Sunday, June 20, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: Beets and Carrots (May and June)

The beets and carrots went in on April 5th and we are definitely seeing growth!

Early May

Mid May- we had to thin them out slightly.

 Late May- wow!

 Early June- significant growth- we can't even see the dirt anymore! 
Hope we thinned out enough to let them grow properly...

We couldn't wait anymore- in mid June we had to pull up a beet and carrot to see if they were ready or not... They were a little soft and definitely too small- so sad! 
 The first beet! (Mid June)

The first carrot (Mid June)

We've been noticing a couple of these beautiful yellow, green, and black caterpillars on the carrots. After some research, we found out that they will become Black Swallowtail butterflies! 

On the one hand, we'll hopefully have these beautiful butterflies around, but on the other, they are ravaging the carrot stems and leaves!

Second carrot.... it's tiny, but perfect!! (June 20th)
Notice the completely chewed up stem between the carrot and the caterpillar- he's moved onto the next one!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: Lettuce (May and June)

The lettuce has been slowly and steadily growing strong- at first they were these thin, straggly greenish white strands, but as the weeks have gone on, they have grown into crisp, sweet leaves of lettuce!  

Mid May
Late May

Early June

We have a variety of different lettuces which are planted closely together, and as we keep cutting them down, they keep growing back! They've been perfect for side salads with a few tomatoes, topped with a little shaved parm or picked fresh to add some crunch to a sandwich!

Urban gardening 2010: Peppers (June)

The Hudson Valley Seed Library says that the Matchbox Peppers are "fiery with a sweet side" (kind of like me, ha!!).

I love how P planted them in a used olive oil tin (the idea is from the book "Organic Crops in Pots", a how-to-book with brilliant projects which show you not only how to grow them all from scratch, but how to plant them in an array of attractive containers, from colanders to recycled tins. (It was one of his birthday presents to me last year).

 Peppers in late April (still inside the house!)

Late May

 Mid June

 There are a bunch of small white flowers all over the 2 plants, so we hope that we will start getting the peppers soon!

Urban gardening 2010: tomatoes (May and June)

The last time I posted about the tomatoes, it was late April, and we had just transplanted the seedlings outside. The seedlings were protected from the menacing squirrels with mesh screens but we're not sure if the mesh prevented the sun from getting to their tender little leaves, or if the coffee grounds and eggshells we had supplemented the dirt with were too intense, but they just were not doing well. They were sickly and yellow, and the couple days of really windy, cold weather probably didn't help. Although P was sympathetic, he told me I was coddling them too much and to let nature take its course...

The transplanted seedlings are barely taking root after 2 weeks... so disappointing! 
(Early May)

By mid-May, the seedlings had been outside for 3 weeks, and were still tiny, so we ended up replacing them with much larger, established plums and cherries from the Borough Hall Farmer's Market. It hurt too much to throw away the poor seedlings, so we just popped them all into one small pot and stuck them in another corner.

 The new tomato transplants from the Farmer's Market (plums and cherries) along with the oregano and basil from last year. 
(Mid May)
The following week, the new tomatoes were definitely growing, phew!

 Our first tomato blossoms! (Late May)

The first tomato! It's a plum! (Late May)

More plums (Early June)

and more plums!! (Mid June)

By June, the new tomatoes had shot up to the top rung of the trellis. We have been lucky that it's been really warm and sunny, unlike last year's soggy summer. 
 Early June

 Mid/Late June
 The cherry tomatoes! (Early June)

 The cherry tomatoes! (Mid June)

Oh, and those poor little tomato seedlings that were barely alive in mid-May...
The four tomato seedlings are in the plastic orange pot on the right- kind of hard to see them because of the basil planted in with them and the petunias in the background. Also shown are lavender, rosemary, sage, and cilantro. In the foreground are marigolds that we planted from seed- their scent is supposed to deter pests from the eggplants and squash, so we've got a bunch going. (Mid May)

Everyone's growing in well, even the tomatoes! (Late May)

Ummm, OK... so the "poor little seedlings" had a growth spurt and now they've sprung into giant, healthy tomato plants! They got so big that we had to split them up into two pots, and even those look too small for them! I guess nature did take its course and they were just really slow starters... so I really was just an overly concerned plant mommy... It's really uncanny how describing the plants is so similar to describing children!!

The strapping young tomatoes!

