The big reveal of our vegetable garden for our Upstate Adventure!
Can I get a drum roll please? After months of hard work, the garden is ready to be revealed in all it’s corn growing, pumpkin pollinating, tomato loving glory! I’ve teamed up with Lowe’s to raise the curtains on the garden and reveal it!
Are you ready?
In our Upstate adventure, building the garden was first on the list. Can you believe this was where we started a few months ago?
Do you forget what vegetables you have in the refrigerator? With this simple photo project you’ll never let your produce go bad again!
One of the worst things is seeing food go to waste. Do you sometimes buy beautiful greens at the grocery store, use them for 2 days, and then somehow they get stuffed into the crisper drawer in the fridge to be forgotten about until you notice a funky smell? It happens. And it’s terrible.
Even worse is when you grow those vegetables and they go bad. All that hard work that went into planting the seeds, transplanting the plants, watering them for months, sprinkling powder in mid Summer under the hot spot because those damn caterpillars really need to get away from your broccoli plants. All for nothing. Because you forgot you had that beautiful head of broccoli and now it’s bad. That is a case of garden guilt that you will never forget. Truthful note, I have wasted a few vegetables and have then sat down on my kitchen floor and cried about it. It gets rough.
This tip is easy. You can go the simple route and keep a piece of paper on the fridge with all the vegetables that you need to eat written on it. Or you can make it a little more pretty then that – that’s where I introduce you to this photo project.
FUJIFILM instax® camera and film
Yup, only 2 plants are done so far, the rest are just starting which means we’re in for quite a haul of veggies for the next few months!
Welcome to the garden everyone!
As you some of you know, this garden was a work of love this year. I’m talking about the entire process. Remember in the Winter when it was 20 degrees and we were Upstate trying to dig through the frozen ground? That’s love. There was a point in the early Spring where we spoke to each other about the possibility of this completely failing. What if we can only grow on rooftops? I’m happy to report that we can grow in the ground! It wasn’t a failure. I had a moment of pure bliss while standing in the garden on Saturday morning, looking around and seeing all green. We built this, we grew this, we created this garden together. It’s all for the love of vegetables.
Remember just a few months ago this was what the garden looked like?
There’s been some ups and downs. First there was building this massive garden. It was hard work. We don’t live Upstate, we live in NYC, so our time spent on the land consists of working, working and working. To be honest, we still haven’t had much time to enjoy the land as when we drive up there every weekend, we’re on a mission to get our week’s worth of gardening in one day. Yup, you read that right. This garden gets taken care of one day a week. That’s why the fence is so crazy, we knew we couldn’t prevent animals from attacking while we aren’t there so we decided to make it tough for them to get in. So far it’s working. Because we only visit once a week, we rely on good soil filled with nutrients to make sure the plants stay healthy and strong when we’re not there. We got a pH test done in the Winter and the soil was lacking nutrients. The soil was super acidic and had low mineral and organic values. To give you a idea, Phosphorus was “very low”, Potassium was “low”, Calcium was “low” and Magnesium was on the low side of “Optimum”. The soil pH value was 5.6. Yuck. We pray to the weather gods that it rains once or twice a week to keep the plants watered, but if it doesn’t, then we water our hearts out when we visit once a week. Thankfully because of the soil and nutrients that we added in, the soil stays pretty wet, which means it can take care of itself when Mom and Dad aren’t there.
Use paper towels to keep your lettuce leaves and sugar snap peas fresh for weeks. The paper towels help remove moisture that can make your vegetables go bad.
Right now we are picking pounds of lettuce and sugar snap peas. Just this weekend we picked 10 pounds (!!) of lettuce and 5 pounds (!!) of sugar snap peas. We usually don’t pick this much lettuce at once, but the heat hit and we know it’s going to turn bitter if we keep it in the garden so we’d rather pick it now. Over the past few years I’ve spent lots of time experimenting trying to keep our vegetables fresh for as long as possible as there’s nothing sadder to a gardener then seeing their plants go to waste. You might have remembered last summer’s tip on how to keep your lettuce fresh for a month with aluminum foil? Yup, works great! And now I’m back with more fresh tips, this time for lettuce leaves and sugar snap peas. All you need is your vegetables, paper towels and a produce bag.
