Monday, June 13, 2005

Summer Just Kind of...Came.

Summer has finally arrived, but I think we skipped right over spring. Unseasonably mild temperatures lasted only a few weeks after a long, droll winter. As late as May, it seemed like spring just didn't like Washington anymore. Now we're full-on with 85 degree days and the typical heavy humidity that sinks and sits. Fans do little, and A/C's are going full-throttle. The little gals and fellas in our raised beds have noticed too, as they wilt in the June sun. For shame.

But all is not lost. See, the picture shows it all. We have to get to work mulching the other beds and amending the soil mixture so they don't hold water for so long. It's pretty late, but I have to get some strawberries in the ground over some straw mulch. I was down at the parents' this weekend and had some of the sugar berries fresh off the vine. That really is what summer's all about. Stay tuned.


Monday, May 16, 2005

My Timing

So what do you know? It rains. A good rain at that. Our rain barrell is no longer starved and the pressure on the valve has upgraded from a trickle to a constant stream. I was nervous that I'd have to drag the hose into the laundry room and feed tap water to my precious plants. They needed a drink in the worst way. 3 of the peppers appeared to be out of commission but have made a stunning recovery. Hopefully, the peat moss will keep the ground damp for the next week if nothing else until it rains again.

Emil went out and bought some seedlings. Mints, basil, heirloom tomatoes, tai hot peppers and jabanero. I think it's cheating but hey, I won't complain when it comes time to do some pickin'. The more variety the better anyways. Plus, I've been stressed enough waiting for some of our seedlings to come up.

I did some work in my friend Kim's backyard on Saturday. I planted a cherry tomato plant (with resistance), an eggplant, 4 peppers plants, lettuce, cantelope, sunflowers and marigolds, all in a 4x4 ft square. (I'd show you pictures but she's a photographer and if she really wanted her backyard on the web, she's more capable than I am of doing so at this point.) I'm really nervous about it. I mean.. I can screw up my garden without as much as a whisper, but with her being the social butterfly that she is, if something wilts, the last thing I need is for folks to know that Dale's green thumb was all an illusion.

Thanks Kim for letting us extend our empire.

Dale and Emil, greening the ghetto since 2004.


Monday, May 09, 2005

Harvest Rainwater as well as Vegetables

Dale shows the shabby structure the rain barrel now sits on. Later, it will join 2 more 55 gallon barrels on top of the compost bin, equalling 165 gallons of collected rainwater from the neighbor's roof.

I know, I know, we stop at nothing to conserve and recycle. Well, that's a good thing for both the Earth, the garden and our wallets. Rain water is already considered "soft water" meaning that it doesn't contain the harsh chemicals that tap water does; stuff like chlorine, fluoride and minerals. By collecting water from your roof, it's less likely to pick up contaminates that are located in the ground, mainly from drain runoffs.

Did you know that only 2.5% of the Earth's water supply is fresh water, and most of that is contained in glaciers and ice caps? Of the fresh water that exists, most is locked up in glaciers and ice caps (*Dale, what about 'climate change'? Kilimanaro is losing her icecaps by the week. ~Emil). Water also exists in the air as humidity and clouds. That leaves us with 3/10 of 1% that are found in lakes, rivers and streams. Most of that water is drying up or at risk of becoming contaminated. That's why it's important for us to use as much of that free rain water for agriculture as possible.

The economics of water consumption is pretty simple. Americans already consume lots of water for household activities including 2 gallons a day just to wash hands in a household of 4 and another 2 gallons just to brush our teeth (don't leave that water running). We don't need to give WSSC any more of our money. With the rising population and shrinking resources for fresh water, America is headed for trouble.

If you own a home, think about purchasing a rain barrel or even placing buckets or storage totes outside. If you have no use for rainwater, someone in your neighborhood will. A safe, workfree way to conserve water and give back to the environment. (*Note: I'll soon be retrofitting an atrium gate to filter large debris and provide mosquito control, and a sand filter to remove smaller debris. Activated charcoal and a biological filter would be a lil' much, don't you think? ~Emil)

With that being said, our structure is in dire straits. Luckily, with the garden growing and the lack of precipitation lately, our barrel has lightened up enough for something to be done about it. Mother Nature must've read my letter yesterday because it's a balmy 70 degrees outside with plenty of sun. My seedlings will appreciate that. I picked more leaves from our Boston Red Leaf Lettuce this morning. It's always good to pick lettuce in the morning and at it's peak for crispness

If all goes well, everything will be in the ground by next weekend. This is when we can really begin to implement our companion planting strategies.



