The Grow Op – an urban gardening experiment


All is Not Lost. Some is Lost, But Not All
August 10, 2009, 10:55 am
Filed under: Flowers, Herbs, Plants, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , ,

My Friends, please take a moment to bow your heads and acknowledge the losses of these past few weeks: Brave Sunflower, Valiant Dill Weed, Innocent Dark Opal Basil – we hardly new ye. Also among the casualties are the severely injured Chamomile, and the Peppers have some kind of infection from some unsavory mulch.

Finally, I think the tomato twins might be retarded.

But in brighter news, a lot of plants bounced back. I am making some tea with catnip and lime mint. I harvested a nice sized cucumber, and there are some beautiful eggplants coming in! And I saved one Dark Opal sprout, which is coming back beautifully.

Pictures of the harvest to follow.



CSA Week 2
June 27, 2009, 1:07 pm
Filed under: CSA | Tags: , , ,

CSAWeek2

This week i got some weird stuff along with some more regular fare. I got the usual bag of delicious salad greens. I got another pound of snow peas. I got a bunch of young kale, and a bundle of fragrant spearmint. That is where the familiarity ended. I got something called amaranth, which is a spinach-like green. I got garlic scapes, which are like young garlic, i gather. I got a bunch of young fennel, which would have been better if i hadn’t used it almost exclusively in a recipe. The flavour definitely needs to be used wisely and sparingly! And i got a head of escarole, which is like a slightly more bitter but mostly just more delicious form of leaf lettuce. Perhaps sensing my approaching bewilderment, my friendly neighbourhood farmer included in via email an excellent collection of recipes for using some of the less familiar items. I tried a garlic scape and amaranth fritatta last night, and it was absolutely delicious. The emails are sent weekly and contain info about the items in the box for the week, along with the occasional anecdote about the growing process, which I find is a refreshing way to connect better with the food you are eating. It certainly beats the Safeway.

This is living.



Flower Power
June 27, 2009, 12:53 pm
Filed under: Flowers, Plants, Vegetables | Tags: , ,

Lately my garden has been looking like the Garden of Eden – at least if the Garden of Eden was in a small 2-bedroom apartment. Many of my vegetable plants are flowering like crazy, so i thought i would share some of them with you.

EggplantFlower

This is my eggplant (eggplant plant?). By far the prettiest flower to me, but i think i am more excited about this plant than any of my other ones, so i might be biased.

RedPepperFlower

here is the Red Pepper plant. It has gotten “big early” just like it’s name implies. It has actually been flowering the longest, but not a lot of delicious pepper action just yet.

CukeFlower

My cucumbers take the cake for most numerous flowers. It has dozens of them. I am starting to understand the behaviour of this plant a lot better. First of all it crawls around like crazy. It is everywhere now, as demonstrated in a previous post. And it has these huge shady leaves. I think this is to protect the fruit as it begins to develop, because what i am seeing now is a lot of cucumbers starting to grow, and then turning brown and withering. It naturally stays on the ground as well, so you could imagine big healthy cucumbers languishing beneath huge shady leaves like Roman nobles. So my scaffolding may be thwarting this to a certain extent. A few of them that are getting ample shade are starting to get big! More on this in a subsequent post.

Flowerless Flowers

These are flower plants that are not flowering: the tall one is a sunflower, and the leafy stringy one is chamomile. I am waiting anxiously for the chamomile to flower so i can make my own delicious tea, and mix it with the catnip (the third plant) which doesn’t actually flower i don’t think but is in the pic anyway. The sunflower has been growing strong, but may need more sunlight to get a really nice bloom. hopefully later in the summer it will get more direct sun.



The New Kids
June 5, 2009, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Plants, Vegetables | Tags: , , ,

I recently added a few more plants to my garden:

“Fairy Tale” Eggplant
Eggplant
This is an interesting looking variety that is best harvested when the eggplants are in a baby stage. The plant doesnt get too big, so it seemed like a good fit for a container.

“Kung Pao” Hot Peppers

HotPepper
This plant just caught my eye in the nursery. it apparently becomes loaded with very hot green and red chili-like peppers. The insert says they are 10,000 scovilles. One second while I look up what the hell that means…

*ahem*

The Scoville scale is a measure of the hotness or piquancy of a chili pepper, as defined by the amount of capsaicin (a chemical compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin) present. In Scoville’s method, a solution of the pepper extract is diluted in sugar syrup until the “heat” is no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville scale. Thus a sweet pepper or a bell pepper, containing no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero, meaning no heat detectable, even undiluted. Conversely, the hottest chilis, such as habaneros, have a rating of 200,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 200,000 times before the capsaicin presence is undetectable.

Sounds awfully precise. There was a little scale on the wikipedia page too that indicates 10,000 is a little hotter than a jalapeno, which seems like a good fit for me.


Sobraya Sunflower

Sunflower

This was a gift from some friends of ours for my girlfriend’s birthday. It wasnt doing great in the soil we got it in, but as soon as i repotted i, it has exploded with growth. It has also gotten very nice this past week, so that might have something to do with it.



“Danvers Half-Long” Carrots
May 25, 2009, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Dirt and Soil, Plants, Prep, Vegetables | Tags: , , , ,

carrots

I decided to run two rows of carrots down the center of my SIP container. I chose these carrots mainly because they grow shorter and thicker. This seemed like a better plan in a container, but also for a purely experimental reason.

The day before i grabbed these seeds, my lovely girlfriend produced a container of something called Vermiculite that she had procured at some point in her adventurous work life. Vermiculite is an ore that is very light and holds moisture very well.* In an interesting coincidence, one of the packages of carrot seeds i was perusing the next day had instructions to use vermiculite to germinate them! An easy decision on which variety of carrots to plant, then.

The two rows of light brown material in the picture above is vermiculite, which i spaced some carrot seeds along in, and then loosely covered with a small amount of soil. In some of my previously posted pictures of the SIP you also may notice a piece of burlap. This helps prevent a crust from developing on the soil, and allows the delicate carrot sprouts to more easily break the soil. Carrots in general take about 3 weeks to sprout.

Which, FYI, HAPPENED TODAY!!! I was inspecting the SIP earlier today, and noticed a little sprout coming up through the burlap, and when i pulled the burlap away – there were dozens! I think this is a little on the fast side, which i credit to the vermiculite being lightweight and easy for the sprouts to push out of.

I tell ya, seeing those first sprouts after weeks of waiting is surprisingly exhilarating!

In a note unrelated to carrots, check out the cucumbers in the post below compared to how they look here. This pick was taken the day i transplanted them, while the one below was about 2 weeks later.

*While there are concerns surrounding vermiculite and asbestos (they develop near each other in deposits), it can still be handy in the garden. Do a little research. If there is a lot of dust in your vermiculite, then it is probably not safe to work with. Otherwise it is not in and of itself toxic.