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You can grow a salad PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 11 August 2017 10:41

Urban gardening is perfect for growing salad ingredients. Space is usually limited in a city garden so you won't be growing corn or other veggies that take up a lot of space. Since the growing season in the Northeast seems to be getting longer (weather is temperate usually until late October), you can take advantage of this and enjoy fresh salad foods for a longer period of time. As the weather cools, you will find that lettuce, peas and radishes thrive again and one can start a second growing season inside. After the summer heat has passed, the seedlings can be moved outside again. Try switching from summer vegetables like tomatoes and peppers to root vegetables like radishes and beets. Kale and chard do very well in the cool weather right into the cold weather.

    Some types of cherry tomatoes to try in a patio pot or raised bed:
  • Sun Sugar
  • Sun Gold
  • Sugar Snack
  • Super Sweet 100
  • Sweet 100
  • Heirloom Cherry
  • Golden Harvest
    Here are a few suitable lettuce types for urban gardening:
  • Red Sails
  • Black Seeded Simpson
  • Mesclun Mix

These varieties do well in raised bed boxes as well as window or patio pots. They are loose leaf and don't grow into "heads", so they are easier to cultivate.

    Don't forget the smaller variety of peppers that can be grown in pots:
  • Cubanelle
  • Cayenne
  • Sweet Red Cherry Pepper

Herbs can be grown on a balcony or windowsill. Try planting Chives for an easy onion-like flavor. Basil is easy to grow in pots and makes a great garnish for fresh tomato with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Parsley is full of vitamins and adds zip as a garnish or salad ingredient. Cilantro can be used in salads or mixed into salsa for Mexican flavor.

    Since these vegetables and herbs are going to be grown in container gardens remember:
  • Don't let the soil dry out, the roots have nowhere to get water but from you
  • Fertilize regularly. Make your own from coffee grounds, eggshells, etc.
  • Keep an eye out for pests. It's easier to nip things in the bud than to treat an infestation of pests or diseases like fungus.

Last Updated on Friday, 11 August 2017 11:21
City gardens and light PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 11 June 2017 09:59

Light is a requirement for growing flowers or edibles. Growing these in an urban area can be a challenge. Having a garden in a city environment can sometimes mean a balcony, small backyard or courtyard or even just window and fence boxes. The buildings around can start casting shadows as the sun moves through the day. Having a standing garden in one spot means planting according to the amount of light you can expect there.

The location of the garden in an urban area can be critical to its success. You will have to consider the angle of the sun, which can differ as the growing season goes on due to the sun's travel from north to south as fall approaches. Make a chart of the area you want to use and note the number of hours of sun it receives. Shadows cast from buildings, trees, walls, etc. will affect this. Next, determine whether the area receives full sun, partial sun or part shade or full shade.
After you have this figured out, pick plants that will thrive with the light conditions you have available.
Here are a few facts about plants and light:
There are three levels of light when it comes to plant growth:
Full Sun - at least six hours of sun daily (water lilies need this amount of sun to bloom)
Partial Sun/Shade - three to four hours of direct sun
Shade - two hours or less of direct sun or filtered light

In addition to the amount of light there are wavelenghts of light to consider. Light ranges from violet or ultraviolet (shortest wavelength) to red and infrared (longer wavelength). Photsynthesis evolved to interact optimally with blue and red light. The shorter blue light wavelenghts are higher energy than the longer length red light wavelengths. The placement of plants in the garden affects their growth. Sunlight coming in at an angle closer to the horizon has less high energy blue light than sunlight directly overhead. Far red light can cause long, thin stems.

Growing in containers that can be moved can be a solution to this problem. You can use big pots and buy pot platforms that have wheels on them. This way, the plants (such as tomatoes, basil, etc) that love the sunlight can be rolled to parts of the yard or balcony where the sun is. There are self contained growing units like the Grow Box that come with wheels on the bottom. There is also the Garden Tower which is a vertical growing system. Fence boxes can be moved around to parts of the fence that get more light if they are not too heavy. Planting in moveable containers can be a good solution to getting enough light on your plants.

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 June 2017 10:13
Make friends with some garden bugs PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 30 April 2017 11:07

The more one gardens, the more one can start to appreciate some of the insects that come and visit the garden. Of course, you need the bumble bees, honeybees, hornets, flies, etc. for pollinating many plants. But did you know the following varieties of insect are actually good for your garden and can help keep the bad guys away?