Yup, it’s another harvest post. Yup, we’re picking the same veggies as last week again.
This weekend we had off and on rain while visiting the land, with a heavy downpour happening in the late afternoon that followed us back to NYC. I can’t complain about getting wet in the rain though because water is definitely what the garden needs in this stage.
Our refrigerator is filled with greens right now. We have no idea how we’re going to eat that much lettuce. Thankfully I figured out how to preserve lettuce better last year, and now I can freeze all our bok choy.
So let’s jump right in, sugar snap peas, bok choy, lettce, kale, collards.. I’m coming for you!
The sugar snap peas are in full growing mode right now, we’re picking them by the bucket. Last weekend we picked over 5 pounds!
Did you have a good weekend? The weather was beautiful on the land this weekend, 70 degrees, sunny, and the perfect amount of breeze. It started out chilly enough in the morning that I had to wear a sweatshirt, to the afternoon being able to wear a t-shirt and then at dinner time I needed a sweatshirt again. Saturday had it’s ups and downs for me. I enjoyed gardening, picked lots of vegetables, painted some of the fence (can you guess what color?), had a cookout with some friends who stopped by. The downs were that I started the morning hitting my head off the car door, and then I found a snake skin (terrified of snakes) where I was sitting, and then I found said snake that was trying to hang out with me (that was not happening) and then I fell near the stream grabbing on to some thorny bushes that need to be cleared on my fall down, cutting up my hand and leg pretty badly. Thankfully we had a first aid kid and Matthew happily covered up my hand heavily in ointment, gauze and bandages.
All pain was forgotten when I bit into the campfire made S’more that night.
But on to the veggies because that’s what this post is about.
Keeping with the theme of all the greens we picked last week, you’ll see a repeat of many characters – bok choy, lettuce, collards, etc. We’ll be picking these for the next few weeks and I’ll continue to keep googling “What to do with lettuce” because there’s lots of it!
It’s that time again – time to harvest vegetables from the garden!
And it’s time to show you the reveal of the garden, well it’s not really a reveal because it’s not 100% done (still has to be painted and cleaned up) but here it is, in all it’s vegetable glory! I should have a person in the garden for size comparison, because it’s big. It’s really big. There’s endless amounts of vegetables. I love it.
Transitioning from growing on the roof to growing on actual land has been a learning process full of hard work. We started the process of building the garden during the Winter to have it ready to go for Spring. We started planting to a new schedule that was scary due to possible surprise frost dates (still scary). We battled (still are) water issues. We’re learning. We’re working really hard. We filled the last garden bed this weekend. And it’s all so very exciting because we’re finally picking vegetables. This garden thing (on land!) is actually working.
So now starts weekly harvest posts. We go up to the land once a week to water, clean up, plant and pick. And then we lug all those beautiful vegetables back to NYC. We haven’t really had a chance to enjoy the land yet as we’re working constantly there, but soon enough we’ll be able to take a breather and relax alongside the plants.
What are we picking now? I’m glad you asked. There’s lots of Spring greens growing right now at rapid speeds and they’re all ready to be picked. Does anyone need any bok choy? Seriously. Maybe I went a little crazy planting 94 bok choy plants.
We have a entire bed of bok choy plants, we started picking fuller plants 3 weeks ago, and they are just growing and growing and growing. And I’m picking, picking, picking.
Beep, Beep, the plant car is here! Jump on it if you can find a spot. And be careful for the rose bushes!
