Monday, May 31, 2010

Urban Gardener Holiday Weekend Update

While everyone in NYC was at the beach on this glorious Memorial Day Weekend, we were busy planting our crops and getting our garden organized for the summer. Finally, all the veggies - tomatoes, peppers, japanese eggplants, cukes, lettuce, herbs - are in their pots. And with plant withering temperatures this weekend - almost 90 - we offered our sensitive seedlings a little sun protection - literally. Mitch hung an old curtain and a beach towel on a couple of tomato poles to keep the direct sunlight off the tomato plants. We've found that plopping them into full sun after a couple of months of growing indoors can give them quite a shock. The leaves get burned and the stems begin to droop despite plenty of water. The good news is they seem to have survived the weekend and by this time next month they should be full of flowers and even green fruit.

Our Chippewa blueberry bush on the other hand, did get burned. Earlier in the week, on one of the first 90 degree days of the season, the leaves just burnt to a brown crisp! We don't know why, as it was sufficiently watered and its sibling, a Polaris blueberry bush, survived the day just fine. We called Miller Nurseries where we purchased the young plants and they have promised to send us a new one!

While our veggies are coming along nicely, our search for the perfect shrub to add to our flower garden is not going so well. I mentioned in an earlier post that we purchased a Scotch Broom at Paradise Plants in the flower district. The plant was full of bright red and yellow flowers and seemed like a winning choice. This was not the case. The manager insisted that the plant would flower all summer. Instead, this weed went to seed just weeks after we got it home. I would not recommend this plant to anyone and would not recommend shopping at Paradise! Of course, had we done the research before buying, we could have avoided this $35 mistake. On Monday, we chopped the Scotch down and replaced it with a temporary geranium and petunia arrangement. So, we're still on the hunt for a tallish shrub that will flower all summer and winter well. If anyone has any suggestions, PLEASE POST THEM!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Urban Gardener Weekend Update

I headed south on the weekend to visit my good friend Renee in Washington D.C. She's not only a fellow urban gardener, she's a certified landscaper who has plenty of useful gardening tips to offer. For example, she commented recently on this blog about the best way to plant tomato seedlings. She makes her own compost, knows a great mail order site for choice heirloom tomato seedlings and knows tricks to keep the plants healthy all season (taking the lower branches off tomato plants helps them to avoid soil born diseases, for one.)

Renee has not one, but two urban gardens. The first is right in her backyard, which she recently renovated - creating a beautiful urban oasis that will blossom all summer with flowers, fruit and vegetables. Just as she finished that project, she landed a spot in Friendship Gardens, a community garden with a long waiting list located near her home at Warren and 45th Streets in North West Washington. After exhaustively weeding and prepping the soil, she's planted her 15'x 15' plot, which costs just $10 a year to rent, with tomatoes, herbs, carrots, radishes, peas, lettuce, grapes and more. I'll have to return later this summer for the harvest!

The 50 or so Friendship gardeners share tools, tips and seedlings as they grow crops in an effort to feed their families healthy food or just enjoy the summer outdoors. I am a little jealous, I have to admit, of their camaraderie and ability to grow a greater variety of crops. But I am still looking forward to another summer working my own urban garden, and enjoying the recent additions to our crop list. Already the lettuce is looking strong. Our cucumber seedlings are having a tough time, but while we may lose a couple, I'm confident that the others will gain strength in the next week or so as they bask in the summer sun. As back up, we've put a few more seeds directly into the soil. By the end of the Memorial Day weekend our garden should be ready for prime time!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Topsy Turvy garden

Who knew? Upside down gardening is catching on, according to this New York Times article. I have not tried it myself, as there are few pests eating the crops on my terrace. But it certainly is an intriguing concept, especially for those with hungry deer and rabbits in the neighborhood.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Urban Gardener Weekend Report

What a weekend! Blue skies and 70 degrees, there could not have been better weather for spring gardening.
On Saturday, Mitch and I took a walk over to Manhattan's famous Flower District. We found a great shop for everything from pots and pedestals to soil moisture testers at Jamali Floral & Garden Suppliers on W. 28th St. We picked up velcro tomato ties, Hoffman Tomato Food (this fertilizer is a must for any urban tomato grower) and a few other sundries.

