How is it that the flowers are doing better mid-November than they were all spring and summer? I thought the geranium was dead until it started blooming again. I love how the leaves are turning red but the buds are just blooming. So strange.
Then this is my flower bed, the dusty millers are strong and healthy and the begonias are growing everyday!
The hostas are wilting but the sage and yarrow is also thriving and coming back to life. odd year.
Hope it's not too cold for planting tulip bulbs because I haphazardly placed them around the front and back. Couldn't resist the smallest bag of assorted tulip bulbs at BJs. Only 50 instead of 125 but they are "premium" so hopefully that translates into hardy! We'll find out next spring.
I skimmed a title of an article somewhere and the term "crop mob" stuck. I kept thinking "what the heck is a crop mob?" picturing a bunch of corn stalks all dancing in a public place. Well turns out, it's almost as cool (you can't really top crops dancing, sorry).
A crop mob is a group of people who "mob" local farms or green spaces and spruce them up for a few hours here and there. It is kind of like a flash mob, but for gardening. How cool is that?
Almost any information you want to find is on Crop Mob's website, including but not limited to a directory of some of the many crop mobs around the country. I found the local NYC one and joined up through facebook. I am amazed at how hard this small group of volunteers worked to beautify some really cool looking gardens around the city. They also spruced up some tree pits and other green spaces. They even got their hands on my favorite joint in Queens: Queens County Farm.
They've been getting some great publicity lately too. Here's a write-up from Time Out NY. They were recently highlighted on NPR as well.
If you couldn't guess from my lack of personal gardening posts, I have all but given up on my own garden. Actually I don't know anyone in the area that hasn't given up. Everything has burned off, it's all a mess. I can't keep anything green and not from a lack of trying. Of course now it's raining and cooler, but unfortunately too little too late.
It seems silly not to compost yard waste and simple kitchen scraps, but I haven't the slightest clue where to start. I am trying to do this on a budget so don't want to spend the $100+ on a nice looking container, but at the same time don't want it to look ugly or cause a stink since the space is limited. I really would like a sturdy plastic container that is small enough to tuck away in the corner.
I saw this and am thinking of going for it even if it is $80. Seems like it might be the best solution.
Does anyone have any advice? Resources that might be handy? Experience composting in a small space?
I'm penciling in this workshop from the Queens Botanical Garden for September 19th to answer all my questions:
Composting in the City & Indoor Worm Composting Sunday, September 19th, 1 to 3 pm Workshop fee: $5/person
"Leaves, kitchen scraps, garden trimmings, and weeds can all become garden gold through composting. This class covers the essentials on composting, both outside in city yards and inside your apartment using a worm bin. See how making dark, rich, crumbly compost doesn’t take much time, work, or space. Teachers welcome--educational materials will be available. Registration is encouraged; to register, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-539-5296."
I love community gardens; love the idea, love the practice, love how they look like a bunch of different puzzles mashed together, love what they give to the landscape and what they give to the residents. The thing I don't love about them is the competition to get a bed in one of these community gardens. It can take years to get a sliver near your home. Some people will travel an hour just to get to their plot, but getting their hands dirty means that much to them and so they go.
All that aside, I read about The Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz, California and think it is an incredible idea. The idea is to employ homeless people to harvest organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers and sell the crop as CSA shares, in their gift store or to local restaurants.
A little history:
In 1990, The Citizens Committee for the Homeless in Santa Cruz took a quarter acre in a community garden and started The Homeless Garden Project. The City of Santa Cruz got wind of this exciting project and made 2.5 acres available for use which allowed the Homeless Garden Project to sell their crop to cover costs of labor. This garden became the country's first Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. Over the years it grew, the garden moved to different spots around the city, taking up residence at the Natural Bridges Farm. In 1998, The Homeless Garden Project became independent from The Citizens Committee for the Homeless.
Quickly after establishing its own identity, The Homeless Garden Project was granted a substantial and permanent site by the City of Santa Cruz. This 9-acre site, located in a 650-acre open space the city had put aside, solved many problems and rocketed the Project to a new level.
