Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Newest Tool...

Remember over the winter when I was so excited to show my soil blocker? Well I liked it so much that this summer I ordered a mini blocker! Shown below. Apparently, it isn't good to start seeds in too big of a container. The repotting process, if done gently enough, is actually good for them. So next year I will start all small seeds in a micro block (larger seeds like beans will still start in the regular blocker) and then I bought a contraption that allows small blocks to fit inside of the regular block. It's actually just a pin that makes a hole large enough for the micro block. Genius!

I had no idea the micro blocker would be so tiny. It makes sense, though. If some seeds don't start, as they sometimes don't, it's less wasted soil and space.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November Vegetables

I haven't done my 2012 garden recap yet, but it's coming.

Last night I roasted sweet potatoes and kohlrabi.* If you're unfamiliar with kohlrabi, see the picture below. It seems to be one of those vegetables that CSA members are very familiar with, but that you'd never find at a supermarket (not one of our supermarkets anyway). The recipe was very easy: peel and dice kohlrabi ad sweet potatoes, toss with a little olive oil or butter, season with thyme or rosemary, salt and pepper, and bake at 425 degrees for...the recipe said 25 minutes, but I find that kohlrabi needs longer than that. I baked for more like 50 minutes. It's delicious. And healthy!

*Kholrabi is a strange looking root vegetable that is in the cabbage family. I find it tastes a little like cauliflower, but Morgan doesn't agree. It needs to be peeled because the outer portion is very fibrous and tough (even when cooked). It's a hassle peeling this odd shaped vegetable, but feed the peels to your compost pile and you get a delicious roasted vegetable and everyone's happy.

I love kholrabi and mixed with sweet potatoes, and roasted it was a perfect fall dish!

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Not Hoarding if You Have a Use For it...

I have this dream of building a cold frame to use to extend the growing season. I've had my eye out for old windows and even living next door to a window installation business I hadn't found the right ones until now. Some were broken or too big or too small or too heavy or there was only one (which is useful, but I wanted to try to match them). Then I came upon these lovelies one day! I carried them home and I think they're going to be great. There were 4 of them which is a good number because I can build one cold frame with 4 windows and vent two of them.

Some items I still need are: untreated wood for the actual frame, handles for the windows, and a temperature activated vent. That will be the best part. It will allow the cold frame to open when it's warm by day and close at night when temperatures cool. I could do this manually, but being that I work full time, I wouldn't be around to open and close the frame during the day.

Here are the windows...

I saw some more windows, but Morgan said I was bordering on hoarding. It's not hoarding though if I have a use for them. Right?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

End of the Gardening Season...2012

At least for me.  The community garden closes November 1st and everything has to be cleared out by October 27th.  So today I took some time to clean out the mess that the garden has become.

It went from this:

To this:

And where was Morgan, you might ask? On his way to the city to watch football.  He was kind enough to send me this picture from the train:

Of me bent over in the garden. Can you spot me?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Football Season and the garden!

For the 2nd year in a row, I was able to incorporate the start of the football season with the end of the gardening season. Last year, we had over a dozen hot peppers (mild habenaros, to be exact) so for the Giants' season opener we made poppers! I did a small test run and then borrowed my parents deep fryer for the game. They were a big hit!

This year, I didn't have hot peppers appropriate for poppers because I didn't plant any, but I did have a bunch of almost rotten tomatoes and the end of season small green peppers and banana peppers. So...we made chili! And it turned out really well! It's a simple recipe: onion, garlic, all the peppers we had, all the tomatoes we had left, ground turkey, and cayenne pepper and chili powder for seasoning. of the peppers was a Serrano pepper that my neighbor gave us. It was perfectly spicey. Also we added kidneys beans and black beans. I'm a protein hog so I like to get it in as many forms as possible. We added a can of tomato paste too to thicken it up.

Serve with sour cream and cheddar.

