Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday Weekly Update 1

Since a major reason Im doing this blog is to keep a garden journal, I am going to try and keep myself on a schedule of doing a weekly update. Here goes the first one.

2 Sweet potato plants thriving

Sweet Potatoes in DIY Container A

One of the hard lessons of gardening/urban farming is knowing when to cut your losses. I originally ordered 10 sweet potato plants and after it taking a week to get to me and using too much worm compost in the soil, all but two were struggling. The old me would have spent a lot of time trying to bring the failing plants back to life. While possible, the effort isnt worth it since pests have a freakish ability of going directly for your weakest plants and attacking. Following my new thesis of ordering specialty plants from specialty providers, I ordered 15 "purple passion" sweet potato plants from and all but 1 seem to be doing well in sterile potting soil with a layer of rocks on the bottom to ensure that they get enough drainage this time. I plan on planting out 8 of these and giving the rest to some of my friends from the Bushwick Campus Farm. Gardening is all about sharing the love.

14 "purple passion" sweet potato plants hardening off in the tray.
Behind them are from left to right - 2 tatsoi plants and 2 mint plants.

Planned Leafy Greens Area/Purple Passions

The 2 tatsoi plants and mints that I bought from the Bushwick Campus Farm are doing really well. The leafy green plants that I had started from seed...not so much. I thought that they were big enough to be unappealing to birds who have eagle eye's when it comes to seedlings for some reason. I was wrong. The easy fix is to cut the bottom off of a 1-liter bottle and and using the top to cover the plant. Ill have a picture to show this idea next week when I have my new seedlings on the roof. As for the tatsoi and mint, I have tried a couple different parts of the roof and they seem to do well in each environment, so I will keep them here with the other planned leafy greens for aesthetic reasons. The "purple passions" will be planted out or given away on Thursday/Friday and are just hardening off for the time being.

3 Stalks are baby Blue Corn all others are either Alaska Peas and Sugar Snap Peas.

Blue Corn, Alaska Peas, and Sugar Snap Peas in DIY Container B

This container has been a comedy of errors. The first plan was to do the "three sisters" in the container. While possible, I thought it a bit too ambitious and settled on 2 kinds of peas surrounding the corn and hoping that all the peas would achieve the same effect of the squash by crowding out the weeds. All good there. Then, the errors begin. First, I wanted to slightly hill the corn a little bit, so I planted those first and the plan was to let them get up to a foot and then hill to 6 inches then plant the peas. For the first couple of weeks, the original five corn starts were doing well but growing far more slowly than I originally planned so I tried to hill them an inch and plant the peas. During that time, I made a new gardening friend who was interested in the blue corn and I gave her my last five seeds thinking that my plants were good so I didnt need them. Somehow during the hilling process 2 of the corn plants just stopped growing. Now, one is struggling and one is dead. As everything I read says that corn needs at least 4 nearby corn plants to germinate, Im nervous that Im going to have to hand-pollinate to be able to get corn if that is even possible. Here, Im leaving the struggling plant in the hope that it will pull through. As for the peas, I planted them and some sunflowers directly in their respective pots at the same time. Both started to germinate at the same time and look EXACTLY alike. As I didnt have that many sunflower seeds, I look in their containers and all the seeds I planted have sprouted so Im confused how they have also sprouted in the blue corn container, too. Thinking the pea sprouts to be weeds or magic sunflower seeds which have jumped over to this container, I pull them up and plant more peas as they have not sprouted, yet. This cycle happened one more time before I realized that I was being silly and the "weeds" I had been pulling up were actually the peas. Sigh. In the future, I will ensure to use logic and plant signs. Lesson learned.

Empty DIY Container C - will be used to plant out Purple Passions

5 Sunburst Sunflowers in the center and hummingbird/butterfly mixed plants surrounding them.

Sunburst Sunflowers and Butterfly/Hummingbird Mix - DIY Container D

The sunburst sunflowers (if everything goes right) should be able 2 feet tall with a 10" head. As I am obsessed with sunflowers, these are the flowers that Im most excited about. I have five plants here and should probably thin them down to three, but it is my first time growing them and I want to test the limits of what is possible. I have heard urban legends of people spotting hummingbirds in Brooklyn, so I have used a mix of flowers here which are supposed to attract them and butterflies. Everything seems to be thriving here and I am already fantasizing about relaxing on the roof, reading a book, and being surrounded by hummingbirds and butterflies.

Green Onions in center. Cinnamon Basil on the bottom and three Sweet Basil plants at various stages.

Green Onions, Basil, and Cinnamon Basil for friend

These are some of one of my best friends favorite herbs and as he has no green thumb, I grew them for his birthday present and will be giving them to him this weekend in DC. They have done really well on the roof and so I hope they do as well on his balcony. The Sweet Basil plants (3) were started from seed and the Cinnamon Basil was bought from the Bushwick Campus Farm. The advise that I always give friends without a green thumb for a planter this size is to stick his index finger in the soil down to his knuckle, if is feels dry, then put 4 ice cubes on the soil and let them melt slowly. This seems to work well.