In 2002, The Homeless Garden Project even opened their own retail store selling mainly wreaths and candles made through the Women's Organic Flower Enterprise, or WOFE, which expanded over the years.
Currently, The Homeless Garden Project offers kitchen lecture series, children's nature programs, job training and transitional employment and two hot meals a day to anyone volunteering.
As of 2010, The Homeless Garden Project employs 14 homeless trainees, learning skills to make them more marketable in the job world, and provides 80 CSA shares per week.
Perhaps it's my family connection to Detroit or that it's become the symbol of economic hardship in this country, but I keep thinking about that city’s state of being. I have long since thought the best way to improve the economy there is to invest in green automotive technology, whether it's through hybrids or electronic cars. Take that existing knowledge and invest in the future. Maybe the turnaround wouldn't be immediate but at least it provides an optimistic future for the city. But why stop at automotive technology? Why can’t this largely abandoned city become the new green metropolis? Why can’t it raise the bar for all cities to become green? This is why I am intrigued by the idea of turning Detroit into farmland, originally proposed decades ago.
John Hantz of Hantz Financial Services is bringing this very idea into reality by investing $30 million of his own money into repurposing Detroit’s land. The thought on the largest of scales is that if you take the mostly abandoned neighborhoods and consolidate the residents into one area, you can turn those abandoned neighborhoods into farmland. I am not a fan of eminent domain, I think taking people's social network away from them is detrimental to their health, but if the outcome is that the city can provide more jobs, better services, more effective hospitals, better performing schools and a positive outlook to an otherwise grim future, I think it is worth the adverse effects.
On a smaller, more practical scale, it's using the unutilized land from abandoned houses, warehouses or state attractions.
On both scales, it's investing in land and finally getting that property back on the tax roll to provide much needed taxes to to the city.
Hantz Financial Services issued this in a press release on March 23, 2010:
“In addition to food and trees, Hantz Farms will harvest wind energy and utilize geothermal heat and biomass fuel from recycling compost”
Hantz Farms plans to use both traditional farming methods and newer methods such as indoor hydroponics, constructed wetlands and harvesting water runoff to save costs. They will use organic farming as much as possible, but keep in mind the bottom line for this for-profit company is of course profit.
With a group of experts at his side, including the newly appointed president of Hantz Farms, Mike Score, he has launched this exciting project, ready to buy 40 acres of urban land, currently the unutilized State Fairgrounds and now is waiting to get approval from city officials. When he gets that approval, he can start farming overnight. His first crops are planned to be apples, lettuce and tomatoes.
In a city so starved for investment, it is hard to imagine not embracing this, but there are critics who worry about this for-profit venture. Will he sell the land to developers if he gets a discounted rate? Is he just in this to get rich? The bottom line, however, was well put in his interview with The Atlantic on May 27, 2010:
“I'd like to promote the idea that we need business as part of the plan in Detroit. We need jobs; we need entrepreneurialism. Those are ideas that aren't mainstay right now. But you can't build a tax base on all government and non-profits. It doesn't work. There needs to be a balance.”
I figure I should update with the real final pictures of the backyard. We pulled it all together for the big first birthday this weekend. This is the back:
We repurposed oddly placed brick borders from around the house to line the patio and make better outlined flowerbeds on the side. Of course now it is too hot to plant all the pretty flowers, but got some stuff in at least for the party. Next year, we'll plant at the right time and really make it pop.
What we did do though is transplant some hostas from one side to the other, transplant coneflower, yarrow, geraniums and black eyed susans from my mother's house to mine. We will see what survives...
Next project, as it always leads to something else, a pergola! okay, maybe not seriously (though my husband is dying to put one in), but something a little prettier than the shade we have up now.
These are the steps: (ignore the trash heaps on the side!)
I just read this on local blog "Project Woodhaven" so I don't feel so bad. I couldn't say it was definitely the sun because isn't summer always sunny and hot? I've managed to be much more successful in years past so I started doubting the soil or perhaps something I was doing, but it appears everyone is having trouble. I should have known it was this excessive heat though since all my neighbors' front yards look burned up too.
