Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Ne Plus Ultra

Sammie

Here, my friends, is one of the real reasons I go to the lengths that I do to take care of my unruly rooftop garden.

What would from the outside appear to be a rather pedestrian sandwich, is actually the pinnacle of summer indulgences for me; the toasted tomato sandwich.

Components

The bread?  Baked fresh Sunday morning.  The tomatoes?  A handful of sun-warmed San Marzanos from the roof.  And the bacon?  That would be a meaty plank sawed from the slab I cured and smoked recently.

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Diversity Is Beauty

Decathalon

Picked these from my garden last night.

Amazingly, even though this has been a pitiful year for tomatoes, mine have come through with a minimum of complication, aside from the fucking aphids.

There are a few other varieties that haven’t quite ripened yet, but these 10 provide a pretty good snapshot of what I’ve been nurturing for the last few months.

All varieties were chosen for their superiority over bland, supermarket cardboard tomatoes.

In case you were wondering, from left to right, we have;

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Garbage Pail Garden

Taters

For those who doubted my ability to produce a decent harvest from my garbage can garden, I give you proof of the potatoes and sunchokes I unearthed yesterday.

Chokes

Two chitted potatoes blossomed into over 4 pounds of decently sized spuds, though the sunchokes clearly needed to stay underground longer.

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Anticipating Harvest

Third Jane Doe

At this time last year, I was up to my eyeballs in lusciously imperfect tomatoes.

But, like almost everyone else this year, my garden’s been slow to blossom.  About 2 or 3 weeks ago I was finally able to start harvesting close to a handful of mixed cherry tomatoes per day.  Even though we’re now a couple of days into September, I still haven’t tasted the first full size fruit yet.

Unknown

As with the red ones above, I’m not sure what varietals these (and the one below) are.  I don’t recall planting any white varieties, but these tomatoes seem awfully pale to me.  Perhaps they might be garden peaches…
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The Problem With Gardening When You’re OCD

Detritus

I’m more than a bit OCD about a lot of things.

It’s a trait that I’m constantly trying to keep in check, but in the garden it can sometimes be difficult to manage without going a little overboard.

Nowhere is this problem more apparent than when it comes time to prune the tomatoes.  Last year, after reading how vital it was to prune indeterminate varieties of tomatoes so that they put their energy into producing fruit rather than extra shoots, I hesitantly gave the plants a once over.  I hated every moment of it, in the same way that I hate thinning seedlings when they’re younger.  But then, oddly enough, I found that after a heavy rainstorm (which we’ve had often both this year and last) the tomato plants tended to become unwieldy much quicker.  Before I knew it, I had to prune back the plants every few days.  And once it was a regular occurrence, I became ruthless about it, often pruning more than was probably necessary.  It got to a point near the end of August where the plants were nothing more than branches laden with tomatoes, stripped almost completely bare of their foliage.  So, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I’ve had the same challenges this year.  After half an hour in the garden last night, I was left with a substantial pile of discarded plant matter.

The good news is, pruning back that much growth makes it easier to find the tomatoes, and will improve the air circulation, which is always beneficial when growing over 30 varieties of tomatoes in tight quarters.  I’ve snapped a few shots of the varieties I’m able to identify;

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Major Suckage

A Sunfloweresque Bloom

The garden thus far has sucked hard this year.

I’m sure you’re all aware of that based solely on how little I have mentioned it in posts (other than to deride it’s general crapiness, that is).

Lonely Sungolds

While this year everything is stunted and weak and quite lame, by this time last year we were enjoying full flourish, with a pint of tomatoes (our main crop) to be picked every other day.  This year, all I’ve gotten so far is a bucketful of lettuce, handfuls of strawberries and scads of small, unripened tomatoes.

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Verdancy

Tiny Strawberries

Despite it’s lethargic start, the garden is now in full swing.

Salad Days

The cooler weather seems to have been most beneficial to the salad bowl, which is still going strong, even though we’re halfway through July.  By this time last year it had already bolted and gone to seed.  I love to go up to the roof and aimlessly stare into the variegated shades of green, interspersed by the occasional frond of delicious red leaf lettuce.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something soothing about staring at this picture.

