Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Year of Lessons

My blogging hours have significantly dropped recently. This is because I decided it would be a good idea to work full time and go to school full time. Yeah. No one ever said I was smart!   So my blogs will be less frequent and shorter, but I will try to continue because I'm still gardening.....for now.

Herbs and peppers are doing well. That's about all I got.

One tomato plant is pretty much useless and we won't get anything out of it. Maybe 1 green tomato?
The heirloom plant will be turned into a bunch of fried green tomatoes (still not a bad result!)
And the cherry tomatoes are doing well but dammit they are taking so long to turn fully red!!  We're at the end of September so I am pessimistic about the timing here. We shall see.

I did, however, learn (and by learn, I mean, I changed my guess for the 4th time) that my black tomatoes likely come from putting my plants in pots that are too small and they are either drowning (not enough air in the soil to feed them) or starving (not enough soil to hold water to feed them throughout the day. And I don't water in short bursts several times a day - who has time for that??? This is a hobby not a farm!).  So, we will dub this "The Year of Lessons". An opportunity to learn how to garden on a small scale in containers. The other lesson this year? Don't start it at the end of June, halfway through the season. Gee, I wonder why my tomatoes aren't all bright red???

Here's a few progress photos in the last month.

Heirloom tomatoes. Still that damn green color.

Red AND green pepper!

We're so close!

Cherry tomatoes doing well - ate the 3 red ones you see. They were small bursts of wonderful home grown flavor! Then it was over.

The only red tomato on the Big Boy plant. He later shriveled and um, is still on the plant because I don't have the heart to pull him off which is probably killing the rest of the plant. I need to let go.

Hope grows.

Yeah. A bunch of water-logged tomatoes (according to the new guess-theory).

Success!!! Will be harvested and eaten soon.

On the left, a new strawberry. On the right (in the middle of the photo, really), that small shriveled thing? That used to be a strawberry and how all my strawberries seem to end up.  Grrrr...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nuclear Power PLANT

I have been given a gift. This particular gift has put me to shame and caused significant humiliation, but it is a gift none-the-less. Christine, a summer intern at work, has a dad who gardens - Charlie. Charlie started growing things 3 or 4 years ago in his big backyard on Long Island and does both in ground and container gardening. The first (and only) time I met him I lobbed a ton of questions his way. Poor guy didn’t know what he got himself into.

I’ve been ferrying gardening questions to him all summer through Christine and would expect her to report back with the answers (wasn’t that part of an intern’s job description??). Halfway through summer, before we met but after a couple of questions and answers were exchanged, Charlie sent a gift my way via Christine: a zucchini. It was a beautiful thing and engendered no jealousy because I’m not growing zucchini. It was just a random act of kindness that I could enjoy. I thought I needed to share so I made zucchini bread with it and brought it into the office. 

At the end of summer, to celebrate Christine’s last day of work and her 21st birthday, a group of us, including Christine’s parents, celebrated at a local dive bar. Christine met us at the office, bearing another gift from Charlie, whom I would meet in a few hours. It was a tomato. A beautiful, ripe red tomato. When I tell you it was huge, I mean it was HUGE. It must have weighed close to a pound. See? 

Almost the size of my entire hand!
Larger than my laptop's mouse pad!

Christine thinks that there is something wrong with her dad's garden - some sort of nuclear power source that makes her dad's vegetables of seriously substantial size. It's a nuclear power plant!! (Hehe, get it??) Christine would often show me photos of the products of her dad's garden, and I have to say - something unnatural may have been at work here. Do people really grow things THAT large?? He needs to enter a state fair.

Whatever the cause of the super-size veggies, I was showing everyone. 

"Look, look! Look at what Charlie grew!!"

 The typical answer was "Oh my god, that's huge!" 

A few minutes later followed by "Okay, Lindsay, we get it. It's a big tomato. Shut up." 

I was so proud of a fellow gardener and the potential of any home garden. It took me a few hours to really start thinking about his tomato as compared to mine. But eventually I got there. I was shamed and humiliated by my measly success with 1 small (but delicious) cherry tomato. When I brought the tomato home, Chris looked at it and immediately said, "Wow. What are YOU doing wrong?" Seriously!

Nevertheless, I intended to fully enjoy this gift. What do you do with such a big fruit? Make it the star! The easiest was to have a slice of tomato with some of my own home-grown basil, plus olive oil, salt and pepper. I would have added mozzarella, but I didn't have any, and it didn't really need it anyway. Deeee-lish! 
Nuclear tomato + home grown basil = absolute goodness.