To add to the parallels of parenthood, my coworker Joerg lent me his "Plant Cam"while he's away for a month. NO, it's not like one of those baby monitors that parents use to check in on their babies when they're sleeping or whatever- it's actually a very cool, all weather time-lapse camera! We've set it up to take photos every few hours for a whole month to track the tomatoes' growth. 

We'll post the video when it's done- we hope it works out! 

Urban gardening 2010: Eggplants (May and June)

The eggplants seem to be doing pretty well- no flowers or anything yet, but the stems and leaves are getting thicker and stronger!

The marigolds we planted from seed are actually taking over the eggplants! We didn't check the seed packet carefully- we thought we were getting the dwarf ("French") marigolds, but instead we got the ones that grow to like 3' tall! Oops!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: Squash and Peas (May and June)

 Peas (background), squash (front)
(Early May)

Peas (background), squash (middle), lettuce (front)
(Mid/Late May)

 Squash getting bigger and bigger (Early June)

P rigged up a fishing line "trellis" for the pea shoots to climb up, and they sure latched on... Their strong tendrils would curl and wind themselves around anything stable and they just kept growing up! The pea shoots are so cute and little, and they have these delicate yellow and white flowers.

The peas were the first of the plants to produce edible fruit, so we were so excited to see (and eat) our first pea in mid-May!
 Snow pea (Mid May)
More snow peas (Mid/late May)

Sugar snap peas (Early June)

We haven't gotten a huge crop of peas, and I'm wondering if it's because we didn't inoculate them when we first planted them, or if it's just the nature of growing peas in this climate. We had several windy days and a few bursts of unseasonably HOT weather in May, which probably didn't help them.

The leaves are starting to turn brown (they don't grow too well in the hot summer months) but we still have a respectable amount of flowers and shoots growing. Once the peas are gone, we're going to have to plant something else in that box- something that loves nitrogen-rich soil.

Sugar snap peas (Mid June)
In any case, the peas have not made it into a pot or a pan for cooking- we keep eating them first! As expected, they are super sweet and crunchy, and have that "fresh" spring smell that only peas have.

The squash have also been producing a ton of flowers, but they kept falling off... I was really worried at first, but then read that they usually produce a mass of male flowers in the beginning, but will eventually produce more female flowers (the ones which ultimately turn into squash). I also read that if female flowers were also falling off, it was most likely because they were not getting pollinated by the male flowers (lack of bees, wind, unfavorable weather, etc.).

 Squash blossoms (Mid/Late May)

We did notice that there have not been quite as many bees as last year (perhaps due to the "anti-pest" marigolds and not planting the morning glories this year?) so I ventured into the somewhat intrusive operation of hand-pollination... my own little science project.

First I had to learn to identify the male and female flowers and learn about their anatomies.
 Male flower (above) with stamen, female flower (below) with pistil

Then I had to wait until a female flower (distinguished by the more complicated pistil and the miniature squash at the base of the flower) had opened up... I didn't wait long, only a few days.

I plucked a male flower, peeled off its petals like a banana, and held it upside down by its stem over the female flower so that I could brush the pollen onto her stigma. If pollination is done right, the ovary (or the undeveloped squash) will enlarge and transform into the squash that we eat!

Although I did feel a little weird meddling with nature, it was a success! The squash has been growing about an inch or two a day... and there are a few more female blossoms developing!
The first squash! (Mid June)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: The view

P & I love the view when we first walk out to the patio. The planters that we so laboriously built in March now house peas, squash, lettuce, eggplants, beets, and carrots, while an assortment of pots strewn about the patio contain all the other fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers which we have worked so hard to grow.

Beyond all that is an expansive courtyard with tons of mature trees, birds, squirrels, insects... a far cry from the view I had in my sixth floor Lower East Side walk-up (my bedroom windows looked out onto the side of a gritty apartment building whose tenants had a propensity for rooftop parties starting at 1am, and well, on the other, a view of the Manhattan skyline, including the Empire State Building.) Neither of us would have ever imagined that we would get this slice of paradise while still living in NYC!

Anyway, point being- we love the view when we walk out onto the patio...
Here's a progression of the vertical growth of the peas are on the left, with the lush leaves of the squash beyond.

Early May

 Mid May
Late May

Early June
Mid June

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Urban gardening 2010: Soledad's Science Project

One of my co-worker's kids was doing a science project on "Edible Gardens", so she asked if she could come over to our patio and take some photos and talk to me about it.

I thought she did an amazing job (no surprise there- this girl's vocabulary, intellect, and maturity is remarkable). Here are some photos from her presentation!