Thursday, September 29, 2011

Love Gardening Clearance Sales

This time of year is a great time to take advantage of great clearance sales for gardening supplies.  I was in Target with my sister and wasn't expecting to buy anything, but who can pass up gardening gloves on clearance!  They were 40% off! 
We have a lot of mosquitos and tall weeds growing in the yard, so these long leather gloves will come in handy.  These are perfect to protect my arms from the attacking mosquitos.  They are ferocious, the bugs and the gloves.
Speaking of mosquitos, I picked up quite a few cans of bug spray.  LOL.  Whenever I look at the photo below I crack up.  I don't like to use the strong chemical stuff, but the organic type really doesn't work on these mutant mosquitos that we have in the yard.   I literally can't walk outside to the yard without being swarmed by mosquitos.  If I don't douse myself in bug repellent, I'll look like I have chicken pox from all the bug bites.  I've written about the mosquito problem before in past blog articles.  We have a lot of mosquitos because behind our house is a large area of swampy marshland.  Since these were also on clearance, I stocked up for next year.  Haha.

Still a Mystery Squash

Last month, I blogged about a mystery squash that was growing in the garden.  At first I thought it was a watermelon, because the rind was pretty tough like a watermelon.  But in further investigation it didn't look like an ordinary watermelon.  It was from a volunteer plant and it looked like nothing I've ever grown before.  I assumed it came from my dad's compost, but he also said it wasn't anything he's grown or eaten. So where did the seeds come from?  He said that it might be from a bird or squirrel. I decided to harvest the squash because it was a good size and didn't know if it would get any bigger. 
I brought the squash to my parent's house because I know they would know how to cook it. I very rarely eat squash.
Inside the squash, it looks like a cucumber or zucchini, however, the skin is quite tough. The seeds are large like pumpkin seeds.  The flesh though is very firm, similar to a winter melon.  The flavor is very bland, almost flavorless.  Anyone have any idea what type of squash this is?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cutesy Maters

At the beginning of the growing season, I was overzealous about growing tomatoes.  I decided on a whopping 22 varieties.  LOL.  It was a lot of hard work, and definitely was a little crazy keeping track of them all, but it's finally paying off.  The tomatoes are turning color now, which is really, really late in the season.  It was a strange wet growing season with lots of rain and cloudy days.  So the tomatoes got off to a rough start.  But at last, I am finally picking so many beauties.  Here are some of the smaller varieties that I've been picking everyday.  Aren't they adorable? They are in different stages of ripeness, I pick them as soon as I see a flush of color because I have lots of squirrels that love eating them.
These are the varieties I tried to grow this year and some notes on them.  Despite all the varieties I tried to grow, only 14 varieties actually grew well enough to produce fruit.  These all turned into salsa, yum.

Brandywine - Large, giant tomatoes, most ranging half - 1 pound. Nice slicer.  Beautiful red color.  Full of flavor.  Very juicy inside.

Black Mystery - Jury is still out whether there is one of these plants in the garden.  Some of the marker ink on my homemade plant markers was washed away.

Cherokee Purple - Gorgeous color.  Meaty and a good slicer.  A squirrel ate the first tomato, still waiting for the other to ripen. 

Chocolate Cherry - Best tasting cherry I grew, rich deep flavor indicative of the purple family of tomatoes.  Not very prolific in container pots.  Will grow it in the ground next time, since I think it didn't like the container pot.

Hillbilly Potato Leaf - Just harvested my first Hillybilly, although it doesn't look like a Hillbilly.  I think I might have tagged this plant incorrectly.

Isis Candy - a nice size cherry, yellow / orange in color, nice tart taste, very prolific

Jaunne Flamme - Fabulous bright yellow / orange color, a little larger than a golf ball in size.  Great flavor and nice producer.
Paul Robeson - Gorgeous color tomato and super tasty. Nice rich deep flavor, fantastic raw with salt.  Not prolific but a keeper!

Persimmon - A beautiful orange color medium size tomato.  Flavor wasn't as tasty as I would like.  Meaty tomato, great to add to salads for the color. 

