July 4, 2013

Volunteer tomato plant outsmarts season. Gardener begins to take phenology more seriously than phrenology

The compost bin has birthed three seperate tomato plants, four potato plants and a mouse den.  I have no idea what has happened to the potatoes, or the fat mice that ate my seed supply last week, but I do know that the three tomatoes are enormous and outrageously healthy.   This makes sense, nitrogen is the nutrient that makes plants green, and the compost bin is essentially a high nitrogen lasagna of horse shit, green plant material and shredded copies of the GRID.

September 7, 2012

Goldenrod, I've misjudged you!

This medium sized specimen of Goldenrod (Solidago Odora) established itself in one of the discarded ice cream buckets this spring.  Goldenrod tea, or Blue Mountain Tea, has been used to relieve fatigue, kidney stones, water retention, and other inflammatory conditions for an obviously uncountable number of centuries.   Go here, to see the University of Maryland's description of the plants properties, and go here, for Susan Weed's Herbal animatismic description of how to prepare and consume the plant.    Unlike Ragweed,  which looks similar, Goldenrod's pollen sacs are small and sticky, and won't produce the high levels of dander/pollen that provoke allergic responses.  So we love you!    Go here for a great diagram of how plants make babies with other plants.  

Mixed Greens!

Part of the weeks harvest for Parts.  In the full heat of summer the lettuce mixes are cut down while they are baby greens,  before they have a chance to bolt.    Bolting occurs when the plant has realized that it wont survive in the current climate (lettuce hates the heat), and so it puts all of its energy into making babies.   The plants will discourage predation/snacking during this special time by turning tough and bitter, and the center stalk will "bolt," up skyward to produce a flower and eventually seeds.  
When lettuce goes to seed it morphs from a chubby ball into a 2 foot high swirling tower.  Despite how attractive these tango dancers can be, we're going to keep cutting them down before they have the chance, and so you can have your salad!

July 2, 2012

Facing south on Canada Day 2012

I thought they only came out at night...?...

Proof that nocturnal animals are on the same inverted sleep schedule as most Queen West residents.      This picture was taken at 5am, and I hope Raccujo here had a safe rumble off to bed soon after.   Ignore the rabies joke/link.  His demeanor was groggy and unaggressive, and it's not his (her?) fault that I can't stop referencing Steven King this week.  

Plants review tapes, part 1./Gardener goes on vacation

There are a great number of people,  that believe that plants are sentient beings, and that will respond just as positively to pats, sweet talk and tunes as they do to light, water and nutrients.   If you want to shoot straight down that rabbit hole I would suggest visiting this film, The Secret Life of Plants.   I'm not 100 percent sure of what is up with any of this, but let's see what the little vegetable kingdom dudes think of this.. The Magic Garden by the Transcendental Rodeo.  

On a similar note,  this week I will be heading up to R Murray Shafer's land to cook in a solar powered tent for a group of artists building a labyrinth.  You can check out their Asterion Project here.  Schafer is a composer and ecologist who has been producing work about our sonic environment and its relationship to our personal and ecological health since the 60's.  He is best known for his World Soundscape Project , and I would seriously suggest checking his stuff out.      I suspect I am a cool 24 hours from getting my mind fully blown, and it's overdue! Happy July everyone!K

June 27, 2012

Just because it's cute, doesn't mean you should put it in your mouth.

Who knew that LBMs, or the catch all category of mushrooms called Little Browns, were the cause of most fatal mushroom poisonings in the USA.  This has been chalked up to their benign appearance (something so small, so bewitchingly parasol shaped couldn't be bad!), and unlike the amanitas or false morels,  they are so freaking available.  I am going to suggest foragers go to the experts HERE.  It's a link to the Missouri Department of Conservation's poisonous mushroom catalogue.  Very attractive, very informative, and a lot of interesting links about the woods, and how to make it out of them in without breaking your in or outsides)  

