Summer Strawberry Season
Harvesting Beautiful Broccoli
How to Store Your Lettuce Harvest
Weekly Garden Update
Lettuce Harvesting
Growing in a hydroponic home farm – great light or not!
Harvesting Onions and Radishes
Preserving Strawberries, Kale and Basil
Vertical Growing Green Beans
Sugar Snap Pea Update
Planting The Tomatoes
Meet Steve’s Plants
Planting Broccoli + Cauliflower And How To Build Garden Containers
All About the Greens
Cleaning Up The Strawberries
Northeast Gardeniere
Planting Green Beans
Weekly Garden Round Up
Strawberries Showing Signs of Spring
Spring Onion Planting

Summer Strawberry Season

I love the summer because it’s strawberry season.  And I love strawberry season because it means I get to pick the sweetest, most delicious strawberries right off the plant and throw them directly into my mouth.     It’s hard for me to save the strawberries to make it downstairs because I am often found looking through the strawberries, eating them one at a time exclaiming “These are so good! Try one!”.  Matthew doesn’t like strawberries, he’s weird, right?  If you’ve ever grown your own strawberries then you know nothing can beat them – they are hands down the most sweetest, full of flavor strawberries ever.  Every summer I get so excited, I just can’t help it.  Strawberries – yay!


And I have to say it feels a bit wrong for me to do anything with our homegrown strawberries but eat them raw.  I mean they are just so perfect and juicy and sweet, they don’t need anything else.   Isn’t a bowl of strawberries such a delicious snack? Or on top of my cinnamon cereal in the morning?  



I’ve lost track of how many strawberry plants we have.    When the garden first started, we only had a few plants and they grew ok, but they were kinda small (picture above).  I did some investigating and I learned that strawberry plants last multiple years, each year growing larger berries.  So if you have new plants and your berries are on the small side, don’t give up!  Big berries are on it’s way!

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Because with some love and care, eventually your plant will start producing bigger, beautiful berries!  That’s alot of B’s.

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Earlier this season I decided we didn’t have enough strawberries so we bought some more buckets.  I did a Gardenieres video on how to make strawberry buckets so when it goes live I will be sure to post it! 

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And then we had more strawberry plants!

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When you start to notice the first flowers on the strawberry plant, you should smile.  This means these flowers will soon turn into strawberries.

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You’ll look one day and notice the flowers turned into green berries…

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Then they slowly turn colors..

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Until they’re strawberry bright red.  That should be a official Crayola name.

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When our berries are bright red, then I know it’s time to pick.   You’ll want to keep a eye on them because they change colors quick and if you don’t pick them, they will go brown. That would be tragic. 

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And we can’t let that happen because we need this sweet strawberry in our life. 

I love the adventure of finding the strawberries.  Sometimes they hide out in between buckets, sometimes they hide under leaves.    Strawberries, don’t hide from me.

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If  I don’t eat them all on the roof, when I bring them downstairs I pat them a little bit with a paper towel.  This makes sure it gets any water off on them in case it rained, or because I squirted the hose a little too high.   I do not wash them.  

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Then I throw them in a mason jar and put them in the refrigerator.

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This is hands down the best way I ever found to keep fresh strawberries.. well, fresh.  They can stay in the mason jar for about 10 days until they start to turn mushy.  But they never last that long.

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Even after a week, you will open up your mason jar and the strawberries will still be crisp.

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When I take them out of the jar to eat, then I wash them…

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And then I immediately eat them.  


Do you love strawberries? Are you growing any? 

Harvesting Beautiful Broccoli

Oh broccoli, you know I love you.  It might be the way I look at you, or the way I touch every single plant before I leave the garden for the day, or maybe it’s the broccoli stories I tell you so know you can grow big and strong.   I hope you know how much happiness you cause us.  Every single year you start out as a little seed and then you grow slowly.. and then BOOM you’re a giant plant producing broccoli heads larger than my entire hand.  

Remember when you were just little guys growing in our loft under a light?

And now look at you, you’re all grown up!

Let’s look back on the broccoli…

I remember your first day where you were transplanted outside.  It was a chilly and wet day, but you were brave!

You lived under the greenhouse, but we’d open it often to give you a little hello.  You were growing slowly.  

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Each week it seemed like you were getting bigger and bigger.  But it was still cold out, so you were still under the green house.  I bet it was scary at night for you.

And then when the weather slowly started to change, we knew you could do it, so we took the green house off you.  You smiled, it was a brave new world in front of you!

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You saw everything new around you, there were other plants, a big open roof, airplanes flying by and 2 people staring at you lovingly.

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A few weeks later after every single day looking to see what was going on at the bottom of your plant, I spotted it.  You guys were growing heads!

And for the next few weeks your heads continued to grow slowly…

Every single plant had a head growing now…

And bigger and bigger you grew..

Until suddenly you were giant! You grew so big, so strong, so perfect.

Every single one of you (and your brothers not pictured to the side) grew beautifully. 

We would stand back at admire every single one of you. I would sing you songs, you would cringe, it’s ok.

So as you each grew ready, we picked you.  We danced with you, we hugged, we told you we loved you!

Some days there were so many of you the basket couldn’t even hold you.  So instead I carried you in my arms.

It was beautiful days we spent together.

You met some other friends like the onions and radishes.  

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And as you came back down to the loft where you were born at, we continued to admire you.  

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You pretty perfect broccoli guys.

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Your stems and leaves were composted to be put back into the garden.  You guys just keep giving. 

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Your florets were perfect.

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How do you do it broccoli, how do you win our hearts every year?

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I hold you in my hands and give you a little kiss on your head.  And then I eat you.  But that’s because I love you.  You know this.

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And as we continued to eat you fresh, steamed, in casseroles, in stir fries, in soups (so many recipes coming soon!)… we continue to think you’re perfect.  You just are.

Thanks for the memories broccoli.  You guys rule.


How to Store Your Lettuce Harvest

So what to do when you pull your plant and can’t eat all the lettuce right away?

We know there’s a great range of recipes, but how about we just store some lettuce leaves to grab for salads, burgers and more for the next month?  Lettuce can last that long if you store it right.   I find the best way to preserve lettuce the longest is by washing it,  drying it, storing it in airtight Ziploc bags.     To wash and dry them I use a salad spinner (this is the one I have) and it’s changed my life, I’m not even kidding.  The great thing about the version I have is, is that it’s also a colander, so you can soak it the bowl to wash off your dirt.  Then drain.  Then spin to dry.  After that, I wrap the lettuce in 2 pieces of  paper towel to keep fresh and crisp, then put in a Ziploc bag.  Get all the air out of the bag and close.   Then you’re all set.  Your lettuce will stay fresh for a few weeks.  Also, reuse those plastic bags!

Here’s the steps.

So you pick your gorgeous lettuce – first, a high 5 is deserved!

First, you want to wash it.  Take apart all your lettuce leaves on the head.  You can fill your sink up with water and push the leaves down, rinsing until clean.  Or if you have a salad spinner, you might have a built in bowl that you can just fill up with water and do the same thing.

Keep rinsing with water and scrubbing the lettuce every so slightly until all the dirt is off.

Now it’s salad spinner time.  For the version I have, you just put in the spinner, put the lid on top, press the pump a few times to make it spin around really fast.  Then push the stop button to make it come to a quick stop.  This will make sure the water pushes off the lettuce, drying it.  Do this as many times as you need to until your lettuce is dry.
Here’s a Vine I made demonstrating it.  (click to play if needed). 

Great, we got some gorgeous green lettuce leaves – all dried!

Then I set them out on a few pieces of paper towel.  I pat them just to make sure there is no excessive moisture on the leaves.

Then just wrap them, like you are rolling a blanket burrito. 

Now you want to try to get all the air out of the bag so the lettuce stays crisp.  Do you know the straw trick? It’s one of the many tricks Matthew has taught me.  Zip up the straw in your plastic bag you are using but let the top part out.  Then using the straw, breathe in and suck all the air out.  Keep sucking in until you think you’ve vacuum packed it as much as possible.  Then quickly pull the straw and zip the remaining part up.

Now your lettuce is stored and will remain fresh for weeks to come!  Pull out a piece whenever you need it.  lettuceIMG_2557

Weekly Garden Update

Hi all. 

It’s a hot Sunday here and just being on the roof, I majorly felt it.  Note to self: Bring sunglasses to the roof, always.  You never do and you are constantly blinded.  You squint and then you immediately get a headache.  It’s really bright up there, the way the sun reflects off the silver roof is intense.  Protect yourself! 

So how’s your garden doing? What’s growing, what’s ending, what’s beginning? 

Here is how our garden is looking in Brooklyn today as it slowly transitions from Spring to Summer…

Come on in as I give you a guided tour.  The plants are in no particular order, just as I go along the garden.  I’m just saying that incase any of the plants read Brooklyn Farm Girl and think I’m picking favorites – I’m totally not.

