Blog Category: Grow
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checkout the city farm blogs to learn about our takes on farm & city life
WHAT is it with the October heat wave? I’ve lived in Los Angeles long enough to know that this is our hottest season. Despite my protestations that it should be time for boots and sweater weather, October greets me full of fire-inducing, hot Santa Ana winds and the temptation to buy an air conditioner. But I can’t seem to get over wish for a cold, damp, blustery fall, pumpkin patches, fires in the wood stove instead of the surrounding hills, veggies roasting in a crockpot for a hot, filling dinner. Whether your weather collaborates with your seasonal dreams or not, October is a good time to sow certain seeds, especially peas: snow peas or snap, if you get them in the ground now, you’ll have a jump on fresh peas for a spring harvest. I’ve always loved snow peas, whether it’s the crunch they add to a stir-fry or the reminder of the princess who felt the slight change beneath her 20 mattresses, reminding me that I can be high maintenance about a few things. “You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.” ~ When Harry Met Sally
Despite their princess-y reputation, peas are pretty easy to grow, though you have to give some special attention when it comes to watering them.
How to plant your peas:
“On the side” is a very big thing for you.” (When Harry Met Sally) How do you prefer your peas? In the pod, tossed in a salad or stir-fry? Steamed or added to a Thanksgiving mystery casserole? Tell us any tricks and tips you’ve learned about growing and harvesting peas in the comments or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm.
(Photo Credit: loghouseplants.com)
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, leaves, marigolds, boot & sweater weather is a reminder of change after a hot and dry summer in Southern California. And since the season isn’t as gloriously marked here as it is in the northeast, I go online and look at photos of the changing colors of the trees. The shorter days and colder evenings remind me that it is natural to slow down, to hold a cup of hot tea, to allow for things to settle in to a fallow period.
But October is not for the fallow in your garden. In fact, it is a great time to grow your annuals in the soil that is still warm from the summer, from your bulbs that will flower in the spring, to flowers you hope to harvest for a holiday centerpiece.
Marigolds are a fantastic flower to plant this week: they are the birth flower of you October babies, and bloom in oranges and reds, the warm colors of fall, perfect for an autumnal dinner table. Used around the world in honor of various traditions and religious rites, from honoring Mother Mary to those who have passed away on Day of the Dead, some of my favorite images are from the garlands of marigolds used in India to celebrate weddings and mark holy days. High in antioxidants, the Calendula officinalis is not only edible, but has been used medicinally for everything from upset stomach to ointments to treat burns, bruises, and cuts.
Marigolds are easy to grow and maintain, so you really have no excuse. Get out in your garden!
Add bouquets to your fall dinner table, or sprinkle some petals to add a garnish to your favorite autumnal food. What are the ways that you celebrate autumn? Drop us a note in the comment section, or tell us on Twitter @TheCityFarm.
(Photo Credit: WallpaperHDHub.com)
Is it possible to have a spirit flower? You know, like the times a seemingly random animal keeps showing up in your life, those times you keep seeing peacock images or owls or wombats and someone tells you that the universe is trying to tell you something based on what your “spirit animal” portends.
I’m seeing dahlias. The boyfriend and I went to the Getty Center this weekend, taking my friend and colleague who is visiting California from Congo. The grounds and architecture of the Getty are equally if not more a work of art as the fantastic collections the museum curates. The Getty perches atop the Santa Monica mountains directly off the 405, the travertine stone chosen for its look and history: “16,000 tons of travertine are from Bagni di Tivoli, Italy, 15 miles east of Rome. Many of the stones revealed fossilized leaves, feathers, and branches when they were split along their natural grain.”
We walked through the rounds of the circular garden, eying the dahlias that were bright against the grey morning sky, orangey pinks and rich eggplant-purples. The boyfriend noted my love of the blowzy blooms, and picked up a pink bunch to add to my vase of sunflowers, one of my other favorite flowers. And they may just be my spirit flower; researching the dahlia, I learned that they are in the same family as the sunflower.
Named in 1791 by Spanish botanist Antonio José Cavanilles for Anders Dahl (1751-1789), the Swedish botanist who saw the flower in Mexico in 1788. According to dictionary.com, no blue variety had ever been cultivated, thus the term “blue dahlia,” as an expression for “something impossible or unattainable.” Again with the coincidences – I’d JUST opened an article on Mother Nature Network that explains why blue is not a common color in the plant and flower world – “to make blue flowers, or foliage, plants perform a sort of floral trickery with common plant pigments called anthocyaninsj.” And while people have tried to use their chemistry sets to create the unnatural, a blue rose, they’ve only succeeded so far to use delphinidin, the pigment that makes delphiniums and violas blue, to make a purple rose.
