Thursday, March 31, 2005

Strawberries & what's blooming

Stuck around Caruthers Street today. Yesterday I spotted three strawberry plants that someone had put out on the sidewalk to give away, and I grabbed them. This evening, which seemed pleasantly warm, I made some little mounds and put in the plants. Watered them in with my little homemade detergent bottle watering can, which really does work very well.

Along with the strawberries on the sidewalk, there were some other mystery seedlings. I didn't recognize any of them, but picked up one up that looked like it might be a flower of some sort. Who knows. I put it in next to our front walk anyway. Botanical roulette.

Repotted my roommate's taragon to a large clay pot. Hope to have a substantial herb garden this year.

What's blooming
-Tulips are everywhere and at their peak. Portlanders love tulips aparently.
-Also, the later blooming cherry trees are starting up. Maybe these are the ones that produce actual fruit, rather than just being decorative.
-Looks like calendulas that survived the winter are blooming well, and ...
-California poppies are sprouting, with a few starting to bloom.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Just Chard

Despite a forecast of rain, it was mostly dry and from time to time sunny. I decided to take advantage of it and ride down to my Reed garden plot. Finished digging one long aisle clean of weeds. I turned the soil in a large corner bed, then enriched the last section of the big bed of greens and sewed Swiss Chard seeds:

Swiss Chard
An all red "Rhubarb" variety. Ed Hume brand seeds for current season.

Though it doesn't sound like much, that was about three hours worth of labor.

Looks like I'm going to have to cut back a little on home gardening projects. My housemates, a lesbian couple, decided to break up. Nobody's moving just yet, but who knows when it might happen. It'll be especially sad to leave my Rosemary & Rhubarb plants.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

First harvest & recipe

At my Reed Community Garden...

Biked down to Reed on a chilly day and spent about three hours digging weeds, turning the soil, cutting the grass, etc.. The most exciting thing is that ALL of my seeds are sprouting, specifically the arugula, turnips, pak choi, bok choy, and snow peas are all just barely getting out of the ground. Awesome! But I also killed a millon little starter slugs; so I'm worried about how much will survive. I can tell it's gonna be a bloodbath.

Also, both of the rhubarbs that I planted last fall have several leaves each. There are more raspberry canes poking out of the ground. Plus the wild calendulas are in full bloom already, and two volunteer daisy plants are doing very well and seem to have buds.

Amazing though it may seem, I've already started harvesting food from my garden. The kales I planted last fall and that survived the winter have grown like crazy since the rain began. From just three plants, I was able to gather enough large outter leaves to fill a canvas shopping bag and make more greens than two healthy eatin' boys could consume. If you want to know how to cook greens, here you go:

Greens my way
Gather more greens than you think you could possibly need. A very big bag full will cook down to a small pan of food. Wash them, remove any large stems or veins, then roughly chop the leaves. Boil a big pot of water & throw in the greens. Simmer for a few minutes until just cooked, but not too soft, then pour out the water & let the greens drain in a collander during the next step. (By the way, this seperate boiling stage gets rid of a lot of the bitterness found in some greens, as well as allows each different element of the dish to be cooked correctly.)

In a large frying pan or wok using lots and lots of olive oil, sautee a bunch of roughly chopped onion gently until at least translucent, but preferably browned. Add some garlic or bell peppers then if desired, and cook a minute or two more.

On medium-high heat, add the greens to the wonderfully oily onion mixture. At this point, you can add and any number of flavorings, such as balsamic or cider vinegar, Worchestershire sauce, a dribble of Hickory smoke extract, Sriracha "Cock" sauce, maybe some Sesame oil. Whatever. But a hot-sour-savory combination would be best. Sautee the greens with the onions & new additions long enough to combine and to cook down the liquid.

Remove from the heat. Salt as desired (that is to say, a lot). And allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Guerrilla gardening

Been busy gardening here on Caruthers Street in the last two days. It's been drizzling steadily. Great spring planting weather.

Median Planter No. 2
In front of my house in the median strip, I've pulled out the grass and dug in some stepping stones. Next to that, around our poorly located Birch tree, I put in another planter. It's made with the last of the wood from our old basement stairs, which, I must say, have certainly been efficiently recycled.