The pumpkin plants have started to grow big, but there are no female flowers yet to pollinate.  I am on the lookout!  These plants will eventually just crawl all over the ground. 

Watermelon plant is looking the same way, it’s beginning, but no females yet.

The cucumbers are looking great.  No cucumbers yet to be spotted…

But I have been mingling the females and males, so hopefully they make some babies.

We’ve seen some of our worst enemies on the cucumbers this week: aphids.  So we’ve been jet hosing them off this week.  If we keep on top of spraying every single day, it usually helps prevent aphids from expanding their horrible colonies that cause tears.

Hello giant tomatoes.  

Remember I posted the tomatoes grow so tall they need 2 cages stacked on top of each other? Well it’s June 9th and the tomatoes have already grown out of their cage.  So the next cage is going on top later this week.  Wild, right?

There are so many flowers on every single plant which makes me very happy.

Because these flowers lead to these glorious people.  Hello Roma tomatoes!

Hello Big Beefs!

Hello Cherry tomatoes!

We also moved some of the tomatoes around this week so they are in 2 separate structures.   We put cucumbers between the tomato plants as cucumbers grow low to the ground and tomatoes grow tall, so we’re able to get in there and more easily water, harvest, etc.  

Here are the pepper plants!

We already spotted some peppers!

Random herbs, Rhododendrons, Beautiful weeds.

The potatoes have exploded.  We’ve been mounding them up the past few weeks but we’re pretty  much at the top of the container now.  Potato plants are hands down one of the prettiest, perfect plants.

The new radishes came up!

While some of the older radishes are like “hey lady, pick me”.

We have onions of all ages.  These ones are big, ready to pick, have been picking a few a week to eat with dinner.

We picked him to bring to a taco party later this night.

These ones are mid age, and young ones.  You can see some bulbs forming off to the left, while the ones to the right are still getting there.

Kale – it just rules.

The broccoli was all picked this week and let me tell you, it was delicious.  Recipes, Harvest Pictures, Lots of exclamation points coming to a post very soon!

The cauliflower has shown up and is causing us great happiness.

The cauliflower is just beautiful.  We had a steamed head for dinner a few nights ago and we ate it in silence because it was that delicious.

I am picking strawberries every single day!  They are the sweetest!

Sometimes I can’t even make it downstairs and I’m just taking them off the plant and they go straight in my mouth.

Strawberries, you guys are real pretty.

We got some strawberry runners already too.  Last year we turned the runners into their own plants.  


You cannot tell because it’s in shadow but there is some orange peeking out!

3 sisters boxes! Corn, Squash and Beans!

The corn is looking great, it’s about 1 foot high, if not slightly taller.

The green beans have started their climb up the fence.  You can see we have 2 leaders already. Who will reach the top first?

We picked all our lettuce heads, but there is lettuce greens left.  I need to cut them before they bolt.

Sugar snap peas!  They were just babies a few weeks ago, and now they are taller than Matthew who is a little over 6 feet tall.  I love these sugar snap pea guys.

The box is just full of them – all over!

So we’ve been happily snacking on them and are planning some great upcoming dinners with them!  They are absolutely delicious just picked right off the plant and eaten right away, what a crunch!

Sugar Snaps, I love you.

Hope you enjoyed the garden walk through this week!

Happy Gardening! Wear sunglasses and sunscreen. 🙂 

Lettuce Harvesting

This is the time of the year we always pick our lettuce, and I begin googling “What else to do with lettuce besides salads” like a crazy person.  I like to try new things!   (Make sure you check out my lettuce soup recipe too!)WP_20130527_043

I’ve posted about this before but I grew up not liking lettuce.  It wasn’t actually until a few years ago that I embraced lettuce.  That’s another thing a garden does to you, it guilts you into trying every single thing.  Well I just grew that lettuce and it was hard work, so I’m definitely going to eat it.  Wait, what happened.  This lettuce actually tastes good.  No way, it tastes way good.  Oh my, let’s grow another head of lettuce.  Soon before you know it, you have harvesting multiple heads of  lettuce, sitting in a corner, eating lettuce leaves whole while wigging your nose like a bunny rabbit.

Here are lettuce ideas:

  • Substitute your bread or taco shell for lettuce. 
  • Make your sandwich as usual, then just roll it up!
  • Make lettuce soup. (recipe coming soon!)
  • Saute it.
  • Braised lettuce (recipe coming soon!)
  • Add it to any soup for a great soupy green. 
  • Make a layered taco salad. 
  • Substitute lettuce in Chinese dishes (for example: use lettuce instead of bok choy). 
  • Cut up small pieces of mozzarella and halved cherry tomatoes, roll in a piece of lettuce.  This is a great appetizer or snack. 


While the lettuce is getting to a healthy size, we cut off a few outer leaves as we need them.  Having a cheeseburger? Few leaves get removed.  Salad? Few more.  Just be sure you aren’t cutting too many leaves  off one plant while it matures.  You still want it to remain sturdy and leafy. WP_20130524_021.jpg  

Then when the plant looks mature, I find it best to pull the entire plant.  You want to make sure your lettuce does not go to seed (start to get flowers and bolt) as it will make your lettuce bitter.  When it starts to get very hot out, I know it’s going to bolt quickly, so I keep a close eye on them.  This one is ready to pick!  Just pull out at the base and keep twisting, it should come out of the ground pretty quickly as lettuce plants do not have deep roots. WP_20130527_044

One lettuce plant, harvested!

And here’s another!

Remember when the lettuce was just little babies?

Then they grew a little bigger.
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To few adulthood!  In just a few months.

Not to brag, but we grew some pretty cute lettuce kids here.WP_20130527_048

Aren’t they beauties?  It’s like their leaves form perfection. WP_20130527_051

During this day I also harvested some of our mixed salad greens too.. I’m feeling like I want a small salad before dinner tonight.   WP_20130527_009

I harvested some radishes too, this is going to be perfect! WP_20130527_060  

I’ll be making a post on the best way to store your lettuce harvest next week.

Do you have any lettuce recipes? If so, share them! I will be posting my lettuce soup and braised lettuce soon!

Growing in a hydroponic home farm – great light or not!

Alot of friends in the city don’t have much space to garden.  There’s hardly any back yards, community gardens have waiting lines and hauling potting soil to your rooftop is a bit too intense for some people.  But don’t worry – you can still grow herbs and small vegetables right in your home.  It doesn’t even mater if you don’t have alot of light, we can make this work!  Another bonus, since you are growing inside, you don’t have to deal with insects or pests.. but I can’t guarantee your cat won’t want to nibble on that yummy lettuce.  (I had to google cats + lettuce.  What an amazing result:)

Let me introduce you to my friend, the hydroponic home farm.  Hydroponic growing is a bit different than regular growing as it doesn’t use any soil.  The famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are believed to have grown according to hydroponic principles, so it’s been around for quite some time!  Instead of soil the roots grow in clay balls.  You want to something like clay (or rock wool) because it allows good root ventilation, and doesn’t grow algae.  This is going to allow your water drip system to drip right onto your plant, run down into the rocks, get your roots wet (causing your plant to grow) and continue down to the next plant.  Because we won’t be getting nutrients from our soil, you will need to use a liquid plant food to feed your plants the vitamins your soil would regularly give you.  These plant foods are easy to find online or at a garden center.    You’ll need light because we  need some photosynthesis action to take place here.  If you have natural light, then set up your hydroponic system next to that light.   If you don’t have natural light you can use a 6500 Kelvin Daylight Balance Fluorescent bulb.   We have grown with these bulbs at the other side of our loft where it’s completely dark and it’s worked well. Now we have it set up next to the window though where we only turn the light on when it’s cloudy out, or during the months when daylight is shorter.   If you can’t remember to turn on your light you can also buy a timer which we often use in the winter time, with this you just set a time and the light will turn on and off when you want it to.  Lastly, you’ll need a aquarium pump which will push your water from your bottom reservoir all the way to the top and that will start the continuous watering.  


There are already made systems that you can buy, we use a first generation Window Farm which was actually made by someone who attended the same grad school (NYU ITP) that Matthew went to.  If you don’t want to buy it, there are lots of great tutorials online on how to build your own DIY version.  

Because the containers to grow in aren’t huge, I recommend growing smaller plants that do not have giant roots.  We’ve had success with basically every herb, lettuce, spinach, swiss chard and even small strawberries and tomatoes.  We’ve tried experimenting with larger root plants but let’s just say you can’t grow a pumpkin in it. (hey, had  to try!)

The other great thing about growing inside your home is you still get the feeling of outdoors.   When it’s a rainy, gloomy day and you’re feeling a bit blue, you can still mope around your home and smell fresh basil and grab some fresh mint.