I’ll have to pay closer attention to the floral signs in my life, to learn whether my spirit flower is trying to tell me something about the impossible or unobtainable, or to let my perfectionism go and be a bit more blowzy, disheveled, and unkempt in some areas of my life? For now, I’ll just stop to smell, photograph, and drink in the beauty of the dahlia.
Looking to add dahlias to your life?
(Photos: Rebecca Snavely)
My name is Rebecca, and I am a cat addict. To quote the ultimate crazy cat lady, trying to land a man in what is either the best, most man-repelling e-Harmony video EVER or simply her funny audition to be a YouTube sensation: “I love cats. I love every kind of cat. I just want to hug all of them, but I can’t, can’t hug every cat.”
(“I’m sorry, I’m thinking about cats again.”)
If you love your furry feline so much you want to give Fluffy* her very own, organic catnip, you can be the best cat-parent on the block and grow your own. However, according to The Herb Gardener, it might exude an aroma that is a cross between peppermint and skunk. I don’t even know how nature crosses such opposite smells, but if that’s the case, I’d go with their advice, and choose a spot that’s away from your patio or deck or wherever you might be hosting a dinner party.
My neighbor suggests storing your cat’s play toys in a jar of catnip. I suggest you film the results of your cat’s play and post to YouTube.
Even though you may be tempted to try a hit of catnip to see if you get the same buzz as Fluffy does, it won’t work. As much as we like to think we are one with our feline friends, our olfactory systems and brains are built differently. However, according to vox.com, as far back as the 1600s, Europeans were using the herb as a tisane, “brewing tea with its leaves, making juice from them, and even smoking or chewing them. At various times, the plant was believed to cure colic in infants and excessive flatulence, hives, and toothaches in adult.”
Whether those are true or not, catnip does have a medicinal use as a mosquito repellent. PopSugar has a great DIY recipe to make your own “bug off” from your new addition to your herb garden.
*Fluffy might be the most unoriginal name out there. (Sorry to all Fluffy-lovers.) What’s the best cat name you’ve ever heard? I’m partial to those with an article, e.g. “The Admiral,” or with a middle initial, like the Bloggess’s Hunter S. Thomcat (who gets extra points for the literary reference). Leave a note here or over on the Twitter to tell us your favorite cat name, and if you’re planning to grow your own catnip for a feline or a bug-repeller: @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely.
The lemon cyrpess tree stopped me in my tracks as I walked into the store. Mission accomplished, Trader Joes: I *almost* bought one, its color reminding me of the lime popsicles that I bought from the corner store a quick bike ride from my childhood house. And on a day that registered almost 100 in my part of L.A., anything that reminded me of a popsicle was a sure purchase.
But before I counted out those nine dollars and made the little bright green tree my own, I wanted to know more. SF Gate informed me that the lemon cypress is also known as the “’Golden Crest’ or “Goldcrest” cultivar of the Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), a tree that has a native range limited to the Monterey bay on the coast of central California.”
So that is why it called to me. I love the central coast of California, winding my way up the coast highway from L.A., the beautiful bridges, the cliffs down to the rocky beaches, the cypress trees that make every golden hour photo gorgeous against the setting sun and the blues of the sea. On a road trip to Monterey with my mother, we took our time on that drive up the 1. We stopped for coffee or hikes as often as we wanted, explored Monterey by bus, went on a guided kayak tour of the bay, during which we were regularly reprimanded as the slow boat, dragging behind the rest of the kayaks while we exclaimed about the otters popping up around us, got lost in the beauty of the day and forgot to paddle, and in general wreaked havoc in the channel as a MUCH BIGGER BOAT made its way out of the bay.
Armed with the info about where the lemon cypress hails from and the golden glow of memory that it invokes, I plan to take one home with me on my next trip to Trader Joes. Though in their native home they can grow as tall as 100 feet and keep their conical shape until they are over 30 feet, they can easily be cultivated as small topiaries, If you want to add one to your front stoop or living room. Snug Harbor Farm notes that they can grow to 12 inches to three feet in containers, and their photos are just BEGGING to be posted on Pinterest with as wee Christmas trees decked out with white lights or handmade ornaments.
Planting your lemon cypress in the wilds of your yard or garden?
Your new addition to your yard is low maintenance, so you can sit back and let it grow in its own way, unless you choose to prune it as a hedge.
Taking your tree inside, or planing in a container for your patio garden?
The lemon cypress is low-maintenance, but if it starts to lose its conical shape, prune it back to where you want it. Snug Harbor notes that pruning may bruise the tips and make them brown, but the plant will quickly heal.
