Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Bachelor Button?

“A bachelor button?” one volunteer asked.

Nodding his head ‘yes,’ another pops the feather-like handful of violet pedals into his mouth.

“Is it that the bachelor is the ‘button’ and the petals are all the ladies ready to flock?  Or are they already flocking?”

He shrugs, gripping the flower’s pedals in his fingertips to pluck them off, ready for another bite.

Grown as ornamental, used in teas, Estonia’s national flower, and cultivated by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, John F. Kennedy’s favorite flower is said to even treat conjunctivitis.  The perplexing colloquial name of the centaurea cyanus does not explicitly scream ‘bachelor,’ but here at Graze the Roof, the tall swaying plant provides great color to our garden and to our volunteer day’s lunch.

This self-seeding annual was brought to America from Europe in the 17th century and can grow up to three feet in height.  Its periwinkle florets spike out, resembling tiny instrumental horns.  Today, the plant makes for a lively bouquet after a fun day in the sun at the roof garden, and can easily provide a light (bachelor?) snack on the way home.

Come join the curiosities every Thursday at Graze the Roof!  Volunteer hours are from 10am to 2pm.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Fragaria Vesca Treat

On the roof at Glide, it’s hard not to forage while doing other gardening tasks.  Snail hunting?  Try some of that arugula just an arm’s reach away.  Pruning the tomato plants?  Go ahead, take a little piece of the wasabi mustard for a spicy bite.  Watering?  Snap a bit of that invitingly fragrant basil off for a taste.

With so many edible options available at the garden, no matter what job you have or which corner of the roof you are on, there is one plant that will find you:  the fragaria vesca.

More commonly known as the alpine strawberry, this California native plant has leaves that look like spiked ovals.  With tall thin stems and small white flowers, it is easy to miss the beautifully tiny strawberries that sometimes hang just beneath the foliage.  But when discovered, the delicate berry is quite the treat.

This week they were perfectly ripe and the berries never looked so ruby red.  Our volunteers were lucky enough to catch a good lot of them before decomposing as their delicate nature does not allow them to last very long.  More often then not however, the snails find them first!

Snackers should also take note that this plant is a volunteer in the Graze the Roof garden.  They were never intentionally planted, but just like the gardeners who donate their time to Glide, they are warmly welcomed!

Graze our roof here at Glide every Thursday from 10am-2pm.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Astro Turf Is the New Burlap

It was declared last summer: “Astro turf is the new burlap.”

And it was only the summer before, that burlap was the replacement for the commonly used landscaping fabric.  These fabric trends have kept our interest here at Graze the Roof only because it is these varying materials that we use to line the milk crates for growing our plants.

At Graze the Roof, we have repurposed dozens of milk crates into growing containers for our abundant garden of edibles and ornamental plants.  These plastic crates have holes in the sides and bottom, and thus require a lining, so that the soil – from start to finish – does not fall through and create an unstable foundation for the plants and their roots.  Over time, we have tested out multiple materials, surprisingly, the astro turf is the best yet.  The initial black, felt-like landscaping material that is often used for weed protection covered the inside of the boxes well and easily.  Its flexibility and light weight allowed for full coverage and acted as a great holder for our in-house compost, but gradually, we noticed that it would lose its structure quite quickly as the plant’s roots established themselves.

Enter the burlap.

Graze the Roof’s burlap came from the large bags that coffee beans are shipped in.  Local roaster, Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission District of San Francisco has generously donated dozens of bags over the years. A huge thank you to them!  Given that the bags were easy to cut up and wrap the crates with, the more natural material seemed like a more environmentally friendly option.  Also known as hessian, the plant-based fabric feels very much like rope.  We on the roof however, have found that the original sturdiness of the burlap does not hold up past one cycle of soil without deteriorating from the wear of the plant growth and continuous watering.

So, as of recent, the astro turf has been deemed a winner on our roof!  Its synthetic composition is projected to last a while, especially in comparison to our previous materials.  Granted, the turf requires a lot of measurement and cutting before placing the strips along the walls of the planters, but so far, it is thick, strong, and holds the moisture and soil well.

We are grateful that such an unnatural material, so frequently seen as toxic and harmful, can provide us with a crucial role in our garden.

Curious about the nuances of successful urban container gardening?  Come join us on our volunteer workdays, every Thursday from 10am to 2pm at Glide!

Take 1

Take 2

Third time is the charm!