Sunday, May 30, 2010

How does your garden grow? Femonomics goes suburban

I live in an apartment building in Manhattan, where the closest thing I have to a garden are the sad little planters attached to our wrought-iron fence, and the three houseplants we constantly forget to water.  But, that doesn't mean I don't dream of fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and especially herbs.  Growing up, we had a vegetable garden in the front lawn (we lived in the suburbs) until my mom got tired of us kids refusing to weed and water, and the special taste of fresh-grown, warm from the sun produce lingers in my memory.  Spring is here, and I'm eying the flower, herb, and vegetable plant palettes at the farmer's market with envy.  So I thought I'd do a link roundup of gardening resources for those of you lucky enough to have a little patch of soil to call your own.  Feel free to share your gardening tips, or jealousy-creating tales of biting into the season's first tomato, in the comments.

Apparently, growing vegetables upside down is a big trend.  This works with anything that's not too heavy to strain the vine (so no melons), and has the advantage of eliminating the need for stakes and cages, and cutting down the weed burden.  It also seems to me it's an option for people who have a porch, fence, or outdoor stairway landing they can claim, but no yard.  (So, it would have worked in my old apartment in Chicago, another reason I miss it.)  There's a brand of upside-down planters called Topsy Turvy that has been selling its wares on QVC and late-night infomercials, but (the internet tells me) it's easy to make your own from an empty soda bottle or milk jug.  Here's a great list of 66 things you can grow without a real garden, in suitably sized pots or other containers.

Here's a nice guide for starting your own vegetable garden, unfortunately all the contacts are in the UK.  For more resources, the site DIY has about a million links to answer all your questions, as does the Backyard Gardener.  And you know we can count on Martha for some tips, both for herb and vegetable gardens.  Fruit is a little trickier to grow at home, but here's a list of varieties that work (although it may take you several years to get returns, and you generally need more space).  My family's had great luck with raspberries, which took over our backyard like weeds, but sometimes it's a matter of trial and error to find what works in your climate and soil.  For people who don't want to eat garden produce, but do want to spruce up a dreary lawn, this site has some great tips on growing all types of flowering plants. 

For general gardening tips, the Weekend Gardener is a good resource.  Once you get your garden going, you'll need to maintain it.  Here's some weeding tips.  Also, if you want to keep your gardens chemical-free, here are some tips for dealing with pests (and here).  I've also always heard setting out cups of beer is the best way to get rid of tomato slugs.  Silly alcoholic slugs.

Happy spring!  If you get to put any of these into action, you know I'm jealous!

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