So although I am humbled by this gift, what Charlie has done is show me the possibilities. He has shown me the potential if I keep at it and continue gardening and learning. Faith in my own abilities to grow something organic, natural and nutritious and I could one day have something like The-Tomato-That-Charlie-Grew. 

Okay. I'll keep at it. Thanks Christine and Charlie for the inspiration!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Leaving the Garden @ Home

I tested my garden's love for me and I am merely mildly loved. Sigh. Each year my in-laws spend a week in the same beach house on the same beach and do nothing but eat lobster and bake in the sun. Not a bad situation and a tradition I have joined since Chris and I were engaged. However, this year came with new anxiety: being away from my garden. Five days is the longest I have ever left my garden and it is the first time I haven't also left Chris at home to water them. I imagine leaving your garden for the first time is like the first time you leave your child with a babysitter. (This is in no way a reflection of my current expectant status. Keep that imagination alive, Mother.)

To help with maintaining proper hydration I asked my landlord, a master of uselessness, if he would be willing to water my plants each morning. Both my husband and my mother were skeptical about the answer I would receive. But I had faith in good ol' Good-fer-Nuthin'. And my faith was rewarded with 3 out of 5 days hydration. Good-fer-Nuthin' and his wife, Hilga (also an alias, but it fits. In a somewhat-related note, she also reminds me of Madam Mim) were going away for the weekend. Not bad, all in all. May he be newly dubbed Almost-Good-fer-Nuthin'.

I could have gone with one of those water hydration systems that you leave in your plants and they supposedly water automatically, as needed. Although very intriguing and an item now on the Christmas list (hello families?? are you out there? if you please!), it feels exorbitant to spend money on all the little watering bulbs I would need so 3 out of 5 days from Good-fer-Nuthin' will have to suffice.

After a severe weather failure (check out this link for a quick taste of that), we came back from the beach whiter than when we left but nonetheless relaxed and having spent good quality time with the family.

But, of course, I was nervous about how my plants had done without me. Would they seek their revenge for my having left them with a crazy Russian? Or would they feel even more neglected by me having now been cared for by someone who clearly knows how to grow things (Never mind that they're weeds; they're strong, healthy weeds).

As I said before, I am mildly loved. Photos will come as soon as I figure out how to transfer PC files to my shiny new Mac. (It's sooo preeettttyyy.)

Here's the verbal rundown:
  • Chives - check. 
  • Basil - a little wilted, but check, they'll spring back in no time. 
  • Tomatoes - check, no harm seems to have been done and 1 more cherry tomato is definitely reddening up.  I don't even see any more black spots! Hoorah for small victories! (knock on wood)
  • Peppers - check-ish. I have a couple of small black spots on the ends of a couple of them. Is that my fault, is it Almost-Good-fer-Nuthin's fault, or the pepper revenge? Why are things turning black in my garden? I've been fairly regular about my watering habits now - maybe Almost-Good-fer-Nuthin' was not as religious?
  • Strawberries - NO check. They are wilting at a scary pace. Several are just black and rotted. Could this also be blossom end rot or a disease? What is happening??? 
The few small strawberries that haven't turned black are eaten almost immediately because we'd rather eat small strawberries than none at all. They definitely need to be left on the plant longer. I choose to think of this as them being mad at me for leaving them and not because I did something wrong. After all, plants are living things. They have feelings and mine are clearly the sensitive kind. More are still growing in so maybe now that I'm back they'll be okay.

Anyone have any ideas why this could have happened? When I post pictures I would love any opinions on whether this is a disease spreading throughout my containers or blossom end rot which is user error and completely fixable. I need help!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Garden of Eden Recipes!

Many people don't seem to realize that I have been posting recipes on my website. So take a look at the link on the left, which, cleverly enough is called 'Garden of Eden Recipes'.  Ingenious isn't it?

Bon Appetit!

Disease Unease? Nay, Positive Potential!

Oh dear. Oh my. Oh gosh. What I thought was B.E.R. might be a disease. A bacterial disease no less. Not just something that I can fix by watering appropriately or consistently. But something that could have been part of the plant when I bought it and can't be cured. Holy geez. I might have to get rid of 1 or more plants in its/their entirety, forsaking all yummy-looking, pride inducing fruits. The level of garden related stress is at an all time high.  I will come back to the diagnosis results at a later date when I have confirmed my mater malfunction. For now, I will forego the diseased photos. Let's focus on the positive. 