Roma - Surprisingly, I have at least 6 of these plants in the garden.  All volunteers!  I didn't have the heart to kill the volunteers so I just let them grow.  I didn't sow any of these seeds because last year they were plagued by Blossom End Rot, but this year, hardly any tomatoes had BER. I think because I added crushed eggshells around the soil.  Also, it seems like the plants were healthier because they were grown entirely outdoors. 

Rutgers - The most gorgeous red color tomato, nice size and meaty.  Good for sauces.  

Sungold - Too bad this little mater is a hybrid.  The flavor is outstanding a very prolific to boot!  I harvested the most cherries off this plant.
Tiny Tim - Super small tomato, burst of flavor, perfect for container planting, not very prolific

Yellow Pear -  I had 2 Yellow Pear plants in the garden, both were volunteers.  I don't particular think these are tasty tomatoes, but the shape and yellow color are adorable.

(I love these giant Brandywines, Isis Candy in the middle for size comparison)

Plants that did not make it:

Druzba - Plant died of disease, and some seeds did not germinate.  Sadly no plants survived.

German Johnson - Plant died from bug consumption.

Giant Belgium - Did not germinate
Green Zebra - Plant died from bug consumption.

Hovarth - Plant died, unknown cause. 

Manitoba - Plant died from bug consumption, and some seeds did not germinate.

Palmira's Northern Italian - Did not germinate. 

Pineapple - Plant died, unknown cause.

Purple Calabash - Did not germinate.    
San Marzano - Did not germinate. 

The best part of growing tomatoes.  SALSA, SALSA, SALSA.  Oh my good stuff.  Break open the tortilla chips.  Pronto!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Canning Jars - Locally

I finally found a local hardware store that carries canning supplies!  So I stocked up with scooping up 3 cases! This hardware store only carries the jars once a year, and they don't carry that many cases.  If I had the space, I think I would have bought every single case.  hahaha.  I've complained about it before in previous blog posts.  It is so difficult to find canning jars in Staten Island.  The only place I was able to find them was AC Moore, but they charge $1.99 a jar.  Um, no way!  That would mean a case would cost $24!  Forgetaboutit!  I found these cases for $9.99. It's the same price as the Ball website, but at least I don't have to pay for shipping! 
Thank goodness I got the jars, because I have been busy canning the harvests.  I did a whole case of pint size jarred pickles.  And some heirloom tomato salsa.  Yum!  Canning season has begun!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Compost Pile

My compost pile in the DIY bin that we made out of wooden pallets is definitely pretty full.  It's mostly a big pile of brown leaves.  I also throw in there dead plants from the vegetable garden.  I love composting.  It's like this fun game, I throw as much organic material as the space can handle and then "ta da" like magic, watch it transform into beautiful black rich compost.
One of my favorite tasks in the garden is turning the compost.  I just love seeing what stage the compost is in.  (LOL, I need a life.)  I just turned the compost recently and I can already see some black gold hidden in the middle and on the bottom.  Oooh, I can't wait until the entire pile turns into usable compost.  Hopefully by the spring, I'll be able to use it in the raised beds.  It would be great if I didn't have to buy any compost from the hardware store!  That is the goal at least.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Little Garden Visitors

Mom and dad visited today and mom helped me harvest veggies out of the garden.  I went to pull some carrots and I suddenly saw some little visitors.  Can you see them in this photo?  It's a little hard to tell in this photo.
So here is a better look.  See it now?  I took these photos with the crappy camera on my cellphone.  So I couldn't get it to focus.  Sorry for the blurry photo.  This little gal was munching away on the carrot tops.  This is my first time growing a bunch of carrots, I had no idea that it would attract so many butterfly caterpillars.  Interestingly, it seemed like they only were chomping on the carrot tops, and not much else in the garden. That is a relief!
Another view.  I Google searched caterpillars and found that these could be Monarch butterfly caterpllars!  There were so many in the carrot raised bed, I saw at least 10.  They were only eating the tops of the carrots, so I left them undisturbed.  If they didn't turn into something so pretty, I would definitely consider disposing of these monster eaters.  But since I don't eat carrot tops anyway, I really didn't mind my new visitors.  They will consume everything in it's path, but butterflies are such great pollinators so they can gorge themselves in my garden.  I'll forgive them.
Here are some of the carrots I pulled.  These are Purple Haze.  I got these seeds from Greens and Jeans. I have never grown purple carrots before.  These are pretty neat.  They don't look very "purple" to me, more like a chocolate brown.  I grew a lot of different purple veggies this year.  Purple tomatoes, carrots, and bell peppers.  They are fun to grow because they are so unique!
And here is today's harvest!  The garden is finally in full swing production.  I really can't believe I grew all of this!!  Wow!  I'm getting a little bummed that winter is around the corner.  I've got to get me a greenhouse!!  :)

