Getting started

June 12, 2011

I finally got around to planting a few things at the Ballard P-patch this weekend. I have to admit I’m a little intimidated trying to grow new veggies. I don’t want to spend a ton of money and then somehow kill all the plants. I went to Swanson’s and decided I’d plant 1/2 the plot with flowers and decorative plants and the other 1/2 with edibles.

My favorite flowers are: Peony, Tulips and Lilies. I looked all over for a nice deep red, or peach colored peony, but all they had were white and pink. I went with a light pink color. The bees were all over it.

Ballard P-patch Peony

My Peony


My lazy companion. He didn't even offer to help.

Balalrd P-patch plot

Getting started on my plot

Balalrd P-patch plot

Lemon cucumber, tomato, chives and bush beans...

I loved the lemon cucumbers we grew on the deck last year. I like how full the plant gets. They are easy to grow and they make me feel somewhat successful as a novice gardener!

I’m going to plant some peppers and maybe some arugula as well. Stay tuned…

hori hori dig dig!


Woot! We finally finished the traffic circle planting project today. It looks fabulous! We met so many of our neighbors as they drove or walked by and thanked us for our hard work. One lady even told us we were going to heaven for cleaning up the neighborhood. Nice.

Ballard Traffic Circle Before


Ballard Traffic Circle After


Ballard Traffic Circle in progress


We planted Yucca, Oat Grass, Bowles Wallflower, Point Reyes Ceanothus, a few Poppies and a few Echinacea.

Ballard Traffic Circle Plants

A trip to Swanson's Nursery

Ballard Traffic Circle Plan

The Plans

Oh, and we found this while digging: someone’s pet hamster remains. For a second I thought we found someone’s dope stash. We promptly reburied it. J is for Jumper the hamster who apparently died in November of 2009. RIP Jumper.

Hamster remains in the traffic circle

Someone's pet hamster remains...

At the end of the project, I spent the Seattle Small Sparks funds from the city ($599) and only $40 out of pocket. It looks great and I am so glad it’s done. A big thank you to Sean for helping me get this done. Also, to my brother and sister-in-law for pulling out juniper roots with their truck.

Now it’s time to move onto my p-patch plot!

hori hori dig dig!

I have been on the wait list for over 3 years for a plot in a local p-patch. I was on 3 lists actually (the max allowed) with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. Recently I was contacted by the city to see if I was still interested in a plot at the Ballard P-patch. I don’t think the volunteer appreciated how excited I was. I think she wanted me to stop clapping.

Anyway, I met the garden site coordinator, Roy, who showed me my plot and gave me the rundown on volunteering at the site. My plot is 10′ x 10′ at the edge of the garden. I love the this p-patch because it is off the street and has a large parking lot, so it is relatively quiet compared to some of the p-patches in the city. Check it out:

Ballard P-patch plot

My plot at the edge of the garden

Ballard P-patch plot

A blank slate...

Ballard P-patch

The Ballard P-patch site

The garden also has quite a few plots dedicated to grow food for the Ballard Food Bank. Each Tuesday is a Growing for Giving volunteer night. I like that.

I haven’t decided what to plant here yet. I think I’d like to do a mix of flowers and edibles. Stay tuned…

hori hori dig dig!

Nerd alert: I am totally geeking out on this traffic circle. I love it. I feel more connected with my neighbors and I finally have a little patch of dirt to play in. It has been a work in progress and isn’t even close to being finished, but I wanted to share my progress. I’ve been working with the city and I am the official volunteer of the traffic circle at 28th/59th street. I hope they send me a badge. I applied for a Small Sparks award through the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods to get up to $600 from the city to beautify my TC. I am waiting to hear back from them. Take a look at the before shot:

Ballard Traffic Circle


These are 30-year-old juniper shrubs with a smattering of weeds, leaves and a few pretty flowers. We decided to take out all of the juniper. I didn’t realize what a gigantic pain in the ass that would be. The first day of cleanup we only got 1/2 the job done and filled 10 yard bags full of debris.

Ballard Traffic Circle Cleanup

Day 1 Cleanup

Ballard Traffic Circle Cleanup

Day 2 Cleanup

Treasures found while cleaning out the TC: 3 full cans of Miller High Life that were a bit old, multiple doggie tennis balls, some airline size alcohol bottles (empty), and a little 1 hit hash pipe. Who says it doesn’t pay to volunteer?!

We cut the junipers down to the root, and my next challenge is to find someone to remove them. There are about 6 large roots to be removed. I think it requires a truck and chains. I don’t think the Prius or Subaru will do the job. Although I’m sure it would be fun to watch.

Ballard Traffic Circle Cleanup

Juniper Roots

Once I find out about the city funds for the plants, I can go shopping! Stay tuned…

hori hori dig dig!

The light in the sky is changing and there is a slight chill in the air. I like to call it pre-Fall. Since we had such a late start to Summer, I feel weird admitting that I am excited for the change of season. Growing up in Michigan I experienced 4 very distinct seasons. Here in Seattle we have basically 2 seasons and the cold/grey season is the longest. So why am I feeling just a little excited?! Maybe because I get to pull my Hunter boots out of the closet. And my basket of scarves. I love them.

It’s been a while since my last garden update. I am happy to report nothing has died! In fact it seems that the plants are quite happy right where they are getting loads of sunshine and plenty of water.

