(early November)

The cloves went in around the first of October.  They'll be ready to harvest sometime next June.  Garlic is one of those crops that is SO worth the wait.  These photos are my favorite!  I heart potential...

(November 16th)


Behold the Brocolli!

Perhaps I'll always be amazed at the miracle that is gardening!  When I planted the seeds for my brocolli I offered a short prayer for the little ones to grow and provide food and inspiration for me and my neighbors.  This was my first go at fall/overwintering gardening and I wasn't sure that I'd get a crop.

This time of the year is pretty harsh and the only protection this brocolli has is it's own innate ability to  deal with the intensity that nature throws its way.  Its thick walls that store the food it needs to survive.  The waxy leaves that shed water easily.  The many leaves that allow the cabbage worms to feed freely while not affecting the crop to severely (tho I think one plant may be surrendered to the pests - the jury is still out).

                    (at transplant)

                               (mid October)


I'd say they are doing pretty darn well.  On two or three plants I'm starting to see signs of mold and I think some kind of rust!?!  I'm cutting those leaves off, but I know once that sort of thing sets in it's pretty hard to eliiminate it.  My goal is to minimize the effects so that I can still get a harvest.  I'm seeing the damage on the outer/older leaves so I think I may have some time to get a head or two.

I've got twenty plants and at least half already have "eatable" size heads.  I'm not sure when I'll start harvesting.  My sense is that I've got another couple weeks for things to get bigger.

Some more pics:

(about 1 month after transplanting - end of September.  sorry about the weird angle.  you'll see on the left, I was using a floating row cover to minimize pest damage)

(about 1.5 months after transplanting - mid October)

(today - mid November)


I harvested these last week (plus another 2 big bowls)!  I'm not sure why I got tomatoes so late.  The plant they came from did go in about a month later than my other tomato plants.  Maybe that's why.  It survived right up until a killing frost a couple days ago.

The tomatoes were a bit fleshy and hard skinned, but super sweet as ever.  I love that I'm eating fresh tomatoes at the end of November (though, gee - i've had my share of tomatoes this season...)


Another miracle!

1) Purchasing very good quality starts at a great organic nursery
2) Growing them in TAGRO and 
3) Using a mild liquid fertilizer at each watering for the first couple of months 
4) Pruning out all low growing branching and 
5) Giving them so much love and nurturing all they wanted to do was grow and be yummy for me.


Whew!  Can't believe it's been a month and no updates... it's been a busy one.  Full of travel and death - but that's for another blog!

In the garden I've been:

  • Harvesting 
  • Planting Alliums
  • Composting
  • Learning How to Nurture Over-wintering Gardens
  • Prepping A New Bed For Spring
  • and getting ready to go back to school for organic agriculture!!!!

TOMATO-ESQUE- a differently shaped fruit

I wanted to name this post 'strange fruit' - but uhm, that's not really a happy song.  So tomato-esque works just fine!

I kept this one for as long as I could - I just loved staring at it.


I was pruning some dead leaves and ran into these two goin at it.  At least I think that's what was happening.  They were on that leaf for a LONG time.  Maybe the one on top was eating the other one?

(click the picture for a closer view)



It's late in the season and these little guys aren't going to mature before the first frost.  As another practice in being okay with pruning off healthy, luscious, beautiful, living growth - I removed these little guys from the plant so the larger veggies would ripen quicker.  Here they are immortalized for your viewing pleasure.


UPDATE:  just talked with an old-timer and it is transpiration.  can be stressful to the plant.  still looks cool.

Over the summer I grew my first heads of cabbage!

(bottom right is the cabbage)
As I frequently do, one night I was out gardening by headlamp and noticed something quite curious.  The cabbage leaves appeared to be sweating.

I did some research at the time, trying to find out why they did that.  The temp wasn't super warm at night and I had given them the 'prescribed' amount of water.  I couldn't find any info on the subject so didn't know if this was a stressful situation to the plants or just part of how they are.  In any case, the plants seemed super healthy otherwise, so I didn't worry about it.  It looks pretty cool yeah!?!

So when I planted my fall broccoli, imagine my thrill when I noticed the same curiosity.  Again, I was night gardening and my broccoli leaves were sweating.

