This is how my friend Abbey stores a large quantity of freshly picked apricots over the short term. She uses recycled egg cartons to prevent the fruit from touching, which she says decreases their chances for rot. Brilliant, don’t you think? And a great way to recycle egg cartons, too!
Imagine my surprise when I pulled back the row cover at the back of my garden and found this pot full of living ‘Four Seasons’ lettuce that I had planted last fall and forgot about. It survived the winter!
I love these little mistakes that result in new discoveries. Yes, our winter was much milder than usual, but in the years that I’ve been growing the ‘Four Seasons’ variety, I had not expected it to live up to its name in my climate.
The container (an old bread box I inherited from Davin’s grandmother, with holes punched into the bottom) was twice sown last fall due to a squirrel invasion that I did not protect against. I have since transplanted several of these seedlings into raised beds and pots around the garden.
With the garden soil now workable, and unseasonably warm, I have also direct sown several lettuce varieties and greens around the garden. This has me thinking about all of the future salads we will be enjoying soon, making me realize that it was high time to pull together some of the lettuce and greens articles I have written here over the years to get you started on growing your future salads, too.
P.S. This week’s article on HGTV is up. It’s about reusing potting soil. I often use my old potting soil to grow salad greens. However, I am careful to add more nitrogen back into the depleted mix as leafy veggies need nitrogen to thrive.
P.S.S. I have added more ‘Hahms Gelbe Topftomate’ seeds to etsy.
My composting worms are housed in an average-sized bin that we keep in the hallway just outside our apartment door. This spot next to the recycling bin is great three out of four seasons of the year since it saves precious space inside our apartment and is the perfect distance between the roof garden and the kitchen. Unfortunately, the winter season poses a problem. The hallways are heated but just barely, not nearly enough to keep redwigglers (Eisenia foetida) alive.
This year, rather than lugging the big bin into the apartment and living with it underfoot until spring, I decided to downsize. The population in my bin is pretty tame right now. It’s good for the worms to have lots of room in the bin but mine were the equivalent of a two person family living in a monster home. Resizing and moving the contents was easy enough. The bin wasn’t ready to be harvested so I simply prepared a new bin using a smaller container I already had on hand. The worms went into the new bin, bedding and all.
They needed a small top-up of bedding so I shredded some used paper bags I had been saving and moistened it slightly before adding it to the bin. I’ve tried a variety of methods and materials for making bedding over the years and brown paper or paper bags shredded in a paper shredder is my favourite way to go. I don’t mind newspaper but prefer not to use it for reasons that really only come down to pure vanity.
I made a few changes to this new bin based on its size. I was most concerned about creating good air flow in such a small bin so I added a few extra holes to the bottom and top with a few more added to the sides. I also added a large hole on top using a drill bit meant for making doorknob holes. I added a piece of coir planter lining, which can be pulled out to increase air flow. I did this because sometimes the bin can get too wet, requiring me to prop open the lid to increase circulation. This works well but I tend to forget about it and leave it propped for too long, sometimes drying out the bedding more than I had intended. The idea behind the larger hole is to regulate air flow more subtly. We don’t have vermin so there is no fear of mice getting into the bin through the large hole and taking up residence. If you do have mice that come in for the winter I would suggest adding more small holes and skipping the larger hole.
Another little trick I’ve come up with over the years is propping the bin on top of small flower pots. Bricks and cans work too. Propping the bottom up allows for better air flow underneath the bin. And the extra plastic lid underneath catches any run-off which can be saved and poured onto your plants as fertilizer.
In Conclusion: I Rule
We’ve been living with the new bin for about 2 weeks now and so far it has been great. I love it and have offered myself numerous mental high fives since making the shift. As you can see, the new bin fits perfectly underneath a table in the kitchen so composting takes about 5 seconds. The new larger hole on top has been genius — I haven’t had any problems regulating air flow and have avoided having to prop open the lid.
For more on vermicomposting:
While the street garden and the community garden plot are both merrily on their way the roof is a disaster. I started an assortment of edibles a while back amidst the chaos with the intent of organizing it, and then didn’t. When the local television stations starting calling about coming to shoot the garden for various growing season has begun segments I knew I did not want to find myself profusely apologizing for the lackluster show like I did last year.