I suppose you could say I have the pastoral dream, and though I’ve had a blast growing my little microcosm of deliciousness on the roof these past 2 years, I am really looking forward to this taking off, so I might be able to have some in-ground opportunities.  I’ve often considered propositioning some of my Little Italy neighbours for just such an arrangement, being they are mostly older and retired, but one glance from our rooftop confirms that they still take pride in their yards, growing tomatoes, grape vines, and zucchinis galore.  In some ways the Sharing Backyards concept reminds me of a favourite childhood book, The Tiny Little House.  The gist of the book is an old woman who makes amazingly delicious cookies, but has nowhere to sell them.  Her and two mischievous little girls decide to renovate an abandoned little house into a cookie shop, and hilarity ensues.  Like the old woman from The Tiny Little House, some day my ideal space will come…

Potatochokes

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

The Coffee Table Of My Dreams

The Everyman and I took the better part of Canada day week off to putter around the house and generally have ourselves a mini-vacation.

One thing I’ve been putting off for the last month is getting my tomatoes potted up properly, mostly because I wasn’t able to find a kiddie pool until recently.  More than anything, the past week has given me an opportunity to catch up on all my gardening, and finally get the last of the plants into the “ground”.  Aside from all of that, we finally got our patio furniture; after almost 2 years of living here, the rooftop is now satisfactorily complete.

The best part of our patio set is this killer coffee table with inset ice tray.  Perfect for keeping your bevies cold while you lounge around on a hot and sticky afternoon.

A garden pictorial follows;

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Gimme Gimme Never Gets

Do you remember when food used to be seasonal?

I (barely) do.  It was a time when fiddleheads meant spring was upon us, or strawberries and asparagus signalled the beginning of summer.  You knew fall had arrived when it was time for apple picking, and winter was ushered in by the harvesting of root crops and the planting of garlic.

To paraphrase Dylan, oh how the times have changed.

Though I’m too young to recall a time when animals were only slaughtered at a certain time of year, my organic grocer tells me that there are still some local farms (not many) operating with that principal in mind.  The farm that supplies us with our sides of pork and beef subscribes to this ethos, but they also go to the trouble of keeping their animals grass fed and free range, too.  With the exception of plants that are not yet cultivatable (like ramps, morels, truffles and fiddleheads) you’re liable to find just about anything you want, at any time of year at your local megamart.  It may be shipped all the way from Chile, Mexico, Argentina or China, and probably tastes like cardboard or better yet, nothing at all, but you can have it your way, baby!

I’m not overly virtuous when it comes to food, let’s all just be clear on that.  I enjoy chocolate, vanilla beans, coconuts, lemons, limes and bananas; all things that will probably never be local to my less than temperate Canadian climate, though I’m working on that citrus-growing thing.  I have no intention of giving up those foods, either.  What I consume will never be 100% local, and I’m (mostly) ok with that.  When imports are kept at a minimum, I can be comfortable that 90% of the food I eat is sustainable, organic and local, and that all of it is ethically produced.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  What really makes my stomach turn is walking into a grocery store and seeing something like this.  In general our population’s become so spoiled by our food supply that we have no problem sourcing everything and anything from other provinces, states or countries, just because we want what we want and we want it right now.  How many people are still (or worse yet, only) buying those giant, flaccid strawberries from California (even while we’re in the midst of local strawberry season), just because they look bigger or better?  By and large, if something I enjoy eating grows here, I will wait until it’s in season to buy it and enjoy it’s seasonality, regardless of how fleeting that may be.  By doing so I almost guarantee that I’m getting a varied diet, because there are very few items (barring greenhouse foods) that will grow here year-round.  Not to mention that anything consumed within hours of picking (rather than days, or even weeks) is typically more flavourful and nutritious than something artificially ripened in an ethylene chamber.

What’s the point of all of this, you’re wondering?  Well, we got our first CSA farmshare delivery of the season on Wednesday night, and the box was brimming with local tastes and seasonal flavours.  Our $50 farmshare netted us the following this week:

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 bunch rhubarb
  • 1 bundle (super) baby bok choi (we think)
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 bag (1 lb) mixed baby greens
  • 1 lb radishes
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 bunch garlic scapes
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 bunch baby beets
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 head bibb lettuce
  • 1 bunch chard

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Better Now Than Never

Meyer Lemons

I’ve purposely avoided talking about the garden thus far this year because it’s become quite the point of contention.

