Flower Power 2010- Call for volunteers

The Bates Area Civic Association will be having another Flower Power Walk this year and well people are needed. Hopefully the walk will take place on a Saturday in late June, so what will be needed are people to volunteer to give tours. Before that can occur volunteers will be needed to get the word out, help with signage (producing) and volunteering to host a sign. If this interests you contact Flower Power at bacaflowerpower at gmail period com or me.
Related to neighborhood beautification, BACA is planning on having a big spruce up on May 1st. The last clean up I was able to make a dent in the trash in my alley. I picked up a big yellow bag at the start location, went back to my street, then hit the alley, and dropped it off at one of the trash drop off points.
But once again, I really need help with the Flower Power walk so please, if you can volunteer for one or more things, drop a line.

Lasty, I’m going to be migrating this blog over to another URL this week. There might be several “This blog has moved” posts. Ignore them until I post something at length stating the new URL (hopefully will be blog.inshaw.com) before updating your RSS feed.

I really need to get my garden in gear

Patio tomato
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

Last year I was chomping at the bit for Spring to come so I could start planting seeds and planning my garden. This year with various things going on, such as the short notice roommate, bf, and some stuff I’ll just shove under ‘financial’ the desire is not at the same level. Also I mentioned to friends and neighbors that I’m not going to plant as many tomatoes as I did last year. At the end of the season I had a several tomatoes that rotted on the vine simply because I didn’t know they were there. I was concentrating too much on the tomatoes the squirrels ran off with.
I know I’m going to do arugula, alpine strawberries, tarragon, sage, thyme, onions, and cilantro. Mainly because those items have either re-sprouted or reseeded themselves without any help from me. And I still have some leftover seed from last year and it seems tomato seed lasts a year or more. I’ll have to see if the same can be said about cucumber and hot pepper. I collected seed from my beets and will give those a go. So the only new seed I may buy is basil and parsley.
I also decided on a different use for the garden, as a supplement rather than a main source. I love puttering in my garden but last year I overdid it. Also I want to support the local farms and buy their produce, so that is another reason to cut back. Yet I do love having food growing in the back yard so I can quickly grab a little thyme for this or a few beans for that. I can’t wait till the BFM opens up again, anyone heard anything about it?
Still, I need to get rid of some pots, take some cuttings from the bay laurel and sell off the main tree, and start some seedlings.

Shaw Homestead Report

Front Yard Garden
Originally uploaded by In Shaw

No, that’s not my yard, but the amazing front yard garden on 8th Street near the Giant. Comparatively, my yard is sort of disappointing. The tomatoes are just plants. A few sport some small green globes. So far I’m doing very well with arugula and I’ve been giving away the salad to friends and neighbors. Another salad item I’ve got going gangbusters in the yard is purslane. I saw it at the Mexican Fruit Stand and found out it is called ‘Verdolagas’. But no need to buy it as I have tons of it. I just have to avoid steeping on it, and the arugula.
I also have growing cucumbers, beans, sage and a bunch of other herbs. The cukes are weird. I bought a particular variety of cucumber that formed softly furred baby cukes. The other plant (I swear from the same seed) has fruit with hard spikes.
I, like many it appears, have started experiementing with canning. My excuse is, I’m running out of room in my freezer and would like to remove the things that can be canned. I ordered a hot water canning kit from the 5th Street Hardware Store, then went back later to pick up the last set of 1/2 pint canning jars they had on the shelf. I’m hoping that if and when my tomatoes do come, I can can them. So far I’ve canned a banana rum jam and some peaches from a neighbor’s yard. I’m still looking at the jars carefully to make sure I did it right. 72 hours and so far so good. I would can the cherries, but my favorite form of preservation is to soak them in vodka. I’m trying to see if the drunken cherries are somewhat shelf stable. Problem is I keep eating them.
Speaking of canning there are a few articles in today’s Post’s Food Section. One on 14th & U and Bloomingdale farmer’s market vendor, Stefano Figerio. Stefano’s pastas are taking up space in my freezer, which is why I must can.
And some dissappointing news about food, organic isn’t as organic as we’d like. And if you really want to depress yourself (or not, depends on you) here’s a big ole organic agri-business chart. Last word, which makes this mess so sad, I was overhearing a conversation between a shopper and one of the farmers at the farmer’s market. She wanted to know if the veggies were organic. The farmer tried explaining that he couldn’t use that word “organic” because of the USDA rules and what not, but yes, no pesticides or unnatural fertilizers.

Arugula blossoms

Over at Apartment Therapy’s Kitchn they have found a use for flowers from bolting arugula. I got tons of bolting flowering arugula. Unfortunately, all that bolting arugula looks kinda weedy to the untrained eye. I know this because young men came to my door offering their services to pull out all those ‘weeds’. Not the first time someone has done that.
I am trying to collect seed from these bolting plants so I don’t have to keep buying seed. When the seed pods have dried, I’ll pull up the plants and restart my salad days again.

