Tag Archives: neighbors

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!

It’s 2016! What’s growing?

15 Feb

Nothing’s growing just yet, but I have plans! Here are the seeds that arrived a few weeks ago. I plan to start these seeds in mid to late March. I’ll start enough to share with Erin, and I’ll offer other neighbors in case anyone else wants.

Photo Feb 15, 2 37 08 PM

  • Roma tomatoes will be for making tomato paste. It worked well with the left over cherries I had last year, so I’m hoping that using actual paste tomatoes will be better.
  • Sweet peas are adorable and crunchy and tasty. Should be able to eat the whole pod.
  • Mexican gherkins are the size of a large grape, have the coloring of a watermelon, and taste like a cross between a lemon and a crunchy cucumber. I’m exited to try them.
  • The flowers were sent along with the others, not sure what I’ll do with them. Butterflies would be great, but I don’t know how many of them I’ve seen up there in the past.

A roof update. The garden right now is in total disarray. The deck is temporarily gone, as we needed to have the roof itself redone. We had water leaking into units on the top floor earlier, but now it is repaired. The deck, however….chaos. We should wind up with a much nicer looking space with deck boards that don’t pop up in random places and hurt us. That would be super. Have no idea when it’ll be done. They say before the spring…the original plan was to finish by early November. Didn’t quite happen!

We had to move everything, EVERYTHING, away from the main area, and my neighbors and I were able to do that except for the tanks. After the massive January snow storm and subsequent rains, the tanks were too heavy to move anywhere, so they’re kind of tucked away in the least convenient place. Anyway, I had to toss my two compost buckets, which upset me greatly, and move all of the pots downstairs to a nook in one of the stairwells. I’m guessing most of the herbs in tera cotta pots will die. I’ll find out in another week or two when I work up the nerve to check on them. Also tossed the tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets. They were dead, and the buckets were cracked all over.

But, looking forward to this spring, I’m going to get a bunch of 10 gallon garbage cans from Restaurant Depot and use them for tomatoes, gherkins, and peas. Drill holes in the bottom, lava rock for drainage, two 6′ stakes for support per bucket. The tanks will be again for peppers, cucumbers, beets, and carrots. I’ll be rotating some of the plant placements in the tanks, too. I’ll start a new compost bin as well.

I’ll have to wait until this snow stops, though!

The Great CSA Experiment

20 Aug

For years I’ve wanted to join a CSA, or community supported agriculture. Basically you help support the farm by paying a lump sum in the spring for weekly deliveries of fruit and veg through the summer and fall. Some may also include the options of meat, eggs, or dairy. This year I was finally able to sign up because I had convinced enough of my neighbors to join as well. We have a group drop off spot in our building, and every Wednesday morning, nine of us get a delivery of fresh, local produce from Great Country Farms in Bluemont, VA. They use organic and sustainable practices in their farming.

There are several CSAs in the area. We’re lucky to have a number of farms that are close enough to be able to provide this option. Some offer home delivery, some deliver to designated group spots.

I love my roof garden, of course, but sadly I can’t rely on it for all of my veg needs. This year my tomatoes have been fabulous and cucumbers have found their homes in pickle jars. It really is more of an experiment than a subsistence garden. I like the idea of supporting a local farm, too.

We started out in June with greens, mostly kale, chard, onions, then moved into asparagus, broccoli, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, berries, cherries, peas, beets, peaches, potatoes, plums, beans, and corn. For a while we got tiny herbs, including chives, mint, basil, and parsley. Each week the basket changes slightly as the land gives up its goodies. Tomatoes and peppers are just starting to come in, and apples are next.

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Photo Jun 03, 2 37 28 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The positives:

  • I’ve been eating a LOT more fresh things than I would at this time of year normally. I’ve accepted that I will eat what comes in the basket, supplementing my basket with mostly garlic and onions. I do still buy buckets of salad, but mostly for my rabbit.
  • It has been easier to eat fresh, as I now have no excuse. It’s delivered right to me!
  • I’ve enjoyed pulling out veg and throwing together a healthy meal. Today’s lunch was sauteed chard and corn with shallots. Took about 10 minutes. (I had cooked the corn yesterday for dinner.) A few weeks ago I made corn chowder, and before that I made tasty broccoli pot pies with cheddar and potatoes. Photo Jun 12, 7 50 16 PM Photo Jul 06, 4 40 28 PM Photo Jul 30, 1 36 26 PM
  • Going out to the farm, where you can pick your own of what’s ripe, is fun. I went out with a group of friends last month and we picked peaches. Thanks to my CSA membership at the farm, I got in for free, got some bonus fruit for free, and a discount at the neighboring winery.
  • It is no more expensive than the farmer’s market, and the farm bonuses actually make it cheaper in a sense.