So let me show you how it all works.
We usually grow everything from seed.  So if you are going this route, just start them in some cups in your home.    The tricky part is when you have to transplant them from their cup to the hydroponic system.  You do this by delicately digging the root out, and shaking all the dirt away.    An alternative is buying herbs that are already started at your local garden center or nursery if you are scared of the whole starting from seeds process.  This is tougher because since they are already larger, their roots are bigger as well, so you need to be careful separating their roots not to tear them.  If you go this route, you really need to shake the roots as there will be alot of dirt attached.  Basically what we want here is the plant and roots, try to get all the dirt you can off.

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Or to make it much easier you can buy hydroponic sponges, where you can just plant the seed in that and put the entire sponge into the cup. 

Then we add each plant into it’s own little cup and add clay balls. Try to mound the clay balls around the entire plant to support it’s stem.  This is especially important in the beginning stages of the plant.

Keep adding the pellet balls to the cup until it’s completely full and the plant feels sturdy in it’s new home.

This cilantro is good to go.

2 to the left are cilantro, 2 to the right are basil.  Note how small they are now…

Because just in a few weeks, they will be much bigger and ready for you to start pulling herbs off.

Always remember to keep your hydroponic system full of water.  The way ours works is there are bottom containers that we fill up to the top with a little watering can.  This can here has a awesome flexible neck so it can bend.   The water will constantly bubble as the aquarium pump is pushing the water all the way up to the top and then trickling down the system. 

And here is how our plants get their nutrients.   Read the back of each container to know how much plant food to give your system.  I find the least messy way to get your liquid nutrients into the system is to get a syringe, fill it up in the container then empty into each of the water reservoirs.  

Now on to how the plants are doing just a few weeks after being placed in our Window Farm.
Here’s 2 of our mint plants.  I love these guys because I rip a few leaves off everyday for smoothies and iced tea.

Here’s one of our 2 basil plants.  We are constantly picking off basil for pizza, sauces and pasta.  I love the idea of just walking a few feet from the kitchen, tearing some herbs and throwing them in the dish.

And can we talk about how pretty those basil leaves are?

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A word about basil, these guys can grow to be monsters.  Ours grow to be about 2 feet high which means we usually grab some velcro and attach them to the system to keep them supported.   As the plant  matures, it’s roots are going to grow bigger as well and this can cause blockage with the roots for the water to get to the next cup.   This can end up in a overflow water disaster as if there is no place for the water to go, it’s just going to overflow onto your floor.  So keep a eye on your plants and if you see the roots growing through the bottom of the bottle, then act on it.  When I see this, I try to help the roots grow in a better path, or know the plant has reached it’s maturity in this system and just pull the entire plant to use (and immediately start some new seeds! 🙂 )

Here’s our beautiful cilantro plant.  We are growing 4 of them.  I use these all the time in salads, bean dishes, tacos, rice.  I love cilantro.  It’s also one of my favorite smelling herbs.  Creepy girl in the supermarket smelling cilantro?  That’s me.  But now I can just creep out  my husband and grow it at home.   See, it’s great for everyone involved!

It’s pretty fun  to watch cilantro plants expand and get new growth.

I love you cilantro.  

Cilantro, Mint and Basil.

So start grabbing your favorite herbs and get planting!  Great light or not, you can do this! 

What else can you grow besides herbs?
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We’ve grown lettuce with much success.  Just know as the plants get larger they are going to need more water, so keep those containers filled.

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We’ve grown cherry tomatoes which tasted great.

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With larger plants like tomatoes and strawberries, plan accordingly as they are going to engulf your system.  So you might want to keep herbs lower to easily get to them.  (Note here: the pumpkin experiment in the bottom left). (Note here again:  Everything here is grown with no window light, all artificial light, so you can grow even if your home is like a cave!).

I would like to end this post by thanking my special helper FiFi Bofinkles who stood on the step stool with me the entire time and slept on my feet while I balanced to take pictures.  Thank you girl.


Harvesting Onions and Radishes

*Does the happy harvest dance*
What, you don’t know what that looks like?  Good.  You don’t want to see it.  You will get too much second hand embarrassment.

 We have harvested our first onions and radishes of the season! And boy are they delicious!  This was our first time growing radishes, we grew the french breakfast variety.  Verdict?  I need to plant these again, asap, but about 10 times the amount because they’re so good! We’re talking, snack happy radishes.  They taste like a carrot, but with a bit of heat.  They’re fresh, they have the crunch.  They are perfect!

The great thing about radishes? They’re super quick to grow.  In just one month you will have radishes from seed to harvest.  Cool, right?

After about 2 weeks you will spot the bright pink…

Then before you know, they will be pushing through begging for you to pull out!

Can we talk about how beautiful these are?  Radishes are in the group of “perfect looking” vegetables.  Even covered in dirt they look fly.

Sometimes they don’t even make it down from the garden, I just nibble on them right there.

Sigh, they’re just perfect looking!

So for dinner one night, I picked a bunch of lettuce, kale, spinach, mixed greens…. hello beautiful greens!

Then threw in some tomatoes, black beans and avocado.  Put a little lime juice on top.  Cut up a radish.  It was perfect!  It was exactly what I needed after a few days of eating not so great out of town.

And because I’m radish crazy right now, I just planted a whole new box of them!  I can’t wait to see them…WP_20130527_042

Next up… the wonderful world of.. onions!
Disclaimer:  There is one thing I don’t eat in the garden, that is onions.  Since a child, I have been frightened of onions.  Very very frightened.  I’ve learned to love almost everything I’ve been scared of as a kid, but there are 2 things I can’t break: onions and mayo.    Matthew, my love, is a onion fan.  

Onions are pretty easy to grow, we start them from seed then I go through the process of separating them.  One onion grows per seed.  We grow onions year round, so there’s always some in beginning stages while others are finishing up.

It’s pretty easy to know when they’re ready to pick.  One day you will just have large green stems sticking out…
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Then you will look one day and spot big onion bulbs poking out.  Don’t be afraid to dig around the soil to see if you got any, and how big they are. 
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This one is ready to pick!  Just dig around, and pull it up!

Then you better cheer because you just grew a onion!

Let’s check this beautiful onion out.  These plants are huge.  Not only are the bulbs a good size but the green stem is huge.  It’s easily over 18 inches high.  Tip: You can chop the green stem up, use it just like scallions.  If my dad is reading this he’s probably swooning at the thoughts of growing scallions!

Look at the roots on this guy!

Is there anything more pretty than a dirty perfect onion sitting on your cutting board?  

Even as a non onion eater, I can appreciate the perfection of a onion.  I mean come on, this complex vegetable starts as one little seed. It always amazes me.  It will never stop.

Then peel, chop, use however you want.  I caught Matthew at the cutting board just chopping them guy up, throwing it straight into his mouth.  Then his eyes closed. He was in onion ecstasy.  Later that night we made homemade taco bowls, Matthew’s was packed full of onions!


So get out and plant some radishes and onions!
Are you growing any?

Preserving Strawberries, Kale and Basil

Instructions on How to Preserve Strawberries

As the garden season takes off, I will be doing a series of posts on how to preserve everything you grow so you can enjoy them now and many months later.   We won’t let any of our hard work that went into planting and caring for these plants go to waste here!

I often say “I garden because I cook”.    My love for being in the kitchen goes hand in hand with getting my nails dirty pushing down seeds.    

Here are other reasons why I love bringing these worlds of gardening and cooking together:

-You learn where everything comes from.  Did you know Brussels Sprouts grow the way they do? I didn’t either!    By gardening you see the process from seed to harvest, it often surprises you!
-You respect everything you grow.   Those pumpkins that I grew? They came from me pollinating them for a week straight at 5:30AM in the morning.   Those tomatoes that are beautiful red and perfect?   They stayed alive because you ran out into the pouring rain to make sure their windblocker fabric was up and everything was secure.    Those sugar snap peas?  Do you know how long they take to pick? Oh my!
-You try new vegetables.   I hated lettuce before we had our garden, now I’m like a rabbit where Matthew has to shoo me away.    I never tried radishes before, now I eat them whole.  
-This results into trying new dishes in the kitchen.  Pesto? Never made before, except now I have about 10 different recipes for it with every different plant.   I scour websites and cookbooks looking for new ways to use tomatoes, broccoli, carrots.  Dinner, Lunch, Desserts – I try it all!    The most important part is starting with a base you love.  So grow what you like!  
-Preserve! Preserve! Preserve!   This is the big one for me.  There are a few weeks in July and August that I am spending many hours every single day preserving our tomatoes to last us (forever).  So you just grew those kale plants – but did you have any idea how much kale grows on a plant? Or those edamame plants that I grew last year – did I know that I would get 20 pounds of edamame, all at once?  What are you going to do?  Well you just spent so much time and energy and love on these plants to grow great vegetables so now we’re not going to let it go to waste! Oh no we aren’t!  We are going to preserve it!    Did you know I had to buy my first can of diced tomatoes earlier this month because I had enough saved from last summer’s harvest?  Do you know how awesome of a feeling that is to have fresh vegetables you grew in your freezer all winter long?  Oh it’s snowing out and 3 degrees, let me just grab a extra fresh pack of frozen green beans that I grew a few months back.  *High 5’s*

