February 28, 2006

Homemade Rosemary Oil

When I left for work this morning it was 11 degrees outside. Nothing seems to be growing anywhere but, I'm still enjoying the fruits of last season's labor.

Way back in early November I stuck a bunch of rosemary and garlic in a bottle and poured olive oil in to cover it. I always have one of those big tins of olive oil around so once I had the bottle (from balsamic vinegar) it was really easy. I marked the bottle with the date and put it in the back of my cupboard and left it alone until this week. Its amazing! This weekend I had it with some really good bread to try it out and tonight I made salmon with it. Its delicious. I'm absolutely doing this again maybe with a little black pepper next time. If you have any pretty glass bottles lying around you should definitely do this...or send the bottles to me so I can. I suppose this would work in any old jar too but it looks so nice in a cool bottle.

February 27, 2006

Does anyone ever get anything done at these meetings?

Except for about 20 minutes, this Saturday's gardening class was all about the planning and politics part of community gardening. We broke up into groups, played roles and hammered out meeting agendas and appropriate dues for a fictitious community garden. It was fine although it made me think twice about trying to get more involved in the leadership of my own community garden -- what a slow and frustrating process.

Unfortunately my work schedule is such that I won't be attending any more classes until next year. Its too bad because next week is all about planning for a vegetable garden. I've got a first draft of my own plan done but, I don't think it leaves me enough room to get around for weeding and stuff. I'm not sure if you can see it in the photo too well but, advice is welcome. The empty spot on the left is for whatever I decide to grow from seed.

In a few weeks I'll be volunteering at this citywide Urban Gardening Event which I think will be pretty cool and probably have lots of pamphlets and workshops. Later that same night there is a bagpipe event at the bar around the corner from my house!! They're not related but, it should be a pretty fantastic day.

February 23, 2006

Damn Zipcar!

I don't own a car which is not a problem because I have Zipcar -- which means I can get "wheels when I want them." The problem is, Zipcar has made some changes that will make some of the driving and hauling of stuff that I need to do for the garden a bit harder.

Honestly, I think Zipcar is brilliant and a good deal. In the late spring last year when I was hauling myself to the farm every week for more plants and supplies (and my super-cool red hose nozzle thingy that I paid $20 for) it was great to have cars that 1) were close to my house and 2) fun to drive. My favorite is the Scion XA (above). For some reason though, Zipcar has removed 6 of the cars that used to be closest to me and replaced some of the best cars with less cool ones. That means I'll have more competition for fewer cars and they'll be a further walk away. Let me tell you, a smallish car around 10AM on a Saturday when its warm and dry is what EVERYONE wants. Dammit!

I think the reason the cars were removed may have something to do with theft which I guess I sort of understand but, its just such an inconvenience for ME that I feel unreasonably mad about it. I decided to reserve a car for May 13th already because that's the day I have to pick up my seedlings at the cool women's shelter/urban farm but....its a ford focus wagon....waaaaah!

So if you have a car and you want to drive me around for garden supplies in the spring and summer please let me know. I'll hook you up with some zucchini or eggplant or something.

February 19, 2006


I am finally back home after 2 weeks away. Despite a nasty cold and jetlag the very first thing I did when I got up on Saturday was to run off to Garden School. The lesson was all about insects. It turns out that most insects are either beneficial or benign (in the garden at least). Still, you need to know the difference lest you leave an evil predator napping in your perennials or accidentally kill a true garden warrior. In addition to learning how to tell the difference between an insect and an arachnid we also leaned what they do and how to deal with them.

This is a lady bug:

After a lot of note-taking, we broke up into groups of 6 and traveled to 6 stations where we had puzzlers and guidebooks to help us identify and make recommendations for the various critter problems we were presented with. We also learned some stuff about the side effects of pesticides and how to read labels as well as more info on weeds and diseases. I assume its obvious but, I have no intention of ever using anything non-organic nor would this class encourage that but, there are some organic pesticides that are pretty dangerous.

The clues would go something like this: "I am a gardener and I have some bean plants that aren't doing so well but, the plant is covered with lady bugs so....should I just not worry about it since the ladybugs will probably eat whatever it is?" A HA! Said the group.... and we turned to our handy field guides and discovered the sinister Mexican Bean Beetle that is not a friend of the garden AND is a lady bug look-a-like.

This is a Mexican Bean Beetle:
The biggest highlight for me was realizing how great the books were. The best books were from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (yeah, that's right, P.S. 206 is in Da House) and they are really small and easy to use. You just look up some info and you can pretty much figure out what you've got and what to do about it. I got up this morning and ordered all three of them online.

Here are a few more interesting things that I learned:

1) Only female Mosquitos bite
2) The Praying Mantis isn't so great. They do eat insects but, they eat ALL insects including ones you might want to keep around.
3) Ladybugs totally rock-- they eat aphids which are some bad bad bugs (er.. I mean insects)
4) More than half the world's creatures are Beetles and my state has somewhere between 25 and 50 THOUSAND species of insects.
5) In additon to shears I need to get a magnifying glass to identify insects. Every once in a while (says my instructor) I might want to catch one and toss it in the freezer so I can examine it more closely. I am sure my roommate will love that!

February 13, 2006

The Flying Tomato

This is barely related to gardening but, heck its the Winter Olympics and Shaun White is "totally rad." If you haven't been paying attention, this is the red headed kid from San Diego who just won the gold medal for snowboarding. The Italians call him "Il Pomodoro Volante. " Everybody loves tomatoes.

