Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Final Harvest

Our box of kale has produced really well despite a bit of neglect (what can I say, caring for a newborn trumps caring for a garden). The golden beets never really got going - seems these do better on the roof in early spring.

We're going to cut this down and pack up the garden for the year. Final thoughts in next post.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fall Greens

I may be behind the curve here, but popped some kale seedlings I started into an EB, and started some more kale and rainbow chard this past week. My more experienced rooftop gardener friend just put some seed in this week as well so maybe I'm not too late for a nice harvest before the dead of winter. I think the kale and chard may be the extent of my fall gardening...maybe some golden beets in the rest of the boxes if I feel motivated this weekend.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Powdery mildew has invaded the tondo scuro and costata romanesco squash plants on the roof and the dragon langerie beans are slowing down, so I'm starting to think of what to replace them with. We've had success with basil this year so I may get six plants in one of the boxes to extend the harvest into fall and start some cooler weather greens in the other.

Tomatoes are doing well - since putting some pickling lime in and ensuring the mix stays wet, it seems the new fruits have escaped BER. I've started a BER graveyard to remind me to stay vigilant. Bucolic Bushwick did point out some troubles of competition amongst tomato plants, which is interesting since I think that's why the robeson and money maker are so challenged (they went in after plants that were put in alongside my existing prince and zebra went the way of compost). When watering this morning I did notice some leaves on the zebra getting the "purple-spot wilties," so we'll see how much longer the good harvest lasts.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Harvests & Help Line

We've been having a reasonably successful harvest so far. We enjoyed handfuls of blueberries every day for some time and have since let the mockingbirds have their run of the runts. The etruria basil plans from Silver Heights Farm have not let us down, as they exploded in this heat wave we've been having; we cut them all the way back to barely two leaf sets and hope to have another huge harvest in a month or so. The dragon tongue beans are pushing out good handfuls every day - enough for a nice bean salad every day or two (though seemingly not as productive as the black valentines we grew last year).

Squash has been a mixed bag...the tondo scuro and costata romanesco are producing in fits and starts. Earlier in the season it seemed we had a pollination issue as fruit was withering mid-growth. Interestingly I think we had the squash started later last year and the fruiting coincided with the appearance of our band of bees. Since the bee activity picked up this year withering fruit has been less of a problem. I might stick to the later start as I am not one to be out there trying to hand pollinate squash...I just don't care enough to go to that length.

Tomatoes, where to begin....they are enormous, so I've taken to trimming the tops. I have had issues with blossom end rot (BER), so over the past couple of weeks I've had to lop off painful amounts of fruit. I'm in the process of procuring pickling lime, which has been identified as a quick-fix. Last year I had the same problem but read that often EBs take at least a year to "get balanced." (BER can be caused by a number of things, among them calcium deficiency)

I picked up the covers of the tomato EBs and noticed that the top was dry. Not sure if this is a function of the crazy heat we've been having, but I'm suspecting that the garbage Miracle-Gro Organic Choice mix I picked up this year is not wicking properly. I've had good luck with this selection in the past, but this year's bags seemed to be more "bark-y" than usual. This morning I'm going to try watering the boxes from the top down to ensure that the mix is thoroughly wet and therefore capable of absorbing the dolomite and fertilizer more efficiently.

BER took my one Paul Robeson, but I still have a decent amount of black prince, green zebra and money maker on the vines, which I am watching over obsessively for any hints of ripening. As for the size issue, next year I might go for a box of determinates instead of two boxes of indeterminates...since the missus and I have started canning some stuff.

Cheers to summer - and if there are any of you in NYC I'd love to hear your experiences with the season so far in the comments.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rooftop gardening essentials

1. Windblock. Bucolic Bushwick is using reed fencing but I haven't really spent time figuring out how to use something that tall for my space without it either blowing away or blocking sun for a portion of the day. In the meantime I have a janky setup based on a design used by one of the Green Roof Growers. If I recall the sides are 2 x 8s, the bases 2 x 4s and the corners 1 x 2s. Yes, that's plastic wrap...does a good job of protecting seedlings and allowing light to fall on them. When things get crowded, it comes off...usually the plant is established enough to endure summer winds by then with a little extra protection. Last year I ended up putting landscape fabric up after the EBs came out of the trenches; this year I will go with reed fencing only if I can find a short height. I have no comment on ecological soundness of plastic wrap and lumber from a big box store at this time.

