Rooftop Garden: July 1

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.

Above photo (clockwise from right): Lemon cucumber, lesbos basil, ‘Purple Beauty’ sweet pepper, ‘Purple Beauty’ sweet pepper, purple tomatillo,

Just this morning I harvested a large bowl-full of four different basil varieties. Most of the tomato plants have at least one small, green fruit and a ton of flowers. The black plum tomato has a couple of large clusters of fruit. The lemon cucumbers are both coming along nicely but neither have flowers. I’m extremely happy with their progress so far as this is the time of the season when fungal prblems such as powdery mildew starts to pop up. So far so good. I pruned back some of the leaves the other day to ensure good air circulation, especially around the lower half that is closest to the soil where a lot of humidity tends to rise up from wet soil and evaporation. I pulled the plants out from their nest amongst the other containers so you can see how large they are. This one is the larger of the two and here’s the smaller plant with Davin working on tying up some of the vines. Davin does all the contact work with the cucumber plants as I am terribly allergic, breaking out in hives if my skin even lightly brushes against a leaf.


The photo above shows immature fruit on my centennial kumquat tree. They are striped green and yellow when immature but mature to become a more typical orange colour. They’re orange inside. Here are two photos showing the tree itself. 1 | 2 It’s hard to see in the images, but the leaves are variegated green with a splash of white. The flowers smell a lot like my key lime tree. Both fruit trees are out on the rooftop for the summer. Unfortunately the key lime dropped some leaves when I went to New York in May but has been producing new leaves and flowers in abundance since then.


I would also speculate that some of my success this year has been the result of the amendments I added to the container soil. Before planting I mixed in canola meal, compost from my little bin, worm castings, and sheep manure. I did not want to use sheep manure but could not locate any mushroom compost in time and had to settle. It’s always a delicate balance when it comes to containers because too much of these heavy organic ingredients can compact in the pot. I am always careful not to overdo it. A while after planting I began adding a bit of fertilizer to the containers. Now that it’s been a while I’ve stepped it up a bit more. I use fish emulsion and sea kelp (both liquid concentrate and meal). I like the concentrate for making a spray, and I use the meal for watering. You may have seen a bunch of glass jars and bottles in photos from my previous post. Those are jars of kelp meal steeping. I’ve already cut back on the fish emulsion a bit with most of the veggies since they are producing lots of lush leaves that I have already had to prune back. I don’t want to end up with healthy leaves and sick fruit. This has happened in the past and I learned my lesson.

My advice to people growing tomatoes is to keep the plants healthy to avoid disease but do not work too hard on growing leaves or you’ll end up like I said with an abundance of leaves and sickly fruit. Watch your fruit when they start to develop and inspect them everytime you water. Another biggy when growing tomatoes in pots is consistent watering. Don’t let the soil get bone dry!

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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5 thoughts on “Rooftop Garden: July 1

  1. My lemon cucumber hasn’t flowered yet either, but there are buds. Looking great!

    Thanks for the advice re: air circulation. I’ll be double checking today.

  2. HMMM. My tomato plants have leaves a plenty. How do I know when/which leaves to prune? My father’s told me to remove the “suckers”. The “suckers” are the leaves/limbs that grow at the base of the vee where the new branch has grown from the primary stalk.

    Also, should I wait for the tomatoes to ripen on the vine? Or can they ripen in the window?

    thanks! JOhn

  3. Mmmm, tomato and basil. A popular combo and one of my faves. Now, if I could just grow some mozzarella. :)


  4. my key lime tree froze this winter and now has “suckers” at the base of the tree… how should I pruine it?
    thank you

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