Taking you up on the roof to see my son’s’ urban garden on the wraparound terrace of his Manhattan penthouse in New York City.
I had planned to share this last year, but the summer got away from me! For happy reasons. First, I was training Whiskey, my Energetic & Playful Scottie Puppy. And, instead of sitting inside at the computer editing photos and composing posts, hubby and I were enthusiastically out and about.
We spent late May and early June visiting family and friends in Philadelphia. That included a Memorial Day gathering where we experienced how Using a Smoker Grill Enhances BBQ. Mom came back to Pittsburgh with us for the rest of month. Then, over an extended July 4th holiday visit with our sons , we enjoyed a baseball game, amusement park, dining out, and fireworks.
Come August, we headed to Washington D.C. There we went to an old-fashioned county fair, the Warf Marina, and an ABBA tribute concert at Wolf Trap National Park. Finally on Labor Day, we flew to California, exploring Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite.
Now with a broken finger and after prolonged period of Covid isolation, I’ve found the time to show off my eldest’s vegetable and herb urban garden. Come up on the rooftop for a bird’s eye view!
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Skyline Urban Oasis
For numerous years, eldest son R lived in a one-bedroom, penthouse condo in the Upper East Side. Sitting on the rooftop of an over 100-year-old, 12-story building, it features a unique, large terrace. This is the lounge area, with two birch trees and rose bushes in permanent planters,
Birch trees bend in the wind and tolerate sometimes windy conditions on highrises. There are two others on the opposite end of the rooftop.
Several years ago, R and his girlfriend, V, decided to add a highrise floral cutting garden. Here the flowers are in the process of being planted in window box planter inserts.
There is a long narrow section of terrace connecting the two identical-sized living areas. Located right outside the main door and kitchen, the space provides easy access to a hose for watering and cleanup. Coiled in a box, the extra long hose reaches all the way to the birch trees on either end of the rooftop.
After a few weeks to get established, R and V set the flowering planters along the brick and wrought iron parapet around the dining section of the terrace.
Wrapping around three sides of the penthouse, the total outdoor area is double the interior space!
Moving Out of Manhattan
I shared a tour of R’s place in Modern Style Floral & Twig Wreath. Last October, the wreath was a housewarming gift, after he moved to Hoboken, NJ. Although still working in Manhattan, R gained substantially more living space and amenities in the new building. An integral garage — for a long-desired car — also allows for much easier mobility in and out of the city.
During the pandemic, these features gained in importance. Besides, R was no longer entertaining regularly, and many friends had left New York permanently. Moving meant giving up all that outdoor space, along with the fresh herbs and a bounty of vegetables flourishing there. But not until an amazing final harvest!
High Rise Urban Garden
Every spring, the couple traveled to Harlem to a favorite garden center for starter plants and supplies.
Then, they lugged numerous new planters, bags of dirt, plants and other urban garden supplies up to the roof —via the building’s freight elevator.
Outside on the terrace, they set up a potting and staging area for plants on the large dinning table. However, some cucumber, radish and carrot varieties were started from seeds.
Situated against the long, narrow section of the rooftop terrace, the vegetables growing here illustrate the NYC urban garden setting.
Covering the floor — on the roof of the building — are large, black rubber mats. They are installed so that rain and snow water efficiently drain off the terrace But, the mats can get very hot in the summer. Currently NYC is experiencing a record-breaking heat wave, with consecutive days of temperatures reaching or exceeding 100 degrees!
Scorching hot days, with the rubber mats holding and radiating heat, makes being out on the terrace miserable. Add to that the dated and often inefficient air conditioning inside the penthouse. So while the couple may miss their urban garden and outdoor living space, the weather has confirmed they made the right decision to move. Besides, the new building has a posh rooftop swimming pool, with shade and stunning views of NYC across the Hudson River.
Located several blocks from Central Park, the penthouse is on the back side of the 1920 building. Because there is no street traffic, pedestrians or businesses below (or on either side of the building), it was much quieter than R’s previous place.
Another major plus, was that the co-op building doesn’t abut any other highrises. Instead, twelve-stories below are green spaces and patio’s.
Last summer’s wide array of vegetable plantings included; orange and purple carrots, Boston lettuce, bok choy, Swiss chard, shallots, onions, leeks, yellow and red bell peppers, sweet Italian peppers, eggplant, San Marzano tomatoes, celery, yellow zucchini, and cucumbers.
Needing more planters for all those vegetables growing in the urban garden, the couple used fabric pots — found online (see below). They worked particularly well for the wide variety of pepper plants.
V said, “Just deep enough, the water drains out from the fabric so the plants don’t drown. And the handles made them easy to move around and rotate. I really liked them!”
Easily accessible from the kitchen for quick snips, the narrow area of the terrace is also where long, permanent planters grew annual and perennial herbs. These include thyme, basil, cilantro, dill, chives, and curly parsley.
To replicate the markers used in my own herb garden, I put together a package of corks, wooden meat skewers, and a permanent marker for both sons to label plants. I find them particularly useful for identifying perennial herbs when they emerge in the spring.
Feeding & Pest Control
I never imagined they’d be able to grow so many different veggies— in such abundance —in an urban garden 12-stories up!
Some plants required stakes for support; like these tomatoes and most of the peppers.
According to V, they fertilized all the flower, vegetable and herb plants about every two weeks. She’s not sure if that too often or not, but look at the results!
