Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Great Gardening Craze of '09

The sun’s been out for much of the past couple weeks, and so we’ve been spending a lot of time biking around town. One thing that’s great about biking is the time it gives you to really take in the scenery you might otherwise rush past while driving a car. Among other things, it's led us to notice there’s A LOT of vegetable gardening going on. People are literally ripping out patches and stretches of lawn and installing vegetable gardens. It’s kind of amazing. We've seen all kinds of people out gardening, from retirees, to children with their parents, to college students working the decks of their apartments. We've even seen numerous gardens springing up in the median strip between sidewalk and road.

It’s really a crazy thing to watch. Times are changing!

Is this your first year gardening? If so, share your story!


We shot past 3,000 registered members last week, and we want to take a moment to thank everyone who has helped spread the word about Veggie Trader. Many people have asked us how they can help, and so we've posted a flier people can use wherever appropriate. Find it here.

We plan to add a variety of different fliers and post them sometime soon.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Container Garden Update: Life outside, browning leaves, and apple tree love (or not)!

It's been raining most of the week, but thankfully the sun is making brief apperances today and promises to be out in force this weekend. Assuming we're done with torrential rain for a while (fingers crossed!), we figured today was as good a day as any to start introducing our tomato and pepper starts to the great outdoors. We placed them outside in the shade for about an hour this afternoon. Tommorrow we'll increase the amount of time outside and the amount of light they get. With any luck, they'll slowly acclimate to the natural sunshine and outside elements and be ready for planting within a couple weeks...

So far we've had good luck with our starts. A couple weeks back we transfered them from small peat pots into larger 4" containers without losing any of them. We've got over a dozen healthy looking tomato plants and hopefully the final transfer/transplant to the outdoors will result in at least several healthy plants.

Browning leaves?
Many of the peas we planted weeks ago have developed a light (and in some cases not so light) browning of the leaves near the base. Could be a number of things. They're still growing strong above so I'm not too worried yet. We'll see how they progress...

To pollinate or not?
Last thing to report on is our columnar apple tree (pictured above from the top down). It's ablaze in leaves. Can't believe it was a barren stick just a month back. We had grand visions of pollinating it and maybe enjoying some apples this year, but then a gardener at the nursery told us pollinating a dwarf tree in its first year isn't the way to go. Apparently when these trees bear fruit this young it can be stressful to the roots and stunt their future growth. Our tipster told us if the tree does become naturally pollinated anyway, we should promptly remove any apples we see growing. Don't know for sure if this is true, but it sounds reasonable. Anybody know for certain or have different ideas?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Caviar in the Garden

Today was a great sunny day (for a change!) and we volunteered at one of Portland's community gardens where we ended up weeding a lot of crab grass. Pulling up weeds always seems to reveal interesting objects that get buried in the dirt. We found a Sponge Bob child's bandaid, a glittery green Christmas tree ornament, various pieces of trash, and...


Hidden in between clumps of grass we found beautiful, clear clusters of salmon-sized roe. It took us a moment to realize we were looking at slug eggs. Funny how at sushi restaurants tiny, transparent eggs are a delicacy, but in the garden they're just plain icky.

Since our cameraphone photo came out blurry, here's a photo similar to what we saw:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Local is the New Black: the Joy of Guilt Free Shopping

I’ve had to push aside the pleasures of shopping for a while now, forced to forgo trips to the mall in pursuit of more important priorities like saving money. But this weekend I went on a mini-spree, and I have to say it was the most fun I’ve had shopping in years! And no, I wasn't shopping for shoes or clothes. This weekend I went shopping for tomato plants at Valley View Farms, a great garden center here in Maryland.

There I was enthralled by two dozen varieties of tomatoes, and hundreds of other plants from herbs to fruit trees, all started by professional growers here in the area. I whiled away several hours taking it all in. As a first time gardener and a person who enjoys the occasional good shopping trip, I felt like I had found redemption in this difficult economy. Buying seeds and plants is fun! And it turns out buying them local is even more fun. During my visit something occurred to me: Local is the new black! And I don't mean black as in the darkest color, I mean black as "in the black".

I started hearing the Buy Local manatra about a decade ago in California, and now it seems everywhere I look there are Buy Local posters. They fly like flags on the walls of every small business I wander into. Here in my neighborhood in North Baltimore is another great local resource at Belvadere Square. Planet Produce sells seeds from Landreth (the country's oldest seed company based on the east coast) as well as seedlings for a dozen different culinary herbs and several varieties of tomato plants too. Tomatoes grow exceptionally well in the hot Maryland summers. If you get your plants while they're still small you can thread them through the bottom of a hanging container. They love being upside down!

Anyway, when I patronize local businesses, I know I'm keeping money in the neighborhood. I'm helping my neighbors do good work, and I'm encouraging more jobs, right here. Plus, I know there is nothing better for the environment than when I buy local food or grow my own. Most of all, buying plants is as much fun as buying clothes but a lot more rewarding and certainly lighter on my wallet. I'm hooked on this guilt free shopping!

BTW – Veggie Trader is more than just a website for gardeners and those looking for local food. If you’re a local shop selling seeds, plants, tools, supplies or even local produce, you can use Veggie Trader for free local advertising. Just make a listing!