Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Parking Strip Raised Bed Update July 25, 2009

A few months ago, I wrote a post about a row of raised beds that had suddenly appeared in the parking strip of a house on our route to school. If you have a spare second, click here to see the “before” photos.

The other day, I was back by that way and almost crashed the car when I saw the transformation that had taken place. I guess the question of whether raised beds with good soil assist in the growing of delicious veggies in a tough spot has now been definitively answered. Check it out!

Tomatoes and nasturtiums with a simple wood frame trellis:

Tomato trellis by stop sign

Carrots, lettuces and marigolds galore:

Carrots ahoy

Broccoli, chard and a bunch of squash that is going to have to colonize the sidewalk if it gets any bigger:

Summer street bounty

One bed left, maybe for fall veggies?

One bed left to fill

The narrow bed on the arterial, no raised planter box but things still look pretty happy:

Street veggies

The furry farmer, who came out to see what I was doing:

Inspection team

The Seattle Times had this article on the front page of its online edition today, discussing the newly relaxed rules for growing veggies in our city’s parking strips. The revolution is underway!


School Garden in Summer July 6, 2009

Filed under: edibles,neighborhood gardens — greenwalks @ 7:10 pm
Tags: , , , ,

We’ve been spending a lot of time at the nearest school playground this summer, since my daughter wants to keep her monkey-bars skills on the upswing. I hadn’t looked at the school garden in a while, but last week I peeked over the fence and saw what they’ve been growing.

This giant teepee looks like it was pretty easy/cheap to make, just super long bamboo stakes and some twine, plus some plastic edging material to outline the circle, keep the stakes seated, and hold the good soil and maybe even a little water in.

School garden teepee

Peas are beginning to wind up the stakes, while beautiful purplish cabbage and broccoli expand to fill the interior.

School veggie garden teepee close up

Nearby, another bamboo structure, this time an A-frame trellis for tomatoes. I’m more used to seeing tomatoes in cages or trained against fences, so this open structure is a little different. I wonder if it will do the trick of keeping them from falling over? I guess it depends on how tall the tomato varieties are.

School garden tomato trellis

A few little hills of squash (or are they cukes) amidst the only weedy patch, with calendulas (edible flowers) in the background:

School garden squash patch

I’ve shown this concrete-block raised bed before, since it seems pretty easy to build and has the nice touch of a mosaic top. This summer, it contains many varieties of lettuce, so lovely in their contrasting colors, a pot of mint, and many many daisies. Those last may have crept in there as self-seeders, they do that in my garden at least. The big white barrel looks to be a rain collector – so they are teaching conservation and sustainability too, nice to see.

School garden raised bed

I’m kind of curious to see what happens at harvest time – do the kids at the summer programs eat salads and broccoli, or is it all just educational/ornamental?

I dream of having the time/energy/wherewithal to write a successful grant for our own school to become an Edible Schoolyard. We have the space, but I don’t know how much longer we’ll be in it since the district wants to shift things around in our part of Seattle – it’s hard to think of starting something like that and then having to leave it behind. Alice Waters started this program in 1995 at a public school in Berkeley, CA. The kids help plant, grow, and learn about where their food comes from. And then they get to eat it! Sounds pretty wonderful to me.


Aliens Have Invaded My Laundry Room April 17, 2009

Filed under: veggies — greenwalks @ 1:41 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

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.)


Gardening Tops the News March 9, 2009

Filed under: edibles,news,veggies — greenwalks @ 7:52 am
Tags: , ,

I don’t usually do re-publish posts, but I got a pleasant shock this morning when the top story in the Seattle Times’ online edition was this: “Seed Companies Have a Bumper Crop of Customers”!

I can personally attest to this trend – after a few years of only picking up a few packets and relying mostly on starts, I am trying to do more from seed this year. I even got organic potatoes from one of the companies, Irish Eyes, mentioned in the article. Not sure where I will put them yet, always an issue (my 1/12th Irish eyes are always bigger than my veggie patch).

Gardening is the new black! Did you ever think it would become so hip and happening? Next thing you know, the cover of Vogue will feature models in muddy-kneed jeans and carrying Felco pruners will be as “in” as Prada handbags! Well, that might be taking it a little far.

Are you part of the new trend, or were you in the vanguard all along?

