Friday, November 27, 2009

Late Tomatoes!

The tomatoes I'd brought in on the vine (last post) have mostly pinked up. A few went over the edge and had to be discarded; perhaps more frequent monitoring would have prevented this loss. The yield was nearly a pound to cherry tomatoes!

Of the few I'd left on the vine as an experiment, two had gotten to harvestable state, and a third had already dropped, lying orangey in the dirt like the last leaf of fall (see photo)

I didn't touch the lettuce since it still seems to be coming along. There were tiny, gnat-like bugs swarming in the sun over the Tower tub, and noodling around the lettuce leaves at the Court was a black-and-white bee. It's nice to see some biological activity continuing, albeit at a slow space, even as things cool off.

Total harvest today: 15 ounces of tomatoes, mostly from the commingled items cut green for ripening on the stem

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bringing in Late Crops

Today's Yield

  • 6 oz tomatoes, harvested green a while back and ripened in newspaper (see photo)
  • 6 oz mixed greens, from  Tower Tub (described below)
It was cold last night; not freezing, but I'm concerned about losing the food value of what's left. This afternoon I brought in all the tomatos on stems, to rpen them indoors, except for a very few I left as experiments. I also brought in such greens as looked worth harvesting, leaving the very smallest on the off chance that we might get a warm week to make it worth harvesting.

On the plus side, the aphids seemed all gone. I'd never figured out how to get them off the greens, and I didn't want to give the food bank greens with bugs on them.

I got quite a few green tomatoes still on the stem, all cherry tomatoes except for one large tomato that had hidden out, green, in the foilage. These got wrapped very loosely in newspaper to control moisture, and set in plastic tubs in our apartment to ripen. Also, I got about 6 oz of greens which I'll drop off at the foodback tomorrow (Monday). I'll let the parsley go a little longer.

The lettuce leaves are mostly browned (see photo). Perhaps I could salvage some leaves by chopping off the brown parts but they aren't acceptable for the food bank.
One exception: the red leaf lettuce. These are too small to harvest today but they don't seem bothered by the weather so I'll check them again later this week.

I got fewer green tomatoes than at the Court. They should ripen up nicely newspaper (see photo above).

In Both Locations
The chard is coming along slowly. Looper worms and aphids had hit them pretty hard but now that it's cold, they seem to be coming back.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Storm-Tossed Tomatoes

The winds blew strongly last night and much of today. When I checked the tubs, I found maybe a dozen tomatoes that seem to have been flung all untimely from their vine. Most were between the Court tub and wall, leading me to discover whether I could reach them. Many of the leaves are browning, but enough of the bush survives that some of the fruit are ripening, albeit very slowly and with much splitting.

From the Tower tub I took two large green tomatoes, still on the vine, to ripen within newspaper. They should be ready within a week for the food bank.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Return of the Kale

The kale in the Tower tubs seem to be coming back to health.

They had been pretty chewed up by the looper worms, and then the aphids were sucking away their precious bodily fluids, but it looks like the cooler and wetter weather have knocked back the pests.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Even slower production

The tomatoes are ripening very slowly now. Maybe one a day becomes ready, and if I let a few days go by between checks, there's often splitting.

I've heard you can ripen tomatoes if you wrap them in paper and keep inside.  I'll experiment with both newspaper and brown paper bags. Newspaper gets the tomatoes dirty, but you'd have to wash them anyway. Today I clipped on branch with about eight green tomatoes on it, from the Tower.

The lettuce at the Tower is doing o.k. A few leaves of one species has started to grey and collapse; I clipped those off. It looks like a general thinning may be due  next week.

Notice that the parsley is back- AGAIN!

On the other hand, the lettuce at the court is having problems. The species that has a few grey leaves at the Tower is completely absent at the Court, but there are a lot of grey and dead leave so perhaps we know where they came from . On the other hand, the red-leaf lettuce and the large paddle-shaped greens still do well, although the latter is still plagued by aphids.

