Urban Container Garden
2011 (so far) has turned out to be a very interesting year. Lots of changes, including moving back to Brooklyn, and lots of projects. The summer got especially kooky. We had the mildest summer weather that was quite rainy, we felt the quake that hit DC, and hunkered down for Hurricane Irene. I took on the responsibility of fostering a cat. A 14 year old sassy Manx cat that acts more like a dog, and an irritated, rambunctious 4 year old instead of 14. The Manx breed has a genetic mutation that creates tail-less cats. Actually, all sorts of lengths are possible, but she has what they call a riser (just a bump of cartilage under the fur). She came de-clawed which is probably why she’s a biter. haha Oh, Gidget–I love your bratty butt! Even before summer and the arrival of the Hellraiser cat, I decided to start a new project just for the hell of it.
Maybe I’ll grow some peppers on the fire escape…–that’s how the idea began. I was in Home Depot picking up some paint to re-do the bathroom. Wandering around while our Caribbean Sea semi-gloss mixed, I found myself in the garden center in front of pepper seeds. It was mid to late April, so I was already late in the season for getting started, but I could just get a clay pot & do it in a windowsill. This is where, in typical fashion, I leave reality for the land of imagination and I examine seemingly infinite possibilities all at once. Compare it to watching the growing, blooming and dying of a flower via time-lapse, all in the span of a few minutes. There’s some blurriness of thought but I’m doing something (in reality) like holding a packet of seeds while half reading what it says while half focusing on my dream world. The next thing I know, I’m at the self check-out register with several containers, organic soil (Miracle-Gro’s Organic Choice Potting Mix), multiple organic seed packs and a seed starter kit from Burpee that holds 72 seedlings. That’s not going to fit in a windowsill.
Naturally, I already settled on using the fire escape because I saw the future and it was having my own little urban container garden. I could not be stopped. Not only was I starting late in the season, I was going to be on a northern-facing, 3rd floor fire escape in Brooklyn, NY. Despite the various odds stacked against me, my little garden flourished without any pests, so no pesticides. I just watched everything like a mother hen does her chicks and observed what worked and what didn’t. The only creatures that like the plants were a couple of spiders and what looked to me like at least three types of bees. I never had my camera handy to catch them though. I wasn’t quite sure how various factors like the wind would play, both on evaporation and on the plants themselves, so I had to guess at things, such as how often to water. I knew that for some of the things I wanted to grow that it’s best to grow them in the ground, but again, I wanted to see what was possible so I jumped in knowing that I was going a bit overboard. Nature is surprising though. I picked 6 things to grow: 3 pepper varieties (jalapeno, poblano & habanero), yellow onions, roma tomatoes and tomatillos. Moving them all inside during the hurricane was quite a hilarious task that left me drenched. haha
Months later and I’m harvesting quite the bounty, plus I now know what works for my little slice of outdoor heaven and what needs to kick dust. You might be surprised at yourself if you decide to take up a similar project. If I can accomplish this on a fire escape, imagine what you could do with a roof or yard in the city! I’m not a complete novice, though and various times throughout my life, I’ve had small little gardens and kept house plants. My thumb is fairly green. I do need to give a few props for inspiration to a former employer. My time spent working for gardener/designer Rebecca Cole (colecreates.com) made me realize that container gardens in the city were not only possible, but they can flourish.