Footnote: I'm a big fan of cast iron. I specifically use Le Creuset. And when I was stocking my cabinets with these products it was important to me to only buy what was very essential and very useful because these pots are heavy and expensive. Also, it's just my style to have as few items as possible with the most uses as possible so I end up researching a lot of gadgets/appliances before buying them. The price of these pieces and most kitchen items drives this too, but I just really like having less clutter so everything has to be very efficient. After extensive research, I ended up buying one round dutch oven, one braiser, and one roaster. I don't know the sizes off the top of my head, but i specifically bought the sizes that i felt would be appropriate for me-that is to say not too big, but not too small...for me. To each his own. We also have a skillet that we got as a wedding preset, which is handy to make paninis, but not in the everyday rotation just yet. We use our dutch oven and our braiser the most. The point of this footnote is that, admittedly, we should've used the Dutch oven here and not the braiser, but it worked. They're both my favorite pieces.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October in the Garden

Things are winding down in the garden, at least for me. Plenty of people grow fall vegetables that can withstand frost, but since the community garden closes in November, I haven't taken my gardening into the fall. We're still harvesting peppers (small peppers), some tomatoes, and the last of the eggplant. While I'm doing this, I'm also reading Eliot Coleman's The Four Season Harvest. It's an interesting read about harvesting throughout the winter. It's interesting because you plant in the late summer/early fall, but plants are harvestable throughout the winter with minimal intervention. It's basically about protecting small plants from wind, frost, and other harsh winter conditions. Not much grows, but you can still harvest. I'm about halfway through, and interested to put some of his advice into practice next summer/fall.

Also, the end of the season means trying to use up or preserve the remaining vegetables. I've frozen a lot more this year than last year and canned a bunch too. Both new hobbies for me.

We've also been cooking a lot. Here's Morgan using a lot of our CSA apples for an apple pie. This is him putting the crumble topping on before it goes in the oven. It was delicious!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan and Spaghetti Squash

Incredibly, this eggplant went from garden to table in under two hours! The spaghetti squash is from our CSA share and we loved it! It was cooked in a butter garlic parmesan sauce a la Morgan. The eggplant was baked and then layered with marinara sauce and mozzarella and then baked some more.

As usual, I forgot to take a picture until halfway through dinner. Oops! It still looks pretty good though, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Joys of Community Gardening!

It's true that I long to have my own backyard garden someday. And it's true that I get tired of walking 2 miles (round trip) just to see if anythings ripe or the garden needs watering. And carrying all my supplies with me. I could drive, but that seems to defeat the purpose and objective of this other-wise earth-friendly hobby. It also bothers me that I have to wait for the garden to open on a certain date and I have to deal with my neighbor's unweeded and overgrown plots. These things I won't miss. But there are many many benefits to the community garden, which I may have mentioned before, but are worth mentioning again.

Talking with other gardeners is extremely valuable. And it's reassuring to hear that, for example, everyone had trouble with eggplant this year or that everyone's tomatoes got wiped out by insects. I also enjoy when someone walks by the garden and starts asking questions. I've started offering these folks a sample of a handful of grape tomatoes or a sprig of rosemary and then explain to them how to acquire a plot for themselves (also some current gardeners are so cliquey that it'd be nice to have some fresh meat to break up the cliquey old-timers). I also enjoy sharing my surplus with people that appreciate it. Even better, I am benefitted when other gardeners have surplus. Last night I left the garden with 5 HOT peppers (I think they're serrano peppers) from a neighbor. In return, I offered her her pick of anything she wanted from my garden. Also, and this is just a suspicion, I don't have any problems with squirrels or birds eating my crops. I'm guessing it's because with so much to feast on, no single garden is decimated. I also suspect we have the best fed squirrels in all of Nassau County and they're actually quite full, but I never notice my veggies getting eaten. One other benefit: lots and lots of flowers and plants, so there's no shortage of bees and beneficial insects to help the plants.

I'll definitely miss the community garden and the community gardeners!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tomato Tart

What to do with so many tomatoes? Make a tart! This one looks a little burned...that's because it was my first time using our new oven. I tried the broil feature as per the instruction to get the chèvre browned. As you can see, it didn't brown the chèvre, but it sure burnt the crust. It still tasted great. And it was an easy recipe, even making the crust from scratch. My only complaint was that it only used 3 tomatoes.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's been a few weeks...

I've been away, but before leaving I canned several pints of Roma tomatoes. I was afraid of botulism and didn't even know what I would do with canned whole tomatoes, but once we returned I made use of all of them as the sauce for various homemade pizzas. Because of the natural acidity of tomatoes (and I added lemon juice according to a recipe), they could be canned in a water bath rather than a pressure cooker. And no one died from eating them! But I now own a pressure canner and hope to put it to good use (one night when Morgan's home to help).

