The Root

One gardener’s quest to get to the bottom of it all.

Winter Squash: Garden-Planning Escapism December 14, 2008

Freya’s napping, I’m perusing the seed catalog again, and I can’t help posting a quick-and-dirty poll asking everyone what their favorite winter squash variety is. Do you love any of these? Do you have a different favorite?

Using space efficiently is definitely a priority, here — I have pretty much decided to completely turn over Firstplot to herbs and picking flowers — so my remaining vegetable-growing plots consist of Vineplot (approximately 3’x4′), the pumpkin patch, and my balcony. I’m looking for a very compact squash plant, if there is such a thing…I don’t know, as I have never grown winter squash before…


Timelapse July 18, 2008

Mid-July. Jesus, that late already. Rewind and replay, from the top: I started with good earth, built up better earth on top of it, planted it, mulled over it, watched the apple blossoms fall on it, lost many peas to a woodland foodie and then built a fence around it, let the weeds riot in it and then pulled them up, and now it grows, grows, grows.

I pulled out a bunch of carrots and, man oh man, was it satisfying to walk home pushing Freya with a bundle of carrot greens stowed in her stroller. It looked like I had just been to the grocery store and for some reason that was really wonderful, although wouldn’t it be great if it went the other way around, if I came away from the chain grocery store with a bag of farmfresh stuff, knowing it came from my corner of the earth. (I know, I know, I don’t think it’s going to happen, am not even sure it’s possible, but that’s a whole ‘nother post).

So, the garden has kept me in salads, and we’ve eaten a lot of green pizzas and fritattas and crustless quiches, but mostly it’s a finger food garden — six pea pods one evening, a couple carrots the next, none of which even makes it to the kitchen. This is all about to change, though, I can see it coming.

The tomatillos are seven feet tall and growing. Gigantism. All ten tomato plants are flowering, about half have fruit. I have four hearty zucchini plants and a couple runts. I have four pumpkin vines. Here’s to keeping everyone in Jack O’ Lanterns from September to November. Freya’s getting ready.


Brandywines! And heavy on the updates June 16, 2008

I lucked into six Brandywine ‘mato starts from my neighbor Susan. What a windfall! I’m so excited. It has taken me several days to transplant all of them, mostly working at night, frequently in the rain, enjoying getting really dirty (good therapy, almost as good as watching Freya schmeer herself with food). I think I have saved them all, but I’m not sure if they’re all big enough to produce in our short season. The last and smallest to go in was one I did last night and am keeping on the balcony. Hey, junior!

I weeded my arse off in my Firstplot. You know the drill: Before, After:

The PEAS are COMING BACK after being decimated. They have even survived me moving them around in the name of prettification. I might have peas this year, after all; not enough for Freya to eat, really, but all I want is to taste one. In the plot now: Peas (Progress and Snap Daddy), Brandywines, basil, sad Romaine, dill, bell peppers, carrots.

I’m turning against the grid. That twine is just ugly, and I really enjoy planting more free-form. Dude! Eventually it will be a thing of wild beauty. More like Vineplot. Speaking of. High drama there. From one day to the next, whitefly infestation. I got quick and I got lucky: First, target practice with a spray bottle of water; then I doused the plants with soapy water; then, that night, it rained, washing away potentially damaging soap residue. Today I say it’s a full success…let’s hope it stays that way. Whiteflies a real prob hereabouts. I have read that nasturtiums deter ’em?

Also, the tomatillos are fruiting, zucchinis are up, and there’s a carpet of lettuces and basil popping up everywhere. It’s all so vibrant and satisfying.


Live Action Slug vs Copper June 13, 2008

So there it was in the garden yesterday — a slug, but also a guinea pig for my copper tape repellent. I can’t say I was amazed with the results. Amazing would have been the slug curling up and rolling off, crying, “Los! Schnell!!” In fact, I was concerned he was treating the tape like the Autobahn. Not the schnell I was going for. However, in the end, it did turn off at the first exit, and it stayed off.

