Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Eat Your Vegetables!

One of my #1 requirements for our apartment here in Boston (right up there with more than 350 square feet, a dishwasher, a washer/dryer, and a parking spot) was outdoor space. Although out place in Brooklyn was less than 2 blocks from a fantastic park, it didn't give me what I needed. I dreamed of barbecuing all year round, and fabulous parties under the stars with pitchers of sangrias and margaritas and most of all a garden.

My desire to get my hands dirty (literally) comes from a couple places. First, I need more foliage in my daily life than I get living in the city. This must stem from my country up bringing, and I figure I need to import green-ery in order to be satisfied. Second, friends of mine in NY have the most beautiful roof top garden of which I am insanely jealous , and third, I know that fresh pick vegetables beat anything you can buy in a grocery store and I am afraid they will be infinitely harder to find here in Boston. In Brooklyn we were near an amazing farmers market where I was able to feed my tomato habit. I just don't know if I can find that here and I am not willing to take the chance that I can't. Last but not least, it's in my blood, check out all my Mom's vegetables way back in the day!

So during the great apartment hunt, this was a requirement and we met it beautifully. Our apartment is a garden apartment, with a brick patio out back and landscaped gardens. We did have to agree, and initial, in our lease to never touch the landscaping, but thats not going to stop me. I have been heavily researching container gardens and think we have the perfect spot for the thriving contain garden filled with vegetables. I just purchased "Incredible Vegetables from Self-Watering Containers" by Edward C. Smith, which is proving to be a fascinating read, and exactly what I need to learn about container gardening.

Mr. Smith has conducted some extensive studies on vegetable gardening in self-watering containers and holds that these containers might just be better than the ground for all your vegetable needs. The secret to a self-watering container is that they have a reservoir below the soil to hold up to 16 quarts of water. One of the significant problems when you are gardening is that plants need a lot of water, and frequent watering washes all the nutrients out of the soil. The self-watering container collects both the water and the nutrients so that instead of running into the ground, they are fed right back to the plant's roots. This not only decreases the frequency of waterings, but also frequency of fertilizing.

Based on my research, and the amount of sun we have, I plan to start with 3 large containers which will hold about 40 quarts of soil and 16 quarts of water. The first container will be dedicated to my tomato habit. These large containers can hold two tomato plants maximum. Beginners generally have better luck with starter plants as opposed to starting from seeds. I would like to get two varieties of heirloom tomatoes, but it depends largely on what I am able to find in the garden stores near me.

The second of the two planters will be dedicated to fresh herbs. I love fresh herbs, everything is better with them. A large planter can grow around 12 herb plants, so far I am thinking basil, oregano, mint, dill, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, thyme and chives. Since that is only 9 different herbs, I might throw in more than one type of basil. (Who knew there were types of basil?!?!) The only concern here, is that I believe cilantro does better in the shade than in the sun. It tends to go to seed and produce flowers in the sun, but all the other spices do quite well in the sun. I might have to veto the cilantro in favor of another more sun loving herb, but I haven't read up on the herb gardening yet, so more to come on this.

The third container is the major debate. I am struggling between bush beans, pole beans and a variety of lettuces. I love fresh off the vine green beans. Just about nothing beats them. However, based on my reading, bean plants are only good for a couple rounds of beans and they take up a lot of space, where lettuce keep on coming as long as the weather stays good, and it doesn't take up nearly as much space. JR and I eat a lot of salad, and while I want foliage in my life, I don't want it taking over my patio. At the same time, I really love fresh green beans, to the point that in college we used to do a run that went along a field where green beans were grown. At the end of every run in the fall, I would sit my self down in the field and eat green beans until my stomach felt like it was going to burst. You couldn't keep me away. Decisions, decisions, decisions!

The only sad part about my reading is that I need to wait another couple weeks before I can begin on my growing adventure. I do believe that my food obsession is going to spread from eating, buying and cooking to growing this summer. Be sure to check back as I keep you updated on my progress.


Damian said...

Don't know if you know about this place or not, but Marian and I found a Farmers market that runs Friday and Saturday over by Quincy Market (faneuil hall) They had a TON of veggies and if you go Saturday afternoon they have to sell everything and were selling like 7 bell peppers for a dollar and 2lb of Gbeans for a dollar. Also near there we found an awesome little italian shop that had some great meat, cheese and pasta it was called Trattoria di Monica

K said...

Thats great to know! I work right near Faneuil Hall. I'll have to go check it out tomorrow. I have been told there is one right near my apartment in the summer time, so I am hopeful that it's a good one.