World Water Consumption Website

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Christmas In May

Another look at bed #1 on 4.29.

Dear Mother Nature,

You're a miracle of sorts. The changing of the seasons in the D.C. area is the perfect way for us to appreciate the various temperatures and sceneries that occur throughout the year. I loved your winter this year - not too mild, not too cold and the fall brings us assortment of colors to our trees, but it's spring now. My peppers and tomatoes need sun and heat and
worms like to reproduce in warm temperatures as well. My stomach and livelihood depend on you.

Dale (taking care of Mother Earth since 1999)

Bins 2 and 3 are now full of dirt and are awaiting more seedlings to mature. The cold weather doesn't help but having patience does so we'll wait. Bed #3 does have 5 cucumber plants and a pole bean plant. While the weather warms up, I will be constructing a verticle support for that bed as cucumbers, beans, and cantalopes grow upwards on a vine. With the way we're headed weather wise, I can take my time. A positive of all of this is that my lettuce is thriving as they love cooler, early springlike temperatures.

More pictures soon.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

From forefront to foreground: Mesclun Mix, Black Seed Simpson, Romaine. Shot on 4/29/05 in bed #1

Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Let Us" Cheese!

click image to enlarge

4/26/05- Year1 bed - this was the first one. This bed is 4'x8' equalling 32 square feet. Built from reclaimed lumber and nails (read-FREE). Filled with equal parts bag soil, worm castings, peat moss, and homegrown compost

With the uncertainty of more frosty evenings behind us, we began to transplant seedlings into bed #1 this past weekend. Being out in the garden and digging through the soil had to be the most therapeutic experience for me in the last 4 months. Did you know that gardening alleviates stress and reduces the risk of heart disease amongst other positives? No... really.

This is our original bed and it holds sentimental value. We will soon begin planting more crops as we fill up the 4 new beds and make more compost. Monday, Emil purchased leaf mulch from the city of College Park ($11/pickup truck load) as a supplement to the soil, peat and compost that we used similarly in bed #1. The leaf mulch fills about half of the bed, the remainder to be comprised of peat moss, compost, and bagged soil.

This bed will also serve as our cold frame come autumn so conversely, we decided to put most of the leafy vegetables in here including 4 different types of lettuce, swiss chard, spinach and beets. Emil harvested a fresh salad for lunch yesterday, says "It rocked. F'real." My boss graciously gave me a few of his banana pepper and eggplant seedlings which I didn't hesitate to put in the ground. While grown organically, the seeds themselves are not organic. Nevertheless, the good people at Park Seeds can come up with some pretty juicy and tasty hybrid varieties of lots of fruits and vegetables. I threw in a couple of sunflowers which will hopefully serve as a first line of defense against aphids in the garden. I also direct sowed a favorite of mine, spring onions in which 16 plants can grown in one square foot of space in a square foot garden. Very efficient and not too bad in a bowl of miso soup either. Oishii! To round it off, there is a sage and rosemary plant that somehow managed to come roaring back after barely surviving the winter months. In case you're wondering about the wheres as well as the whats of the box, here ya go. Save this pic to your hard drive and reference it as we will bring you weekly picture updates to track the growth of our precious vegetables and herbs.

Let's recap: So far

Banana Peppers (4)


Black Seed Simpson

Boston Red Leaf Lettuce

Eggplant (4)

Mesclun Mix Lettuce

Romaine Lettuce




Spring Onion


All in a 32 square foot space and there's still (4) 1 foot squares left.

Most importantly, all done without the use of any chemicals.

Scores of other seedlings await a bed of their own and as we transplant, we'll keep you updated as well as fill you in on some other interesting tidbits along the way.

Contest! Name Our Bed

"Bed #1" sounds pretty dull and we figured, if we're going to feature this one prominently in the updates, we might as well jazz up the name a little. Post your ideas below. The winner will receive a basket of our fresh organic cherry tomatoes delivered to their doorstep (unless you're further than walking distance from our house, which in that case we have takeout)

More frequent updates... promise.


Thursday, March 31, 2005

Get those seeds started

We haven't been updating frequently, and that's probably because we're busy slaving over acres of seed trays and bags of humus. Not really, but the weather's clearing up here in DC so it's time to get those seedlings a going. Over the coming days, we'll be posting on seed starting. A major topic will be improving your germination rates-encouraging lots of little green spriggies rather than fetid mats of fuzzy white mold. But rather than reinvent the green wheel, has a nice primer of starting seeds early. Stay tuned for our own adventures with the wee ones....