Bonus: It smells like lemons! Do you have a lemon cypress in your garden or house? Tag us in photos of it on twitter: @TheCityFarm.
(Photo Credit: Snug Harbor Farm)
You know that fear / recurring nightmare? The one where your boss or boyfriend or way-cooler-than-you-colleague asks to borrow your laptop for a quick search, and you can’t say no but you can’t clear your search history without them seeing you do it? And you know that when they type in the first few letters of their oh-so-normal / oh-so-intelligent and/or artistic Google search that auto-fill is going to give away that you’ve been searching online for photos of …. broccoli.
Okay. So it’s not porn. Unless, like some of us, growing and eating your own grub becomes a kind of obsession of the late-night reading sort. Not to worry. I took the hit and Googled “the history of broccoli” for you. And since Princeton.edu was one of the first results, I now feel no shame, even though it links back to that plebeian Website, Wikipedia.
Carefully cultivated and a favorite in the Roman Empire and then Italy, broccoli made its way to England via Antwerp in the mid-18th century, and then headed to America by way of Italian immigrants. It’s renown as a healthy food that parents everywhere can admonish their kids to finish is backed up by science: A single serving provides more than 30 mg of vitamin C and a half-cup provides 52 mg of vitamin C. But it’s better to eat raw or steam lightly, as broccoli loses its cancer-fighting super-powers like sulforaphane after mere minutes of boiling: 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 77% after thirty minutes.
If you live in a warm climate and grow a quick-growing broccoli like Calabrese, you could plant today and harvest into November, for food-porn-friendly crudité platters at all your fall parties!
Fall is one of my favorite times of the year – sweaters, boots, indoor parties with a fireplace roaring. If you’re hosting or heading to a party, take your garden-grown broccoli out for a spin: Click here for a little food porn on ways to make your crudité platter look its best. I promise, the site is safe for work / search engine history.
(Photo Credit: Grow It Organically)
Remember that time you didn’t take a bath for days, and a crop of radishes starting sprouting from your arms and legs?
Right, me either.
But as a child with an over-active imagination, parented in part by Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, I was oft worried / left wondering if perhaps the Radish Cure could happen to me. Prescribed by Mrs. P-W to solve the problem of Patsy, the story of a little girl who wouldn’t take a bath, and her parents who turned for advice to the wise Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who, by the way, lived in an upside down house. Mrs. P-W’s solution? Let Patsy skip bath time. And while she slept, her parents secretly planted radish seeds into the layers of dirt that built up on her arms and legs. And voila! One morning, Patsy’s little limbs had turned into a vegetable garden!
It was both terrifying and tempting – could I *get* that dirty that a garden would grow on my arms? And now that I’m all grown up and (mostly) don’t believe in fairy-tales, is it freaky to harbor the idea of using EVERY surface to harvest food? (Don’t answer that.)
If getting so dirty that you could grow arm-veggies does not appeal to you, here’s how to grow radishes the (yawn) regular way.
Radishes are annuals that produce one root per seed planted, so consider waiting a couple weeks and planting another row, to have an ongoing harvest. Check with your seed-seller for the best variety for your region and when you plan to plant. MadAboutGardening, based in Portland, Oregon, likes to plant in the spring, but late summer is a great time to plant radishes. As Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle knew, they grow quickly, and can be ready to roast and add to your fall menu in three weeks to a month. Bon appétit!
(Photo Credit: Wild Roots)
It took a few days for my friend to admit that she was one-half of the twin-set who played Baby Grace on Little House on the Prairie. College roommates, she unpacked a photo of her and her twin at age four, posing in skates on the roller rink. “It’s so strange,” I told her, gazing at their cherubic faces, framed by blonde hair. “It’s like I knew you then. It’s like I grew up with you.”
I’ve always had that feeling that part of me grew up in Walnut Grove. I dreamed of reading by candlelight, a hazard for a near-sighted child. I wished I’d studied in a one-room schoolhouse, and on occasion, I addressed my mom and dad as ma and pa. The only connection I have now to my beloved faux-prairie-life is the street that leads me downhill from my apartment to a bustling junction of cafes, shops, and my bus stop is lined by tall grasses blowing in the wind. I close my eyes to block out the hipster dog-walkers around me and run my hands through them. I can almost imagine that I, too, am toppling down that hill in the opening credits of Little House.
If you want to create your own version of prairie life, consider planting one or more of these low-maintenance grasses.
If you have photos of gorgeous grasses you’re already growing, share them with us on Twitter @TheCityFarm! And check out my earlier post on homesteading in the city, here.