BACA Clean up May 9th & Flower Power Walk 6/13

Okay, I got a couple of BACA Flower Power tickets to sell. Flower Power is the Bates Area Civic Association garden walk, and this year it is going to be on June 13th. It is a good opportunity to look at others yards, see what grows well around here and steal ideas. The tickets are $10 and I take PayPal. Money goes to fund other BACA beautification projects.
Also this weekend as a part of the build up for Flower Power is a BACA clean up, with a focus on tree boxes. May 9th between 9 and 11 or noon, at the corner of 1st and P, neighbors will be gathering together to spruce up the area. It is suggested that you bring your own tools and keep them in your sights.

In 60-70 days I should have tomatoes

Containers &In ground I look at this picture to remind myself that in a few months my front yard will b overrun by greenery, and I will leave some tomatoes to rot on the vine because there is no way I’m going to reach back in there and retrieve them.
Anyway, I’m now actually trying to use up the tomato pastes and sauces I made with last year’s tomatoes to make room for this year’s tomatoes. I look forward to the little cherry, the flavorful paste and the plain old tomatoes. Right now they are seedlings that aren’t sure if they want to live or die. If the little baby plants decide to commit suicide, I’ll buy plants at a farmer’s market (Bloomingdale starts May 18th) or Home Despot.

More Tomato Posting

I got an email from a marketing company and after some light investigation figured it was worth passing on to y’all.

For the first time in its more-than-100-year history, Campbell Soup Company is making available to the American public specially cultivated seeds used to grow tomatoes for its iconic Campbell’s® Tomato soup. The effort is part of Campbell’s goal to grow more than one billion tomatoes across the country and to support American agriculture. Campbell also is teaming up with the National FFA Organization and Urban Farming Inc., each of which will use the special seeds to help create five community gardens in urban communities.
To learn more about this please to go http://akamediainc.com/SMNR/tomatoseed.html

Campbell’s on their own site appears to be giving away seed with the purchase of soup. At “Help Grow Your Soup” you can click and donate seeds to their project and get your own seeds.
I already bought all the tomato seeds I’m going to use this year. I tried a new to me seed company “Totally Tomatoes” to get indeterminate and determinate tomatoes. Indeterminate just go all over, determinate tomatoes like the balcony hybrids, are a bit more bush like. Totally Tomato had more of a choice with the determinants.

Other Seed Sources of Interest:
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange– Virginia based and mid-Atlantic focused.
Pinetree Garden Seeds– Smaller packets of seeds. Seems a bit cheaper than some other suppliers.
Cooks Garden– My personal gardening rule is if I can’t eat it, I don’t need it. This is a seed supplier who factors in taste.
Nichol’s Garden Nursery– She wrote the book on container gardening and I bought seeds from her site.

A tax category I’d like to see

I was walking by three different vacant lots on my way to work. One is used as a parking lot occasionally, but for most days of the month lies vacant. The other lots are fenced in, and there are a few other lots I know of along alternative routes to the metro, also fenced in.
Anyway, I was thinking, it would be great if these lots were community gardens. About half of part of the lots get full sun. Even better a couple have southern exposure. A way to encourage this could be a reduced property tax rate for owners who lease green space to gardeners. In the city center, where there are more apartments, condos and townhomes with non-existent yards there is a demand for greenspace. If there was an environment that encouraged this sort of land use, it would be great.

Frost Free gardening

April 10th was supposed to be the last frost date for Spring, so I got out this weekend and played in dirt.
Inside the house I’ve been growing tomatoes from seed in the window. I took a few of the balcony hybrids and replanted them in larger pots. I also have some not-exactly red type tomato seedlings growing in the window as well as I love the odd varieties, the yellows, the green stripes, the orangish and whathaveyou.
Last year, some heirloom varieties we (we being me and neighbor B) grew were duds, producing nothing but lots of vines. I’m going to blame the light, or lack of it, in the rear yard. The front yard produced a bunch of rudely shaped San Marizano (?) plum tomatoes suffering from mild blossom rot. There were tons, and tons of cherry tomatoes that were great for snacking and I’ll do them again this year. The Russian heirloom variety tomato was a late season type that produced these huge monster tomatoes that most of the time I did not let ripen on the vine because one part would look 1/2 way to rotting. Having them ripen in a sunny window (to fight whatever mold-like thing growing on one side) was my best bet.
Besides tomatoes I planted some bean seeds. I’m doing the french string bean thing again. I really enjoyed similar beans I had grown before and a meal at Corduroy featuring buttery string beans reminded me of how great this vegetable is.