Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Bloglull December 29, 2010

Filed under: berries,blogging,flora,summer,veggies — greenwalks @ 3:04 pm
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My garden blog buddy Jordan of Metropolitan Gardens (check out his incredible blog if you haven’t already) said the other day that he noticed Greenwalks has been “in a bit of a lull” lately. That was a rather kind way, I thought, to point out the obvious, which is that I had basically abandoned it, and indeed all of garden blogland, since the end of last spring.

Why did I stop? Many reasons:  life challenges, lack of time, feeling like I had nothing novel or of interest to say or show, the usual. Did I miss it? Yep. Did I feel bad for just trailing off without explanation? Kind of. But here’s the weird thing – after two years (okay, not quite) of frequent posts and obsessive tagging, a ghost trail of Greenwalks still exists out there in Web land and the clicks didn’t completely stop. I did miss the comments and the nice exchanges with fellow bloggers, though, and maybe there will be a time when I am able to come back to this world more regularly, since it has been so fun to be a part of.

In the meantime, Greenwalks will probably stay in its unofficial lull. I hope to be back eventually, but for now will leave you with the last images I uploaded to my Flickr account at the end of summer – a bit of warmth on a day where snowflakes are floating down from the Seattle skies.

Cheers and Happy New Year to all, and may your gardens grow well this coming year!

Northgate Community Center Planters

Well-composed planters outside the Northgate Community Center. Lots of kids zipping around the next-door playground, but the pottery and flowers are intact. Miraculous!

Blueberry trio

Sum total of our blueberry harvest this year. I moved the bushes to a sunnier spot, so maybe next year we’ll get a few more?!?!

Green bean first harvest

The green beans are reliable performers in our small veggie garden. We enjoyed these within about 10 minutes of picking them!

Late summer harvest

Our harvests will never tip the scales, but it’s nice to have a little something fresh every day from the garden. The end of the snap peas (planted super late, but then a bumper crop since the summer was cool), some cherry tomatoes, basil (rescued from the jr. gardener, who usually eats every leaf before I can snip any!) and chives for three-onion risotto.

Favorite sunflower

Last but not least, my favorite volunteer Mexican sunflower of the summer. I haven’t planted these for years, they just keep coming up in my parking strip veggie patch! Every year, the colors are slightly different. I wonder what colors will show their faces this coming year?


Raised Bed Cover and a Couple of Crows January 11, 2010

The uncharacteristically deep and long freeze Seattle endured in December subjected winter veggie gardens to a real beating. Many unprotected plants, including some that were hurriedly swaddled in floating row cover, did not survive. Even some carefully shielded by a pro gardener under the warming embrace of a hoop house just couldn’t hack it after days in the 20sF or lower. This was one mean frost!

That’s why, when I saw this plastic tent-like structure in a parking strip recently, I wondered if its contents had made it through okay.

Hoop house for winter greens

Looks like it might be a pretty easy DIY project, just a few lengths of PVC and some heavy-duty plastic. I wonder if the low and compact shape, as compared with a hoop house, trapped warm air inside more effectively and helped to keep things alive? The lettuce seems to have survived:

Lettuce through hoop house cover

Are the crows just decorative or do they deter potential pilferers? I took them as a warning and didn’t poke my camera inside for a closer look.

Crow guards for raised bed

Later, some real corvids were spotted on a house’s rooftop. They like to look in rain gutters for tasty tidbits.

Crows on roof


Freeway-side Gardening September 18, 2009

Filed under: flora,veggies — greenwalks @ 8:43 am
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Often, the urge to garden in the city despite lack of an ideal site is just overwhelming. Waits for P-patch slots can be years-long, so sometimes people just get out their shovels and dig wherever they can, whatever the challenges may be.

A few years ago, I saw a guy working on a steep, brush-covered hillside at the corner of a very busy freeway on-ramp here in Seattle. I couldn’t actually believe he was making a garden there, but he was. He cleared the brush and weeds away, tilled the soil, and started planting. And not just tough, easy-care plants, but veggies and flowers. Lots of them.

I used to pass this garden several times a day but hadn’t for a while, and I was delighted to see that it is still thriving despite the daily dose of exhaust it must get from all the passing cars. And despite being at a kind of hard-scrabble crossroads where a lot of down-and-out folks hang out, nobody seems to have raided or vandalized the plot. I don’t know how many people notice or enjoy it as they hurry past, but for me it’s a true testament to the creativity and tenacity of the urban gardener.

(These photos were taken from the car on a blasting sunny day, so are not ideal.)

This is the view you see from the street – sunflowers, amaranth, marigolds, kale, cabbages, rosemary – the works! Red, orange and yellow to brighten a dull stretch of road – what’s not to love?

Streetside Seattle garden by I-5 onramp

In this one, you can see the simple wooden retaining wall the gardener built to hold in soil and maybe keep folks from wandering in from the sidewalk.

