Notes from Zone 6b – it's aliiiiive!
March 28th, 2011
04:15 PM ET
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Eatocracy's Managing Editor Kat Kinsman attempts to vegetable garden on a roof deck in Brooklyn, NY in USDA Hardiness Zone 6b. Feel free to taunt, advise or encourage her efforts as this series progresses.

There was a light coat of snow on my compost heap last week, but down in the basement, the purslane has sprouted.

Nope, that's not code for anything - I'm not signaling an all-clear for the Kremlin to come set up shop in my cellar. It was a hailing, flurrying 30°F in Brooklyn a few days ago, but under grow lights, a story beneath the frozen asphalt, spring has arrived. While the glasswort and sorghum have yet to sprout, I'm almost shamefully obsessed with monitoring the progress of the seedlings that have deigned to germinate in my basement since I tucked them into the soil just over a week ago.

By Tuesday, heirloom French Breakfast radishes and pink shocks of green purslane winked awake. A day or two passed, and In quick succession, the Aunt Hettie's Stays Red and Red Burgundy okra and an overnight riot of erba stella burst up and stretched toward the grow lights.

I'm well aware that this is how nature has worked since the dawn of time, and that my intervention in the process is roughly as helpful as letting a 4-year-old "help pay" for dinner with the tooth fairy quarter in their pocket. I am, though, approximately that giddy over the whole affair. My hands put those seeds into that dirt and, as my Dad is fond of saying, God willing and the creek don't rise (though in my case, it's less a creek than marauding squirrels and the neighbor's free-peeing Siamese), there will be homegrown salad this summer.

These heirloom vegetables may just barely feed my friends and family. They surely won't stretch to serve my neighborhood or community this summer or even the next - but there will be seeds. I'll save them and trade them and give them away and in that small action, some obscure strain of fava or an unlovely but endlessly delicious corn variety gets another season in the sun, safe from extinction.

And for right now, I can't stop staring at the seedlings. I'll be typing at my desk, mid-conversation with a colleague or even trying to drift off to sleep and my thoughts creep on down to the peat pots and steel buckets beneath the humming fluorescent lights, wondering what's fluttered to life while I've been away.

It's, uh, not just me who does this, right? Keep me company in the comments below. I'll be sharing the triumphs and travails of my fellow dirt candy fanatics, so please share stores and links below.

Planted Sunday, March 27th

Variety Producer Heirloom
Cream Sausage Tomato Seed Savers Yes
Amish Paste Tomato Seed Savers Yes
Silvery Fir Tree Tomato Seeds of Change Yes
Dr. Carolyn Tomato D. Landreth Yes
Golden Roma Tomato D. Landreth Yes
Purple Calabash Tomato D. Landreth Yes
Great White Tomato D. Landreth Yes
Mr. Stripey Tomato D. Landreth Yes
Wapsipinicon Peach Tomato D. Landreth Yes
Black from Tula Tomato D. Landreth Yes

Planted Sunday, March 20th

Variety Producer Heirloom
Aunt Hettie's Stays Red Okra Victory Seeds Yes
Black Valentine Beans Southern Exposure No
Broad Windsor Fava Beans Southern Exposure No
Caraway Baker Creek Yes
Carciofo Romanesco (Artichoke) La Semiorto Sementi No
Cardoon Nichols Garden Nursery No
Chervil Page's Seeds Yes
Culantro Eryngium Page's Seeds No
Cumin Nichols Garden Nursery No
Dwarf Taylor Horticultural Beans Page's Seeds Yes
Edible Chinese Luffa Evergreen Y.H. Enterprises No
Erba Stella Franchi No
French Breakfast Radish Nichols Garden Nursery Yes
French Dinant Celery Nichols Garden Nursery No
Giant Prague Celeriac Victory Seed Co. No
Green Purslane Baker Creek Yes
Large Smooth Prague Celeriac Southern Exposure No
Purple Xi Su Perilla Baker Creek Yes
Red Burgundy Okra Seed Savers Yes
Roscano Liscari O Agretti (Glasswort) Bavicchi No
Salad Burnet Baker Creek Yes
Summer Savory Baker Creek Yes
Victoria Rhubarb Baker Creek Yes

Previously – Notes from Zone 6b – growing glasswort and sorghum in a Brooklyn basement and Getting started in your garden

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. JBJingles@Kat

    We need an update on the children! :)

    April 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  2. fob@KAT

    CORRECTION: The garden in the back of a truck is in the April issue of Food Network Magazine. And, it is the King Corn guys!

    March 29, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  3. Bucolic Bushwick

    Hovering is normal. Do it as much as you want. It's meddling you have to watch out for! I like to mist my seedlings with water even though I'm sure they don't need it as much as I do it. I don't have this uncontrollable urge to constantly mist my houseplants so it annoys me that I can't not do it with seedlings, but there you have it.

    March 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  4. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    My plants are growing excellent, as well! Who needs a 60-sack in about 3 weeks?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • PanamaRed

      I do,I do.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  5. jillmarie

    I love, love, love the unusual names of the plants you are growing! Great White tomato, Black Valentine beans, Amish Paste tomato- as a seasoned vegetarian and veggie enthusiast, I am now educated on additional varieties. I can't wait to hear more about them as they grow!

    March 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  6. Hermeschic

    Just put the beets,parisian carrot and heirloom tomatoes in the egg cartons today so I can take them out during the day and inside at night...can't wait for my sprouts.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  7. Tazer@Kat

    We need baby pictures! :-D

    Speaking of... I think tomorrow I'm going to get some seeds.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  8. Farm Crier

    We completely relate, Kat. It truly is a miracle that happens right before you.

    March 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I swear, I've practically gotten out of bed to go look at them. It was worse when I lived all on one floor. And just wait until the blossoms happen. Aw man...

      March 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  9. Mark L

    Yes, its just you :)

    March 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Mark L

      Just kiddig of course. These are like your children right now. Of course you will think about them often, especially at the end of the day

      March 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
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