As for the LBMs you see up top, I am the opposite of bummed about their presence in the soil.   They are the fruiting body evidence that the mycelial culture that we deliberately introduced into our soil mix is still alive.   Paul Stamets, the revered mycologist and my former teacher, described mycelium as the internet of the soil, the facilitator of underground information exchange in between plants and the nutrient transfer from soil to roots.  Mycelium is a mass of single cell wide, threadlike structures known as hyphae, and the hyphae germinate from mushrooms spores (that powdery stuff that gets on your hands when you rub the gills of a mushroom cap).  It spreads under the ground like a spider web, mirroring the pattern of a cracked windshield.   In Oregon there is a mycelium matt that covers over 2,400 acres and may be the largest single living organism in the world.  In his book Mycellium Running, Paul Stamets says that this enourmous fungal mat had dispatched the forest above it multiple times to build up a soil layer for its future hyphae limbs.   How?, I have no freaking idea.    Go HERE to see Stamets talk about how he cured his stutter at 16 with psyilocibes, and to hear some incredibly hopeful information about how mushrooms are capable of repairing a great deal of the damage we have inflicted on our environments.  Stayed tuned for an attempt to grow edibles up top using wood palettes and the water run-off from the hood fans.   K

June 23, 2012

Glorious greens

Chef Matheson's generous and delicious "Roof Greens" presented last night at Parts&Labour.  No wallflower side salade.. this board dominates to feature a landscaped massing of sweetest carrots, green onion, lettuces, radish and nasturtium flowers sitting pretty next to rogish pecorino; all olive oil and herb doused.  Get your own. VT

June 5, 2012

This cellphone photo will not kill this bee?

After reading a great deal online about how electromagnetic signals from cellphone towers are killing bees, I came across this seemingly credible article on a Vanderbilt University website that suggests that those apidae eradication claims are way off base.  I'm not sure if I am selectively studying this because I want things to be ok.   
Their hopeful data - apparently the bees just get lost/sound drunk for a bit - doesn't excuse the fact that the manufacture of my phone components contributes to an environmental gong show that I can't qualify, but because of the Vanderbilt study I feel a little bit less like smashing my face through a clear glass window (thank you yoko ono).   Look at that bee shaking that chive flower down for its pollen!  Stick around little buddy.  Please.  

A Bag of Horse S#*t

You know, in its tangible form, it's really quite useful.   Contributing to a bumped up nitrogen ratio for the compost pile, this laugh riot weighed as much as a bag of water or cold butter (approximately 2 pounds a litre).  It was a challenge to haul up the ladder on my back, and I'm pleased to report I avoided soiling my pants.   This photo was taken from roof level, behind the compost pile, facing south towards Queen Street West;  one of the natural habitats of the unbagged variety.

Whoa, it's totally wild Sorrel. Thanks Rob from Bellwoods Brewery!

The chef taking over for Guy Rawlings at Bellwoods Brewery came up to hang a few days ago, and he identified the center bucket as a tasty member of the sour flavored sorrel family known as wild, or sheep sorrel.    We sent Rob, and his friend from Paris, home with a volleyball sized bag of our rampant mojito mint, and some Lemon Balm to help with the French ladies hangover.  The next morning there was a text from them that was sent at 4am.  It confirmed that the Lemon balm had helped, and that mojitos were successfully piled on top.  

Too good to beer true.

Something has been eating the hop plants, and now I know that it is this little guy, the caterpillar of the Hop Merchant Butterfly.  The final product of all this destruction is an outrageously beautiful monarch, but this is my first time dealing with a member of the Limacodidae family up top, and I have the feeling that Ed Lawrence's pest management/dish soap spray isn't going to cut it when it comes to eradicating these athropods.  
This guy knows a lot about dealing with hop pests, and if you want to see some extremely far out shots of caterpillars up close, go here.    I did a lot of hand caterpillar picking yesterday,  and cut back any hop leaves that looked even remotely colonized by eggs or caterpillars, so we will see how things go.