I also seem to live in a weird vortex where it never rains. Other neighborhoods around us will report rain but there's not a drop on my patio.
In good news, trimming up/shaving off most of the tomato plants was a success. Several ripened overnight with more on the way. And no more blossom end rot. Yay!
This heat wave is killing me and my plants! Everything is wilting, even those immortal hostas are browning.
The saddest thing are the two new blueberry "bushes". I put that in quotes because look at how positively sad this one has become
Next on my sadness scale is my meadow sage. dead, dead, dead. My only glimmer of hope is the tiny green leaves sprouting up from beneath the soil. Please grow, please grow!
I have the same glimmer of hope for my salvia, which are obviously the deadest shade of brown, but there are a few green buds coming in if you look hard enough.
The peppermint and daylily have succumbed to the unbearable heat, drought, construction and concrete sprays. RIP. See you again next year.
We are having people over in a week and I really wanted the back to look lovely and colorful, but every time I plant something, it quickly dies and I quickly melt outside.
update: is seems that in addition to all the flowers dying, my tomatoes have blossom end rot. sigh.... I cut off all the dying branches and got rid of the rotted tomatoes so hopefully all the energy goes into healthy fruit. And hopefully it cools down for a few days (or at least gets under mid-90s), hey and maybe even rains - imagine that!
What a disappointing year so far as far as plants go. :(
First let's look back on how they were; a hot mess! They were completely unsafe, especially for a wee tot, crumbling, slanted and poorly designed. I am betting that the previous owners did this themselves, as they did many (odd) projects. The only good thing about this photo is that adorable dog!
Case in point on the poorly constructed steps. When they cracked open the old steps, they uncovered bricks thrown in heaps and then leveled off. No wonder they were falling apart!
But now, well now, the steps are beautiful...red brick to match the house and limestone for the steps. They widened the steps so they ran the whole width of the mudroom, but didn't do rails. I don't know, I think it'll be fine without rails as long as we line it with pots. Maybe I'm delusional and my daughter will need a rail. I just imagine her scooting up and down like any other baby would.
Only problem, it really accentuates our door which is in dire need of paint!
I've been working on clearing out the sides of the yard and creating flower beds, but more on that some other time.
Thanks Sting, for using your celebrity power to possibly endorse something beneficial or worth exploring. Without a blurb saying he purchased film rights for a book on vertical farming, I wouldn't have heard about this concept.
It's a cool concept, although not financially sound, to promote healthy eating in urban centers and maximizing space within tall buildings. The brainchild of Dr. Dickson Despommier from Columbia University, Vertical Farming takes into account that 60% of the world's population lives in an urban setting with that number rapidly increasing. For more than half of us, how do we get truly local crops? Through the use of artificial lighting, hydroponics and other greenhouse resources, we could start seeing skyscraper greenhouses, or "farmscapers" as they have been called, allowing a city to feed its own residents.
Opponents are quick to criticize the increased costs of building and maintaining these vertical farms. In the end, it would still be cheaper to transport the crops from other parts of the country or world. However, in my opinion, this may not always be the case. Farmers have a hard enough time making a profit. Faced with a natural disaster and a growing population, our farmlands will not be able to keep up with our citizens in urban areas. Vertical farming could be a great way to supplement, not substitute, traditional farmland.
Additionally, I think it's a wonderful to think that the poorer urban population will have better access to fresh produce. This is something that has long been needed.
Great idea. Several cities around the world have already expressed interest in vertical farming and it will be interesting to see what works and doesn't as time goes on. Maybe one day this will be how us urbanites get our produce. Always in season, local and organic.
Sadly haven't been able to get much done lately. We are thoroughly enjoying the "new backyard" even if it's just sitting out back, letting my baby splash in her new kiddie pool and relax.
I've managed to rip up most of the plants that were trampled. We have a bunch of Hostas growing out between the pavers that need to be removed, so I placed a large rubber mat over them, hoping they will die off.
Also, we need to figure out a border near the fence so the dirt stays in place. So much to do...I guess there always is.
