Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: …And That’s a Wrap!

It’s officially Fall in New York City. We’ve been having that awkward  transition weather, where a few uncharacteristically hot days give you false hope that summer is still lurking around. This past weekend I finally admitted defeat and packed up my balcony garden, thus ending  my 2012 gardening experiment. I did leave the strawberry plant out to see what happens, and moved my herbs indoors to let them cling to life for a few more days, but yanked out the big zucchini and tomato plants.

Now that it’s over, can I say my first stab at growing food was a success? I would say so! Considering I had zero knowledge going into this, I’m proud of my very steep learning curve. I may not have gotten any strawberries, enough arugula to make a full salad, nor any full sized tomatoes, but I did eat several delicious zucchinis and squash blossoms, and managed to prevent my basil, thyme, and rosemary from dying, enjoying fresh herbs all summer long. Before this experiment, I put gardening in the same bucket as knitting or owning lots of cats–boring old lady stuff that is so uncool. But I was wrong. There is something deeply satisfying and meditative about creating and maintaining life, and literally enjoying the fruits of your labor. Hopefully next year I will have access to some outdoor space again, and grow even more food! Goodbye for now, apartment garden.

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Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: Flowers Everywhere

So I’m still eating zucchinis from my first plant. I know it’s really late in the season, but I just planted a second one as I feel like I’m getting less and less zucchinis. I don’t know if it will grow in time but I’m trying my luck. Kicking myself for not planting #2 sooner. And look at this gorgeous squash blossom!

I started harvesting the squash blossoms. Here’s a lovely soup I made with them, using Kitchen Konfidence’s Crema de Flor de Calabaza recipe. I like how it has pretty yellow and green speckles!

Also, signs of life on my Topsy Turvy tomato plant! Flowers have bloomed. Now about some tomatoes. Please?

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Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: Eating My First Home Grown Zucchini

Time for yet another update! We’re in mid-July now and I’m still not seeing any tomatoes. The plant is looking healthy and big (see above), but no sign of the fruit. A friend’s dad just told me he’s had no luck with the Topsy Turvy. Getting worried.

The upside is that my zucchini is doing well. Look at how big this guy is, high up in the sky!

I didn’t get to eat my very first zucchini. I left it to grow big and somehow it rotted on the plant and was floppy…ew. So out of fear, I followed my gardening book’s suggestion of picking them when they’re the size of your fingers. I did so, but didn’t really know what to do with these baby zucchinis so I just had them raw. Not bad, but not great.

I finally did get two decent size zucchinis that did not rot. I kept it simple and turned them into soup with garlic, onions and chicken stock. It tasted especially good knowing that I grew them all by myself, yay. Also, I just found out you can eat the flowers on the plant. I’ve heard of squash blossoms but didn’t put two and two together. Won’t be throwing them away next time!

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Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: Summer is Around the Corner

Summer technically isn’t here yet, and it sure as hell isn’t feeling like summer in NYC the past week. But I just got back from a lovely short trip to the hot hot hot Dominican Republic which it has gotten me so excited about the arrival of my favorite season! Enjoy this photo of my feet. Don’t hate. Square feet are totally normal.

Time for a quick apartment garden update. My herbs have been doing well and I’ve been enjoying fresh rosemary, thyme, and basil whenever I need it. I’ve been harvesting arugula leaves too, but not enough to make even a small salad. That’s about it for arugula this season. Should I be getting bigger pots for the fall when I replant? Or do they stay small and I need to plant more arugula seeds next time?

I’m not only excited about the summer because it means picnics, beaches, and fun in the city. I’m also excited for my summer gardening! Here’s the zucchini plants=. It’s gotten even larger since I posted this picture and has started to grow flowers. Awww yeah.

I have high hopes for my Topsy Turvy because I LOVE tomatoes. I will be so happy if I can have unlimited free tomatoes from my balcony, but I’m worried. My plant is looking strong and healthy here but we’ve had a rainstorm since I took this picture and it’s been looking rather beat up with dead leaves. Pull through for me, tomatoes!

