Once we had our transplants and direct-sown seeds in the ground, we could shift our attention from indoors to the garden itself. The bare soil was starting to look a little brighter by the end of May. Here, a beet enjoys its own spot. Note the clover in the background… that’s remnants of the cover crop which have reappeared and would soon spread to all areas of the beds.
I was interested in starting a mushroom growing spot in our garden, and I had proposed a separate mushroom growing workshop to the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, our neighboring environmental stewards. I was also a longtime follower of Paul Stamets, a renowned mycologist (specialist in fungi) who coincidentally gave a talk I attended in Manhattan recently. I thought I would use the garden as a test run of the workshop as I had never done log inoculation before, though it looked super simple. In fact, it is super simple.
I ordered some ‘plug spawn’ which are pre-inoculated wood dowels commonly used in mushroom cultivation, from Fungi Perfecti, one of the larger suppliers. Plug spawn of Shiitake, Lion’s Mane and Phoenix Oyster arrived a few days later, along with a couple of other basic supplies, some of which came from another supplier, Mushroompeople. Here we are going through the steps of the log inoculation. The hardest part was finding the proper log species to match the mushrooms… that would be much easier out in the countryside. Logs in the city are harder to source. Eventually I spotted some freshly cut ones in the neighborhood. We think they are either Ailanthus or Little Leaf Linden, both common hardwoods around here. Hard to tell the species without their leaves.
In early 2015, I was looking ahead to the season and wanting to improve on my seed starting setup. The previous year I tried out a kitchen window for propagation, and saw a lot of leggy seedlings and quite a few die-offs as well. I wanted to step up my seed propagation game.
I carved out a little space in the apartment for a shelf unit for this purpose. Assembled more or less inexpensively from basic Metro-style wire shelving, it took a few trips to a few stores to collect what I wanted.
Outdoor seed sowing is a whole different ballgame from transplanting seedlings. Done around the same point in the season, this process is a lot simpler. There are no stems to break and no peat pots to knock over. The hardest part is planning it out and assembling all of the correct seed packets.
My family has Italian heritage, and to celebrate a certain milestone we took a trip to the old country. Tuscany, in this case. I had been to many parts of Italy but this was my first trip to the Tuscan countryside. It’s pretty amazing to go to a place that looks just like it does in postcards and in old oil paintings. Around every turn was another rolling vista of olive groves and vineyards. The sound carried so far that we could catch snippets of conversation from that house in the righthand distance.
At a farmer’s market in Chianti, we saw some familiar veggies. They all looked like they were popping right out of their crates. I asked about one green I’d never seen before. Called Aggretti, it’s a local delicacy. Apparently it took England by storm a few years ago. We bought some, cooked it up. Good stuff. My uncle found some seeds back in Vermont and was able to grow a few despite the dramatic difference in climate.