I remember the first time I visited a friend’s new house in Phoenix, that time she proudly proclaimed her front yard “landscaped.” As I looked around, she directed my gaze to a square of small grey pebbles and a succulent. Even the plants seemed to know that this part of Arizona was not meant to support life. I tried SO hard to compliment her grey garden, while my inner Oregonian was SO condescending and judgey: I saw a sad, dry landscape art that longed for lush greens and bright flowers.
Walking my L.A. neighborhood this dry, drought-stricken year, I now find myself more and more drawn to those very desert-like gardens. But we don’t have to settle for drab or sad drought-friendly gardens. As more and more of my neighbors are letting their lawns go, I see them choosing drought-resistant plants and gorgeous ground cover, prickly cacti with bright yellow flowers, purple and pink Echeveria that require very little love from the watering can.
One street over, I saw a gorgeous succulent starting its life as new ground cover: Crassula erosula, also known as “Campfire.” A combination of bright lime green and a brilliant coral orange leaves, it will blossom with white flowers in the fall in Southern California and similar growing regions. A native to South Africa and Madagascar, they grow best in USDA regions 9 – 11.
Growing only six inches in height, Campfire can spread to three feet, making it a great ground cover, as my neighbor’s is clearly intended to be. But Crassula erosula also works well in containers or hanging baskets to add brilliant colors to your front stoop or porch garden. Campfire requires full sun and well-drained soil, and a little stress to get the brightest colors, so be sure not to over-water it.
Have you switched up your landscaping to deal with the drought? Tell us your tips and tricks here in the comments or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely. And take a look at why the prickly pear cactus might be your new favorite food, here.
Photo Credit: Annie’s Annuals
Every morning en route to meet my carpool ride to my last gig, I passed a bottle brush tree. And every morning I was reminded, it’s a Dr. Seuss world, and we’re just living in it. Even before “going green” was really a thing, Dr. Seuss showed us the way through story.
“I am the Lorax.
I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
“Unless someone like you cares a
whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better.
What better way to bring a little rhyme and wonder to your garden than to grow a few plants that look straight out of Seuss’s storied lands? One of my favorites is the allium. There are over 700 types of alliums in the world, and while onions, shallots, and garlic are part of this family, many of the ornamental varietals look straight out of a Seuss story book.
As Gardener’s Supply Company notes, in the late 1800s, “Russian botanists began collecting some of the spectacular alliums from Central Asia and introducing them to avid horticulturists through the Imperial Botanical Garden in St. Petersburg. … It didn’t take long for the consummate plant hunters, the British, to get wind of this ‘new’ family of garden-worthy plants. Their expeditions yielded many more interesting alliums varieties.”
Alliums will grow well in any well-drained soil, and thrive in full sun. And the best time to plant them is in the fall, so get ready to add one plant, two plants, three fish, blue fish — sorry, it’s so easy to get sucked into Seuss — to your garden. Now is a good time to check with your local nursery about buying bulbs in time to plant, and order online if they are not readily available.
A few of my favorites to add a little Seuss whimsey to your yard? The Everlasting allium, the Purple Sensation, and the Ozawa allium, which might help bring back the bees, who love this flower.
You know who else loves this flower? Martha. Watch her video of planting bulbs in the fall for a late spring bloom and gorgeous flowers into summer. Martha makes her own compost. (Of course she does.) But you can purchase that, as well as the bone meal to prep the soil.
While you plant, keep in mind a little wisdom from the doctor:
“You’ll get mixed up,
of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with
many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great
tact and remember that
Life’s A Great Balancing Act.
“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
“Kid, you’ll move mountains.”
~ Oh, The Places You’ll Go
As we say goodbye to a July filled with grey California mornings (challenging Angelenos to re-rhyme June Gloom to July ____ ?), we embrace the August heat that is due to descend upon Los Angeles. The long hot days make the city livable out-of-doors right around 9pm, exactly the right time to drink in night blooming jasmine.
A fellow transplant to Los Angeles once told me that a friend had worried about moving to L.A. from the east coast, having heard horror stories of a cement-laden city marred by traffic-clogged byways, air filled with smog that smelled of exhaust. She soon realized instead that, “L.A. smells like flowers!” Why wouldn’t you want to live in a place where hot summer nights are scented in jasmine?
Night blooming jasmine is Latin-ly known as Cestrum nocturnum, or by its common name, Raatraani, which translates from Hindi as “queen of the night.” A fact which, naturally, flashed me back to 1992 and Whitney Houston’s performance in The Bodyguard, and subsequently, me at 16 losing my emotional stability, SOBBING in the mall theater’s parking lot in my dad’s car, trying to get over the doomed love affair between Whitney and Kevin.
