My first response is a loud string of expletives followed by a very long and drawn, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”
‘Black Cherry’ tomato with chunk extraction. Oh the humanity.
A mysterious mammalian creature has been visiting the rooftop deck and taking nibbles out of random produce. We think it may be an opposum this time since one has been spotted climbing the fire escape. I barely broke a sweat over the cucumber left on the vine intact but with tooth imprints, and the assorted tomatoes didn’t freak me out because there are lots more to go around. The cherry sweet peppers were annoying but there is still time for more so I’ve accepted the loss gracefully. But dammit, I have been nurturing that single, perfect ‘Thai Long Green’ eggplant all summer. It was so perfect, and green. WHY!! I don’t even like eggplant. It makes my mouth itch. What bothers me is being robbed of that moment when I can cradle the fruits of my labor lovingly in my arms and capture that moment forever on film… or a digital file. There will be no beautiful ‘Thai Long Green’ eggplant to hold up against the clouds like a tiny UFO. Not this month anyway. There are two more microscopic fruits on the plant that may make it to full-size before the cold sets in.
I can’t tell you how many times this year I have advised fellow gardeners to accept a certain percentage of loss to our fellow mammalian creatures. We share space with them and have to expect that our tasty homegrown goods are going to be attractive. On the best of days I think of it as doing my part to keep city life alive. While finding my beautiful ‘Thai Long Green’ eggplant half discarded on the fire escape makes my blood boil, spotting a ‘possom scurrying across a city street at night is an exciting surprise. I just wish they’d take the whole thing! It would make me feel a whole lot better about the loss. A half-eaten tomato reeks of a “Yeah, I don’t really care for this one” attitude.
My neighbor suggested we send the half-eaten fruit into some kind of CSI-type lab for bite mark analysis.
In the end I know that the best thing to do is just move the plant. My experience has shown that this one is opportunistic and only goes for veggies hanging out in the open. In all cases the fruit was exposed to a railing or like in the case of the eggplant, the entire pot was sitting out on it’s own. When I move the plant into a cluster of other plants the plundering stops. There will be no revenge or attempts to deter the creature with sprays or sprinkled magic powders.
But I will move that eggplant pot with a lot of authority and a very firm hand!
In an effort to grow new-to-me determinant tomato varieties, I completely forgot to grow tomatillos this year. By the time I realized my mistake it was too late to start tomatillos from seed and none of my favorite local transplant suppliers were growing them. I’m told that tomatillos aren’t a popular crop. For shame.
Well look at what I discovered growing out of the gravel on the unusable side of our rooftop this evening. Several small tomatillo plants — seeded by previous years’ crops — have taken a stab at procreation in what amounts to about an inch or so of gravel on top of tar paper. Some of them had flowers! We dug them up to transplant into pots and discovered healthy, and rather large root systems. I have developed a whole new respect for this plant!
It’s already late in the summer so the chances of getting more than a handful of small-sized fruit is grim but I have moved the largest into containers to give them a fighting chance. Go tomatillos, GO!
Guest post by Renee Garner
Now that the veggies are producing quite happily, I have a few weeks of down time before I start the cooler weather veggies. So my attention has turned to the birds. Birds are great to have around, they eat some grubby little insects I would rather just not deal with. They also emit a certain peacefulness and are an archetype for freedom. Simply put, I gather great joy in watching birds play and interact with my plants. Nothing brings out the kid in me like finding a nest of hatchlings, either.
There are several ways to attract birds. I have the feeding and housing down; but water features require a little more upkeep if one doesn’t wish to become a breeder of mosquitoes. Birdbaths offer a manageable amount of water, which is either used or evaporated rather quickly, evading the little blood sucking insects. Birdbaths are available in every price range, and with an even greater variety of design. However, with my eclectic yard, not just any birdbath will do. I was looking for a birdbath for a kitchen themed garden bed.
