Monday, April 30, 2012

Looking Up

A little less time with the nose in the dirt. A little more time with the stars.

Mucho Verde

This week, about two pounds or, put another way -a large grocery bag's worth.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weed of the Week

I've been eyeing this weed for a couple of weeks now down at the beach farm. I asked my garden neighbor Wolf, who has a clump or two in his plot, and he says he eats it in salads. On the very same day, Marie celebrates finding Claytonia at Union Square green market. I've got a clump growing at the corner of my plot. Wolf's plot borders on a weedy plot that is absolutely filled with clusters of tiny, pale blue or white flowers. Could they be the same?

All this farming. I gotta do some gardening. Missing some of the moments.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cold-frame Tomatoes

All but forgotten, the next big thing -tomatoes.

Vineale Scape

The field garlic has really improved in the last two weeks. And now it is forming scapes. Very hard to photograph with my phone, but maybe you can see the little red, yellow, and green beaks. I would like to see if I can push the harvest date toward middle May. I am trying to grow larger field garlic. I may also attempt to collect bulbils for replanting.

Soiled Again

I saw the bag as I arrived home late last night. It was in the tree pit. I looked over in the side yard, but all was in order. It was too dark to see that the offending, aggressive individual had dumped their potting soil remains underneath the climbing rose matting down Gaura and Allium. This is the second dumping in two weeks -must be spring. Only one bit better than what I get in autumn -old, potbound soil.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Yard Grows In Brooklyn

It may not look like much right now, but the side yard is about to find itself this year. Thanks to my landlord's decision to move his utility poles, we decided to revamp the messy and overgrown plot. I curved our pathway around the building, sending us to where the poles used to rest. Now we can plant in the area we used to use to step over the fence. Farther down is a gate, a broken gate, but a gate. We plan on planting the strip nearer the fence, leaving the side near the building (always under threat from landlordian ideas) as a walking path.

I moved all the iris (the reblooming iris) to the back side of the poor man's patio, intending them to keep the sleeping cats at bay and support the leaning monkshood and phlox that dwell so well under the remaining yew tree. A stump is all that remains of the other yew tree cut after heavy snows two winters back. It is the fulcrum of the planting against the wall, where most plants were divisions from the front yard garden. The dirt patch, where the iris used to reside, will be filled with low to medium height, drought tolerant perennials like the coneflower, lily, yarrow, thrift, tickseed, solidago and ironweed that are already growing here. I removed the 10-foot-tall-growing maximillian sunflower, banishing it to the beach farm fence line. This move I call a 'happy neighbor.'

There are many volunteers, including asters, bachelor button, cosmos, borage, and allyssum that self-seed every year. In between the stones are a variety of sedum -we just bought three quart-sized varieties at Gowanus the last rainy Sunday morning. We're thinking of blue flax for the new strip, a plant admired by both Betsy and I, a western plant, not well known or understood here in the northeast. We asked the nursery if they would carry it so we don't have to mail order ridiculous little pots for the price of a gallon from High Country Gardens or some such place.

We concentrate on drought tolerant because we both know prairie and desert plants well, but also because we don't have easy access to watering and like to leave town on occasion, never having to worry about finding a watering neighbor with a 100 foot hose. The creatures seem to dig them too. The asters become a bit weedy, but they are so easy to dispose. Roses are incredibly drought tolerant and the same for our irises, dicentra, and monkshood. But that doesn't mean if it shouldn't rain for weeks on end, I am not out there with my water can, hoofing the distance forty times. Very little (that anyone actually likes) can withstand all-out drought. This season we are short about 8 inches of rain, but then, that could change in a moment. I wouldn't feel uncomfortable predicting a cooler, wetter summer than usual, but either way, the garden should be up to it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Designing Weeds

They're known as hell strips -in this case a bus stop hell strip. Today it leaped out of place as background -the unseen, and I couldn't have planted it better. First, it's all weeds, and they take care of themselves. Secondly, a designer's sensibility seems to be at work. A mass of warm-weather Mallow, soon to be flush with pink flowers, companion-planted with the atmospheric, flowering stalks of the cool-weather mustard called Shepherd's Purse. For some that would be enough to carry the strip, but not this strip, no. Adding contrast to the wispy flowering stalks and mat-forming masses of round leaves are the strongly cut leaves of the upright Mugwort in brilliant green. And as if that is not enough, nature conspired to accentuate the whole of it with a large-leafed Plantain on one end and a spidery daylily on the other!

Common Mallow, Malva neglecta
Common Plantain, Plantago major
Shepherd's Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris
Common Daylily, Hemerocallis fulva

Late Freeze Upstate

With the garlic and shallots well over 12 inches tall, this late season hard freeze can turn out to be a real sucker punch. Close to the ground there is lots of heat from decay, moisture and rotting straw, but up in the air much less protection. I am not too concerned about those cloudy nights so much as the clear ones. Stillness and clear skies is the recipe for a real freeze. At this point the forecast may be an overstatement, but it is hard to discern from balmy NYC.

