Tag Archives: recap

FOUA, School Victory Gardens, and an Interview!

19 Jun

Have I mentioned I’m on the board of directors of Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture? FOUA is new as a 501(c)3, though the group was formed in 2017 out of Arlington County’s Urban Agriculture Task Force in 2015. Our mission is to build and support a fair, equitable, and sustainable food system in Arlington. I love talking about urban farming and small space gardening, so it’s right up my alley, huh? Plus, I get to use one of my advanced degrees yay!

A few weeks ago, I talked to the Ballston BID about urban agriculture in the county. Honestly, I was pretty nervous about how it would come out, but due to the producer’s magical editing skills, I think it’s pretty good! Here it is, all 27 minutes of listening glory.

We hit the ground running this year when we took on the COVID-19 crisis. A combination of factors lead us to our Victory Garden project that includes the new home of the Plot Against Hunger program (formerly of AFAC, the Arlington Food Assistance Center) and our school garden program.

With the approval of Arlington Public Schools, we are working with Arlington Virginia Cooperative Extension and garden coordinators at existing gardens to provide administrative support, volunteer bodies, trained Extension Master Gardeners, and in a very happy and unexpected twist, funding. When schools closed in March because of the pandemic, gardens struggled. Right before most gardeners begin their spring planting, volunteers and students were not allowed on school grounds. We presented our plan to the schools superintendent that FOUA would support the gardens by turning them into production gardens (or aiming to increase production for those that already were) and donate produce to a number of local food pantries that have seen a sudden and incredible increase in need. Our goal is 2,500 pounds by the end of this season. We started with three gardens in early/mid May and have made a ton of progress so far. We’re beginning to donate from each of the gardens. Plus, next week we’ll be onboarding a fourth school garden!

Follow us on social media for updates, on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and now YouTube (please subscribe so we can eventually get our own username!) I’ll be posting photos and making videos on a regular basis. Here are the first two videos I put together.



More updates as the season continues and our donations pick up.

Indoor update!

11 Mar

Since losing my garden last year, I’ve focused a lot more on indoor plants. This winter, however, I wanted to start some miniature tomato and pepper plants. I bought some grow lights and made this little set up. They were inexpensive and super easy to set up. I’ll probably move them around in a bit. They are connected to a timer, so I don’t have to remember to turn them on an off every day. 


The plants seem to LOVE the lights. I have to work on transplanting them all to larger containers. I’ll take care of that this weekend. The yellow fly tape is TERRIFIC. The fungus gnats are annoying, but they’re not interested in anything besides the plants.

I started everything from seed in late Jan. (I always mark dates on the tags when I start.) Here I have micro tom tomatoes from Baker Creek, several kinds of purple and green basil, parsley, hot jigsaw peppers, and hot Peruvian aji peppers, and some dwarf sweet alyssum. The wheatgrass in the corner is for my bunny, Miss Elliott Hopsalot. I have a lot of that lining the windowsill, too.

Some of the basil will be donated to the Central Library’s Plot Against Hunger garden to go into the tanks in a few weeks. 

Garden Catch Up On A Rainy Fall Day

17 Nov

It’s cold and rainy out today. I’m going to think happy garden thoughts so my feet will warm up.

2014 was a mildly upsetting year up on the roof, though that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything! Over the next few weeks I’ll post by general topic instead of a play-by-play.

First, a catch up.


Herbs. Dead rosemary, returning chives, returning thyme.

All in all, my “harvest” was much smaller than in years past. We had some gross cold, cold weather that actually killed my rosemary plant. It had been doing really well over the years, and I had given it a much larger pot. I thought it was pretty hardy. I heard that lots of other folks lost their rosemary. The rest of my herbs came back, though. Chives, thyme, and oregano all came back in their pots. I planted new parsley in a pot, and then both green and purple basil in one of the tanks from seed. They wound up doing well. I still have not replaced the rosemary. Debating what to do there, if I should try some indoor herb gardening this year. I brought one plant inside last week but I don’t know if I want to make a whole indoor garden out of it.


Tank 1, cucumber seed, bean seedling, tank 2.

Then we had a bit of a cold snap in May that killed off several seedlings I had started indoors and had replanted outside. I started beans inside. They died, so I wound up planting them a second time. Here are my tanks and some wee baby seeds. The tank on the top wound up with cucumbers, beans, and beets. The one on the bottom had the same as last year, two tomato plants, variety of carrots, and the aforementioned green and purple basils. I planed fewer carrots than last year, and I think they grew much better because of it.