I assume now that it's a cole crop characteristic.  I still can't find any info on this.  I think what they are doing is called transpiration (fancy word I learned in Master Gardener class), but I'm not sure though cuz transpiration is a cooling mechanism and  I've only seen this curiosity happen at night.  I wonder if they are getting abundant water and need to release it this way?  The plants are thriving so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.  If anyone has some insight I'd love to here it!


(when i moved in october of 2008, this was all a big grassy yard)

This picture is SO exciting to me!  One of the great things about gardening is that I am continually being taught or reminded things about myself.   Latest on the list is that I love potential!  It's what pulls me to work with young children, build community and create my visions from those sparks I get!

I think that's why this picture is so appealing to me.  Empty and just transplanted beds hold so much potential.  Will the beds grow and give me food through the fall, winter and spring?  Will slugs destroy my little babies?  What happens is kind of in my control, but kinda the illusion of control.  How these plants survive is due in large part to what mama earth offers up this season.


  • build cold frames - have most of the materials already.  shouldn't take too long.
  • plant cabbage starts - i'm pushing this one.  need to do it this week or forget about it.
  • put in garlic and bulbing onions - have a good month on this one.
hey, i wanna plant tulips this year!  i heart them with all my heart!
  • keep harvesting tomatoes and peppers - been getting 2 big bowls of tomatoes every couple of days since mid-august.  my goal is to freeze 10 bags of tomato sauce for the winter.
  • build the bottom trim of my bedroom window - long overdue and so satisfying to do all by myself.  i've learned so much about carpentry since buying my house!
  • seal and paint the house - at least part of the house. my, oh my. there's a lot to do when you own a previously neglected home.
  • get my porch back!
the abundance of summer has turned into fall harvest.  gardening has given me a really great way to connect with the seasons.  heading into fall and winter grey, i will need to remember that every season has it's purpose.


It's as easy as 
1.  make sure you have a wide enough space for the truck-and have them dump as close to where the soil will end up as possible.

2.  have good quality soil delivered
3. now the real work begins


...clearly new to this whole blog thing.  i just realized if you click on a photo it opens up a window with a close-up!  ~cool~  check out the detail in some of my pics.  ps. my phone took these!  i remember when you took film rolls to be developed.  i heart getting older!!!


Shouldn't be a big deal right!?!  Sunflowers grow like weeds in some places.  I see them in gardens all the time.  They're a quite popular flower to grow with young kids.  So it's been really interesting to me that I have never been able to grow one until now.  Truthfully, this one had a rough start, hence it's not fully grown in almost mid-September.  I started with 8 seeds in June.  Only 4 germinated and I quickly killed 3 of them.

I thought I had killed this one too. I weeded out some plants around it and it laid flat on the ground in protest.  It was 6" at the time and had appeared pretty hardy.  Apparently, though, it is VERY sensitive to having it's roots disturbed.  Now I know.

I hope this one actually flowers.  It's been raining so much this week that I have my doubts.  It will be glorious if it does.  My very first sunflower!
(can you spot the spider near the bud?)



The fact that the plants sat for four days without slug damage makes me curious.  Was the slug population actually down in the area?  Was I then calling the slugs to this new bed with the tantalizing smell of tender new broccoli starts?  Were they drawn in, as I am, when I smell chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven?  Or were they always there and just didn't want to climb the walls of the plastic tray my starts were sitting in?  Whatever the case is, it's time for me to take action.  One slug could wipe out all my starts in the mater of a couple of nights.  And I know it isn't just one slug...

