Urban Gardening & Fire Escape Flora
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Especially not self-improving ones. What I believe in is hobbies. Hobbies take you out of yourself. That’s an improvement right there.
One of my hobbies is gardening. Helping seeds burst into life and transform into flowers or food gives me thrills. I live in a 4th floor tenement building in Brooklyn, NY. But the lack of an actual garden has never gotten in my way.
I started out knowing, truly, nothing. In fact, I’d always had a black thumb. The few plants I’d ever owned had died from neglect. Yet I developed a yen for pretty, blossom-filled window boxes.
The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmer I bought vegetables from one summer said, “Seeds want to grow, you know.” I couldn’t believe mine would. But they did! The very first year I tried, I had adorable flowers in every window, all summer long.
This created happiness. Which made me want to continue. That’s what hobbies are all about. You want to do them. They’re not “shoulds.” Unlike New Year’s resolutions.
I had an actual garden plot, in the ground, at a local community garden for a year. There, I took my first shot at tomato-growing. Holy mother, were those things delicious. And gorgeous. And basically, free. A packet of seeds costs about the same as a couple of New York City farmer’s market tomatoes.
But the community garden wasn’t quite local enough for me. My fire escape – that was local.
I’d heard about the Topsy Turvy Upside Down Tomato Planter (“As Seen on TV! World’s easiest way to grow tomatoes!”).
Reading the paper one day, I came across the idea of making my own version with empty soda bottles, a resource NYC has in abundance. I made a bunch of them, stuffed them with my old potting soil after enriching it with finished compost, and planted each one with a tomato seedling.
(Note: Although I had a decent tomato crop with these, I decided that even the largest bottles I used were too small. My tomato plants’ roots were way too crowded. So if you want to try this, use bigger containers, like I’m going to this year.)
Now, in early January, all that glorious green growth seems like a mirage. It takes a leap of faith to believe that if I buy a few handfuls of tiny, dull-looking seeds and put them in dirt indoors (or outdoors, which I haven’t tried yet) in February or March, then re-plant them in their permanent summer homes after the last frost… six or seven months from today, they’ll look like that.
It is literally a miracle. But – as opposed to the notion that I could resolve on January 1st to quit even one of my lifelong bad habits and actually succeed, it’s an entirely plausible one.