I clearly had questionable taste as a teen, but thankfully I’ve moved on, drinking in better movies and the real queen of the night, night-blooming jasmine, also known in Manipuri, a language spoken in parts of India, as “moon flower.” Now, walking on a warm night, a waft of sweet-scented jasmine makes me feel at home, and happy to have planted myself in a place that smells like flowers.
The queen of the night is an evergreen shrub that is rather unassuming for its name, its plain, glossy, green leaves balancing how it flaunts its perfumed flowers that only open at night. If you want to add the shrub to your garden or yard, it thrives in containers as well as in the ground, with sandy, well drained soil. Starting from seed could takes months of prep, so it’s best to buy a rooted stem cutting from your local nursery. Choose a spot with at least six hours of sunlight, but avoid placing your queen in excessive direct sun. Check out DesignGreenIndia’s blog post for more info on fertilizer and pruning. Originally from the West Indies and South America, Cestrum nocturnum grows best in hardiness zones 8 – 11.
SFGate notes that night-blooming jasmine also attracts moths and butterflies, so if you want to bring even more butterflies to your yard, to check out my previous post, Butterfly Ambassadors, and read up on how growing a bio-diverse garden can change the world.
(Photo Credit: Portland Nursery)
My friend and I had set out to hike a hidden staircase route around 6 that evening, in order to be bathed in golden hour light. We were greeted instead by a cloud cover that made the walk more San Francisco than L.A., which was perhaps a better fit for the hills and overgrown gardens of this section of Silverlake. Secret Stairs, our book guide, told us one street was so bucolic, you might find lawn chairs in front yards. Sure enough, the homeowners complied. Befitting Hollywood, in a neighborhood rumored to have housed Lily Tomlin, it seemed a bit staged, and we didn’t linger long.
We were so outdoorsy, gazing not at our phones but the printed map in the book, as views of downtown Los Angeles or the Hollywood sign surprised us at various twists and turns. A woman walking her dog stopped to recommend another set of stairs, and a man slowed to make sure we weren’t lost. Towards the end of the climb, we rounded a corner to stroll along a street filled with envy-inducing architecture, rambling Craftsman homes mixed with California bungalows, an old growth magnolia tree shading an open second-story window, its roots overpowering the yard. In the midst of a sculpture garden that looked straight from the sands of Burning Man, a succulent garden caught my eye – especially the Echeveria ‘Afterglow,’ its pink flowers blooming bright against its muted purple, waxy leaves.
I want. And thankfully, with my porch-steps-potted-garden, they thrive as potted plants, as well as in your garden in coarse, well-drained soil, that is allowed to dry out thoroughly between drinks. Most echeverias are generally best in Sunset zones 8, 9, 12-24 (USDA hardiness zones 8-11). Originally from Mexico and Central America, they won’t survive in a freeze. If you live in a cold climate, move them indoors to winter, then slowly, a few hours a day, reintroduce them to the sun come spring. Though they love full sun, Echeverias don’t like harsh afternoon summer sun, so choose a home for them that receives some shade later in the day.
I highly recommend the Hidden Stairs hiking guide, or if you’re not an Angeleno, simply getting lost in your city, to wend your way through streets you may have never noticed before. What plants have you discovered while out on a walk in your world? Talk to us on Twitter @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely.
“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.” Tennessee Williams wrote in Camino Real. And in some tellings of the myth of Attis, the Phrygian god of vegetation, violets were thought to have grown from his suicidal blood-letting, driven mad after his nymph mistress was killed by his jealous lover Cybele, also, in some accounts, thought to be Attis’ mother.
How did a flower with such a storied past become the representative of the reticent and shy? The origin of the phrase “shrinking violet” is debatable – while Merriam Webster claims it was first used in 1915, there are citations to its use as a figure of speech to describe a shy or introverted person from 1870, as found in the Pennsylvania newspaper The Titusville Herald. The Phrase Finder describes its use in a “rather sarcastic article is about the New York businessman William Tweed, who was widely believed to have stolen large amounts of public money: ‘…deputations of the tax payers of New York waiting upon Mr. Tweed with the title-deeds of their mansions and the shrinking violet Tweed begging them to pardon his rosy blushes. Can it be that he is a humbug?’”
(Can we talk about the origin of “humbug” next?)
If you plan to grow violets in your garden, find a lightly shaded spot, with moist soil, and deadhead often to keep the flowers blooming as long as possible. Plant in the spring, as they thrive in cooler weather, and again in the fall.
Violets add gorgeous color to your garden or windowsill, and can be used as a garnish or to add flavor to certain foods. I just learned that “the flowers and leaves of the cultivar ‘Rebecca,’ one of the Violetta violets, have a distinct vanilla flavor with hints of wintergreen.” Have you ever used sweet violets in your kitchen in cakes or to make jam? Ever tried to make violet extract with vodka? If you’re ready to play with your pansies, take a look at the recipes for for candied violets, simple violet syrup, and violet martinis on What’s Cooking in Your World. Share your stories and recipes over on Twitter: @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm!
