The Urbanization of the Vegetable Garden
I'm an apartment person. I don't particularly care for mowing grass or replacing garage door openers. I do, however, love fresh produce and I cook primarily from scratch. As we all know, there's a huge difference between the produce department in a grocery store and the local farmer's market, but there's nothing better than food grown with your own love, a little sweat, and maybe a tear or two.
But how can I grow my own juicy tomatoes and spicy chilies...and maybe strawberries? Hmmm...
Then my boyfriend's mother brought me an upsy-downsy tomato planter. Plants in containers! It makes so much sense I don't know how I didn't think of it before now. Then it occurred to me that I could grow many things in containers. I did a little reading online for some tips.
I started with the grape and big red tomato seeds as well as basil, chives, cilantro, jalapenos and a packet of assorted bell peppers. I bought some cheap pots and found some free pots that I could poke holes in (I even had chives in a pizza express cup that's been moving around with me since college).
This was getting fun. I love to be able to nurture things. So I wait. I went to my local farmers market to pick up some veggies one day and the proprietor asks how my pots are coming along and casually mentions that his starters are on clearance. $2 a flat! I'm going to need more peppers, and some roma tomatoes are a given, so let's see what's over there. I picked up some dusky eggplant, several healthy looking cayennes, a few more bell peppers, some cherry peppers, okra, and some squash and zucchini plants that I wasn't so sure about. I even grabbed a cantaloupe plant just to see if it could work.
The upsy-downsy tomato idea had already been scrapped. The bucket just isn't big enough, but it's perfect for cayenne's and cherry peppers.
I chose the healthiest starters I could find and stuck them in buckets hoping for the best, my mouth water at the thought of fried okra.
One of the most important things to consider when planting an urban container garden is that the nutrients in the soil are quickly depleted. I used miracle grow and bought an organic pesticide for the aphids. The best part of container gardening, in my opinion, is the lack of furry thieves leaving half-eaten tomatoes around...well, besides my dog. He thinks green tomatoes are tennis balls. I also had some casualties due to the notorious Indiana summer storms. Next year I'll find a way to weigh down the buckets more.
As for the results? I have more jalapenos than I know what to do with. I've made some killer dips and my famous poppers with them. I have tons of fresh tomatoes and what I can't eat immediately either get turned into tomato sauce or sundried tomatoes. I've made pesto with the basil and I love having fresh herbs always on hand. Plus I'm saving a fortune. The eggplant never set fruit so I think I'll try another variety next year. Mildew killed my squash and zucchini, but I didn't think they'd make it when I bought them. I lost interest in my cantaloupe when it overtook my balcony and I just kind of let it go. The assorted bell peppers are gorgeous and one of the plants is producing a beautiful purple fruit that's just a little sweeter. Oddly, they turn green when you cook them.
Summer is coming to an end now and soon the plants will wilt, but I'm planning for next year already. I'm hoping to score a habenero plant and I'll probably try some other tomato varieties. I intend to grow more romas because I absolutely love them. I had so much success with the peppers that I'll be sure to grow them again as well and I can't imagine buying those blister packed herbs ever again. I'm also hoping to grow some green beans and garlic, and I'm going to give squash and zucchini another shot, but from seed this time.
So in closing, if you think you can't have home-grown veggies in a cramped space, why not become an urban gardener? It's a fun and rewarding project and my veggies rival the ones at produce stand down the street.
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