If you have less clutterbug tendencies than I, this project is a good excuse for an excursion to the hardware and thrift stores. I scoured my closet and garage through the piles of mess I collect and rationalize keeping by saying I’ll use it one day (I will use it one day) all in the name of art. I found 3 pieces of rebar and the basin from a wash pitcher/basin set. Really 3 or 4 of any hefty pole/stick will work . . . use your imagination: broken tool handles, steel pipe, logs stacked to resemble something of 3 dimensional Constructivist art. I used rebar, which is solid and cheap. For a standard height birdbath similar to my design, you will need 3 4-foot pieces. As for the actual bath part, anything with depth enough to hold an enticing amount water will work. Look at the water reservoir upside down, a flat band around the edge will be a beneficial design element that will give the rebar something to hold, providing it shifts on itsstand. Just remember the birds generally won’t pay attention to the materials, they just appreciate a community pool.
So, here goes: hammer the rebar into the ground about a foot deep. Test it when you think you have it deep enough, checking for stability. You want to form something of an equilateral triangle, and the deeper the bowl, the more you need to make sure the triangle sides truly are equal in length. A too-long side will allow the bowl to tip off the stand, putting quite a strain on a very surprised little bird’s heart. Balance the bowl on top. With last year’s model, I didn’t use anything to adhere the bath to the stand and it stayed up all summer. If more stability is desired, a glue like E-6000 will do the job, dab it on the top of your rebar, place the bowl in place and in less than 2 minutes it will be set enough for use. I would also be willing to speculate hot glue would work, but running an extension cord out into the yard to heat up hot glue might be a little embarrassing. Then all you have left to do is add clean cool water!
This crocheted bag looks like a great project to make for toting your garden harvest or trips to the Farmer’s Market. It’s made using plastic grocery bags cut into workable “yarn” strips. I like that the designer used different coloured bags to create a classier looking bag.
Because I am afflicted with the disease commonly known as “Can’t-Walk-Past-Plants, Most-Especially-Plants-on-Sale”-itis and because an entire kitchen garden that was non-existent a few days ago doesn’t seem to be enough today; I done went and bought me some pathetic-looking transplants. But wait, they were only fifty cents! Except the tuberous begonia — that was two bucks.
It went like something like this: I was walking past the Loblaws (Canadian supermarket chain) where I was lured by a sign hanging over the garden centre stating, “The Sales Have Begun!”, to which my mind responded, “I may be able to squeeze a few more plants in. This is last, last call. I can’t NOT see what they have. And I need more soil amender.”
In fact we’re so far into summer that this week is sort-of like last call in a city like Montreal where the bars stay open late followed by another round at a skeezy after hours bar where libations are surreptitiously purchased from some dude sitting on one side of the room and mixers are purchased legally from a station marked “Canteen” on the other side. And to be honest grubby is kind of how I felt buying fifty cent hybrid peppers from the garden centre of a popular chain supermarket when the remaining 99 percent of my plants are homegrown heirlooms or purchased from small, organic growers. But when that last call panic sets in I can be swayed to the dark side by just about any sad looking thing with a sale tag. Plus I am going to save these plants from the dumpster and grow more food! Right?
Here’s what I got:
- Tuberous Begonia – I could have cared less about tuberous begonias until I learned that the petals of hybrid varieties have a sour, acidic taste that makes a juicy substitute for lemons. Now I’m a champion for tuberous begonias everywhere. I chose a variety with golden orange flowers.
- Sweet Pepper ‘Orange Grande’ – This one had a fair-sized pepper on it. When buying sale plants try to avoid plants with flowers and fruit since the stress of living in a tiny pot results in plants that have put all of their resources into reproducing. I chose mine because it had the healthiest, lushest looking leaves of the bunch. The pots were fair-sized making peppers a good choice regardless. Peppers aren’t heavy feeders and can take a bit of abuse. Tomatoes on the other hand were just plain done. I had to pull myself away knowing that nothing was going to save them now.
- Sweet Pepper ‘Sweetspot’ – Okay, how could I not buy a variety called ‘Sweetspot’? I am immature.
- Zucchini ‘Goldrush’ – It didn’t look any worse than the plant I just transplanted from my shady plot so why not?
- Columnar Basil and Genovese Basil – One can never grow enough basil. I am convinced this is true.
I picked the pepper off as soon as I got it home. Part of the strategy behind Project Save the Hybrids is to get them on the road to producing healthy leaves and establishing roots. Allowing the pepper to continue forming would be diverting energy into the wrong place.
And yes I did purchase bags of soil amender; mushroom compost to be exact. Unfortunately it was not on sale.