Last night I went out by headlamp.  It mortifies me, but "handpicking" is one of the best controls for slugs when you have tender new starts.  Sure enough I found a 2.5" slug feasting on one of my plants.  OMG.
Now, I've done A LOT of work to be more comfortable with slugs.  After all, I am a gardener in the Pacific Northwest.  I know that if I'm going to have any sort of longevity growing food, I'll have to develop at least a civil relationship with the little creatures.  And again, my highest self says my mortification comes from a deep connection to the little guys.  (kind of similar to how the most outspoken homophobes are usually big 'ole queers).
Anyway, so I've built up some techniques to keep my cool when having to deal directly with slugs: (these tips are totally helpful when dealing with other kinds of pests life sends you!)
  • Breath deep - There's no use being a complete mess.  I can't be efficient when I'm messy like that. An efficiency is the name of the game.  There's a finite amount of time that I can stay calm when slugs are involved.
  • Use tools - Handpicking is misleading.  Anytime my hand actually touches a slug I lose the ability to be calm and am definitely done in the garden for awhile.
  • Talk to them - It's a little easier to stay calm if we have a little conversation.
  • Try and love the creature - They are here to teach me something!
All this is a good reminder as we're going into slug season.  I know my methods will evolve as I garden larger and larger areas.  Right now I use the hand picking method, I put out slug bait and I'm also considering using diatomaceous earth.  To use DE you put a little ring around each start.  It's kind of hardcore in that it kills the little creatures almost on contact.  It washes away when it rains so it's a high maintenance, yet effective control.

I'll keep this blog posted on my slug adventures.  What an interesting totem to have.  Oh yeah, over the years I have done intermittent searches about the medicine slug brings.   It's no wonder I have the relationship that I do.  I love when life comes together and makes some sense.  Here's a link to some very interesting writing about slug totems.   Favorite quote from this page: Slug has a great deal to teach us about gender and sexuality. Slug may be considered to be a combination of both male and female, or an independant gender


Tomorrow I get soil delivered!  I'm going to put in cabbage, shallots, more broccoli, onions, beets and winter greens.  I am so in love with urban food production!  When I was prepping my beds for broccoli I had a moment of really wanting to get down on the ground and roll around in the soil.  Just really go for it and bury myself with the precious earth.  If I had a fence around my yard I probably would have, but I'm a little too self-conscious to go at it in full view of my neighbors.  Maybe next year!


*WARNING:  This post portrays a detailed picture of a slug.  Viewer discretion is advised.

I have the most dramatic and intense love/hate relationship with these creatures.  I am terribly scared of them and consider them my mortal enemy.  However, in the most fabulous contradiction, my highest self knows that they hold some essential medicines for my path in this life.

If You Build It, They Will Come
A couple of days ago I put in my broccoli.  The starts had been hardening off in the same spot I planted them.  They were in one of those plastic trays:
I had them there for about 4 days and hadn't seen any sign of slug damage. Great right!?! I thought maybe the slug population was down. Maybe I would be able to get a couple of pest free days for my precious starts once they were in the ground.  Wrong.  Totally wrong.

So Wrong!
Because of my relationship with slugs I'm sure that they were laying in wait.  Giving me a false sense of transplant security, while all along plotting their invasive tactics.  That first night I was carefree and proud.  I went out to look at my broccoli starts by headlamp light (as I often garden at night by headlamp - I am the ultimate garden geek).  They were so happy and strong.  No doubt the slugs were saying, "Let's just let them build their sugars up for a couple of days so they're even tastier...".  Sure enough, two mornings later I saw my first signs of damage.  Part of a leaf had been munched on.  The slugs have arrived.


I planted ten of my broccoli starts today!  I was planning to do it tomorrow, but it rained real good this morning! When I went to look at the beds they were so inviting I just couldn't help myself... I feel like it's my kids' first day of school.  Grow little ones!


Did you know that the first type of leaf that grows from a coriander plant is cilantro?  I didn't.  I always thought that the plant was called cilantro...

I was super excited to grow this because it's one of my favorite herbs.   I got my start and put it in the ground.  It started kind of slow and then had a great spurt of growth.  I was able to add yummy cilantro to my salads for maybe two weeks.  Then the leaves started to change shapes and I could see the inevitable was happening.   The plant was going to seed.
This is not my plant, but shows good detail of how the leaves change when it starts going to seed.  Look closely - The leaves on the top left of the plant are pre-seed leaves.

This made me sad because I had assumed that I would get a much longer harvest period.  I had tried to talk a friend in Texas through the process of nurturing the tender plant and assumed her failure was do to the fact that she didn't have my master gardening skills.  Arrogant, huh!?!  Gotta love a garden for putting things in perspective!  As my plant went from tender precious cilantro leaves to thinner and elongated pre-flowering leaves I tried everything to change the course of nature and bring back that yummy cilantro.  I would have pictures of my plant, but didn't want to document my "failure".  Silly me!

