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Gardening « Foodie and the Everyman

Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Jealousy, Thy Name Is Greek Freak Tomato

Jumpin' Jehosephat!

Our garden this year has been somewhat of a bust.

While the weather has been continuously warm and sunny all summer long, only the hot peppers, beets, chard and sunchokes have deemed it permissible to come on in full force for 2010.

So, I’m sure you can understand how green with (familial) jealousy I was when the Everyman’s sister in law presented us with 3 monstrous specimens from this year’s Greek Freak crop.

If you can’t see it clearly from that photo, that tomato clocks in at 2 pounds, 2 1/8 ounces.  Yowza!  It’s 2 accompanying brothers, while smaller, still helped tip the scale to over 4 pounds total.

Let’s just say with the piddly crop we’ve got on our roof, I was only too grateful to have something this magnificent put into my hand (and sandwich).

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Curiouser And Curiouser

Multicolour

One of the neat things about being a novice gardener is that I am constantly filled with wonder at the simplest things.

This pea plant us just one such instance.

As you can see, it has 4 separate blooms near the top, but for some odd reason (which you may not be able to clearly discern from the photo) the blooms themselves are several not all the same colour.  One of the blooms is fuchsia pink, while another is a royal purple, and yet a third is a light lilac.

For some reason this intrigues me to no end.  Here, a close up look at the lilac bloom.

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The Orca Bean

Orca

Quite possibly the strangest and most beautiful bean flowers I’ve ever seen.  It’s rare to see true black in nature, but this here is it.

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Time Lapse

Potato Blossom

These pictures are now about a week old (whole lifetimes ago in garden time), but I’m posting them as part of a time lapse retrospective of this year’s garden.

West

In the west elevation above is the row of pea and bean plants, reaching for the sky.

South

The southern elevation plays host to my mixed potato and sunchoke garbage can, a large planter of baby lettuces, a fledgling pot of rainbow chard and myriad colourful beets.

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Wonderous Nature

Baby Asparagus

Growing up, I didn’t have much access to gardens, other than the occasional tomato plant that my mom would keep in her front yard, desperately trying to coax a few succulent red orbs out of the tiny patch allotted on her front step.  Like me, she didn’t have much of a green thumb, so more often than not the plants ended up shrivelling and dying instead.  For years I was convinced I had a black thumb because I killed so many houseplants, but once I started vegetable gardening, I finally found my niche.

As such, I (like most young urbanites, I imagine) have very little in the way of a frame of reference when it comes to what plants should look like when they grow.  I may have laughed astonishingly when they showed those children on Jamie’s Food Revolution who didn’t know the difference between potatoes, tomatoes, etc, but it didn’t occur to me until recently how hypocritical that was.

Last year when I grew artichokes on the roof, I had no idea what the plants would look like once they flourished.  Years ago when I first started gardening I wasn’t sure what seeds were a 1:1 ratio to their edible growth, and which ones would grow into bushes.  Carrots, beets, artichokes and potatoes were all in the past planted without the knowledge of whether I was going to produce a meagre or bountiful harvest because I just didn’t understand gardening.  The moral of the story here is that everyone can be ignorant about something occasionally, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re dumb.  As someone who grew up in the city, and mostly in apartments to boot, I just never had access to outdoor spaces where I would ever be exposed to living, growing things, so how could I know better?

Which is why when I decided to order asparagus crowns from Vesey’s back in January, I had no clue how many would suffice for our garden on the roof.  Compound that with the fact that I didn’t even know whether a crown would produce 1 stalk of asparagus or 20, and you’ll understand why I opted to purchase 12 crowns.  Amazing even to me, but in 29 years I had never seen a real, live asparagus plant in person before.  Of course, I’d heard all about how they grew like weeds so I was prepared for rapid shoots, yet I still didn’t expect what came next.

As you can see from the photo above, each crown is producing stalks which in turn are diverging into numerous branches.  Honestly, I never knew.  And I’d bet good money that scads of other city dwellers would feel the same way too (if they weren’t worried about how stupid they might sound, that is).

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The Garbagepail Garden Shall Rise Again

Tatties

A few weeks ago (some time around Mother’s day I think) I took my 1 pound box of mixed potato species and Carman sunchokes and planted them in last year’s winningest idea for a planter; the garbage can!

Only this time, I remembered to drill holes in the bottom because the gross bog of rainwater that was left in the bin after all this spring weather really did not need to be repeated next year.  As you can see, the warm, almost summery weather we’ve been having lately has had quite the effect on my potatoes.  In only 2 short weeks I’ve gotten sproutlings that are already several inches tall.  I’d say this bodes well for an even better harvest than last year, which I didn’t start until much later in June.

The Beginnings Of A Salad Bowl

Also growing on the roof are some shoots that will soon make it into my salad bowl.

Beet Sprouts

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You Win Some, You Lose Some

Briliant Gojis

Sometimes, you own the plants, and sometimes, the plants own you.

After nearly a month of exposure under the indoor lamps, some of my tiny seedlings are flourishing and others are struggling not to shrivel up and die.

One of the most surprising survivors is the goji berry plant pictured above, which has exploded with a riotous stand of sprouts from one tiny, wrinkly seed.

Conversely, many of my tomato seedlings have not been having a great go of it thus far.  You see, the problem with growing rare, heirloom plants is that they often aren’t as easy to germinate and when they do, they still have trouble maintaining their growth through to a viable stage.  Some people will tell you that these kinds of finicky plants were weeded out of our general food supply for a reason, but I like a challenge.  As such, last weekend I reseeded nearly 30% of the tomato varieties to make another attempt.  When I plant these heirloom seeds, I do plant several seeds to a pot, but after they sprouted the first time, I got overzealous and thinned them out before they’d actually developed their true leaves, after which many of them chose to spite me and die.

