This is the year you garden
March 22nd, 2012
01:30 PM ET
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Eatocracy's Managing Editor Kat Kinsman attempts to vegetable garden on a roof deck in Brooklyn, NY in USDA Hardiness Zone 6b. Feel free to taunt, advise or encourage her efforts as this series progresses.

This year, you'll grow your own food. Not all of it and probably not even most or much of it. But you'll grow some, and that's going to change your life.

There are plenty of reasons to do this. Andrew Zimmern told us just this week that. "If everyone grew what they could, supported urban farms and community gardens in cities and local CSAs, the pressure relief on our overtaxed system would be immense. The resulting dollar shift would be staggering and deliver a positive shot in the arm to local economies. Our food would also be safer. Small action here can yield tremendous impact, immediately."

That's awfully compelling - and pretty intense. Perhaps start small. Grow an herb you are sick of having to pay money for at a store. Grow a vegetable that reminds you of how a grandparent's kitchen smelled. Grow a fruit you always want to have at your fingertips. Grow an ingredient that will make your sauce, stew, soup or salad taste the way it did when you had it at that little cafe in Rome, France, Mexico City or Des Moines.

Grow purple carrots because they look cool. Grow spaghetti squash because you need an excuse to go outside and not check e-mail for a few minutes. Grow heirloom corn to save a variety that's dying out. Grow tomatoes so they only travel a few feet, rather than a few hundred miles and taste like sunshine and summer and bliss when they hit your tongue.

Just grow something.

But...but...but you have no time and possess neither arable land nor green thumb. You live in a mineshaft several kilometers below the Gobi Desert, and it is dark, arid and oh, so cold. American Idol is on.

Nope. Nuh-uh. We're having none of that and will no longer accept any of the following excuses.

I have no outdoor space.

You do, presumably, have a window in your cell, yes? Congratulations. You have outdoor space. Shocking quantities of vegetation can be grown in window boxes, hanging baskets and those Topsy Turvy planters that blonde people smile near in commercials.

In my fifth-floor walk-up bachelorette apartment, I grew 23 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and a slew of peppers in an elaborate rigging of containers strung from my fire escape. This was, most likely, not especially prudent or legal, but boy, did my landlord dig the fresh salsa I bribed him with handed over on the regular.

You have space; just get clever about it.

No, seriously, I have no outdoor space.

There is a community garden near you. Look it up online at localharvest.org, or ask that vegan who your cousin used to date. They'll totally hook you up.

A community garden is defined by the American Community Garden Association as "Any piece of land gardened by a group of people." That's it. You won't suddenly become a Communist, break out in a case of tie dye or even have to make friends if you don't want to (though you could). You'll just have a small, nearby chunk of land over which to fuss. You'll acquire a new place to go outside your house that isn't a cafe with wi-fi, a bar, or anywhere else you would spend a wad of cash on a regular basis.

Oh, right - money.

I'm totally broke. How can I garden?

- Containers and tools

If you want to pony up for a $299.95 Hammacher Schlemmer Standing Patio Garden or an $80 garden fork from Smith & Hawken, hey, they're really pretty and I'm not going to stop you.

The rest of us will grab old bathtubs, dented cooking pots, egg cartons (and eggshells), takeout containers, tires, soup cans, and even newspapers stuffed into old soda bottles, throw some soil into it and call it a garden. You could, in theory, scoop dirt into an discarded pair of stockings, nail it to a windowsill and call it a planter. Martha Stewart might not come calling, but did you really want her dropping by your house, anyhow?.

You don't need schmancy tools, pricey chemicals (which aren't necessarily great for you anyhow), artisanal farming cleats or any such frippery. At the bare minimum, you require dirt and seeds. Yes, sunshine and light as well, but for the most part, those are available for free from the sky.

- Dirt

As for dirt - if you're lucky, it's just right there underfoot. If you're concerned about its quality, stick it in the oven at 200°F for about an hour to kill off any nasty fungus or nematodes. If you indeed live in a concrete jungle, grocery and dollar stores tend to have inexpensive potting soil that you can amp up with coffee grounds - which are usually free for the asking from your local cafe, or many Starbucks outposts.

- Seeds

Seeds. Ohhhh...seeds. They can become an obsession, and there are many incredibly worthy operations like Southern Exposure, Seed Savers, Baker Creek, Victory Seeds, Amishland and D. Landreth, dedicated to saving heirloom and non-genetically modified produce for generations to come.