(Photo Credit: What’s Cooking in Your World)
When you ask me about sweet peas, I’ll tell you two stories. (You may be wondering, ‘Why would I ask Rebecca about sweet peas?’ Just go with it.)
I discovered sweet peas through my lovely friend Tricia, a woman at my childhood church in Oregon who lived with her husband, two kids, and her “girls,” chickens that roamed about and roosted in a coop at their house just outside Oregon City. Tricia would bring us eggs from the girls, a feather tucked inside each carton that identified them as farm-fresh. She grew food and flowers in their yard, and when I house-sat one summer, I received my first lesson in caring for the climbing, delicate sweet peas growing along her fence. I love flowers that grow best when picked often — bringing in the beautiful blooms to add color to your house also allows the annual to put its energy into new blooms. They’re a gorgeous addition to an outdoor table setting: check out a few suggestions on how to make the most of your summer outdoor space over at the Enjoy Blog!
I fell in love with sweet peas, and the stories they’ve told me: memories of Tricia and her abundance of love and care, seen in her family, friendships, and garden, and of Jonathan, one of my closest friends, whose green thumb changes whatever corner of L.A. he lives in into a greenhouse. One spring morning he dropped off a bunch of sweet peas at my apartment, the bright riot of reds, purples, yellows and stark whites off-set in a dark blue tea pot. Car-free, I walked through the streets of West Hollywood on my way to work, balancing a laptop bag on one shoulder and spilling water from my teapot o’ flowers, proudly flying my floral freak flag.
If you want to plant sweet peas for your summer and you don’t have a fence or trellis to train them up on, Jonathan suggests a tomato cage, which you can buy in a variety of sizes to suit your space. When your seeds sprout into tendrils, use ribbon or twist ties to train as many as possible to grow up the inside of the cage, so that they will spill out as they flourish. They just need a little guidance, and overnight the tendrils will latch on, even to each other. Some plants grow 6 or 8 feet tall.
Though it’s an annual plant, sweet peas keep on giving for years to come. That’s what is especially great about the flower, says Jonathan. While cutting them makes gorgeous, fragrant bouquets, if you leave some of the blooms on the vine, they will turn into green pea pods. Once the pods are brown, snap them off, save them in a brown paper bag, and next spring, open the pods to find between 2 to 8 seeds to replant.
Mark your calendar to plant your sweet pea seeds in the spring! Originating in Sicily, they love full sun and well-drained soil. Check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac for more tips on growing, and Austin Wildflower’s post on the romantic history of the flower, and how to grow winter-flowering sweet peas, if your climate is right.
(Photo Credit: Sunset.com)
I am a lemon addict.
I am out of lemons.
This lemon-less dilemma would not feel quite so tragic were I not home-bound the past few days with a summer cold, an energy-sucking nuisance that I have been treating with my best friend, the lemon. Squeezed into a cup of tea with two heaping spoonfuls of The City Farm’s Avocado Honey, or simply prepared, on its own, with steamy water from the kettle, a tisane I started making part of my morning routine after reading about its many health and detoxing benefits. And that skinny people do it. I’m not above vanity rituals, especially ones that offer to balance my pH levels, aid digestion, and seem so easy.
So easy, until you’re housebound without a lemon in sight. Car-free, there is no quick drive down to the store for me, there are running shoes and sweat is involved, which sounds exhausting to my cold-addled mind. I *could* order delivery from my local, spendy shop with their cute, city-sized vans and adorable wanna-be actors making a living bringing lemons to shut-ins. But that seems extravagant. Instead, I’ve decided it’s time to grow my own lemons. I live in Southern California, after all. The fact that I DON’T have a lemon tree is probably grounds to revoke my citizenship.
I’ll have to grow a container tree, as I don’t have any green space, but if you do, and want to add a lemon tree to your yard, according to SFGate, the hardy citrus tree is among the easiest to care for, demanding little attention, as long as you live in zones 8b – 11.
For those who don’t live in a lemon-growing green space, or want to plant in a pot to save space, Canadian gardener and author of Growing Wild C.E.E.D.S. has tips to start one from seed, eventually producing citrus that can survive and thrive indoors with the northern light of a place like her home of Toronto. It may take three to six years to produce fruit, so, if you’re like me and need a lemon fix from your front stoop, stat, pickup one that has already been started at your local nursery.
