Gardening where the sidewalk ends

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


Surprise Shallots October 17, 2008

When spading over the veggie patch the other day, getting ready to plant the winter salad seeds and starts, I accidentally unearthed some small treasures – two baby shallots, forgotten from last spring.

Surprise shallots

Sadly, they were mushy inside and couldn’t be eaten. They should have been harvested last spring, since I planted them the previous fall (a year ago). Not sure why they got missed or if I will ever figure out onion/garlic/shallot growing. I seem to do okay with green onions (scallions) but not much else. I’m not even so great with chives. Maybe it’s genetic – my mom can’t digest onions very well and she only grows the mildest garlic.

For more info on growing many members of the onion family, click here.


Sidewalk Carrot Patch September 21, 2008

Proof that you can grow just about anything in your parking strip, as long as you till it sufficiently and amend the soil:

Sidewalk carrots

Yep, those are carrots, which I discovered on a walk in my neighborhood. They look totally healthy and the entire bed was filled with them. I had tried carrots on the street and found that I needed to put them in a raised bed or they got too stunted, but this gardener seems to have figured out how to make them happy straight in the ground. I like the little green wire fence that surrounds the patch, a gentle reminder to human and animal passers-by alike to step carefully.

There is almost nothing more satisfying in the world of vegetable gardening than pulling your own carrots. Somehow, the buried treasure aspect of “what’s this one going to look like?” can be more of a treat than the actual taste. I’m going to try them again on the street next year, and if the birds, ants, and pillbugs don’t intervene, maybe I’ll actually get to harvest some!


Fabulous Fennel September 5, 2008

Oh man, this might be the perfect parking strip plant. Tall enough to provide scale and structure, but easy to whack back and see grow again next year. Hardy as heck (in Zone 8), zero care required. OK, it’s classified as a weed in some areas, but just deadhead the flowers before they go to seed, and keep after any sprouting seedlings before they get too big and they’re easy enough to control. At least that’s been my experience! I had a great-looking copper fennel (herb) in my last garden; this year I’m trying a low-growing bulbing fennel (veggie) that doesn’t seem to have much in the way of bulbs yet, hm.

This beauty is practically a grove of trees, in a neighbor’s parking strip garden:

Tall fennel

I love how the flowers attract butterflies and bees. Plus you can eat the pollen, seeds, fronds and stems, all tasting deliciously of anise. Mmmmm.

Would someone please tell me if they ever see fabric with a fennel flower print? I think I need some pillows that look like this:

Fennel sky