Tag Archives: rooftop garden

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.

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Early May Update

14 May

Some updates from the garden….these photos were all taken May 3-12.

Another view….

Radishes are all ready. They are ready to pick at 28 days, so these are all ready to go. I’ve been picking a few every day. Use the leaves in salad and on sandwiches, also. Check out the huge one!

photo 2Also, this kind of smells as if a few dozen large farm animals decided to use the roof as a toilet….all at the same time. It’s quite amazing, really. This is about 4 weeks old now, and everything I’ve read says the smell should go away after about 6-8 weeks. I hope, anyway. Otherwise I probably won’t have any friends over this summer….

Everyone’s awake!

3 May

Happy plants are growing nicely. We had several days of blah weather, constant light rain, which they clearly loved. I’m hoping the tanks are full of water, but I don’t know how to check on that.

My two tomato plants are doing very well. I planted them pretty deep in the soil, as both Farmer Russell and Dave the tomato man said. They both said I could go up to the highest sets of leaves. I planted them just to the halfway point and then piled up more potting mix on top of them because I figured the soil around the hole I dug would settle. Now, a week later, they both look fabulous.

photo 2 (1)

photo 3 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see some wee tiny carrots coming up behind both of them. Now, the carrots went in about two and a half weeks ago. They are supposed to come up at 7-10 days. Even with a few extra days for the cold and to break out of the seed tape I made, I think some of them are not going to happen. I’ll give them another few days, and then I will declare them goners. I’ll reseed next week. Problem is, I don’t know which carrot is which!

Also, one bean didn’t come up. I decided to start one inside in my kitchen. photo 4 (1) This is two days of being wrapped up in wet paper towels. I plan to plant this guy tomorrow morning in the missing bean spot.

Now, let’s talk about compost.

I’m attempting to make compost tea, which is easy to feed to plants in a regular watering. Right now what I have is a big bucket of fart smell, or anaerobic composting. Methane gas emanating from my roof!  You can read all about it here. Basically I’m tossing my fruit and vegetable scraps, along with some plant material and a litter box of rabbit litter w/hay, into one of the 5 gallon buckets and letting it decompose in water. I’m going to start to take off some of the water and mix it in the watering can for the plants. Compost tea! The plants will love it. It’ll only stink for a bit longer.

photo 1 (1)Here are some scraps that I added earlier this week. Banana peels, some spinach that I forgot about in the back of the fridge so it started to stink, a few fuzzy strawberries. Then I gave it a good stir. Also in there are some of the dead plants from earlier years. They will take longer to decompose, but they are kind of acting as a mesh to separate the food from the water a bit. I don’t know if that’s doing any good or not, but at this point I can’t really change it without getting stink all over. They will eventually break down also.

photo 5 (1)

This morning I added a box of litter…paper partially saturated with ammonia-rich rabbit urine, rabbit pellets (which are mostly hay), and rejected timothy hay. Clearly not as tasty. This will make up more of the  “brown” material that’s needed in the composting process. Gave it a stir, then drained the water off and dumped it back on top of the mix. Just thought I’d give it a bit of a toss to help it along. Have I mentioned that it smells to high heaven?

 

Some chilly nights slow down planting

23 Apr

It’s been really cold here…like, really cold! We’ve had a few nights dip into the mid 30s over the last week or so. Also, there’s pollen everywhere. Lots of it. All over. Coating everything like a thick, giant yellow-green snot inducing powdery blanket. And I’ve had a cold for four days. Whoo hoo!

I went to the Purcellville farmer’s market last weekend before work and picked up these Image 26two little guys from Dave the tomato guy. (Hi!) I told him to follow me here. I got a chocolate cherry tomato plant and a cabernet grape. He said the chocolate cherries have a deep red purple color and an almost salty sweet flavor. I had never heard of them before, so of course I had to try them out. The cabernet grapes look like they’ll be a nice classic red grape. I had originally planned to plant them right away, but I’ve been keeping them on my windowsill for the last few days and they appear to be happy. I’d like to keep them until this weekend when it’ll be over 50 at night. They’re just babies!

My seeds have been slow to germinate, but they’re finally starting to grow. I know these guys are tiny, but they’re there. I took these photos yesterday, 4/22.

Today I saw three string beans starting to break the surface. No carrots just yet either, but it may be for a few reasons.

  • Seed tape and glue have to dissolve before the seed can germinate.
  • It’s been pretty chilly.
  • The seeds are a season or two old.

I’ve used old seeds before. (The packet usually says “Packed for 2013” or whatever year.) They are always fine, but sometimes take an extra few days to pop up.

Before this cold last week, we had a nice heavy rain. I used it as an opportunity to fill up my water buckets. I have yet to build a large scale self-filling rain barrel. I needed a new flexible bucket to use under the gutters and came up with used pre-washed salad containers. They’re great. I have one under each gutter and the buckets right next to them. Takes only a few minutes to fill them up, and then I fill the watering can for an extra 2.5 gallons. Again, I get sopping wet outside, but at least I’m not out there forever.

