Friday, December 20, 2013

Solstice Eve Garden

The temperature outside was in the 50s today so I decided to do one last 2013 garden visit. Most of the garden was still under a blanket of snow but I managed to dig out some late season carrots. 

There were a few greens poking through the snow too so I brought home a mustard green leaf for Mao Mao. She likes to munch on something leafy but she's never tried this flavorful green. I'm not sure she'll like it but I couldn't pass up homegrown food for the kitty. 

Speaking of kitties, all the usual suspects were accounted for in the garden. The furry guy finally looks comfortable. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you loyal MaoMaoKitty readers!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Christmas Tradition

So many to choose from... But none of these are big enough. 
That's just about the right size. And look at all that character! Can't get that in the local tree lot. 
The happy couple and their tree. 
Beautiful. Just beautiful. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Let it Snow... Some More!

It's been a snowy couple weeks here in Jersey City. By that I mean it's snowed twice in the last week, it hasn't all melted yet (there are even patches that haven't turned gray), and we're supposed to get a few more inches tonight. This is by far the most snow I've seen before Christmas in this area since I moved here seven years ago. It's great!  And we should have known this was coming because we saw this guy in the fall (he was at least 2.5" long and reallllllly fuzzy):
He was well prepared for a snowy winter so I'm expecting lots more white stuff in the coming months. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Calico Cat in Fall Foliage

It's a little late (it's snowing outside right now), but I couldn't resist sharing these wonderful photos of Mao Mao romping in the fall foliage from a few years back.  Who doesn't love seeing a cat surrounded by autumn beauty?

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Happy Halloween!

The big guy got a face over the weekend. We had him lit each night in the living room until white fuzzy stuff started coming out of his eyes yesterday. Now he's on the balcony with a little battery powered tea light in him. Hopefully he holds up through the night. He was a little smooshy in the face area. Ew. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sweet Potato Vines

My window boxes grew some tubers!  I read they're edible but bland. Since I doused my plants in Miracle Grow a few times, mine might also be toxic. I think I'll pass. But this makes me want to try growing the real deal...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Projects in the Kitchen

I've been drying herbs all summer. It's wonderful to have them fresh on hand to snip into soups and onto salads but the warm days and summer bounty don't last forever. So I'm collecting bundles of sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and even mint to last us through the winter. They seem to dry out quickly in the kitchen with almost no attention from me.   Herbs are one of my favorite things to plant each year. They usually grow like weeds and don't mind the occasional neglect!

We've got a batch of hot sauce going on the counter too. We bought a basket of peppers at a farm stand last week (only $3) with the intention of making hot sauce and hoping that the peppers would in fact be suitable for such an endeavor. It turns out they pack a punch. And I found just about the easiest recipe imaginable (no cooking, 3 ingredients) at Bon Appetit

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I'm makin' it in my cabinet. The first batch should be ready soon. Josh is afraid. Very afraid. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Garden Cats

The Brunswick Street Community Garden is populated by a big kitty family. Over the years, I've seen wacky little kittens grow into very relaxed cats, right at home in our urban garden oasis. Sometimes they mistake the garden plots for giant litter boxes (especially in the spring after the soil has been tilled) but for the most part they are a pleasant addition to the landscape. 

The majority of the cats are mostly white with either gray tabby spots or black spots (like these two friendly guys).  There's also a very nervous all black shorthair and a long hair guy who is perpetually fighting matted fur in the summer. They are all fixed (I think) and when a new one shows up a cat caretaker in the garden traps, fixes, and releases the kitty before the population can expand. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pumpkin Season

As you may know, I love pumpkins. Pretty much as soon as the last boat is taken out of the water on Labor Day, I'm thinking about when and where I can get a big winter squash.  This year we waited a long time to visit the local garden store to pick up these two beauties.  The big guy weighs in at 34lbs. The little one is just such an adorably small Long Island Cheese squash that I had to have it. And in a month, that one may become soup or pie.  

Why did we wait until the middle of October to get some pumpkins?? It's been warm. I have yet to put away my shorts and take out my sweaters. It hasn't really felt like fall. I don't think the leaves are going to put on a very good show this year. 

But I couldn't take it anymore. It's almost Halloween. Soon there won't be any pumpkins left. Soon the stores will all be pushing red and green instead of orange and brown. 

