Monthly Archives: September 2011

Gourmet Gardening or Urban Farming?

Hey Maple Leafers and North Seattle Gardeners (and anyone else willing to drive over our way)! You should join me this evening for a class/conversation about the joys of urban farming.

What: A class/discussion titled: “Gourmet Gardening or Urban Farming? Tomatoes, Chickens & Bees! Neighbors Share Adventures & Resources”

Who: The Thornton Creek Alliance (Watershed), me, and other local gardeners and urban farmers

Where: The Meadowbrook Community Center, 10517 35th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98125

When: Tonight! Thursday, September 22, 2011, starting promptly at 7pm

Why:  It’s an opportunity to come together as a community to share ideas and meet your neighbors and other like-minded gardeners.

I hope to see you there!

My To Do List (in pictures)

Because it’s more fun that way. And maybe a little distracting. A little procrastination never hurt anyone, right?

1. Pull out the huge sunflowers that grew to be as tall as the house, which are now leaning at a most precarious angle. They’re putting my prolific fall peas, which are situated right below the towering blooms, in jeopardy.

2. Finish harvesting the rest of the Trail of Tears beans, cut the plants to the ground, and put the bed “to bed” for the winter.

3. Pull out and compost the squash plants (yes, the winter squash plants too) that have succumb to the dreaded powdery mildew. They fought the good fight, but the battle is over. Plant garlic there instead.

4. Fill in a few more empty squares with fall lettuce and spinach seeds and thin the seedlings that are already up and thriving.

5. Harvest the rest of the coriander that has sufficiently dried on the stems. Proceed to make delicious Indian food with the bounty.

6. Continue to harvest the tomatoes that ripen, along with the peppers that have ripened too and make salsa. Maybe even this lacto-fermented variety. There’s a first time for everything.

7. Roast, puree, can, freeze tomatoes until I can’t anymore. A little everyday seems to get the job done. Keep in mind that when you commit to planting 20 tomato plants in the spring, you might actually be successful and the time when all your tomatoes ripen and need processing will be when you are completely exhausted from the start of school. I have high hopes that being able to enjoy them all winter will make it worth the work.

8. Amend tired out raised beds with chicken manure compost and cover with burlap to let it rest for the winter.

9. Prune my lavender and other pollinator perennials to the ground.

10. Find more hours in the day to get it all done.

Photo credit: Garlic Photo (an oldie, but a goodie) by Jake Sprouse

One of those days

Today has been one of those days. One of those days when comfort food is in order. It was one of those days when I ate lunch in a meeting and then didn’t stop meeting until I was met with traffic that caused my commute to be almost an hour. When my bff sent me a text asking how my second week was going, I responded that my head was going to explode. It was one of those kinds of days. You know, when you pack your car up with work to bring home knowing full well, there’s no way you have the mental capacity to keep going. I think it will be all I can do tonight just to eat. It was one of those days when after I heard the pizza guy on the phone say that the seasonal pizza right now is fig and prosciutto, I almost cried. Yes, that’s what I want, please. It was one of those days when on my way home I thought to myself, “Thank you, last week-Stacy, for buying that bottle of Barbera D’Alba. What foresight you had!” And it just happened to be the same day that I connected with one lovely lady from the Seattle Farm co-op that was offering up a trade for her surplus of eggs. During a time when I’ve been having to throw mine away. I happily traded a few half pints of apricot-rosemary jam and blueberry butter for the little bit of comfort I needed right now – a dozen beautiful, backyard-fresh eggs. Let’s not talk about the fact that one broke somehow on the dozen’s way inside. No, let’s just focus on what comfort that’s going to bring me this weekend because you can be sure that I’ll be eating a decadent puff pastry quiche come Sunday. So the moral of this story is, when life gives you coccidiosis, trade for eggs! Thank goodness for community!

On second thought

Maybe I am a fall and winter gardener after all. Remember, last fall, when I confessed the fact that I just wasn’t feeling it? I don’t blame her, last fall Stacy, I mean. When school starts, my blissful life as urban farmer comes to a screeching halt. Because during the summer, I quite literally just work in my garden.

Fall spinach sprouting

People ask me all the time what I do during my summer vacations and while I don’t take on an official summer job, it sure feels like one. Maintaining an urban garden of the scale that mine has become takes dedication and constant maintenance.

People say to me all the time that they don’t have a green thumb, but for me, it really just boils down to commitment and vigilance. And there are a lot of things to constantly be assessing and negotiating in the yard. Cue dizzying inner dialogue: Water, but not too much. Fertilize, but pay attention to what you’re giving to what plants. Do they need nitrogen for leafy growth? A more balanced fertilizer for  fruit production? Harvest! Quick! Or they’ll go to seed! No wait! I want those to go to seed – I’m saving those! Where am I going to put these new fall starts? Hmm, in this empty spot! But, wait! I already had brassicas there! And what are those holes in my kale! Gotta get those fall seeds in the ground so they’ll germinate, but can’t let it dry out. Baby lettuces are wilting in this crazy fall sun! Shade cloth, STAT! Oh wait, now seedlings are getting leggy because shade cloth is too shady! Water in the morning before heat causes crazy evaporation! Yes, but greens can use a shot of water in the evening to cool the soil down. They like cool! But, it’s 84 degrees!

The good thing is, the more I garden, the more these things start to be intuitive so I don’t have to stress out or deliberate every single decision that is to be made. The more experience I have with a crop, the more ease I have when cultivating it season after season.

And if something fails, I can just try again next time because we’re not really in control of our gardens after all. I got my kale and cauliflower starts in the ground just in time for fall, but I did not plan on them getting munched by slugs and then devoured my cabbage worms.

So right now, as I make my transition into a day job-working urban farmer, I’m taking things one step at a time. And on this weekend’s agenda was harvest. I had high hopes to go the Seattle Tilth Harvest Fair, but I made a decision to spend the time celebrating the harvest in my own yard instead. And this is what I had to celebrate:

  • 7 1/2 more pounds of ripe tomatoes, for a grand total so far of 39 pounds! I had a few ripe jalapenos too. Salsa anyone?
  • 8 pounds of fingerling and purple potatoes. Not the most bountiful potato harvest, but I am grateful just the same. And really, have you seen a bigger purple potato?
  • Several flats of Trail of Tears black beans and this was an improvement over last year. Remember when I told you (in this post) that I left them on the vine too long (like until the rains came) and then they got all moldy in my humid kitchen? Lesson learned! I’m going to have more pots of black beans this year!
  • I harvested another 1 1/2 pounds of zucchini for a grand total of…3 pounds. (Game show sound of disappointment…wah wah) Yes, fellow Seattle gardeners, I have harvested 39 pounds of heirloom tomatoes (and there are more to come) and just 3 pounds of squash??? I cannot explain what happened in my crazy little micro-climate.
  • I also harvested tons of coriander for my Indian food habit.

Ok, so technically it’s still summer, but with school back in session, it sure doesn’t feel that way. So maybe I am a fall gardener after all.