I decided to tackle my problems with water this year. I built (what I thought would be) a great rain barrel! You’ll have to wait for my next post for my great 2014 water adventure.

The highlight of this year was certainly my composting abilities. I had two buckets that did really well. I’ll save that for another post as well.

Water…It’s what plants crave! (And you thought it was Brawndo.)

3 Apr

So, I have no direct access to water on the roof.

Now you’re thinking:

  • Attach a hose to your outdoor spigot? (Can’t! Don’t have one!)
  • Uh, attach a hose to your faucet and send it up through your window? (Highly impractical. I’d probably need about 150′ of garden hose…and it would go across my living room…and I’d have to leave my window open.)
  • Get a rain barrel and hook it up to the gutter? (Can’t! Condo building…not allowed.)

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’d been carrying water up to the roof from my kitchen a few hours after filling a 2 gallon watering pail. While it might make for some good weight lifting, it’s exhausting and not very efficient. Plus, those plants are THIRSTY up there with no shade in the heat of the summer. That means several trips back and forth. That was all of 2011.

There had to be a better way! In 2012 I started to collect water from the bottoms of the 3 gutters I could reach during a rain and dump it into a 5 gallon pail. A few problems with this method:

  • The bottom of the gutters are about 6″ from the deck, so I need a small containers to collect the water. (See below…I also used a quart sized yogurt container.)
  • Small containers don’t hold a lot of water = many trips to the big 5 gallon bucket. I had a flexible bucket that helped a bit, but I could only fill it about 1/4 of the way every time, maybe a gallon at the most. In the photo, it’s the pink one with the handles. It wound up cracking in the fall, probably because it’s not supposed to be abused as I had.
  • When the 5 gallon pail is full, it weighs about 40 lbs…that’s a lot for me, and it’s hard to carry a bucket of sloshing water.
  • I got sopping wet every time. (Umbrellas are not practical devices while harvesting water I learned after about 12 seconds.)
  • No photo of the 5 gallon bucket, for some reason, but I swear it’s there!IMG_4121

What was nice about filling up all of these container was I usually didn’t have to water for two days or so after collection because the garden drank up from the sky and the tomato buckets reservoirs were pretty full. But then we’d have several days of no rain….sometimes over a week and the bucket water would be used up in one fell swoop.

I also tried to make a bottle drip irrigation type of thing. It . You can find directions all over on the interwebs.

It worked, but not very well. I started with full bottles and well watered soil. The water was gone in a few hours, I’m guessing because it’s hot up there. (Have I mentioned that?) I did try it in late July, so who knows. I think this would work better for house plants. 😦

This year, however, I’m going to create some kind of rain sculpture thing for collection…not really sure how it’s going to look, but my other option is more buckets.

Or Brawndo.


2012 Recap – It’s Tomato Time!

21 Mar

The pride of the garden….the tomato.

cherry tomato on rooftop

I mentioned in my “About” section that my grandfather, who grew up on a farm in southern New Jersey, insisted that we didn’t have enough tomato plants and would add them to my mother’s rock garden, our front landscaping, and other various flower beds around the house where tomatoes….just don’t go. He also tried to grow them on fire escapes on the commercial building the family owned in lower Manhattan. Even without his additions, we always had nice tomatoes from our garden.

In 2011, I had four tomato plants, as you may remember from earlier photos. I went with red and yellow cherries, red grapes, and some other larger purple-y fruit. The three smaller plants did much better, but it was still a lot to work with. In 2012, I decided to stick with the small fruits, so I had only one cherry plant and one yellow pear tomato plant. They were all quite sweet and delicious, unlike anything from a plastic container at the grocery store.

These photos are from early May to mid June, 2012.

Yeah, so I picked off those suckers when I saw them. Didn’t really have any problems with bugs on the plants.

These photos are from early July to mid July, 2012. More on those glass bottles in my next post.

I was able to pick dozens of tomatoes every week starting about this time. My brother also got me a pasta machine for my birthday last summer. BAM! This is early August, 2012. I hand made or grew this entire meal….except for the cheese. (No cows on the roof just yet.)


My tomatoes seemed happy on the roof. I’m pretty sure they’d appreciate some more root space, but all in all, I think this was a successful venture. They were still producing fruit into October, and then a few pathetic little ones after that every now and then. These photos are from mid to late September, 2012.

2012 Recap…In search of beta carotene

12 Mar

I don’t know where to start here. Maybe at the Carrot Museum? Though it exists online, the International Carrot Conference is real….and it’s in Madison, Wisconsin this August. Fascinating.