You could consider that an investment in yours and the planet's future, but if you haven't got the scratch, that's okay. Gardeners are some of the most delightfully generous and freaky people on the planet, and if you say you'd like to join their ranks, they'll likely throw fistfuls of seeds and cuttings at your head in welcome. Gayla Trail's You Grow Girl is a remarkable resource and rallying place for people gardening on a budget, and any urban gardening group will be more than happy to pitch and help you start.

Dollar stores and Asian markets often have incredible deals on seeds, but there's an even cheaper way. Just save the seeds from the food you're eating. Skip any potentially genetically modified produce, and scoop out some of the seeds from your favorite farmers market tomato, pepper, melon, okra or whatever you'd like to replicate.

For tomatoes, include any surrounding glop (a.k.a. locular jelly) and put in all a glass of water. Cover with plastic wrap, poke a small hole in the wrap and place on a windowsill for a couple of days. Stir it once a day and replace the wrap.

You'll see a little bit of white mold floating on top of the water. Scoop that off, along with any floating seeds (they're duds). Pour the water and seeds in a sieve and rinse thoroughly, agitating with your fingers if you'd care to.

Put the seeds on a paper plate, labeled with the seeds' variety if you happen to know it, and let them dry thoroughly. Then store them in an envelope in a cool dark place (the fridge is fine) until the next planting season. Saved properly, they'll germinate for up to ten years.

For peppers, just separate them from the inner membrane and dry on paper plates. Corn can be dried on the cob and stored for future use. Okra seeds just need to be removed from the pod, dried, and used within the next year. Once you have a stash, start trading them with your new Communist hippie vegan pals from the community garden and explore a whole new world of freshly grown freebies.

I am just horrible at gardening and kill my houseplants. It's just too hard.

I grew corn and potatoes on my Brooklyn roofdeck and sweet potatoes on my front stoop with a bus stop a few feet away. You can do this.

Give yourself permission to fail. Some things just aren't going to work, and you have to accept that. Others will just go gangbusters. You can stack the deck in your favor by finding out what grows best in your hardiness zone, when you should plant it, and how much light and water it requires. Take a spin through your local farmers market or CSA and see what was grown nearby (rather than the tomatoes that were trucked across country) to get a sense of what might work.

You can indeed use seedlings from a friend or garden emporium, but try starting at least one or two things from seed. This may sound incredibly dorky, but it's simply thrilling to see something you planted spring to life. As our very own commenters have said, "It truly is a miracle that happens right before you." and "These are like your children right now. Of course you will think about them often, especially at the end of the day."

Some sort of primal, protective instinct kicks in, and you will not forget to water, shade and nurture that plant. I promise. And if you need encouragement, I'm here in Zone 6b. Drop me a line in the comments.

Seriously, I have no dirt, sunlight, community garden or friends.

Lettuce. Countertop. Kitchen sponge. Fluorescent light. Have at it.

Got a gardening question? We're partnering with CNN and Sanjay Gupta's Fit Nation to empower people to take action and grow their own food. Follow along at Eatocracy as we garden all through to winter, and don't be afraid to ask for help. Let's grow something together.



soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. Kent Woudenberg

    Good work :) cheers!

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  3. ReneeB

    Why bother when the criters take over your investment. It's easier to just go to the farmers market.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  4. Pam

    If you have horses or cows near you, you will have all the fertilizer you will need; just ask the owners first, and I doubt they will mind. Horse manure is the best thing for tomatoes, especially if they are not turning red.

    March 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  5. Paul

    63% in the poll say they grow their own food every year? Doubtful... I don't think having a couple of plants that take care of themselves really counts.

    March 26, 2012 at 7:09 am | Reply
    • AleeD®

      Why is it doubtful. The chances of people reading this article who are interested & growing their own food are better than people reading this who are interested in, say, hunting. Therefore there's a greater likelihood that those interested parties

      March 26, 2012 at 7:53 am | Reply
      • AleeD®

        (continuing)
        actually WOULD grow their own food. There was nothing in the article about what you grow is exclusively all you eat. If someone is growing a rosemary bush and they use it to flavor food counts as growing your own food.

        March 26, 2012 at 7:56 am | Reply
  6. billybob

    Need to send this article to North Korea.

    March 26, 2012 at 3:27 am | Reply
  7. ohsnap

    Try row covers to protect your plants. It will filter out some of the heat/sun and still allow light, air and rain. Good luck.