I’ll hopefully get to make a few jars of pasta sauce with the tomatoes. I usually make a chunky tomato sauce with loads of garlic, shallots and white wine. The Cucumbers are basically just a method of transportation for hummus. I also like them in salad. If we get enough of them, I may try my hand at pickling. Finding a pickling recipe for Lemon Cucumbers has been tough. I may just try a few recipes and see what works best. Brussels Sprouts just seem like a Fall dish. Sautéed with onion and sometimes a little bacon. Just for fun. They are comfort food. I didn’t realize I liked them until 4 or 5 years ago when I was living in Portland and made them as a side dish for Thanksgiving. I don’t remember having them often growing up in Michigan, or maybe like most kids, I turned up my nose when they made an appearance. I’m a big fan now.

It has been amazing to watch the tomatoes. I can’t believe how quickly they grow! This is a Speckled Roman variety tomato plant, and while it looks a little worse for wear, it seems happy and the tomatoes are getting bigger by the day. They look a bit like swollen peppers.

The Lemon Cucumber plant is my favorite. I love how it filled out and is creeping slowly and looking for a place to climb. The flowers that become the cucumber are pretty and it’s fun to watch the transformation.

The other morning while watering the plants I thought this little guy was getting trapped between the pot and vine, so I tried to move it gently but it came off. I think it is a little young yet, but I may try it this afternoon with some hummus. M’mmmm…

The Brussels! I started with 4 plants and 1 was losing the battle so I pulled it from the pot. I think this pot is a little small for 3, but we’ll see what happens. I have to do some research on how to maintain these as the sprouts grow. They are forming veeeerrrryyyy slowly in the armpit of each stem/leaf, but I heard somewhere that you have to snap off the bottom leaf to promote growth. I’m not convinced that I didn’t dream that, so I want to be sure. If you have advice I’d love to hear it!

Now I feel a bit more confident with my gardening skills. I’ve heard a rumor we might get a new P-Patch in Ballard, so I have to try to get my name on the list for a plot. Stay tuned…

We just got back from our San Juan boating trip. I’ll share the details soon. It was so relaxing.

hori hori dig dig!

The adventure continues. It has been a month and half since I bought my veggie starts and all of the edibles have been potted and are happily enjoying the rain and sun on the deck. The tomato plant has done well, but it isn’t growing as fast as I thought it would. At this rate I might get a few tomatoes in September!  Patience has never been one of my strong suits.

My original Lemon Cucumbers died. I think the edible plant sale was a bit too early this year and the starts didn’t have enough time to get established. I waited a month and then bought a few more at Swanson’s. Those are doing well, and I will have to transplant them into much larger pots soon.

The Arugula went bananas (b.a.n.a.n.a.s). We had a lovely sunny Sunday a few weeks ago and threw together an impromptu get together on the deck. We served steak sandwiches with fresh arugula (drizzled with olive oil and fresh lemon juice) and blue cheese on ciabatta buns. OMG, they were delicious. The arugula was perfect. I love how it adds just a little spice.

The Brussel Sprouts have also taken off. I think the pots I put them in are going to be too small. I’ll have to transplant those soon as well. I already have a plan for these lovelies when I harvest them (again… assuming I don’t kill them). Halved, and sautéed with onion and just a smidge of bacon.  Btw, these green pots I found at Ballard Market and at Swanson’s are biodegradable. They can be used for 2-3 years outside and longer if used indoors and then can be planted directly in the ground. They come in tons of fun colors too. Nice.

This past weekend I finally got around to potting some houseplants as well. I have never done too well with houseplants. Mostly because I only give them water (and usually too much of it), I don’t know which plants need fertilizer and how often. So, I’ve decided to buy mostly succulents this time around. That way they will be content with a little water now and then, and if I forget, I assume they won’t mind. I did buy a few low maintenance non-succulents as well. We’ll see how they do.

Overall, the deck is looking good and I’ve been enjoying the sun whenever it decides to shine down on Seattle. I think the edibles are doing well and I love checking on them each morning and night. It makes me so happy to watch them grow. We’ve also planted some rock rose and lavender and have seen more bee activity. Sean has been learning a lot about the decline in the bee populations and what that means for our plants, including edibles. So now, I (who detest all insects) am trying to help the little guys thrive. Sean actually contacted our neighborhood bee guy (who can install hives on your property and harvest the honey for you) to see if we could put a hive on the deck. Really, Sean?! Luckily the bee guy said that would be too difficult because he’d need regular access to our roof. Geez…

To be continued…

hori hori dig dig!

Living in the city is a bit of a challenge when it comes to gardening. I can’t afford a house with a yard and therefore a garden, so instead, as I’ve talked about before, I volunteer at Seattle Tilth so I can get my hands in the dirt and learn all about organic gardening.

The Spring Garden Crew season has started and last weekend was the Edible Plant Sale at Tilth. I bought a few starter plants and, for the first time, have committed to trying my hand at growing edibles in containers on the rooftop deck.

Here are the plants I selected:

Basil, Onion, Brussel Sprouts, Wild Arugula, Tomato (the saucy kind) and Lemon Cucumber (I heart these).

My hope is that after all is said and done, at least the tomato plant will have survived and flourished! I love fresh chunky tomato sauce. If it goes as planned and I have a ton of tomatoes, then maybe I’ll have to learn how to preserve them as well.

Here’s how cute and little they are now (and here’s hoping they don’t look the same size, but dead in a few months!)

If you have any advice I’d love to hear it. Fingers crossed. Stay tuned…

hori hori dig dig!