Thursday, September 27, 2007

I know what I said, but...

So I know I promised that this wouldn't be one of those blogs where I was like "hey check out all my successes!"
And trust me, I did every idiot thing in my power to ensure that I had no successes.

But I just can't resist....

There's a misshapen radish, a tiny turnip that spit itself out of the dirt (I swear) while it was still all tiny, some various greens, carrots and a bunch of cherry tomatoes. The growing season is winding down, but I'm finally able to head out there a few times a week and bring in some seriously good stuff.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mulching: finally happened

So after a whole lot of talk, I finally mulched. Yeah, I know, I didn't think it would happen either.

I was able to procure two extremely compressed cubic feet of "salt hay substitute." Well since "sugar substitute" can mean "scary white powder more closely related to a micro-fleece sweater than actual sugar" and "butter substitute" can actually mean"yellow, salty motor oil" I took the time to check what exactly I was using instead of hay. Well, it's just hay and straw - the pieces less inclined to have a bunch of weed seeds hiding in them. That I can go for.

The two cubic feet ended up being a whole lot of mulch. I was able to easily cover the entire non-planted area of my garden - between plants and rows, edges, etc. Since I'm hoping that all this mulch will, in addition to mulching my existing plants, compost into soil-enriching humus (decomposed organic matter in dirt, not a tasty chickpea and tahini-based dip) I also found a micro-organism rich, all natural bio accelerator to kick start that decomposition process. Now, i have heard about the high temperatures that can be produced be decomposition processes, so I did not use the bio accelerator on parts of my garden where I have things planted. Yet.

I'll tell you where I did use it, though: on top of all the mint. So, long before my tenure in this community garden plot, someone planted mint (as my 4 regular readers know) and it just runs amok. I have kept pulling it out, with increasing ferocity and less worry that it will not be able to regenerate itself. This time I pulled out every scrap I could find, by the roots, covered the bare area in mulch and compost starter and stomped on it a few dozen times for good measure. I have no doubt that as I write this, 20 hours later, the mint is back and better than ever. I also have no doubt that I looked as if I had lost my mind, jumping up and down on a little corner or hay covered dirt.

I knew that I have waited far too long to apply mulch between my plants and I also know that I did a pretty poor job. But until I see the negative results of my efforts, I won't change my ways. I'm still that little kid who must put my own hand on the stove, despite everyone else's tales about stoves being HOT. For instance, my method for mulching between tomato plants, which are all overgrown and form quite a canopy, was to pile the mulch on the canopy and shake the branches around until it fell through. Genius, right?

Speaking of tomato plants, I have seen the stems and vines of tomato plants described as "delicate as childs' wrists" or something like that. Well, that is a nice image, but I must be doing something wrong (we knew that) because my tomato plants are WAY more delicate than the wrists of children. They are tiny. Like the wrists of ... some sort of diminutive marsupial. Or something.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Here's a picture of one of my radishes (stolen from Alli's blog about food - homegirl loves food).

There's a tomato thief.

There's a tomato thief in our community. A shameless thief of tomatoes.

Seriously. I had noticed that sometimes I'd see a tomato about to be ripe enough to pick and then I'd come the next day to get it and it would be gone from my plants. I didn't know, though, how widespread the problem was.

My favorite garden plot neighbor, who has a large and extremely full and well tended plot nearby, confirmed my suspicions of deliberate foul play. She said that she and her husband (I think) had been noticing many missing tomatoes, especially from the more expensive heirloom plants that they had bought. This was particularly annoying because they had planned to save seeds from these started plants so they wouldn't have to reinvest in seedlings the next year.

A friend of theirs, who lives in their building, is also one of the community security guards and they mentioned the problem to him. Well, one evening while he was circulating through the grounds he saw the tomato thief in action, in his friends' plot.

First, he gave her the benefit of the doubt and tried to politely explain that the plots were not community property, that individual residents tend them and that if she wanted any produce from them she could either tend a plot herself (there are usually spaces available) or ask the growers.

Well, she was not ignorant of the community garden's rules of propriety. She did not come from another culture and have a different understanding of ownership. English is her first language and she is not starving or unable to purchase her own food. She just "wanted garden fresh tomatoes," because they are better. Simple as that. She wanted them, so she felt justified to take them, and she has continued to do so even after being caught.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A rant about weeds.

We had a few days of almost continual rainfall week before last. This was very good, considering that the area was and is in drought conditions. Also, my plants loved it. The transplanted basil and sage loved it, the tomatoes looked good, the lettuces and radishes shot up (I even had one radish grow all the way up. It was picked. Take that, over achiever.) and my onions sprouted. I like.

But you know what else loved the rain? Weeds. Right before that rain would have been a great time to get my whole garden mulched, to try to prevent hostile takeover by sprouts, but, you know, hindsight is 20/20. So I did not get my whole garden mulched; there are still just a couple of areas with the ground covered.

On the other hand, the primary idea of mulch is to shade out the weeds, right? Well, the area under my tomato plants is complete shade, because they're all crowded and overgrown, but quite a few weeds still thrive in there. Despite my careful reach-in method of keeping those guys in check, I discovered something disquieting among my tomato plants. One of the weeds that just looked like a whippy little plant, struggling for life, was in fact whippy looking because it's a VINE. A vine which wrapped itself around a limb of one of my tomato plants and pulled it TO THE GROUND.

That made me mad. Like, mama-bear mad. And it reinforced my resolve to begin mulching. But on the other hand, I know the secret of weeds: I could mulch with bomb grade uranium, and all of my plants, my neighbors and also myself would die... but a few weeds would straggle out of the radioactive mess and they'd be pissed.