Our main reason for the walk across town was the search for shrubbery. We needed a pretty plant to replace a tired tea rose and we found a brilliantly flowering Scotch Broom at Paradise Plants, also on 28th. The manager assured us that the plant would maintain its beautiful red and yellow blooms all summer, so we grabbed it for $35. A subsequent check on the Internet, however, revealed that the bush would only flower through May. So, I would not recommend shopping at Paradise (and I would recommend doing the research before making a purchase even if it means waiting another week.) Maybe we'll get lucky and get flowers through June...

Of course, the biggest attraction this weekend was planting the seedlings that have been growing on our dining table the past two months. By Sunday afternoon, the parsley, basil, peppers and cucumbers were all tucked into their pots and are now basking in the glorious sunshine. Additionally, I picked up some lettuce seedlings at the Green Market and got them into the ground too. I went for the least expensive, purchasing two packets of four starters at $2.50 each -- one red salad bowl and the other a mix. This was a great deal as there were at least 20 plants between the two packets, including an arugula. I ran out of room to place them all!

If the weather remains on the warm side we'll get some of our tomato plants out this week. They are getting gangly and need a good dose of sunshine to get thick and strong. The eggplants could go out this week too. They really like it hot and I hear 80 degree days are in the forecast.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Brooklyn Grange grows in Queens

The urban farming craze continues in New York. Read this article in the New York Times about a Brooklyn restaurant that is growing its own food on a Long Island City, Queens, rooftop.
UPDATE: The New York City Department of Building issued a stop-work order on the rooftop farm in Queens, even as the Brooklyn restaurant establishing the farm was hauling soil and equipment up to the roof. Read the details here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Home Depot haul

Mother's Day in Westchester is our annual opportunity to shop at a suburban Home Depot with its giant gardening supply section. We rent a car to visit the in-laws and come back bearing gardening bounty. This Sunday we bought plenty of goodies. For starters, we picked up four bell pepper plants (green, red, yellow, orange) two japanese eggplants and a pot of flat parsely, each for about $3.50. Additionally, we grabbed a 50ft. hose, medium grade, for $16, a $10 Meinor watering wand and a 6 ft. wooden trellis for the cucumber plants for $14 (this might be overkill. We'll find out.)
Surprisingly, the Depot didn't carry impatience which we need for our window boxes, so we popped into Simply the Best nursery on Weaver Street in Scarsdale, just down the street from Mitch's parents, and got a flat of 32 plants for $10.99, as well as a dozen 6 ft. bamboo tomato poles for $8.
Great day in suburbia!

Everything's coming up roses

It's too cold to put our tomatoes into their outdoor pots just yet, so they're waiting patiently on our dining table, along with the basil, parsley and cucumber seedlings. But the roses are giving us a nice show this weekend. Big bursts of color just in time to brighten our days. I was thinking of cutting them to make a nice vase full of flowers, but didn't have the heart. On the next go round, however, I'm going to break out the clippers. As the warm weather finally settles in, I'm sure we'll have plenty of chances for floral arrangements.
For Mother's Day, before having dinner with the in-laws, Mitch and I are heading to Home Depot in Yonkers to pick up some supplies, including bell pepper seedlings (we find the Home Depot pepper plants grow well and have fewer bugs than Green Market starters), some 6 ft. bamboo tomato poles (since many of ours are rotting after several years of use,) and a trellis for our cucumber vines (a new addition to our variety of crops.) We'd also like to pick up another rose bush (they sell starters for under $10 and ones we've purchased before have done well.) Other supplies include a new hose and dispenser, some random pots and whatever other veggie starters catch our eyes.
I'm excited about experimenting with planting salad greens this summer. I plan to pick up several heirloom lettuce varieties at the Union Square green market next weekend. And of course, we'll be adding the cucumbers. Mitch is worried that the vines will grow out of control. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rooftop Farming

I read with interest an article in today's New York Times, Growth Spurt, about the rise of rooftop farming in New York. From Manhattan to Greenpoint, restaurateurs are growing their own, giving customers a taste of truly local produce.
Of course, the article neglected to mention yours truly and our urban garden. Well, we don't have a restaurant, so I suppose I can't complain.
This season, however, we do plan to hook up with Mark Bello's Pizza A Casa, a new school that teaches people how to make professional-tasting thin crust pies at home. When our heirloom tomatoes, fresh peppers and herbs are ripe for the picking, we'll tote some of them down to Bello's Lower East Side storefront, giving students a chance to use our veggies as toppings. Not necessarily worthy of a mention in the papers, but certainly an opportunity to expand our horizons in the locavore world. Who knows, maybe a stand at the Green Market is next?