Beneficial insects include:
Ladybugs - eat mealy bugs, aphids, scale bugs, thrips, etc.
Praying Mantis - eat just about any other bug, so you don't want too many
Lacewing Larvae - they will rid the plants of aphids
Assassin Bug - will eat beetles, caterpillars
Hover Flies Larvae - also called Syrphid Flies are striped like bees. The larvae love aphids
Ground Beetle Larvae - live in soil and dine on cutworms, slugs, root maggots. The adults often look metallic.
Predatory Stink Bugs - eat grubs, caterpillars, larvae. Some types of stink bugs are pests.
Damsel Bug - like a smaller Assassin Bug, they eat aphids, caterpillars, leaf hoppers, thrips
Minute Pirate Bugs - really small black bugs with white "v" on their backs. They eat aphids, mites, thrips, etc.
You can check out http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/insectsimages.new.htm or http://www.insectimages.org/ to identify these insects.

Last Updated on Sunday, 30 April 2017 11:22
Soil in Urban areas PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 13 March 2017 13:11

Test your soil or use containers in your city garden. So, you've got some yard space in back or front of your townhouse or apartment building. It's got adequate sun and you aren't too far from a water source. The soil, however, doesn't look so great. Mixed into the weeds are broken glass and trash. Upon digging, you find that the weeds are so pervasive they almost form a network in the soil. On top of that, you start to wonder what else is in the soil.

You could get the soil tested by sending out a sample to a soil testing lab but that would take time and money. The weather is warm and just right for starting a garden so what do you do? Container gardening is the answer. A container can be anything from a raised bed box of 2' x 2' or larger, to large pots, fence boxes or window boxes. The choice is yours depending on your budget and ability to bring in soil and water. If all you've got is a stoop, try using large pots for cherry tomatoes, herbs and salad greens. Got some fences around the yard space? Use fence boxes for greens, herbs and small vegetables. If all you have to look at is a brick wall, look for a grid system to hang pots or boxes off of. It is important to have your soil tested or use containers if you want to eat what you grow. Common urban soil contaminants can be:
leakage from old oil tanks
landfill contaminants
industrial waste
solid waste seepage
excess pesticides (for rodents, etc)
medical waste
construction materials like paint, thinners, etc.

You get the picture. It's always better to be on the safe side if you are planning on eating what you grow. There are many kits for easy assembly of raised bed boxes. Now, there are more "vertical growing" tools for small urban spaces like the Gro-Box and the Garden Tower. Search online and you can find a solution that fits your space and your budget. Happy city gardening!

Last Updated on Monday, 13 March 2017 13:14
Winter/Early Spring Greens PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 02 March 2017 11:13

Have a garden box that you grew beets, chard, escarole, kale, spinach in? When the cold weather sets in you might want to consider keeping these going. They are all pretty sturdy and cold resistant vegetables. They are also some of the most healthy greens you can eat. These dark leafy greens are rich in antioxidants, vitamins C, A, folic acid, and minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium. They are also a good source of fiber in the diet. All in all, eating these winter greens can be a big help in the cold weather when nasty visitors like the flu arrive. It doesn't take too much effort to turn a garden box or small section into a cold frame. If you already have a garden box, you are already half the way there. Find some translucent, heavy plastic (you can find this at Home Depot or a hardware store) and fasten it over the wood frame. Keep moist inside, but often you will find there will be condensation when the sunlight heats it up. You might want to raise one side up higher with wood so the snow or ice doesn't sit on it. If there is a small section of the garden where the greens are you can buy small ready made tents or frames made with plastic (from an online garden supply site) or get creative and rig one up yourself. Beet greens are rich and vitamins and a good cleanser for the system. The small leaves are good in salads, the larger ones can be stir fried or steamed.

Swiss Chard is tasty like spinach but without the bitter taste. It makes a great addition to salads and can be substituted for beet greens or spinach.
Kale is another winter favorite. It comes in a variety of colors and leaf shapes. It is a good source of fiber and tastes great fried up with onions and oil or butter. It is a little on the tough side and does need to be steamed or fried.
Escarole looks a little like lettuce but has thicker leaves with more flavor. It is used in Italian cooking, often sauteed with butter or wine, or as a lettuce substitute in salads.
The humble Dandelion is prized for its leaves which are said to have medicinal properties. (some say they help prevent cancer) If you pick them outside your garden (make sure nobody used any nasty herbicides around them). They have a bitter taste but are added to liven up the taste of salads.
Spinach is another staple cooked or used raw in salads. With a little added protection from the cold it can last well into the winter.
A good idea for cleaning these greens is to soak in cold water with a little salt added. Then give them an additional rinse with cold water. There are plenty of other greens not mentioned here that can be grown in the cold. Everything from collard greens to bok choy can continue growing with a little help when the weather gets cold. The health benefits of these greens really justify a little extra effort to keep them going outside in the winter.

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 March 2017 11:17
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photo: Jeannie Cote


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