    March 25, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Reply
  8. ohsnap

    I tried an experiment this winter and last year planted tomato seeds inside to see if I could grow them through the winter (I live in New England). I started them under grow lights then moved the plants to a south facing window with lots of sun. Although I have heat in the room, the temperature sometimes got down to 55 degrees. The result? I started picking cherry tomatoes in February! The other plant (Roma tomatoes) has tomatoes and tons of flowers. I pollinated the plants with my electric toothbrush, going from flower to flower. Totally exciting!

    March 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Reply
    • michael

      Remarkable, really

      June 4, 2014 at 9:11 pm | Reply
  9. abbydelabbey

    we did a garden 2 years ago and then planned to do it again last year but were hit with the drought of all droughts in Central Texas - then we had watering restrictions - we would love to plant this year but there are predictions for another drought this year - so we are growing in containers in our home but cannot grow outside what we had hoped....

    March 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
    • David

      no rain at all? that why i hvave four fifty gallons plastic barrels around my shed so ill have rain water to water my plants always be prepared for anything

      March 25, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  10. Leah

    Ha ha! After years of apartments we are finally in a house. This is our first year trying to grow our own and I let the kids go crazy picking seeds. I figure if only a fraction of it turns out, we still have learned something from the experience and it can only get better from there. And we have all enjoyed the time spent together gardening!

    March 25, 2012 at 8:28 am | Reply
  11. Elizabeth

    Okay the weather made gardening this year a bit frustrating. Still, I had carrots, tomatoes, leaf lettuce, broccoli and strawberries. I'm hoping my zucchini and beans make it this year. You can follow my luck, or lack of it, at easycondogardening.blogspot.com.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:47 am | Reply
  12. Elizabeth

    Okay. So the weather made gardening this year a little frustrating, but I still had carrots, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and broccoli. Everything else was a bust. I'm hoping for beans and zuccini this summer. Fingers crossed. You can follow my luck, or lack of it, at easycondogardening.blogspot.com.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:44 am | Reply
  13. EditorGina

    We decided to give up most of our front lawn and instead plant an edible garden, with some flowers. We built boxes, made pyramids for cucumbers and zucchini and strawberries, and grew enough tomatoes and peppers last year to have enough spaghetti sauce and pepper sauce and salsa until the end of this growing season. We still have plenty of blackberry, blueberry and strawberry jam. This year, we're expanding into root veggies, some lettuces, beans, peas, and more. We added apple trees and cranberries last year, as well as grapes, and this year, we should get our first apples, cranberries and grapes. I'm also getting some chickens, and I took a class on cheesemaking. Next year, we'll tap our maple trees! With our CSA, we should be able to avoid the grocery store for most stuff.

    March 24, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  14. Steve

    I cultivate about 4 acres each year and produce about 500lbs of potatoes, 500 lbs of beans, 50 bushels of sweet corn. 5000 lbs of tomatoes, squash, watermelons, cantelopes, blackberries, raspberries, and cucumbers. It is a lot of mind numminmg work, good exercise, and fun. It's also nice to show the kids that come how to dig a potatoe, pick an ear of corn, or tell when a melon is ripe.

    March 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  15. checi

    I am extremely lucky because I have a LOT of land that I can plant on in 'upstate' NY. This is my first spring going to plant here and I have been laboring HARD to break up the clods of soil that is full of clay. There seems to be an earthworm in every 3 square inches of dirt here. I've started seed indoors to transplant outside but I can't believe how labor intensive the ground preparation is without fancy tools and machinery. I try to imagine I'm really hungry and my survival depends on making my soil fine enough for young tender plants.

    March 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Reply
    • RichardHead@checi

      Your gonna do just fine. Finding the earthworms is a plus,which means they are below the freeze line and active. The soil is just now drying out from winter and yes it is a little tough. One shovel,pitch fork,spade and hoe is all your gonna need.You have the right attitude for growing anything. Good Luck and don't give up.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  16. dave

    hi, grow spouts.a the best way to start gardening. very hard to fail at it. they do not need much light, or no light at all.
    just add water, nothing else. no fertilizer, no weeds. and the sprouts are ready in a few days. also, a great way to introduce children to gardening. the kids can see it grow day by day. also, to discuss how a seed becomes a plant..

    thanks

    March 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  17. gina

    anyway i can filter out THOUSANDS OF YEAR OLD TOXINS OUT OF SOIL before i go planting my garden

    March 24, 2012 at 3:33 am | Reply
  18. Liz Robillard

    Growing the Grape Tomatoes in frozen vegetable bags w/ 3 v cut holes for drainage. They are growing faster and need less water. Who would have thought?