While the vegetables are growing in the garden, this past weekend we headed to Lowe’s to pretty much buy all their fruit bushes and Rhododendron plants that they had. We had 5 big garden carts filled with berries, trees and flowers going down the checkout aisle, while people marveled on how we were going to fit it into our tiny little car. Our small neon yellow Honda Fit has carried quite a lot since we got it in the Fall, people are always amazed by how much it can carry! I’m not sure if we could have fit any more plants in it, branches were literally reaching out and tickling our noses in the front seat.
How to Build a Rainwater Catchment On a Shed Roof. It’s easy to attach gutters onto your shed roof to collect water for your vegetable garden.
We decided we were going to add a few rain barrels on the land to collect water for the garden. We are trying to be “off the grid” as much as possible for this adventure so it made sense to us to try to catch all the free water we could. For this, we built a shed in the garden and added gutters to it to collect water into the rain barrels.
In just a few days we collected a full 50 gallons of water into one barrel, so it was a big success! Now we hope that it rains every week so we can get a full 100 gallons to water our plants with. Here’s a rain barrel calculator if you want to see how much rain you can collect.
We bought cheap vinyl gutters and mounted them to our shed with gutter mounts. The most difficult part was the mounting of the gutter hangers. For this we used machine screws to install the gutter hangers on the shed by drilling through the shed wall and fastening the machine screws with washers and a nut.
We used a gutter end with a drop at the back of the shed to funnel the water down and then some flex spout to direct the water right into the rain barrels. The rain barrels are connected to each other in the back with a small hose that we cut. Once one barrel fills up, then the hose will transfer water to the 2nd barrel until they are both full.
I believe growing your own food is important so I wanted to help promote this project as home gardening is something I feel strongly about! This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day®.
Yes, you read the title right. If you clean your house, basil will grow. It’ll be like magic, but not really, because we all know if magic was involved, our houses would be cleaned without us lifting a finger.
But back to the story. Basil – don’t you love it? It smells great, is bright green, looks just as pretty growing in the garden as it does in a mason jar, grows easily and is the best friend for sandwiches, pasta pesto and pizza recipes.
Basil is such a easy plant to grow in the garden and is pretty resistant to the elements to tear it down. If you’ve ever grown basil you know how big it can grow. With just these 2 basil plants, we had basil forever! Bonus is that if you have too much basil, you can dry it to store in jars (great for sprinkling in casseroles, soups, lasagna, etc).
Do you remember a few weeks ago we planted the first (ever!) plants on the land? Well now all the Spring vegetables are planted!
A week after the first vegetables went into the ground, the broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy and potatoes were planted. None of it went stress free through. We are still getting used to our new Upstate growing calendar (much colder than NYC, especially at nights) and with that comes a little heart break. The weather said we were in the clear at nights, but after everything was planted we had 2 sudden days below freezing which sadly killed a few of the plants. Thankfully we covered the seedlings up with row cover fabric adding in a extra 4-8 degrees protecting most of them. Although I don’t want to lose any plants, I’d rather lose 10 than lose 200, so I guess we lucked out as a few other people in town didn’t fair as well.
So now… let’s check out the rest of the plants that will complete the Spring season!
First up, the broccoli. This year we have a lot of broccoli growing and we’ve grown some of our best looking seedlings ever. Aren’t they handsome?
Watch as we we plant onions, sugar snap peas, cabbage, lettuce, kale and more in the garden! All plants started from seeds. Follow along with our Upstate journey here!
This weekend was very exciting because we planted our very first plants up on the land! If you want to follow along with when we plant, you can find it on the seed calendar.
We’re slowly adjusting to the new seed schedule for Zone 5A. It feels like we’re planting late since we’re so used to NYC Zone 6B. This is all going to be a learning experience to figure out when we should plant, probably with some heart break thrown in. We looked at tens of charts to figure out when was best, and decided to take a chance and plant our more hardy plants that could survive the cold nights.
So on Saturday we planted sugar snap peas, onions, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, collards and lettuce!
