Category Archives: pumpkins

Autumn

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

-Emily Dickinson

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Jesse’s Brooklyn Garden Begins!

I think I’m more excited about Jesse’s garden this year than my own. I’m always curious as to not only what he will plant but how he will plant it. He has very little space in his urban setting but it doesn’t stop him from thinking big.

Large cities are notorious for their dismissive views on recycling programs. I know this is true for Chicago and Jesse tells me that it is the same in NYC. Our “city” kids – one in Chicago, one in San Francisco and Jesse in NY have always found ways to recycle and be a little more responsible about these things than their respective cities generally care about. (One exception would be San Francisco.) Jesse likes to find recycled containers for his garden.

This past weekend Jesse spent some time assembling his garden. Using compostable egg crates rather than peat pots as containers for planting his seeds he was able to re-use what would have gone directly into the garbage. I’ve warned him that these can work well but need some holes in the bottom to aid root growth before transplanting. The egg-crate planters were placed into Jesse’s darkroom trays (yes, he’s a photographer too) to hold water for bottom watering and for ease of moving them around. The photos below show his seeds before they were pushed into the seed-starting mix.

Jesse also used recycled bits of cardboard to label his delicata, heirloom tomato, habañeros, sweet dumpling winter squash and pumpkin seeds. He has no idea what variety of tomatoes they are. They were labeled “heirloom tomatoes” at a local market and he described them as “delicious.” I like his adventuresome spirit.

As you can see below, Jesse is proactively recycling. He bought eggs so he’d have the crates which necessitated his having to find a (recycled) container for the eggs! And of course, those are old film containers holding his seeds. Atta boy, Jesse.

I’m sure we’ll hear from Jesse occasionally about his garden’s progress. I’d love to hear from others who are experimenting with “urban planting.”

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seeds on seed-starting mix


seeds and seed containers


recycled garden


eggs new home

Also posted in experiments, Jesse's Brooklyn garden, planting, seeds, tomatoes, urban gardens

“Huge Pumpkins up to 70″ Around!”

My seeds from Seed Savers Exchange

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Last year’s successes have emboldened me enough to expand the garden. For the first time I’ve saved some seeds from last year to plant this year. Jesse brought some seeds from Brooklyn at Christmas that I’m anxious to plant and today I got some pumpkin seeds that will give me “huge pumpkins, up to 70″ around!”

I’ve taken a different approach to seed selection. Last year I picked up seeds on sale from Ace and Home Depot. This year I’ve done that again but I’ve also investigated some of the seed companies that specialize in heirloom and rare varieties. I have also taken a look at some of the companies that sell primarily to commercial producers. Those companies that maintain their own test lots and labs and trial grounds and whose germination rates exceed federal standards are the places I want to shop for seeds. Although there are others, I’ve taken a close look at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Territorial Seed Company, Stokes Seeds Ltd. and Parks Seed Company which has a wonderful Gardeners Handbook.

This year my favorite resource for seeds is the Seed Savers Exchange. This is a non-profit organization that saves and shares heirloom seeds. It is the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States. They have 23 acres of certified organic preservation gardens. Their site itself contains a wealth of information on all aspects of gardening as well as seed saving and trading. Even their seed packets have instructions for seed saving . The Seed Savers Exchange is the source of the seeds photographed above.

Let me know if you’ve come upon a favorite seed source.

And yes, I know I already used this photo.

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Decay… Again

broccoli leaf

broccoli leaf

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Once again I am struck by the aesthetic side of decomposition. This time I took the broccoli leaf into the studio to photograph it. It was a little late in the evening and pretty dark for photography outside.

This is the same type of leaf that in June I was so taken by its waterproof quality. It now looks very different. No longer waterproof, it has taken a distinctly autumn-ish color. It looks worn and ragged.

As my garden ages it changes in so many ways. Leaves like this broccoli leaf become battle scarred. Tomato plants wither from the inside as they seem to yield their energy to the fruits as they ripen. The same fate falls to Noah’s pumpkin plants. They look horrible – just dying – again, in sacrifice to the beautiful pumpkins they produce.

