Garden friends! It’s been four months now since I planted the first seeds under grow lights. We’ve come a long way. In my plant inventory there are 3 Amish tomatoes, 2 Black Krim tomatoes, 1 jalapeño, 1 bell pepper, strawberries, 3 pinto beans, 1 green bean, 3 arugula, 1 kale, 2 green basils, 1 purple basil, 2 cilantro, 1 French lavender, and 1 Mojito mint on the roof. Phew. Everything is coming in nicely, but not without it’s struggles of course. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Tomato – at this point the tomatoes are all flowering and fruiting. This is my first full garden (not including my house plant jungle HA), so it’s been a learning experience. One thing that I procrastinated on, and wish I hadn’t, was creating proper support for the tomatoes. A few of the plants are supported by the traditional metal cages, but many of the tomatoes were too big for them by the time I bought cages. A work around was to use a plastic cage that builds around the plants (available at most plant stores). I would suggest setting all your supports up before the tomatoes get big, but there are always solutions if this step was skipped. 

Also shout out to Seasons in Bedstuy for the metal tomato cages ($8 each) in my garden. Deborah is a very experienced gardener who loves giving plant advice and she’s community oriented. In these times, and always, it’s important to support local black-owned businesses. In addition to the metal cages she has a variety of indoor/outdoor plants, soil, pots, and seeds. BYE Home Depot!

Another issue that came up with my tomatoes is bottom rot (see picture example to the right). This is happening to some, but not all, of the tomatoes. The reason is because I was watering the tomatoes once a day, but due to the extreme heat on the roof, the plants need to be watered more like two/three times a day. Anyone else have this? I’d love to hear your solutions (mercedespadro.design@gmail.com). Bottom rot happens when the PH level in the soil is off, so in addition to the extra watering I’m going to purchase garden lime to fully get rid of the rot. More to come.

Jalapeño – this is one happy plant! It is loving the roof. At first it had a slow start, in comparison to the tomatoes, but now it’s quickly catching up. The jalapeño plant is starting to flower and I spotted the first little jalapeño the other day (check it out to the right) – I’m SO excited to make salsa with these babies.

Bell Pepper – this plant is still pretty small in comparison to it’s companions, but I have faith in it! It’s healthy and if it stays on the same track as it’s cousin (jalapeño), then there’s going to be some serious growth and flowering this month.

Strawberries – the strawberry plant is healthy and green, but I haven’t spotted any flowers yet. Now that they’re in a full 5-gallon bucket I’m expecting them to grow more.

Pinto Beans/Green Beans – these are such healthy and easy plants! I’ve been companion planting the beans with the strawberries and arugula. Companion planting is when you put more than one plant in a pot, or next to another plant in a garden. More information here on what plants do well with each other.

Back to the beans! They are all in varying stages since I’ve been succession planting them to get a higher yield of beans. Succession planting is when you plant the seeds at varying points to get a consistent yield/harvest. Since I want to use the pinto beans dried out for frijoles, I’m going to let the entire plant grow and dry out (they’ll look yellow when they’re completely dried out). For the green beans since I want to use them fresh, I’ll pick them while they’re green. Stir fry anyone?

Arugula – another VERY easy plant to manage. I transplanted the arugula in the 5-gallon bucket and they’ve really taken off. Because the roof is sunny with a little shade (from the building next door), the arugula has been trying to flower. Whenever this happens, the plant is trying to seed and it’ll result in a dormant state, so pluck those flowers off and throw them out, or give it a taste? I tasted a bit of the arugula and it has a delicious nutty/spicy flavor to it. Can’t wait to make salads from it sometime soon!

Kale – the kale is healthy and alive, however it’s been quite slow to grow. We’ll see how she does. I’m thinking she likes the cooler weather best.

Green Basil – the basil seeds had a very slow start and I’d almost given up on it, but have faith! The basil is now flourishing. I have so much basil – pesto anyone?? This is another plant that wants to flower and go into a dormant state due to the extreme direct sun on the roof. I’ve been plucking the flowers off and that seems to do the trick. Although I may let one flower, so that I can harvest some basil seeds :)

Purple Basil – this plant I had trouble germinating at first, but once it got started it seems to be growing just fine. It’s not growing as quickly as it’s green cousin, but it’s growing nonetheless. Some of the leaves are starting to turn green, which I assume is due to the direct sunlight. It’s a cute little plant!

French Lavender – I bought this plant (along with the Mojito Mint) from a plant store called Wild Yarrow Farm in Union Square. Also a pro-tip – you can purchase starter plants with EBT at the NY farmer’s markets because it counts as a food. Lavender is my favorite scent, so I’m hoping to get some beautiful flowers soon. Typically lavender does better a year after planting it, so I’m excited to see how she does in the years to come.

Mojito Mint – This is another one I bought at Union Square. It’s been a very healthy plant that’s quickly multiplying when it lays down in the soil (new growth shoots up). I have it trellising up a stick and it smells AMAZING.

Cilantro – the cilantro started off very strong indoors, but due to the direct sunlight on the roof it’s been quickly flowering and seeding (more so than the other plants). I decided to let it do it’s thing – time to harvest some seeds! Next year if I plant cilantro I’ll have to make sure it’s properly shaded to avoid seeding.

I’ve been brainstorming ways to make the roof more comfy/welcoming. So now there are twinkling lights and next I’m going to look into some seating and potentially buying another rug. That’s about it for my rooftop update. Have any questions? Feel free to email me mercedespadro.design@gmail.com. I’m by no means an experienced gardener, but I’m learning a lot about the unique challenges with building a rooftop garden. Cheers and happy gardening.

︎Mercedes Padró