While I was away I asked a family friend to help herself to anything in the garden. I wasn't sure who was doing who the favor, honestly. I was thankful she stopped by, watered, and helped herself so nothing rotted and she enjoyed the abundance of cherry tomatoes and whatever else she found. A perfect arrangement if you know someone who likes fresh veggies (who doesn't like fresh veggies?). She even made great use of our resident rosemary plant - she dried a bunch in her dehydrator and gave me a container filled with fresh dried rosemary! What a great gift idea!

When I returned I picked several banana peppers and pickled some in jars. It didn't need to be water bathed or pressure canned because it's in a vinegar solution (apparently). Then I had an abundance of green beans (2 weeks in a row) from my CSA so I made canned dilly beans! Yay! The dilly beans I processed in a water bath for 5 minutes according to the recipe. It's also in a vinegar solution, so hopefully won't have any botulism risks. It's important to use legitimate recipes and not get creative. This is science, not art!

Below is a picture of the dilly beans in the canner and also a picture of the banana peppers. It's a beautiful thing this canning!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Red Peppers!

I've got a red pepper! I couldn't help myself, I picked it! And it's gorgeous! Last year, I didn't have the patience. I picked all the peppers when they were green.

I also have a few ripe banana peppers for canning!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Another Good Harvest!

And this doesn't include the 2 zucchinis and tomato that I gave my parents.

Also, it's time to start thinking about the fall garden! I ordered a micro-blocker to start lettuce, Bok Choy (again), and maybe carrots! Since we'll be out of town until August 12th, I have arranged for a neighbor to water the garden, if needed, while we're away, and I will start the fall crops when we return.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Rainy Summer Day?

No problem! From my novice gardener perspective, I'd say this has already been a great gardening season. Lots of warm temperatures, plenty of sunshine, and just enough rain! I've hardly had to water the garden with a hose at all. I can remember 2 times and maybe Morgan got out there 2 times as well. This is great. And everything is producing in abundance.

Next up....preserving the harvest via canning?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pasta with Roasted Garlic and Grape Tomatoes

I forgot to take this picture before we ate most of last night's dinner. Morgan picked more grape tomatoes (is anyone else getting scared that these grape tomatoes might take over the world?), he also came home with fresh basil (and a yellow squash thingie that we're not even growing*) and whipped up a roasted garlic-tomato-basil "sauce" and served it with quinoa pasta (not as bad as I thought it'd be-the quinoa pasta. I didn't think the sauce would be bad) and Parmesan. The whole thing was so delicious! And went from garden to table in under an hour!

Here's the after picture!

*Morgan didn't steal the yellow squash thingie. Another gardener gave it to him. Love the community garden! Luckily, Morgan did not accept his extra zucchini!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

For comparison...

The garden as of July 13, 2012.

Who sees those banana peppers in the front? :)

Garden Update!

I need a scale. Someday I'll need a produce scale so that I can better track how much I'm harvesting. Until then....we just sort of eyeball things. For example, this looks like a good harvest. See picture.

And another picture showing what I did with it - kabobs (combined with the zucchini harvest from a few nights earlier).

And then we went down to the park by the water (our new favorite spot) and grilled it along with some burgers and s'mores! Sorry the pictures are out of order.

It's a toss up between Morgan, Healy, and me who liked it the most!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Garden Giveth!

Last night I picked 3 more zucchini, about 6 semi-ripe Roma tomatoes, and maybe 2 dozen grape tomatoes. I picked some under ripe Romas so that it's less stress on my already stressed out plants (because I haven't been great at pruning them) and because they can ripen off the vine. We also have lots of string beans - last weekend I made some into a quiche with whatever greens (beet greens to be exact) and broccoli I had left over from last week's CSA share.

It's safe to say, Morgan and I have enough vegetables to sustain ourselves for a while.

In addition to what we're growing, we also pick up our CSA every Tuesday. Yesterday, I picked up 2 heads of lettuce (yum! You'd be surprised how much we love lettuce), more beets (uh oh, I still haven't consumed last week's beets...and I say "I" and not "we" because Morgan won't go near it), Kale, Swiss chard, scallions, carrots, zucchini (lord, help me to consume these thy gifts!), parsley, and something else green...