2. Earth Staples. Last year I wrapped twine around the EBs to prevent the mulch cover from whipping apart seedlings. This year I bought some of these and they work out perfectly when pushed through the cover.

Frost-free Update

I noticed that the street-level in-ground gardener up the block put in all of his tender plants this past week (I see basil, peppers and tomatoes). Given that he has likely been gardening in this area for over 25 years, he's probably developed a good feel for the season.

For the most part everything is growing well now that we're into mid-May. We've been taking regular harvests from the lettuce and puntarella. The bush beans & squash reminded me that they are super-quick to germinate by pushing through the EB covers in less than a week. Hands down, save for radishes perhaps, they are the best feel-good crop for newbie container gardeners.

This weekend's chores: pulling all victims of the storms and wind of the past couple of weeks (some tomatoes, all basil, most peppers), thinning out squash and beans, sowing herbs (lemon balm, anise hyssop, florence fennel), sunflowers (dwarf firecrackers) and more bush beans.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Harvest & Hope

First harvest of the year was a small batch of french breakfast radishes that we tossed in our dinner salad. Radishes are an excellent "placeholder" as they take roughly a month from seed to harvest.

Busied myself this morning by direct sowing squash and bush beans, and transplanting strawberries, tomatoes, basil, peppers into the EBs. Had followed the Seed-Starters Handbook timing guidelines for the seed-starts and found them way too early for someone in an apartment with limited space and no dedicated grow setup to ensure sufficient light for them (though my guessing on a 4/15 frost-free date in NYC was also a factor). I started them all in six-pack cells and then moved the tomatoes and peppers to bottle SIPs. Tomatoes & peppers are "leggy," while the strawberries and basil seem hardy but stopped growing about a month ago; I put them all in anyway and we'll see what happens.

A Stokes Farm rosemary plant found its way into our Ikea planter.

Other things going on - chives are sending up blossoms, cilantro is up, lettuce is up, mache is up, blueberries are forming, lavender is sending up flower stalks, chinese fringe tree getting ready to flower, zinnias, marigolds, calendula are up, and the Silver Heights Farm lettuce & puntarella seem happy in their EB spaces.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


When forsythia bloom in NYC it's a sure sign that spring has arrived...or at least spring weather has arrived. Just returned from a short vacation and glad to see our forsythia has held onto its flowers while we were away. The pussywillow has shed its catkins (picture below is a couple weeks old) and is now "leafing" out. The abundant buds on our blueberry bushes turned out not to be leaf buds, but all flower buds, so we're excited about the prospect of a fruit harvest this year; now it's a watching and waiting to beat the grackles to the ripe fruit.

My wonderful mother kept my pepper, strawberry, basil and tomato seedlings alive while we were away, but they are long overdue for a transplant to bottle SIPs. Pictures to come.

If I ever get caught up with work after vacation, I'll put lettuce, parsley, cilantro, calendula and more chives in containers...soon squash and bush beans will go in as well. Already in EarthBoxes are french breakfast radishes (up) and sugar snaps/snow peas (went in a number of weeks ago, a possible fail).

Finally, I'm gambling on April 15 being the last expected frost date for NYC, so a whole host of other seeds will go in around then. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 18, 2010


New year brings new posts - as my faithful reader could easily tell due to the lack of posting, I experienced a sudden lack of motivation for the garden and the blog. Considering the amount of effort put forth towards getting it started earlier in the year, I can't say that it was a surprise.

So we rode out the year with a few fall crops (pictured right, a broccoli head that bolted before we managed to harvest it...hence it served as a kitchen ornamental instead). In the past week I've been going through the envelopes & envelopes of seed; saying that I overbought would be quite the understatement. I'm putting together a list of contenders for our limited space, and in the course of my research, I learned in The New Seed Starter's Handbook that strawberries should be started now if they are to bear fruit in the first year. So where did I stash that seedstarting mix?!