    March 23, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Reply
  19. Charlotte

    Had a valencia orange tree growing in my living room for fourteen years in Fairbanks, Alaska. It CAN be done. I was rather surprised, actually. I was eating an orange one day and spitting the seeds into the trash. Looked into the bottom of the trashcan and said to myself "Hmmm, wonder if they'll grow?" So I put them in a pot with old potting soil and sure enough they sprouted and I got orange trees. Kind of spindly and leggy at first but once I got into the habit of hauling it out onto the deck in the summers, it filled out beautifully. So educational. Before this, I didn't know that citrus grow really big thorns, LOL!

    March 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Reply
    • Kat Kinsman

      I just love that! Isn't it kind of amazing when you suddenly get to see in action that nature just wants to replicate? Off to stick a few kumquat seeds in the dirt...

      March 23, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Reply
    • geenz

      Almost any citrus can be grown from the seeds you pick out of the fruit you are eating, however, it is 99% certain you will not get the same plant that produces the same fruit you originally ate, to achieve this study up on grafting :) ...it's really not that difficult.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  20. Charlotte

    Don't forget FreeCycle or equivalent! If you want seeds or seedlings, post an ad on your local freecycle, or put up a note with the little fringes on the bottom w/ your phone number, on a community bulletin board. Say you want to get into gardening and can't afford seeds or seedlings and can any local gardeners help get you started. You will be overwhelmed by the response. I never have room to plant all the seeds in packets I buy and many plants come up in my garden as volunteers year after year. If someone wanted them, I'd be delighted to share rather than throwing away or throwing onto the compost heap!

    March 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  21. StevenR

    I am in Wisconsin and have a small yard. I put rosemary, chives, sage and edible lavender in pots last spring. On the winter solstice I brought them inside and they started growing like mad. Since then I planted white onions and cilantro in pots and am about to put in peppers, thyme and oregano. I still need some tomato seeds and plan to put them in one of those upside-down planters among my flowering hanging baskets. Even though it only was in for about a month, I have been using the cilantro every four days or so. I cut the top inch off everything (it is in an 18" clay pot) and have enough for the meal. Four days later the leaves have grown back up and are ready for another harvest. The only concern is that I wanted to let it go to seed so I could have some coriander and more seeds for the next crop and if I keep cutting it I don't know if it will generate seeds.

    I guess I will find out...

    March 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply
  22. gardengirl

    I loved this article and it's positive tone. Just one thing, tho. Don't go to all of that work saving seeds from food you bought at the store. For one thing, it may be GMO, but if it isn't, and even if it's organic, it's almost certainly a hybrid. And hybrid seeds absolutely don't breed true. In fact they can grow perfectly awful plants. Think bitter, tough, ugly, woody, moldy, hardly any fruit, or the plants die easily.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
    • checi

      I grew beautiful butternut squash and other fall gourds from the seeds I saved. I also had tomato plants grow out of the compost pile that I planted and got fruit from.

      March 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  23. Jason K

    Dear Ms. Kinsman,

    Thank you for this positive piece. You read much in the way of news that is uplifting anymore. I was particularly happy with your listing of places to get quality seeds, and the recommendation of saving the ones from your food.

    I wouldn't be surprised however if this piece is taken down in the near future by Monsanto pressuring your company. After all, they are known for suing private farmers for doing just that, saving seeds and not buying theres.

    Please keep up the positive articles, they are much needed with all the other crap going on in this world.

    March 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  24. JOE

    Who needs a garden when there's a safety net?

    March 23, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
    • Charlotte

      @Joe, thanks for providing the manure.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Reply
      • Dr. B

        Charlotte wins the internetz today! LOL

        March 23, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Reply
      • J.B.B.

        GOOD one Miss Charlotte!

        March 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Reply
  25. JainaJade

    I did a garden last year but only my herbs survived the crazy heat and a friendly little ground hog. Fingers crossed that my new bee-friendly but ground hog discouraging netting will work and I'll have some tomatoes and squash to go with the basil!

    March 23, 2012 at 10:52 am | Reply
  26. Angie

    I tried and everyhting died, I don't think I am cut out for gardening.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
    • SamiJ

      If you tried and everything died -- well try again. BUT this time don't plant a variety. Instead focus on 1 plant. Grow just greenbeans, or just cucumbers or just potatoes (which you can grow in a bag!). Chances are you know somebody with a garden & can trade your produce for theirs. Start small, specialize. You can do it!

      March 23, 2012 at 9:27 am | Reply
    • Jack

      If you like Asparagus then try it. Asparagus grows like weed....If you can't grow it then you can claim you are not a gardener.

