THE BLOG
06/04/2010 12:04 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Uncommon Ground Rooftop Farm Update: Week 5

Summer's here! Not only has the weather been unflaggingly summery (hot days, warm nights, the occasional thunderstorm) tomorrow is the initiation of a favorite summertime standby: the farmer's market. For Uncommon Ground this means we close off our parking lot, set-up a bunch of vendors, bring in a country band, and invite all our neighbors. Running from 4-8pm, it's a farmer's market for the happy-hour crowd and whenever the market's on, the farm is open to the public.

Atop the roof, it's equally festival. Tomatoes, peas, peppers are all starting to move into high gear. The beans would be taking off now (indeed they are at my other garden) except that we ran into a couple problems. One by the name of thrips the other by cucumber beetle. Thirty feet, apparently, is not high enough to keep the bugs away.

Cucumber beetles (we had the spotted variety, Diabrotica
undecimpunctata howardi
in all its eleven-spotted doom) emerge in late spring when the weather gets up to the 60's. It was during this period, that they turned our bean leaves into swiss cheese (see this illustration by USDA illustrator Mary Foley Benson). Hesitant to use any insecticides, even organic ones, unless absolutely necessary we monitored the plants every day and removed any beetles we found. Thank you, interns.

The beetles seem to have moved on, but the worry is that they left behind a few hundred of their future progeny as tiny eggs around the base of our bean plants. If so, they'll soon emerge and, in their larval stage, munch on the roots. While organic control methods emphasize monitoring and cultivation techniques, cucumber beetle larvae are also susceptible to predatory nematodes.

And just when we were thinking it was safe to grow legumes around here, the thrips showed up. Thrips feed by sucking the juice out of the leaves and flowers of plants, like vegan mosquitoes, and cause white emaciated damage (see this illustration of gladiolus thrips, by USDA illustrator Art Cushman). We sprayed them down with water, to get the thrips of the leaves, and had planned on applying an organic soap spray, but we couldn't find a certified organic one over the counter. We opted for ladybugs, who will be pleased to prey on the thrips, hoping that our wind blocks will keep the darlings from blowing away.

Enough doom and gloom. Lets focus on the good stuff. The tomatoes are popping up in our earthboxes. If you're unfamiliar with earthboxes, they're a self-contained, sub-irrigation system -- like a self-watering planter box. They're a great way for urban gardeners to grow vegetables in places where you might not have access to soil: rooftops, fire escapes, balconies, window sills, even parking lots! But of course, since they're sealed on the bottom, they're also usable in places where the soil is infertile or contaminated. They're so efficient and easy that an organization called Growing Connection is sending them all over the world to places where people have trouble accessing reliable sources for fresh vegetables. If they work in Ghana and the Bronx as well as they work here, it's gonna be tomatoes all the world over this August.

If you've been reading this blog, I'd love to show you around. Our farmer's market starts at 4:00PM this Friday. Come on by and I'll give you a tour.

Also, Uncommon Ground presents Green Room Sessions, a FREE monthly eco-awareness series featuring local environmental organizations along with FREE appetizers featuring the product of a local farmer or producer: June 10, 2010 'Alternative Transportation' 6-8pm

Come view the amazing Tesla Roadster, Zero electric motorcycle, hybrids, bio-diesel vehicles, veggie oil vehicles, transportation & cargo bicycles, electric bicycles, scooters & many more.

This Green Room Session will take place in the parking lot of uncommon ground at 1401 West Devon Avenue. Don't miss this event. Outside the auto show, you will never see a more eclectic group of vehicles!

Featuring Outdoor Demos by:
Tesla Motors
Chicago Prius Group
Loeber Motors
Zap Truck
De Fietsfabriek
I Go Cars
Carbon Day Automotive
Audi
Grossinger Toyota North
Chicago Biofuels
Zero Motorcycles Midwest
Zipcar
Loyola Biodiesel Program
Ford Escape and Ford Fusion
Mobile Garden
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