Spring has stuck a tentative toe in the pool called the Northeast; she may well pull it back out again, shivering, and leave us with a few more weeks of winter temps, but her effort garnered us two beautifully warm days. Yesterday was in the low 60’s here; I put the top down on my little VW Bug and we tooled around to every farmer’s market and little local food shop we could think of, just to enjoy the fresh air. Tai dragged the Adirondack chairs out of the garage, shoved aside the snow on the deck, and sat in the sun with a beer & a book, making occasional happy noises about just how wonderful it was to relax outdoors again. Meanwhile, I was sowing seeds.
Last year was the first time I grew vegetables – the first time I grew anything, really. I’ve always had a black thumb and, with indoor plants, that it still true but I was quite surprisingly successful with my container garden on the deck.
Six different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, two different cucumbers, leafy red lettuce, and a host of herbs (basil, lemon bail, oregano, thyme, chives, parsley, rosemary) and beneficial garden plants (geranium, marigold, yarrow, lavender, eucaplyptus, mint, nasturtium, lemongrass) festooned the deck and made it a truly inviting and relaxing spot – not to mention delicious.
There’s something so ridiculously improbable, and hopeful, about sticking a teeny dry speck of seed down in some dirt and expecting a bell pepper (or a tomato or a pumpkin) to come out the other end. But the very nature of that improbability is what makes the bell pepper (or tomato or pumpkin) so miraculous when it finally does show up. If you’ve never grown your own food, I’m here to tell you that it is a transformative experience. They say there’s nothing like the taste of food straight from the garden, and I believe that’s true, but in many ways, it becomes even more true when the sweat of your labors produced that food. It goes without saying that food can hardly get more local than your yard, roofdeck, or windowsill. Gardening can be hard work, don’t get me wrong; I don’t know how family farmers do it, when I think of the effort that when into my 15 tomato pots last summer. But it can also be
real joy – that first tomato was a celebration in and of itself, and for weeks and weeks of rosy, twilit summer nights, we sat outside, enjoying the night air and the garden and Tai said, “This is really beautiful. You should do this again next year.”
If you’ve often toyed with the idea of growing a tomato (or a cucumber or a watermelon) but just didn’t know where to start, here are a couple of great resources:
- For gardening info on a wealth of topics, but especially urban, container gardening, check out You Grow Girl. Gardener & photographer Gayla Trail gardens on a roofdeck in Toronto. I’ve found her tips (and her book) to be the most helpful out there in the Internets, especially for container gardening and for starting out.
- For seed, equipment & advice: Seed Savers Exchange, Seeds of Change, and Botantical Interests.
- There are about a million-bizillion books on gardening. I seemed to buy most of them last summer (so sue me, I’m a data whore). The ones I found most helpful were You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail and The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food by Tanya Denckla.
If you’ve thought about it in the past, but never done it… try it out. (All the cool kids are doing it). If you’ve got a little square of sun on a fire escape or a great big yard almost everyone can stick a seed in the dirt and watch it grow. If you have no sun at all, there are community gardens in most places – check out the American Community Garden Association to find one near you.
There’s still time – plant a seed. You might be surprised by how much will grow.
Read about garden updates in these posts.