“Hello. Welcome to my assortment of random empty containers. Please avoid pointing your camera in this direction, and that one, and while you’re at it you might want to crop out that pile of junk to your left.”
That’s the problem with a small space, there are no hidden spots to tuck away and hide the mess. Just everything out on display all the time. And so Project The Best and Most Ass Kicking the Roof Garden Has Ever Been, EVER 2008 was launched this afternoon and let me just say, it really is going to kick even harder than ever this year! Or something.
On our way back from lunch I had the sudden impulse to transform an old metal frame into a chalkboard. We stopped at the local art store and picked up some Masonite. As soon as we got back Davin got on the job, transforming what was once an over-the-top framed 3-D hologram of Jesus that I had garbage-picked on a night stroll years back into a place for us to draw pictures. The drawing you see in the photograph is tame, embarrassingly quaint really in comparison to some of the images that first graced the board. I wish I had photographed those, although I am sure there will be plenty more like them in the future.
The project started out on a whim but once it was done we all agree that a place to draw and doodle outside is one of the best non-plant additions to the roof garden ever.
I’ve got a question on tomatoes. I’ve recently ordered about nine tomato plants. They’re still kind of babies, but it turns out that they’re indeterminates, not determinates like was expected. In the book it says that garbage bins work well, but if I chose the cheapest ones I found (they’re 13 bucks) that would be 117 dollars. What else could I stick them in that might be cheaper and easy? – Emily
Before I answer your question I’m just going to fill-in beginners on the terminology you used. For those just starting out in tomato growing, tomatoes come in two types that determine their growth habits and in turn, the needs you will have to meet to grow them successfully. Determinates are tomato plants that grow in a bush habit. This means they are likely to stay short and probably won’t require staking. Determinates are the best tomato varieties for container growing. Indeterminates on the other hand are the really big varieties that grow into tall vines and are traditionally trained to grow upwards using cages or stakes. The root systems on these plants can get to be quite large and demanding requiring ample space and water. It is hard to meet the needs of a large plant in a small space. This accounts for a lot of the difficulty and frustration experienced by gardeners who are new to container-growing. Container soil dries out much faster than in-ground gardens and tomatoes drink a lot of water, especially when they are producing fruit. Dry soil can put a lot of stress on the plant causing disease and unproductive plants.
That said, indeterminates can be grown in containers. The trick is to give them lots of room, keep them watered, and make sure that the pot is appropriately sized for the plant. Do not put more than one tomato plant in the same container!
When it comes to purchased containers, garbage bins are about as cheap as you’re gonna get. The lowest price I have come across for a good-sized bin (about 25 inches tall by 14 inches wide) was $10. Generally, containers of the same size purchased in the garden section of any department or hardware store is going to run you almost double that price.
Thrift stores can be good for containers however they generally don’t carry containers that large — I suppose this is because when garbage bins are put to their intended use they are used until they are no longer fit for reuse.
I think your best bet in this situation is to look for your containers along the curb on garbage day. No, I don’t mean steal your neighbor’s garbage bin! Instead look for large buckets and tubs that are being thrown out. Just because it can’t hold water anymore doesn’t mean it can’t hold soil. Look outside restaurants and laundry mats where oil and detergents are kept in bulk sizes. Better yet, go inside and ask if there are any empty buckets that you can have. Growing really large indeterminates in buckets can be tricky since the buckets aren’t as big as garbage bins, but I have seen it done many times.
To ensure success in a smaller container I would recommend spending some money on a good container soil that holds water but is also light enough to allow for good air circulation — you don’t want those roots to get crushed and compacted in such a tight space. If air circulation seems like an issue try drilling holes in the sides of the containers (and the bottoms). This means more water runs out but what you lose in water you gain in air circulation. And finally make sure to keep the soil moist. Monitor the moisture levels of the soil, watering everyday during the hot months if not twice daily when the heat gets intense.
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming you could try trading some of your indeterminates for less demanding determinate varieties with someone who has the space. That way you don’t lose any money but gain less hassle.