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The Kids

22 May

I’m a country mouse living in the big city.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Day 1

Each spring, as the blossoms bloom and the most tender vegetables make their appearances at the greenmarket, I curse my decision 10 years ago to move to the asphalt jungle; my fingers begin to itch, they yearn to dig into dark, rich earth, to coax wee seedlings into becoming strong, happy food-giving plants.

Fire Escape Garden '08, We Add the Raddichio

So last year, when we decided to move to Bay Ridge (which in a lot of ways is a bit of the country, or at least the suburbs, in the city), I was determined to have a garden apartment, whether it was actually on the garden level or not. I bought some plants and containers and turned our fire escape into a teeny, tiny, plant-laden patio. One of my neighbors even got into the spirit and gave me some extra pots.

Fire Escape Garden '08, The First Tomato

Things went alright. Even despite being hit by a tornado, and ravaged by winter-fearing squirrels, I got a few peppers, but that’s all. My herbs failed completely, and I only discovered that I had produced one itty bitty tomato as I was pulling the plants out of the ground in October. But you know what? I learned a lot.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Future 'Mater

This year, I’ve gone all organic. I bought my plants at the greenmarket and got some organic soil. I’ve got my liquefied worm poop fertilizer, a kind gift from Abby at Good ‘n Planty. Each pot has a thick layer of broken up styrofoam in its base, recycled from my stand mixer‘s packaging, to promote drainage and to decrease the weight of the pots. I’ve mixed sand and gravel into the soil since things can get a little damp out there on the ole fire escape. I’ve planted only in high containers in an attempt to foil those stupid friggin’ squirrels.

Fire Escape Garden '08, The Second Tomato

And, just because I’m completely obsessive, I’m taking pictures of “the kids” every day so I can monitor their progress. Man, I’d be one scary mother to another if my “kids” were actually real.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Many Future 'Maters

So far, things are going okay. I’m worried about my thyme. It has a fungus. Oddly enough though, the lemon thyme is thriving. I’ve got some beautiful, incredibly happy radicchios from Silver Heights Farms in a pot with lettuces bred for containers that I started from seed. I might split some of them out into bigger containers this weekend. I’ve also just added three heirloom peppers and two kinds of basil from the same farm, and my sage, though growing slowly, seems content.

Fire Escape Garden '08, The Third Tomato

But “the kids” I’m most excited about are my tomatoes. I don’t care what those parenting guides say, I pick favorites.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Clearly I'm Obsessed

They’re just generic patio tomatoes, but they are so happy (they even came with a few worms in the pots). They’re blossoming their patookis’ off and, to my continuing astonishment, have already produced three fruit! The minuscule ‘maters are green, but getting bigger every day. I’m gobsmacked.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Three Kinds Of Peppers, Two Kinds Of Basil

Every morning I wake up, pour a glass of iced tea and head into the dining room to see how “the kids” are doing. Opening the window and leaning over the sash into the crisp morning is one of the most singular joys I’ve experienced in my years of living in New York. I can hear the birds and the neighbors’ dogs and oftentimes, a morning greeting from Fred, but then there’s also the roar of the express bus passing by, or a plane overhead to remind me that I’m still in the city.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Have I Mentioned That the Raddichio Like It Here?

So no cooking this week, just ramblings on future food.

Any other urban/container gardeners out there that would like to share their tips, tricks and stories? Please feel free to leave a comment.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Day 18

P.S. It’s the Brooklyn Bridge’s 125th birthday this weekend! If you’re in town, there’s festivities galore. If you’re out of town, raise a toast to the world’s most iconic bridge on her momentous milestone.