Surprisingly, birds weren’t an issue. They only lost one pepper plant seedling; very early in the season. The rest of the peppers experienced exponential growth!
As for pest control, the couple sprayed the plants with neem oil, an organic insecticide.
Occasionally, after a lot of rain, V would spot a caterpillar or slug on the lettuce or bok choy. She’d simply pluck them off the plant and discard them.
Harvesting the Urban Garden Crop
Now for harvesting the fresh vegetables and herbs. One of the bumper crops were cucumbers started from seeds!
Some of the herbs — particularly dill and Thai basil– had a tendency to bolt, necessitating some aggressive pruning. It was easier to keep the vegetable plants under control; simply picking them when ready. Occasionally, however, they had an over abundance of ripe veggies needing harvested en masse.
Spread on the outdoor dining table, are eggplant, celery, carrots, leeks, peppers and tomatoes reaped from a single harvest.
Those are purple carrots you see — started from seeds! Aren’t they a beautiful color? Did you know carrots were originally purple? Over time, however, Dutch carrot growers managed to cultivate those, yellow and white carrots into the orange ones we are familiar with today. Who knew?
Talk about a feast for the eyes! It’s was like the kids had their own rooftop Whole Foods or Fresh Market produce section lol. Last year, we were fortunate to dine on some of the bumper crop of vegetables they brought to Pittsburgh during a Return of Traditional Summer Activities & Family Visits.
Remember the starter carrot plant I showed you earlier? Here’s petite V with the end of season carrot harvest. Can you believe it? Obviously no mischievous Peter Rabbit in this city farmer’s garden lol!
Behind V a pandemic-delayed, new luxury highrise is under construction in the background. It’s a bit surreal isn’t it?
Pick a Peck of Peppers
Another time, the couple used a wheeled dining cart to harvest a bumper crop of bell and chili peppers, and yellow tomatoes from their rooftop urban garden.
Inside, a variety of chili peppers are washed and ready for meal preparation. They include; Anaheim, Shishito, Jalapeno, Habaneros, and yellow Peruvian Aji peppers.
Medium in size and about six to ten inches long, the green Anaheim is a mild, versatile chili pepper. It’s described as giving a boost of flavor to any dish that otherwise might be a little bland.
Shishito peppers are small, bright green, somewhat wrinkled-looking peppers. They are mildly spicy and even a bit sweet.
Mr. Buzz and I ate several meals incorporating the Aji pepper, while vacationing in, Provocative Peru: Lima & Sacred Valley. We even helped to prepare a feast in the home of an indigenous family!
Considered part of the Peruvian cuisine “holy trinity” (along with garlic and red onion), the four to five inch chili pods have a thick skin. Although literally named “yellow chili pepper,” the color changes to a bright orange as it matures.
Considered hot, that heat is balanced somewhat with a subtle fruity flavor of passion fruit and mango.
Most people are already familiar with the more spicy Jalapeno and Habaneros peppers.
In addition to incorporating them in numerous Mexican dishes, R and V like to char or roast chili peppers.
Fruits of an Urban Garden
Incorporating a variety of herbs and vegetables into fresh and healthy meals was a major benefit of living in NYC during the pandemic.
Plus the couple loves to cook and experiment with new foods and dishes— especially together or side-by-side!
V especially likes to prepare Asian-inspired dishes, like the Cultural Cooking Adventure: Vietnamese Dishes she treated me to.
It’s one of the reasons she planted bok choy, Thai basil, and Misato radishes. No trips to a specialty market necessary!
Ever heard of or eaten a Misato radish? They were new to me.
“This ‘watermelon’ type radish has a round shape and sweet, crisp, pale flesh. Some roots are white, others green, and few are magenta! The greens are more tender and tasty than other storage radishes, making it a great two-fer crop for the fall garden.“Hudson Valley Seed Co.
To include them in the urban garden, required starting the radishes from seed.
Along with yellow tomatoes and chives from the urban garden, V created a tasty brunch of scrambled eggs and avocado toast topped with the specialty Misato radishes. Doesn’t it look inviting and yummy?
Harvesting more than they could possibly eat, V and R hosted friends to an eggplant feast.
For an appetizer they served baba ganoush. Similar to hummus, the dip or spread calls for grilled or roasted eggplant instead of chickpeas. V made a dish called, eggplant buns as the main course. First searing slices on the grill, the eggplant was then topped with a tasty Asian-inspired sauce.
More Rooftop Gardening to Come
Originally, I had planned to showcase both our sons’ rooftop urban gardens. But, this post was long enough! Continue the story at younger son’s 1920 Philadelphia Rowhouse Urban Rooftop Garden.
Thanks to all those who sent their good wishes and kind thoughts concerning my elderly mom and my recent Covid infections. As I shared in, When Life Gives You Lemons, Set a Lemon Table, mom has recovered and flew back home to Charleston.
Unfortunately, even after taking the five-day course of Paxlovid and testing negative, I experienced rebound. My severe cold symptoms returned and the test immediately confirmed I was positive! That meant another five long days of isolating and keeping my distance from dear hubby. Fortunately, he never tested positive or developed any symptoms.
Honestly, it really upset me that I couldn’t clear the virus — even after receiving my second booster just two month before!
So, I’m trying to get back to a sense of well-being and normal, except for the brace I still have to wear for my broken finger.
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