Thursday, June 25, 2009

EB harvest

Lacinato kale, rainbow chard, watermelon radishes. The radishes weren't really ready but things were getting crowded in that box, with the radishes, black val beans and danvers carrots. Next year I'm seriously considering limiting the varieties to one per box.

This is a summer squash (2 x ronde de nice and 1 x vegetable marrow) and cucumber (HVSL double-yield) box, though you don't see a cucumber in the picture. I know cucumber tends to take over everything but mine did not know it would be sharing a box with summer squash. That marrow leaf in the foreground is bigger than my head, and my head (physically) is pretty big. Yes, there is some weird white stuff on the veins of the ronde de nice leaf in the back, but like a patio farmer I know I choose to look the other way for now.

Okay, so cherries were from Locust Grove Farm but making pie was a nice break from aphid management. Wonder if a sour cherry tree will produce on our roof...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Beginning Gardening Tip #1

From one first-year gardener to others - don't let the joy and Jonas-Brothers-tween-squeal-inducing presence of an eggplant flower or forming tomato distract you from the presence of aphids.

I've had to ditch two tarragon plants and four pansies due to aphid infestations. One minute things are hunky-dory, maybe some brown edges or other signs...then THEY'RE EVERYWHERE.

I returned from a two-day trip to find an eggplant flower and impressive progress of our first tomato and jalapeno fruits. Doubling back later to admire them again, I noticed some tiny holes on the eggplant leaves; sure enough, with closer inspection on the underside of the leaves, there were aphids. Being an urban gardener without a hose to spray them away, I gave the eggplant and tomato plants a treatment of neem tree seed oil-based insecticide. I've had good results with insecticidal soap in the past on bush basil that was aphid-infested.

Of course, that is a rain-dotted balcony door you see in the photo above, so hopefully the neem did its trick before being mostly washed away.

I'm a little concerned about my urban crop because I've been seeing bugs more often these days, and a little image Googling has identified them as flea, cucumber, squash and insert-vegetable-name-here beetles. Yes, where there are vegetables, there are bugs...I was hoping that the leaf-shredding winds of our balconies and rooftop would at least provide us the benefit of blowing away insects. Who knows? Perhaps we would have much bigger problems if we were ground-level in-ground gardeners; at least our plants are not sitting in puddles of water.

On a positive flying-thing-note, there has been noticeable increased bumblebee presence this year over last.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Surprise Guests

While clearing out salad box 1.0 for another sowing, I came across a number of surprise guests - I imagine they are red wigglers, as fifty-percent of the mix in the box is LES Ecology Center compost. I don't know whether there were eggs in the mix when I brought it home or if there were already mature worms hanging out in there. Needless to say I was a little less aggressive with the hand fork upon discovering my squirming friends.

I decided to pull this box because, as compared with the simpson & usb mix in box 2.0, its produce was bitter. It was sown in late April, was (maybe) allowed to dry out a bit too much a couple times in the early days, and was (probably) thinned a little late. I'm chalking up the bitterness to gardener error, but I wonder how much the growing media influences produce bitterness, and whether there are any amendments that can be made to improve the produce. The only tips I could find are to keep lettuce evenly moist and cool to keep it growing fast and sweet. Any suggestions?

Up next in box 1.1 - radichetta, lolla rossa, red sails and merveille des quatre saisons. Is that last one part of the Named Vegetables Trend? Bittman calls this the trend that means, "you no longer eat just, say, gremolata, but 'A Relish of Flat Leaf Parsley, Meyer Lemon Zest, and Bob's Iranian Garlic.'" If so, next month's chez Mapleton-BKLYN guests should be prepared for a "La Merveille des Quatre Saisons Early Summer Harvest Salad with Charcoal-Grilled Baby Ronde de Nice Squash, Evolutionary Organics Watermelon Radishes and Green Goddess Dressing featuring Hudson Valley Seed Library Forest Green Parsley & Chives." Maybe I'll cut the lettuce super early so I can add "Baby" to the name. Oh yes, and it's a pass on the anchovies in the dressing for my vegetarian friends, in case any of you were wondering.

Summer is on its way, and though this afternoon we had a brief showing of sun and respite from the humidity that has been plaguing us here in NYC, dark ominous clouds have rolled in right now. I was feeling a little moldy myself and it doesn't look like that will end any time soon.

Since my sowing and setup activities have dwindled, and you probably don't want posts like "wow, my squash leaves just grew 1.2mm in the past six hours," I'll be turning off the computer and spending the summer outdoors. I will post if I think it worth posting for the benefit of fellow freshmen gardeners or anyone thinking of diving headfirst into urban container gardening. I'll also be posting regularly on flickr as growth and harvest warrant (hint, I think one can use RSS to keep track of new posts if so inclined).

As always, I welcome feedback, suggestions, flames and token gifts...especially token gifts. Comment away and have a safe and productive summer.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thinning out is so hard to do...

Thinned out my golden beets (above), watermelon radishes, rainbow chard, ronde de nice squash & marrow squash plants. Radish and squash tops in the compost queue for the LES Ecology Center; beet and chard tops destined for tonight's salad.

flickr updated - pencil pod and royal burgundy beans are up and in general, everything is growing. I was astounded at the growth of the black valentine beans and radish plants while I was out of town for a couple days. It's been rainy and cloudy here, but everything seems to be managing just fine. Some plants have evidence of bug damage, so I may give everything a gentle dose of insecticidal soap. I gave my second sowing of lettuce a taste and it seems a touch bitter, so some internet research is in order. The first sowing is already coming again after its first mowdown.

If I can find a moment in this weekend, I'll finish the two bucket SIPs and construction of another EB support structure. We may have a revolving door of guests this coming month so it would be nice not to have the apartment look like a construction site.