The last apartment I lived in for several years had no outdoor space to call my own. So when I started getting the itch to garden, I made sure that the next move would bring a bit of sunlit space I could grow some plants in. A year and a half later I've got a respectable little vegetable, fruit, and herb garden in pots and containers on my balcony.
There's a Meyer lemon tree which bears huge, sweet, orange-y lemons that are amazing in cookies, or zested and juiced for sorbet. There's a Persian lime tree blossoming all over for the first time this month, and a grapefruit tree that keeps bearing big yellow fruits with bright pink flesh. I also picked up a lychee and a tamarind tree from the county's semi-annual giveaway program -- totally worth waking up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday to make the line.
Three of Puck's lemons just starting to ripen. Lemons are sour...make you pucker up...geddit?
Photo by Lauren Reskin
Over the last year and a half I've also grown red bell peppers,
jalapeños, chives, lemongrass, mint (almost exclusively for mojitos),
baby tomatoes, kale, collard greens, cucumbers, an array of herbs, and
full-on cornstalks in a Square Foot Gardening raised bed. Everything in
the garden was edible, as it didn't make much sense to waste water on
flowers in such a limited space.
I have to admit, I'm a city kid who never grew much beyond sprouting a
yam in a jar before, and it was amazing to see exactly how plants grow
and bear fruit. How the buds appear, swell and blossom into heavenly
fragrant flowers. Watching fat bees arrive out of nowhere to pollinate
them and then seeing the petals fall away to reveal a teeny-tiny baby
fruit or veggie. It really does make you appreciate the perfect course
nature has laid out to nourish the creatures on this planet, and it
feels good to be eating more local -- can't get much more local than
your own backyard.
Anyway, if you've got some space of your own, I cannot recommend enough
for you to grow a salad bucket. In this one metal tub ($15 at Home
Depot) I've got eight heads of buttercrunch lettuce around a big
arugula. I've definitely harvested my money's worth several times over
and a salad spinner is all you need to have fresh leaves just about
year-round in our fertile climate. We really do have some of the best
weather in America so get growing!
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The Mint Monster! Screw paying $2.99 for seven sprigs of mint at the supermarket.
Photo by Lauren Reskin