I don’t know how I’d get along with the pros, though. So here’s a gallery of my early rooftop carrots from mid May to early July, 2012.

Everything is moving along nicely, right? The swiss chard next to the carrots wound up not working out. The leaves were very, very bitter and didn’t like to be picked, or not to be picked. Quite possibly because they shouldn’t have been grown in a small container like that, but I was still curious.

These photos are mid July to early September, 2012.

In general, they were all pretty attractive carrots. Not the sweetest, but they were all crunchy, and I was proud. At that point, a few of them started to get really weird. These photos are mid to late September, 2012.

I wanted to see how long they would last in the box, kind of see if they’d rot in the ground or if they’d be ok through the winter. These photos are from mid January, 2013.

I visited a friend’s farm this past weekend in Mineral, Virginia. More on that in tomorrow’s garden update. Was given an assortment of carrot seeds that I will use this year.


Here are some REAL carrots. We pulled up a few of them from the rows.


And of course, the obligatory Image 2altered photo using unnamed mobile device software.




2012 Recap…Herbal Issues

7 Mar

I thought herbs would be the least of my problems up on the roof. I was half right. So, earlier this week I wrote about the survivors, the herbs that wintered nicely and seemed to be alive in the spring.

One small snafu…I was away for about a week and the herbs didn’t get much water. I lost my thyme, so I replanted that one. photo 2Also, the rosemary got very dry and looked like it was about to totally kick the bucket. The main branches were nice and thick, so I thought it would come back to life eventually.

Here it is on May 9. —–>

IMG_4022And here it is a few weeks later on May 22. It did, in fact, grow back, and the hard, woody stems had some softer, white additions as well. I was happy with the regenerated rosemary. I knew it would be ok eventually, as the plant my mom has in New York now is probably ten years old, at least. Plus, in many parts of the Mediterranean I’ve seen them planted as shrubs.


Parsley also came back during the second year, however, we had some issues. Instead of lovely, soft parsley leaves, I was getting really thick, straw-like stalks, and it was flowering constantly. My rabbit enjoyed the stalks, but it wasn’t what I was going for. Eventually I got fed up and just pulled it all. They roots went all over the garden box, which I expected. I have since been told that the plant was likely stressed. Why? It didn’t have mortgage payments to keep up with or anything. Argh. Photos from mid May to late September, 2012.

I was given a similar opinion regarding the basil; it was stressed. I started them this season again from seed. The early plants looked lovely, with round, plump leaves. I thinned the plants as I always had as the weeks went on, but looking back on it they were probably too squished in there. Also a chance I didn’t pick enough of it. These photos are from mid May to late July, 2012.

Also, quickly, mint. Mint will never die. Ever.


I got a second mint plant this year, so now I have common mint (kinda fuzzy leaves) and the newer chocolate mint, with more leafy leaves. The plants have both flowered several times and have faked death, too. They keep coming back, leggier and leggier each time. Again, check the earlier post for the first wintering comeback. These photos are mid May to late July, 2012.

2012 Recap – The Radish Diary

5 Mar

I decided to break up the 2012 updates by vegetable. Today, I will gloat about my red globe radish success. Spicy radish success. The seed packet said they are 28 days until harvest, and by golly, I think I picked the first one at 28 days. I was able to get two rounds of beautiful, crispy, super spicy beauties out of the 1’x1′ space they were allotted in 2012. Some nutritional info about these babies.

These photos are from mid April to mid May, 2012

I think I left the square empty for about a week or before replanting. Ate most of them raw with a bit of salt. Some on crusty bread with some butter. Some pickling addition in there, you’ll see in the second gallery. In addition to the radishes themselves, we also enjoyed the leaves chopped up in salad for a little punch with every forkful.

Radishes were successful. I was pleased. I will do them again in 2013. Don’t need a lot of space, grow quickly, pack a tasty bite.

These photos are from mid May to early June, 2012.

2012 Recap…The Survivors

4 Mar

Welcome to 2012! I thought about the garden all through the 2011-2012 winter. We didn’t get much snow, didn’t get TOO many cold days. I considered covering the garden with some hay (that my rabbit decided not to eat) or some of that gardening fabric, but I decided against it.

So, here we are in March, 2012. I was beginning to plan out what I’d grow in the summer, thinking about what worked and what didn’t in 2011. Here are the survivors…the herbs that lasted over the winter. Some were in their own pots, some were in the SFG box. See Winston there watering everything?

These photos are from March 19-25, 2012.

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