Monday, May 4, 2009

urban gardening part III - carrots (originally posted on 4/10/2009)

oops--i accidentally deleted this 4/10/2009 post...just bringing it back.

Friday, April 10, 2009

urban gardening part III - carrots

Point Reyes Station's Grandi Building as seen from one of the wooden picnic tables in the Point Reyes Community Garden
(one of my favorite writing spots)

I was recently perusing the latest issue of Organic Gardening when I got to the final page of the magazine, that space after all of the advertising, where they usually leave you with one last tidbit, often something fun. On this page Maria Rodale asks What's your garden fantasy? I thought about that for a while.

I do have a garden fantasy.

I indulged in my own homegrown produce for about a year while we rented a house in Point Reyes Station, CA., a sun filled house with free rein to do whatever we pleased in the giant backyard. It was amazing, truly an experience I will never forget. My mom tells me that gardening is now in my bones. I think she's right.

We walked on to a property already possessing a tree w/ three types of apples, a pear tree, three types of plum trees, raspberries, a variety or blackberry vines, and a beautiful lemon tree that I visited almost daily. To that we added so much more that I stopped counting after we realized we were growing 50some varieties of fruits and vegetables in our backyard.

Gardening is addictive, at least it was for us. I was constantly tempted by the beauty of new seedlings and the grand promises and lovely descriptions of what could soon be ours printed on alluring seed packets. We planted in raised beds of all sizes, terracotta pots, random containers donated by our neighbor, and beds that we created by digging into our weed ridden backyard soil - we even built giant bean tepees and began composting with worms.

We were surprisingly successful considering we were complete novices. We had a blast. We harvested pounds and pounds of fresh produce, arugula, shelling peas, scarlet runner beans, ozette potatoes, oca, black russian tomatoes, garlic, lemon cucumbers, green beans, yellow crookneck squash, green beans, sugar snap peas, bok choy, lettuce, scallions, leeks, herbs, and an array of carrots, just to name a few. Unfortunately we left Point Reyes before our parsnips, cauliflower, spinach, spigariello, or radicchio could mature. I hope the new tenants like vegetables!

I loved just about everything we grew, but I had a special fondness for our shelling peas and carrots. Fresh peas and carrots, picked right before eating them, well, as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't get much better than that. The peas we grew were labeled Tall Telephone Pole Peas and they were gorgeous. The blossoms were delicate and pretty and the vines, with their swirling tendrils, grew up our back fence and toward the sky like something out of a fairytale. My carrots, St. Valery, New Kuroda, Scarlet Nantes, Purple Haze, and Oxheart (I still might be forgetting a few), were some of the easiest and most forgiving vegetables we grew. They were also delicious and we ate them in salads, pickled, steamed, sauteed, and just plain old scrubbed and out of hand. I never even knew so many varieties of carrots existed.

our kitchen table as seen from one of our kitchen chairs in our San Francisco apartment
(another one of my favorite writing spots)

It is now spring again, about one year after we began our first garden together. We are living in a small apartment atop Russian Hill in San Francisco, CA. Our outdoor space consists of a few inches of down sloping window sill per window, and some of those windows are painted shut. Nothing makes one long for their garden more than spring. Our local community gardens are jam-packed and we've been told that it could take years before they reach our names on their waiting lists. Here's where the carrots come in (literally).

I bought a large terracotta pot, soaked some New Kuroda (my favorite) carrot seeds overnight, filled my pot with a combination of potting soil and worm castings, and buried my seeds. Then I crossed my fingers and waited. Lo and behold, I didn't count the days, but the seeds seemed to sprout up much faster than the seeds I planted outside in Point Reyes. One night, much sooner than I anticipated, my husband spotted them and showed them to me. I was ecstatic!

When I am home during the time of day when our apartment catches some sun, I move the terracotta pot between my bay window and kitchen window to allow it as much sunlight as possible. The tiny sprouts all lean toward the sun and when I move the pot I rotate it so their backs are to the sun. Sure enough, the next time I take a peek, they've all repositioned themselves and are leaning toward the sun again. They are an indulgent bunch.

So, while here atop Russian Hill, I've adjusted my expectations. My fantasy is a small one. I'd like to see those 9 little sprouts become fully formed delicious carrots. That's all. Is it possible? I really don't know.

Some, my husband for instance, have much loftier ideas when it comes to garden fantasies. He's convinced we can somehow trellis pole peas in our bay window. He wants to bring those fairytale vines and tendrils indoors. I'm not so sure about this plan, but I like his high hopes. Perhaps I'll be reporting on peas next.

The herbs and succulents are also doing well and we've recently added a tillandsia (air plant) to the mix.

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