Archive for July 2009

July News

Lots of garden-related activity at SPEC this month, so it's time for another update...

As some of you may know, SPEC worked with Kitsilano High School and Bayview elementary
over the winter and spring to establish two school gardens. Catriona Gordon worked with the students to learn about organic gardening, plant, maintain, and celebrate the gardens.

Over the summer, while the students are on holidays, we have partnered with two summer programs for youth to continue with garden maintenance and urban agriculture education.

So far, the kids have enjoyed harvesting peas, radishes, kale, lettuce and (huge!) zucchini from the gardens so far, and we're looking forward to the cherry tomatoes, corn, beans, carrots, potatoes, sunflower seeds, beets, and more that will be ready for harvesting later in the season.

Lots going on at the SPEC building on our rooftop garden as well, and thanks to our dedicated rooftop waterers, our plants are surviving the intense heat we've been having over the past week! Take a look at what's new on the roof...

some beautiful kid-friendly signs (Big thanks to Julia and Lynette for creating these for us!) :

a mini greenhouse for our peppers:

Unlike most of our other plants in the rooftop garden, which are heirloom varieties, these peppers are a commercial hothouse cultivar. We're "training" them to climb up and around a string, like so:

Some more signage to provide information about some of the uniquie features of our garden, including our self-watering planter and our solar cooker (plus more to come!):

Unfortunately, we seem to have developed a bit of a whitefly problem on our potatoes and tomatoes! We've put out some yellow sticky traps to deal with the problem:

We have been harvesting lots of summer vegetables from our rooftop garden - peas, lettuce, kale, radishes - and now some of our containers are starting to look a little sparse. This means we are nearing the transition into winter planting, which we hope to start early next week. Hope you can join us for some fun up on the roof!

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Lazy Days

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Maybe that should read lazy daze! I’ve been enjoying the lazy days of summer to the extreme; puttering in the garden (plenty of weeding and deadheading to do), hiking in the foothills, cruising around the neighborhood on my bike, sitting on the patio in the evenings and knitting while I listen to the Rockies games on the radio, and generally reveling in our lovely summer weather. Cooler temperatures and more rain than usual have made it a joy to be outdoors!

My garden was spared last week when a horrific hail and wind storm scoured the west side of the Denver metro area. The damage is amazing to see; trees not blown over lost limbs or were stripped of their foliage, smaller shrubs and plantings were beat to a pulp. Once the clean-up phase is completed it’s really best to just sit back and let nature take its course. Plants with established root systems may spring right back with new leaves and fresh growth; others may shut down for the season but resume normal growth patterns next year. (Now is NOT the time to fertilize; trying to stimulate plants that are stressed and in shock is not only a waste of money but may be detrimental to the plants themselves.) It will be really interesting to see how it all plays out. Please keep me posted on your garden’s recovery!

mariposa lily, Calochortus sp., photographed at Red Feather Lakes, July 18, 2009

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Meet. . . Agave!

Also known as century plants, the agaves are wonderfully sculptural succulents that can be used as accent plants or in small groupings. I love the large, slightly sculpted leaves and their cool blue color. These plants are few and far between in the Denver area, although there are at least two cold hardy species grown here that I’m aware of. These photos are of a neighbor’s Agave parryi, Parry’s century plant, which gets about 18”x18” in size and suckers readily (these suckers are called “pups," though they're not soft and cuddly!).

It’s now blooming, and the stalk is about 12’tall! The plants are located in a dry, south facing exposure that gets plenty of heat. These plants are rated for zones 4-10.

Another species that is sold locally is Agave havardiana, Harvard’s century plant (sorry, no photo). It is not as hardy, only to zone 5, so it should definitely be planted near boulders, walls, or other heat absorbing and radiating hardscape features. Well drained soil is a must. This agave is very similar in appearance to the Parry’s, but twice as big! This 3’x3’ monster would be a fantastic specimen and focal point for a warm, protected courtyard garden.

So, if you’re feeling adventuresome, check out Agave.

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update for City Square

it's been a couple weeks, and we've seen a lot of growth in the garden, thanks to our wonderful sunshine and ed's regular (and much appreciated!) watering. Here's what's new in the garden -

after all that trouble to move the compost and lay down wire mesh under the composter, it took the rats all of TWO DAYS to chew a hole right through the composter. I've heard plastic is like candy to rats. We lined part of the inside of the composter with wire mesh, and have no issues since. (touch wood). We are still looking for old CDs to use for rodent deterrents, please let us know if you have any to donate!

our luscious tomatoes, which despite being staked still seem to become a jungle. almost all are producing fruit!

this is our 'two sisters' mix (most of the beans were shaded out by the pumpkin)

Corn! Above are the male flowers with their anthers dangling in the wind, in search of the female flower (or silk). When the silk (see below) is pollinated, each will produce on kernel on the cob.

our potatos have (also) grown into a jungle, spilling out over the beds and partially shading the eggplant down the centre (although the eggplants don't seem to be suffering)

hmmm...purple potatoes - purple flowers, and white potatos - white flowers. cool.

instead of just drying up, our potato flowers are producing fruit! You'll see they resemble little tomatoes (and indeed are the same family), but these fruits are toxic and cannot be eaten.

our zucchinis are phenomenal! on this plant alone, six zucchins are currently growing. We've been enjoying the harvest for a couple weeks now.

our harvest from this week - lettuce, chard, a turnip, zucchini, and some cilantro

we were lucky to get a visit from our old friends Emily and Cap who helped out in the garden last year. Zorka gave them the tour, naming all the plants and techniques we were using.

beautiful carrots from our square foot plot. I'd love to rave about how great they taste, but unfortunately someone took them all! Another unpleasant reality of urban farming.

here is lindsay working hard to put new soil on top of the bed that wasn't working. We planted yellow zucchini, leeks, celery, beets, carrots and radishes, which have mostly sprouted now.

We'll be in the garden at 10 am again on Sunday, beginning to plant for winter gardening. Come join us!

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