Tag Archives: Small Space Gardening

Tulip Planting Time

Well, we got the bulbs in a shade before New Year’s. This was very late for us, but a neighbor and terrific green thumb assured me it was okay, as the bulbs had had more than their share of fridge time leading up to the planting, and the soil is still diggable.

I’m in Sunset gardening zone 17 (USDA Zone 9), in which you pretty much have to plant bulbs fresh each year. While each spring, some do come up where I’ve neglected to dig them out, they’re generally not as hardy or pretty as they were the first year. Perhaps this is for the best. Each year brings new trips to the local nursery and new types of tulips to try. I usually buy 60 or so bulbs — enough for a good show on the deck (one of the benefits of a smaller garden) and a volume discount, while not enough to upset the flower budget. The homely bulbs go into the fridge in mid-October for their long (especially this year) hibernation. And, on an invariably cold, crisp day — in 6″ deep holes (aided by a simple bulb digger) and with a little organic fertilizer — into the ground they go.

The Blooming Bulb site sells bulbs and offers more detailed tulip planting and storing instructions. The Plant Expert is a fabulous resource about choosing, planting, storing and growing bulbs and all kinds of plants. Another is Doug Green’s Flower Garden Bulbs, which sells bulbs as well. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs also sells bulbs throughout the year by mail order. A huge bulb and perennial seller worth knowing about is K. VanBourgondien and Sons. They offer good prices, an extensive selection, and a catalogue worth perusing, any time of the year.

So, what did we plant?

Negrita

Of our six different tulips, one was a returner from last year, the irresistible Negrita. The Negrita is a great tulip with a dramatic magenta color that provides a nice contrast to more pastel-colored tulips, and a classic big Triumph shape that is slightly elongated. This is one of our Negritas last year. It’s a sturdy, thick-stemmed flower, 18-22″ high.

Beau Monde


The Beau Monde brings out many a poet among bulb catalog writers. Blooming Bulb writes: “Huge chalice-form blooms are a creamy white with flames of raspberry red and bright yellow around the inside bottom of the bloom.” Brent and Becky’s Bulbs calls them “beautiful and alluring”. Both note that, while the Beau Monde is officially classified as a Triumph, it’s strong and hardy like a Giant Darwin. I think they’re supposed to be around 18″ tall, but am seeing a wide range of heights offered. We’ll find out in a few months!

Apricot Beauty

I am always on the lookout for classically shaped tulips in a soft salmon or apricot color. Last year I found it in a Daydream tulip and this year I’m hoping the Apricot Beauty is as pretty as its picture. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs tells me it’s also fragrant – hooray! – a Single Early tulip with a range of heights from 12″ up. (The tag in the nursery said 14″ — early flowering tulips tend to have shorter stems.)

Golden Apeldoorn


In another section went two brightly colored and popular Darwin Hybrid tulips. Blooming Bulb tells me that “the Golden Apeldoorn has golden yellow blooms with a black star shaped base. Very weather resistant with strong stems.” They are predicted to be tall – 20″ or so.

Parade


Joining the Apeldoorn is the bright red Parade. That one is described by Blooming Bulb as “deep scarlet red with a black base. Regal blooms on 24 inch stems!” We can’t wait.

White Parrot


We usually try to plant one especially exotic tulip – one with frilly edges or flames of color shooting through it. This year’s is the White Parrot. Writes Blooming Bulb: “Large white blooms with apple green brush stroke markings sit atop strong, straight 18-inch stems. Impressive in the garden and in the vase.” Sounds pretty enough to paint!

Photos: Beau Monde, Apeldoorn and White Parrot: Blooming Bulb; Apricot Beauty and Parade: Netherland Flower Bulb Info; Others: Susan Sachs Lipman

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Slow News Day: Front Yard Gardening in Benicia and Beyond

cornyard1

While wandering around the town of Benicia, CA, one late summer day, I encountered this exuberant example of front yard gardening. This person is really making the most of every square inch. It was a treat to see, especially after posting about the trend of front yard gardening earlier this summer.

I’ve been following some fun and inspiring blogs about front yard and even balcony gardening. (As a longtime deck gardener, in the deer-populated (read: lettuce munching) woods as well as in Manhattan, I’ve always been interested in doing the most with the smallest plot of dirt. Good small-space gardening and urban homesteading blogs include Beyond the Lawn, Leda’s Urban Homestead, Balcony Gardener, Life on the Balcony, Free Range Living, and Path to Freedom.

The last is an especially exciting farmsteading site that I just learned about this weekend when I saw an independent movie called HomeGrown. HomeGrown features a family of four living by the freeway in Pasadena, CA, raising all their own food and completely sustaining themselves and others on a small residential plot of land. The family is very winning and passionate, and they really make a go of urban homesteading, practicing extreme simplicity, conservation, community and resourcefulness — They use a hand washer, make their own biofuel, sell their produce to some of the area’s high-end (and appreciative) restaurants, and often do without. Learn more about them at Path to Freedom.

