Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Green Things

I love love love the idea of growing one's own food, being a localvore, and reclaiming urban spaces for farming. In the past, though, my container gardens have died died died and I decided long ago to leave the growing to farmers. And hipsters.

Emboldened by my neighbor who has similar fantasies of lush green fire escapes, I am nurturing a few plants in containers once again. We decided to be particularly ambitious and start our garden from seeds.  We planted two varieties of tomato, some cilantro, two kinds of basil, three kinds of lettuce, and cheated only once by planting parsley that was already growing in a four-inch pot. A veritable salad growing right there on the fire escape.

The lettuce is dead. Truth be told, we killed it. On purpose. It became infested with aphids. The ol' soap n' water spray didn't help in the slightest. I thought aphids chewed holes in leaves. But they didn't. They just hung out. En masse.

The tomatoes are still alive. Sort of. A colleague showed up at work one day with several varieties of heirloom seedlings that were healthy-looking and much bigger than the ones I was becoming so proud of. Her housemate is a gardener at Filoli House, so I knew these were the Real McCoy. I wasn't sure if I wanted to cheat and plant these seedlings, but all doubt was erased when I noticed a flat of Cherokee Purples. OH. MY. GOD. It was, like, destiny. I ripped out all but one of the from-seed plants in the container, and planted the Cherokee Purples and an Arnie's Round. I hoped my neighbor wouldn't notice. She noticed.  

Survival of the fittest

The parsley has made a miraculous comeback from the brink of death. Not sure why or how, but I'm glad. I used several sprigs in the salad dressing I made this weekend-- an herb-anchovy-lemon juice concoction. The cilantro is getting rather leggy in the middle, so I keep cutting it back. No idea if that's the right thing to do or not. The basil has been culled ruthlessly. My neighbor planted many seeds in a little container, which we figured was a way to hedge our bets, so to speak. But the basil seedlings were crowded, we realized, so the dead are fertilizing the survivors in a Darwinian tribute to the cycle of life. I considered swapping out the seedlings for one of those very bushy and healthy-looking one-gallon pots of basil that taunt me each time I walk in to Trader Joe's, but my neighbor would definitely notice. 

A few weeks ago, we were at Berkeley Bowl, and saw some well-established-yet-still-young-enough-to-qualify-as-grown-by-us vegetable pots for sale. I grabbed a six-flat of yellow wax beans while my neighbor wasn't looking, and then saw the most irresistible plant ever bred: a chocolate bell pepper. The first pepper, of course, is practically ready to eat, though its tag says it will turn a lovely chocolate brown when it's really ready. But there's a new pepper coming along,
which will be all ours to take credit for on our very urban, third-floor, totally local fire escape. 

Beanie babies

The Holy Grail of vegetables


  1. Another engaging entry which almost compels me to get out my shovel and start planting. Fortunately, I know how this will end, so I will just stop before I can fail miserably....

  2. The trick is to let someone else do the hard part for you-- buy the plants already healthy and growing. Then you are only responsible for sticking them in a pot, sitting back, and watching them grow.
    Oh, and keeping that whole deer situation under control. On fire escapes we only attract aggressive squirrels. :)