A Lesson In Letting Go Of Control:
I watered more frequently and diligently pinched off the forming flower buds.  I thought that maybe coriander was similar to basil and would produce new shoots that would give me back my tasty salad herb.  As the new shoots grew I quickly saw that no, coriander is not like basil.  The new shoots grew that same pre-flowering leaf.  I did at least try that in my salad.  It worked okay.  (I've since learned that I was just growing coriander a bit out of season.  It likes cooler spring and fall temps.  I started it in late May.)

I considered pulling the plant, but decided to leave it in and see what happens.  The flowers were pretty and I didn't really grow many flowers this year.  So I left it.  It is always interesting to watch the flowering process.  As the petals died off I saw these little clumps of small green balls forming.  Curious?

As the plant dried out these seeds grew.  I tasted them and they seemed familiar.  A quick internet search told me that I had a big 'ole bunch of maturing coriander seed!  I was instructed to harvest them as they turned brown.  So far this is what I've got:

It's going to be so hot when I grind my fresh seed to spice up my dinner one night!  Oh my, that sounded dirty.


I got this question from my cousin.  It was quite interesting to me and has stuck in my thoughts.  My immediate response to him was that it's so political.  I think I actually channeled the spirit of an old black woman and said something like, "Oh, it's all wrapped up in there honey.  It's all there.  It's much more than just putting a plant in the ground and tending to it while it grows."

I think it has stuck with me because I found it so, uhm... ironic?

Right now urban gardening integrates all my politics, all my life lessons and history, all my passions, joys, obsessions, dreams  -- It has become all of that condensed, focused and put at the tip of a needle ready to pierce a hole through the fabric of common conception about city gardening and how it's supposed to be done.  Don't get me wrong though.  I'm not unique in my perspective here.  There are many amazing urban gardening projects that continue to inspire me.  People who are acting my vision to feed their community.  What I'm excited about is nothing new.  But it's new to me and definitely new to my community.

The Dream
My neighborhood growing it's own food and preserving it's desirable characteristics.  It's that simple.  How we get there is kinda complex.  As I've been learning and practicing growing food and dreaming and thinking about community preservation I have some ideas for how to start.

In my community eight 3,000 sq. ft. lots  outfitted with a solar roofed shed and massive water storage systems (with compostable toilets) would be a good start.  One of the lots as the greenhouse - the other 7 on a yearly crop rotation cycle. Each garden would grow 1 "core" crop.

The programming associated would involve honor and purpose for our elders, youth mentorship, a reworking of what's valued as currency and challenging journeys to reconnect with power that is not an illusion.  I'd say it was my sci-fi utopian dream if I weren't so earthly serious about making it happen.  It's my path right now. That makes me very happy.

Articulating the political through this blog will be interesting.  I'm pretty over heady rants - though I'll always love a dramatic monologue!  At this point I'm more inclined to tell the right story of my dreams.   My garden, my ancestors, my spirits want that for me.  So this blog intends to chronicle what happens.  In the garden and in the community.  As I listen to my dreams and sew a new quilt.    A quilt that the community can snuggle up in for a big HUG!

From Sandy:
this post is a work in progress.  i'm not entirely sure how i feel about posting an incomplete thought.  darned perfectionist genes, blargh!  though i feel like i go way back in the soil biz, all this garden / urban agriculture business is quite new to me and i'm still working it out.  i'd love to hear other people's thoughts about urban agriculture and community work.


What a wonderful start to my day!  I was outside tending the garden when my neighbor kids' friend Joshua came by looking for my neighbor kid Uriah.  I make it a point to say hi to all the neighbor kids cuz they rock.  They're also the future of Hilltop Urban Gardens and I want to get them as early as possible!!
I asked Josh if he wanted to sample some orange tomatoes and he said, "Sure!"  Uriah was into it too, but he already knew he didn't like the orange cherry tomatoes.  Josh sampled and totally did not like them.  I'm really curious what it is they don't like.  I think they are super sweet and delicious.  I wonder if their "foreign" color may have something to do with it.

