I'm moving house right now and looking for ways to re-purpose the tons of stuff I've accumulated over the years--such as bushel baskets. I'm going to try a trick my friend Dagmar Baur told me about. I'm going to grow potatoes in bushel baskets this year,
Step 1: Line the bushel basket with plastic in which some drainage holes have been punched.
Step 2: Put approximately 8" of soil in the basket.
Step 3: Bury seed potatoes in the soil (I'm going to use heritage varieties recommended by Dagmar: Irish Cobbler, Slovenia Crescent, Matsuama).
Step 4: When the potatoes start to send up stems, add another inch or so of soil (this apparently encourages more potatoes to form). Keep doing this as the stems grow.
Step 5: Later in the summer (I'll keep you posted!), harvest a bumper crop.
I'd appreciate hearing from anyone else who has tried this technique.
These potatoes will be a memorial crop for Dagmar, who died a couple of weeks ago. She was an amazing person who generously spread love, plants and wisdom to the world. I'll miss her, as will so many of her friends in the Toronto gardening community.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
I don't know who made this garden, but it's one of the sweetest I've ever seen. A moveable herb feast attached to a bicycle! I saw the bike/garden parked outside the University of Toronto's school of architecture building, so it was probably put together by an inventive student. Can't you just imagine the wafts of basil-scented air coming from this bike as it travels the city?!
If you know of other, equally quirky gardens, I'd love to hear about them.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
My garden gets shadier every year (not surprising--I planted 30 trees when I moved in--this in a regular-sized downtown Toronto lot), so it's hard to find a sunny spot for tomatoes. My solution was to colonize the roof.
There's a section I can reach with a small ladder, and that part of the roof has just a gentle slope. I hoisted a couple of bags of topsoil up there, cut 2 slits in each and planted heritage tomato seedlings in each slit. Couldn't have been easier. I watered them every day (and with compost tea every week or so) and harvested a bumper crop of tomatoes. Forget the 100-mile diet; this was the 0-foot diet.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
This is a great time of year to forage for young, edible greens in the city. My favourite is garlic mustard. It's an invasive non-native plant that wreaks havoc in woodlands (outcompeting the native understory plants), so you can feel virtuous about harvesting it. A few nights ago, I went to a local park that's infested with garlic mustard and cut a huge swath of young leaves (the later in the season, the more bitter the leaves). I made a batch of garlic mustard pesto and spread it on toasted baguette. Delicious--it tasted like spring.
You can use any regular pesto recipe and just substitute garlic mustard for the basil, but here's my recipe:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 clove garlic
4 cups garlic mustard leaves
pinch of salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Hope you'll join me and many friends and urban agriculture folks for the launch of my new book, City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing. The launch is on Wednesday, May 26, 6:30pm to 8:30pm and is being hosted by The Stop Community Food Centre at the Artscape Wychwood Barns (601 Christie Street [just south of St. Clair], Toronto. It'll be a party...
Monday, May 3, 2010
Sarah Elton (author of the new book Locavore) and I led a Jane's Walk yesterday (www.janeswalk.net), "Finding Free Food in the City," and 140 people showed up for it! Sarah and I both gave out free copies of our books to anyone who answered our skill-testing questions. E.g., what is a good (and legal, humane) way to get rid of raccoons and squirrels and keep them from eating your vegetable garden? One fellow said he collected all his shaved beard trimmings every day and sprinkled them in the garden to discourage critters.
[photo: Sarah Elton on left; me on right, with the blowhorn (note carrot earrings). Photo courtesy of Dennis Swartz and Jane's Walk]