Other than that, everyone seems to be settling in nicely. I even had a bird watch me take these pictures as he bathed in a puddle on the roof.

New year, new garden. Just add water!

8 Apr

Welcome to 2013! This will be a bit of a long post, but it’s somewhat instructional.

I began construction on the new, improved roof garden yesterday. With the help of Richmond, VA based Farmer Russell, a sustainable agriculture consultant and recently reformed farmer (who is new to Tumblr,) I have made some significant upgrades to my growing spaces. A bit about the expert brain I’m going to be picking this season (so you know my info below is legit, finally.) My friend Farmer Russell has been sustainably growing gourmet produce for the more the a dozen years. He has run CSAs in the Richmond area and has spent the last two years providing James Beard nominated chefs with the the finest in farm to table produce. He is now sharing his years of hard won wisdom with everyone from backyard gardeners (like me!) to farmers looking to grow more sustainably on thousand acre spreads and organizations looking to learn more about how local food and conscientious consumption can impact their community throughout the mid Atlantic.

He also makes some really good home brew and talks about it on Twitter.  Mmmm…beer.

Anywhoo, here is the finished garden after we cleaned up. So far, so good!IMG_7279

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that my two biggest issues were space and water. My plants really weren’t in containers that were deep enough for their root systems to properly expand. It caused the plants stress and basically stunted their proper growth. Also, water. >sigh< These new containers should really take care of both problems. We calculated these weigh approximately 160 lbs each, so that’s like a person size, but spread out over a much larger area. With the right amount of water, each should weigh about 220-240 lbs, which, again, is spread out over a large area. (1 gallon of water = appx 8 lbs.)

I started off with two 2’x2’x4′ 100 gallon galvanized stock tanks from Southern States. They are about $90 a piece, which is actually cheap when you consider that the two buckets I’ve had my tomatoes in for the last two years were around $60 each.  Also from Southern States I picked up a big thing of ProMix growing medium for about $37. Everything had to picked up at the store. Total was about $227

Then, a visit to Home Depot…IMG_7238

  • Two bags of lava rocks at $3.87 each
  • Six bags of top soil (this wasn’t the brand, but the price is the same, $1.37)
  • Two bags of humus & manure for $2.97 each.
  • Two tomato stakes because I had two already but really thought four would be better, considering how big the plants got last year.
  • 12″ terracotta pot and saucer to temporarily replant my chives. The most expensive part of this trip, at around $8
  • Bunch of bricks I’m not going to use. I thought I would elevate the tanks, but that would have just created some pressure points in the tank and on the deck. Farmer Russell told me not to get them, in his defense. I still thought it was a good idea. I was not correct. But, now I have some bricks.

Home Depot total with tax: $48.84.

Total, before plants: $325, including VA sales tax. Yours may vary slightly, especially if you don’t get those stupid bricks. Argh.

Then we got to work!

We removed the metal plug from the drainage hole in the tank. Really, that’s a great feature. I’ve seen a few posts where people drill additional drainage holes into the bottom and sides of the tanks, but all you’re doing is damaging the coating which can lead to rust and leaching of whatever might be in the metal. Keep the coating in tact! Farmer Russell says just remove the plug and follow the steps below to properly layer and you’ll have no problem.

In order, then some pictures.

  • Lava rocks piled on top of the drain hole. For drainage and improved water flow on the bottom of the tank.
  • Styrofoam. Also for drainage and reduces weight. We went about 1/3 up the tank with this styrofoam, which I just happened to have saved in big sheets from some furniture I bought a few years ago. (HA! AND YOU CALLED ME A HOARDER! WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?) You can also buy a big bag of peanuts from an office supply or shipping supply store, but why not reuse what comes in the mail and packaging materials?
  • Remainder of potting mixture from the old buckets. Reusing what I can!

We also found some grubs in one of the tomato pots. They made their way down there some time over the winter. I insisted that we toss them. Then I threw up a bit in my mouth.

Next, add the following layers, making sure each one is free of clumps and even.

  • Layer top soil
  • Layer promix
  • Layer top soil
  • Layer humus/manure

Then…

  • Layer of promix
  • Layer of oyster shell – don’t need a lot and it will slowly add calcium and other good stuff over time.
  • Layer of top soil

Don’t mix the layers now. The mixture will settle and compact on its own, and the plants will be able to break it up.

Finally, Farmer Russell sketched out where plants should go. Tomatoes, carrots and basil in one tank, possibly beans, radishes, cucumber, melon in another. He is creating a more detailed layout for me now. I will post that when it is ready. We did plant a row of radishes while we were up there. They’ll be ready in a few weeks.

Winston and his lazy cousin are keeping watch, as usual.

Herbs will remain in separate pots, and the onions and chives will probably get broken up and replanted into one of the former tomato buckets with new planting mix. I’m going to do some research and see what companion plants will work well with them in the bucket.

Whew!

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