Friday, June 25, 2010

Vertical Farming

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.

A couple cool sites -

Vertical Farm website has a wealth of info.

Time Magazine article from 2008.

Some photos of proposed "farmscapers" from Huffington Post.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


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?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fence complete!

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!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

phase 1 of the big project

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.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Somebody help me!

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.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

mystery herb

Here's a puzzle for all:

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.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I haven't killed them!

Check out my daylily. It's not dead, maybe my black thumb for flowers is not so bad afterall.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blue Blueberries already?

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!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I *heart* the library

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.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Queens Botanical Garden

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.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

trial flowers

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.