Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Fig Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Fig trees are growing in Brooklyn? According to this New York Times article they're sprouting fruit all over the borough. Well, then, why not plant one in Manhattan. Sounds like a great addition to my already overflowing urban garden. I'll be on the lookout for a sapling come next spring!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Swallowtail butterfly picks parsley

This caterpillar turns into a black swallowtail butterfly
What a discovery I made this weekend - I found this creature noshing on my parsley! Turns out this green gobbler is the precursor to the black swallowtail butterfly. I recall seeing one of them fluttering on my terrace a few weeks ago. Who knew she was dropping her eggs on my greens. I am so amazed that these bugs, which seem to be randomly flitting about, can suss out the exact plant on which to host their offspring amid the inhospitable concrete jungle. How did she find my little patch of parsley - the preferred diet of the black swallowtail? Unfortunately, I didn't want to sacrifice my parsley (this thing eats amazingly quickly and would have polished off the whole plant in a day or two) so I plucked it off and plopped it in the green space beside my building. Alas, there was no parsley planted there, but I hope it will find a suitable alternative. And yes, I feel a little guilty...

Black swallowtail butterfly

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Heartbreak garden: A summer to forget

Last of the red hot tomatoes - we picked these in late July
 Oh how I hate to admit it. How I wish it wasn't so. But this season is fast shaping up to be our worst ever! We have had terrible luck in the garden, no where more evident than with our tomatoes. The season started off well. Putting the plants out a couple of weeks early thanks to a warm spring resulted in ripe tomatoes in mid-July, a full two weeks before last season. But our plants have since punked out on us. Just when we should be getting a bountiful harvest, the vines are completely bare. Not a hint of red peeking through the green leaves.
Frankly, it's a depressing sight. The prolonged hot weather, with several weeks of 90 degree or higher days and nights, is surely a culprit. Tomatoes grow best when the temperature is 80 degrees to 85 degrees during the day and in the 70s at night I recently read. Prolonged heat waves like the ones we had this summer inhibit pollination, causing blossom drop - when the flowers dry up and fall off instead of producing fruit. A recent New York Times article throws cold water on this theory, quoting lots of local farmers crowing about their fabulous crops, but I'm sticking to it, since I have only my own garden to go by.
Our choice of heirlooms may have added to our woes. We experimented with completely different varieties this year, Black from Tula, Azorean Red, Green Zebra and Pantano Romanesco, buying our seeds from Though they were highly rated on the site, maybe they aren't as hardy as the Cherokee Purples and Brandywines we've been growing all these years. Even the Kellogg's Breakfast, with its beautiful orange fruit, faded in July after a strong start. I suppose we should always go with what we know - experimenting is fine, but with one or two plants at most, not all of them!
There have been other problems in the garden this summer. I planted cucumbers when I should have gone for the smaller Kirbies, which grow better in pots. Somehow I forgot this after learning the same lesson two years ago. The broccoli seemed like a winner early on, but so far I've harvested only three florets. My lettuce was also overcome by the heat - though now I have new seedlings growing.
To top it all off, those clever mockingbirds took to pecking at the few tomatoes we had on the vines! They're probably pissed that we put nets around our blueberry bushes.
Is it too soon to pine for next summer???
Mockingbird's lunch

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kellogg's Breakfast tomato, perfect for dinner!

This beauty is known as Kellogg's Breakfast tomato. The orange heirloom is definitely our stand out this summer. It's sweet and juicy, with just the right amount of acidity and bite. We picked this 1.8 pounder two weeks ago. It was a tasty treat with mozzarella and basil, a sprinkle of olive oil and some pepper. Perfection! 

Kellogg's Breakfast for dinner