The bummer is that now that summer is officially here, it's sweltering! My daughter is not yet walking (any day now!) so I really have to be holding her or letting her hang out in her stationary activity center, which I don't like to do for extended amounts of time. So it leaves me with naptime to work outside, but she's only taking one nap around noon and whew, it is blazing outside, I can only last about 30 minutes. So my new time to get some work done is sunset, but can only get in a few minutes then too. You do what you gotta do, right?
Wow, fence went in and it is such a different feel. I love it! It was a lot quicker than I thought and it looks fantastic. They had to rip a bunch of our plants up, which was fine because I wanted to rip up a lot of the hostas anyway. I managed to salvage the daylily, but I was too late for the dahlias. :( They were getting destroyed by ants anyhow so I will just have to replace it. The buttercup seems to have disappeared as well, which is okay because it was in the back corner and I really want to continue the veggies to the back. I was going to have to transplant it anyway. And lucky for me, my mother wants to get rid of or split a bunch of her perennials - yay for free plants! This time I really want to plan it out more, but maybe the trick is just gathering everything and arranging it how it makes sense. hmmm....surely something to think and obsess about!
But on to the pics:
Whew, what a difference! It is actually going to take some getting used to when I'm standing in the back, but I love it. It is so much brighter, which really surprised me because we went with a dark brown/clay color. Glad we didn't choose the white or ivory, it would be positively blinding. It looks bigger to me and much more regal, don't you think?
Still have a long ways to go, but we're are definitely headed in the right direction!
In the past week or two, we've been getting some quotes for work to be done in the backyard. We have to rebuild the back steps and do some brick pointing in the back. We also want to put in a basic pvc fence in the back. What is up with the disparity in quotes though? The fence quotes were not that far from each other and I think the difference came from the quality of material, but the difference in the masonry was more than 200%! We went with the cheaper for both, of course, but realize at least with the fence, it is not as high quality. However, we also realized that none of our neighbors has a pvc fence. They all have the basic wood privacy fence that so happens to be falling over in a rotten pile. So even with a bottom of the line pvc fence, we still feel like it'll look great.
All this to say that the fence gets installed tomorrow! See previous post for my reasons for the excitement. I love privacy!
Before & after pictures to come tomorrow...
In other garden news, as a novice I didn't check the type of beans. We've always apparently planted bush variety but this year, I picked up pole beans. Who knew? We just put in the stakes for their upward growth and they are growing out of control. Next year, I'm back to the bush variety. They are so much better for a small space in my opinion.
So we have a little front yard and are trying to create a border between our neighbors. A little backstory - our neighbors are a bit nosy (and slightly crazy) with nothing else to do but sit outside and gossip. That said, we'd like a little privacywhen we enter & exit. We're on the hunt for tall, skinny shrubs, but as it's an urban area, I am having a hard time finding something other than evergreens suggested for this type of border/privacy. argh. I'll continue to search today.
My neighbor planted a herb that her mother brought back from the Ukraine (isn't that illegal?) and it has roots that have vined into my yard sprouting up all along the border of our yards. When I go to pull it up, it stings me. Not sure if this an allergy on my part or this is how it's supposed to happen, but my hand gets red and burns for a few hours then the discomfort dissipates. She doesn't know the English name of the herb, but she has made a pie with it. Any suggestions?
This pic is from the top. They almost looked like mint leaves. When I tried smelling it, is when I realized it stung when you touched it...with your hands or your nose! Ignore the attack of the Hostas.
This is what they look like full grown, they reach about 4 ft in height and have these little dangly fuzzy things.
How exciting! Walked out today and noticed the new blueberry bushes we put in the back are turning blue. The one in the front is bursting with berries but they are still green. Guess the more immature plants ripen earlier. Can't wait till they are ready to eat or drop into my Blue Point Blueberry Ale - yum!
There are many reasons I love the library. Where else can you take a class, have a social gathering or get books, CDs and DVDs all for free?
While at my local library returning all sorts of kiddie CD gems, I decided to check out the gardening section. Look at what I picked up! There were plenty more I was interested in but I drew the line at three at a time.