At the Court I heard, then saw a chicadee. This is probably one of the crew eating the seeds from the sunflower in the overflow herb pot. While the primary goal of urban agriculture is food for humans, a few sunflowers for the birds may be appropriate, as well has contributors to absorbing sunlight and carbon, while providing nourishment to the human soul.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Still Producing, Slowly - Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things have definitely slowed down. On the plus side, we don't have to water anymore, as the deluges of the last few days make excess moisture the concern, rather than the reverse. I guess we'll have to clear out some of the tomato foiliage to encourage evaporation, discouraging mold. The plants seem to be cooperating, by shutting down some stems.

As long as we're not getting frost, we'd like to keep trying to pink up the tomatoes that are still green. Eventually we'll have to bring the greenies indoors still on some long pieces of stem, and try to finish them in a box on top of the clothes dryer.

The greens which were the 2nd crop in the Tower greens tub needed thinning, which produced some nice baby greens. At the Court, the greens had started spottier, not as thickly sown I suppose, and grew into adulthood more quickly; we took a batch of adult greens from there. Some had aphids, which I tried to brush off, but I suppose we'll have to assume the recipients will rinse the greens before using.

From the Court
  • Tomatoes  9 oz.
  • Greens  11 oz.
From the Tower
  • Tomatoes  3 oz.
  • Greens  6 oz.
It doesn't sound like so much when you express it in ounces, but it looks like the food bank'll be able to give out the makings of several nice salads - all organic too! I don't think the tomatoes are quick as sweet as during the hottest days of autumn, but they still have good flavor (... judging by the splitties; since we can't foodbank them, they had to be sacrificed to quality testing.)

As I mentioned to Joel when he visited the site earlier this week, keeping up these tubs is not a lot of work; we just have to remember whose turn is whose. There was no weeding necessary, for which I am grateful. Checking the health of the plants was a nice quiet activity in the evening; the morning watering was also a pleasant ritual (...not to mentioned delightful on the hot days!) While the primary purpose may be food, the recreational benefit should not be overlooked!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

And the Parsley is BACK! Again!

At the Tower, that parsley is growing new leaves, even in this cool weather. Will we get a 4th harvest?

The greens are moving slowly but still trying.

Those wormthings seem gone from the chard now, but is covered with little bugs. Still, it's struggling on. Perhaps the cold will eventually finish them off.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pounds of Tomatoes and the Amazing Parsley

I hope someone likes parsley because that one plant at the Tower has produced its third bunch of the season ... a half a pound this time!
Today's photo shows the harvested parsley resting in its glory among its leafy friends.

More detailed notes on this week's harvest (to be dropped off at the Cherry Street Food Bank today)

At the Court:
  • 3 lb of mixed tomatoes (large and cherry) plus 3 little hot peppers
  • 1/2 lb of mixed greens
At the Tower:
  • 2.5 lb of mixed tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb of cucumber (more than a foot long!)
  • 1/2 lb of parsley

We've still got still plenty of unripe tomatoes on the bushes, plus a couple of tubs of greens still growing albeit slowly. It's exciting to see how long this goes!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Still Harvesting, September 30, 2009

I was going to hold off another harvest until tomorrow, just before I would walk to the Cherry Street Food Bank, but noticed a few tomatoes had fallen, perhaps because the wind had been whipping around yesterday.

We pulled a couple of pounds each from both locations but I'll hold off waiting until tomorrow, since I think I can let the green go until the morning; the wind doesn't seem to bother them but the extra half-day might make a little difference in their freshness. The lettuce at the Court and the parsley at the Tower look magnificent! Unfortunately the aphids (or some suchlike) are chowing down pretty hard on the chard. I'll try to knock 'm off with the sprayer tomorrow but I don't see how that could really discourage them much.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Green bugs on the Chard?

The lettuce continues to grow well. It's pretty remarkable how they are flourishing at the Court!

The mixture of leaf colors and designs are attractive; a tub of mixed salad greens would be a nice way to dress up any way!

