Posts tagged ‘urban’
New York City isn’t exactly a desert, but any time you use tap water you’re also using the energy that it took to purify that water, so I’m trying to use rainwater as much as possible for irrigating my garden. Originally I just put a bunch of buckets out and hoped they would fill up, but that took up a lot of space and didn’t yield many gallons.
So I had to take more drastic measures – with a hack saw. (more…)
I just wanted to give you an update on those lovely seedlings that I cultivated about a month ago: they died. After a couple weeks of happy growing on my windowsill, I decided to mess with them (separating the biggest ones out into different pots), and a lot of them perished in the process. The plastic containers that I started them in didn’t have holes, either, which meant that they didn’t drain properly – also a big no-no. The ones that did survive (mostly peppers and a few herbs), I moved out into the back yard into a rinky-dink greenhouse (or cold frame, as it were) that I fashioned out of six old windows and some rope. They did ok out there, because they got a lot of light, but I still probably ended up wasting about $30 worth of seeds. Boo.
The whole experience was educational, though. And I like my little greenhouse – I think I’ll rebuild him when fall rolls around and see if I can grow some kale and other hearty greens out there next winter (in the same vein as my mini greenhouse experiement at my old apartment). The windows I’m using now are double-paned, which I think will help raise the temperature during the day and insulate overnight, so hopefully we’ll get some food out of the deal.
Anyways, RIP to those poor little guys that I obliterated, and let’s cross our fingers for the seeds that I just put into the ground. Hopefully Mother Earth will take better care of them than I can.
Finally, after what seemed like an endless cold spell that nearly ruined the first half of April, this past weekend brought a heat wave that gave me permission to plant my seeds outside. The timing really couldn’t have been better, to be honest, because with the heat wave came a tidal wave of soil. I liken this soil to a tidal wave because when the truck dumped the five yards of it onto the sidewalk in front of my house Saturday morning, it reminded me of tidal wave nightmares that I used to have when I was a child. I think the dreams were symptoms of being overwhelmed by homework and whatnot, whereas the enormous quantity of soil represented my and Boyfriend’s naivete about the actual size of a yard of soil.
I have never been responsible for anything so massive in my life – this was literally a ton (maybe more) of dirt. With the help of my brother and some neighbors, we hauled it, bucket-by-bucket through my railroad apartment and out into a heap in the back yard until it was clear that we weren’t going to need any more back there. The rest (about 3 yards or so) was left for the neighbors to take.
In most neighborhoods, a pile of dirt would be an unwanted eyesore, but this might as well have been a pile of gold. We have a serious soil shortage here in NYC. So the folks next door grabbed a bunch, and then throughout the day a variety of characters, including a few community garden representatives, brought trucks and buckets and picked away at the heap until it was all gone. Thanks to Craig’s List for facilitating those connections.
Now that I had my soil and my warm weather, I got to work planting my seeds. I found a nice companion planting chart online and planned out what plants would go where, and then started shoving the little guys into the soil. I put in about 20 kind of vegetables (corn, beans, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, greens, etc), and another dozen or so herbs as well as some flowers. Planting seeds is always quicker and less labor-intensive than every other part of gardening, and once I was done I felt like there must have been something I left out. Dirt? Check. Seeds? Check. Water? Yes, I watered everything. Check.
Now I can sit back and wait for them to spring to life. Soon I’ll be weeding like a madwoman, so I might as well get some rest while I’ve got the chance.
My garden is still a ways away from the green eden that I imagine it will be in a few months, but it’s coming along. Last weekend my dad came down to visit and brought a little electric chain saw that my grandpa used to use in his own tiny back yard in Jersey back in the 80s. We used it to cut down some dead trees that were hanging precariously over the garden (one of them already fell down a few weeks ago on a particularly windy day), and then chop up the tree branches and trunks to use as fire wood and for lining out my garden beds. The beds are still empty and I need to get some more good compost to fill them with, but it’s exciting to see where my food will be growing this summer. I plan to get test the yard soil tested to make sure I don’t end up poisoning myself – I hear you can send it to Rutgers and they’ll test it for you. Which reminds me, I should call them. Later!
