Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer in the City

This week's harvest: Baby salad mix, Red Russian Kale, Flying Saucer baby squash, Calendula.

Hot Blooded

So I turned around and they grew.  I mean literally.  I came into the tomato garden one night to check on things and then again the next morning I went into the garden and they had grown.  It felt like I turned my back for one split second and they grew an inch.  In my head,  hazy childhood memories of "A Little Shop of Horrors" were starting to get clearer.  I started to hear "FEEEEEEEEED MEEEEEEEE Seymour!!! Good thing my name isn't Seymour.  I just kept on weeding and ignoring the cry.  

But seriously, I am thrilled amazed amused and enchanted by the growth of our amazing tomatoes.  My grandfather would be proud.  And if there is a realm where the wise spirits dwell and look down upon us mortals, I am sure that he's sporting an ear to ear grin.  In my family my late grandfather was the tomato guru.  He (an urban farmer himself in Pittsburgh, PA) was probably the most notable figure in my developing interest in food and gardening.  His tomatoes were some of the best I have ever had.  Now our Amyitis beauties are some of the best I have ever grown.  It seems like maybe he is sending me good graces from the ether.  
But beyond my grandfather's Midas touch for nightshades, I guess we do have to take some credit for their success too.  Temperature and food make all of the difference with plants like tomatoes and squash.  It should go without saying that a plants will perform best in with optimal support.  Success in our case is being created by numerous insurances of those supports.  The first step to success was in transplanting.  These tomatoes were transplanted into raised beds filled with pure compost.  Compost is like a a plant super food.  For those unfamiliar with the hubbub around compost, compost is literally decomposing organic matter.  Plants, food scraps, yard waste can be (when treated properly) turned into nutrient rich soil through a number of methods.  While not everything can handle the nutrient blast of being planted in pure compost, tomatoes seem to love it.  Decomposing material also produces heat.  And because compost is still on its way to becoming soil it is producing a large amount of heat.  In combination with a sheltered and sunny Mission District back yard and nutrient rich warm soil, we've repaired and added to an old irrigation system to insure that these plants are getting the perfect amount of water.  All of these factors seem to be helping.  Just look at the pictures below.  Notice how the tomatoes in black pots are almost twice the size. The black plastic retains the suns heat better than the boxes.  These plants were all planted in the same soil on the same day.  

Eat your Kale

About a week ago I stumbled into The Corner to hold a meeting with Chef and Kitchen Manager Devon Newby.  As we chatted about greens and food she had to take a call and went outside.  My eyes scanned the restaurant and came to a table of patrons gleefully enjoying and Amyitis Salad.  My eyes widened like Gollum around the ring.  "THIS is why I do this!" I thought.  Feeding people is the fuel in my tank.  Even their toddler child was munching away on baby chard and arugula. I almost shed a tear.  They were graceful enough after learning that we had grown their salad to let me take their photo.  

Link of the week...... err Month.  

When I moved to SF in 2006 I was hunting for people doing interesting gardening projects that I could get involved with.  A friend of mine led me to the doorstep of a woman named Novella Carpenter in 2007.  Novella was in the process of writing a book about her urban garden.  However, "Urban garden"  is an understatement.  Novella is an urban homesteader.  She had livestock, fruit trees and veggies all grown in an abandoned plot of land in West Oakland.  For about a month and a half I visited her once a week to tinker in the garden and shoot the breeze.  Now her book has hit the shelves and I am urging everyone to read it.  Simply from the title "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer" I know I am going to love it.  Because urban farming really is about education.  There are few if any road maps to how it should all work and I learn something new every time do anything.  All of us urban farmers are drawing the maps as we go.  With Novella's book hopefully she'll inspire some more map makers.  It is at the top of my reading pile.  I hope it makes it to the top of yours soon.