And before I go any further, here’s a time lapse of the first bed being prepared and the plants going in! High 5! (I’m exhausted)
We had lots of plants to get planted in one day. Right now there’s so much to do on the land so we tried to stay as focused as possible to get them all planted. We were coming back to NYC after planting, so we knew we had to get them in the ground.
Garden MUST HAVE for starting your vegetable seeds! With just a few supplies from the home improvement store you can make your own DIY Seed Grow Light Stand. This is a easy project to make instead of buying a store bought light stand – saving you hundreds of dollars! We use this for our seeds and they grow amazing – last Summer we picked over 1,000 pounds of vegetables!
This year we wanted to upgrade to a larger space for our seedlings to grow. In the past, we had a large shelf with grow lights, but with the garden getting bigger this year, that means we need more space to grow seedlings. (Tip: Check out my post on how to germinate seeds).
We began to look at premade grow carts from all the garden suppliers and were shocked by how much their grow carts cost. They were anywhere from $700-$1300.. and sometimes more! Not being ok with spending that much money on a growing system that we knew we could make for a lot less, we set off to our local home improvement store to make our own!
You’ll need 3 main supplies to make your own Seedling Grow Light Stand.
The Spring 2016 seeds are planted! Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Collards, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Kale and Onions seeds are all popping through the soil! Come and cheer them on!
We’ve been busy on the weekends getting the Upstate garden ready. This weekend we put lots of hard work in, and next weekend will be even more harder. The good thing is a day of Upstate work equals a week’s worth of workouts (research done by me). I’m going to have such strong muscles one day.
While we’re busy doing manual labor, there’s labor going on here, but the plant kind. The seeds were planted, and they burst through the soil at record speeds. We built a new grow light cart his year (DIY coming soon!) and it’s been majorly effective. In the past we’ve had to wait about a week for our broccoli and bok choy seeds to come up, but this year within 2 days they already broke through the soil and were waving hello. As usual, we planted double seeds in each pot, and as usual every seed came up. It’s always the difficult choice of killing a seedling, or doubling your garden. We have garden parent guilt syndrome (aka GPGS) so we usually can’t kill the extra seedlings. Matthew is like “You cut them” and I’m like “No way! You do it!” and then noone does it. Just today we were planning on getting rid (that sounds awful) of the double plants, but we decided to “hold off”. That means we’ll never do it.
We always grow our vegetables from seeds. Not only is it worth it to watch them grow from seed to vegetable bearing plant, but it’s much more economical. A pack of seeds averages on $2-$5 and that can sometimes get you up to a few hundred plants! A baby plant at a nursery usually costs a few bucks (if not more with heirloom) and you don’t even know if it’s going to survive, so you can see how much money you save. Since we started growing the rooftop garden we’ve learned that it’s important to have good quality seeds, ones with high germination rate and successful growing. Johnny’s Seeds are our go to seed company. We’ve been buying off them for years and have never been disappointed. We have a list we usually stick with every year from growing experience, but occasionally we try something new (lots of new pumpkin varieties this Fall!).
When you get a email invite to a private event that Michelle Obama and the White House are hosting for Let’s Move, you accept it. Well your heart skips a beat, you accept it and then you try to figure out what shoes you’re going to wear. It goes in order like that. That’s what happened last week.
