Gardening where the sidewalk ends

One Step Closer September 30, 2008

I’m not sure why I’m being such a giant procrastinator about planting the fall veggie garden. Maybe it falls under the category of “blog now, garden later,” which seems to be a major trend for me these days…

At least I got one baby step closer yesterday, finally going by the closest local garden center, Seattle’s wonderful City People’s Mercantile, to get some bags of compost. I used to make my own, but it took too long the way I did it (not keeping it “hot” like you’re supposed to) and when we moved to our current place, I kind of gave up. Maybe I’ll get back to it, since there’s nothing like home-grown for richness and safety (i.e. no weed seeds or other people’s leftover lawn chemicals). But for now, I’m pretty into the Gardner & Bloome line of organic compost products. The Soil Building Compost has helped amend my rocky/clay/poor soil immensely, although it’s a little bark-heavy for my taste sometimes. I always toss a few handfuls of the Planting Mix in with each new plant or row of seeds, and this year I’m trying the Harvest Supreme to see if it will help with my (untested) soil pH. I got one big bag of each yesterday.

Compost for the fall garden

Last winter, my poor neighbors had to look at a bunch of those bags all winter, until I finally got around to planting stuff and used them up. I think it was around June or July, eesh. To mangle a proverb, I guess the road to the hell strip is paved with good intentions (and compost)!


What’s in a Name? September 29, 2008

Since I started writing this blog (mostly) about gardening in the space between the sidewalk and the street, I’ve heard a few different names for the area. In Seattle, I’ve always heard it referred to as a “parking strip,” but when I looked on the city’s web site they seem to be calling it a “planting strip.” Commenters here and fellow bloggers from Portland to Perth have taught me a few other names (including “boulevard,” “nature strip” and, definitely my favorite, “hell strip”) and it made me wonder if there are any others out there? Or does anyone have a good new coinage?

Triangle trellis


Kale & Calendula September 28, 2008

I came upon a garden in my neighborhood recently that I hadn’t seen before. It’s a corner lot, so the gardener has probably about 60′ X 5′ to play with out there in the parking strip. I like to think it’s what my garden would probably look like if I planted it more densely and then left it completely alone. I.e. a bit of a wild tangle but lots to discover and admire!

Here is a companion planting that I thought was a neat one:

Kale and calendulas

The kale’s hue and shape are complemented nicely by the glowing orange of the calendulas (calendulae?). The whole area was in dappled shade when I visited and that particular bed was completely interplanted with veggies, herbs, and edible flowers. It definitely made me stop and look closely to see what was hiding out in between the bigger plants – not a single orderly row to be found!


Freak tiny corn September 27, 2008

It’s always funny to me to hear about the weirdo volunteer seedlings that sprout in people’s gardens, whether from compost, bird leavings, or another mysterious process. Probably my most unusual sprout this summer was this freakishly miniature corn that showed up on the edge of my veggie patch, despite the fact that neither I nor anyone else on the street has ever grown corn that I know of.

Freak volunteer corn - alive

When it first came up, I thought it looked like corn but wasn’t sure. As it matured and its little tassels showed up, I let it stick around and wondered if I’d get to “harvest” something that maybe looked a little bit like the baby corn that usually gets tossed into bad vegetarian Chinese food.

But one day I got tired of looking at the broken-necked sunflowers and ripped them out (thanks, Mr/Ms Squirrel), and when I came back to the garden later I found this:

Freak volunteer corn after squirrel removed it

I don’t have a spycam but I’m just going to take a wild guess and say that the pissed-off squirrel, not finding any more sunflowers to break/devour, decided to see if the corn was worth gnawing on, ripped it out, took one bite, and tossed it. Either that or it has weirdly accurate perception of which plants I like, and decided to show me who’s the boss in the garden (after what I learned about crows this week, I wouldn’t be that surprised). Oh well, it probably wouldn’t have been edible anyway.


Rare Treat September 26, 2008

In the fall, the end of sweet corn season overlaps ever so briefly with the appearance of wild, wonderful chanterelle mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius). The mushrooms, with their incredible golden-orange color, springy texture and subtly earthy taste, to me are always worth a once-yearly splurge. I get just enough to make a side dish and figure my kid won’t eat more than one or two bites, if that, so it doesn’t end up costing too much.

Not being the most creative of cooks, I usually use the same recipe each year, from Alice Waters’ “Chez Pannisse Vegetables.” I probably don’t need to explain who Alice Waters is or how she has transformed the dialog in this country about where we get our food and how it’s produced. But I will say that some of her other cookbooks have seemed daunting to me, with multiple hard-to-find ingredients and long preparation times. This one just addresses vegetables and has mostly fairly simple recipes, and a few per veggie to choose from (it would be a great one to pick up for those of you with CSA boxes that come with challenging contents like sorrel, amaranth greens, parsnips, etc). Often the recipes are just suggestions of ingredients and general cooking advice, with no measurements per se or exact cooking times. I’m not very used to this kind of method but at least in the mushrooms’ case, it seems to work out pretty well.