The negatives:

  • It’s a lot for one person. Kale. So much kale. I mentioned in an earlier post that I wound up dehydrating it and making chips. I just couldn’t eat any more. I do love to sautee it with garlic, chili flakes, and a squeeze of lemon or white balsamic vinegar and have it over pasta or chicken, but I can only have that so many nights. I’ve had many friends over for dinner to try to go through my basket.
  • You have to have someone willing to make sure the baskets are in a safe spot when they are dropped off. We have an entry vestibule where we receive our deliveries, but it is an oven. One of us needs to be around right after they arrive to pull them inside the secure building area to make sure the contents don’t bake. Right now we have a few people home during the day, but that’s more of a summer thing. Let’s see what happens in a few weeks.
  • It’s a lot for one person! I have three quart sized freezer bags full of corn now. One week I got 7 ears and I just couldn’t deal with it. It came in really handy a few days later when I made corn and cabbage slaw as a side for a picnic dinner. Just dumped it out of the bag, ready to serve. Last week I gave away 6 of my 8 ears. This week, I gave a ShmErin 4 ears, and I still have 4 left. She was growing corn in her garden, too.

Photo Jul 22, 7 30 28 PM Photo Aug 05, 2 08 02 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In short, I’ve really enjoyed getting the box of produce. I love to cook fresh things, and I love supporting local business. Perhaps next year I’ll split a share with a neighbor. We have a few months left, so I’ll share an update soon.

I pick a peck of pickled peppers

24 Jul

IMG_8658Well, they’re not pickled just yet. This is last week’s pepper harvest. Banana peppers from ShmErin’s plant, bells from ShmAli’s, red jalapenos from my plant. The plant currently has about a dozen banana peppers ready to pick. I’ll do that tomorrow. The bell peppers are also doing well, but they’re not getting to, like, actual pepper size. The green peppers here are supposed to be red and the red ones are supposed to be green. Some picked too early (they were starting to get soft spots) and some too late. I have actually transplanted three of the plants…more on that in a day or two.

Here are the three plants that these peppers came from. The bell pepper has been getting really thirsty since this heat wave started. I’ve been bringing it water about 2x a day. It generally responds within about 15 minutes by waving “thanks” to me.

So about three weeks ago I asked my neighbor if she saw anyone taking my chocolate cherries. Although I’ve offered her tomatoes and herbs as she liked, she has repeatedly refused, saying I should enjoy the fruits of my labor. So, I couldn’t figure out who was stealing my cherries. Then, I noticed one of the other tomatoes on the other plant was half eaten. Then another. Could this be the elusive soft-bellied tomato pecker that Alton Brown and neighbor McGregor talked about in Good Eats episode 6, season 6, “Tomato Envy”?

Cucumbers were moving along really nicely for several weeks. I decided to pick off the little baby cucumbers once I saw one or two nice sized ones growing on each plant. It really seemed to help them along. Rather than having the plant focus on a dozen babies, I encouraged them to just pay attention to a few. Seemed to work well. I actually picked enough to not know what to do with them at one point. We sliced them up and nommed on them while biking one day. Great snack! I wound up making a cold cucumber soup. Easy and totally delish. Used cuces and onions from the garden.

But, all good things must end. After picking a whole bunch of beans one day, I noticed that most of the leaves were starting to yellow and the beans themselves weren’t looking great. The cucumbers in the tanks were also not so hot anymore, probably because it has been so hot. I’ve been bringing each tank a full 5 gallons every day, plus more for the smaller pots, but with almost a week of temps near 100, it just wasn’t working. Sadly, this tank is nearing its end.

