July 22nd, 2010


Summer's Bounty!

Otherwise known as YUM.  This is when all of that hard work* pays off.  In tomatoes, which to New Yorkers in the summer are like squishy red cash**.   And I get to go to my bedroom window, throw up the sash and just pick them.  So cool.  Time for eating tomatoes fresh off the vine or in one of thousands of delicious tomato based recipes.   I’ll include my favorite below – In fact this is what I had for lunch today, and yesterday, and the day before that.


3 Tomatoes

2 pinches NaCl (kosher/fleur de sel)


serves 1, prep time: 2 minutes

Pick 3 tomatoes.  Core and slice tomatoes, then arrange flat on plate.  Sprinkle tomatoes with salt.  Eat with your fingers while standing over the sink.   Gloat about fabulous tomatoes.

Wonder if Gwyneth would post that one on Goop?  Still, it’s a killer recipe and its guaranteed not to heat up your kitchen.  Plus, it’s very rich in lycopene and all kinds of other good stuff.

Anyway, lets look at some more tomatoes.

All in a day's work

These are the tomatoes that used to be on the vines at the beginning of the post.  The littlest ones are Black Plums from that plant I bought at the farmer’s market in May.  They’re good but with a little less sweetness than the others, although they hold up to cooking very well indeed, and may be better in a sauce – none of them have made it that far yet, though.  The others a mix of patio tomatoes and early girls, and to be honest I cannot tell them apart at all, either by eating or by looking.  I mean the plants look really different, but the tomatoes?  Not exactly full of distinguishing characteristics.  Red, roundish, about 2.5 inches in diameter, little green hat.  I’m just saying that it would be hard to pick one out of a line-up.  But delicious just the same.  Bon Appétit!  (apparently channeling Julia Child today.  worrisome.)

* Ha! Okay, what I really mean is patience.  I mean, except for watering every day and fertilizing every other week, this took maybe 1 day to do.  Oh, except for that time I had to go to New Jersey to buy 25 lbs of manure.  People in your building do look at you a bit differently after that elevator ride.  Good times…

**This is so untrue that I fear charges of criminal insanity.  But also, some tomatoes are $6/lb at the farmer’s market.  So who’s crazy now?

July 20th, 2010

Going Green

Imagine you have limited space, but you want a garden. Now imagine you have really limited space and are a hotel in an extremely congested urban area where square footage is expen$ive (look if whoever Ke$ha is can do it, so can I)… What else can you do but go vertical? And I’m not talking hanging gardens here, I’m talking *X-TREME* gardening.  <Insert flashy lights and reality show music here>

Why, yes, it was a foggy day in London town.  Took this between rain showers.

That’s right, the garden here is growing in the walls. This is the Athenaeum Hotel in London and they have embraced going green to the extent that the whole facade of the (lovely) building is covered in plants.  They grow in small cups or slats that are part of the wall’s surface and are fed by tiny mice carrying thimbles of water*.   Anyway, Patrick Blanc, who is tops in my book, created this and it’s pretty fabulous.

I’m pretty sure that practicality is not the name of the game here, but wouldn’t it be nice if this was your wallpaper?

And isn't it pretty?

*Wait, sorry, not a Beatrix Potter story.  They’re actually watered by a really sophisicated irragation/hydroponics system

June 24th, 2010

First Fruits

It’s June and the garden’s first produce is, well, being produced. It’s so exciting to see the first of the big orange zucchini blossoms or those beautiful clusters of yellow flowers on my tomato plants.

But in order to get the most bang for your buck, or in this case, the most fruit for your flower you need to make sure those flowers get pollinated. Does anyone remember the breakout pop hit “Reproduction” from the cinema classic Grease 2?  If so you’ll doubtless recall that it’s so important to put the pollen tube to work and make that stamen go berserk.  The T-Birds of the film had some interesting ideas on how to do that, but most gardeners just let nature take it’s course. Meaning: Bees.

However, if you live in a high rise apartment, or if your plants are indoor specimens, then bees are in pretty short supply*. So what I do instead is take a small soft brush, like an eyeshadow brush or a watercolor paint brush, and very gently swirl it around in each of the flowers, starting and ending with the same flower, in order to transfer pollen from one flower to the next. Kind of like a manual application of what bee does when it rolls around in all of those flowers. Then, instead of lovely flowers, you’ll get delicious fruits and veggies, which are also pleasing to the eye.

*I hope! We do not recommend an indoor apiary at UrbanEGadener.

June 17th, 2010


I made a zucchini! Well, actually what I did was eat a zucchini, but still, I did it!

From a tiny seed, the mighty squash grows. Actually, it’s a good idea to harvest your “zukes” (I’m pretty sure I just made that up) before they get too mighty, as that will both give you tender delicious squash and encourage your zucchini vine to produce more blossoms and more zucchini. Also remember to cut the squash off of the main plant rather than breaking or twisting it off. A nice clean cut is what you’re after.

May 29th, 2010

The Sweet Taste of Success

I had no idea that success tasted like strawberrries.  But it does – A just-picked, perfectly ripe, ruby red strawberry still warm from the sun.  In other words, the plants are actually producing and the experiment is … a success.   Woo-hoo!

I have now grown 3 strawberries and personally I think they’re the best I’ve ever tasted, although that’s probably just my own personal delusion.  If more grow, I will test this theory on others.

May 28th, 2010

Rosemary grows slowly*

You know, all the gardening books tell you not to grow rosemary from seed.  Just buy an already started plant, they say.  They are right.  This is a rosemary seedling I planted approximately 10 weeks ago.