So, with full credit to Ms. Waters, here is the recipe for

Corn and Summer Chanterelles

Clean and slice some chanterelles and saute in a little butter. Season with salt and pepper. When they have begun to brown and are nearly done, add some chopped garlic and parsley, and continue cooking gently, another minute or two. Add fresh sweet corn kernels cut from the cob and a splash of water. Cook until the corn is just done, taste for seasoning, and add a nut of butter off the heat.

That’s it!

Oh, the parking strip connection is that I harvested the parsley from our street garden.

Here are the mushrooms, all chopped up and ready to go (next to one of my favorite recent purchases, a mushroom-shaped mushroom brush!):

Chanterelles and mushroom brush

This one’s size was really impressive:

Big chanterelle

Mmmm, nothing like the smell of melting butter to make you feel warm and snug on a cool fall day:

Mmmm, butter

Everything’s in the pot and cooking up nicely:

Almost done!

I didn’t get a shot of it all finished and composed on the plates along with the fusilli con pesto e patate (using a many-hued assortment of farmers’ market potatoes my daughter picked out last week), because by that time we were hungry and my family was tired of me taking pictures of our food.

For more information about chanterelles, click here.


Reply-o-rama September 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — greenwalks @ 11:25 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One thing that I don’t seem to have got the hang of with this whole blogging thing is the replying-to-comments part. I already feel like I spend a ton of time (that I could instead be putting to use in the garden or on a million other things) on the writing, photos, and visits to other people’s sites. It’s astonishing to me how well some of you manage to keep up not only with your gardens and posts, but also with your comment replies.

I was feeling really guilty about it today, not to mention avoiding some other big projects and boring house tasks, so I decided to do a comment-reply marathon and not go to sleep until I finished. Well, it’s 11:20 pm and I’m finally done!

Reading through all of the comments I’ve received from visitors to Greenwalks really warmed my heart. Whether people stopped by once or have come back almost daily, I truly and deeply appreciate every (non-spam) word, whether it’s encouragement, a tip or hint, a story shared from your own experience, or something you saw and wanted to pass along. I made every effort to respond to each comment individually, but forgive me if I accidentally skipped a few. I was getting pretty tired towards the end!

My in-laws are coming for a visit tomorrow so I may not have time to put up anything until next week. Until then, happy fall gardening (and blogging) to you all, and thanks again to those who took the time to connect here.

Late summer color


Weedin’ Wednesday September 24, 2008

Filed under: my garden,weeds — greenwalks @ 8:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Folks on Blotanical, the gardening blog round-up site, have a tradition called “Bloomin’ Tuesday,” where they share photos of what’s flowering in their gardens each week. I’m not suggesting a knock-off or anything, but since I never seem to get around to the Tuesday tradition, I made up one of my own for this week: “Weedin’ Wednesday.”

I hadn’t been out to check on the parking strip garden in a while, beyond just glancing at it on my way elsewhere, so I hauled out my trusty pickle bucket, pruners and trowel to see what was growing there without my permission.

It wasn’t too bad, so I’ll spare you individual photos of each culprit. It took me a while to fill up the bucket with an assortment of unwanted or unsightly invaders – quack grass, spent California poppies, St. John’s wort seedlings (three full years after eradication and they’re still coming back – I’ve heard it can take five or longer, and that it can regenerate from any part of the plant!?!), various dandelion relatives. Now that the rains are setting in, I’m sure they’ll start to really get going.


I figure every weed I pull now is exponentially fewer that I have to nab next spring. Then again, it may be false economy, especially in places that don’t have something else going in to keep the weeds from just coming back again in the same place. At least I find weeding to be therapeutic, in small doses anyway.

Gayla at You Grow Girl wrote this thought-provoking post about stuff that ends up in her street garden. She seems to be braving a much more urban environment than mine, with a lot of puzzling and dispiriting human behavior impacting her efforts to beautify the neighborhood. I’m pretty lucky, the only thing I’ve found in months was this piece of candy wrapper, which could have been there for a while, hiding under stuff:


I have got to be more ruthless now and next year about pulling out the seemingly endless parade of aster seedlings. It’s so hard to yank out stuff I know will eventually produce pretty flowers and provide food for the bees and butterflies, but they are really taking over and are just too tall to be where they are – they’re cutting the light for some of my other plants. Here’s a shot of what they look like as tiny babies – they’re in the foreground, some of the leaves have rust spots. The marigold pictured was a volunteer, I think, but is well-behaved so I let it stay. The thing that looks like a string of red licorice (hm, must have candy on the brain after finding that wrapper) is a shoot from the “Pink Panda” strawberry that I will also have everywhere if I’m not careful…


All better now. Well, I left more poppies and bachelor’s buttons than I probably should have, but what can I say, I’m weak where their cheery recurrence is concerned. Plan for tomorrow: buy mulch so I don’t have to do this so often!