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New year, new garden

3 Jun

Sad news to report, my garden friends.

In January, my condo board declared that I had to get rid of the marvelous tanks that brought greenery, vegetables, and enjoyment to the rooftop for years. Why? A bunch of weak reasonings, including weight (they had no idea how much the tanks weighed, plus they’re 1/3 styrofoam, remember, so they weigh less than 25 lbs psf fully loaded), “visuals” (I was told that people didn’t like them, except for all of my neighbors and the half-dozen realtors who included photos of the garden in condo listings since 2011), and basically that I don’t share, which was news to my neighbors who had been picking tomatoes, beans, herbs, and onions as they desire since I started.

Needless to say, I was crushed. But rather than fight what we were sure would be a losing battle, I decided to donate the tanks to the Arlington Food Assistance Center to be used to grow food for Plot Against Hunger. We moved the tanks in early March, and they are now happily growing food outside the Arlington Central Library.

I still have a garden, though it’s much smaller. The usual suspects, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, parsnips, kale, herbs, etc. This year I also have a number of hot peppers so I can make some sort of hot sauce. I’m also pleased to report that the asparagus we planted last year (that I had to remove from a tank and transplant) is doing really well! I’m hoping that by next year, I’ll be able to pick a few pieces.

More to update soon, including my presentation to members of the Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture earlier this spring.

About Those Cucamelons…

24 Sep

Part of my hand is famous! My 3 seconds of fame.

I’ve tried to grow cucamelons/Mexican gherkins for a few years after a friend told me about them and we traded seeds. They are the size of grapes, look like watermelons, and taste like lemony cucumbers. But, they did’t grow. Lots of buds, but they never took off. I was so bummed!

Then, we gleaned a ton of them earlier this past July at Baywater Farms on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, so that was pretty cool.

 

I was so jealous…of this 150 year old organic farm in an idyllic setting. Well, I was more frustrated that mine wouldn’t grow! Just LOOK at them!

My plants must have heard my quiet cries and hopes for their future, so they decided to get crackin’ and start producing. All of a sudden, I saw about a dozen little gherkins on the one plant that was going crazy on the roof. I thought late August was a bit late for them, but it was still pretty hot out, so if they’re happy, I’m happy.

 

I shared my gardening joy on Instagram and was contacted by a producer for Thrillist who was doing a story on these little guys. She wanted a video of me cutting into one of my darlings. I contrasted it with what is actually a teeny tiny watermelon in the background.

My hands are famous. This 33 second video, of which you see my hands and vegetables for all of 3 seconds, makes us famous. Roof Garden Gal has reached the big time! I’ll try not to let it go to my head.

It’s 2018 and RGG is on Instagram

4 May

My garden is on Instagram now as @roofgardengal. I apologize for neglecting the detail here on the blog, but I post a lot more over there now. I’ll have to remember to do both! I’ve made some fun updates upstairs this season already, despite the late and stupid cold that didn’t seem to go away, so here’s the first update.

New tank!
We put a third 100 gallon tank upstairs so I can get rid of some of the smaller pots that crack after just one season. Plastic AND terracotta do this, by the way. I was just done with it, and the tanks are easier to water. I also think it looks nicer than having a bunch of pots. Tomatoes, some herbs, and onions will still have their own pots, though.

I started a bunch of seeds inside, but they were pretty slow to take, and many seedlings died. Today I have three tomatoes, two cucumbers, two Mexican gherkins, two peppers, and a bunch of herbs waiting for some consistent weather to go outside. They’re all still pretty small, but I think we’ll be fine. One of the tomatoes looks a little sickly, though. Have to keep an eye on that one. We also had a garlic clove that somehow hid out on the counter. It started to sprout, so I decided to plant it. So far it’s looking good.  I will plant beans this weekend.

This week, I thought I’d start to harden off some of the seedlings. I tried to make little protective covers from 1 gallon containers with the bottoms cut off, but it got too hot out. Everyone went back inside. It’s supposed to cool down next week, so I’ll try again.

The new tank has radishes, golden beets, carrots, and parsnips.
 

We also tried asparagus this year. It takes a few seasons to get established, and I don’t think it’s going to happen, sadly. But aren’t they cute?

Summer’s Here…With Cucumbers

28 Jun

Bla bla bla…started tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers, herbs from seed. Planted them. You know the drill. I added a whole bag of organic soil to each tank, and topped off all of the tomato pots. Everyone got food when planted, and tomatoes got a ton of crushed and powdered egg shells. The calcium will hopefully avoid the blossom end rot that I’d dealt with in the past.

One thing I did this year is use plastic containers for pots before ultimately tossing them in the recycling bin.They were great. I used quart yogurt containers, pint sized coconut creamer containers, and cut milk containers in half, drilling holes in all of them. They were large enough that I didn’t have to rush to plant. I’ll do it again next year.

 

Now, we harvest!

Earlier this month I went away for two weeks, and my neighbors watched and watered the garden. They got lucky, as we had the perfect combination of rain and warm weather. Their job was easy, and I came back to GIGANTIC cucumber plants in both tanks! I planted regular cuces and lemon cucumbers, the later being part of a seed trade I did with a friend in the winter. The lemon ones look like lemons but taste normal.

I’ve been picking them for about a week now. I learned that bitter cucumbers are thought to come from irregular watering, which makes sense for me. The difficulty I have with water on the roof sometimes leads to a day or so of improper watering, but I’ve tried to keep up with it this year. Still, the first few green cuces were a bit bitter. Peeling them worked, so I’m not terribly worried. The lemon cucumbers were better though. Taste just like any other cucumber.

Tomorrow…two cucumber recipes!