Still curious about Benicia? In addition to having great sun and soil, I learned that the bayside town was California’s first capitol, predating Sacramento and California’s gold rush. After going inside the old building (now part of a CA state park)  and pretending to legislate, we got to lock the old capitol’s giant door for the weekend with an outsized, cartoon-like key. Benicia also has a charming main street for shopping, antiquing, and taking a self-guided historic walking tour featuring old homes and businesses. I will post a travelogue soon.

In the meantime, like me, you can enjoy looking at this special, bountiful yard and wondering if its owners are still harvesting yummy corn into the fall.

cornyard2

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Slow News Day: A Cottage Garden Grows in Brooklyn

I love this story by Anne Raver that appeared in the Home section of Thursday’s New York Times. It’s about a garden that was implausibly imagined and created, and then lovingly tended, in a blighted area at the entrance to the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY.

Its creator, Kirstin Tobiasson, began the project seven years ago, with no gardening experience, but plenty of common sense and a desire to create something of beauty. In the process, she found her green thumb, along with a community of people who find themselves drawn to her project.

In the article, Tobiasson says of her unlikely cottage flowers, “They’re opportunistic” and refers to her garden as “an insurrection on the sidewalk.”

Lovely, colorful photos by Jenn Ackerman accompany the piece as well. Kirstin and her garden’s spirit and cheer made my morning.

Slow News Follow-Up: Berkeley Attempts to Squash Home Garden

No sooner had I posted about the spate of modern homesteaders who are reclaiming their front yards for real growing and community-enhancing spaces than I received a link from my good friend Judd Williams to this piece by Chris Carlsson of the superb SFStreetsblog. It’s about a town that’s attempting to squash a successful long-time front-yard vegetable garden, in favor of something more, say, ornamental and wasteful, like a lawn.

Are you sitting down? This isn’t some planned, gated, sterile community that’s refusing to let its citizens grow a little food in the space where the traditional suburban lawn might go. It’s Berkeley, CA, of all places, bearing down on a gentle Green Thumb who, like many in the enviably sunny, green town, is attempting to produce something of value on his land.

One of the many citations the gardener/homeowner, Asa Dodsworth, has received is for “Unpermitted Garden Beds,” which carries a five hundred dollar a day fine. That’s right — Growing food in the front yard is outlawed.

I, frankly, don’t get it, especially after seeing the pictures of Dodsworth’s mellow, unassuming garden. If this seems wrong to you, too, Chris’ piece provides a lot more information about the situation and which decision makers to write to try to rectify it.

lougarden1

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Slow News Day: A Bumper Crop of Gardeners

Last summer, I noticed a spate of news stories about the rise of home gardening. In July, ’08, Newsweek and NPR both reported that concerns about food safety, as well as an increasing desire to eat locally and healthily, was turning a lot of folks into Green Thumbs. People like Fred Davis and Yvette Roman Davis, bloggers at Beyond the Lawn, reported reclaiming their L.A. front lawn for a thriving Victory Garden.

I thought this was supremely cool, as it seemed to usher in an era of getting away from water-guzzling, appearance-oriented lawns and into practical, food-producing gardens. These prove beautiful, too, of course. It’s just a shift in perspective and priorities that allows us to bring the backyard up to the front. (Some neighborhoods have even loosened their restrictions on such sustainable practices as front-yard growing and line-drying of laundry.)

Peppers

As a bonus, front yard gardeners get to know — and sometimes feed — their neighbors. Community happens when we move yard and porch living out of the private and into the public. This summer, I’ve already heard about two monthly plant exchanges and a weekly vegetable harvest exchange in my neighborhood, as well as new farmers’ markets in my larger community.

Farmersmarket

Of course, further afield, the Obama White House broke ground for its organic vegetable garden (involving local schoolchildren in the process), the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden in the 1940s.

I’m very moved by this picture of First Lady Michelle Obama and children in the garden, that appears in the White House blog. Food from the garden is feeding the White House and Washington, D.C.’s Miriam’s Kitchen, which feeds the homeless.

flotus_garden1_blog

Last week’s San Francisco Chronicle had another story about the rise in home gardening. Chris Romas, the president of W. Atlee Burpee, the world’s largest seed company, said he hasn’t seen this kind of interest in home growing in 30 years. Lots of currents are influencing people to turn or return to gardening — It’s a cost-effective way to supply one’s food, you have complete control over the way your food is grown, you can get in touch with the land, you can enjoy companionship or solitude, and it’s very satisfying to grow and make your own food.

I have fond memories of vegetable gardening with my dad, growing up. We had wonderful raised beds and great Southern California sun. But you don’t have to have either to enjoy growing food. I’ve grown tomatoes on a Manhattan balcony and pumpkin, corn, peppers and more on my fog-shrouded deck in Mill Valley. If you’ve been following my Deck Garden tales, you know the advice to use your vertical space, with trellises and vines. I also urge beginning gardeners to start small, follow seed-pack directions, weed out seedlings so that the hardiest new plantings will have room to grow, and harvest your crops, so you can enjoy them and also give new growth some room to come in.

I’m going to take my own advice and have a big home-grown salad for lunch. This is my 2’x 2′ lettuce box today:

Lettuce2

This is the box a month ago:

Lettuce3

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

White House Garden Photo Courtesy of The White House/Joyce N. Boghosian