I still feel like this is just the beginning of the tomatoes. I see plenty of green tomatoes on the vines and even more flowers turning into fruit. Suffice to say, no matter how much we love grape tomatoes, 5 plants is too much for us!

Is it too soon to buy my canning equipment?

Saturday, June 30, 2012

And then we weeded...

This was before weeding. I only intended to stop by the garden to harvest some zucchini and maybe a few tomatoes. To my surprise, we got an armful of zucchini and only 2 ripe grape tomatoes.

Since it was difficult to even get to the garden, we did an impromptu weeding session. We each ran down a walkway and pulled out whatever we could.

This is before...

Les Courgettes!

We have zucchini! I mean we really have zucchini! When I visited the garden about 10 days ago (last Wednesday), we had one very small zucchini. After the weekend (Monday), there was a serious thunderstorm that kept me from going to the garden. Then I was out of town again for 3 nights. On Friday we finally went to see how everything was doing...


We have 6! 3 were enormous and 3 were about the size they should be to be picked. I had heard that really large zucchini wouldn't taste good, but surprisingly the one we ate was delicious. We sliced it, baked it, and topped it with marinara sauce.

I love zucchini. My only problem now is that my CSA (community supported agriculture) also gave us zucchini this past week. We're going to have to find a lot of interesting zucchini recipes!

I'm not even sure these pictures fully convey the size of our zucchini!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Webcam Wishes...

We were out of town this past weekend, starting on Friday and got home late on Sunday. And we were exhausted when we got home. Monday night it was pouring, so I didn't visit the garden. Today, I'm leaving for Baltimore and won't be back until late Thursday. I won't see the garden until Friday! As far as watering, it will be fine with the storms we've had and are expecting this week, but I won't see my garden for a whole week! Yikes! A lot can change in a garden in a week...more like 10 days.

I can't wait to check it out Friday afternoon! I expect at least one ripe zucchini and maybe, just maybe a few ripe tomatoes or peppers! Am I being overly optimistic? Naive?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Here's what I see...

As of today, my eggplant are flowering (some of them) and my tomatoes and peppers are flowering and a few fruit are growing, but they're far from ripe. There are going to be a lot of tomatoes. I can already see several bunches of grape tomatoes and a few roma forming. Oh and we finally have a very small squash forming! I hear these things grow quickly.

Check it out!

Also, another great thing about the garden? Last night Morgan and I went to water the garden. We both made a comment that we smelled mint. As we were leaving, I found a patch of mint growing wild near the bench! I ripped some out and brought it home. Now we have mint!

Friday, June 15, 2012


My new garden ornament and 3 inches of rain this week! Morgan treated me to this adorable garden sculpture at Old Westbury Gardens on our anniversary. In general, I'm against ornamentals for the garden, but this item is ornamental and functional. Ooh!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I'm a little surprised that my peppers are the first to show their faces this year. Last year, the peppers were so late that I thought the plants were duds...that was until August when they fully bloomed.

These two are Godfather and Bananarama sweet peppers.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

All in a Day's Work.

Last night, after work, I spent an hour and a half weeding. The process starts with me getting home from work, changing my clothes, packing up my gardening bag, including a water bowl for Healy and a kneeling mat for me for weeding, and walking a little over a mile to the plot. I tie Healy to the bench so she's nearby, give her a bone, and get down in the dirt. After 30 minutes I may have even put in a frantic call to Morgan that went a little like this: "Hi, it's me. If you get home from work, please meet me at the garden to help weed. Im going to be here all night! Please!! Bring beer!"

He didn't actually make it home in time, but I did a hell of a job weeding. Healy even helped by eating some weeds in the walkway. I also watched her dig a hole and literally bury her bone (ok, a dog cookie shaped like a bone). Probably the cutest thing I've ever seen her do. She was filthy afterwards.