"Beds and Borders" has some amazing photos and really gives you some good ideas for border layouts, which is my next project. Unfortunately they only use the scientific names. What's up with that? My nursery uses the common names, but I'll do some research for the plants I really want.
Clearly they weren't talking about my garden when they wrote "Great Plants for Small Gardens" because just one of these plants would take up the entire backyard. Still it was fun to look through.
There was some good beginner advice in "Five Minute Gardener", but although I'm a novice, I'm not that new. I know what a shovel is and know how to put plants in soil. Still they had a helpful list of vegetables & flowers and rated them as easy to grow, semi-easy and not that easy. Those weren't the exact terms they used, but along the same lines. Anyway, I am spending more than 5 minutes in the garden so clearly I am WAY too advanced for this book (just kidding!).
Glad they were all at the library, but they weren't right for me to buy.
I made the quick jaunt to the Queens Botanical Garden today. It's in Flushing on main street.
Per their mission statement, "Queens Botanical Garden is an urban oasis where people, plants and cultures are celebrated through inspiring gardens, innovative educational programs and demonstrations of environmental stewardship." I think this is pretty spot on. It was very inspiring and was an amazing place to relax in the sun or shade. I loved how they had different types of gardens, like the woodland garden, the bee garden, the rose garden, the compost garden, etc. My favorites, though, were the backyard garden and the perennial/annual gardens. I could get lost in there for hours looking at every type of plant in close detail.
My only gripe is that since it is in such close proximity to LaGuardia that the planes overhead interrupt your tranquility if only for a moment.
I've planted red leaf begonias every year and did it again this year. You see, I have a serious black thumb when it comes to flowers. Even kill-proof begonias are killed at my hands. But out of everything, it has the highest success rate and generally flourishes in our soil & sun even when I forget to water it in a long drought.
Well, I have one plant in the back that produces beautiful early yellow flowers. I don't know what it's called because my mother planted it for me. That's neither here nor there though, I mention it because of the pop of color in the back corner. Well, it got me to realize how important adding color to your garden is so I decided to experiment with flowers this year. Whew, I am entering a whole new world.
I went to the enemy, that big orange superstore, because I was in the parking lot eating at Five Guys and I saw all those flowers and just couldn't resist. They had a great selection, so I picked up some dahlias, daylilys, meadow sage and marigolds to give that pop of color.
We ate our first strawberries and they were delicious! Excuse the photo, I gobbled them up too fast to get a photo of the ripe ones, so here's one of an unripened one.
We have six plants and what I've come to realize is that you need at least double that to get a normal amount of strawberries for two people. Yea yea, that might be obvious to everyone else, but nope, I just figured this out. If you only have six, you only eat about 4 strawberries at a time. And if you have more than one person in your family, you eat half or a third of that. I was very cautious this first year since I figured they would grow back bigger and badder each year. I didn't want to overcrowd the guys, but now I figure, "What the heck!" I think I'm going to plant some more. Hopefully they are still selling them.
I forgot to mention that this year I plotted everything out on GrowVeg.com
It's a cool planning program that allows you to arrange your fruits/vegetables within a personalized graph. It tells you how much space they need and color codes them so you know which plants to group together. Eye opening, I was all over the place the past two years. I think it will really help this year.
Did I mention they have a 30-day free trial? Kind of crazy since you only really need a month to plan everything out for the season.
Planted it all and we only have one empty space, so I had to go back and get a grape tomato plant. Put all the cages down around the tomatoes so hopefully they will be contained in some sort of fashion. The past two years, we've waited too long to put the cages in and it's been a disaster.
I have high hopes for this year. I think we've figured out the right amount of vegetable to put in and how to plant them. These things take time and a lot of trial & error.
We made our second trip of the season to Verdino's to pick up the bulk of the crop. In our loot, we got Roma Tomatoes (x3), cherry peppers (x6), lavender, rosemary, oregano, peppermint and blueberries (x2). We also got seeds for green beans, basil and cilantro.