At some point Uriah asked me if I had to go to work today.  What a joy to answer this was my work today!

Josh was actually much more curious about what the green (i.e. not ripe) tomatoes tasted like.  He kept asking me and I kept trying to give him an answer that would shut him down.  Silly me!  I'm so happy that kids are persistent.  I finally started asking me own damn self what green tomatoes tasted like.  So I said, "Sure, lets give one a taste.  Let me go inside and get a knife to cut it up."  When I came back, Josh picked out a tomato to cut open.  I honestly didn't know what it would look like and was surprised when we cut it open and it looked like.... a green tomato.

Ha, Ha.  Silly me!  We tasted them.  Josh said he actually liked it better than the orange one.  Curious?  It could have ended there, but I had an idea.

I am working with magic and practicality to birth an urban gardening project in my community.  What this means when kids are around is that I want to make their engagement in the garden as filled with wonder, curiosity, exploration and fun as I possibly can! (not to mention mutual respect, challenge, creativity, earth-based thinking ---add more juicy descriptors at your pleasure---)

I was pretty sure that they both would like something growing in my garden so I proposed the idea of a taste test!  We would sample orange and red tomatoes, jalapa and chili peppers.  They were eager to proceed.  But before we could move forward Uriah had to take a bath and get dressed for the day...

postscript:  While Uriah was doing his morning ritual he yelled out the window and asked if I had to go to work today.  What a joy to answer back that this was my work today!


A couple of days ago I brought this little package to my cool neighbors across the alley.  They moved in about the same time as me and we've been bonding over some of the issues on our alley block.  They also have a garden and I've shared some of my knowledge with them.  The big dude of the house referred to me as the resident garden master.  It was funny since I'm a master gardener!

It made me feel good to know that he was thinking of me like that.  I don't feel like any kind of gardening expert, but keep reminding myself that I know more than I think.  And broadly speaking, a lot more than the general public.  I'm super happy that this can be the gift that I give to my neighbors.  When I'm ready to post about Hilltop Urban Gardens we'll look at that gift much closer.  Until then, let's just say that gardening has been the gift that keeps on giving and I can't wait to grow that for my community!


This whole blog thing is new to me.  I'm totally playing with it to see what I like and want to use.  In my posts I've been adding links on some of the stuff I mention.  I'm trying to do it for things I think people may be unfamiliar with, but interested in.  I wasn't thinking in terms of endorsements, but some folks might see it this way.  Maybe at some point I'll use the little tool that let's me actually list the things I do want to endorse.

For now let's just say when I link to something it's because I use it, like it and think you might too!


S. Loam


Okay, So First - Fraking Beautiful!  
Pictures of veggies harvested just minutes ago are amazing.  you can basically see the life flowing from them and being offered to you.  I'm totally trying to remember to give thanks and blessings for this miracle each time I eat from the garden!
I Grew This Shit.  What!?! And It Tastes SO Good.
Last night I made a brilliantly delicious tomato sauce for pasta.  It was a simple dish that ended up with wonderful flavor.  I'm spoiled.  
(fresh from the garden.  behind the bowl is plum and pear preserve made that day.  a gift from my alley neighbors)

The first step was caramelizing the onions I just picked from the garden.  I seriously don't ever want to eat a store bought onion again.  Store bought anything for that matter.  Growing my own food has completely redefined the meaning of freshness!
After the onion turned just past translucent I added cut up jalapa peppers and garlic.  Then I finished caramelizing everything.   I cooked this tastiness in olive oil, a little Braggs and some leftover raspberry-honey wine.  Right before the pasta was done cooking I added the tomato and some more wine.   I wanted to cook down the tomatoes just a pinch. The pasta was slightly undercooked so I could toss it in the pan and finish cooking with the sauce.  This way the pasta absorbed all the yummy seasoned juices.  Thanks Kate (and her Food Network tendencies) for that delightful tip!
And here's the dish plated up and tossed with an "Italian" cheese blend.  Imagine fresh basil topping everything.  I forgot to add it :-(  This meal came straight from the garden!  At some point I want to make my own pasta too!