Weeding is so helpful not only because you remove plants that might otherwise compete with your vegetable plants, but because it gives you a look at the garden that you maybe otherwise wouldn't get. A really close look! The zucchini is starting to flower! I believe they're male flowers because they didn't have fruit at their base-not yet anyway. Peppers are still fruiting and producing more flowers. The grape tomatoes are flowering and I even saw a tomato forming! I hope everyone likes grape tomatoes. I hope I like picking them....looks like I might be busy picking, cooking, and preserving tomatoes this year.

The eggplant needed the most weeding. Probably because I was responsible for that section last time and did a pretty bad job. Morgan's half was in much better shape. This time I left no weed unturned. I also noticed the eggplant were still being eaten. By the time I got to the last plant I literally saw what was eating them. I can't name it, but they were tiny black beetle-like bugs. I took my "pesticide" (ie, soapy water) and doused those buggers. I ended up doing this three times because I kept finding more. All these weeds and these buggers need to eat eggplant leaves? I also hand removed several of them (the most humane and earth-friendly method). I never thought I'd hand remove insects. I've heard about it, read about it, and always dismissed it, but there I was, picking off tiny beetles in order to save my plants. I probably need to make more frequent inspections. Sigh.

I also picked a head of lettuce that we ate with dinner. Such a treat! Once I pick the rest of the lettuce (4 more heads) I'll have room for beans.

Here's last night's dinner! Bell & Evans chicken breasts, made with rosemary from our garden, swiss chard, grown locally through our CSA (community supported agriculture) share and picked two days earlier, flavored with organic garlic, and I made organic baked sweet potato fries, and a salad picked an hour earlier from our own Bibb lettuce crop.

Not bad looking, right?

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Garden Plan

Here's the diagram of my garden!

You'll notice some space around the green bean teepee (the circle named "green beans"). Right now I have 3 heads of lettuce on each side. These will be done in a few weeks when it gets too hot for lettuce to grow. Lettuce (some types) bolt (flower and go to seed) in the heat. I've already started some bush beans indoors and will fit those in around the teepee so no space is wasted. And then we'll have more beans!

T=tomato with specific heirloom name written next to it
G=grape tomato
R=roma tomato
BP=banana pepper
P=pepper with heirloom name written next to it

I grew everything myself from seed except the heirlooms. Oh, also, as an aside, I've never felt like more of a nerd than when I drew this diagram. But I also never felt more like a gardener either.

*It's not to scale, obviously.

Things are looking good...

My pepper plants are flowering and starting to produce tiny fruit. Like the size of a peanut. But it's a good start, especially for June!

2 or 3 zucchini plants look great! One, not so much. I might pull it to make room for more bush beans.

And the eggplants seem to be rebounding from the infestation or whatever was eating them.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Lovely Morning!

Healy (our dog, aka "the fuzz") and I walked to the garden. I staked the tomatoes, planted a basil plant, weeded a little, and picked some lettuce (see previous post). It was cloudy and I got a little wet from a passing shower, but what a great morning. Just me, my dog, and my garden! I'm starting to see why people say gardening is relaxing.

As for the tomatoes, I think the staking was too late for the grape tomatoes. They're what you might call "spindly" as in curvy and twisty-not standing upright. Hopefully they'll be ok because they'll bear small fruit so they wont topple the plant over. I'm not really sure...

Here's the garden as of today!

Salad Anyone?

Fresh salad! Picked today, eaten today! And it's delicious!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ending May on a Green Note

As May comes to a close, I'd like to give some updates:

1. This past weekend we weeded (and weeded) and mulched some more. The weeds are prolific, to say the least. The upside is that once the vegetable plants get bigger they should block sun from getting to the weeds and they should get under control. Then again, the mulch was supposed to do that too.

2. What's eating at you? No, really. Something's eating at my eggplant plants. I didn't see any visible pests so I sprayed my organic "pesticide" (basically soapy water) from last year on all of the plants, not just the ravaged eggplants, just in case. Something was eating the eggplant leaves early last year too, but it subsided - whether it was the result of the organic "pesticide" or something else, I'll never know. I'd hate to lose all 6 plants.

3. The tomatoes are dying to be staked! Some are just fine. Others are getting tall (perhaps the grape tomatoes?). I plan on staking this next week (or weekend). I'm going to try something another blogger described as "The Florida Weave." Details to follow! I also pruned them - which is to pluck off some smaller branches so the plant can focus on the larger ones and the flowering and fruit production. I may have said this before, but it might be worth repeating - 15 tomato plants is a lot of tomato plants!! Gulp.

