Sunday, July 31, 2011

31 July 2011

It's D R Y here right now, so this is what I'm working with. I feel awful for how much water I've had to use to keep these little plants alive.

I had much less plant death this week though, somehow. The tomatoes are thriving.

I don't know why I took all these pics of these red plants. I just think they're pretty. I think they're called Colleus Red Ruffles or some such. I got two of them to hang on our building's front awning, and I keep rooting them and making more.

There's a pointy version that has darker accents.

And then a rounder version that has pink and green accents. This particular one is going through some phase I haven't seen before. It has seeded, which happens every couple weeks, but it also has some kind of intense green middle growth going on. It looks sort of cool.

Here's what the seed thing looks like on the plant.

They say you're supposed to pinch it off, otherwise the plant will be done for.

The plant hadn't had this much green on it before.

And the pink is just vibrant.

But, as always... back to the tomatoes.

Here's a funny pic of my little rogue tomato. I didn't plant this one -- it just sprung up. And I can never get to the store to get any extra supports for these things, so I just took an old dried up vine from my old dried up vine pile and tied it to my neighbor's fruit tree. We'll see how long it holds! (Long enough for me to get to the store and get a cage, I hope.)

The cherries continue to just produce like crazy. I LOVE these things. I'm going to plant a ton of them next year. I think they're called Sweet 100s, but I have to double check.


So speaking of my neighbor's fruit trees, he's got a plum tree on the east side, and the plums seems to be ripe this week.

You can see a plump one on the vine here.

And then this one that a critter must have gotten yesterday.

He's got some kind of peaches on the west side too, but they don't seem ripe yet. He had a third tree too that didn't make it.

Tomato through the greens.

Thank you, happy garden.

Monday, July 25, 2011

24 July 2011

Remember my greens?

The ones the caterpillars are so nicely sharing with me?

I was right -- these little black dots are definitely some sort of caterpillar egg. So I felt bad, but I flicked them all off again. Sorry little caterpillars. It seems to be making a little difference, at least, but the leaves are still quite well munched.

The whole garden took a hit this week with the hot--ridiculously hot--whether we've had. The first day of the heat, it seemed like the tomatoes just turned yellow and died.

I guess it's hard to tell from these pictures, but I lost a bunch of plants.

This is my little yellow cherry tomato plant. I had two of them, and they have produced beautiful fruit. But I think they're that type of tomato that just sort of produces once and then is done. They look fried.

The basil lives on. We've eaten quite a bit of it this week.

The red cherries continue to produce like gangbusters.

And the greens live on, very tall, despite the munching.

I don't know why I can't bring myself to fully uproot all the arugula, but this week I at least "thinned" it -- plucked out about half.

And now, some eating! Our delicious insalata caprese, which we've had three times already.

And Ken's spaghetti and meatballs, today with flash roasted tomato sauce and basil from the garden. I had it with a julienne of zucchini today, which was way way way way better than the fake noodles we tried before.

Happy the garden survived the week.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

17 July 2011

I’m determined to get to the bottom of my caterpillar-eaten Zambian greens. First, the name. The friend who gave me the seedlings calls them “rape,” and for obvious reasons, I have avoided that term. People have heard of “rape seed” which I think turns into canola oil. In the fields a bit north of where I grew up, rape seed is plentiful – it’s in big, beautiful, very smelly yellow fields. I think the term for it is brassica napus, but I’m not 100% sure (for rape seed, that is). So then the kind of weird thing is that this plant, when it is grown for the greens rather than the seeds (not sure how to do it for the seeds – maybe it’s a different variety instead) is variably described as being “like rutabagas,” “like turnips,” and “in the cabbage family.” Perhaps these are all in the same family, I'm not sure. So I'm forging ahead trying to find out a bit more about it, so I can find out what to do about the critters who like to eat it.

What I've tried so far is a simple solution of water with molasses and dishwashing soap, sprayed on every day. I think it has worked okay, since the caterpillars used to eat even more of the leaves before I started spraying this on.

But then my Organic Gardening book told me to look under the leaves for eggs and/or caterpillars. I didn't see any caterpillars on any of the plants, but in one plant, I did see this little bounty of black dots. Eggs? I don't know. But I washed them off, so I'll check back tomorrow to see what's up.

The tomatoes were plentiful again today -- I've gotten at least 10 every day for the last few days. The picture at the bottom of the post shows what I've got in the house right now, after giving lots and lots away and using a ton too. We pretty much just eat the cherry tomatoes for snacks all the time, and this week I roasted a le creuset pan full of all the different varieties. As per the Cooking Light instructions of making marinara, I roasted them on 250 degrees for seven hours. Oh. My. God. They were so damn delicious. I'm going to do the same to this batch, except I'm going to try to zap them quickly at 450 degrees for about a half hour, since it seems like seven hours of oven time is a bit too energy-intensive (and I'm assuming that way less oven time, even at a much higher temperature, will take less energy). We'll see how it turns out.