Maybe this tape is worth it. I reserve ultimate judgment until high slug season…more to come…


Abbr. State of the Sprouts, May 25th, 2008 May 25, 2008

We have a new varsity basketball team: the tomatilloes are gigantic. I sincerely hope they fruit, because they’re going to take up a lot of real estate. Please, somebody tell me now if store-bought tomatilloes — particularly those bought at Price Chopper — are hybrids that will not fruit. Somebody dash my hopes now before I give these plants the penthouse suite. All would not be wasted — I would compost them, or set them up as a sacrifice crop…

On a happier note, it’s Memorial Day weekend and last frost dates are fast approaching. Soon I’ll set these out in the weather for keeps: Swiss chard, pumpkin, Black Krim tomatoes, and sweet peppers. I’ve essentially been “hardening off” for a month or so, ever since I ran out of room under artificial lights and chased everybody out onto the balcony. But, after they’ve sunned every day, I dutifully haul them in every evening, for fear of a killing frost (there was a hearty one just last night). Soon, those chores will be done. I expect we’ll forgo the raised-bed-on-wheels in favor of large containers in the driveway. Or maybe use the containers as a stop-gap until we actually do construct the biggest, most bad-assed “raw meal on wheels” anyone has ever seen.

And then, just when I think I’m an urban gardener, just when I think I can sneak into that crowd…tonight I heard a beaver slapping the water just down the ridge from the condo. I know it’s a beaver at work — I’ve seen the stumps of small trees that he has gnawed down, right by the river. He must go at them like he’s sharpening a pencil. I love this place.


I Can Do Pretty May 19, 2008

Nothing dresses up a garden like apple blossoms. Befitting that today turned into plot-beautification day. Before this evening, I hadn’t been there for days, what with solving computer woes, going to appointments with Freya, and visiting folks. When I last left it, it was growing green very well, but quite honestly looking pretty gnarly, thanks to what I had rigged up as a pea trellis:

I don’t know — it’ll look a lot better when covered with peas. Look at those peas! It stood up to some serious wind, though, so I didn’t disassemble it, just beautified around it. My mom had stowed some plants that had to be uprooted on the compost heap, so I found places for them along the edge of the plot:

I am fairly sure one is hosta, which, at this point, is the shortest of the bunch but, in placing it, I think I might have underestimated it. If it’s the type I think it is, it can grow six inches a day and eat men for breakfast. It will then need more room.

I sowed a lot more Swiss chard. (This weekend, I cut and ate some that I have growing on the balcony and have since become really thrilled about it: it’s everything that spinach is, and more! And have you seen the stuff they sell in grocery stores? Nothing like the gorgeous stuff you can grow in a box at home.) I left the plot with another bunch of romaine…but, to be honest, what I ate on the way home was Hershey’s miniatures…


Bonfiring Our Way to a Pumpkin Patch May 12, 2008

Saturday evening my mother set a brushpile aflame. It was a gorgeous and unnervingly powerful thing; we had to stand 15 feet back from it, for all the heat it threw off.

Mom’s old mailbox smoldering hot as lava:

Freya was there with her pop, of course, taking it all in. Strike another off the bittersweet list of firsts: Baby’s first bonfire!

The day after, on our mutual Mothers’ Day of sunny yard-work, Mom discovered an unexpected boon: A fully-composted fir tree under the ash. So this bare round of earth is rich, clear, and large enough for my Jack-O’-Lantern pumpkin!

That’s one vine-plant that’s found a good home! As for the rest — the tomatoes, tomatilloes, and zucchini — they’ll soon find themselves down by the driveway or maybe along that fence at the bottom of the yard. Neville and I have hatched a plan for a wheeled raised bed that could sit in the driveway all summer, then be safely stored away come winter (and come man-high snowbanks and careless snowplowers). I’m, like, squealing excited and ready to saw, drill, dig, and transplant, but I have to wait out the coming frosts. Although it seems like the growing season is midway through, most of my stuff’s not even in the ground yet, and won’t be until Memorial Day, when the temps will be more consistent. That leaves us a good two weeks to finagle free or cheap building material, sturdy wheels, and then construct the thing. This gardening stuff all happens so fast and, then again, so slowly. I can positively feel the exuberant growth under the soil and it makes me burst with energy, but on any given day, there’s only so much I can do. (Multiply that feeling a hundredfold and it summarizes caring for a six-month-old.)