How Does Your Garden Grow?

Have you found your inner green thumb? Average last frost was almost two weeks ago in this City that Loves You Back and that means time for planting, time for digging, a time for weeding and a time for seeding! Gardening in cities can prove rather satisfying, from finding the perfect container for your patio tomato to getting herbs that can grow in the limited light you get on your fire escape. As a self-proclaimed scavenger, I go into trash picking hyper-mode in the summer months looking for garden accoutrements. I wake up every morning with a decidedly maternal feeling and examine the sprouted progress while sipping my coffee. They are My Children. It's a little gross.

I never thought I'd turn into such a green-obsessed gardeness, but here we are. And while doing some yard work this weekend, I realized how perfect our little superhero was for toting gardening implements. Exhibit A:

My beloved garden hose fit delightfully into the velcro strap, trowel into the D-ring, and seed packets into the open pocket. With still plenty of room for my cell phone and my Flower Map.

I will admit I fall into the garden-blessed category, as my house in West Philly has a backyard with ample flower beds, a wood chipped spot for compost and cement room for pots, grill and then some. But you really just need a little roof space, a porch, a stoop or a window sill. It's that easy. Work to your scale, don't overtax your light and water resources and start small. Herbs are hardy and useful. Truly, even the smallest green will be rewarding.

I have acquired over the past two years a handful of hints for urban gardening in the city of Philadelphia, though with a little ingenuity could be adapted to gardening in any city:

Grow spicy peppers. Jalepeno, Habanero, Cayenne, they're all really hard chargers. They handle "drought" with grace, shall we say, and are prolific. Seriously, never a disappointment and these guys do amazingly well in medium containers. They do need outdoor space but they are forgiving. So get a plant and find yourself an awesome salsa recipe. No really.

Get some compost. Fairmount Park, excellent for bike rides and picnics, also offers 100% free organic compost, free woodchips and free manure at their Recycling Center. Bring a bag, bring a shovel, and prepare to be hassled by the old timers who man the Center. Their hours, somewhat unfortunately, are 7:30 am-3 pm Monday thru Friday, but if you've ever bought soil in bags, it's worth it to get it free when you can. I've used only the compost and I'll say I wouldn't recommend planting tomatoes in it because they are highly vulnerable to disease, but everything else, peppers included grow like weeds. (No Pun Intended)

Check Craigslist for plants and gardening equipment, often for free or cheap. Check the free listings for any containers (think outside the box) that you could possibly line with garbage bags or drill holes into and fill with dirt.

Plant seeds now. You have a good week and a half or so left til its getting on late for seed planting, though you can of course do it whenever you want, but seeds are wayyyy cheaper than plants.

Visit an urban farm. Our local Greensgrow, in Kensington, has a full nursery full of organic plants, flowery and vegetable. They are reasonably priced and have pretty much anything you could ever want for your garden. They are also pretty awesome because they are a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm, they promote agricultural and nutritional education in their community, and the farm itself is converted from post-industrial land. They rule.

Anyway, good luck with your gardens. They make even the lowliest cementen backyard more hospitable and who knows, maybe you too will find yourself more nurturing than you dreamed you were capable. Lay down some roots!

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