg Ms. Mapleton-Bklyn to keep me honest as I think about my failing tomato plants.

AeroGarden starter fail 1.0

It's a bummer, but IMO the AeroGarden (holiday gift from Mom!) is better left to growth of seed pods than used for a seed starter system. I figured I would give it a try since our first round of seed pods was pretty much spent and due for a change soon anyway. I think I lost an above-average number of seedlings due to damping off, which I think is quite possibly due to the design of the starter tray. The grow plugs extend down into the reservoir, which basically means the sponges are always sucking up moisture. I took it as a sign to abort mission when some of my previously robust-looking brussels sprouts seedlings keeled over. Then again, my disappointment could just be my unrealistic expectation of perfection the first time out! Only time and more experience will tell.

So, the pic above is the survivors' new home.
back row:
lacinato kale/rainbow chard - double-yield cuke - bridge to paris pepper
front row:
brussels/rainbow chard - basil

Two seedlings for two sowings on the peppers is probably a good result in the seed-starting world since I read these are difficult to germinate. I've since learned that cukes are best directly sown. Other than that, I'll give all the other participant seeds in my experiment another go next season - with more appropriate sowing timing - using methods found in The New Seed Starter's Handbook and The New Victory Garden. But since I still pine for those brussels, I might give one of the methods a shot now.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Soil Moisture

One of the ideas that greenscaper is advancing is use of bottle planters to become familiar with the relationship between plant, light and moisture. He can articulate the concept and how-to better than I can, but through a combination of measured watering, observation/measuring of light levels, observing the plant growth and simply peering through the clear container at the roots and soil, one can gain a better understanding of plant needs (rather than blindly subscribing to self-watering container dogma).

While the measured watering method is easily achievable with bottle planters, how should this be applied to commercially available sub-irrigated planters, where their heft makes it impractical? Use of a soil probe and common sense. I'll post more on this in the future.

Weekend Update

Met with greenscaper to talk about urban greenscaping initiatives and pick up some adopted tomato plants and a pepper plant. The two larger tomato plants made it into the balcony EB yesterday; I'll wait until they perk up a bit for their first photo-op. I'll give the smaller two plants (pictured left) a little while longer in their bottle planters.

Picked up some buckets for DIY SIPs which will probably be planted with some wildflower seed. This morning all the bottle planters will have a weigh-in.

Friday, May 15, 2009

flickr posts

Started a flickr stream here. Tried to use the slideshow gadget in the sidebar but for whatever reason it wasn't linking to my username. Will try again in the future.

Not much going in the spaces...did prep all the EBs by positioning and filling with mix but waiting on the lime, fertilizer and rest of the mix. Growth updates on flickr.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lettuce Round 2

Trying to be all crop-stagger-savvy, I sowed a second round of HVSL lettuce. The grackles were observing.

I'm going to set up a flickr account so I don't have to do a post per photo (yes, I am completely lacking in Blogger proficiency). Will post some updated lettuce and herb round 1 pictures. I'm pretty geeked out over them.

Bottle Herb Farm

More soda bottle planters - for thyme, rosemary and oregano. Plan is to let them grow in these for a while, then transplant to SIP-converted clay pots. I had rosemary and thyme indoors this winter in clay pots (drench & drain, both from last summer)...but mistakenly put them out on the balcony and forgot the whole hardening process, and they haven't quite recovered from the shock of fresh air.

Unthrifty Nerd

Thanks to Deborah for that title. I set up two of the EarthBox SIPs this morning and planted lacinato kale and rainbow chard in one, and one row of black valentine beans in the other (all from HVSL). Setup was mostly a non-event, though there was a bump in the sowing road when a strong breeze tried to sow the roof with kale seeds (why couldn't it have been the bigger chard seeds?). Thankfully it only took ten minutes to recover the seed, one by one. Yes, I am that crazy. I also had mockingbirds, grackles, mourning doves and parrots either eyeing me with curiosity, or sizing up the new food opportunities. [sigh] this. Must...wait out...AeroGarden seedlings...

This SIP setup brought to you by Sleater-Kinney, Edith Piaf and Ornette Coleman.

I'm going to scavenge the neighborhood for some 2l bottles for some herbs I picked up yesterday at the USQ market. Hoping to also get to sowing some more lettuce in the salad boxes. Also in the mental pipeline is a setup like this one and some bucket SIPs for a row of lavender (to prove to myself I am not always an unthrifty nerd).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Soda Bottle Bush Basil

Bush basil from Oak Grove. NY Paydirt from LES Ecology Center. SIP guidance from Inside Urban Green. Soda bottles scavenged.

"Turn-key" SIPs arriving tomorrow!

Friday, May 8, 2009


  Herb box - chives, parsley (waking up!), cilantro

Lettuce box - Simpson, Prizehead and Ultimate Salad Bowl. You can see the seed distribution technique tightened up right to left - either that, or USB is a great seed for beginners!

I have a third box which I may sow with Deer Tongue lettuce seed this weekend.

If I manage to keep up the posting, I promise to learn more about formatting...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blueberry Blossoms

Yeah, drench & drain. I know better now.

Seeds - Update

In the AeroGarden pic you're looking at basil in the left row, lacinato kale in the middle background, cukes in the right background. I don't know what the general consensus is on using an AeroGarden starter tray, but I had it, so figured why not try it? I'll probably transplant these into CowPots or pop bottle planters when they're bigger, then into EarthBoxes.

Rain might be clearing out tomorrow AM, so I'll take a pic of the salad boxes. The lettuce that was sown April 26th is doing well (HVSL Ultimate Salad Bowl, Prizehead and Black-Seeded Simpson), and the chives and cilantro are also coming up now. No parsley activity.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


This past Sunday I pulled up the herbs in the AeroGarden and started some seed from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Happy to report that most have germinated, but there is a worrisome little fuzz forming on the Bridge to Paris pepper seeds. It's probably late to be starting peppers from seed, but I might try again in the name of experimentation and education in the hope of a well-planned start to the 2010 season. It is my first year attempt at gardening.

Monday, May 4, 2009


It has been pretty wet here for the past couple of days but I felt like snapping some pictures of our "kids." First up is our crabapple - it is by far the tallest of our additions this year and it's really exciting to think that it is taking well to its home.

Much of the inspiration for our garden came from the book The City Gardener's Handbook, and our selections came primarily from the list of wind-tolerant trees and shrubs. I was warned that crabapples might not take kindly to hot roots, so it remains to be seen how it will react once the warm sun starts baking our roof in the mornings; our roof is shady in the afternoons, so hopefully things will remain cool enough.

You will see that most of our plantings were done before attending the Brooklyn Food Conference, where some repurposed soda bottle planters caught my eye and led me to jot down Inside Urban Green in my notebook. After poring over the wealth of information about sub-irrigation, I am re-thinking my plantings going forward.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It Begins

Well, "it" actually began about two months ago. I hope to document the successes and failures of turning my unused roof space into a green space. Initially the plan for this year was to focus on the livable space aspect by putting in deck tiles and some trees/shrubs, but it's since expanded into a first-year experiment with food production. I was just going to start with some herbs and lettuce this year, but my enthusiasm got the better of me and I have some other things in the works now. You'll see.