Last week, I made the trip to Washington DC to attend a event to have a conversation on the health of our nation’s children. Let’s Move (started by Michelle Obama in 2010) is a group initiative to encourage healthier food in schools, better food labeling and more physical activity for children. Gardening goes hand in hand with this initiative as it’s important to grow your own. Growing your own vegetables promotes healthy eating, but it also informs you where your food comes from and the process of plant life. If more families were to start their own gardens, they would eat fresh vegetables more often, along with creating family activities to build/maintain and to learn about gardening. I’d say I was one of the few non parents at the event, but I don’t think you need to be a parent to understand why eating healthy matters and to encourage it. Since we started the garden on the roof years ago my own eating habits have greatly improved. I love vegetables now. Sometimes for dinner I just have vegetables, years ago that would have never happened. With the experience of growing the garden I learned so much about nature and the planting process. If you haven’t planted a little itty bitty seed and watched it grow into a full on broccoli plant, you haven’t lived. Even at 32 years old, I’m still excited and amazed when I see a few ounces worth of seeds can turn into hundreds of pounds of vegetables. Before having the garden I didn’t even know where so many vegetables came from. I know it was a plant, but I didn’t know what the plant looked like, how long it took to grew, growing conditions and more. Growing your own makes you respect vegetables a whole lot more. Can I get some respect for vegetables? Amen. And lastly, because of these vegetables I learned how to cook. I almost think it should be a required class in schools now to learn how to cook. If we all cooked at home, think of the impact it would have on obesity, overall health and factory farming. If you follow this blog then you probably already know the joy and satisfaction one gets when presenting a meal to their family that is home cooked. I wish everyone could experience this!
Remember I posted about the garden shivers on Monday? That feeling you get when you’re so excited about the upcoming garden season, you shake from happiness? Yeah. I got the garden shivers bad. I’m so excited.. I just can’t hide it.. I’m about to lose my mind and plant way too much corn!
The garden season is always exciting, but this year it has a new excitement to it as it has so many unknowns. As many of you know, Matthew and I will be starting a larger garden Upstate this year, on our new land project. To go from growing on our rooftop in Brooklyn to growing in the real ground Upstate, there’s going to be changes and surprises. To begin with, our garden season is going to get shorter. Usually we’d start planting our seeds indoors in January but we won’t be planting them until next week as the last day of frost is May 31st in our new zone of 5A. (by the way, I found this really helpful site that lists growing seasons by zone). From there, the garden season lasts “safely” until the last freeze free date which is October 1st. We’ll try extending it as long as we can! The big change here is size. Our garden just got a whole lot bigger with the land. That means we can grow more vegetables and try new things. It also means figuring out what can grow best in this zone, along with our rocky clay soil (I’m getting a soil test done right now – will post about results!). I’m also ready for heart break. There’s going to be heart break. Animals. Weather. Diseases. A gardener has to be prepared for a few garden tears. But a gardener also has to dream big in my opinion. That makes it so much more fun and exciting. 🙂
Knowing that we have to get our seeds planted soon, and being affected by the garden shivers at a very high rate, we sat down this week to plan the garden. This is not 100% firm as things change once you are in the garden space, but it’s pretty close to what we’ll do.
Buying land was the result of wanting a garden that came with no rules. So it’s no surprise that the first thing to build on the land is a garden! It’s funny to think about where the garden started from. In 2009 it was 32 square feet and then it became a few hundred square feet, getting bigger by the year. Now it has a few acres to grow!
The future garden is 56×40. That’s huge! We started smaller but I complained it wasn’t big enough so we expanded another few feet (thanks Matthew!). Now that I can stand inside the garden space I realize how big it is and how many plants it would take to fill up the area. Maybe I went a little crazy, but at least we have room to grow!
It’s hard to figure out what steps to do first when you’re starting from the beginning (and in Winter). I suppose our steps could have been in a different order to make things easier on us, but with us spending sporadic weekends up there and wanting to use the equipment when we have it to avoid extra rental day costs we’re doing things as we can. For example, over Thanksgiving we put in the fence posts because the weather was nice and we had a free weekend. Now that the posts are up, there’s no way a truck is going to be able to empty soil/compost into it easily when Spring is here. That means they will have to dump it nearby and we’ll have to move it into the garden ourselves. It’s extra work, but we think in the end it’s going to make the process completed quicker. Plus to be honest, the process is sometimes much more fun than the complete project.
