Friday, April 30, 2010

Bloom is on the rose

Stepping onto my terrace today, I couldn't help but notice the spring flowers beginning to bloom. The hyacinths are spent, but our roses, columbine and butterfly weed are waking up after a long winter. Even the hydrangea shows signs of flowering to come. It feels as if it's too early, but, hey, it's already May.
We won't plant the impatience in our window boxes for a couple of weeks yet, but it's nice to see the perennials making their way back for another season.

We did notice an infestation of tiny green flies on one of our rose bushes last weekend. We quickly pulled out the Shultz Insect Spray and haven't seen those bugs since.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


It's been unseasonably chilly the past few days in NYC, which makes me wonder about what kind of summer and growing season we'll have this year. I was thinking on my walk home from work along Third Avenue that it would be perfect if the weather were mild, not too rainy and not too hot. Of course it would.
However, NYC weather is never what you'd like it to be, especially in the summer. It's usually steamy and uncomfortable, humid and well, smelly.
Last year, however, the conditions were even worse for planting. It was terribly wet, and blight descended upon much of the tomato crop in the tri-state area. Usually tasty Jersey tomatoes were mealy and hard. Even heirlooms sold at the Green Market were sub par.
Due to construction, our garden was 86ed last season. In retrospect, it was the season to miss.
For that reason, and many others, I'm so looking forward to getting our garden back on track. With the various seedlings growing in our living room right now (tomato, basil, cucumber and parsely to name a few) and plans to add lettuce, peppers, eggplants and more, it won't be long...Can't wait!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Growing seedlings

This is a magical time for a north eastern urban gardener, a time when the seedlings planted a month ago begin to show signs of the bountiful harvest to come. Our tomato, basil, parsley and cucumber seedlings are definitely on their way. I can't wait to transfer them from their little indoor potlets to their outdoor homes--25 gallon pots. We've done plenty of weeding and preparing and in another three weeks or so, our terrace garden should be fully functional. It's especially exciting this season because we were forced to sit out last year, due to construction on our terrace.
Added to our home grown seedlings will be four kinds of bell pepper starters from Home Depot, as well as japanese eggplant and heirloom lettuce varieties from the Union Square Green Market. We'll also grow the usual herbs: oregano, mint, thyme, lavender, dill. We have a couple of scrawny blueberry bushes that we purchased recently from Miller Nurseries that I hope will grow nicely this summer. Our strawberry plant is already aflower. As long as we get good weather, we should be looking forward to a productive summer season! Can't wait!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pizza a Casa makes its debut

Just got back from a tasting at a brand new pizza school on the Lower East Side. Pizza a Casa, run by homemade pizza master Mark Bello, makes its official debut tomorrow (Apr. 15.) I met Bello just a couple of weeks ago through my friend, neighbor amd fellow gardener, Charles S., at an event for Grana Padano Italian cheeses. He was immediately interested in our urban garden, and told me stories about his own tomato growing days in Chicago. Bello invited a few folks in tonight to try his gourmet thin crust pies and included me on his list. My favorite: the white pizza which was sweet and creamy, topped with ricotta, butter, house roasted peppers, a little lemon zest and black pepper. Another winner: the pancetta and egg pizza with fried sage. Mmm.
Bello has been teaching the art of pie making for years everywhere from Murray's Cheese Shop to the JCC - where he gives classes in Kosher pizza making. Pizza a Casa, a 450 sq. ft. space at 371 Grand Street, is his first retail location. He offers public classes for up to 12, as well as private events (this weekend he's hosting a bachelorette party for 16.)
Later this summer, when our garden is ripe with produce, we hope to bring in some of our delicious heirloom tomatoes, peppers, basil and more and collaborate on an urban gardening pizza making extravaganza. Can't wait!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Botanical Garden's new exhibit

With spring fast upon us, New York is budding out all over. In Central Park the dogwoods are blooming and on my terrace our rose bushes are sending up shoots. But for a more concentrated floral experience, I am told that the New York Botanical Garden will unveil a brand new exhibition, Emily Dickinson's Garden: The Poetry of Flowers, on April 30. The exhibit, a recreation of the famed poet's garden, runs through June 13 and will feature poetry reading and other events. Though I haven't seen it yet, I am certainly a fan of Botanical Garden and can only imagine that it will be worth the trip to the Bronx. For more info, head to

Sunday, April 4, 2010

First planting - Blueberries

Inspired by our neighbors and fellow urban gardeners Charles & Michele S., who last year showed us the blueberry bushes growing on their terrace, we ordered two of our own from Miller Nurseries a couple of weeks ago (see Berry Good Year, Mar. 24, 2010.) We popped into Home Depot last weekend and bought a couple of nice faux stone planters, 18 inches in diameter each, in preparation for the bushes' arrival. Well, they showed up earlier this week, in a brown paper sack. Instructions said to plant them within three weeks. We couldn't wait that long! So, today, we got them into the soil. Sure, they look pretty scrawny, and in truth, we're told not to expect much fruit until next year, but I'm still pretty excited about our new addition.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Tomato seedlings arise

It seems appropriate on this gloriously sunny spring day in New York to write about this season's tomato crop. Just a week after planting, the tomato seedlings have already surfaced and the green shoots are climbing from their tiny peat pellets. Mitch says this is the fastest he's seen the tomato plants sprout in our five growing seasons. We kept them on the heater all week, and they seemed to like that. The heat was very low, so it didn't dry them out at all, but just warmed the soil enough to help them germinate.
This is great because they'll be nice and strong by the time we move them outdoors in late May. We have six varieties: Black Cherry, Aunt Ruby's Yellow Cherry, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Chocolate Stripes. We purchased the seeds online at
We spent some time on the terrace today, weeding, cleaning and rearranging, getting our pots ready for planting time.