I am not a hot pepper fan, but my husband is so I got some. He also wants to figure out a hot pepper relish and possibly infuse some olive oil with it. It's a good idea, but did we need 6 of them? Absolutely not. However, they were sold in trays of 6 and we had the room so when I planted them, I just put them all in.
We are trying to experiment with some more herbs this year, so we planted the lavender and rosemary in the ground. I hope it grows back every year, but if not, it smells nice this year. That borders the garden and separates it from the patio brick. I put the peppermint in a pot since it's invasive and put the oregano in a pot because, well, just because.
We did starter green beans last year and really have seemed to had better luck with the seeds. They are cheaper, so why not? put a row in there.
I've never grown basil or cilantro from seed, but figured I'd give it a try this year. What's with cilantro though? I thought it was synonymous with chinese parsley, but chinese parsley looks well like parsley. I want the real deal for cilantro so thought the seeds might give me that. It's a longer wait but so much cheaper if you have the patience.
As I said before we love our blueberry bush in the front, so we got two more for the back. We'll be sure to overdose on blueberries. There are worse things in life.
Am I the only one who could spend my life savings in a garden center? Man, the place is mesmerizing. My 10 month old daughter loves it there too. She stares at all the flowers with her mouth agape, most likely mimicking her mother.
My favorite garden center in Queens is Verdino's on Rockaway Ave right across from the Aqueduct. Not only is the selection great, but the staff is absolutely amazing. They will tell you which plants to buy and which to put back for your gardening purposes.
We made our first trip on Monday, only to realize that it has been cold and they have lost a large portion of their supply and put the rest in their house to salvage. We walked away with only 6 strawberry plants. We got the everbearing variety so hopefully we will enjoy a few crops this season.
Per my husband's insistence for the past two years, we finally got two grape starter vines. They are immature, but have a couple years on them so hopefully it won't be too many years before they start producing. Have to get an arbor for them but no rush on that, maybe next year.
I mentioned the last two years, this is how we improved this year.
First, we flipped the soil a few times throughout the year. Then, at the start of the season, we ripped up several Hostas that bordered the garden. I have nothing against Hostas, they are pretty and absolutely impossible to kill. Impossible! For a green thumb like myself, they are perfect for adding some greenery. However, the last owner planted probably close to 100 along the perimeter of our 16x45 backyard. I could have kept half of them and still not seen the ground underneath. That was my plan. I was just going to "thin" them out. But when I started ripping them up, I couldn't be stopped. I wanted all of them gone. I still have only ripped up half the rows, but plan to rip up the rest in the next year and replace them with flowers and herbs.
Yes, yes...you can normally put an ad on craigslist or freecycle offering your Hostas as a "you dig them, you keep them" but in order to get to them, you have to come through our house and I was not keen on having strangers trudging through our house to take our plants. None of my friends and family wanted them, so I just tossed them. Those things are huge! What a pain, but even without anything planted, the backyard already looked a million times better.
This is our third summer in our home and our third year of gardening.
Here's the history:
It was a blank canvas when we moved in, overrun with weeds, shrubs and a large rubber tire.
The first year we tried a little of everything; cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, chili peppers, squash. It was all fruitful...a little too fruitful actually. The squash overtook the small plot, so we ripped it up pretty quickly. We had trouble keeping up with everything. Overall, it was a success. The first year the soil had been used in a while and it was rich, moist and dense.
Last year, well, we had great intentions, but I was due to give birth in mid-July and was put on modified bed rest so could not really tend to the garden. I thought I could keep up with it during naps, but I barely wanted to move until the gardening season was over so the garden was a mess. It was also a strange summer. Very cold the first half (which I loved being pregnant) and then quickly very hot. Our cucumbers grew in odd mutant shapes, our tomatoes grew with holes in them and vines of everything took over the place. It was a wash. We vowed to come back the next summer bigger and better than ever.
Worth mentioning, that we did plant a blueberry bush last year in the front yard and it produced many wonderful berries.
I moved to Queens in 2008 and was thrilled to start my first garden. My husband and I have experimented with several fruits, vegetable and flowers. I hope to continue to experiment and document it all. Maybe this thumb will turn greener as the days go on.