Only the pepper plants continue to look as virile as their fruits.

This is the period of the greatest harvest. It comes at a price the plant itself pays. We enjoy the harvest but I also watch as the plants begin to succumb to their efforts.

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Pumpkins, Carrots, Turnips & Bison

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Today I spent a lot of time in the garden. I tore out an area next to the pumpkins that had a couple of sickly zucchini plants and weeds. After cleaning it out I planted carrots. In a similar fit of activity I pulled out the remaining turnips – maybe 20 or so – and planted a fall crop of turnips.

Animals have chewed my pumpkins.

Animals have chewed my pumpkins.

They've even chewed my funny-looking one.

They've even chewed my funny-looking one.

The pumpkins continue to grow but word is getting around the animal world that pumpkin is pretty tasty. Does anyone have any idea how to protect pumpkins from the squirrels/rabbits/raccoons/birds that are sampling them? Do I use chicken wire?

I’d love to hear some ideas.

Katie asked if we could take a trip to Fermi Lab in Batavia where there is a great hike through a large meadow of grasses and wildflowers and woods. What she really wanted to see was the Bison herd.

It was a great way to wrap up the day.

Katie with wildflowers in the woods at Fermi Labs.

Katie with wildflowers in the woods at Fermi Labs.

Katie photographing bison.

Katie photographing bison.

_WKP0584

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Big Plants… and REALLY Big Plants

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Noah with his pumpkin

Noah with his pumpkin

The largest plant I have in my garden is a couple of pumpkin plants. They long ago

“crawled” over the fence and seem to wander at will in my yard. That’s OK with me. It’s less grass to mow.

For all its size there are only 5 pumpkins growing. They are large pumpkins and Noah seems to enjoy them. They grew with amazing speed – much like Noah.

This past June I photographed a wedding in California. Since it was a late afternoon wedding my friend Jim and I spent a couple of hours the morning of the wedding at the Big Trees State Park.

The Park is home to some of the largest trees in the world. Some of them were large trees when Christ was born.

Jim looking at fallen tree at Big Trees State Park

Jim looking at fallen tree at Big Trees State Park

Their pace of growth is very different than Noah’s pumpkins, however. While the pumpkins have a few scars from birds pecking and squirrels scratching them, some of the sequoias and redwoods have holes from Pileated woodpeckers and black marks from lightning strikes from hundreds of years ago.

I find the different cycles of plant growth very interesting but I’m glad Noah doesn’t have to wait a couple of thousand years for his pumpkins.

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New Progress in the Garden

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ripe cherry tomato!

ripe cherry tomato!

There are some good thing to report!

• In spite of a cool, wet summer our first cherry tomato has ripened.

• Pumpkins are getting large and on their way to 25#, or so the seed packet says.

• We are learning many ways to cook zucchini! Katie had a zucchini Asiago cheese-omelet this morning.

• Wildflower seeds I planted are blooming, although I don’t know what most of them are.

Anyone who knows wildflowers please feel free to help me identify them.

Any Brooklyn pumpkins yet, Jesse?

How about Pilsen jalapeños, Andy? Does the el cast too much shade on your garden?

This pumpkin is about 12 inches long so far.

This pumpkin is about 12 inches long so far.

unknown wildflower

unknown wildflower

unknown wildflower with bee

unknown wildflower with bee

Also posted in Andy's Chicago garden, cooking, Jesse's Brooklyn garden, tomatoes Tagged , , , , , , |

From Andy…

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I got the following note from Andy today. He also sent some wonderful photos of his urban garden.

hey dad!

i just transplanted my pumpkins into a larger container to be left outdoors. here are some photos! i grabbed an old ginger sack from work, filled it with potting soil, placed that in a crate for structure, and added the pumpkin plants. i’m only concerned that there are two plants. i grew them together in a milk jug until this point. do you think that i should take one out? one of them might be better off than two growing together.

andy

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