This year we’ve decided to try a new crop to our little urban garden. Potatoes! Yukon gold in fact. I tried going the cheap route and bought some from the grocery store. After a couple of weeks trying to sprout them, I read that sometimes potatoes are soaked in something to prevent them from sprouting. Euw! Not sure what that is.
So then I decided to order “official” seed potatoes. By the time they arrived my grocery store ones started to sprout. Of course! So if the potatoes work, I will be rich with them. The potatoes are from a place in Colorado called The Potato Garden.
And since my soil is lousy and filled with glass, I looked into suitable containers for growing them. You have to have something that is deep, so you can keep adding soil (hilling) as the plants grow. This keeps the potatoes from getting hit by the sun, which causes them to turn green and be bitter. I found Smart Pots and ordered 2 of them. They are made out of a sturdy fabric. I thought I would give them a try.
placing one of the seed potatoes
As usual, I have to put my garden behind bars to keep the squirrels from destroying the unestablished plants.
potatoes planted and behind bars
In which the universe shows its sense of humor.
This year I decided that I wasn’t going to try and grow tomatoes. Every year I kid myself about the amount of sunlight I get in my garden and optimistically plant tomatoes. I end up growing tall, somewhat spindly plants that produce either nothing, a tiny tomato, or a tomato that a slug or squirrel eats before it ripens. It’s just so heartbreaking, that I decided to concentrate on things that grow well in my garden like basil, and other herbs.
I compost anything I can, so sometimes I get volunteer plants popping up here and there. I usually let them grow just to see what will happen. This year I got several tomato plants popping up. Since I decided that I am not growing tomatoes this year, I pretty much ignored these plants. They trailed on the ground, or over the stairwell as I didn’t even stake them.
We went away for 2 weeks and what do you think I found when I got back??
A big, beautiful, perfectly ripe tomato!
We’re back from Iceland! It was a truly amazing vacation. If you are even slightly considering going to Iceland, I want you to go! I am editing my photos now, so more will come.
We are now trying to get back into a routine. Lindsay has her first full week of school this week, which is helpful for getting more things done at home. One of the things we haven’t gotten back into a routine again, is locking our chickens up at night. Our coop is predator proof, but we built an extended run that isn’t. So every night when they tuck themselves into bed, we lock the door between the runs. Except last night we forgot.
I woke up around 3am to the most painful screeching sounds. I knew instantly that the chickens were in major distress. Neil and I ran out there to chase off whatever predator was after them. Neil saw something run away, but isn’t sure if it was a cat or a small raccoon.
Fortunately we seemed to be in time. The girls were agitated, but there didn’t seem to be any blood. This morning I checked again and didn’t see any injuries. I just saw this clump of feathers ripped from Andie in the coop. Poor girl. They still have the little sheaths over them, which means that she just grew them. It looks like they came from her head, but I couldn’t see a bald spot.
We just re-set the chicken alarm on our phones to remind us to lock them in at night.
Today I was dealt a crushing blow to my apple harvest. I had noticed that squirrels were slowly stripping my puny dwarf apple trees of apples, but today they totally cleaned one tree off. What’s so maddening is that they pick the fruit, take a few bites, and then leave it on the ground ruined. I feel like they are flipping their little furry finger at me when they do this.
I was able to find 2 apples that didn’t have rodent teeth marks in them. Hopefully they are ripe enough that I can taste them. I don’t know what to put around my second tree to prevent this from happening. Thoughts?
At the beginning of the spring, I noticed that my two tiny apple trees had a bumper crop of apples. There were easily 3 fruits per cluster, which was way more than the tiny trees could support. I was going to have to thin the fruit, which helps the remaining fruit grow larger, and also protects the young tree from broken branches.
Before I thinned the fruit, the tree did it for me. There are lots of tiny apples under both trees, and now there are no more than 2 fruits per cluster. Nature is amazing.