My compost had been growing weird things…I was advised against nibbling on these mushrooms, as they are toadstools and will kill me. I’ll skip them. I also saw a number of larvae squirming around here and there. So, I got another bucket and divided the compost in half, adding several days of rabbit litter to each one. Today, both bins are doing well, no mushrooms, and no wiggly things.

Finally, some lovely garden photos…

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Welcome to the Rooftop Nursery

7 Jun

Babies!

I have babies!
Cucumber babies, tomato babies, carrot babies, jalepeno and bell pepper babies….even BEANIE BABIES! (Sorry.)
The cuces are sending out their little curly tendrils, often grabbing the leaves of the bean plants. I threw in some bamboo stakes to encourage them to grow up in that direction and eventually on to the fence. Didn’t happen on its own, so I’ve been gently moving them right over to the fence.
I’ve always been told to pick off the suckers that grow on tomato plants. At some point, they get really big and become another branch of the plant. I generally pick the smaller ones off and if I happen to miss any until they’re really big, I will let them stay. They form in the little armpit area between the branches and pop up as leaves.
My compost is marvelous. Everything is breaking down in there, it is letting off a good amount of heat, indicating that it’s working, and as my neighbor says, it smells like walking through the forest after a rain. SCORE! The heat will kill these mushroom spores I found in there a few days ago.
Speaking of mushrooms, I found a mushroom in the tomato tank. Of course, it popped up overnight. Farmer Russell says it’s an indication of warm, rich soil. Considering it was next to a sleeping gnome, I think it was a magic mushroom.
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Fences Make Good…Bean Plants

29 May

I built a fence. Out of bamboo and twist-ties. I’m so handy.

The beans were flopping over in the wind, so I decided to help them stand upright. I was able to see the bad leaves and pick a few of them off. Now they will happily feed me with purple string beans soon.

About two weeks ago I decided to fill in the spaces in the carrot rings where I didn’t get carrots. Just regular seed, no more tape at this point. I also decided to plant some more green onions. Brought both packets up to the roof (with my cocktail, of course) that evening and went to work. Then I sat back, had my first sip, and realized that I had put the carrots where the onions should be and the onions where the carrots should be. My neighbor, also enjoying a beverage on the roof, asked if I could just switch the seeds. No, no I can’t do that. I figured, just wait and see.

My fears were for unfounded, I was glad to see a few days ago. Both carrots and onions are coming up in their proper spots. Whew!

photo 3 (3)Someone is eating my cucumber leaves. Any ideas? I don’t see anything on the underside of any of the leaves, and I’ve checked at different times of the day, just in case I have a night nosher or something. Also, I’m wearing the latex glove because I had smashed up part of my hand a few days earlier and had it all covered up in super awesome advanced healing bandages. Didn’t want to damage them any more than I needed to.

 

photo 1 (5)And finally, it’s going to be almost 90 degrees here in the DC area by the end of this week. We started off with a thunder storm last night. Great opportunity for me to collect about 24 gallons of water from the roof in my 5 gallon buckets, smaller buckets and watering cans. I also filled up the reservoirs in the containers holding other smaller plants now.

Another 2011 recap

26 Feb

I was pretty happy for the first few weeks with the garden in 2011. My neighbors were garden sheetvery concerned about the wee baby plants being exposed to sun, and before my week long absence in mid April, they insisted I create a cover of some sort. Despite my assurances that plants, do, in fact like the sun, this is what we came up with. The sheet didn’t last too long, and the plants lived after all. Everyone was happy.

All went along smoothly for the next few weeks. At this point I was happy with the garden’s progress. Things were growing and I was starting to be able to pick here and there for tasting. Rain was falling on a fairly regular basis. My municipal water is a bit on the swimming pool side, so I had a watering can that I’d fill up in from the tap in my condo and allow to sit for a few hours before watering if it got too dry up there.

Also, the bugs. I’m five floors up, surrounded by air conditioning units, Trex decking, and very few actual trees. Any bugs were welcome. I wanted them to all talk to each other and come to my garden to pollinate things and do whatever it is that bugs do. The lady bug below was a minor victory, even if it was just lost.

The photos in the gallery below are from late April-early July 2011. The close ups were taken with the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 d af micro lens that my brother got me as a grad school graduation gift that year. I HAD to play with it, and what better subjects? I’m quite pleased with the way they came out, actually.

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