Incidentally, a brief discussion about the weekend's late season nor'easter at They are also the first official source (beside me, haha) to mention that we are in a short-term moderate to severe drought condition. The garlic farm area weather forecast for the next 5 days:

Partly Cloudy 30 °F
Partly Cloudy

Rain 52 °F

Tomorrow Night

Chance of Rain 39 °F
Chance of Rain

Chance of Rain 52 | 28 °F
Chance of Rain

Partly Cloudy 54 | 27 °F
Partly Cloudy

Clear 50 | 27 °F

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Garlic Green

The march of garlic.

Griselle, or French Grey Shallots. They are spidery and prolific, I very much enjoy these.

Tuscan, a turban variety will harvest early. I am growing these at the beach farm as well.

All garlic is doing better upstate than at the beach farm. There are several reasons for this:
  • Colder weather kept the garlic from sprouting last December-January.
  • There has been much more rain and even some snowfall upstate.
  • Geese didn't eat the fertilizer or smash the leaves while doing so.
  • The soil is practically pure compost.

The corn gluten meal was evident a month after I spread it. In this row it appeared to be working, but that could have only been because the soil here is pure compost and virtually without weed seeds.

This row, which you can see has only some compost mixed in, contains some corn gluten too, but also the menacing sprouts of crab grass. May weeding will be rough. It took me about four hours to weed this month, while last month took about three. Next month? The straw definitively held down the weeds, but made weeding those that did sprout much more difficult.

Thankfully, fearful that it would be cold, I brought my trusty thermos filled with hot, hot coffee.

The sun occasionally came in and out, warming my rear as I weeded. It wasn't all that cold, and I never needed more than my t-shirt and windbreaker. These are a porcelain variety and are most vigorous.

The blue-tinged leaves of this rocambole are beautiful.

Some varieties have been performing poorly. From the many tossed before planting, to the many I pulled for being stunted, to the lackluster growth in general, I can only blame myself. When I realized that the three varieties growing less than perfect were from the same farm, I revisited that old dictum -you get what you pay for. None of these three will be available for seed this year -they will be food. I will purchase high quality stock to replace them, killing the cost savings of growing a season's seed stock one's self -penny wise and pound foolish.

Everything else is looking quite good. Some varieties are a little small, but again, this is due to the original seed stock. Although some farmers sell at seed-stock prices, their product fell short of seed quality. In this case the quality issue was smaller sized bulbs and cloves. The healthiest garlic grows from the largest seed stock. Large seed stock garlic is more difficult to grow because it requires a certain amount of care and attention that, at scale, translates into higher prices. In the garden it is easy as pie.

Around 5 o'clock it was time to head back to Brooklyn. The plot seemed quaint, diminutive even, despite four hours perpendicularly bent. Old straw and rain made the mulch warm to the touch,  my nose close to spring's sweet decomposition. I don't recall who said that farmers' do not aestheticize the land, do not pull up from work to notice the sunset; those are the ideas of poets.

Next week I will be meeting with the Peconic Land Trust in regards to participating in their farm program. One full season of small-scale growing incomplete, I can hardly imagine what scaling up ten times will mean.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Quietly Heating Up At The Beach Farm

All the lettuce has been planted.

Cannot believe how fast the broccoli rabe has budded -must have been the warm, dry days. It's the best tasting rabe I've ever nibbled.

I pruned back our sage and as happens, it has gone to flower.

IDed this once before, but now cannot remember.

The greens have really taken off. Thanks to the warm weather and last week's clipping, some of the red-leafed variety are setting up to bolt. This is a really big bowl -about 8 big salads' worth.

Otherwise it's quiet at the beach farm. I sit on the ground scissoring lettuce leaf and chard, eyeballing the garlic, wondering why the snap peas grow so slow. The cilantro is finally at an edible size, and basil has been planted. I hooked up my watering system, quite tentatively, but to issue something should this heavy rain we just received be the only rain. All is well at the beach farm.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Drought and Flood

When I looked at my phone today to check the weather, the radar image provided a glimpse into something I have rarely seen. Total rain. There wasn't a break within 100 miles of the radar. Last night's and today's rain reminds me of a year as a teenager when it rained, almost like clockwork, every weekend for 6 weeks. These storms were like April nor'easters, windy and raining for two or three days, driving the moisture through our poorly-sealed, south-facing windows. Those storms traveled up the coast, much like today's storm.

Radar at 8pm, Sunday. Courtesy

The Golden Gooser

I've seen this vehicle around lately, in Prospect Park and Central Park. 

There's a secret war on the geese of New York. He rides in his kayak, and it looks innocuous enough, but it's all about getting the goose.  From whom, exactly, is the pressure coming to extinguish the geese? What is the cost of the man in the kayak versus the cost of leaving the geese in the parks in a time of smaller Parks budgets? Why do we need a 'specialist?' To detach officials from the unpopular destruction of geese? By the way, it has little to do with airplanes -no goose has been gotten at Gateway, where we watch low-flying planes take off every other minute.