 I spend quite a bit of time preserving everything we grow, and figuring out new ways to try.  One year I went as crazy as literally not wasting any of the broccoli plants, by finding ways to use the leaves and chop up the stems.    I blanch, I freeze whole, I puree,  I turn into sauces, I chop, I husk, I dry.  I do whatever it takes to preserve everything.   This post will be dedicated to strawberries, kale and basil.    Sometimes in future posts, I will give you another idea for the same vegetable.  There are many ways to preserve each plant, so I want to share some options for whatever is best for you in your kitchen. 🙂

Who doesn’t love strawberries?  And is there anything better than a sweet strawberry picked right off the vine and plopped straight into your mouth?  Oh yum!  But what happens when you are are harvesting pounds of strawberries?  Or what happens when you go the grocery store and find out that they are selling pints of strawberries for 89 cents.  Buy a bunch, we can keep your strawberry love stocked up for months!

We are going to freeze strawberries.   Strawberries keep in a freezer for a long time, I’m talking  a year.  Amazing, right?

What can we do with frozen strawberries? Well I’m glad you asked.
Smoothies!  My favorite.  Throw frozen strawberries in your blender and continue as usual in creating your favorite smoothie.
-Throw them into pies.
-Strawberry jelly!
-Strawberry sauce! Blend them up and pour over ice cream, cakes and waffles.
-Strawberry butter.  Yup,  you heard me right!
-Make strawberry bread.
-Strawberry salad.

Here are your beautiful strawberries.  
Seriously, aren’t they the most loveliest things in the world?   I hope one day I can be at least 1% cool and classy as strawberries.
Now you want to wash them, wash them real good.
Then once they are washed, you want to hull them.  Basically you want to rip off their green tops and cores.  You can do this a variety of ways with special tools, or just a knife.  Personally I just use my finger nails to get in there.   Then lay them on a cookie sheet and let freeze.    Once they are frozen, put them into freezer bags.  
Then when you need some strawberries, take them out of your freezer and bask in the glory of them!  Use them however you want.  I will be making myself one happy strawberry smoothie. 🙂

Kale, the winner of everything cool in 2013. Do you hear all the buzz about kale?  What a popular guy.    It seems to be the king of greens!  One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K.  It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.  Can we say it’s healthy?  

So what to do with kale?  When you’ve eaten your share of fresh raw kale, let’s figure out ways to preserve it, so you can be eating this vegetable powerhouse for months to come!
I like to make kale cubes, which is basically kale all chopped up, frozen into cubes.  It’s all kale, nothing else added in. 

What you can do with those frozen kale cubes?
-Smoothies! Again!  Want a real pick me up?  Throw a kale cube into your next smoothie.  
-Defrost and mix into pasta.  Warm through.  
-Throw a cube or two into any soup or stew.   Just a little bit of frozen kale goes a long way in getting your vitamins in!
-Defrost and mix with meats to make delicious ravioli.
-Defrost and mix with meats to make delicious meatballs!

Kale!  You hearty animal you (not really a animal). 
I destem it.  I do this with my hands too, I just rip it off.  Maybe I’m the animal here.  Then I rip it into pieces to fit it into my food processor.preserveIMG_2401
A few pulses later and your once entire food process cup hardly has any kale in it.  Kale likes to shrink.  preserveIMG_2403
Then spoon it out and throw in some ice cube trays.
Fill them up to the top.    A entire bushel of kale filled up one ice cube tray, so pack it down.  Now put into the freezer.
Once they’re frozen, poke them out with a fork.    I find it works best to let them sit on your counter for a few minutes, then poke them out.  They defrost pretty quickly for you to grab one out of the tray.  From here you can keep them in the tray and use as you want, or throw them in freezer bags.
Because you packed them in, they stay in cube form nicely.preserveIMG_2475


Who else loves the smell of basil?  I love picking fresh basil and putting it in pasta, and especially on pizza! A slice of margarita pizza with basil is the key to my pizza loving heart.   But what do you do when you have pounds of basil and you can’t eat 8 pizzas a nights (don’t try this, just believe me).  You can dry it!
I love dried herbs.  Almost 80% of the time if a recipe calls for fresh herbs, I will ignore it and use dried herbs.  Why? Because I know the dried herbs are ones I grew, loved and they will taste just as good in the dish!  
What can you do with dried basil?
-Any dish call for fresh basil? You can substitute with dried basil.
-Use in any tomato pasta.
-Sprinkle over each lasagna layer.
-Sprinkle over pizza.
-Use in rices.
-Use in a varieties of stews and soups for extra seasoning.
-Use in pasta salad.
-Sprinkle on garlic bread.

So let’s pick your basil!  What you want to do is wash it, then let dry.  I do this by putting it on paper towel sheets and then help blotting excess water on top.  Let dry completely.
Then find a space of your home that you want to smell like basil for the next few weeks.  Grab a rubber band and hang on something.  We have screws in the top of our loft that we drilled in just for drying herbs.  This is at the very front entrance of our loft, so as soon as you walk in… it’s fresh city USA.preserveIMG_2412
Then just let dry until they are completely brittle.  If the basil seems “fresh” and flexible they aren’t dry enough.  You basically want them to the point of if you touched a leaf, it would crack.  You can see in the top right of this picture I have some dried oregano ready to go.  
Then pick the leaves off the plant (do this over a bowl, the leaves are going to fall apart beautifully).  Throw in your food processor and you’re done.  If you don’t have a food processor, just crumble with your fingers.  Now you have dried basil ready for whenever you want!preserveIMG_2467


Vertical Growing Green Beans

ZZZzzzZZzZzzz.. That’s how I feel right now.  We’ve been doing so much garden work that my arms are barely able to lift my tea cup up to my mouth.    My arms are itching all the way down to my fingers due to getting some sun (even after making sure to apply a high SPF specially made for us ghostly creatures).   And my mind, well my mind just wants some mashed potatoes and sleep. And ice cream.  

Last Fall during the morning before Hurricane Sandy arrived, we ran up to the roof and quickly ripped out our vertical fences (along with our beautiful Sugar Snaps that were so close to start producing peas *cry cry*).   We did it quickly.  I was crying, both scared from wind and because of having to kill my sugar snap peas.    So with the fences down, we had to re-construct them, but this year we wanted them even stronger.  Instead of just putting up poles and a fence, Matthew created a rectangular structure that supports the fence in multiple spots.  One day in and we can already tell it’s going to withstand wind gusts (we get high ones up on the roof) much better. 

Lots of friends always talk about gardening on their roof, but they aren’t sure how to grow vertically as there’s no natural fence, wall, or tree to help assist plants that want to grow high.  You need to be crafty.  You need to be extra safe, the last thing you want to think about is your structure blowing off the roof.   It’s not that expensive to get some PVC pipe and wire fencing.   

To get a idea of how tall peas and beans can grow in a garden, these fences are 10 feet high from last year where our sugar snaps grew:
photo 2.JPG

And to get a idea of how windy it can get 6 floors up, this is before Hurricane Sandy hit.

 Crazy, right?

So this year we set out to build a stronger and more secure fencing structure.

6 – 1″ PVC x 10ft
4 – 1″ PVC 90′ Elbows
4 – 1″ PVC Tees
PVC Glue
4 – 2.5″ x 1/4″ Bolts + Lock Nuts
16 – 4″ x 5/16″ Bolts + Lock Nuts
32 5/16″ Washers 
10′ x 4′ Roll of Chicken Wire
8″ Zip Ties

adjustable wrench
safety glasses

So let’s first by talking about Home Depot.  How do men love that entire place so much? I love the garden section.  I love the appliance section.  I even like the hangers section.  But have you ever been dragged to the piping section? Or worse, much much worse, the screws and nails aisle.  It’s a bunch of guys with giddy stars in their eyes, skipping from screw bin to screw bin, hands full of nuts and bolts.  Matthew has to drag me kicking and screaming down those aisles, which noone seems to notice.  Sometimes I meet eyes with another female and we connect on the bond that we both are thinking of ways to escape.    I’m sure there are females who love the screws and nails aisle, but I’ve yet to meet one.