I moved some species cannas from our main flower bed to this new little planter. Hopefully, they'll be full of tropical red flowers all summer and come back year after year. I also plan to put in some Black-Eyed Susans, which are perenials as well. With any luck, they'll tumble over the edges full of yellow flowers. Purple cone flowers, AKA Echinacia, are another option.

Guerrilla gardening
I cut out this article a few years back from Adbusters. It was mostly photos, of course, and featured this guy who dug out a brick from the sidewalk, or maybe cut a hole in the pavement. Whatever. In the new hole, he planted something. Can't remember what. Just something.

Anyway, I liked the idea of guerilla gardening, of reclaiming the paved world, dirtying the dominant paradigm. So to that end, I've been trying to plant some flowers in the parking lot next door.

Last summer, I tried to plant calendula flowers in the tiny strip of mud between the asphalt and our fence. The soil was bone dry and rock hard, but I dug and enriched it, then put in seeds under some straw mulch. Unfortunately, there's a crew of highly efficient Mexican landscapers who regularly clean off the lot with a leaf blower, and they eventually dispersed my mulch and seeds.

This year, I'm starting early. Today, I dug some established calenduals from our main flower bed and transfered them to the little muddy wasteland. I also formed little mud "walls" around them to hold in some water. Their chances of survival for the whole season seem slim, but I have my fingers crossed. I may make a sign asking, "Por favor no mata los flores!" or "Estas plantas aqui son flores. Por favor, no las mata."

Sowing seed
In my little yogurt cups and butter tubs I've planted some seeds:

"Zucchino Verde di Milano" (Cucurbita pepo)
Seeds are two years old, from Italy, La Semiorto Sementi brand; they may not germinate.

"Doux d'Espagne sel. Giapponese" (Capsicum annum)
Long red bell peppers. Seeds are two years old, from Italy, La Semiorto Sementi brand; they may not germinate.

"Long Purple" (Solanum melongena esculentum)
"Asian" variety of long, rather than egg-shaped, fruits. Lilly Miller brand. One year old seeds.

From seeds saved in fall 2004. Variety unknown.

"Pompeii" F-1
Imported tomato variety of long, pointed, red fruits grown for sauces. Renee's Garden brand. Non-GMO.

"Zebra Stripe" (maybe)
Heritage variety. Green friuts with dark stripes, turning more yellow when as they ripen. Seeds saved in fall 2004.

Yellow cherry
A "cherry" tomato from seeds saved fall 2004. Fruits are numerous, very small & bright yellow. Sweet flavor.

"Oregon Giant"
Edible pod snow peas. Same seeds were planted at the Reed garden. Two year old seeds. Renee's Garden brand. Non-GMO.

Friday, March 18, 2005


Such an exciting blog I've created. Here I am about to talk about the weather, but anyway...

After weeks of freakishly warm temperatures and endless brilliant sunshine, we are finally getting some much needed rain, along with the melancholy inducing grayness that everyone moved to Portland to enjoy. Unfortunately, it's also been cold, down in the mid-thirties at night, which is bad for all of the seeds I foolishly planted directly in the ground. We've had two nights of worrying cold, but the weekend promises lots of more typical weather, steady drizzle & moderate temperatures.

Out of caution, I probably won't be planting anything in the ground for a while. I'll stick to indoor starts. Maybe.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Reed greens

Just a note to make sure I note that I put in a large bed of greens today at my Reed garden. Planted seeds for:

Turnips "Globe Purple Top" (for greens), two rows
Lily Miller brand seeds.

Bok Choy (Brassica rapa Chinensis), one row
One year old Lilly Miller brand seeds.

Tatsoy "Spoon Mustard" (a Chinese greens)(Brassica juncea), one row
Two year old Seeds of Change brand organic seeds. May not germinate.

Arugula (Eruca vesicaria sativa), three rows
One year old Lily Miller brand seeds. Did not germinate last year.

Also weeded (as always) and laid down some towels as a weed barrier around my kales.

My raspberries are starting to sprout new canes here and there. A good sign!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Pees in weeds at Reed

Peas and weeds at Reed

So Thursday, which was, um, the 10th of March, I rode my bike out to the community garden at Reed College. It was almost evening. The sun was going down, and I had to rush to beat the fading light. In a frenzy, I began ripping weeds out along with their roots. I don't use tools--just squat down, get a firm grip, and pull hard. Not so great for my back, but better than bent hoeing. So...