4. Zucchini looks good. At least 3/4 looked good. One is a little smaller. Maybe it's struggling or maybe I planted it later. Who can remember these kinds of things?

5. Heirloom Sweet Peppers are starting to flower! This seems early to me, but I guess it takes a while to produce fruit and then ripen each fruit. The banana peppers are...still small. But hopefully this week's warm temperatures will give them a little oomph. Also, I have set up a small experiment. I transplanted one zucchini because it was too close to another zucchini. I moved it too close to a banana pepper plant. My thinking was twofold-1) I love zucchini! Be damned banana peppers! And 2) I have 4 other banana pepper plants. But basically I figured, "Let me put these two little plants next to each other and see which one wins out!"

6. Green beans are...growing. Maybe I should plant more? I think I have about 8 plants. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? It sure doesn't look like much in the garden.

7. I should probably fertilize again soon. Maybe in a few weeks. I don't want to overdo it on them. Clearly (from the weed and plant growth), it's properly fertilized right now.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rain, Rain...It's Good for the Garden!

It's been raining all week here. It stopped for a few hours here and there, but for the most part we're getting a lot of rain this week and this month in general. I stopped by the garden once this week just to check in and, sure enough....there were more weeds! They were growing through the mulch! And birds were having a field day in the straw and hay. I'll admit that it looked sweet at first. But birds can't be good for the garden. For starters, they eat worms and worms are good for the garden. Worms loosen the soil when they move and they (ahem) "excrete nutrients" into the soil.

So this weekend, if the rain ever let's up, we'll be mulching more. Apparently what's good for the tomatoes/peppers/eggplant/etc is also good for the weeds. I may have said this before, but I think tilling the soil must've stirred up a lot of weed seeds. Apparently, even a little bit of light will allow them to germinate.

Next year, I will use black plastic after tilling to prevent (I'd hate to say "kill") any weeds that might be trying to germinate.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


What is mulch? Or maybe that's easier to answer after answering why mulch? Mulch is used as a ground cover to suppress weeds, provide nutrients to the soil, prevent erosion, and help retain moisture in the soil.  So to answer "what is mulch?" - mulch can be anything! Some materials that can be used to mulch are grass clippings, leaves, hay, straw, landscaping fabric, shredded newspaper, manure, or sawdust. I prefer to use organic materials. Last year, I bought a bag of compressed straw and hay, in which I barely made a dent. So this was my natural choice for this year.  On Friday I think I said I would try to wait a week so Morgan could help me mulch....

Well....I couldn't help myself!! I went to the garden yesterday to give it a drink of water (it hadn't rained in 2 days and it's not expected to rain for another 2 days). When I arrived I was horrified to see so many weeds. It looked like I was growing grass with some tomato plants growing in between.  In fact, the weeds were growing better than actual seeds I had planted, like the Bok Choy. So I picked a lot of weeds by hand, bid farewell to the Bok Choy, and mulched away.

I had an interesting thing happen too.  I was busy in my garden hand-pulling each weed when another gardener came up behind me. The same gardener that watched me break my back tilling the garden by hand before offering me the use of his roto-tiller. I was not in the mood for "helpful" suggestions. These gardeners are such know-it-alls.  Last year, I reluctantly fished for suggestions, but this year I recognize that gardening is a lot of trial and error.  No one gardener has a fail proof plan.  Anyway, I was expecting some sort of suggestion.  I knew that just digging up weeds and turning them back into the soil wasn't the best idea (you should ideally remove the weed or it will grow again).  To my surprise, he told me it looked good! Even with all the weeds? He might have been being sarcastic. Then as he saw me start to mulch he asked where I got it! He liked it. Or he was being super unnecessarily obnoxious, but I think he liked it! 

All the plants looked good too - except the Bok Choy - we're not growing Bok Choy anymore.  The zucchini plants were significantly larger, the tomato plants looked good, and the pepper plants looked....not any worse!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bad News Bok Choy

I planted Bok Choy a few weeks ago-that's not the bad news. I sort of remember where I planted it-that's not the bad news either. It looks no different than any other part of the garden-THAT'S the bad news!! And it has tiny weeds coming up-MORE bad news!! I think this year's garden is going to be over run by weeds-bad news AGAIN!!