We had to buy PVC elbows and tees.  My term for them is usually “the white things we put together”.  I’m very good with building terminology.  Matthew had to strategically put them on the ground like this to plan.  Then he told me to stay there with them while he went to another aisle.  So for the next 10 minutes I stood in front of them, anxiously, while people walked by at the poor girl who felt out of place.  I kept thinking in my head “Please noone ask me what I am guarding on the floor”.  Noone did.  Whew, close one.

When we got home we put together PVC pipes with the elbows and tees.  These rectangular structures would be the top of the fence.  Having 4 sides will make the fences much more sturdy.

Eventually the 10 foot tall PVC pipes will be bolted into these tees.

There’s alot of measuring and mathematics.   Anyone else scared of math?

And after the math, there’s alot of sawing.

To attach the PVC pipes we use PVC glue.

It dries very very quick.  So as soon as you swab it on, you have a few seconds to put your pieces together.

Ok, great, both were built.  Now we have to make them 10 feet tall.

The long 10 foot PVC pipes get bolted in.

You have to use a ratchet for this.   Amount of times I’ve called this tool a hatchet?  Many.  Matthew loves his ratchet.  Every time he uses it he shows me how to use it, forgetting we have done this exercise multiple times.  I let him go through the procedure though, I know he gets a kick out of it.

Ok, it’s built.  Now we have to flip it upside down.

I held it into place while Matthew bolted it into the 4×4 wood boxes.  But first, take a picture of me because I feel so strong.

Bolted in.  Be careful if you have plants growing around this area.

One in place…

Both in place.

Now comes the fencing! To attach this you need zip ties.  Time out:  They have neon rainbow zip ties at Home Depot!  I know, how exciting.  After spending 5 hours in the nuts aisle, Matthew let me talk him into getting colorful zip ties instead of the regular white ones.  I told him I deserved it.

This part is a 2 person job.  One person holds the wire fence and rolls it out as we go along while the other zip ties it to the PVC pipe.

You do it in little sections, don’t be afraid to attach too many zip ties.  Get it tight and straight. 

And you go higher and higher..

All the way to the top.

This is a job for people who are brave.  This is not a job for me.  I will stay on the ground and take pictures thank you very much.

We always grow 2 rows of peas or beans so the fence goes in between them.  That way they can grow up both sides of the fence.

Then encourage them to grow tall! Once they see the fence in front of them they will get big dreams.  Be prepared! 🙂

Finally both fences were up.  We were exhausted.  

A few special thanks you:

Thank you to my almonds and dried pineapple. I wouldn’t have made it through the day without you.

Thank you to the beautiful NYC sunsets.  It’s pretty special to be putting up a bean fence, look over and see the World Trade Center as the sun goes down.

Sugar Snap Pea Update

Sugar Snap Peas – don’t you love them?  Sugar Snap peas with some noodles easily becomes a favorite lunch or dinner for us in the summer just because there’s nothing than picking your Snap Peas and minutes later crunching away.  

 In late March we planted the Sugar Snap Pea seeds – so how are they doing?  Let’s check in!

On April 22 all the Sugar Snaps rose… 

The problem with this is that they all sprouted.  We plant multiple seeds in each hole just in case one seed doesn’t work out.  But when they all sprout, we have to kill some off.  It’s heart breaking.

So we go one by one and pick the strongest looking one.  The weaker one gets cut.   I can never do this part. I look away and cry quietly.

I make Matthew do this.

And when we have all the Sugar Snap Peas that would have grown big and strong, I bury them. But not before saying a few sad words. And crying more.  I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER.

By doing this, we assure that the 2 pea plants won’t fight for root space choking themselves out.  Now there is just one per hole, to grow big and strong in their own space.

Then we put up wire fencing and sticks for the Sugar Snap Peas to grow up.  We do this early because they will begin growing quickly and need something to latch on to.

We also like to throw some other greens like spinach (pictured middle) and lettuce (pictured center left) in the box.  

We also will put wind blocker fabric up to  make sure the plants won’t blow over  as they are still in the small stages.

3 weeks later  to the day – May 13!

Holy Moly! I will give a few minutes to scroll up and compare these 2 pictures.  What a difference 3 weeks makes.

Their tendrils have latched on and climbed up the fence rather quickly.

Isn’t it amazing how they climb? We help them out some in the beginning by wrapping them around slightly, but once they found their way they just do it.  

And they just  keep climbing, hooking, climbing, hooking, twirling, climbing, hooking.  In some order like that.

Even if they see a piece of rope they will grab on.  They are wild like that.

As they start to get taller we help support them by wrapping little pieces of Velcro around them.  We tend to to do this with any vertical plant in the garden.  It helps incredibly with wind gusts.

It’s pretty magical to watch the Sugar Snaps grow.  They are one of my favorites in the garden.  Just don’t tell the green beans, there will be a battle.

Want another crazy comparison? Go up and look at the spinach previously, now look at it. I know!

Do the same for the lettuce.  I know!

So now the Sugar Snaps continue their journey into new great heights.  They will grow further up the trellis where eventually I will have to stand on a crate to reach them.  The next Sugar Snap update hopefully will be full of harvest.. stay tuned!


Planting The Tomatoes

About a week and a half ago we transplanted our tomato seedlings to their summertime home, the roof.  Tomatoes for us are the keepers of the garden.  If it’s a good tomato season, then it’s a good garden season.  If there’s tomato issues, then we get sad and cry every single day.    The last few years we’ve had incredible success with the tomatoes, where there is a few weeks in July/August where we are throwing 5-10 pounds of tomatoes in a bowl every single day.  Last year it got so hectic I would sit on the floor, surrounded by my 100 tomatoes just staring at them in panic (and in awe).  With that many tomatoes, I took some time every single day to freeze sauces, diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes and tomato juice.  I would boil, deseed, simmer and bag.  I am proud to say that from the months of July – April we didn’t buy one container of spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, cans of diced or stewed tomatoes.   We just recently finished our last bag of frozen tomato sauce out of the freezer and it was a bit sad (although endearing to see my freezer bottom again).  

With the transplanting of the tomatoes to their containers, the tomatoes truly mark garden season for us.  These guys will hopefully be around until the beginning of Fall, where I will (hopefully) continue to pick them off the vine and throw them straight into my mouth.

Let’s plant some tomatoes!

Here’s how the calendar works with our tomatoes.
March 14tomato seeds are planted inside.  Then they live under a fluorescent bulb setup until they are strong enough to go outside and the weather permits their arrival.
April 19 – the tomatoes are enormous inside.  They are so big they are growing into the light as we can’t make our loft ceiling any taller for them.  It’s been a little too risky to move them directly outside due to the weather temperature changing so sporadically so they are moving under the greenhouse instead…outside but inside.  
Their roots are expanding every single day.
I walk by them every single day, touch them and then enjoy the fresh tomato smell that all tomato growers love.

April 19 – They move into their temporary home, under the greenhouse, where they enjoy steamy days.  Tomatoes love their heat…
Just wanted to note that after taking this picture, I slid on some dirt, fell on the ground, bruising my hip and right leg, while risking my health to save the life of our camera.  “Don’t look at me, I’m so embarrassed” I whispered to Matthew as he rushed to my side.  Then I cried.  “Dont look at me” I mumbled .   

April 25 – THE DAY IS HERE.
Can I get a drum roll?

(Thank you).

Open up the green house, pull the tomatoes out! Say goodbye to living with the cauliflower and broccoli!

As you can see by their size and roots, they need a larger space asap! They need room to grow, to stretch out their legs and arms and cute little noses.

Get ready little tomatoes.

We prepared the containers a few days before.  We make them the exact same way as the broccoli and cauliflower containers.

By the way, this is a good time to note our A-clamp collection.  This is less than a quarter of them.  How do we get sponsored by A-clamps?

Get ready.

We rearrange all the tomatoes, putting all varieties together in separate bins.

Hello beautiful(s).

Then one by one we cut holes in the plastic and put the tomatoes in their container.  We plant the tomatoes DEEP.  About half of their stem is already under potting mix in this picture.  This will root them good.

We do this to every single one.  Hello Hybrid Salsa tomatoes.

Hello Aroma tomatoes.  How are these different than Roma tomatoes? Well they have a “A” in front of their name, that’s really all I have so far.

Then there’s two of  my favorites (they’re all my favorite), cherry tomatoes.

And the big beefs!

During this time we plant the green peppers too.  They live well with their tomato friends.

I say it all the time, I know, but green peppers are stress free.  We’ve never had any problem with them.  They just grow big and strong with some water and hugs.

Then we give every single plant their own cage immediately.  Tomatoes tend to grow pretty quickly and with the wind on the roof, extra support is always helpful. 

All caged up.

All tomatoes got their cage? Yup!