The National Gardening Association suggests you choose a smaller fruit, Meyer lemons are a favorite both for space, and for their level of acidity that grows well indoors. When looking for a lemon variety for your limited space, consider choosing one that is grafted to Flying Dragon (Hiryu) rootstock, as it “will be significantly dwarfed, thereby extending its useful life in a container.”
Do you already grow your own lemons? Have you had any trouble growing them inside, or from seed? Share your story in the comments, or tell us @TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.
Parking the car, we patiently waited for the seemingly endless bicycle traffic to pass as we wended our way into the farmer’s market stands. As Cantinetta chef and owner Deborah Mullin pointed out and discussed various herbs, the woman behind one table separated the leafy greens into sections, deftly wrapping them into brown paper cones with practiced care. A short summer rain shower made us huddle closer under the covered stalls, and the boyfriend and I waited for Deb and her wife Claudia to choose vegetables for the evening’s menu, packing them into bags to take to Cantinetta Wine & Pasta, their farm-to-table osteria in Amsterdam.
Visiting Holland, I had visions of constant fresh food (and tulips and cheeses and wooden shoes). Surely the healthy, tall, bike-riding denizens of a canal-filled city would prioritize organic, fresh food. The air was sucked from the windmills of my Netherlands dream as Claudia, Deb’s wife and partner at Cantinetta, described her favorite childhood breakfast from Holland, a piece of white bread toast smothered in sugar sprinkles. But that makes Deb & Claudia’s farm to table restaurant all the more critical. Yes, critical. I feel the need for hyperbole when discussing the delicious, simple food prepared and served with skill, flavor, and love that made up one of the best meals I’ve eaten.
Visiting Cantinetta on a busy Saturday night, the tables were crowded with regulars including a Dutch filmmaker and his actor wife celebrating a birthday, the conversation and food overflowing to the tables on the sidewalk outside, and we felt part of a family. Seated at a table along the brick wall, we were served a glass of Villa Doral, an organic prosecco. Claudia, my sister-in-law via marriage once-removed (it gets complicated, so I just call Deb and Claudia my sisters-in-law, as they feel like family), asked if we would like to order from the night’s menu, or allow Deb to craft a meal for us. We’re not dumb. We waited to be surprised by the chef’s choices.
We tried to slow ourselves to truly taste each bite of every dish that Deb sent our way, from the salad of mixed organic Knotwilg Farm salad greens grown in Beemster, organic Belgian endive, local, organic mint & parsley from Bellemarie, Drenthe, toasted hazelnuts, organic, local beets, pecorino romano cheese, red wine-lemon and thyme vinaigrette, with mozzarella from Buffalo Farm Twente.
That was just the SALAD. Our next course was roasted, organic cauliflower & broccoli, flavored with house-marinated fresh anchovy, sea salted capers, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and pepperoncini. Though I love reds, the courses were best paired with a delicious white wine, Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Lazio Bianco, made by nuns on an organic vineyard in Italy. Nuns. It’s like we were in a movie. (You can buy a bottle of Coenbobium in the U.S. here.)
The wine paired deliciously with our pasta (gluten-free for me, the Celiac traveler), which was the first time I’ve tried guanciale: pork cheek procured from italy via fumagalli salumi. Delicious.
Though I felt too full even to finish the wine, which is a first for me, I somehow managed to fit in the cheese and dessert course, a ricotta con fragola e grappa, with fresh ricotta from Buffalo Farm Twente, flower blossom honey from Beemster, a strawberry-grappa marmelatta, and toasted hazelnuts. We finished with a sparkling dessert wine, a Birbet Brachetto Lungo from the Roero.
We’d closed the place down and sat sipping our wine, watching the staff polish the wine glasses and set the tables for the following week. Deb carefully plated the “family” dinner for the staff to enjoy, and we left them sitting shoulder to shoulder at the bar, to their delicious meal. They’ve created a feeling of family at Cantinetta, breaking bread next to strangers who feel like friends as you wish them bon appetite or happy birthday, listening to people laugh together, forks laid on empty plates, wine glasses clinking in toasts to the good life.
If you’re visiting or live in Amsterdam, e-mail Cantinetta for a reservation at email@example.com or call them at +31 20 737 0149. And then tell me all about it! @RebeccaSnavely and @TheCityFarm.
What’s your favorite place to eat farm-to-table?
(Photo Collage by Rebecca Snavely – peonies were in season in Amsterdam.)