To hopefully speed up the process, I’ve installed several more lamps for the plants to provide something even closer to daylight for them.

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Seasons Change

First Out

With all of the on again, off again weather we’ve had lately, it’s no wonder my green thumb has been itching to get started.

The Shelf

A little over a week ago, I spent the better part of the day preparing and seeding all of my tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and various beans.  Conveniently, the grow lamp-equipped shelf that the Everyman bought me for Christmas a few years ago made it pretty simple to start plants from seed without tying up window space.  This is important because it means it’s less likely that the cats will interfere with the delicate plants (generally speaking, they don’t like the super bright lights).

The top two shelves are usually pretty safe from kitty mischief, but this year they’ve been rather interested in the goings on of the bottom shelf, which in past years I haven’t used.  Because my ambitions for the garden this year are a little bit outsized, I had no choice but to use all 3 levels to light up my seeds, though.  There have been several instances since I installed the little seedlings in the shelving that I’ve come home and found paw sized dents in the plastic wrap tent that’s meant to hold moisture in.  Then, one morning I came down to find an ominous yellow puddle floating on top of the plastic wrap.

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New Beginnings

Bounty

Tomorrow is my birthday.

So, it seems only fitting that as I prepare to spend another year in this skin, I should reflect on what it is I’m planning to do in the coming months, particularly in relation to gardening.

With the exception of the various forms of root stock I ordered (potatoes, sunchokes and asparagus) all of my seeds have arrived.  I spread them out on the kitchen table last night and simultaneously felt surges of fear and excitement.  There’s something rather exhilarating about the potential of this year’s garden with the many unknowns I’m introducing into the equation, but at the same time I can also see the immense amount of work all of the seed packs represent.

Of course, the few months between receiving the seeds and actually planting them into the ground is excruciatingly painful for someone as impatient as I am.  There is the distraction of starting the seeds in the basement, but that is just a temporary solution, which is why I invariably end up going back to the seed catalogues that keep showing up at my door and ordering more.  In fact, immediately after I placed the orders for all of the seed packets that you see above, another Richter’s magazine (ironically) showed up, attempting to entice me into purchasing again.  To date I haven’t caved, but only because I’m not sure whether I realistically have room for all of the things I’ve already bought.  Regardless of that concern, I’m sure before May rolls around there will be a few more seed orders arriving at my door.

As an added bonus, the company that sent me the seeds on the very left (Heritage Harvest) included a free package of tomato seeds with my order, and I’m very intrigued by them.  They’re called Henderson’s Wins All and apparently this heritage variety grows grotesquely massive 2-3 pound specimens.  While some of you may be aware of my fascination with all things tiny and squee, I’m also (surprisingly) amazed by those biggest vegetable ever contests that people hold every harvest season.  Between the Sicilian Saucer (another 3 pound beast) and this new Henderson’s I think I’m going to have giantesse all wrapped up this year.  I’m expecting it’ll be a very Alice In Wonderland-esque garden with all of the tiny cherry tomatoes being dwarfed by these 2 oversized plants.

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The Most Ambitious Project Yet

Garden 2010

After much deliberation (and a healthy dose of procrastination), I’ve finally selected and plotted my intentions for the 2010 garden.

It might seem awfully early to some, but seeds must be ordered, delivered and started before a springtime sowing in late May can be accomplished.

This year will be interesting for a number of reasons.

Primarily because I’m going to be trying to grow a couple crowns of asparagus for the first time, but I’m also attempting rare French strawberries from seed, as well as leeks, garlic and chard.

As you can see from my crude 10,000 foot drawing, there are lots of different veggies being installed, as well as a small bee garden that I hope will attract a healthy amount of polinators to our rooftop sanctuary.  We had a bit of a problem with the lack of bees last year, though I’m not sure if it was due to colony collapse or the overall shitty weather, but it can’t hurt to encourage them with a pretty flower garden.

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The Constant Gardener

Rememberies

Isn’t that a beautiful picture?

That is an heirloom caprese salad courtesy of my own garden, circa September 2009.

And as winter drags on in it’s pithy little way, I find myself drawn to the photos I have of my garden (or the spoils thereof) to help keep me going during this wretched time of year.

As usual, I had seed catalogues to pore over at Christmas again, and have spent the better part of a dozen hours agonizing over what I should, would, could grow this year.  In a surprising twist of fate our condo board reversed their decision to rip up and replace our roof deck this year, so I unexpectedly have the luxury of planning a 2010 garden once again.  It may seem early, but once I determine what to grow, seeds will need to be ordered and started indoors, so really, I’m right on schedule.

Given my (ample for a roof) yet rather confined space, it’s always a difficult task deciding what I should grow.  Successes from previous years fight for acreage against new plants I’ve been seduced by but have yet to try.  The fun part is attempting to harmoniously blend them all together in a symbiotic way.

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When Life Gives You Green Tomatoes…

Salsa Verde

For close to a month now, I’ve been patiently waiting for Indian summer to set in.

I’ve optimistically/delusionally put off closing up the garden in the hopes that some unseasonably warm weather would drop by and bring the masses of tomatoes on my vines to fruition.

But, with the Everyman and I leaving for a week’s vacation at the cottage, it appeared I would have no such luck, so rather than hoping for the best while we were away and potentially losing all of the tomatoes to frost, I sucked it up and stripped the plants bare over the weekend.

The damage?

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Winding Down

Garden In Transition

The slightest chill has been in the air when I leave the house in the morning lately, which is an indicator of one thing in particular;

The Most Beautiful Tomatoes

Summer is coming to a close.

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