Would you believe we have to put 2 cages on top of each other by the end of the season because they grow that tall?  We start with one then mid season attach another on top. (I squint constantly on the roof,  having blue eyes is rough).  

photo 2.JPG
To give you a idea, see those super tall green guys in the back with the cages sticking out of?  Yeah that’s our monster tomato plants last year.  They grow big.  

And the last step… the tomatoes are planted, they have their cages, but they need a little more protection.  The roof gets super windy, I can’t stress how windy it can get (even when there’s not hurricanes named Sandy knocking us down) so we help the tomatoes stay upright and protected  by wrapping the entire tomato structure with wind blocker fabric.  This is also called row cover fabric.  We buy it in a big bolt and it lasts a long time. 

Then  you hold one side while the other person wraps it around.  This is a 2 person job, especially if it’s windy!  

Then it gets clamped and it stays up.  We will keep this up on windy days, and bring it down on non windy days.  The fabric is light weight so it doesn’t restrict sunlight too much.

May 6 – The tomatoes have transitioned quite nicely to their new home.  The first few days are always hard as you see them slightly struggle to get used to the direct sun all day long and the wind.
But then  you see the new green growth on every single plant and take a sigh of relief.  The tomatoes have moved in and made themselves at home. Grow strong little guys! (Soon to be Mr. Big Guys!)

Looking good peppers!

This post brought to you by a girl who has to stick her head between fabric to take pictures of her beloved tomatoes and peppers.

Are you growing tomatoes this year?  Did you already plant them? What kind are you growing?

Meet Steve’s Plants

Peeking is a ongoing series where I peek into other’s gardens and snoop around.   If you’re in the NYC area and have a garden you’d like to share, please email me.  I’d love to see what you are doing and share your garden story!   For more peeking posts click here

Have you ever been to Ohio?  Have you ever met anyone from Ohio?  If you have then you can probably agree that Ohio is home to some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  I know I might be persuaded as my other half and his family is from Ohio and they are some of my favorite people in the world, but let’s look outside of that.  The amount of times I have said “I’ve never met anyone mean from Ohio!” is high.  I say it at least once a month.  I know, there are probably people from Ohio that aren’t that nice but I haven’t met them!   From the grocery employees in the Sparkle grocery store that I was amazed by their ringing out cheerfulness, to every single person who holds the door for me, to the woman who wrote “his and hers” on our Subway sandwich wrappers, to every single Ohio transplant I’ve met in NYC (there’s alot) – I love you all.  You are all the bee’s knees.  

So what does this have to do with the title of this post? Well nothing, except that my friend Steve is from Ohio and I thought this would be a perfect place to dedicate my love to “The Buckeye” state.

I met Steve from Matthew, they have that Ohio brotherhood thing going on.  I quickly found out by word of mouth and seeing pictures online of his large (and growing) collection of plants.  Knowing that I would fall in love with his plants and want to share them with everyone, I innocently invited myself over in a series of emails I sent to him.  Steve kindly (of course) obliged and let me take some pictures and talk to him about his plants.  

One of Steve’s earliest memories of plants starts in Ohio with a strawberry plant at his family’s house.   From there  he moved to Chicago where the collection truly started, a few at first and eventually growing into handfuls of planted pots that now reside in his Brooklyn apartment that lines all free window space.  Sadly none of his plants have human like names (I volunteered a few but Steve seemed disinterested in this idea), but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love them.  When he showed me around the plants introducing me to them, you could tell how excited he was to talk about them and share their stories of where they came from, how some plants have been split into multiple generations, and up keep.  He told me a story of how he left on vacation once with post-it notes on every single plant that had directions for his roommates to water his plants.  When he came back, everything was fine, except one plant that he left with no post-it note.  Noone seemed to notice how it eventually became brown, begging for water and eventually toppling over.  His heart was broken.  But because he has so much love for his plants, he nursed it back to health and even though it’s not growing vertically straight anymore, it’s healthy and green.  

 So let’s meet Steve’s plants.  At the end I included a little questionnaire that I asked him to fill out and pick his favorites.

When you walk in you are greeted with so many pots of green.  Steve says his favorite plant is the Jade plant in the middle on the black table, which has since been separated into multiple Jade plants throughout his apartment. 

There is one rack that houses about 20 individual plants.


A star of this rack is this plant that hangs over the edge with its beautiful “hair”.  

This is a beautiful hen and chicks plant.  The “hen” is the main plant, and the “chicks” are the offspring.


Who doesn’t need a refreshing spritz of water?

This here is the Jade plant that I discussed up above that Steve has nursed back to health.  Doesn’t it look great?


These are cuttings of his Moses-in-the-Cradle plant that are rooting.  They will be planted into their own pot very soon.


Steve has a big pot of overflowing basil that any kitchen cook would be uber jealous of.  I smelled this plant about 8 times in my visit.

This is a baby spider plant that he’s transplanting soon.

This purple heart plant has a funny story.  Steve was visiting New Orleans where he came across many of these growing throughout the city but didn’t have the heart to sneak one from someone’s garden so instead he found this one growing near a stop sign, where he pulled it out and the took it back with him to New York.  From New Orleans to Brooklyn…


Now let’s go look at the plants on the other side of the apartment.  Of course there are some plants seated midway as well when you walk through the space.

The other side of the apartment gets slight dimmer light but is great for these big plants here.

This is his Dieffenbachia plant, also known as “dumb cane”.  These are great plants to have if you don’t have alot of sunlight as they do well in shade.    I named him “Big Guy”.  Kids and pets should be kept away from this guy though as it is toxic if ingested.  

This is a Golden Pothos plant that has heart shaped leaves.  These plants can reach up to 7 feet which you can see in this picture it is pretty close to.   Bonus: Golden Pothos is a powerful plant that can improve indoor air quality.

Don’t give up the plants either! I also love the little ornaments decorated in between the plants such as the set of trains on this mantle or the Model T (under the Ohio flag a few pictures up) – all made by his grandfather!

This is another Jade plant that came from the original one in the first picture (his favorite plant).  I love seeing generations – great grandpa, grandpa, papa, son, baby, baby baby.. that’s what I would name them.  

 steves plants
Thanks Steve for taking the time to let me meet your plants and share them with everyone who appreciates brightening your home with green.  It was truly a joyous afternoon to learn all about them.  

 And as a bonus,  I was left in the kitchen alone so I snapped these too:


This wooden duck that his grandpa made holds a recipe to a broccoli and cheddar dish that  I bet is delicious.


 Thanks again Steve! Hope you all his enjoyed meeting his plants!

Planting Broccoli + Cauliflower And How To Build Garden Containers

I’m not one to pick favorites in the garden but I will say my heart skips a bit faster when I see a full head of broccoli growing.  Last year we had pretty great success with our broccoli with sizes that I couldn’t even dream of, so this year I’m hoping for the same.  I know, I’m putting pressure on the broccoli, but I’m very supportive too so it works out. 

Last year we had many heads of broccoli, much of when I froze to use in recipes all summer long.   There was a week straight where we were cutting off multiple big heads of broccoli every single day.
Harvested the first broccoli of the year, biggest broccoli we've ever grown! Yay!!
Broccoli – last year.

Cauliflower though, that’s another story.  We’ve never had great success with cauliflower.  In the first few years we grew cauliflower about the size of half dollars.  Then last year, we were growing decent size ones (although still on the smaller size) and both Hurricane Sandy and then a aphid apocalypse hit – both not being kind to the cauliflower.  So this year, if I can be ever so bold I’m hoping for not only big broccoli again, but I’m hoping for some big cauliflower heads too! I’d love to snack on them,  steam them, eat them raw, melt cheese on top, hug them and whisper sweet nothings.  Please cauliflower, please!
Cauliflower – last year.

So a few weeks ago, on April 6 we transplanted the broccoli and cauliflower seedlings to the roof where they have been living under a green house since.  Doing the containers for these plants really feels like the start of the gardening season because it really is about the garden basics of building the containers, turning soil, planting.  Once the containers are built then they are recycled throughout the rest of the year with other plants depending on the season.  It’s a process that leaves us a bit tired and needing a nap afterwards, but we cant nap because we’re too excited.  

 The rest of this post is very picture heavy with how we prepare the containers, and some progress shots up to yesterday!

The plants don’t get transplanted until the greenhouse is built as they will live under this for a few weeks.  It’s been up and down in the weather here with some nights going below freezing, so it’s very important they have a warm home.   In early March we endured the chilly weather and put the green house up and replaced the plastic.  

Then all the containers get removed from under the tarps where they sat all winter.  In the last few years we have collected many containers!  Hint: If you’re in a city, look for them outside on the curb on trash nights, it can save you lots of money!  Just make sure they aren’t cracked.

Get your muscles ready because this is the hard part.  All the containers need to be emptied so you can flip the potting mix, give it nutrients and set up the pipes.  All of our containers are sub-irrigated so they get watered through a feed tube which them waters the plants from the bottom.  We use 2 types of pipes depending on what we have available, they both work equally well.  In the box above we use corrugated piping.