I spotted a new favorite flower while waiting for my smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and the boyfriend’s croque madame, sitting outside at a table on the patio of Look Mum No Hands, a restaurant, bakery, and bicycle repair shop. A typical grey morning in London, a collection of cut flowers in green-glass bottles caught our eyes, and we grabbed one to add a dash of color to our unfinished wood tabletop. The blueish-purple thistle stood out against the browns and greys of the day, and I went straight to the answer machine to find out how I could have more of them in my daily life. Upon Googling the photos I snapped (and the help of a Facebook friend who pulls endless amounts of them from her flower-bed in France), I learned it was called an Eryngium “Sapphire Blue” thistle from the Apiaceae family. Say THAT five times fast. The flower is often called Sea Holly (a bit easier on the tongue) and is not only drought resistant, but also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, and reportedly repels rattlesnakes.
An image search revealed the popularity of Sea Holly in bouquets and centerpieces as well as an easy-to-grow garden favorite. To add them to your yard, table tops, or bridal ensemble, plant the thistle in a space that receives full sun, with plenty of drainage, as they will not survive wet, soggy soil. According to BHG, these perennials “thrive on neglect,” so they also make a perfect gift for the would-be gardener who claims their green thumb has turned grey.
“A weed is but an unloved flower.” ― Ella Wheeler Wilcox
If unwanted, these thistles may be labeled weeds, so you’ll want to prune and deadhead fading flowers to encourage a longer flowering season, as well as to prevent them from self-seeding and taking over your garden. Easy to love, they’re not only ornamental, but have health benefits as well. Many of the family Apiaceae have been used in folk medicine or as an herbal remedy for scorpion stings in Jordan. If you’re interested in researching more, take a look at the scintillatingly titled Phytochemical Constituents and Pharmacological Activities of Eryngium L. (Apiaceae), which states that “Some Eryngium species are cultivated as ornamental, vegetable, or medicinal crops for folk uses. With increasing chemical and biological investigations, Eryngium has shown its potential as pharmaceutical crops.” The review explores the potential use for the plant in “anti-inflammatory, anti-snake and scorpion venoms, antibacterial, antifungal, and antimalarial, antioxidant, and antihyperglycemic effects.”
If you’re simply looking to add more to bring the birds and butterflies to your yard, be sure to plant your Eryngium in a permanent place where its long taproot can reach deep down. Check out GardeningKnowHow for a list of Sea Holly varietals, from the Rattlesnake Master, so named because of the myth that the plant could cure snake bites, to the Giant Sea Holly, a.k.a. Miss Wilmot’s Ghost (named for English gardener Ellen Wilmot). These thistles seem to tell tales with each planting…what story does your garden tell? Share photos with us on Twitter at @TheCityFarm
(Photo Credit: Rebecca Snavely, center bouquet from TribalRoseFlowers)
How often do you hear not one, but two friends, talk about wwoofing within a two-week time span, and not in reference to a four-legged friend? I learned about wwoofing this month, which, with its extra w, is an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. In a video created by one wwoofer and his girlfriend, who spent eight months on eight farms in nine countries across Europe, one farmer talks about living in harmony with the earth, and puts it simply: I’m not a political person, I’m not going to change the world by revolution, but living the way I feel is the right way for me.”
In this age, where the only time we bump into each other is because our eyes are on our smartphones, not our world, that life seems pretty revolutionary. One friend, a horticulturist, is on her way to wwoof for the first time in France, while the other wwoofed a few years ago, and, though I knew her as a writer and Web producer, she’s now a cheesemonger who knows the ins & outs of sheep, goats, and cows. (That sounded grosser and a little more veterinarian than I intended… she knows their milk.)
Wwoofing reminds me of a book, In Praise of Slowness, by Carl Honoré, that introduced me to the Slow movements around the world – Slow Cities that design for pedestrians to walk to work, creating bike lanes for ease when grabbing groceries from a farmer’s market or local shop, and ways of creating space for community. Slow Food movements that include farm to table restaurants, where you know where your food was grown or where your chicken lived her last days, a la Portlandia (“his name was Collin.”) Eating at a restaurant in Congo that catered to the expat community, I recognized the Slow Food insignia on the wall. The owner, a Congolese woman, laughed. In Congo, she explained, where there is no infrastructure, all food is locally sourced and slow.
Also, not totally unrelated to the other kind of woofing: It’s farm dog week over at Modern Farmer. It’s very important that you know: Modern Farmer has an Official ModFarm Farm Dog Cam! “Brought to you live from Border Springs Farms in Virginia,” which hundreds of sheep and nine border collies call home.
“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds” ― Carl Honoré
If reading a book feels too slow for you, you can watch Honoré’s TedTalk here. It’s a good call to action – slower, more focused, attentive action. How can you slow down in your daily life? Check out wwoof.net to watch the short video referenced above, and wwoofinternational.org to learn more about how it works. Have you ever wwoofed? Do you want to? Share your stories of farm life in the comments, or over on Twitter@TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.