Saturday, June 04, 2011

Lessons Learned In An Urban Trench

I've learned a few things this past week. (Which is the whole point behind this experiment, to see what I can learn now, before we go up north) So far, the compost in a bucket is going well. It did reach a point where it started to smell, which I sort of expected because I hadn't gotten out to get any dry matter from the woods like I knew I should. So it stopped composting. There was no heat and a gag-worthy smell. No problem, I knew how to fix this. I know a place where someone dumped a bale of hay to rot and I know where there are corn stalks and leaves from last years harvest. So off we went with compost bucket (yes, it has a tight fitting lid) and shovel. We added fallen maple leaves from last year, corn leaves and stalks out of the corn field and a little of the soil too while we scraped and shoveled all that waste matter. I made sure the lid was snapped on securely and rolled it down the road, mixing while we walked. This morning's check revealed far less smell and heat inside the bucket again. It's wet and chilly outside today, so I know that heat in the bucket means the compost is fixing itself. One setback dealt with.

I also learned it's not wise to transplant tomato seedlings. They tend to die. At best, they get shocked and don't grow. Note to anyone trying to grow tomatoes indoors; soak your seed, then plant in whatever container you will be letting your plant spend it's life in. If you must use a smaller container first, I recommend small yoghurt or pudding cups that you can slit with a knife when the seedling has outgrown it. That way, when the seedling needs a bigger pot, you slit the cup open and plant that rootmass in it's new home with as little disturbance to the root hairs as possible. Little disturbance = happier plant. Remember this.

This week taught me that peas are the easiest thing to grow, hands down. Those peas up there to the left have been the most tolerant and forgiving of any seed I have started here. The tallest is 5" high, and obviously the oldest. All are a good shade of green, the leaves feel firm and the stalks are strong. The only thing more robust than the peas is the parsley and the basil. I will not be transplanting the peas. It was always my intention to let them live their lives in that container. See how tall they grow, see what kind of pods they'd produce, if any, and just generally see how they did. With any luck we'll get enough peas to eat, and maybe even some to put up.

Another lesson to note; it is possible to dehydrate pineapple slices in an electric dehydrator with holes in the trays. I cut pieces of wax paper and rested the pineapple slices on them. For this experiment, I used a can of pineapple slices. I'll explain why in a moment. I did not turn the slices when they began to dry, and so three or four stuck to the wax paper. They were a write-off. So, if you use wax paper under the pineapple, discard after the pineapple is no longer drippy. While I was on a dehydrating roll, I also sliced up two Fuji apples. I let the slices rest in the can of pineapple juice for about thirty seconds, to prevent the apple from going brown in the dehydrator. I took the apple slices out, let the juice drip back into the can and plopped them into the dehydrator as well. So far, they are doing well. Still soft, but they are progressing as the books say they should and aren't brown. So far, so good.

That's the update from our trenches, where I'm fighting to learn all I can now, before I get to our micro-farm up north. I know urban farming is possible, hundreds are doing it all over the world. But right here, right now, in our dark apartment; I'm still learning.


maeva said...

for your dehydrating try a trick from chinese cooking.. when they steam dim sum they put the dim sum on top of lettuce leaves to keep things from sticking.

or try spreading canola oil on top of the wax paper to see if that helps with the sticking issues.

farmgal said...

Interesting that you have found that with your tomato plants, I raise mine from seed, started in the house, then transplanted out into bigger pots into the greenhouse, then transplanted the second time from greenhouse to garden and never have any issues doing so.

Interesting that you found it be a real issue.