And it still keeps growing even in this fall's cooler weather. We may have to experiment with harvesting some leaves and seeing if the plants are happy to keep growing more.
However ...

However, the chard has some green bugs. What are they? What to do?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Slowing Down through September 19 2009

The tomatoes in particular seem to be growing more slowly. There are some large ones that have been red on the vine but not quite ready to go all week. The weather has been cool and of course the days are getting shorter, so this is not unexpected.

The lettuce continues to grow; some of it in the Court should be ready to go soon but much of it may need another week or two.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More Water, More Worms - Sunday, September 13, 2009

We got reports today that the soil was dry, so we went to have a look. It seemed kinda borderline, so I gave all the tubs a drink.

We harvested another 1/2 pound of cherry tomatoes, about half from each location. Unfortunately one large tomato had split since yesterday and the crack was fuzzy, so we discarded it.

Salad plants at Centennial CourtThe greens tub at the Court has some lettuces growing to a pretty good size (as shown) and maybe almost ready to harvest. I had been concerned because the lettuce had been coming up kinda of sparsely, but perhaps I merely accidentally sowed them an appropriate distance apart.

The greens tub at the Tower has a more even and thick crop of lettuce, but the leaves are much shorter. It may be time to thin them. We found a half-dozen more looper works by checking leaves that had holes in them; mostly it was the chard but there's one type of plant in the salad mix that the critters seem to like too. This may be a continuing battle.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Attack of the Cabbage Looper Worms?

This morning, Saturday, September 12, 2009 we saw what appear to be Cabbage Looper worms in the Tower greens tub. We picked off about a dozen (they went over the side, where most likely they will join the Circle of Life via Brother Crow.)

They seem to have concentrated on the chard, but a few of the lettuce mix plants have bit marks too. Also, there are round, dark green nodes on the tops of some leaves that may be eggs.

What's the next step? This effort is strictly organic; we have no way of knowing when or if people who are sensitive may wander by or be recipients of the food via the food bank, we don't want to poison our community on general principles, and we don't want to disrupt our local micro environment which is already pretty hacked up by development. This is a test of brains: are we smart enough to figure out a solution?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

We gave the plants a good drink; they seem to have soaked up the rain from earlier in the week.

Several of the large tomatoes look almost ready to go but should make it to Monday, when the food bank is open. One had split and had to be wasted.

Cherry tomatos keeping producing, a little all the time
  • Tower: 3 oz cherry tomatos
  • Court: 9 oz cherry tomatos
It's not gigantic but it's steady!

The greens are coming up steadily. The parsely at the Tower looks almost ready to harvest for the 3rd time!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Windy and Rainy Sunday, September 6, 2009

Today started with a strong downpour, so no watering. It was quite windy at sunset; as I noticed the plants on my own patio were whipping about a bit, I figured I'd better check on the Project Plants.
  • At the Tower, a few cherry tomatoes had fallen or were ready to pick: maybe 1 ounce of Cherry Tomatoes
  • At the Court, more had fallen (including six or more greenies; perhaps their position near the end of the branches made them more vulnerable): 3 oz Cherry Tomatoes.
  • Also at the Court one large tomato was starting to split so I harvested it; it should be fine to eat: one 4oz Tomato
It all went into the clean shoe box for eventual delivery to the Cherry Street Food bank. I suppose windiness on a roof is just something we'll have to plan for.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The last couple of days each started with a morning rain, so when I checked, each tub seemed pretty well watered & I left them alone.

Today (Saturday) I picked some of the cherry tomatoes and will store in a clean shoebox for delivery Monday. We found out the hard way that storing them in bags mushed some.
  • From the Tower: 7.5 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • From the Court: 9 ounces cherry tomatoes
The chard seems to be doing well, although something is nibbling a lacy pattern in their leaves. They seem to be thriving none-the-less. The parsley left in the Tower tub was, IIRC, harvested for the 2nd time last week and is almost ready to go again!

