Taking the Rapitest

So yesterday’s question was what I should plant, assuming I only have it in me to do one more this year.

Strawberries seems to be leading the pack (the only answer, btw, where are the other revelers – come back in from the garden and let us hear from you).  Okay, so I did try strawberries in a container last year in a bit of shade.  They got sun starved (I assumed, anyway) and their weak little stems and leaves pretty much just shriveled up and died (very similar to what my ivy is looking like on the upstairs terrace but I’m thinking maybe that’s the multiverse telling me there are better ways to find shade and privacy, and I should try instead just to love my neighbors not hide from them, and maybe a wall of ivy would block their sun and be a bug haven).  Ivy aside, I would LOVE to have some cute little strawberries to throw in a summer salad, so I think I’m gonna take Ralph’s suggestion and try, try again.

I checked in my handy dandy guide to gardening – “How to Grow Practically Everything” by Zia Allaway and Lia Leendertz (what great surnames for garden book authors) – and it makes no mention of strawberries being sunhogs.  It does recommend using slow-release granular fertilizer for container planting strawberries, though.  This gave me pause because I’ve generally shied away from the stuff  since I don’t trust it – not with good reason necessarily.  I typically put together my own soil mixture in a large paint bucket, comprised primarily of the $5.00/bag organic Hamptons Estate topsoil (whose price tag I’ve prematurely bitched about), PLUS a few large handfuls of no frills mulch, PLUS a few quarts of homemade compost (this batch is peepee free – I’m still cooking the human nitrogenized stuff), PLUS a few cups of peat moss if I have it, and/or a handful of Perlite.

Out of curiosity today, I tested my hodgepodge soil using a store bought kit, the “Rapitest.”  It’s a truly awful name, I know.  I felt like I was on CSI, Hard Core Unit.  It set me back about 6 bucks, give or take, at my local gardening store, and has the capacity for about ten tests.  The Rapitest told me that the batch I composed (which is pretty typical of what I usually put in my containers) was around a pH 6.5, “slightly acid.”  I was satisfied with that, and didn’t mess with it any further.  I consulted “How to Grow Practically Everything,” to find out whether I’d get a gold star for my person-made dirt composite but was disappointed to find that all they really say about soil is to know the pH, but not what to do about it once you find out, which, of course, leads me to my

QUESTION:  How do you know what a good pH level is generally?  Does it really depend on the plant?  On where you’re growing?  Do other gardeners mess with their soil to try to get it right?  Or do they just jump in, pH be damned?  How many of you pshaw with the pH testing as all a lot of fussiness?  Is it a damper on the revel spirit to engage in fretting over soil composition?  Or is a soil’s pH the necessary foundation for a garden?  Do any of you swear by testing?  Do any of you just go by feel?  If you’ve changed course and either ditched or adopted a soil ethic, tell me your story.  Go ahead … gimme the dirt!

My Stash

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Been foraging today, and have plans for much yumminess tomorrow. Took the Wildman Steve Brill tour in Prospect Park today, and getting ready for Father’s Day dinner tomorrow. In addition to smoked beef ribs my partner will be preparing, I’ll be composing an herb and wild mustard greens salad.

QUESTION: have you ever prepared a dish using wild edibles? Any favorites?  Suggestions?  What to dos?  What nots?

Sitespotting

Recommended for a visit:  Wild Things Rescue Nursery.

I met the gardener, Dawn Foglia, on our recent trip to Saratoga Springs.  Lovely lady, very hard-working, single mom (don’t think she would mind me mentioning that since it was one of the first things I learned), dedicated to helping spread the (good) word about native plants.  I caught her just as they were closing up shop at a local farmers market, and she was off to another event but we had some quick words and immediate camaraderie. I bought some wild ginger from her (looking forward to seeing how it grows next year – this year it’s just getting used to my ground), and just checked out her site, now trying to resist the temptation … my eyes being bigger than my garden.  So many plants, so little … *sigh*…

QUESTION: if you were allowed to grow just one plant (keeping it legal – or not), what would it be and why?

Wildman Steve Brill Makes a Surprise Appearance Here

Hey all, awhile back I mentioned my budding interest in foraging and native plants.  All the better if I can combine them together, right?  So I’ve been reading about edible and medicinal plants, and even dabbling in developing my palate in this latest greatest cuisine craze.  I’m excited to say that I plan to take the foraging tour this weekend.  I reached out to “Wildman” Steve Brill, author of the foraging guide I’m currently reading.  I thought I would post his response, since it’s particularly timely today, in light of breaking news of increasing food prices and food shortages.  Depressing as all that is, kudos to folks who are doing something about it (e.g., G-20 Ag ministers spearheading a movement for greater transparency by country of what’s being produced, what’s about to come up short, and what the heck is going on w/food prices, so that shortages can be caught sooner and the veil gets lifted on what’s really driving price increases) and a nod to more local efforts to increase food production on a local scale.   I encourage you all to join me Saturday in Prospect Park for the foraging tour….

In the meantime, words from the Wildman…[from an email from Steve Brill]

I look forward to seeing you on an upcoming foraging tour. Enjoyed reading your blog too.

Unfortunately, by buying my book from the book industry rather than getting a signed copy from my site, http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/, they got all but 6 cents of your money. Please get other books from me, or check out my app http://tinyurl.com/6zcnuna.

Elderberries have feather-compound leaves while dogwoods have simple leaves, explained in the intro section of the book and the app’s glossary. And you can always post pictures.

Happy Foraging!

“Wildman”

Hey, Hey, What Do Ya Say?

I am seeking participants for the CSA Challenge. What is it, you ask? (This is why I prefer the written word over the stage – I can make up what you’re thinking rather than suffer your tomatoes or, worse, polite laughter). This being the first summer of doing the CSA thing (a/k/a Community Supported Agriculture, which means getting my groceries from a collective that links willing farmers with committed buyers who plunk down a sum certain for a regularly scheduled haul), I”m curious how one CSA experience compares with another, particularly weighing quality of the items against cost in light of the ever increasing cost of food. Ultimately I hope to answer the

QUESTION: could CSAs be the Foodtowns of the future? Is the price right? What are the benefits of a CSA? Most importantly, if you are a CSA member, would you be willing to share your experience with the rest of us revelers by posting pics and prices, and your own notes on the experience? I’m especially interested to hear from folks outside my CSA or even my city. Go ahead, take the CSA challenge!

NATIVE PLANT EVENT ALERT

Once again, courtesy of my most very good neighbor: Dirt Talk Four: Native Plants.  Prospect Farm and Sustainable Flatbush are proud to present Brooklyn Dirt: Monthly Talks on Urban Farming and Gardneing. 

May 18th, 7-9:30 p.m., Downstairs @ Sycamore Bar & Flowershiop (21+).  1118 Cortelyou Rd. (Q train to Cortelyou).  $5 suggested donation (for a good purpose).

Rain be damned, I’m back in love with you, Brooklyn.