I might have to move mulching up to this weekend. Oh, but then Morgan would miss out on all the mulching fun because he's out of town this weekend. I should wait for him!

Tomorrow I'll visit the garden to water it and hand pull a few weeds. I'm also going to (try to) figure out what's going on with my Bok Choy.

PS-On 5/16 I started heat tolerant lettuce (2 varieties) in the pot I mentioned on Monday. So far....nothing. But as always I have high hopes for it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2012 Garden Philosophy

When I set out to create this year's garden I had a few goals.

In no particular order:

1. Organic - natural fertilizers/insect control, no pesticides. I could do better with this one by making my own compost and using cover crops. I do use natural means of pest control (removal, soapy water, etc), but I didn't use natural fertilizers (after the compost fail of 2012). I did use organic fertilizer, but cover crops and crop rotation would be ideal. As for cover crops and composting, this is a little difficult because I live in an apartment complex and use a community garden (I didn't know which plot would be mine). Same problem with crop rotation. Not impossible though. In the future, I will be better about this. For now, I bought organic soil builders and organic fertilizers and worked them both into the soil.

2. Sustainable - typically this means "requiring no outside input." For me, this meant cutting down my reliance on outside influences, such as fertilizers, pots, grow lights, electricity. I tried to do all of this by using the soil blocker to start seeds (no waste) and using my car as a greenhouse (no electricity). Both worked perfectly! For next year (ahem Morgan; ahem Christmas), I want the micro blocker so smaller seedlings take up less room! I used some electricity for the heating mat and the grow light, but I kept it to the shortest possible amount of time, which was the first 2 weeks when the sun wasn't being very reliable. When it was sunny, everything went in the carden. I also just reserved a rain barrel from the town to collect rain water to use in the garden. This will hopefully help in future gardens.

3. Abundant - my goal was simply to grow too much! I think next year I'll try to grow a greater variety too. I certainly planted a lot of plants this year, but I'm not sure how much is too much yet. Time will tell. Also, for someone who doesn't love tomatoes that much, I may be growing too many. Again, time will tell.

4. Entirely from seed - this is really so that I can make sure my garden is entirely organic and sustainable, but also because it is a lot more rewarding, albeit also a lot more challenging. Only time will tell if I've done a good job, which makes me a little nervous. Starting your own seeds is also a lot more affordable. Individual plants aren't too expensive, but it adds up. The most expensive part of this year for me was buying soil builder (about $60 total...maybe), but if I did a better job of using natural fertilizers and I grew my own seedlings, the operation would cost almost nothing year after year.

5. Keep it neat and simple - I tried to keep the seed starting/growing/planting process neat and simple. Basically, I didn't want the whole system to break down because it was too complex or time-consuming. Also, for me simplicity equals sustainability meaning that I'd be more likely to continue gardening rather than throw my hands up out of frustration. So far so good! I also kept the garden to one flat of plants and to one table, as promised to Morgan instead of taking up the entire kitchen counter. That was a bad idea last year. I admit it! I didn't like it either!

This is my 2012 gardening philosophy. For next year? I hope to grow more greens (lettuces, chard, kale, bok choy, spinach) and more variety of plants. Also, I hope to use/have my own backyard so that I can start cool weather plants early and so that by mid-May we could start eating!

Monday, May 14, 2012

When a Pot is More than Just a Pot!

To pretty much every person imaginable, a pot is just a pot. To me, this pot is possibilities! Having maxed out my 100 square feet of gardening space, I'd still like to be able to grow some leafy greens or carrots. I can put it at the edge of my plot and grow something more suitable to a container. At first I was thinking of growing carrots, but I'm not sure this pot is big enough. I think I'll try Swiss Chard since we both like eating it, it doesn't require deep roots and it is more tolerant to heat than a lot of lettuces (or so I've read). Although I am tempted to grow some Bibb lettuce, I think it might be a lite too late. I suspect warm summer temperatures are right around the corner (or so i hope), but I would like to try growing something new, especially greens because I haven't had much luck in the past. In fact, I've had almost no luck. One head of lettuce worked in 2012 and this year, none! I'm not sure if that was because I started them with the heat-loving seeds on the warm seed-starting mat or what, but none looked strong-maybe lettuce just comes up more delicately than tomatoes and eggplant-I'm not sure. That'll be an experiment for next winter/early spring.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Grass Really is Always Greener

Yup...I'm on the shady side of the garden again this year. I'm not as worried though. I know that we'll get enough sun. It would have been nice to take advantage of the milder morning sun, but the advantage is that a little bit of shade should help the plot maintain its moisture, as in it won't dry out as fast.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

When do we eat?