Seattle urban garden

The onramp retaining wall is visible in this next shot – no joke, it’s right there!

Farm in the city

Have you ever gone to great lengths to establish a garden in a non-ideal site?


Streetside Potato Farm June 22, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, I took a stroll to the public library to return some overdue books and on the way I saw a raised bed in the parking strip I hadn’t notice before. It was a biggie, most of the width of the property, and pretty much a monoculture.

Potato/rhubarb planter box

As of a few months ago, I might not have recognized this crop, thinking it looked a bit like tomatoes but not quite (they are both members of the nightshade family, along with tobacco, peppers and eggplant). Now that I am a potato farmer myself, on a much smaller scale, I realized right away that this gardener is gunning for a really big crop o’ spuds.

They were all planted in nice neat rows and hilled up (the new potatoes form between the original seed potato and the top of the hill).

Potato farm on street

Potatoes do take up a bit of room, so I can see why the streetside planter box was tempting to build. OK, it wasn’t quite a monoculture – there were some really massive rhubarb plants at the end of the rows.

Rhubarb forest

I’d seen rhubarb on the street before but not potatoes. Urban farming is really catching on in Seattle, as is parking strip gardening. I love it when I see people combining the two!

(Oh, that whole signing off for the summer thing didn’t last long, did it? I guess I must be addicted to blogging. Not going to be a daily thing but when I can get to it, I will.)


I Sprung a Leek June 12, 2009

Filed under: recipes,veggies — greenwalks @ 4:31 pm
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For the first time in many years, one of my over-wintered leeks (yes, just one, but it’s better than none!) grew to normal grocery-store size and I was able to harvest it. If I plant these again, I need to do some better research on optimal planting time and conditions, since I do love their flavor and it was fun to pick one right out of the garden. Here is mine, all cleaned up:

Cleaned up leek from the garden

The roots had 50 tons of dirt on them, which made me think that I need to get a better set-up for washing veggies outside. I remember doing that when I was a kid, using a stiff brush to get the worst of the soil off before bringing in carrots and other tasty treats.

I had to buy a second leek to make one of my all-time most cherished recipes, Three-Onion Risotto (click here to find it on Food & Wine, which was my favorite cooking mag back when I had time to cook non-kid food), but did get to clip some fresh chives to use as a garnish. First real harvest meal of the summer, including outside leaves from the lettuce starts my mom gave me a few weeks ago. Yum! Eating anything good out of the garden this week?


More Winter Survivors May 18, 2009

I know I sound like a broken record here, but I’m continuing to be surprised by all the plants that don’t seem to have minded our recent horrid winter weather. I guess more of my garden was hardy than I’d realized – I’m not great about keeping track of zone/temperature requirements, so I was half expecting nothing to come back.

Happily, my small parking strip veggie/herb patch came through completely unscathed, and the recent spate of sunny weather (now over, alas), brought many things along from winter dormancy.

The red lettuces below overwintered and were a bit on the bitter side but not too bad. I think they are “Merlot” but could also be “Red Sails,” I forget. The green ones are an oakleaf variety I planted from starts a few weeks ago, and the leeks are starting to grow a bit too, finally.

Sunlit lettuces

I only cook with chives every now and again, since my daughter isn’t a huge fan of them in eggs or risotto as I like to use them. But she will nibble on the oniony flowers once they bloom from these cute little purple buds.

Chive flower buds

I am terrible at remembering what kind of onions I’ve planted. I mix up the scallions and other types so never know when to yank them, and then they go to flower. That’s okay, I love how fat the buds get and then this mini fireworks explosion happens.

The bulbing fennel that never bulbed last summer resprouted, and it seems like maybe it’s going to form something edible underground this time. Or am I deluding myself? I like the feathery foliage and pull a few small bits off to toss in salads sometimes. That’s bolting arugula in the background – I hope to replant another round of it this week, it’s my easiest seed crop and I love its peppery taste cooked or raw.

Bulbing fennel came back

Finally, I took this photo a few weeks ago but forgot to post it. It’s some of the Russian kale flowers before they opened, in the late afternoon sunlight. Now that the rain has returned, I hope I stored up enough sun until the next time I can get out there with my hands in the dirt.

Kale flower buds in late afternoon sun


Aliens Have Invaded My Laundry Room April 17, 2009

Filed under: veggies — greenwalks @ 1:41 pm
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Some very odd-looking creatures have landed on my dryer.

Odd laundry

These ones only look a little scary.

Yukon gold seet potatoes "chitting"

The others are a bit more frightening-looking, with their purple tentacled eyes.

"Chitting" blue potatoes

I hope they’re friendly!

Not your typical eggs

(Yukon Gold and Peruvian Blue potatoes from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds “chitting” in advance of being planted, typically late. Still trying to figure out what to plant them in, container and soil wise, as I don’t have a bed that’s suitable. Maybe I should actually read the Potato Growers’ Guide provided by Irish Eyes, duh.)