Or you can use PVC piping cut up.  Just make sure you always leave a hole for the watering feed tube.

When starting the containers, add a little bit of potting mix at the bottom and add water.  Pat this soil down so it becomes firm with the piping.  This is starting the wicking process which will continue to water your plants throughout the season.

Keeping add potting mix to all the containers.  Reminder, if you are using containers, use potting mix!  Potting mix is officially one of my best friends.

Add Perlite to all your containers and mix it around with the potting mix.  Perlite allows drainage and access for the water to move around in.  

Keeping doing this until all your boxes are filled.

Then give them all one last sprinkle of water on top.  You want that potting mix wet (not soaked though).

Now you want to give your containers some food for those vegetables to eat later on.  We like this plant food, it’s worked well for us.

Just dig into the edges of the box with your gloved hand, sprinkle plant food and then cover it up.  Your plants will love you for this!

Now it’s plastic time.  What? Ok, so you built these amazing containers! But you want to keep the moisture IN the containers.  And let me tell you if you are growing on a roof and it’s getting beamed by the sun, you are going to need all the moisture you can get because everything will dry out very quickly.  So we cover every single container up with plastic.  

Rip a hole in the plastic for the feed tube, then tape the plastic on.   Make sure you use tape that can endure all weather conditions.

Do this for all the containers.  If you have 2 people, that’s best case scenario as one person can hold the plastic while the other one tapes it.  At least once Matthew accidentally tapes my hand to a container.  

One more thing before you add your plants – first water your containers.  You want to drill a hole into every single box – this hole should reside at the top of the inside of the pipes.  When the containers are watered, these pipes will fill up with water to the top, touch your soil and continue the wicking process.When water comes out, the plant has enough water.  This way you always know the plant isn’t under or over watered. Now fill up every single box until water comes out of the water drainage hole.  

 This box was watered, it’s coming out, so it has enough water.  Note: Move shoe out of the way so foot does not get soaked – ooops.

Now finally – we can transplant the broccoli and cauliflower!

These are the broccoli and cauliflower seedlings.  The seeds were planted January 12 and this picture was taken April 6 so they were growing inside for almost 3 months.  There are 24 plants in all – 12 broccoli, 12 cauliflower.

Can we talk about how big their roots became in those 3 months?

Each container gets 4 plants so we evenly distribute the broccoli to all grow together and the cauliflower to grow together.

6 containers x 4 plants = 24 in all.

I’m always in awe of the beauty of the seedlings.

I love them so much.

Then one by one, we make holes in the plastic and the seedling gets transplanted inside.  Pat it down, make it a nice home in that potting mix.

I gave this one a nice little pat and told it that I loved it very  much.

Every single one was planted.  But it was still March so they needed protection.  The greenhouse goes on…

Tip:  It gets cold at night so if you fill up old bottles with water – the water heats up the in the green house, causing the temperature to rise in the greenhouse.  If you ever open your greenhouse during the afternoon and feel one of these bottles you’ll be surprised by how warm it is.  

And then you cover them up, tuck them in and wish them well.  Now the exciting part that causes me high anxiety.. the waiting!
But what I love even more, tracking their progress!

A few days later we see they have transitioned nicely to their new containers.
These were taken April 8 – 2 days after transplanting.

Then a week after transplanting on April 13, we are noticing them grow in size..

Then it really starts to get wild/exciting/makes me want to dance. 
This was taken yesterday – April 22, 16 days after transplanting.
Check out that growth! I love you guys.  Every single one of you 24 beautiful plants.  You make my day!

I love you beautiful.

I love every single one of you!

Keep growing big and strong.  You make one girl very happy. 



All About the Greens

There’s been some progress in the garden this week with some of our favorite greens.   There’s broccoli (my loves), cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, onions, spinach and sugar snap peas.  That’s alot of great green!  So here’s a quick  update on some of the plants…

One of the spinach plants needed to be transplanted as it was growing too big inside.  So we took it out to plant it in the sugar snap pea box…

You dig a little hole..

Shake it out of it’s container it grew in, then put it on the hole you dug.  Then pat it down.

Now it’s all planted!

A few days later and it’s transitioned quite nicely.  Eventually there will be 2 more spinach plants that will join this guy.

Right now though the spinach is surrounded by sugar snap peas.  They all place nice together though.

Speaking of the sugar snap peas.  This was them just a week ago, slowly coming up here or there..

And this is them now.. every single one came up.  We will have to weed them out later this week.

Some other before/afters:

This is the Brussels Sprouts last week.

This is them now!

This is the kale last week..

This is the kale now!

This was the lettuce last week..

This is the lettuce now!

So as you can see, more green is showing up! Check out those onions in the middle, we spotted some mini bulbs growing under the soil today!

We also got the older Rhododendron plant a little brother… 

This one is white and pink in color, I spotted some pink already trying to peek out today.  I love Rhododendrons, I want a entire section in the garden full of them.

So now we just wait and continue to give all the plants sunny Spring days… (hi helicopter)

And water to keep them growing!

I love watching the progress of all our plants, it’s really special to see them so small in this stage and then compare them in a month. I can’t wait!

Cleaning Up The Strawberries

A few days ago it was 70 degrees so I made my way up to the roof with my phone full of music, a banana, a water bottle and a goal to clean up the strawberries.  A banana was eaten, water was drank, I danced to music (sorry to all spectators) and the strawberries were cleaned up.  

Strawberries tend to get in the Spring spirit rather quickly.  In the winter time their leaves turn brown and crisp and they stay like this for the first few weeks of Spring.  You start to worry about them.  It happens every year.  Then suddenly you spot a few green leaves.  Thea a few days later, some more.  A week later, each bucket has green shining from it.   A few days more and you let out a sigh of relief, they are ok.  The strawberries are tough guys, they can take care of themselves for the most part.  They just like to arrive to the party fashionably late, all dressed in beautiful red (Game of Thrones fans, I just thought of Melisandre while writing that, I pictured the strawberries in red flowing robes).  

To get a idea of how quickly they change..

This was taken April 8.
And this one April 13.
And this one April  17.

So as you can see there was alot of new green, but there was also old brown leaves.  And green/brown is too camouflage for the strawberries so I needed to give them a makeover.

These were my beauty tools.

You need to be careful when cutting the old brown leaves and stems as sometimes there is a fresh new stem in there sometimes hiding.  If I cut any green, I would have cried. I thought about it about 24 times while I was cutting.

Look at how pretty that first bucket looks!  Looking good strawberries.  Now a bunch more buckets to go..

These buckets here were full of lots of new green growth so I had to be extra careful and not cut as much off. 

A crate became full of winter leaves…

All to make way for spring beauty!

Looking good strawberries!

Finally, after I had to stretch my  back multiple times and thought I might need a back brace, the strawberries were done and all cleaned up.


Now we just wait for the first signs of strawberry flowers… and then the excitement really begins! 


Northeast Gardeniere

Last year I begun collaborating with Home Depot and Miracle Gro to be their Northeast Gardeniere.  The Gardenieres are described on their website as “A group of hand-picked green thumbs led by gardening master, William Moss. They’re passionate, real-life gardening personalities with real-world experience when it comes to growing anything, most anywhere.”  A film crew came out to visit our roof and we made some fun videos that hopefully gave helpful tips on how urban gardening can be easy (and cheap!).   This year I will be working with them again and in the next few weeks we’ll be filming more videos both on the roof, as well as I will be visiting some other locations to help share the garden vegetable love.

Here are the videos we filmed.  You can also see me on the Home Depot website here.   It’s a dream to be on the Home Depot website as the store is like my 2nd home, and conveniently only 2 blocks away!  

Some people have mentioned that they have seen me on Hulu and on TV in Gardeniere commercials.  I’m sorry for interrupting your show, think of it as a great time to grab a snack together!  Also sorry for some (many) of my cheesy moments, it’s just how I am

Happy Gardening!

Here are some behind the scenes pictures from the filming:

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Here’s some of the crew on the roof.  Our vegetables behaved their very best that day.   It does look like it’s going to pour though..

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The strawberries were a little shy, but eventually they loved the spotlight.  

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I work bright green socks..

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So they could match my bright green broccoli and kale.

I believe Matthew took this picture, he snuck up to the other roof.

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I can’t wait to show you some more videos as the season continues.
Is there anything you think I should film – tips, how-tos? Let me know in the comments please.


Planting Green Beans

This year we are flipping our boxes around a little bit.  In the past we have grown 2 boxes of sugar snap peas and 1 box of some type of variety of pole bean, but this year we are growing 2 boxes of pole green beans and 1 box of sugar snap peas which will grow up the trellis.  Did that confuse you?  