Tomatoes & squash


“Sustainabilty” Suspect? February 19, 2009

Filed under: edibles,garden shows — greenwalks @ 3:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

The theme of the NW Flower & Garden Show this year is “Sustainable Spaces Beautiful Places” so I was really expecting a lot of the show gardens and booths to showcase innovative ways for us to all make our gardens and public spaces more sustainable. So I was pretty surprised at the slim pickings I found on the day I attended.

The seminar schedule offered a few talks related to this subject, but none during the time I was attending. In fact, they seemed mostly to be clumped onto a single day instead of being spread throughout the week. Wonder why?

The very concept of a massive indoor garden show, where thousands of tons of plants, rocks, furniture, and sale goods are hauled in by gas-barfing trucks and then hauled back out again is, by nature, not very sustainable. In fact, it’s pretty wasteful! So the “theme” really felt like paying lip service to a hot topic without backing it up in reality.

I searched nearly in vain for any examples of edible plantings – a small container garden collection by local nursery Emery’s Garden was pretty much all there was, and although they did a great job of showcasing how beautiful vegetable planters can be, they were not in the high-profile “show gardens” space so they may not have had as much of an impact. (Caveat – at times the crowds were so thick that it could be I missed something!)

Striking edible container

Aside from a few flower and veggie seeds for sale, there weren’t even very many food crop things to buy at the booths. I did see one kiosk of rhubarb starts and asparagus crowns, but I don’t think they were organic:

Rhubarb plants for sale

Raintree Nursery was there and they had a few things for sale, including mushroom-starter kits that could be fun to try someday. I do love shiitakes.

Grow your own shiitakes

I was excited to go check out the “Green Living” section of the sale area but it was pretty small. Okay, unless I was really missing something, it was pathetic! One booth selling rain barrels,

Rain barrels for sale

some people offering lavender essential oil

Copper lavender oil press

and one lonely guy at a roofing booth – that was pretty much it. I hate to be cynical here, but if your whole show is supposed to focus on sustainability, it seems like there should have been a bit more. Did I miss some huge swath of the show because I was too frazzled to pull out the map and really study it?

I had hoped to come away with a lot of new ideas for how to set up areas of my garden to work more in harmony with the land and climate where it is sited. I guess I’ll just have to keep trolling the blogosphere and visiting the library! Did anyone else who attended find sustainable gardening products or ideas to take home? Please share, if so!


Winter Veggie Garden – Finally Planted! October 14, 2008

It was a loooooooooooooooong time coming, but the fall edibles are finally in the ground. How they will fare with such a late start remains to be seen, but at least they’re in and I don’t have to feel guilty anymore when walking past the formerly bare spot in the parking strip where they are now planted. It took a few separate efforts, over a ridiculously long span of time, but such is life these days.

First, on a sunny day a few weeks back, I emptied a cubic yard of organic compost into the small space where I’d cleared out the spent summer stuff (snap pea vines, flowering leeks, bolted lettuce, squirrel-downed sunflowers).

Compost blob

Then I dug it in and roughly raked it over. Soil looks much darker and richer now, so I hope it will be enough since I don’t typically use any fertizlier.

Raked and ready

This appears to be a daffodil, sending up a shoot totally out of season. I left it just to see what happens. I wonder why it got confused? Or even how it ended up in the veggie patch??

Freak daffodil in fall

Then I took a break for various reasons (health, busy-ness, wacko weather, including thunderstorms and hail), and got back to it last week. I have to lug everything down about 20 steps to the street, which is part of my procrastination rationale. Good exercise, though, especially the many trips to refill the watering can!

Ready to plant

A recent windstorm had caused the fennel to flop over. I ripped it out – it never bulbed anyway, something to investigate for next time I plant it.

Flopping fennel

When I got the four-packs of starts out of their flat, I saw quite a bit of slug damage. Then I found the offender, who was surprisingly small given all it had eaten – it was promptly tossed into the street after this photo.

Sneaky slug

It seems to have preferred the ‘Monument’ Chinese cabbage:

Chinese broccoli

and the tender green leaves of the ‘Teton’ spinach:

Spinach starts

Ouch. I hope they survive, I had to remove quite a few destroyed leaves.