I am in love with Blueberry Park!

I want to marry Blueberry Park!

Look at these yummy blueberries I picked!


My first garden in full bloom. I learned about plant spacing, pest management - easier when plants are farther apart, and how beautiful growing your own food is.

A lesson in abundance!
!::...Oh yeah...::!
I was gifted with the most amazing spring garden. I grew a mesclun mix, rainbow chard. spinach, lettuce, garlic and nasturtiums. Based on the square foot gardening principles I grew things crowded. On top of that I didn’t thin very much. When things were little it was hard for me to imagine just how big they’d get.  I'm schooled with greens thinning now.  It's particularly necessary because of my fear of slugs.  A dense mass of tender greens is slug heaven :-(  -----EEEEW-----

I ate greens from this garden for at least a couple of months. I was going to try succession planting, but didn’t get around to it. That’s something that I’ll strive for next year. With this first garden I wanted to simply grow things, keep them healthy,  and eat them. Then make the transition from spring to summer gardening. I did it!

I started this garden in October of 2008 by creating a sheet mulch of: 
  •  Leaves from my neighbors cherry tree
  • TAGRO Mix
  • Cardboard boxes
  • that order. 
I lost all my pictures in a sucky hard drive crash so unfortunately I can’t show the very satisfying before and after pics. Here’s a picture of my house though. The picture of my first garden is taken facing toward my house, standing on the stairs and looking to the left.  See where the garden went?

This is STAR!



Yesterday I finished prepping the beds that are gonna hold the broccoli! Similar to how I constructed my first set of raised beds, I did a "sheet mulch"** to try and do the least amount of work possible.

The picture to the right is finished product.

The grass in this area had been covered for about 4 months with:
  • 1/4" of TAGRO Mix
  • Light layer of straw
  • And this time I topped it with some leftover 6mil black plastic instead of cardboard. 
The cardboard would have been a good source of organic matter once it decomposed, but I wasn't using wood framed raised beds this time. As a result, the depth of the soil I was adding over my sheet mulch was only going to be about 4" max. My worry was that the cardboard wouldn't break down fast enough for roots to be able to penetrate it. So, I just went with black plastic.

This was a great choice because I had a big roll in the basement and wanted to turn a good majority of my yard from grass to garden in the easy sheet mulch fashion.

This picture gives a bit of an idea of how much
space I'm working with:

I think I made the right decision because the plastic turned out to be excellent for killing the weeds and grass. That did leave me with the problem of a readily decomposable solid weed barrier. The cardboard does both duties so well!

One thing I did differently this time was to actually break up the ground with a pitch fork and mix in about a 1/2" of TAGRO mix.

This is the bed before I mixed in the TAGRO. Real tiny you'll see my broccoli starts that I'm hardening off.

Because of it's free nature and the fact that I had broken up the soil a bit, I decided to just put some paper down before I added the final layer of TAGRO potting soil.  I should note that before and after the paper went down I soaked the ground thoroughly:

I used old weeklies and had about 8 pages layered. This should block any grass and weeds that manage to sprout in the broken up soil. At least long enough for the broccoli to really establish itself as the dominant plant in that area. I really will also try to weed super frequently just in case.

There was definitely work put into this method. I didn't want to go to the expense of renting a tiller so I mixed probably 40 sq. ft. by hand. I didn't go all out though and only down to a depth of 12" or so. That should be sufficient for now!

This is all one big experiment so we'll see. Here's a quick picture of the other area I prepared:

And here's a shot of the broccoli and shallot starts. I'm sure at some point I'll do a whole post series on seed starting. I'll stop for now with saying that seed to fruit is nothing short of a miracle!

The varieties are blends from Territorial Seed: Ambition Hybrid Shallot and Hybrid Fall Broccoli Blend. I read that by using blends you could prolong your harvest.

**I put sheet mulch in quotes because the recipe I used was more 'sheet mulch lite' - the real deal would involve more layers of organic matter followed by a high nitrogen source.  Basically another layer or two of TAGRO and straw or cardboard.  The more layers you build the more loam type quality you give to the soil.  I think of the end product as very fertile organic matter in a form that plants are ready to use.