We have tentative plans to visit a proper pumpkin patch this Friday in Sussex Co NJ. Hopefully that will help boost our pumpkin numbers around here a little. 3 is sort of skimpy for me. We don't even have any gourds!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Last Cukes of the Season

Last week we had just enough warm weather to encourage a few more cucumbers to fill out. For the most part though, the season is coming to a close at the Brunswick Street Community Garden in Jersey City. I tried sowing late season lettuce, but it hasn't taken off. We've had a very dry fall which probably isn't helping. 

Last week I picked some tomatoes that were just blushing and they ripened on my kitchen counter. I've found this to be one of the best ways to keep on top of the tomato harvest. As soon as the tomatoes begin showing color, I pick them and ripen them indoors, and they always turn out sweet and delicious, just as they would if they had fully ripened on the vine.  In fact, I am unable to tell the difference between tomatoes ripened this way and those ripened fully on the vine.  I think I read somewhere that the sweetness has been achieved at this point anyway. I also avoid the possibility of losing them to pests, garden thieves, and rot. 

Strangely, the warm spell last week seemed to revive my eggplant plants too. I'm patiently waiting for 4 eggplants to get up to size before frost hits. The plants put out so many flowers and the beginnings of fruits mid summer that I thought I was going to hit the jackpot.  Then we had cool weather and the plants stalled out. Nothing happened for a couple months and now they're back. I'll check on them tomorrow. It will be in the 70's through Thursday here in New Jersey. Hope they're ok with that. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Growing Fall Decorations in the Garden

Last fall I bought a trio of mini decorative Indian Corn ears at a market in Lancaster, PA.  I saved the ears and planted a row of kernals in the spring.  They grew tall, tassels sprouted, and quite a few ears developed.  Yesterday, the stalks all looked well dried, so I decided to harvest.

One of the reasons I planted the corn was to see what colors I would get in the end.  The corn at the farm stand was very colorful, some ears were short and burgundy while others were long and slender and included different blends of red, maroon, orange, yellow, buff, and even blue tones.  I was curious to see if kernals from a single ear would result in similar looking ears or if they would reflect the chromatic diversity I saw at the stand.

As you can see, I hit the fall decor jackpot.  A little of everything is represented including some that look like raspberries (probably a result of too few rows being planted and poor pollenation) and others that are perfect little mini Indian Corns.  I couldn't be happier with the results.  I'm just not sure what to do with so many!  At the moment, they're arranged in a tall cylindrical vase on our media unit, right next to Pumpkin #1.

Another mini harvest included some carrots, parsley, and tomatoes.  The cherry tomatoes are from a volunteer plant in my plot.  It's a sweet variety (maybe Sweet 100 that I planted last season) but only a few ripen each day.  Garden Snack!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It finally happened!

I grew too many tomatoes in the Brunswick Street Community Garden in Jersey City!  Since joining the garden six years ago, I've always dreamed of the garden glut - something I had only heard about up until this point.  This year though, my trusty Beefmaster tomato plant has had a truly impressive yield.  Just yesterday I picked 9 tomatoes and there are still 9 more on the plant waiting to ripen.  This is in addition to every other red, non-paste tomato you've seen pictures of on this blog this year.  If ever there was a case for hybrid tomato plants, this is it. 
Look at these beauties!  The basil became pesto and that bright blue table underneath?  That's Josh Urso Design's Tabby coffee table looking all industrial spiffy.
Earlier in the week there were still other tomatoes ready on the vine, and a couple crazy looking carrots, too.

Not a great photo, but you can see the still vining cucumber on the left and the perpetual basil plants on the right.

We have a small butterfly garden bed with plants like butterfly bush, rue, milkweed, and parsley to attract monarch butterflies and their pretty cousins.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Lots of Veg

These are from the last few weeks. It's dropping into the 50s in the evenings here, so the plants are beginning to lose their green. There are at least a dozen more unripe tomatoes on the plants and a couple dozen carrots in the ground. They'll be fine but the baby eggplants and maturing cucumbers aren't going to be too happy. We'll see how they look later in the week. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Garden Cat Bath... Sideways!

My computer is too old to do this anymore, so you'll have to look at them sideways.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Harvest Photo Backlog!