In went four each of two kinds of lettuces, ‘Merlot’ and ‘Redder Ruffled’ leaf,

Planted lettuces

plus some Red Russian kale, ‘Old Fashion’ Mustard (could be fairly spicy), and two colors of chard – “Magenta Sunset’ and ‘Bright Yellow’ – which I attempted to plant in a circle in the center of the garden. We’ll see how that turns out. Just got tired of my usual semi-straight lines and thought to try something new (considered a peace sign but only had 8 plants so couldn’t make it work).

Then, finally, it was time for a very limited selection of seeds. Considering how cool it’s getting (down into the upper 30s at night and only the mid-50s during the day), germination is going to be a challenge for these guys.

Fall seeds

I don’t have a real science of seed planting, but just do it the way my mom taught me – dig in some planting compost, make the trench with your gloved finger, take the gloves off to put the seeds in as precisely as you can, cover it over gently with soil, firm it just a bit, then cover with newspaper (I usually use the NY Times, since I fantasize that it makes the plants smarter) held down at the edges by rocks, and water the paper every day and keep peeking to see if they come up.

All planted

Looks kind of sparse at the moment, but I hope it will fill in and end up providing us with at least a few snips for the salads in the coming months. One year I may try a cover crop to renew my soil out there, but I’ll have to really wrestle with my desire to have something edible growing during each season. For me, there’s nothing like going out on a near-freezing day and still finding some arugula leaves valiantly hanging in there despite the weather. I don’t bother with cloches or coldframes, although if it’s going to get into the 20s, I do sometimes put temporary floating row cover over the stuff I’d like to give a little extra help to.

What about you, get anything started to grow through the colder months?


Street Tomatoes September 18, 2008

Tomato growers in Seattle have been rejoicing as the cool, wet summer finally turned sunny in September. We have now had quite a few weeks of warm, daily sun to help all those slow-ripening fruits and veggies along.

Out for a walk the other day, I was totally blown away by this parking strip tomato patch. Not too many plants, but boy are they producing!

Street tomato patch

The gardener has opted for stakes and twine over cages. Not sure which method is more labor-intensive, but stakes are probably cheaper. Watering method seems to be a soaker hose, and the soil is fairly average-looking but has probably been amended at least somewhat, to produce such healthy-looking plants. These Romas were really looking tasty.

Lurking Romas

These smaller, globe-shaped ones were the furthest along in terms of ripeness.

Almost there

I hope the rain holds off for a little longer so all those big fat juicy ones get ripe.

Need more sun

This street garden is also less than a block away from an elementary school, so I’m impressed that the tomatoes haven’t been pilfered to be used as missiles!


Small and Square September 10, 2008

Making a raised bed for your street garden doesn’t have to be a huge project. I saw this option in my neighborhood, two small, square planters with a nicely edited selection of veggies and flowers.

Square planter boxes

One plant each of squash, alyssum, tomato and marigold per box. They looked so sweet and tidy, and probably take less than 10 min. per week to care for. Each box couldn’t have been more than about 3 ft. across. So cute!

The marigolds were just kind of glowing.

Glowing marigold

Alyssum and marigolds are both edible flowers, although I find that the marigold taste is a little too intense for me. The flowers attract pollinators for the veggies, so everyone’s happy!


Tomato House August 31, 2008

A lot of gardeners in the Seattle area are doing a sun dance right now, hoping for a few more warm days before the rains set in for good. It’s been a cool, damp summer, and many tomatoes are just not ripening quickly enough.

I saw this contraption in a parking strip a few weeks ago when I was out for a walk in my neighborhood. It seems to be a kind of tomato house or cold frame, so the plants could be set out a little earlier than would be possible if they were just out in the open.

Tomato house

I keep meaning to go back and see if it worked!


Towering Tomatoes August 25, 2008

Man, there are some really tall tomatoes growing in the parking strip gardens of our neighborhood! Not sure if it’s the wonky summer Seattle’s been having (cooler and rainier than usual), or just the variety. Even though the scale is a kneeling 5 year old and they’re in a raised bed, I’d still say these guys were at least 6-footers.

Peeking under the tall tomatoes

They took up an entire raised planter bed on the street and really looked like some kind of fairy-tale forest. I hope the fruit ripens, it must be a lot of work to stake, cage or otherwise contain such monsters!