Look how big my seedlings have grown! It’s only been a week and a couple days since the little guys were just ova, and now they’re real live plants. Not all of them have grown to this size yet – the herbs and peppers are slower growers than the ones you see here (from left to right: cabbage, basil and brandywine tomatoes). Pretty soon it will be time to separate them out into larger containers to their little roots can spread out and their stems and leaves can get big and strong. Watching these teeny guys grow makes me feel like a proud mommy – I almost teared up when I saw the first little sprout push up through the soil. In a few short months I’ll be picking their fruits, chowing down and then saving their seeds for next year.
This morning I checked my handy Farmers Almanac to find out when this year’s last frost will be, and it turns out that it’s in five short weeks – which means I’m a week late at starting my seeds! There was no need to fret – it’s better to start your seeds a little too late rather than a little too early – but I didn’t want to hold out too long so I got right to work and planted about 20 out of the 40 veggie, herb and flower seeds that I bought this year. Starting your plants indoors is relatively simple, and it only took me about 2 hours to get all my seeds in dirt. Here’s an overview of what seed starting takes: (more…)
New York City has this great tradition, where the Sanitation and Parks Departments pick up all the tossed-out Christmas trees, bring them down to the park and grind them up into mulch. I had the great pleasure of volunteering at one of the parks where the mulching was taking place last week, and it was really something. As you can see in the photo below, they had this big industrial-strength chipper and within a few hours had turned well over a hundred trees into a huge, piney pile of mulch. I had the foresight to bring my car with me (cars are bad bad bad), and filled it up with bags of mulch that now exist in the form of a large, decomposing lump in my back yard. Come spring time (or as soon as the snow melts and it’s not unbearably cold outside) I’ll use the piney stuff to make paths between my garden plots – this year it’s too fresh to use on the plants themselves. Yay for mulch! And more on my garden coming soon…
The NY Times reported this morning that the recycling industry throughout the US is being negatively affected by the economic meltdown. It seems that the prices for recyclable materials have dropped, thereby making it unaffordable for many recycling companies to keep collecting materials. In big cities like New York, it’s not causing to much of a problem, because the cost of sending trash to the landfill is still higher than the cost of getting it recycled, but small-town Americans are seeing their recycling programs suspended or cut back, as the companies who collect their reycling are running out of space, an the companies who turn the recyclables into new stuff will only buy the materials at exceptionally low prices.
Contrary to my post the other day, this scenario is an example of how the economic crisis is, in fact, bad for the environment. Even if the crisis is causing Americans to cut back on their consumption of consumer goods, more of their garbage is now going to the landfill instead of the recycling plant, which balances out any possible positive results of our new found stinginess.
If the current government an the incoming administration support a bailout for the Auto Industry in the name of saving jobs and promoting greener cars for Americans, I think it’s only fair that they also institute some sort of recycling sector bailout that would give incentives to companies to buy USA-made recycled products. Many of our recyclable materials have traditionally been sent to China to get processed and sold back to us as paper, car parts and other small consumer goods, so promoting local processors and giving American companies a reason (tax breaks) to buy our own trash and make it into new things here would have the dual effect of keeping money and jobs here at home, and keeping trash out of our landfills. The new administration may also want to consider simply outlawing the use of newly mined or logged materials in times when recyclables are in surplus (like now).
Aside from just reducing landfill tonnage, recycling saves massive amounts of energy and other resources – there’s a great Economist article that outlined all of this a couple years ago – give it a read for more info.
Last week we got our first real snow here in New York, which meant that I had to run outside and salvage what was left of my herb garden. I managed to clip some sage, parsley and a little rosemary. It’s sad to admit that I won’t be getting any fresh herbs for several months, but I managed to dry some of the herbs that I grew and hopefully those will last a little while.
But check it out! My mini greenhouse is still standing, and there’s even some greenery staying alive inside it!
I transplanted a rosemary bush in there and it’s doing well, and the broccoli and spinach that I planted (from seeds) a few weeks ago have sprung up already – hopefully they’ll grow to full-fledged veggies someday. It’s exciting to see that my little experiment is working so far – it’s actually keeping the soil and air inside the house warm!
More updates to come, as well as my winter potato garden experiment (which I have yet to commence but will probably get to around the New Year.