  The most interesting thing I learned about this pest, besides its amazing name, was that it only feeds at night.  During the day it will roll itself up in the hop leaf like a slumbering burrito of doom, and wait until evening to punch holes in things with its face in the pursuit of its future wings.  Pretty freaking respectable.  We will see who makes it through the summer in better shape, they, me or the hops themselves.  

Profit in thee margins

Turns out you can make side money off plants that blow in on the wind.  
The  edible"weeds," that have volunteered in the bins appeal to chefs because they are both uncommon and highly flavorful, and they usually have nutritional qualities above and beyond cultivated varieties of greens.    
 From top to bottom you see lambs quarters, the stalk of a watermelon radish that couldn't hack the heat blitz last week, decided to skip the delicious bulb production part of its reproductive cycle  and, "bolt," up into this stalk that supports the flowering part of the plant;  It tasted like a radish and a rapini had a tender baby.  The pink purple flowers are the actual radish flowers, and the pale cream flowers at bottom are arugula flowers.  All of these blooms taste like their parents, with the added bonus of making you feel like a freaking millionaire for having eaten such an ethereal portion of a plant.  Best jams! 

June 1, 2012

Harvest Round 2/Plants want to grow, so let them.

When Patty and I (the bread baker at Woodlot), pulled the tarp off the compost pile last month, we found this tiny deer tongue lettuce rooting in this slab of rotted cardboard.   I transplanted it to one of our sub-irrigated bins, and four weeks later it is the size of a basketball, and part of the second large salad harvest for Parts and Labour.  You can see it in the bottom left corner of the black bin below.  Awesome. 

May 28, 2012

First big harvest/hops vines pass 12 feet/naps up top reported

The first large, on-contract harvest for Parts and Labour happened on the 23rd of May.  The kitchen received 5 dozen radish, 4 grocery bags full of baby greens, two large bunches of chives and their flowers, a bouquet of lovage the size of a soccer ball (with more up top if they go through it) and two bunches of thyme.  Parts chef Matty has been selling the radishes as an appetizer with whipped salted butter and chive flowers, and the restaurant was sold out of it by mid-evening Saturday.   On Sunday I sent the kitchen an additional 30 french breakfast radishes to keep the opening weekend garden menu consistent, and those spicy jerks (the radishes) were almost too big to hang out in the soil another week anyway (win win!).  Super pleased to see the 6 nasturtiums in buckets are chubby enough to handle giving up 40 leaves for the vegetarian night at Charlie's Burgers.  Yeah!

May 18, 2012

First Harvest!

From top to bottom, two bags of chives, lovage, two chickweeds, thyme, and stinging nettle.   There is also a giant harvest of the Mojito mint.  Next week the salads will start and as usual, I am frustrated and amazed by how often plants ignore the timelines predicted on the seed packages and do their own thing.   
Beyond the natural wild-cards,  I would also like to figure out how to prevent pigeon gangs from hanging out up top, and why they are so into the anise hyssop?!   Probably connected to some kind of delicious bug that likes the plant too.

May 15 2012

Hops already 10 feet high.  Psychedelic trellis courtesy of Patti, who bakes the bread you eat at Woodlot. 

Dear identity thieves, get bent.

 I always have piles of bills, and since it is always recommended that one obliterates these things,  lest some no-goodnik finds it in the trash and uses the information within to steal my identity, I have decided to incorporate the paper into my gardening routine.

The bucket you see is an eighteen liter pail that I had crammed with bills and bank statements and random junk from the government.  I soak the entire mess in water until it becomes an unrecognizable pulp and then throw it into the compost pile where it will become a source of carbon for the piles digestive process.  The secondary benefit of this slurry is that it adds extra moisture to our unwrapped pile that I don't want to fully dry out - and in the roofs high heat, high wind microclimate that is pretty likely without additional water.

Transplants went in, that chickweed came out.