With the garden being the first thing we want completed we wanted to get a jump on turning the soil. We rented a skid steer for a weekend to remove the top layer of grass and turn the soil under neath. We are in the Catskills so we knew it was going to be rocky but we weren’t sure how rocky it was going to be. Our land is former farm land, but it sure is rocky too. Over the next few visits we’ll be removing as many as the rocks as we can. There’s lots of rocks. I guestimated millions. There’s no way we are going to be able to remove all the rocks, but there are some big ones (that I can’t even lift) that need to be removed as well as endless smaller ones. The goal is for every rock that’s larger than a tennis ball to be removed. You might think this sounds easy, but there’s tons of rocks and we dug deep to turn the soil… so rocks are everywhere. I see them in my nightmares! I tried to find a easier way to do this but without some heavy duty farm equipment, it seems by rake and hand is easiest. You’ll see me sitting in the dirt often in the next few months. It might look like I’m not doing anything but I really am! I’m going to become a expert rock picker. The rocks are going to be used to line the exterior of the garden too, we’re trying to give back to the land whatever we dig up. We think lining the outside of the garden with rocks will help keep pests from digging into the garden. Since we won’t be able to guard the garden on a daily basis we’re trying to protect it however we can. It’s going to be a learning process with some heartbreak involved.
In the pictures below you’ll see our garden posts up. I’ll be doing a whole series on how we built our garden fence. Right now the fence posts are in (hard work). Next, the fencing material and wood needs to be attached to make a complete fence. This is going to take time, some friends and some hopeful warmer days. I’ll be documenting all the steps so by end of Spring you should see a entire DIY fence post coming!
Now let’s first see the damage we did over the weekend.
Yup, the title is correct. We picked tomatoes in January. It’s crazy!
If you live in the Northeast then you probably have witnessed this confusing “Winter” weather. Usually in November you can feel the weather start to change but this year it didn’t hit. Then December came and I thought “Well, now it’s going to feel like Winter”. And on a few days, it did. But the majority of the days did not feel like Winter. Oh Christmas Eve we took a walk, me in short sleeves and Matthew in shorts. It was in the 70’s! ON CHRISTMAS EVE. I have to type that in caps to understand the craziness. December set temperature records across NYC, including Christmas day. Now it’s the beginning of January and I think it’s finally starting to feel like Winter. Winter, are you here? It’s me, Pamela. Snow if you can hear me.
Because of the lack of near frost temperatures and our schedule getting busy, this year we didn’t cut down our tomato plants like we usually do at the beginning of November. There were still some green tomatoes on the plants and the weather was still changing daily so we left the plants up. November came, December came, and the tomato plants stayed up. During the Winter we don’t visit the garden everyday so you can imagine my surprise when I checked it out one day and I saw all these tomatoes on the plants! Can you believe it? I thought the plants would be dead by now, but instead they’ve been on the roof making tomatoes! What busy plants…!
So with it finally feeling like Winter (40 degrees out today) and seeing the upcoming night time temperatures I took a basket to the garden this weekend and picked pounds of tomatoes. I can’t believe we were able to pick tomatoes in the beginning of January!
Remember when I said a few weeks ago it was going to frost shortly? Well it didn’t. I’m kicking myself for picking all those green tomatoes but it’s better safe than to be sorry. After all, they are turning red in their shoe boxes beautifully. So with yesterday almost reaching 80 degrees and the previous weekend requiring a Winter hat, it’s a little confusing. I assume this is how the garden feels too, confused. Should I grow? Should I not grow? Should I call for Mom to harvest me? Should I keep Mom away from us because she keeps doing weird dance moves?
With a basket in hand I made it to the garden this week to pick some final vegetables of the season. The plants are winding down and I really believe this is it (minus the kale). I picked a nice selection of green beans, peppers (bells and jalapenos), soybeans that I’ll be picking out their pods forever (anyone want to help?), tomatillos and the final red tomatoes.
This weekend we’ll start working on a new garden project that’s exciting but you’ll have to wait to hear more about it this month. I can’t wait to get to work on it so I can share it with you!
For now though… let’s look at what I picked!
A nice selection of veggies..
Green beans for days. I’ve been freezing them so it looks like we have alot of green bean soup ahead of us for the Winter.