Some large tomatoes at both the Tower and the Court seem almost ready. The Tower features another large cuke too!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ripening Bounty

Over 7 1/2 pounds of produce will be dropped off at the food bank today from this morning's harvest. The plants have gone crazy and are producing quite the abundance that is finally starting to ripen in larger quantity. I went down to the planters at the Tower a little before Randy was to meet me for harvesting and gave the tomatoes a good pruning and tying back. They really needed it! By getting them thinned out it will give more light to the things around them as well as help the tomatoes left on the plants to ripen up more quickly. Not that the eggplant seemed to mind having tomatoes drooping over the top of it. That plant is loaded with 3-4 inch eggplants even after we harvested the 5-6 inch ones. Amazing.

The tower greens are doing very well - it won't be long before we are harvesting a good amount of mesclun mix from the seeds that were planted. Today four fall/winter vegi starts were added to the planter to extend the season even further, mostly brassicas. I need to check with Carl to see which ones.

Totals for Tower harvest today:

Cherry Tomatoes - 20.5 oz
Sweet Peppers - 13.8 oz
Eggplant - 9.3 oz
Cucumbers - 2.1 oz
Basil - 6.2 oz

The Court planters are not spilling over quite as much as the ones on the Tower but they are still producing a good amount. The sweet peppers in particular are coming out very heavy. The herbs up here are doing great as well and today we got a good harvest from them. The seeds that were planted on the court seemed to have come up thinner than down on the Tower but what did come up looks very healthy. Four fall/winter starts were added to their ranks as well.

Total Court harvest for today:

Cherry Tomatoes - 15.2 oz
Basil - 4 oz
Sweet Peppers - 14.5 oz
Slicing Tomatoes - 11.3 oz
Cucumbers - 3.1 oz
Eggplant - 8.1 oz
Marjoram - 1.3 oz
Sage - 1 oz
Parsley - 1.2 oz

Add to those number 9.7 oz of Cherry Tomatoes from both the Tower and the Court that Randy picked this weekend and we have a great deal of ripening bounty!

We have had some losses as well. There were many split cherry tomatoes, probably from the bit of rain we had recently. One sweet pepper had a soft rotting spot on the side and one of the hot peppers had been discovered by some sort of pest (a small hole could be seen in the side of the pepper) and caused the pepper to rot out. Also, it seems that a couple of the hot peppers have gone missing at some point. They look a lot like sweet peppers, so someone might have had quite the "karmic" surprise. Still, I have been very pleased with how little vandalism and theft that there has been. It's nice to know that people can respect what we're doing with this project.

Ecologically speaking the planters have attracted a couple types of spiders as natural pest control as well as ladybugs. Not bad for a place right in the midst of the city. And the soil seemed to have come with some mushroom spores as well as there have been a few little ones popping up here and there - our own little ecosystem working itself out here on the rooftops at Centennial.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I skipped blogging during a rush week but the plants seem not to have noticed.

Friday Carl from the City of Seattle dropped off about eight starts of chard and another plant that does well in our winters; I think these were from his P-Patch so thanks for the donation! I meant to put them in the ground Saturday morning but an unrelated crisis erupted ( of the downsides of running a project on volunteers...); when I called Maurey about it she suggested we plant Monday morning when we're harvesting anyway.

When I watered this morning the starts looked o.k. but I gave them a good drink to be sure.

There were a lot of cherry tomatos ready to go, and a few that had dropped. I picked about a pound & set aside for the Monday run. You can see that the lettuce in the Tower tub is coming up nicely; we'll have baby greens soon and very likely some full-sized heads before winter. At that point the chard will want a lot of the space anyway.

The tomato-etc tub at the tower is basically rioting. There's a new cuke on the left and some yellow cukes on the right, with eggplants and peppers peeking out. We should have a good harvest Monday!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Watering and Pondering, Saturday August 22, 2009

One of the orange cherry tomatos dropped of its own accord, so I must conclude that they ripen orange, rather than just being slow. A couple more tomators came of easily when I wiggled them.