We also had insalata caprese on Friday evening after Ken got home from work. DELICIOUS. We had gotten a little bunch of basil at the grocery store and I planted it just for fun. Yum.

But now onto the big (or actually, very miniature) news: the carrots.

Io has been sweating me about these carrots for weeks. Really, months. We planted a whole row of carrots, the same size as the row of arugula, but really only two little plants popped up. They've been doing their best to hang on, but they look a little bit sad all by themselves.

Last week I told Io she could pick the carrots today. She was SO excited. So we cleared out some space (dug up a bunch of the old arugula) so she could get a really good grip on one of the tiny plants. She got down and looked really closely, and she could see the carrots popping up over the surface. And the she very carefully pulled one out.

I was tickled that her first instinct was to smell it. It smelled wonderful.

She said it "didn't smell bad" in an excited voice, as if she expected that it would.

It was tiny! And cute.

So of course she wanted to eat it, but Ken insisted we wash it first (in true City Kid fashion), so they walked over to the hose and washed it.

And then she ate it. She said "it didn't even taste bad," again making it seem like she had expected it to.

And Idris goes on picking and snacking on his cherry tomatoes.

A lovely week in the garden.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

10 July 2011

So... I got this book Organic Gardening and learned that I'm supposed to be journaling every week to describe conditions and growth patterns.

These were taken on 10 July 2011 and the garden is in lush bloom. We've had at least 4-5 harvests of Zambian greens, and I pulled my first-ever bucket of tomatoes this weekend.

The different varieties of tomatoes each have distinct features -- really, distinct things wrong with them. The western-most ones, which were sold to me as some sort of round yellow heirloom, are actually heart-shaped with green on the top and a pale, dull red color. They taste good -- the first full tomato we ate was one of these. We had it on our cheeseburgers at the pool on Sunday night. (I also tried my first gluten-free hamburger buns -- yulch. They tasted like biscuits, and would be good as biscuits, but I used lettuce for my burger "bun" instead.) The tomato tasted great. Not transcendant great, but really good and fresh. You can see them here in pic number 9 and 14.

The plum tomatoes in the middle taste awful, like mealy mush, and they have some kind of situation where the bottom sort of fries to a flat, brown surface. I'll take a picture of one next week. All the tomatoes are very plentiful. There are tons of green tomatoes on the vines of all types right now.

The yellow cherries in the back/middle were the first to produce and seem to be the first dying. I think they are whatever those one-time producing tomato plants are called. They have each produced about 20 tomatoes and they've been really juicy and delicious.

The red cherries in the front have been the most consistent, the most perfect, and the most delicious. We get a bunch of these every day, and have for the last few weeks. Idris eats them like candy. I picked about 20 this morning and then this evening before we went up for bedtime I picked about 20 more.

Of course I've had to start picking all the fruit really early, before it's truly ready, so the varmints don't come and get it.

The regular old red tomatoes on the far east side are plentiful (in green) but I haven't tasted one yet. We just picked the first one Sunday. They get some kind of dried out cross pattern on the top -- it's like they're too big for their own skin. I'll take a pic of that next week too.

The arugula is very spicy and we stopped eating it a few weeks ago, but I don't really know what to do with it and I can't bring myself to dig it up so I've just left it. It looks pretty.

The Zambian greens are so delicious -- they're Ken's favorite vegetable by far right now. He sautees it up with some oil and garlic and eats it like there's no tomorrow. We've been "sharing" the greens with the caterpillars, which drives Regina crazy. She feels I'm wasting the greens she gave me. But I'm trying to be a good steward, so I'm using a spray of water, molasses, and a couple drops of dish washing liquid. We spray it on whenever we get a chance -- once or twice a day. Io sort of likes doing it, but my spray bottle isn't the greatest so it's sort of a frustrating chore.

This garden takes water, water, water, and I'd like to eventually work out a better watering system that doesn't require so much fresh tap water to be used and hauled. I don't think a rain bucket is going to work because our drains are all the way over on the other side of the building. But I might be able to divert some water or at least just capture a little. Or maybe I'll think about a drip system.

We also want to start composting and haven't dared to get going yet. There's a worm composting seminar on Thursday but it's sort of expensive and I think you have to keep the worms indoors, which wouldn't work in our space.

But the garden itself is great and has been just marvelous.