If you’ve spent time reading this blog, you will know that the soil in my garden isn’t great. The term to describe it is “rubble.” I don’t really trust growing food items directly in it. Besides the sunniest area of my garden is paved, so that limits my options. This has lead me to trying raised beds. I have a mish-mosh of containers that I hope are creative and fun and not reminiscent of the set of Sanford and Son.
These are the wine crates I salvaged last year. They are holding up well.
This year I’m not going to grow beans or try and coax tomatoes to grow in a partly sunny garden. I’m going to stick to herbs, which do very well in my yard. I love mixing flowers, herbs and vegetables together.
If you’ve read my earlier post, you will know that I was in need of a second apple tree to help me cross-pollinate my dwarf apple tree. I mentioned this to my sister, and she said all I might need are a few flowering branches from someone else’s tree. If I put the branches out in my garden near my tree, the bees could do their work and I might get apples this year.
So where does a city girl get flowering apple branches? I posted on Brooklyn Freecycle, but didn’t get a response.
I went to a synagogue a few blocks away that has a neglected apple tree on its property, but I think they thought I was nuts. (I’m getting used to this response in people) The woman who had to make the decision never called me back. My next, best option was to prune some branches from the apple trees where we went morel hunting. And this I did. I did notice that quite a few of the trees were actually crab apple trees, which wouldn’t help me out. In fact, I already have a crab apple tree in my yard.
The branches made it home without wilting too much. I put them in water and hung one from the support of my tiny, new tree. I also brushed the stamens/pistils from the pruned flowers onto my flowers just in case I didn’t have bees visiting my yard. Now, let’s cross our fingers for some fruit.
In 2010, Farming Concrete asked 100 community gardeners (in 67 community gardens) in NYC to weigh their harvests. They averaged the yields and determined that on just 1.7 acres of land, 87,700 lbs of produce was grown. The value was estimated to be $200,000.
Take a look at their interactive map. You can search by borough, or even crop. It’s pretty interesting
With my garden still a distant dream, I have been really craving ways to grow some fresh greens. This winter I discovered fresh pea shoots through my winter farm share. They were so amazingly fresh and tasty and somehow my body craved them without ever knowing about them. Hmm..that makes sense to me but probably nobody else. Do you ever have strong cravings for certain foods and just know that your body is telling you it needs more iron, or more fresh veggies? It felt as though after the first bite of these sprouts my body heaved a big sigh. And then I couldn’t shovel them into my mouth fast enough. I felt like Rapunzel’s mom when she was pregnant and craving the witch’s rapunzel.
Anyhoo, when I was ordering seeds for my garden, I saw sprouting seeds and ordered fresh peas. I started these guys 2 days ago and already they have the tell-tale tails (oh dear, maybe this isn’t the morning to try and write a cohesive post) that show they are sprouting. It’s taking all I have not to stand next to them and yell at them to sprout faster. I’ve never grown them before and have no idea how long they take. I’m trying to be patient as I tie a napkin around my neck.
I got a call the other day from my friend Victoria asking me if I would like a kumquat tree. I love calls like this! Among many other things, Victoria is an amazing food stylist. She has been working with a photographer who shoots out of his home in nearby Brooklyn. After their shoots they often have props that they can’t use or return. What is so great, is that Victoria thinks of me and asks me if I need…whatever it is. I’m so greedy, that I never say no.
Hopefully my little kumquat tree will survive the chilly ride in the messenger van! I also have 2 huge blueberry bushes in my backyard courtesy of Victoria. I know she’s happy that this stuff goes to good use, and of course I’m happy because I get to play with fun new things.
Last year Victoria’s son came over to pick blueberries with my daughter in our yard. It’s a funny urban/farming experience we bring to our children.
Update: I think that this little tree isn’t in fact a kumquat. I think it’s a calamondin based on looking through a gardening catalog. Their description is apt: It produces an abundance of round bright orange 1-1/2″ fruit. The fruit is easy to peel and has few seeds. The orange colored pulp is juicy and sour (this is an understatement!). It can be used as a flavoring or as a juice like a lemon or a lime. When sweetened with sugar it makes a delicious marmalade.