It's not practical to run today's 4 cherry tomatos to the Cherry Street foodbank, so what I'll do is accumulate then through Monday. Any that threaten to go bad I'll use up and replace with one of my privately grown organic cherry tomatos. This way, the numbers all come out right, and nothing it wasted. In a larger enterprise, we'd need a better solution.

I noticed both at the Court and the Tower that some sort of spider had spun a nice web. This suggests to me that there is some biological activity going on, on a scale just a little too small for me to see. There must be tiny bugs working on the plants to feed the spiders that are big enough for me to view. While I'm not especially fond of spiders, as long as they do their thing outside of my immediate living area I'm happy to leave them alone and I'm glad to see them as an indicator that this little corner of the world is livelier than it was just a few short months ago.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Watering, Thursday, Aug 20, 2009

Not much news today. The soil is between moist & dry so I gave it all some water.

The peppers at the Court are getting really red; the question is, when are they ready to pick?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Small Harvest, Tuesday August 18, 2009

Today, while watering, I harvested.

The quantity was small but some of the tomatoes needed to go now! Sadly about 30% had split in the heat, as had one eggplant, and had to be discarded. However, now that I know for sure where Cherry Street is, I think I can harvest more frequently swing by on the way out on days that I drive.

From the Court:
  • Eggplant 13 oz
  • Tomatoes (cherry) 6 oz
  • Greens 4 oz
From the Tower:
  • Eggplant 6 oz
  • Tomatoes (1 big, 1 cherry) 6 oz
  • Greens (mostly the parsley from the lettuce tub) 5 oz
  • Cucumber (1) 7 oz

When you break down things this way, it doesn't look like much. However it totals over 2 pounds of food, fresh & organic, at very little cost. The greens bulk up a lot but don't weigh much.
(Note: Cherry Street is two-way! Look both ways before crossing --- I almost decorated the front of a van!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Watering, Sunday August 16, 2009

The eggplants at the Tower are noticably bigger (see photo); the cucumber has a slight gash, probably an accident due to human interaction. It's really remarkable that there haven't been any other negative interactions, other than one (1) cigarette butt and one (1) beer can pull; when you consider the heavy party use of these areas, it's clear that the community is showing great respect and liking for the plants.

The re-seeded salad troughs are showing tiny seedlings now; the Tower seedlings are a little bigger than those at the Court. I noticed some sunflower seed shells in the Tower salad trough. Actually there were a lot of these shells on the ground as well as the trough, appearing to be harmless and accidental additions to the surface of the soil, not anything on purpose or significant.

I thought it was worth noting any interactions with the community, but there really hasn't been that much to report except people always seem positive when I bring it up in conversation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Squash Sighting, Thursday August 13, 2009

Watering today, I sighted the first squash at the Tower.

Considering the size, I don't know why I didn't see it before. I hope that this indicates the last few days have been prime growing weather, and not that I'm going blind.

(An alternative explanation is that, at last night's Sustainable Belltown meeting included informal tours of the plantings at the Tower; it's possible the squash was teased out for better growing.)


UPDATE: my wife gently pointed out that it's a cucumber, not a squash.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lightly Raining, Wednesday August 12, 2009

It was lightly raining yesterday morning, and today morning as well. The soil seems moist so I didn't water. Probably I should water tomorrow, regardless.

The peppers at the Court are starting to color: two of them orange, and one purple (!).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Seeding, Sunday August 9, 2009

Today I re-seeded the tubs from which the greens had been harvested. The soil was dry, so I gave it a good soak before seeding, and a little more after.

The tub at the tower still had one central herb in it
(see photo; I was hoping we could record the seed packets' fronts in this photo but apparently not). The tub at the Court was empty. I planted a room of redleaf lettuce down the middle of the long axis, and two rows of a salad mix, one on either side. The seeds were 2 packs at $1.69 each, or about $3.50 total with sales tax. The only tool necessary (other than the water) was a simple slotted spoon.

The tomato tubs were not-quite-dry, not-quite-moist so I watered them.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Watering Friday, August 7, 2009

Today's soil was not really dry, but not really moist either, so I soaked it all down. Perhaps my moisture-measuring finger needs calibration.