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Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: Zucchini is King of the Seedlings

Time for another apartment garden update! Now that it’s definitely Spring and they’re all grown up, I moved my arugula and thyme to their new home on the balcony. Last Sunday I went to the farmers market and got some new additions to the garden: a new rosemary plant (the last one didn’t make it), basil, and a pot of daisies.

Is arugula supposed to grow this slowly? C’mon, guys. I need you to be salad size. So I can eat you. Maybe I need bigger pots for them.

Here’s basil photo-bombing the thyme and rosemary. Mmmm love fresh herbs.

I’ve kinda been on a Bones binge (underrated show), and now I can’t help but associate the word “daisy” with that super annoying character. Ugh. Anyway, these daisies are absolutely beautiful but I’ve had absolutely NO luck with the first two potted flowers I got. I have no idea how to take care of them. Any ideas, people?

Now for the indoor seedlings. At first I thought I’d skip the whole seed-buying when I decided to start growing food. I knew I wouldn’t be planting that many anyway, so I might as well let someone else do the work and just buy seedlings. But let me tell you it’s true what they say–starting from a seed is so much more rewarding. I get so excited when something green pops up one day where there used to be nothing. My strawberry seedling is still looking alive and well, but why so small? Maybe it’s time to move her to the Earthbox. I also started my tomato and zucchini since summer will be here soon and WOAH. They grew fast. Especially the zucchini. I mean it makes sense ’cause the seed was huge, but literally, in two days it was like BAM, here I am! (rock you like a hurricane…) King of the Seedlings.

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Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: Rosemary Bites the Dust

It’s been three weeks since my first post about the beginnings of my apartment garden. I thought it would be a good time for a quick update. I bought a rosemary plant a few weeks ago that was absolutely delicious to harvest and use in recipes. Sadly, my little rosemary wasn’t strong enough to weather the weird changes in temperature in April and died, boo.

Now for the good news! I’ve been giving the rest of my plants about an ounce of water almost everyday. One of my strawberry seeds sprouted. I set up my EarthBox and plan on moving the strawberry seedling there once it’s a little bigger. It’s been warming up here in NYC, so I moved the thyme and arugula out onto the balcony last weekend. Two arugula seeds sprouted in one plant pot, but none in the other. Out of fear of the two seedlings duking it out, I carefully removed one and placed it in the larger, empty pot. I was so worried I was going to kill it as its roots are fragile, but it’s already got four little leaves and is looking strong and healthy, woohoo! I’d say this is a pretty successful start. Tomatoes and zucchinis soon?

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Growing Food

My Apartment Garden: Yelling at Seeds

All right, folks. Spring is here. I’ve read my first two books on growing vegetables. I’m ready to get started with this apartment garden! This is what I have so far. Two small pots with arugula seeds and two little seed cups I made from newspaper with strawberry seeds. I also bought an English Thyme plant at the farmers market, ’cause I needs my herbs now and I’m too lazy to start them from seeds. I covered the seed pots in plastic wrap to keep them warm and moist. All I’m doing to try get my seeds to germinate (and my thyme to continue living) is putting them by a sunny window and giving all of them a little bit of water everyday.

The first couple of days I impatiently checked on them constantly. I was so worried that they wouldn’t sprout that I resorted to repeatedly yelling “c’monnnnnnn” at them. The boyfriend didn’t think this was a helpful gardening technique. But guess what happened within a few days:

How exciting! The smaller arugula pot has a little sprout already. THIS IS THE FIRST LIFE I’VE EVER CREATED. Let’s hope I don’t let it die before it gets to grow into a big beautiful plant…that I will kill and eat in a salad with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

It’s still a little chilly right now, but I will probably set all this stuff up on the balcony soon and move whatever sprouts outdoors. C’monnnnnnnnn, plants!