Are the birds are striking back? Did you hear of the kayaking gooser that was retired by a swan? Maybe the swans think they're next.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Much like the flowers this spring, the leaves seem to be taking their sweet time. The zelkovas in front of my apartment leafed out overnight. A day's rain is on its way, if it hits us right. Moisture is slowly tracking eastward, funneling toward the northeast from the southwest. It will be our first significant rain in several weeks.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April's May

Tradescantia, or Spiderwort, named so to honor the English naturalists John Tradescant the Elder and the Younger. Who knew? I prefer the moniker Spiderwort, most likely named because its leaves resemble the legs of spiders. I did not plant this Americas native* in our front yard garden, but there it is. A little weedy; meaning it pops up here or there. It does not like the heat of a summer sidewalk, preferring a partly sunny, moist woodland edge.

Aphids on a gloriously green, 'New Dawn' rose. Hey, birds, come on back!

The geranium and the carpenter bee. A myth or maybe a children's tale?

*Americas native -there are several Tradescantia native to both North and South America. Mine, while unknown, is likely a cultivated native of the northeastern American continent -such as Tradescantia virginiana.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Carpenter Bees Do It

On Sunday morning I was out grousing about the trash and dumped potting soil. I realize now that picking up trash is gardener's work. No one else seems to mind, or maybe they see litter as humanity's flower and, as you know, one should never pick the flowers. But I digress back to grousing.

As I made my way down the sidewalk, there were many, many carpenter bees. They live in the apartment building's sill, and this spring there appears to be many more than usual. I am quite used to them and consider them my unarmed guards. The males do not sting, but their curiosity and male on male aggressivity make apiphobes wary. I really like these bees. They exhibit very interesting behavior and tend to live, generation after generation, in the same location. Maybe this is why I think they recognize me -he who brings nectar (primitive-type bee speak).

As I was saying, I was making my way down the sidewalk, picking trash, and two bees locked together and had landed inside my jacket. Not until they landed did I realize this was not the usual battling males, but a male and female in the middle of Carpenter bee coitus. I have not had much experience with the females, but I know they have a useful stinger, and I didn't want to be where I wasn't wanted. I managed to slip off my jacket and drape it on the rail, but then I wanted my camera which was buried in a zipped pocket underneath their business. If it weren't for their preoccupation, I may have suffered a sting. Instead, two photos before they flew off, separately.

You can see how to identify the males from the females. The yellow or white patch between the eyes give the male away. If they are mating, their respective positions could tell the same.

Click on this one for full size.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Spritz

Is it.

Crisis Partially Averted

Wow. How did it happen? The other day I noticed the new static page linking to my art page was no longer above. I investigated, found nothing, and went to reestablish the tab. Somehow in this process, Blogger created a second tab for the Our Weeds page, one of the most popular items on this blog. I left it alone. Until today.

I deleted the one, thinking it just a duplicate of the first, but I did not go about with due diligence. I erased the whole effing thing. The other tab was a dummy tab and linked to nothing. I could not get the information back. Nowhere. In fact, not even a question in Blogger's help forums. No one has ever done this? Seems so easy to do. I was upset -so much work there. I wasn't about to remake it given all else there is to do now. Yet, the weed file is probably the most popular page I have. So I started digging. Caches were no help. Finally,
I went to my posts, because pages is a relatively new aspect of Blogger and my original weed file was a simple post.

Lucky me. An update I did last year on the page I also saved to the original post! Whew. Lost are any additions I made this year, and there were several, but at least those redo's are something I can accomplish. Wow, so where can we save this data if there is no way to retrieve it online?

UPDATE! As I look again, the links above have two OUR WEEDS tabs. This must be a Blogger issue. BLOGGER!

Game On

The weather was just right, and the cima di rapa was ready. Not quite the level of miracle, but after a warm, dry week and no watering, last week's planted rabe survived -hardy plant. I also had fennel herb and fennel bulb to plant, and lettuce of Boston and Romaine varieties.

In went the lettuce, planted wide in the tomato beds. Grow fast young lettuce!

And the cima di rapa, or broccoli rabe, planted in two tomato beds. We'll have a lot of this -all at once. I want to get smarter about succession planting, so that the best plant precedes the next crop, but also for extended harvesting. In this case, there is only time for one planting, as the tomatoes are growing rapidly.

The greens, a Johnny's mystery mix received from a friend with too much. We've been getting about 4 meals per week out of this tomato bed.

Nothing raises more questions at the garden than this modest strip of Allium vineale. Yes, I am cultivating the weed, the formerly cultivated, the cast out creation of our predecessors, and taste favorite of at least one blogging gardener-cook. I begin to wonder if garlic was selected for asexual reproduction, flowerless-ness, because of its inherent weediness when allowed to set seed? Did it take over their fields? The knowledgeable scoff, the uninitiated huh, and I get to feel like Dr. Frankenstein. I hope they don't chase me with flames and forks.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What's Right With This Picture?

Trash under fallen oak leaves? Pile of starter trays? Norway maples sprouting? Feral cat lounging? No, none of those.

It's the mayapple that I rescued from our trail work in Van Cortlandt Park last spring. Welcome!