Bode came in 5th in the Downhill yesterday and poor Apolo Anton Ohno missed his shot at the finals.

I suppose I can say that I aspire to be a very good gardener and so people who are talented at what they do, especially under pressure, and seem to really enjoy it are an inspiration to me.

February 9, 2006

Nice weather we've been having...

What to blog about when you are not at home and not shopping for plants or seeds? I am in the Northwest right now which is surprisingly sunny. The most amazing thing I've noticed recently is that lots of people garden or at least think about plants and flowers a fair amount. Its practically like the weather in how universal it is. I was talking to one woman yesterday about her clear memories of killing all her friend's tomato plants by smoking near them. A coworker emailed me about his failed attempts to grow berries on his porch, another friend and I talked for a while about orchids. In fact, I was so inspired that now I'm considering getting one and trying to keep it alive -- anyone know if I can do that successfully in New England? I always figured orchids were "out of my league."

So clearly a lot of the charm here is how we STRUGGLE to succeed at growing things and care a lot about that success. I think its because the urge to nurture something and not kill it is innate. Its a pretty comforting thought in this fast-paced, pre-packaged, age of technology (and blogging). Alright, enough with the philosophical mumbo jumbo, I gotta get an Americano and check my e mail.

I've added some more garden resources links to the side here. If you've got suggestions feel free to send them my way.

February 6, 2006

Red Knights, Dinosaurs and Oliver

I decided to place an order for seedlings with the organic urban farm. All in all I'll be getting about 66 starter plants for $33.50. That's a good deal if you consider what I get out of them -- lots of enjoyment, plus a freezer full of pesto. The plants have some crazy names. Red Knights are peppers (red ones), Dinosaurs are a type of blue-ish bumpy Kale and Oliver is a Brussel Sprout. I'll also be getting some eggplants (named Nadia) Zucchini (Costata Romanesco) and a variety of tomatoes - Rose de Barnes, Purple Cherokee, Green Zebra, Brandywine, Pineapple, Sweet Olive and a few others.

I have also decided to plant a few things from seed inside and to plant some seeds directly in the garden like I did last year since that seemed to work pretty well. The big development though is that I am going to try to actually PLAN the whole garden before I even start. My plot is not a perfect rectangle but, I went outside and walked the edges to estimate the shape and size. Trapezoid? I think I've got it. Right now, as you can see, my plan is blank.

The next step will be to look up all the plants I've ordered and figure out how much space they need and how tall they'll get. After that I need to think about what to grow from seed and then FLOWERS! I'm excited to think about what kinds of colors I want and when they'll bloom and where to put them.

I can already tell that I'm running out of room though. Some of those 66 plants are going to have to go to friend's gardens. Who needs 6 parsley plants anyway?

Its been unseasonably warm here and I have a feeling that's not good. I'm not sure about this but I get the sense that "typical" is always best for gardening. Too much or too little of something (rain, heat, etc.) seems to benefit the garden bad guys that I learned about like fungus and bacteria. We shall see. I'll be out of town for the next two weeks but, I should be able to keep up with the planning.

February 1, 2006

Seeds or Seedlings?

or seeds
  1. A ripened plant ovule containing an embryo.
  2. The seed-bearing stage of a plant.
  3. A source or beginning; a germ.
A young plant that is grown from a seed.

It is now February which is a good time to start planning your garden. I'm a little overwhelmed by the idea of plotting things out. I need to know 1)what I want to grow 2) the estimated height of things 3) when they get big and how much space they need and 4) how I want the garden to look but...that's a lot of stuff. Last summer I did pretty well without a ton of planning although I think I had too many yellow and orange flowers and I probably didn't use the space as well as I could have. There are simply some decisions one needs to make in advance. Plus, I had a lot of "plot envy" when I walked around my community garden and saw some of the things people did. Although, I did get compliments on my plot too, I want to improve on what I did last year. Stagnation is not an option.

I tried to set myself up for this year by keeping the little plastic tags from last year's plants so I can remember what worked and what didn't. I need to figure out if I'm going to try to grow seedlings indoors this year. Another option is to buy seedlings that have been grown by professionals or at a cool women's shelter that is also an urban farm. The deadline for ordering from the women's shelter is February 11th!

Last year I got plants for just about everything except for a few herbs, greens and flowers which I sowed directly in the garden in April. My biggest success was with California Poppies which, of course, are NOT native to my area which makes me a bad bad gardener but, I love them and they were easy to grow. I promise to try to think more about native plants this year.

I believe the pros and cons of growing seedlings myself are as follows:

1) Starting seeds indoors means starting gardening early and since I like to do it, early is good.
2) I will feel more accomplished if I grow something from its very beginning stages as a teeny tiny seed all the way to its grown-up stage as a flower, fruit or whatever its supposed to be. It also seems like what "real" gardeners do so...it just seems right.
3) Seeds are less expensive than plants so it makes the whole endeavor cheaper -- especially if I plan to buy crap like real gardening shears.

1) I might fail and end up buying plants anyway which will be depressing and NOT less expensive. Also, there is a chance my plants just won't do as well because of my amateur ways and I won't find out until its too late to buy something grown by people with more experience.
2) I am not sure I have a perfect place in my apartment for this in terms of light and I am not sure that I can prevent my cats from taking a curious nibble while I am away.
3) I get the impression that its a lot of transferring things to bigger containers along the way which could make a big mess and I'd have to get all the containers. When its all in the garden the mess tends to be concentrated out there.

Luckily I have at least 11 days to decide!