What do we have to talk about that's positive? Setting aside potential ugly, horrible, disappointing and evil bacterial diseases, I do have a reddening tomato!  The cherry tomato plant, the least likely to be diseased and the most productive plant of anything in the garden, has 1 definitely blushing beauty. What a sight! Let's bask in this fact over 2 photos. It's so satisfying to see!

Another point of pride is strawberries! Of the 26 fruits that I counted recently, several are looking mighty juicy and full of uber deliciousness. They still need to grow, but their bright red color is a beautiful thing. Look at them glisten!

I also have my fantastic basil and chive plants. The basil I will soon use to make a fresh pesto sauce using Mom's recipe. That will get posted soon too.  The peppers are doing just fine. Nothing turning red yet but they do look healthy, as long as they aren't getting chopped off by stupid chipmunks or other pesky rodents. 

So my largest and most common crop (I realize I'm not on a farm or even a yard, or, well, land. However, I like the sound of the word crop, so just go with it.) is causing the biggest problems and may not produce what would have been the most prized epicurean delight. I will readjust my expectations and focus on what I CAN produce. It's all about staying positive, right?  

Nevertheless, I would appreciate all crossed fingers and well wishes for my darling crop. The garden production potential is still high, it's just different than what it was. 

Despite all of the challenges I have had in what should have been an easy summer of container gardening, I am having a great time doing it, learning about it and seeing the results. So much so that I am planning for a fall/winter garden and next summer's yield. The blog continues!

Monday, August 9, 2010


One of my tomato plants is named Brer. You will notice the 2, count 'em TWO letter r's in this word. Like Brer Rabbit. If you take away one of the r's, you are left with what? BER. Which, as I have come to learn in gardening, stands for Blossom End Rot. As in black dot from hell. As in trials and tribulations of a new gardener. As in ruining my tomatoes and not appreciating this one bit!!! As in, totally my fault. Oops.

Yesterday, I came upon this disturbing scene:
An unsightly mess in my precious garden.

Today, I spent some time doing a thorough inspection of my plants. First, I very sadly cut off the one rotten tomato - let me remind you it was my only beefsteak heirloom tomato that has grown so far. There are several new blossoms on that plant which is hopeful, but it's already August and I don't know how much time the plant needs to make the other tomatoes fully develop. Which means there is a chance that I won't taste an heirloom tomato this season. That's just so wrong!
Looks like 2 tomatoes were growing into 1.
It would have been an awesome Monster-Mater! Ack!

Next, I discovered this less gruesome but still totally depressing situation on Shaq, the tall Big Boy hybrid. 
Black dot from hell. (While we mourn Shaq's otherwise beautiful child, please do take note of my cool purple gloves. Jealous much?)

So, of my 3 tomato plants (Shaq, Brer, and TBD), only Brer was untouched (so far). Maybe having that extra R in the name really is key. Having 2 specimens with black dots made me think that some horrible disease was quickly spreading and would take all of my plants away, next moving onto humans in the form of a flesh eating disease, causing mass Queens/Manhattan exodus. The truth, while clearly not as dramatic, is no less sad because it turns out I am the culprit. And any harm caused by me and that could have been avoided is almost on the same scale. You see that, right?

BER is usually caused by 1 or 2 things: calcium deficiency (I put crushed up egg shells in the soil several weeks ago, but maybe not enough?) and uneven watering. Ah. Okay. Effect noted, cause found. Me. I have been a bit lax in my watering lately. Did I mention I'm not a morning person? But when I have a day when I didn't water in the morning, I made up for it by either watering in the evening or, if it was a weekend, watering whenever I got up, say around noon-ish.  Guess when they said that you should water in the morning, what they meant was: "You should water in the morning, idiot!"

Heard the message. Loud and clear. Lesson learned. 

And so I plead with the Big Gardener in the Sky, "Save my plants and I promise to water in the mornings when I'm supposed to, even if I head straight back to bed afterwards and complain the whole time about having to get up to water these stupid things!" There. That should do it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hoarding Chipmunks

A couple of baby peppers are down again. It's on the same damn green pepper plant that's been continuously attacked from the start. But the peppers aren't touched, they don't even have any bite marks. Mom thinks it might be chipmunks. What is wrong with these chipmunks that they just bring down the pepper but don't eat it? Aaaand, if little Alvin is ignoring the fox pee and getting under my netting, how am I supposed to stop him?? I sprinkled more Shake Away in the area and added an extra layer of netting to that plant to see what happens. What else can I do?

But I can't think about this too much right now. I just watched an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive on the TLC channel which of course makes me want to clean my entire apartment. Tonight. A Sunday at 9:30 pm. I might starting hoarding chipmunks to stop them from getting to my plants. Think that'll work??