Transplants are a good way to get a head start on the growing season. Some of these babies grew up at Urban Harvest and some of them in my living room under full spectrum fluorescent lights. Two inches taller than the seeded lettuce up-top, they will speed up our production timeline.  The plant in the back going nuts is chickweed (again!) I though about tearing it out, but instead I'm going to aggressively haircut the thing, fertilize it, and hope the undergrowth exposed by said shearing will rise up chubby and available for salads.

April 24, 2012

Some people are very very smart.

Revamped, "baby-totes," stroller found at Queen and Lansdowne last week. Best new toy. Totes a bin perfectly.

April 23, 2012

Winter storm warning for Ontario/lights out!

I've started bundling all of the bins in tarps because CTV can't stop talking about a winter storm front, and many of the baby plants that came up might not be able to handle being direct pressed with snow.

The pallets are pining the tarps on the south side of the bins because the wind tears up the roof from that direction, and I wanted to make sure they stayed put. It's supposed to be snowing right now..... but we'll see? This year we are experiencing an early monarch migration, and even though I'd like to think the cold will only knock out the early gnats and mosquitos, I doubt it. Ugh. Hope for cold rain.

Chickweed rolls across town to Bellwoods Brewery

We gave Guy Rollins some greens from the roof to mess around with, and they showed up on this, what my pal called a bowl of, "calm the eff down." He is a parent to an 11 month old, so I'm inclined to trust his expertise in such matters. It was super simple and outrageously tasty. Chicken of the Woods mushrooms, rye toasts on Rye berries (i think?!) with some buttery tasting sauces and the aforementioned chickweed. So just in case excellent beer wasn't enough for you, now you have no reason not to line up at Bellwoods.

April 19, 2012

gnats get it on, on my finger.

I did not have the heart to break this up. Probably because gnats only live for a maximum of four months, and we are on top of a bar... Fortunately for their romantic objective, they like moist soil medium and we have a lot of that. The adults have no interest in eating the plants but if their is huge larvae outbreak in the soil (unlikely) the baby roots might be at risk.

For some very specific info on gnats, and a bunch of other info on natural insect control in your garden, go here. Go here to see what it looks like when countless thousands of gnats mate in mid-air. Check out the dragonflies and their mathematical hunting moves that one commenter called, "quartering the yard." On top of their obvious size and speed advantage over the gnats, dragonflies can independently move each of their four wings and fly backwards. They also mate in mid-air. The gnats never had a chance, even if they weren't completely distracted.

When I searched Dragonfly sex on youtube the results were way less weird than I thought they'd be, and this amazing video (with a homemade soundtrack?) leads you sideways into an amazing, super technical series of science links. Check out, "Solar Death Ray Water," to see why you should never build a flat roofed structure out of clear vinyl in any place you don't want to burn to the ground.

The plant behind the scene is Lovage number 2. Crow for scale.

April 15, 2012

I just don't want them to eat you.

Multiple barrier methods to keep the birds from eating the newly planted radish, carrot and lettuce seeds. Plastic crow for intimidation.

In the past few days I have planted Purple Haze and Scarlet Nante carrots, French Breakfast, Easter Egg and Watermelon radishes, and Red Deer Tongue and Frisee lettuce. Hopefully (likely!) in 4-6 weeks there will be rooftop salads in the restaurant downstairs. Because lettuce seeds are usually scratched and patted into the soil surface instead of planted (they like to germinate in light, and at temperatures in between 40-75 degrees Fahrenheit), they are most vulnerable to our avian opportunists. Background of lower photo shows multiple bins of hop vines that were established in 2011. The vines are already 1 foot high.

The tree in the chive bin is a Cedar!

Thank you for identifying this Jonas (Ecoman).The best part about this is that there are no cedar trees within sight of the roof, and the seed must have blown in from who knows where. I find it interesting that companies like Monsanto can claim that a buffer zone of 660 feet will prevent any and all cross contamination in between their GMO seeds and organic crops. Fortunately for them, they excel at ignoring science, reality, and the large series of islands known as Hawaii that were once nothing but volcanic rock.