      March 23, 2012 at 10:05 am | Reply
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Weed?

        March 23, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply
    • mike

      When I met my wife she was growing peppers in the alley behind her apartment. After we bought our house we dug up the corner of the yard with the best grass and started over. Now we have all kinds of vegetables, fruit and herbs, and every year, there's less grass to cut. It probably doesn't save money, but it makes her happy, and our sauces, stews, chili, salad dressings, &c. are phenomenal. I was a total non-believer when we got together, but now I'm stoked about it.

      March 24, 2012 at 7:37 am | Reply
  27. MG

    I've not had much luck with vegetables, but I've grown various herbs for years: basil, parsely, thyme oregano, chives. Last summer, I suppled all the mint for our weekly mojito fest. I am considering trying mushrooms.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:37 am | Reply
  28. The_Mick

    In England, they have "allotments." They're free use of government land for farming and often 1/4 acre or more in size. We should have such a program – even if it's just a 10' x 30' patch – here for those without yards. I have a 25' x 10' veggie garden area (that's enough garden work for me) that I'm preparing to convert to four raised beds that are each about 11' x 4', generally following this excellent design with somewhat cheaper materials: http://www.sunset.com/garden/perfect-raised-bed-00400000039550/.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:11 am | Reply
  29. Bill

    Tried growing peppers and tomatoes last year, but the killer heat last summer fried the plant blossoms as soon as they would start opening up, and nothing germinated. Will try again this year, hoping that our summer isn't quite as bad as last year.

    Also tried container gardening during the winter, with the natural (shorter day) sunlight augmented with grow lights. Unfortunately, it seems I picked too small of containers. While the bell pepper plants grew well, the peppers themselves won't fill out to full size (they're staying small diameter, like a large jalapeno would be). Also, even though they were being cared for all winter, many of the plants didn't really start growing large until after the winter equinox, when the daylight hours started increasing again.

    I do have some onions growing in 5 gallon buckets, that seem to finally be getting large (rule of thumb for onions, one leaf above ground for each ring of onion......so wait until they've got a bunch of leaves to pick them), and some new pepper plants I started are now growing like gangbusters. I also planted some garlic outside. It's supposed to go dormant in the winter, then continue growing in the spring, but our winter never got cold enough to make it do so, and now those plants are getting huge!

    Garlic is also extremely simple to plant and grow, so you might consider it as a first crop, if you think you don't have much of a green thumb.

    March 23, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
    • my tea mom

      OMG, you grew small peppers?! Envy! These are my favourites – I stuff them with herbed cream cheese for snacks, and stuff and braise them for dinner (in tomato sauce, over rice). Happy growing!

      March 23, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  30. dancingfrog

    For those who are interested in bucket or container gardening, we went to several supermarkets & got the 2 gal.plastic buckets from the bakery dept. for "free'" w/the lids if you want them. These buckets will end up in the dumpster anyway, so you might as well get as many as you need. Most are already cleaned out, but, you can fill your bathtub w/hot dish detergent & soak for a few minutes, then wash them & rinse them under the shower, if you have one. When dry poke holes in the bottom of the buckets w/an ice pick, nail & hammer, or drill small holes in the bottom for drainage. Be careful you don't hurt yourself. If you're so inclinded, there is spray paint for plastic, you can paint your "free" plastic buckets any color(s) you like. You can use newspapers in the bottom of the buckets, or several flattened out coffee filters, small gravel, broken ceramic pottery, some contractors sand or sand from whereever, & then potting soil. I also used some vermiculite w/the soil for a looser mix. Plant tomato seeds, pepper seeds, herb seeds, or buy plants already started from your favorite garden dept. of your fav store. Or maybe you have a "freecycle" web-site in your town & can find plants for almost free or free. Be sure your plants get good sunshine/water/fertilize as needed. Tomato plants will need some sort of support as they grow taller, tomato cages aren't too expensive, & can be used yr after yr. It doesn't take much talent, & you'll be rewarded w/something good to eat. These buckets work for fruit as well as veggies. Good luck.

    March 23, 2012 at 2:05 am | Reply
    • karenj

      Kitty litter buckets with holes punched in the bottom, if you don't buy laundry detergent in big pails, which also do....