Adventures in Wheatgrass

16 Jan

A few years ago I experimented with photo-nov-09-5-59-37-pmsprouts. Here is my chia seed sprouting experiment. I also eventually tried mung beans, adzuki beans, and something else I can’t remember. I wanted to try again with wheatgrass this past fall, mostly for snacks for my bunny friends. It’s supposed to be super healthy, but sprouted wheatgrass makes a nice, fresh treat for buns and cats.

I started with hard red wheat berries. Got them from the bulk bin at MOM’s, but I think most grocery stores have at least packaged wheat berry seeds. In bulk it was around $2.49 a pound. I got about 1/2 pound to start with. In a glass jar, cover seeds with water overnight. I used the ring of the canning jar lid and a piece of polyester batting so air can flow and water can easily come out. Drain the seeds, and lay the jar on its side. Rinse the seeds daily for a day or two. This is about 1/2 cup of dry seeds.

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When they begin to sprout, spread them on a 1/4″ layer of potting soil in a shallow container, basically in a single layer, but it doesn’t have to be exact. (Next time I’m going to try hemp fiber or burlap fabric, just enough for the roots to take hold.) I used the bottom of two take out containers. Then slide the containers into a paper bag or cover with a towel until the grass reaches about 2 1/2″ to 3″ or so, maybe two or three days. You don’t want them to get any light. Keep the soil barely wet the whole time.

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When you hit about 3″, put your grass on a sunny window, and it will turn green and grow another inch or two within a few days. Harvest by cutting where the white turns green, and you’ll be able to cut a second time in about four or five days.

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To use, offer to your favorite bunny or cat friend. Dogs might like it too? I don’t know.photo-nov-10-5-09-58-pm For human use, put it through a juicer and drink. I didn’t want to do that, as my juicer is heavy and a pain to clean, so I just cut a portion (about 1″ x 1″ square) and snipped it into small pieces. Into my Magic Bullet blender with the flat blade and some water, and blend, blend, blend! As soon as you think you’re done, blend for another few seconds. When you have green water and green mash, strain into a glass and press the pulp to get out all of the liquid.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you….it tastes like salad, but in a really weird way.

Happy wheatgrassing!

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A Black Eyed Pea Story (with recipe!)

4 Jan

Happy new year! Did you know that it is thought to be good luck to eat black eyed peas (a subspecies of cowpeas) on New Year’s day? I grew black eyed peas for the first time this past summer.

Late summer brought some jerk beetles to my cucumber and squash plants. Farmer Russell advised pulling the affected plants and replacing with black eyed peas ASAP. They’d help fix the soil, and then I’d be able to compost the plants and dry and eat the beans. They all sprouted within three days, and grew FAST. I tied them to the lattice that I used for the cucumbers.
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photo-jan-04-11-45-36-amThe some pods were 7” long, though most were about 6”, with about 10-12 beans per pod. I let the pods stay on the plants and dry on their own before picking them. I wound up with about two cups of dried beans. I stored them in a jar with one of those silica desiccant packets.

I had rice and black eyed peas for dinner on New Year’s day. I made everything in my small crock pot and used chicken stock (salt free) that I made and pressure canned in August. Very happy with the results!

This made about 2 servings.photo-jan-04-11-55-14-am

½ cup dried black eyed peas, soaked overnight in water
½ medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt

Brown rice, prepared according to package directions
Green onion, chopped, or fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Drain black eyed peas, then add to a small crock pot with onion, garlic, stock, salt, and pepper. Set to low and cook for 6-8 hours until beans are tender. If you have excess liquid when beans are finished, you can add it to the brown rice when cooking. It will add some extra flavor.
Serve beans over brown rice and garnish with green onion or parsley.
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My Tastiest Challah Recipe

17 Aug

This is my basic challah recipe. I found one online that I liked, and, over the course of about a year, I’ve tweaked it to make it my own. Photo Jun 17, 7 34 29 PM

Makes 2 loaves

1 tsp. honey
1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast (not rapid rise)
½ cup oil
¼ cup honey
2 tsp. salt
2 eggs*
3 ½ to 4 cups flour (plus additional for sauce, if needed)
1 beaten egg for final egg wash.

Customize! 
(*2 eggs + ¼ cup apple/fruit sauce. Will need to add additional flour.)
(1 tsp cinnamon)
(sesame seeds or poppy seeds)
(1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or ¾ cup raisins/currants)

Start! 
Dissolve honey in 1 cup warm water, sprinkle yeast on top, and let stand for 10 minutes. (If yeast doesn’t REALLY foamy, it’s stale. Use a new packet.)

Combine yeast water with oil, honey, salt, eggs (and fruit sauce if using, may need to add an additional tablespoon or two of flour) and half of the flour in stand mixer with dough hook. Beat for 1 min on low. Stir in remaining flour. Dough should be on the stickier side. Cover dough and let rest for 10 minutes. Knead on low 6-8 minutes in mixer, adding flour as needed. Dough should be smooth and elastic.

Knead in cinnamon by hand in 2-3 additions if using. Knead in chips or raisins/currants if using.

(If you’re not using a mixer, combine all ingredients and turn out onto a floured board and knead by hand for 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. Err on the side of sticky. You do not want a dry dough.)

Spray a large bowl with cooking spray or wipe with olive oil, dump dough into bowl and spray/oil top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Punch down, cover and let rise again until double, about 45 minutes.

Divide dough in half, making two loaves. Divide into even strands and braid as desired, fastening ends securely by tucking under. Place on parchment paper on cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm part of your kitchen until double, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Brush with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with seeds, if desired. Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes, until golden brown, turning the cookie sheet once if your oven is uneven. (If making 2 smaller challahs, baking time will be about 25 minutes.)

Photo Jun 17, 7 06 05 PM Photo Aug 12, 5 23 56 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Aug 05, 5 34 12 PM Photo Aug 12, 7 49 17 PM

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