I cleared around my kales (Russian & Italian), which were planted last fall and survived the winter, healthy & happy. They're about a foot tall each, but I've only got five left. Slugs ate the other three babies when they were first planted.

I cleared out the long narrrow bed for my peas, right down to the bare earth. Fluffed the soil with a spade, and neatly planted two rows of snow peas (Oregon Edible Pod variety, or something like that). Also put in a row of some European heritage green peas that my friend Heidi gave me when she left the country. The water at the garden has not been turned on yet; so I had to sprinkle the rows with water from my drinking bottle.

The peas are some sort of French "small rustic 'country style' dwarf pea" called "Piccolo Provenzale." La Semiorto Sementi brand. Two year old seeds; so they may not germinate.

Last fall I scavenged a few rolls of black plastic from someone throwing them out. People use them to cover the soil and kill weeds, as well as dry out the ground a little. Walking around the garden, I'll come upon a whole plot entirely covered in shiny black plastic. It looks compulsively neat and obsessively controlling. I find it rather appealingly tidy, yet at the same time, deeply perverse.

Anyway... I spread out some sheets of plastic to control the fresh new spring weeds in the beds I won't be digging for a while. The unfortunate result looks, sad to say, kind of post apocalyptic, as though Mad Max liked to garden.

Up next
This week, I'll be starting Arugula, Turnips, bok choy, and chinese mustard, all of them for the greens.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What's blooming

Just a quick note to track what's currently blooming.

The quince next to our house has been full of hot pink flowers for about a week.

Cherry trees-
The cherry trees are big pink clouds right now. They started maybe a week ago & are now about mid-bloom. The air here is often filled with their sweet scent, but some of them are actually kind of funky smelling. Lots of trees have not begun to bloom yet; so there will be plenty to come. The cherry in our yard has buds but nothing more.

There's an overygrown vine near my house (corner of Grant & 37th) that is full of white flowers & has an intoxicating sweet smell. It fills the street, and I even smell it racing past on my bike.

The giant camelia in our yard is half full of pink flowers. It's been blooming for about two weeks, and will probably continue for a while since only the back side has started. The whole front is still to come.

Everybody's are in full bloom right now.

Ditto. Though they are about to die. They first bloomed about two weeks ago.

White trash Martha

Monday the 7th: Planters & beds
Our house is right next to the parking lot of a popular bar, and we have a chain link fence with those privacy strips in it. Aside from being ugly, it also blocks the light from the west. I planted vines in the beds next to it last year, hoping that they'd climb up into the light and cover the fence. They never made it though.

This year, I figured I'd grab the light where it is by hanging some planters up at the top of the fence. I had all these big tin coffee cans; so I drilled some holes in them, hung them up, and filled them with dirt. It looks very classy, I assure you, like an all-double-wide trailer park.

Also, I wanted to plant in the little median strip between the sidewalk & street. In particular, I wanted to create a distinct "gate" or subconscious transition point between the "public" business area around the parking lot and the "private" residential area. We have a large bush on our corner. So across the sidewalk from it, I decided to plant something tall and bushy and create a narrow "passage" into of the private residential sphere.

To that end, I put in a raised bed. It's made of the scrap wood from our old basement stairs, and has, I confess, a certain hillbilly charm. I sprinkled it with mixed cosmos seeds, which should produce a tall-ish bush of purple flowers. Very drought hardy too, which is important for the median.

Finally, in the latest issue of Readymade magazine, they showed a watering can made from an old detergent bottle made by drilling holes in the cap. So I made one as an experiment, and despite how ugly it is, it works great. Good for gently watering potted plants & freshly seeded areas.

All of these garden projects with junk are making me feel very Martha Stewart-- *after* prison.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Poppies & compost

Wednesday, Mar 2:

Worked in the yard a little at home. Did the folowing:

Finally investigated my compost pile that's been stewing all of last summer & through this winter. I have an addiction to scavenging, and early last year I found a wooden, folding baby's crib and decided that it would be perfect for composting. So I knocked out the bottom, and it's worked like a charm. When I dug into it this afternoon, I got two full recycle bins full of rich, black rot.

I sprinkled some Oriental Poppy seeds in the cracks of the sidewalk in front of my house, as well as along some bed edges. I'm hoping for a quaint, all-natural effect.

Also washed out a lot of flower pots and drilled holes in the bottom of some yogurt containers to use for starting seeds.