This is the next logical question! And the answer is, I really don't know.  For starters, some seed packets give a "days to maturity," while other seed packets give you "days to maturity from setting out transplant." This wouldn't be a problem except that the tomato seed packets say 60 days, but I imagine it means 60 days from setting out because tomatoes normally take longer than 60 days to mature.  Also, I suspect that putting out my transplants earlier will affect the maturity of the plants - too much cold will probably stunt the plants - plus putting out the plants without 6-8 weeks indoors will probably have an effect too.

Here are my best estimates:

Eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers - planted on 3/17/12 - these vegetables take the longest amount of time (up to 18 weeks from seed; and 60-80 days from transplanting).  I expect to be eating tomatoes and eggplant as early as June 30, 2012, but more realistically around the middle of July to early August.  The good thing is that once they start producing, they can produce until the days get shorter and the weather cools.  The banana peppers got started a week later, and were still quite small when I transplanted them - like really small.  This has me a little worried, especially because peppers are typically heat-loving plants and it has not been very warm at all. I expect to be eating banana peppers much later, if at all.  Target maturity date: 7/14/12 

Zucchini and green beans - planted 4/22/12 - these vegetables are quicker to mature (8-10 weeks in the right conditions).  I expect to be eating zucchini and green beans by mid- to end of June, assuming they are not stunted by the cold weather this month.  Target maturity date: 6/16/12

Bok Choy - planted 5/6/12 - takes up to 7 weeks to mature, but can be eaten beforehand as baby bok choy.  I expect to be eating bok choy by the middle to end of June.  Bok choy is a cold-loving plant, so I'm less concerned with the current colder temperatures and more concerned with the warmer June temperatures.  Target maturity date: 6/23/12

Eventually, and with more access to outdoor space, I will get the timing down better! In a perfect world, I would start cold-loving leafy greens (including bok choy) much earlier and outside.  This year I promised Morgan that I would contain my growing to one grow light and one tray of seedlings, so I could only start the plants that were absolutely necessary to start early.  Typically, these include tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.  Leafy greens are usually directly seeded in the colder weather, but because my community garden didn't open until the middle of April, this was not a possibility.

Innovation in Gardening!

Many people think they can't garden because they lack a backyard or sunlight! Innovation makes gardening possible in any number of situations.

Just like I am able to use my car as a greenhouse, a woman in Quebec turns her swimming pool into a vegetable garden.

I'm not quite sure how the article transitions from having no water to having a vegetable garden, but it's a very creative way to protect your vegetables and probably also creates a micro climate which helps any vegetables that like warmer temperatures!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

As of May 6, 2012...

 The plot on the left is what my plot looked liked before I cleared it (I forgot to take a before picture; I was too excited to get to work on it). The picture on the right is how I left it after clearing out the landscaping fabric and weeds.  I kept the rosemary plant because it didn't make sense to remove it.  I will work my plot plan around it.

After I mixed in soil builder and fertilizer, I laid out where I wanted each plant to go.  I made my plot plan online using and then laid out each plant to make sure I had spaced them properly.  It's not an exact science, and it didn't come out perfectly, but almost everything fit!  Morgan helped weed the walkways and plant about half of the seedlings.

I ended up giving away 2 banana pepper seedlings to another gardener, but I planted one more zucchini than I had planned for.  The banana peppers are a bit of a wild card and I still have 5 planted. I also managed to squeeze in some lettuce and maybe some bok choy (if they come up).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A little bit of spring...

I planted some lettuce and green beans last weekend. I also set up the tomato and eggplant cages just to get an idea of where everything will go - and to make sure no one else tries to claim my land! It's going to be a great garden this year. Oh I also planted a few zucchini to see if they'll come up!