My New Favorite Tomato: Brandywine

One of my new favorite heirloom tomatoes that I grew this year has got to be the Brandywine.  Wow, is it ever a gorgeous tomato!  I am soooo going to grow this again for years to come.  I received these Brandywine seeds from EG over at Our Engineered Garden.
Isn't this just gorgeous?  I mean, wow, what a beauty!  This clocked in at half a pound!!  I gave this tomato to mom and dad.  They were amazed at how large it was.
This one was even bigger!  It's as large as my hand.  This tomato was 3/4 a pound!  Wow!!  This one, I gave to my neighbor.  She was shocked of the size!  The Brandywines were definitely not the most prolific tomato plant, there were only like maximum of 3 fruit per plant.  But what they lacked in quantity, they definitely make up in size and taste.  Therefore, these will definitely be a keeper!  I am saving some seeds to use for next year.  Hit me up if you want some seeds.  Since I got these seeds originally from EG, I figure it's my duty to pay it forward to other gardeners who want to try this gorgeous tomato.
Not all of my tomatoes faired well in the garden.  This Cherokee Purple was half eaten by a squirrel.  I didn't see that it was really ripe on the vine, it was hiding under all these tomato leaves.  Darn it!  For some reason, only one Cherokee Purple tomato plant survived, and there are only 2 tomatoes growing on the plant.  I had a few seedlings that didn't quite make the hot summer, so with only one plant, I was really bummed to lose a precious tomato.  With this one eaten, now there is only one remaining tomato.  I really hope it doesn't get eaten by a squirrel or bird.
This Roma tomato suffered the same fate.  I rather the squirrel eat the Romas since I didn't plant any Romas this year.  All of my Roma plants were volunteers.  I didn't plant any Romas because last year they were plagued with Blossom End Rot.  This year, I incorporated crushed egg shells into the soil, and only a few of the tomatoes suffered from BER. 
Here is my harvest yesterday.  This basket easily weighed 4 pounds! This is my best harvest yet this year.  Other garden bloggers will chuckle because this is small in comparison to their harvests.
In that basket was 5  Brandywines!  Since we have such a squirrel problem, I pick the tomatoes as soon as I see a blush of color.   These I'll turn into salsa!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

It's Pole Bean Season!

The autumn weather is upon us and the stifling hot weather is finally a thing of the past. You know what that means? It's pole bean season! Woohoo!  I'm growing for the second year in a row, Blue Lake Pole Beans.  They are a very prolific plant and produce once in the Spring and then again in the Fall.
I harvested this the other day.  I collect this many green beans every other day!  Isn't this awesome!  I've been getting so many that I've been even giving them away.  Yeah for green beans!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Baby Potatoes

I keep the potatoes in the basement and I must confess, I had forgotten about a container of potatoes.  I suffer from the out of sight out of mind syndrome.  A few months back, I noticed that many of the potatoes had started to sprout and also, some had grown roots and little potatoes.  As an experiment, I decided to stick these in the ground to see if it would grow.  I can't wait to dig these out of the ground.  I hope they grew into some nice size red potatoes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Brooklyn Seed Exchange