Today's picture is of an overflow pot at the Court. When we planted herbs, there were three leftover; we didn't want to overcrowd the troughs. Rather than waste them, we put them into an adjacent pot that was unused except for a sunflower (and some "guerilla gardening" lettuce I'd planted earlier that was ready for harvesting anyway.)

I hope that the result shows that we can have a variety of esthetic effects while growing food. The herbs are very attactive and the sunflower adds color and absorbs light, while not taking up much space. In theory, we could harvest the sunflower seeds but I suspect the chicadees may get there first! The sunflower was grown from seed, so it is very inexpensive.

While this pot was not an intended part of the experiment, I think it represents an accidental opportunity to learn and to present options for different spaces and esthetic needs.

(It looks like those herbs are close to ready to harvest.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The soil seems moist today, so I'll skip watering.

Notice how comfortably the containers fit into the social use of the space. They seem to fit in with the tables & chairs, which see plenty of use during sunny weather mealtimes and parties. The plants show no signs of being disturbed, although it might be interesting to get some pix of people interacting with the planters naturally.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Watering Sunday, August 2, 2009

The soil's not as dry as last time, but not really moist. A few of the tomatos are beginning to look tempting! They're obviously not going to ripen all at the same time, so how should we handle getting the harvest to the food bank? I suppose that working out issues like this may be one of the purposes of the experiment!

The squash leaves look beige and sad. Here's the Court:
Here's the Tower:
Who to talk to about this?
UPDATE: the basil at the Court was bolting in the heat, so we pinched off the flowers.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Watering Friday, July 31 2009

I was a little late getting to the watering today, but OTOH I got a look at things under the high noonish sun.

It looks like the tomatoes are spreading themselves to get as much sunlight as possible, which is good news for the walls behind them. The leaves on the squash are turning light brown; I don't know what the problem is but I guess it's time to ask for expertise. If you click on the photo, you'll get a full-sized pic which I hope will make the situation more clear.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Watering Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Today's forecast as a real hot one, so I made sure to soak the plants good.

The tomatos at the tower seem to be ripening a little slower than at the Court; perhaps it's just a different amount of sunlight. In both locations, some of the plants are putting out a very nice-looking chain of tomatoes progressing from flower to fruit, as in this photo from the Tower.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Watering Monday July 27, 2009

The plants are looking pretty good. Some of the small tomatoes at the court are starting to ripen (see photo).

Two of the small, dark-green peppers at the Court separated from their plant. I don't know whether they fell or were bumped.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Watering Saturday July 25, 2009

Weekend morning waterings to the sound of the birds are so restful!

The green tomatoes are covered in a golden fuzz. Perhaps it's a simple defense against insects (it must be a field of aweful spikes to them!) but at our scale, it catches the sunlight in a very pretty way.

Our most ambitious cucumber seems to have taken an abrupt reversal of course. It shouldn't affect its eatability, but it sure is funny-looking! (see photo)

We water, and wait. The formerly blank walls are now green leaves up to eye level. Food is coming, but beauty is here!

Notable article today in today's Seattle Times: Vegetable gardens crop up in Seattle parking strips

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The First Harvest

In less than a month the rooftop containers at Centennial have really shown their stuff. Over fifteen pounds of produce was handed off to Northwest Harvest's Cherry Street Food Bank warehouse manager, Matthew Campbell, this past Friday. The harvest included lettuces, mixed braising greens, basil, sweet peppers and parsley.

Since the lettuce and mixed greens beds were emptied out we now have two tubs to plant with crops to be harvested this fall. More details on that to come.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Welcome to Seattle Urban Agriculture!

Urban Agriculture is an exciting prospect for sustainability, food and fun!
Here in Seattle, we're taking baby steps. The project for which this blog was first created is container gardening at Centennial Apartments in Belltown. We need a way to track progress and plan care.
Perhaps we'll expand. Let's hope so!