Strawberries on either side and Chamomile in center. Purple Mizuna growing separately below.

Strawberries and German Chamomile

In my last post, I wrote about my insane experience trying to order strawberry plants from a certain company. A month ago, I was able to find a total of 2 strawberry plants at Home Depot so I snagged them. Originally, I wanted to grow lavender and chamomile in this container, hence all the gravel mixed into the soil, but I decided that the container didnt drain fast enough for the lavender and gave them their individual containers. As this is the first of (hopefully) five years with these strawberry plants, I had been cutting off the flowers and runners until the jiffy pots the strawberry no longer were able to be pulled out easily. I wanted the roots to set as much as possible and we are finally at that milestone, which means I might get a total of 2 strawberries this year, but hopefully many more in the future. As for the chamomile. Either, it is the slowest growing plant or something is wrong. I dont care strongly either way, so Im just going to leave it alone for now.

2 Lavender Plants


Individual Herb Containers

Note, to self, everyone would be better served with a closeup of these plants in the future. Anyway, all four of these plants were bought and seem to be doing well. The lavender here seem to be doing much better after I have them in their own containers with a lot of drainage holes. Now, they are a little more tricky though since I have to monitor them twice a day to see if they need watering. Thankfully, the future harvest will make the work worth it. No scent calms me more than lavender.

Sorrel, Cilantro and other herbs

Mixed French Culinary Herbs

Originally, I wanted to grow this in my kitchen. They were growing so leggy there that I transferred them to the roof. Since the container is small enough, Ill be able to add it to the table during dinner parties so  the effect will still be the same I guess. Next week, Ill complete the wood pallet planter and will use that to grow a bigger collection of mixed herbs.

3 Sunburst Sunflowers surrounded by a Beneficial Bug mix

Sunburst and Beneficial Bug Attractors in DIY Self-Watering Container 1

Next week, I will be making a video showing how I make my self-watering containers. In this container, I have some plants which attract beneficial bugs like wasps to the garden to fight off some pests. They all seem to be going well here.

Some kind of pepper plant surrounded by marigolds.

A Pepper Plant and Marigolds in DIY Self-Watering Container 2

This pepper was started indoors this fall. His brother didnt quite make it. Im honestly not sure what kind of pepper it is, but am pretty sure that it is a Tabasco pepper plant. Im going to have to trim up the marigolds this week as I think this container could use some better airflow, but generally everything seems to be growing well.

Left - Paul Robeson and Cinnamon Basil. Right - Brandywine and 2 Marigolds

Paul Robeson and Brandywine Tomatoes in DIY Self-Watering Container 3 and 4

These plants were bought from the Bushwick Campus Farm and seem to be doing well. I have another set in the "Various Plants" section. They all look to be thriving at the same right, so I shouldnt worry about transferring the other tomatoes too too much, but will hopefully do it when I get back in town early next week. Will also need to add support structures for the tomatoes, too.

Two Purple Mizuna plants

Jagged edges are Purple Mizuna and Rounded edges are Tuscan Kale

Solo Purple Mizuna and Kale and Purple Mizuna in DIY Self-Watering Container 3

The three Purple Mizunas were all bought at the same time from the Bushwick Campus Farm. It is amazing to me how differently they are growing. In the second picture, I wanted to use the Purple Mizuna to take up space while the Kale grew up. I have already harvested this plant three times and it seems bigger every day. The other two solo plants are growing much more slowly, so I might have to add those two to a larger self-watering container together. For now, Im trying to test which spot on the roof allows them to thrive the most. I love experimenting. Im very very pleased at the progress of the Kale. It is such a slow grower in the beginning, but seems to be hitting its stride.

Sunflower, Texas Blue Bonnets, Peas, and several Basil Plants

2 Cinnamon Basil Plants
Paul Robeson and Brandywine Tomatoes

Various Plants Awaiting Planters

Below, I note my struggles finding containers, but these will all be planted out soon. Ill have to remember to tilt the smaller containers to maximize sunlight.

"Working" pile
"Addition" Pile

Compost Piles

The "working" pile has dramatically cooled down, so I think that it is nearing completion, which is good since my other pile is almost full. In about 3 weeks, Ill shift through the first pile and transfer everything in the addition pile into the "working" pile since it is so much easier to turn.

6 different kinds of tomatoes. 2 kinds of squash. Quinoa. Two kinds of Basil.

 Tray of Plants Hardening Off

Im still searching for free 5-gallon buckets, which are turning out to be harder to find lately. The following plants are still being harden off and awaiting transplanting when I finally bite the bullet and just buy 5-gallon buckets. Ive given myself a Saturday deadline to either find or buy.

Closing Notes

Overall, Im overbudget in how much that I wanted to spend on the rooftop garden. I had always had plans of a couple financial ventures to allow the garden to partially pay for itself, so those plans will have to be accelerated. Be sure that I will be sharing my progress on those fronts in the future.

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