Whereas by this time last year I was already knee deep in lush and healthy plants, this year I’m seriously struggling to get them out of the ground.

The influx of cooler, rainier weather has been a hindrance to the rooftop growth, but as of this weekend it looks like we’re finally starting to get somewhere.

Chinese Hot PeppersAnchosJalapenos

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Transitional

Thymes, Glorious Thymes

It’s getting to be about that time of year when Foodie and the Everyman morphs from a food, restaurant and review blog to an obsessive compulsive gardening rant.  Though I should point out that I’m growing mostly food, so there is a (somewhat tenuous) connection.

I promise this year I will try not to bore you to tears with my garden leanings so much, it’s just that as a neophyte, I like to document what I’m doing so as not to make the same mistakes twice.  And where better to document my successes and failures than on my own tiny soapbox blog?

I visited Urban Harvest last night to finish selecting the rooftop bounty.  The Everyman was quite conniving, knowing that I had somewhere else I had to be a short while later, and also about my penchant for browsing at garden stores for hours.  He practically ensured that it would have to be no more than a quick in and out pitstop by continually following me around (as he often does when he shops with me – I think to annoy me into submission).  During the 7.5 minutes or so that I was allowed to shop, I managed to pick out a dozen lovely Alpine strawberries (which I grew last year and were amazing little cones of flavor).  I also grabbed several peculiarities that I’m looking forward to working with; a lavender thyme and some lemon thyme.  I love thyme on principle, so variations on the theme are always welcome in our home.  I’d hoped for a lavender plant proper, but they were all sold out, so lavender thyme seemed like the next best thing.  I also snapped up another of the Chinese 5 color pepper plants, because they were eye-poppingly pungent and delicious last year and they make a killer chili salt.  The Everyman’s constant vigilance ensured that I did not get stuck in the trap I like to refer to as the tomato conundrum.  Every time we’ve visited Urban Harvest in the past I’ve made bad choices and purchased more than I could possibly grow on our small stretch of rooftop.  This year, thankfully, I think I’ve made it past all of the temptation and that is not going to happen.  I’ll post up some pictures once I’ve fluffed everything into some semblance of beauty.

The Strawbs That Stole My Heart

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The Joy Of Gardening

First Batch Of Tomatoes

I put the first half of the garden in this weekend.

And, as is wont to happen with the best laid plans, I came back the next day to find a portion of my seedlings dug up by some wily rooftop rapscallion.

I also learned that if I want to plant my seedlings in toilet paper rolls again next year, I need to come up with a better method for labelling.

All told I planted close to 60 tomato plants this year, and close to half are unidentifiable because the rolls have turned black and almost completely disintegrated.  So, it looks like this year I might have a tomato mystery garden.  Which is a bit of a bummer because I specifically planted a bunch of new varieties this year, and I probably won’t be able to differentiate them.  I’m sure they’ll still be tasty though.  I’m just hoping that my pink zapotecs were among the ones that survived, because they look like such beautiful specimens.

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Very Nearly Thwarted

Mother Nature can be a bit of a bitch sometimes.

I very nearly planted all my fragile tomato seedlings yesterday after I got a surge of gardening gusto.

It seems that only by sheer dumb luck (and aching muscles after hauling that damn triple mix) I managed to avoid setting them out into what turned out to be a frost warning this morning.  I did plant a shitload of lettuce mix, beets and shallots though, and am hoping they were covered enough to not be affected by this.

It’s just so frustrating!  We’re nearly halfway through the month of May, and we’re still having frost warnings?  What is that all about???  The growing season here is short enough without having to worry about stuff that’s already been put out being killed by coldness Mid-May.

I had planned to get flats of strawberries this weekend from Urban Harvest, but now I’m not so sure.  I can’t afford to waste money on something that might not last more than a few days in our topsy turvy weather system.  I think it essentially encapsulates the one thing I hate about gardening; I can do everything else perfectly, grow the best plant from seed, nurture it like crazy, etc, but it doesn’t matter one fig because I can’t control the weather.

It’s equal parts humbling and infuriating all at the same time.

Until next time…