This past weekend, the Revel Gardener hosted a seed / plant swap at her house.  It was the first seed / plant swap that I ever attended and it was so much fun!  It was a small crowd, with just 4 of us attending, but what we lacked in numbers, we definitely made up in enthusiasm!  We were all eager to talk about gardening, gardening, and more gardening.  Revel Gardener had such a great setting for our seed swap,  we milled about in her beautiful backyard.  She has a gorgeous peach and cherry tree and vegetable garden in her Brooklyn backyard.  I can't believe I didn't take one photo of the yard or the trees!  Believe me, it was stunning!  In addition to bringing seeds and plants, we also were asked to bring something for the pot luck, something we made from the garden.  I brought some homemade brushchetta using all homegrown ingredients including heirloom tomatoes, garlic and Italian Genovese basil. Genovese Basil is my new favorite basil to grow.  Wow, the smell is intoxicating, so very fragrant!
I was so impressed with the attendees of the swap.  I met a fellow Staten Islander, Ralph, who brought many plants, among them these two awesome banana plants!  I was thinking people would bring seedlings but he brought two large trees!  He propagated these two from another banana plant.  Aren't these just amazing?  I couldn't unfortunately take one of these home with me because I was taking public transportation and these were in what looked like to be 10 inch pots.  I don't think I would have been able to carry one of these plants on the subway.  Hahahaha.  I would have tried though, believe me!
Red Garden Clogs brought this box of planting goodies.  In the box, she had lots of different perennial flower seeds, a couple sage plants, metal plant markers, and lots of gardening books that she no longer needed.
She also brought some peppers she grew, these look awesome!
I came home with these two books.  One from Red Garden Clogs and the other from Revel Gardener. 
And I scored these stash of seeds!  Everyone had so many seeds to share!  I also was the recipient of the sage plants.  Everyone else was already growing sage, so these all came home with me.  I also took home some plant markers and some scallion seedlings from Ralph.
The ending to the amazing event was this homemade dessert!  Revel Gardener made us apple cobbler and her husband made homemade ice cream.  Oh wow, was this ever good!  A perfect ending to a perfectly fun time!  I can't wait until Spring for our next seed / plant exchange!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gorgeous Harvest

One of the reasons why I love gardening is that I love to share the harvests with friends and family.  I went to see my parents last week and I brought with me this gorgeous bounty.  Don't you just love the colors?  I still get giddy knowing that I grew all of this.  I do.  I mean, I only started gardening last year, so it's kinda funny to me that I actually grew garlic, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and green beans, and all from seed, (clove for garlic).  It just brings a smile to my face whenever I harvest, that I can actually grow food, it's kinda comical to me.   I guess I find it funny because it's like I'm in on a funny little secret.  That I can grow fresh organic produce and it won't break the bank.  Heehee.  I love the expression on my parents face when they saw the variety of veggies that are coming out of my little garden, and I think I saw them chuckle as well. It's like they are in on the joke too.  I think they are just as amazed as I am that I can garden with such amazing results and actually grow food!  Haha.  For the first time EVER, I haven't had to buy vegetables all summer long!  For some reason that makes me laugh out loud!  Heeheehee.  It is awesome!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hydroponic Farm Intern