Do you see the all of the leaves?  I wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t – they are super tiny.  Just for a comparison, I started this tomato plant at the same time.  They are not the same size.   You can see the rosemary in the lower left corner.  Sort of.

Really Tiny Rosemary

Since I want to enjoy tasting the rosemary sometime in the next year, I went ahead and bought a plant – while still small, at least with this one I can snip off a sprig and not actually kill the plant.

Care and feeding of rosemary is a little trickier than the other herbs – less water, but you can’t let it dry out!  It has no recovery mechanism, so just a little water, but consistently, and regular fertilizing.  I use weak Miracle-Gro twice a month, but I may start alternating with liquid seaweed.

*Post titles I did not use, but really wanted to:

Slows-mary or  Parsely and Sage – the Rosemary ran out of Thyme

May 22nd, 2010

Is that a trowel in your pocket?

Why, yes it is, and it’s kind of uncomfortable to carry a trowel in your back pocket.  Plus, there’s the problem of dirty pockets.  And my clippers /scissors and iPod and pen and nail file (for nicking seeds – my nails look horrible) are never in the same place or in the place that I am.  I need a tool belt, or a bucket, or a super-cute gardener’s apron(!).  Guess which one of those I’m wearing now?  (Hint: It’s not the bucket.)

I made this apron/tool belt from YouGrowGirl.com a nifty and really pretty site with cool small-space gardening advice and ideas.   I picked up the book at the library this week and have really enjoyed reading it and decided to try out one of the DIY projects.  It was great – I am not a talented seamstress, but this only took me about 2 hours (your time will be better, because you will not burn yourself on the iron and have to spend time icing your finger).   And it’s really handy to have everything you need in one place: a pocket for seed packets, one for tools, etc and still have your hands free for carrying pots and plants.

Thats my planting spoon in left pocket. Yeah, Im hardcore.

May 10th, 2010

Herb-an Sprawl

Ha!  See what I did there?  I crack myself up.

The scary part is there are even more

Mint, Lemon Thyme, Mesclun, Chives, Basil, Provençal Lavender, Chervil-Thyme-Cress, Sweet Marjoram, Cilantro, Rosemary, Freesia

But seriously, this isn’t even all the potted herbs – some of them have been assigned other windows due to various temperaments and sheer lack of space.  For example, the tarragon moved outside for a little experiment and the parsley is in the kitchen preparing to become salad.  But it’s so nice to be able to pick fresh herbs for any kitchen experiment and worry that paying $3/pack at the grocery store isn’t going to be worth it.  Now I can play around with flavors with abandon – lavender crème brûlée? Lemon thyme chicken? Sure!  Just let me run to the “garden”.

They all seem to be doing pretty well, but the real success story is the giant basil plant in the middle.  Basil is supposed to be an annual in the New York climate, but this plant is just over a year old.  I started it from seed and am pretty proud of it – no special care, just semi regular (about every 3 months) application of a gradual release fertilizer and regular transfers to larger pots when the roots start growing out of the drainage hole.  This is it’s 4th pot (the first was wildly too small from the beginning), but I’m beginning to wonder what the eventual end game is – I’m kind of hoping I can just maintain it at this size for awhile.  Mostly I’m looking forward to a ton of pesto and caprese salad this summer.

May 8th, 2010


I totally forgot that existed! I bought 2 lbs, and am going to have to make a pie or something.  Sadly, rhubarb, like asparagus and corn, is not well suited to the urban apartment dwelling garden as it requires at least 3′ between plants and 3′ of soil depth.  So it has to be off my list, but I can still get it fresh at the farmers’* market!

Also, I keep singing “Bebop, Rebop, Rhubarb Pie” to myself. Curse you, Garrison Keillor.

So, strawberry rhubarb tarts are what I decided to make, using variations on a recipe posted here.

Homebaked goodness

I think they came out pretty well – there are only three left so they must taste pretty good.  If I had any tips I would highly recommend lining your baking pan with parchment paper or foil – they make a LOT of juice which gets sticky when baked.  I’m storing them in cheesecloth so the pastry crust doesn’t get mushy.  The point is – if you can find it, rhubarb is delicious.  Get some!

* To heck with it.  I think it is the market possessed by the farmers.

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May 6th, 2010

Roquette Man

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time

Till this plant is big enough to make me a salad

this is not enough salad

What?  That song could totally be about wanting a really great salad*.  Or not.  But my tiny arugula experiment is not working out as well as planned.   I love the peppery spicy taste of arugula or rocket or roquette, and it mixes super well with other greens for a tasty salad, or it’s good for eating straight out of the pot.  And as summer approaches and the temperature rises, tender salad green growing season is coming to an end.  When it gets too hot, the greens get bitter (or in the case of arugula extremely spicy) and I have to wait for fall if I want a home grown salad.   Of course there are more heat tolerant arugula varieties, like Rucola (an Italian type) I just don’t have any on hand now, but I may have to try some out once the temperature consistently hits the upper 80s.

What to do?  Try again, but much bigger this time.  We are going  abide by the words of my Texan aunt, “Go big, or go home.”  That way if the plants are still tiny little slow growers, I’ll still get my salad – even if I have to kill every last one of them to eat it!  Like the man says. But just in case its an arugula problem, I’ll try a mesclun greens mix with lots of other lettuces too.  Fancy salad.

*That song could be about anything.  But I don’t think Shatner wants a salad. Probably a snack, something to munch on, if you will.  Rock it, man.

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