Rooftop Gardening: Our First Tomato!

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Our First Tomato!

I’ve been so busy with this blog, posting away like the OCD introverted nerd that I am, that anyone would think I have nothing better to do up on the roof! But they would be wrong – lol – I figured out having a blog is like having a baby. All of a sudden you become so much more productive, getting all the chores done right away to make time for that new baby…  or, in my case, new blog!

Our 2014 rooftop garden is in full swing already, thanks to God for a very mild winter. I am aware that everyone else on earth froze their fannies off this year, and I really appreciate how horrible that must have been. But I don’t mind telling you that I didn’t miss the usual suffering through winter in a house with no heating, no insulation in the walls, and hand built windows that are more cosmetic than functional.  They do a pretty good job of keeping the bugs out, but the weather? Not so much! It’s usually a steady 45 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter here, which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that 45 degrees is the temperature inside your refrigerator. It’s really hard to handle life in a refrigerator for eight weeks! Maybe I’m just a wimp, but I really am thankful for not living in the refrigerator all this last winter!

So, with all the great weather we’ve had, it’s actually been fun tending to the rooftop gardening. First, I went on a treasure hunt in our storage room, collecting chicken feeders. You might have noticed that five story chicken farm next door. Back when it was only three floors, Mohamed was running it himself but then his ticket to Canada popped up and saved him from all that headache. He rented the farm out and put all his equipment in the storage room, waiting patiently for his new packrat wife from America to come figure out what to do with it all! They looked like perfect planters to me, so I hauled them all up to the roof and spread them out in rows:

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Chicken Feeders Lined Up All Around The Rooftop

I learned this trick of turning chicken feeders into garden containers last year when I created my first rooftop garden, (which you might have already seen in this post here) on the roof over the first floor kitchen. But the sun is really good one more floor up on the roof over the garage, so we figured it would be a great place to grow tomatoes and cucumbers. Mohamed brought soil from our land, super fine silt from the bank of the Nile, a huge bag of “bitmus” (an Arabic pronunciation of “peat moss”), sawdust from the local saw mill and, naturally, chicken manure from next door! We layered it carefully when we created the pile of potting soil, and Mohamed mixed it nicely with the shovel while I carried bucket loads around, filling all the planters. (I was also taking pictures of this beautiful bright green bird! )
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Preparing The Potting Soil

It’s a good thing we don’t have any more chicken feeders! I think I’m going to go crazy with all of this as it is. We planted tomatoes and cucumbers and zucchini and peppers and okra… That seems like a good mix, doesn’t it?
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'Upscaled' Chicken Feeders Make Great Planters!

I grabbed my camera a few days ago when I saw the first yellow flowers on the zucchini. I’m so easy to please, you can imagine how excited I got, seeing our garden working. Then Mohamed spied that first nice little tomato and I gave him a great big kiss! It feels so nice when your hard work pays off, especially in a garden!
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Our first zucchini and another new little tomato

If you saw my last post about the rooftop roses, you saw these barrels from back in December. The roses were still blooming and the barrels were not yet planted. After we got the dirt prepared, we topped off all the barrels on this roof, too. Then Mohamed planted lettuce and cilantro and beans in the nice new soil. The barrels are ‘upcycled’ empties left over after tarring the roofs – farmers are famous for never throwing away anything, but who knew these barrels would someday be useful for gardening? Their main purpose is for growing the grapevines, but while the vines were sleeping we took advantage of the great opportunity for sweet romaine lettuce.
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'Upscaled' Tar Barrels Serving fresh Romaine Lettuce Daily

I’m very sure there’s a ‘No Beans Or Peas’ clause in my marriage contract. Planting, picking and/or cleaning them is clearly grounds for divorce in my book! However, this marriage is too good not to compromise, so I accepted a few bean plants in the barrels. At least they won’t break my back picking them this way! And they do have quite beautiful flowers, come to find out, so they earned my reluctant respect. Anything with a beautiful flower can stay!
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Flowering Fava Bean Plant Growing In A Tar Barrel

Fava beans are the national breakfast in Egypt. Called “fool” in Arabic, these beans are a great source of protein. Every third corner in Egypt has a shop or a stand where you can buy a fresh, hot bowl of fava beans any day of the week. They are cooked slowly overnight and eaten plain in a bowl with some of the cooking juice, or mashed with this juice and and jazzed up with tahina sauce, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin. Spread this delicious mixture on a fresh, warm piece of whole wheat baladi bread and it’s the best version of a breakfast burrito you’ll ever eat in your life! I particularly enjoy taco salad for breakfast, so to this mix of beans I add a fresh salad and crumble up a big flat dry piece of “Aish but” which I affectionately call “crunchy nacho bread.” Mmmm mm! Fresh taco salad for breakfast! Now, there’s a great reason to grow a garden!

