Guest post by Amy Urquhart
This article in today’s Toronto Star is interesting. It’s about people harvesting from neglected or owner-less trees in the city.
It made me think about an apple tree that is sitting off the side of the exit ramp I take every day on my way home from work. It’s just dripping with apples, many of which now litter the road. I should ride my bike over and pick some. They might make good applesauce.
The blackberry bushes have been incredibly prolific at the Community Garden this year. I’d swear the plants have doubled in size, each vine exploding with fat, juicy fruit. I had thought that perhaps our cold winters curbed their invasiveness but I’m starting to discover that they can take over in this climate too… albeit somewhat less insanely than in temperate climates like San Francisco. I have never and don’t expect to see blackberries like that here in Southern Ontario. Those bushes are the kind of plants that inspire cheesy horror films… gaining ground while suckers like me naively hang about gorging themselves, even pushing further into the bush in a greedy attempt to get at the best, ripest berries before being sucked in alive. Bwahhahaha!
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!
I’ve been busy over the last few months with a number of workshops and projects but thought I would take a moment to document some of that here before the experiences escape me.
I did a workshop called “Grocery Store Gardening” at Ladyfest Guelph back in Sept. Here’s the promo:
“Turn the waste from tonight’s meal into totally free, yet extraordinary houseplants. In this workshop you will learn how to grow unusual fruit trees, groovy houseplants, and edible herbs from the stuff that is normally thrown into the compost bin. Participants will take plants home with them at the end of the workshop. Please bring along any of the following items, if youÃ¯Â¿Â½ve got them: empty margarine containers or old plant pots, left-over fruit seeds: mango pits, pineapple tops, avocado pits.”
The prep work for the workshop was a bit more intense than usual as I had to make a few shopping trips for supplies and prepare some of the plant matter ahead of time but the overall experience was a lot of fun. It was just fun watching reactions to some of the unusual fruits I brought along.
I had to carry my materials on the Greyhound to Guelph which was an experience in itself. I took large cuttings of several pungent herbs including African blue basil minutes before I left and the smell emminating from my person was quite intense.
There was a Bonsai show taking place in the University Centre at the same time as Ladyfest and I must confess that I couldn’t resist and bought a Boweia aka False Sea Onion. It was too crazy to pass up and I’m too much of a succulent addict. Can’t stop the plant mania! Thankfully (or sadly) the Cactus and Succulent Society show & sale was not on. I’ve heard they tag-team it with the Orchid Society show & sale. Temptation like that would have meant sudden death to my bank account.
Unfortunately, I did not take any photos (kind of hard to do in the middle of giving a workshop). However, if you’d like to try your hand at growing your own grocery store plants, I have posted a few articles on this site over the years that delve into the subject. See:
Things are coming along swell on the rooftop garden. In fact, this is turning out to be my best year ever! The weather has been incredibly hot and dry, and as a result I have been out there religiously watering containers, sometimes as much as twice per day. But the combination of heat and consistent watering has resulted in a stellar turnout, especially for plants such as basil and tomato that suffered in last summer’s cool, grey weather.