So with the sugar snap peas all planted (and all have sprouted!) we moved on to planting the green beans.  We’ve had pretty good success with pole beans as we support them with built in box trelis or wire fencing.   I know some of you probably grow bush beans but we’ve always found that pole beans grow better for us. 

This year we are trying 2 types of green beans:
Kentucky Wonder (description found online: Kentucky Wonder is a wonderful heirloom variety with good old-fashioned taste. Pioneers depended on the harvest from this 6-8 foot tall variety, and generations of children have snapped the flat, straight, 6-8 inch long, silvery green pods. Many remember Grandma serving the freshly steamed tender pods, so full of that rich beany flavor.)
Blue Lake (description found online: This vigorous 7 foot tall variety made Oregon’s Willamette Valley famous in the 60s and 70s for canning beans. The smooth, 6-7 inch, dark green pods have a canning jar straight, round shape. Harvested at their peak, you’ll find them tender, meaty, and full of hearty, fresh bean flavor.)

We get very excited for bean and pea season here.  Afternoon summer lunches are filled with fresh beans and a little pasta.  For dinner they get eaten fresh, stir fries, casseroles.  And snacks – green beans with a little sea salt on – does it get any better?

 So let’s plant some green beans..

The box above and below are the boxes we are planting the green beans in.  They are 4×4 wood boxes.


We dug out trenches near where the beans will grow because we wanted to give the soil a energy boost!

Worm castings – mmmm! Your soil will love you if you can give it some of this!

Then we just fill in each trench with the castings.

And the other trench.

Then we cover the castings up, pat it all down.  Good now your soil is feeling revitalized!

Poke holes in the ground where you’re going to plant your beans.  We do 2 rows of 7 holes – which means every box will have 14 green bean plants.  

A fence will eventually go up between the row of plants for them to climb up.  We won’t put the fence in until all the plants have risen to the surface so we can see them.

These are the 2 types we’re trying.  I got them at the Home Depot.  The variety of pole beans isn’t as wide as bush beans.  I wish we could have found some wax pole beans – maybe in the Fall I will special order them.

Kentucky Wonder beans are brown.

We always plant 2 to be safe.

Here’s the Blue Lake beans.  They’re nice white in color.

Again, 2 per hole.  Usually they both come up, and then we have to pick favorites and yank one out. I usually cry. 

This year we used this pea booster on the sugar snaps so we’re doing it again on the beans.

You sprinkle a little bit in each hole..

Enough is sprinkled so you cover up the beans.

Then you’re going to cover up the  beans, and pat down the soil.  Pat  it down so they’re all tucked in.

Then comes your plants favorite drink – water.  Get them nice and wet.  

Now we wait…

Are you growing any beans this year?  

Weekly Garden Round Up

This week it ranged in the 40’s and 50’s, and next week it’s set to have multiple days in the 70’s.  I guess Spring is officially saying hello to us as it’s been acting like a tease.  Last year at this time we already had some hot days where we could plant in shorts, but so far this year I haven’t had a day in the garden yet where I haven’t complained about being cold.

Many of the plants are on their own in the garden and don’t need much help in the early stages.  They’re in green houses, doing what I imagine (and hope) is having lazy days and throwing dance parties at night.  I still have hope one night I will catch the broccoli under the green house lit up with some strobes, hearing some music while the cauliflower yells to “turn it up”.  I have a garden imagination.

This is said green house where parties could happen at night.  Right now is that awkward period of watching the seedlings grow, wondering when you should move on with the next plants, but mostly just idling walking around the garden hoping that something sprouts.

Which is what happened when we checked out the sugar snap peas yesterday.  Every single day for the past week we have raced across the roof to see who can spot the first pea.  Usually it’s noone and we leave the roof disappointed, but yesterday – there were cheers!   The first (and a few others who did not get this photo op) have emerged from the soil.  I checked again today and not many more have appeared, so hoping by the week’s end we’ll have a full house in the sugar snap pea box.

Inside the loft we have been helping the tomato seedlings grow strong.  I have to say the seedlings are looking the best they ever have this year.  Every single seed came up and they’re growing at a pace where the tomato leaves are tangled up in the base of  the cage of the growing light.  A few days ago we had to pick favorites and weed them out.  We always grow 2 seeds per cell incase one doesn’t grow but this year every single one grew.

This is the part that I can’t do and make Matthew. I feel like I’m picking a favorite child.   You go through the plants and find which one looks most healthy, and cut the other one.  This way the tomato plant now has the entire cell to grow and isn’t sharing space.  They can let their roots spread out now, get a little more comfortable.

What you’re left with is a little sad bouquet of tomatoes that hoped to grow strong, but weren’t chosen.  I can’t make this sound happier, I’m sorry, it hurts me.

Here’s the 10 tomato plants that have made it.  Congratulations!

We are growing 2 beef tomato plants, 2 cherry tomato plants and 6 plants of roma varieties.

We also have a lonely spinach plant which will eventually be transplanted to the roof.  I planted another seed to give it a soul mate.

The ones in the back are green pepper plants.  We usually grow 2 of them and I swear (I say it every year) green pepper plants are the least hassle plants.  You just grow them and leave them be.  They are magical.  Up front we have some basil which will be transplanted to grow downstairs in our hydroponic system.

This year we are growing our herbs downstairs.  I meant to take a picture of Cilantro, Oregano and Basil but I got a little Oregano crazy I guess.  We decided to plant it in the loft instead of the garden as it’s easier access to pick herbs for dinner that way, plus I love the way it grows in our Window system.  I’ll be sure to make a post on that later on…

So now the tomatoes will continue to grow downstairs for a few more weeks until they move to the roof.  We’ll just keep giving them water and I will sing them to sleep every night.

Hope your preparations for your garden are going well.
Treat those tomatoes nice.  They deserve it.


Strawberries Showing Signs of Spring

Although some people cover their strawberries up in the winter, we don’t.  We don’t feel like it affects the berries either way so we just let them be their natural selves and collect the snow on top of them.
Here’s all the strawberry buckets now with their crisp leaves.  Each bucket has 3-4 strawberry plants, aged from 1 year to 3 years.  There’s about 40 strawberry plants here total.

We started to see signs of green spring in the younger plants…
And then finally some green in the older plants this past week.
Hopefully I will have some plump berries in my hands in a few months.  They truly are the sweetest strawberries I have tasted!
If are you thinking about growing strawberries, I would definitely recommend trying the bucket method.  We’ve had great results.  I talk more about growing strawberries in this video (starts around 0:35).

Spring Onion Planting

Today we did alot of work in the garden which I will break up into separate posts.  This one will be dedicated to the enemy I love, onions.  What does this mean? I don’t eat onions – I cry if they are in my food. I am that person who takes very long in line because I request everything be made without onions, and if they ignore my request, then I will send it back.  I will pick the onions out of salsa even if it means it will take 20 minutes and everyone will be done eating already.  I don’t like the smell of onions, I pout and moan when I have to make something with onions for Matthew.  But with that said, I am the garden mother of these onions so I cherish and worship them.  No, I won’t eat them, but I want them to grow big and strong.    Even though it’s the one thing in the garden that I will not eat, somehow I am always stuck sorting and planting them every year.  Matthew calls me the “onion whisperer” because he says I am good at the meticulous job of picking all the onion seedlings apart.  Man, I hate that job.  It’s the worst.  And let me tell you something, even if they are onion babies right now, they smell of onions.  I totally overreact too. I will sit on the ground with those onion seedlings, crying, pretending I can’t breathe, holding my nose (which really makes it worse because I have onions on my fingers). It’s tough work, but it’s all for the love of one of my children, the onions.
First, let’s look at the box where all the new onions will be planted in.  These onions off to the left have been there for a few months over winter, and they look like they are bouncing back so we are going to leave them and see.
Speaking of onions that made it over winter – will you check out this box of onions that are looking amazing? Matthew had fears they wouldn’t survive, but I told him to keep some hope in these onions, and look at them! Look at them!
No bulbs were spotted (yet) but they are looking strong.  They’re all about 1 foot high.  When they get bulbs I am going to do the happy onion dance.  They deserve it.
Back to the onions we planted today.  Here are all our onion seedlings.  Each little soil cup has a bunch of onion seedlings in it – anywhere from 5 to 8.
Then comes the fun (not fun at all) part of sorting these onion seedlings out, one at a time.  While holding each one delicately you try to untangle all the roots.
This take some time, but I have worked out a system of shaking them so they come loose pretty quickly.  Onion whisperer I am.
The seedlings already have pretty intense roots going on.  Each seedling grew into a big onion last year and produced a bulb larger than a baseball.  Matthew said they were delicious. We are hoping for similar results this year!
So now they’re all planted. There’s 38 onions here, not counting the ones in another box.  We’ll check back on them in a few months…

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