By the way, I just discovered another interesting blog,  Where’s My Backpack so I’ve linked up this post with all the nice people participating in this week’s fun at: Where’s My Backpack Travel Theme: Gardens I guess you can tell, I really love gardening, so I’m excited to check out all the other posts linked up there – maybe you will join us!


41 thoughts on “Rooftop Gardening: Our First Tomato!

  1. Wow what a great way to grow your vegs, saves a lot of back ache and weeding. Do you have a good rain fall in your part of the world, or do you have to hand water every thing?


    • Yes it’s far less weeds this way. But no rain, unfortunately for the garden. Fortunately for me, though, because rain makes a huge mess of mud in a very dusty country. I was thinking rain would be an improvement here because of all the dust, but I was totally wrong about that! A hose on the roof is the perfect solution. ;^)


        • Yes, the Nile River runs past us about half a kilo to the west, and the entire country is irrigated by it though an ingenious system of watering canals. These canals are regulated carefully (probably the only thing that is around here! ) and the top control level is at the Aswan dam. Great question!


            • The Aswan Dam put an end to the annual flooding of Egypts Nile Delta region, but hydroelectric power supplying the country’s growing need of electricity was the tradeoff. A benefit to the people who desperately need more electricity here, and the irrigation canals are doing a great job of controlling the water demands of farmers. My husband and I are very interested in going solar, but materials are not that plentiful or easily available yet. You’d think this is a great place for generating solar power, wouldn’t you?!


  2. Aisha…
    What a beautiful post… I bet you had fun with this gardening experience… It is already well known that Egypts Nile Delta region is very fertile so your tomatoes should have probably been huge (thankfully no transgenics needed to achieve that purpose!).
    I´d love to taste hot Fava beans too… Thanks for sharing !!!
    Best wishes, Aquilina 😛


    • I’d consider it a great honor if you’d come to eat with me sometime, Aquileana! Lol, it’s not a quick trip, but you could always bring your copy of Herodotus… Things haven’t changed too much since he was here, I imagine he’d make a great tour guide for us! ♥♥♥ ;^)


  3. Wonderful roof garden Aisha.. so good to see.. And it is showing others we can grow our plants anywhere… even on a small window ledge or patio…. I am very impressed … And hope you had loads of tomatoes.. We had an abundance last year and I made lots of tomato soup which I put in the freezer, The recipe can be found on my Home Recipe pages on my header.. We are now still getting the benefits of the tomatoes as we eat up the soup through the winter and spring… 😉
    Brilliant.. And many thanks for following my blog.. I can see I will enjoy reading many more of your great ideas..
    Be Well…. Sue xox


  4. sorry I AM LATE reading this – but how cool your garden looks. and I have a few tips from this post – do not have any chicken feeders – but I am doing raised beds for sure. I had my second day in my small garden plot this past weekend – and it was only an hour, but I de-weeded and just made mental plans – looked at the rosemary and a few other perennials.

    anyhow – where was I ? oh yeah, and YUM< YUM YUM to read about those lava beans over ww baladi bread – I would like to try the spiced up ones – sound so healthy too –
    lastly – I liked your point about who the blog is like a new baby – ha! and one thing I do to make sure I get other stuff done – well I log out completely – and have to have no access at all – then I only sign back in when all is done! it works for me.
    have a great day. ~yvette


    • Oooh that’s will power! Once I’m in the garden, I can stay there all day, it’s very enjoyable, isn’t it?! It’s just pulling myself away from this little blog baby thats hard, lol, it’s so enjoyable too! Thanks very much for stopping by to visit, we’ll have those sandwiches ready for your next visit! ;^)


    • Oh, wow, that’s amazing, Maria, good for you! I was wishing I could grow beautiful water lillies like you photographed for your latest posts, but thought it would be impossible… you make me think about a little water pond… hmmm you never know what you can do on a roof if you want to, I suppose!


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