Yellow tomatoes and more figs

yellow tomato, first eggplant (!), hot peppers, basil, plum tomato

cucumbers, tomatoes, hot pepper, carrots, lots o mint

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Figs, etc

Last week I picked figs from the communal trees and made some jam. A kind fellow gardener traded a cucumber for a carrot. And the plum tomato plant is heavy with fruit, mostly green at this point. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Corn Serves as Praying Mantis Habitat

I may not get any ears from my Indian Corn crop, but at least I know it's going to good use.  The past few times I've visited the Brunswick Street Community Garden, I've spotted this tan fellow on my cornstalks. Why did I plant corn in such a tiny garden?  Last fall I bought a decorative trio of small Indian Corn ears at a farm stand in Lancaster, PA and saved them until this spring.  Each ear was a different mix of reds, yellows, browns, and oranges and I was curious to see what I would get from their offspring.  So I planted and they came up, survived the rainy-hot-rainy-hot cycle of summer weather, grew tassels, some toppled over, and most are developing very tiny ears.  I don't know if any of the ears have kernels on them; it looks like only one is plumping up.  My plan is to harvest them when the stalks begin to dry out.  Until then, the praying mantis gets to enjoy his own little vertical cathedral of maize.

A few more deep brown Earthwalker sunflowers are blooming on the single stalk that grew large enough to flower.  Both the bees and I love them.

Who's got eggplants?  I do!  One of my plants is nurturing at least a half dozen purple fruits.  They're a small variety, so we won't be overwhelmed by the harvest.  As you can see, the plant foliage is under siege by flea beetles, who are making Alpine Lace out of the leaves.  I diligently squish any that I see when I water but it seems to be a relentless assault.  Regardless, the plant is doing a fine job of flowering and holding on to the fruit.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Eating local, real local.

I had a big harvest yesterday after not visiting the garden for a week.  Everything looked fine.  The Beefmaster plant is huge and still producing tomatoes.  It would probably do well with an 8' stake at this point but it's going to have to be content with draping all over the corn.  The beans continue to flower and my succession planting seems to be a success.  The younger plants should begin flowering in the next week.  To make room I thinned out some of the older plants that looked a little dry.  We ate the beets, beans, and carrots last night along with our first installment from our fish CSA (silver hake).  It was a very local dinner!

I'm growing a dramatic sunflower called Earth Walker.  I would like a whole bouquet of these but since I've only got one, I guess it'll stay in the garden.

Anybody want a kitten?  This little ruffian is running around the garden and sitting on my plants.  I love crazy face markings on cats though, and this guy/gal has one killer nose!

These trees are in bloom in Jersey City right now.  The big billowy flowers look great but turn into a disgusting sidewalk pulp once they come down.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Oddities from the Garden

Most of the carrots I grow wind up looking like pants or ginger roots and I've definitely seen a few tomatoes from the garden who could be called Pinnochian.  Fruits and veg in nature are rarely the uniform beauts you buy at Whole Foods.  The weirdos have all been winnowed out by the time they hit the markets.

Artist Uli Westphal has a lovely series of photos documenting all the unusual shapes that produce can grow into if allowed.

The Mutato Project is interesting for anyone with an artistic eye or who has gardened, but also strikes a chord with anyone who has shopped for fresh produce.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Veg Coming Along

The beets are finally outgrowing "Baby Beet" status. After a very long and wet spring, the plants are enjoying the warm (HOT) weather and the relative lack of munching pests.  The variety is an heirloom called Flat of Egypt beet, from Baker Creek.

These spicy Cherry Bell peppers ripen to red.  I've been picking, deseeding, and freezing them as they ripen. As with everything in the garden, they're thriving in the summertime heat. They're a bit hotter than I expected, so I'm sure the bounty will last well into 2014.

The first tomato plant I put in this year was a Beefmaster from the Union Square green market in the city. It's by no means a distinctive variety, but it's definitely making a case for hybrids.  There are already half a dozen fruits on the plant, which is towering out of the cage and still flowering profusely.   I've got high hopes for this guy.

I've never had much luck with beefsteak style tomatoes in my plot.  I tend to overcrowd with too many things, and inevitably something gets shaded in the fight for UV resources.  Three years ago I planted a very typical cherry tomato (a hybrid) and got quarts and quarts of fruit off the thing.  I've yet to match that in productivity.  I blame it on the fickle heirlooms I'm so drawn to.  With the Beefmaster doing so well though, I might just leave the heirloom tomato growing to the farmer's market vendors.