Back in July, I went to this lecture about "Urban Farming" in Soho.  I went to the lecture because I was really interested in learning about best practices of urban gardening from urban farmers.  I have a bit of an obsession when it comes to learning about urban gardening, how I can be better at it, especially figuring out ways that I can grow more efficiently, but the talk was more general than I thought it would be, and I didn't get much information from the lecture itself.  After the lecture, I did however meet a very interesting person in the audience.  I met Lee Mandell, the founder of Boswyck Farms, a hydroponic farm in Bushwick Brooklyn. What is so unique about Boswyck Farms is that it has a large focus on educational programs.  From their website, "We also like to teach about hydroponics and growing food; and we like to run community workshops about urban farming and sustainability. In the summer of 2009 we decided to bring our program into schools by designing a science curriculum with the goal of creating an innovative approach to the study of botany. With a focus on inquiry and the scientific method we hope to help our students understand not only the biology of plants but new ways to experience science in the classroom."  In addition to their educational programs, they also are involved in the local community, by not only providing hydroponically grown food to food pantries, they also set up systems in the food pantries themselves.  I've been really interested in learning about Hydroponic gardening and I love their mission, so I immediately asked him if he took on interns.  He said he did and for the last 2 weeks, I've been interning there once a week.  This week, Lee took me to the Child Development Support Corporation (CDSC), where they have a weekly food pantry and a very substantial hydroponic system in place built by the team at Boswyck Farms.  They built a two-tier system which maximizes the vertical space.  Isn't this just the coolest thing ever??  On this day, I helped Lee setup some additional grow lights for some new beds.
Here are some other views of the tiered system.  For urban environments, where space is at a premium,  hydroponics is a great way to grow fresh vegetables indoors.  I asked Lee how much it cost to run the grow lights, the water pumps and any other equipment needed to run the hydroponic system, and he said the energy it takes to grow a head a lettuce translates to about 50 cents per head.  That didn't seem bad to me at all!  In fact, that seems very reasonable.
Here is how the plants get started.  They sow the seeds directly into blocks of oasis, this is super cool.
The lettuce seedlings are really taking off.
Heads of green leaf lettuce.  The fresh heads of lettuce are harvested and are available during the food pantry days for families and individuals in need to take home. 
And a closeup of one of the Romaine beds. 
These heads of Romaine lettuce are almost ready to be harvested.  The families and individuals who come to the food pantry get access to this super fresh produce. This hydroponic farm setup is such a great sustainable model to have at a food pantry since they are constantly resupplying their own organic resources. Educational, practical, and sustainable = totally awesome!  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Real Funky Carrots

I tried growing carrots again this year.  This is a crop that is so hard to grow correctly for some reason!  Even though the soil was tilled and I sowed the seeds in raised beds, I guess the soil was still a bit too compacted because again, the carrots grew all stumpy despite being in the ground since the end of April.  Do you grow carrots?  If so, what is your secret?
Not only are they stumpy, they grew like fingers.  LOL.  What the heck is this?
And this one is giving a peace sign.  Hahaha.  One day... I'll grow a normal looking carrot!  I hope. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Fall Harvest & Remembrance

This is by far the best harvest I've had all season!  I picked these yesterday, and all the cucumbers turned into pickles, and the rest of the veggies, eggplant, lilac bell peppers and the giant Brandywine tomato I gave to my parents.  They loved the purple colors of the veggies and were so impressed by the half pounder Brandywine tomato.  It is a beautiful slicer indeed!
I have been picking cucumbers pretty much everyday now.  They are definitely my most prolific vegetable in the garden.  I put up 10 pint jars of sweet and spicy dill pickles.  And if that wasn't enough, I baked a banana chocolate chip bread.  Yum!  My friend started calling me the "Martha Stewart" of Staten Island.  Hahahaha, I kinda like the ring to that.  Now if only I could translate my love of gardening, canning and baking into a profitable venture like Martha, now we're talking.  :)
Yesterday was the 10th Anniversary of September 11th... I chose not to write anything yesterday because even though a decade has passed, it's still a little hard for me to discuss the events of that horrific day.  Like many of you, I remember exactly what I was doing on 9/11/01. That morning, I was walking out of the subway and onto 6th Avenue / 14th Street on my way to my office.  This was shortly after the 1st tower was hit. I remember 6th Avenue at a complete and total standstill, every car, taxi and person stopped in their tracks looking up into the sky.  Many people were gasping and crying on the streets. I have never seen anything like that before, it was a very eerie and scary feeling. I rushed to my office, on the 9th Floor of Parsons School of Design, and spoke to faculty and students who were distraught and in tears.  Many had relatives or knew people who worked in the towers, and they were desperately trying to get their loved ones on the phone.  Being on the 9th floor, we had a direct view of the towers, and we watched in horror the towers on fire, feeling absolutely helpless.  Ten years later, and it is still a pretty painful memory. To this day, I can barely watch the news about that day, and about the World Trade Center.  Even now, when I watch the news about the events of that day, it brings me to tears.  My prayers and thoughts go out to those families affected by this senseless and terrible tragedy.  We will never forget. Never.  Ever. 
Related Posts with Thumbnails

Book Recommendations