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Book Review, Growing Food

Book Review: Apartment Gardening by Amy Pennington

A couple of months ago, I moved into a different bedroom (same apartment) with a balcony. It’s a very decent-sized balcony and has a fun view of Manhattan, a cemetery, and an insane boulevard. What a privilege to have an outdoors space in the city! I’ve been patiently waiting out the cold New York winter to take advantage of it. While we were blessed with a mild winter, hanging outdoors is still no fun when it’s under 50 degrees. My balcony got no love the past three months. The only thing chilling out there was my roomie’s groceries cart.

But as Spring has started to arrive, I’ve been busy prepping for my plan to make the most of my balcony. I ordered chairs, moved the shopping cart to its new home under the couch, and began doing research on balcony gardening. I’ve never grown anything. I don’t even have an understanding of.basic plant care that may seem like common sense to most. I bought two indoor plants and killed them both within a week. (Overwatering…what is that?!) Needless to say, I’m intimidated, and need all the guidance I can get.

Amy Pennington started a biweekly series on how to start growing your own food, City Dirt, on a blog I read religiously: Food52′s The A + M Blog. I noticed she just published a book in early March called Apartment Gardening: Plants, Projects, and Recipes for Growing Food in Your Urban Home (my Amazon affiliate program link). I ordered a copy of the paperback version, thinking there would be a lot of photos. Turns out the book and is black and white with cute illustrations. So if you have Kindle, go for the Kindle version.

I like that the book is short and sweet, and doesn’t overwhelm a beginner like myself. Amy suggests a few vegetables, fruits, herbs, and edible flowers that are easy to grow, and includes directions and recipes for growing and eating them. (Yes, I’m comfortable with pretending I’m on a first name basis with authors.) As she lives in the Pacific Northwest, which has an even shorter growing season than we have here in NYC, I thought it would be safe to follow her suggestions on what to grow. I ordered seeds for strawberries, zucchini, and arugula. She didn’t recommend tomatoes, but as a) it’s warmer in NYC and I have a sunny balcony, b) I got a Topsy Turvy planter from my wonderful boyfriend for Christmas, and c) I effing LOVE tomatoes, I’m going to take a stab at it.

Amy  writes about what you need to begin your apartment garden, seed starting, how to take care of your plants, and DIY garden ideas for you crafty people out there. It’s a fun read and a good beginner’s guide. I recommend this book for new gardeners like myself. Experienced growers may not get as much out of it, unless you wish to learn more about organic/natural options, or want some recipes and DIY ideas. My only disappointment was that, given this was my first gardening book, I didn’t feel like it broke it down for me quite as simply as I hoped for. I really should have started with a Gardening for Dummies type of book. If you’re completely new to growing like I am, pick up a copy of Amy’s book, but be sure to continue to seek out other books and resources!

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Growing Food

Spring is Here + An Experiment in Urban Gardening

It’s ironic that I’m writing this on a day that started with 30 degree weather, but Spring has arrived early and is here to stay in NYC! I’m going to assume today was the exception and that I will not be breaking out my winter jacket from my under-the-bed storage again. Mother nature must be PMSing because the weather has been a little crazy. It started off like Spring, then jumped to hot, hot summer weather, then it was freezing the past 2 days, but the next several days should be in the 50s and 60s. Let’s hope we get proper Spring weather for a while so I can maximize window of opportunity for outdoor running. I’m a diva and don’t do anything outside of the 50 – 70 degrees range. Don’t judge.

But the most exciting part for me is that Spring produce is a-comin’. (See previous post about eating with the seasons). I’ve spotted flowers and herbs at the farmers market I volunteer at…and more importantly, SPINACH. I love squashes and potatoes, but this girl is ready for some greens.

I moved to a new room within the same apartment back in January, and guess what…I have a balcony! I’ve been busy doing research on how I can start a balcony garden and start growing my own produce. It’s going to be a challenge because I have never grown anything. Ever. In fact, I bought my first plants (tulips and irises) earlier this month and killed them both within a week. It’s going to be an interesting experiment. I’ll be documenting my attempts at urban gardening here so do stick around. Fellow beginners, let’s figure this out together. Experienced gardeners with mad skills, I need your help!

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