      March 29, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Reply
  31. Cindy

    When you think of the desert in phoenix you think brown...not in my back yard. I use soil right in the bag – I take a 2 cubic foot bag od dirt, cut a rectangle in the top, poke dranage holes in it and plant right in the bag, it smothers the weeds underneath. And my favorite is kiddie pools, take a knife and poke drain holes, right now my 2 pools are loaded with beets, lettuce, parsley, cabbages and carrotts. I even grew corn in it last year. Phoenix has very poor and brick hard soil, so gardening on top of it in the bags and pools is a no brainer and I can feed my neighbors too!

    March 22, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Reply
    • pensimmon

      Kiddie pools! Great idea- I have two old ones- I will definitely use them. I already have a 12ftX12ft veggie garden- so using the pools will allow even more fantastic veggies! Thanks for the tip!

      March 23, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
  32. DoomsDay Prepper

    When the Cr@p hits the fan, I'll just wait on my package from Michelle Obama and her White House Garden. The Government will take care of all of us.

    March 22, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply
    • Charlotte

      @Doomsday, thanks for providing the cr@p for us. And you're right, manure is a great fertilizer. Any place that has boarding stables, equestrian parks, etc., is usually happy to have gardeners come and take the aged manure away. It's really good for the garden and is free. Too bad manure-heads like @Doomsday have to inject their ignorant political manure into any discussion. Apparently this guy wants to die early. That's fine, and will do us all a service. Meanwhile the rest of us can enjoy a little fun with gardening and actually eat healthy food so we will be around to enjoy life.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Reply
    • Dean

      screw you and your hang ups..... Why do you ruin a good clean article?

      March 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Reply
  33. Mr Squirrel

    Please plant lots of peanuts!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  34. Careme

    Could the writers of these articles please grow up and show some professionalism. "Oh, right – money." "Nope. Nuh-uh. We're having none" "But...but...but you have no time and possess neither arable land nor green thumb. You live in a mineshaft several kilometers below the Gobi Desert, and it is dark, arid and oh, so cold. American Idol is on." Is this considered professional writing today:?? Poor english, countless ad hominems, and straw man arguments? There used to be standards when writing for the public...like not gratuitously using the first or second person.

    March 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
    • Marm

      Oh, lighten up, Francis. Writing doesn't have to be formal or rigid to be good, and this was good.

      And didn't I see "Careme" comment "nomnomnomnom" about Oreos? Is that from A Winter's Tale or Twelfth Night?

      March 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Reply
    • Dawn in GV

      Unlike you, I found the writing totally refreshing while still being informative. Until I read your comment, I would have thought others felt the same. The author writes like she would speak–and it's totally engaging. In addition to reading for content, I tried to get some style tips from her. This article was a long way from a doctoral dissertation, but that's what made it spunky and interesting. Keep on writing, I say!

      March 23, 2012 at 11:43 am | Reply
    • Dr. B

      It's a blog. You know–personal writing. Not formal, not academic, and not journalism. So your nose is out of joint for no reason. Sorry you are such an uptight human being. It must be very trying for your friends.

      March 23, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • Dean

      Critics are a dime a dozen. If you haven't anything positive to say, keep your opinions to yourself. What you say only detracts from your otherwise pleasent personality.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  35. Janet in Atlanta

    I started gardening 3 seasons ago-it has changed my life!!

    March 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Reply
    • growunity

      I think you'll like https://www.facebook.com/growunity
      Growunity is dedicated to empower and connect local growers to their community, bringing awareness of local produce to your neighborhood. Exchange or trade produce such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers with people in your neighborhood or buy from local growers.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  36. notsopc

    @jbjingles: I have an earthbox. It's not much different than any other planter despite what they say. Too expensive.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  37. z

    I try to grow herbs and peppers (bell or otherwise) about every other year. And always fail miserably.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
    • pensimmon

      You chose more difficult veggies. Try beans – I've never failed with either pole beans os bush beans.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:02 am | Reply
    • ohsnap

      Try collards greens or lettuce. Both like partial shade, cool temperatures. Good luck and don't give up!

      March 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply
      • Paul

        Your mind is a garden,your ttugohhs are the seeds,the harvest can be either flowers or weeds .I found a wasteland, and beside it a tree. The trunk has a branch, and from that twigs sprout. I took a sliver from the branch, and planted it into a field of its own. I also planted seeds in this field. I watched them grow. I had to cut a path through the jungle surrounding the original tree. The natives got restless at my disturbing their terriority. So, I claimed some of their scalps. The tribe insisted that I follow their methods of cultivation, however, they were too fixed in their old ways to accept a new approach. Then the medicine man passed by selling his cure, some of the tribe thought it worked whilst others distrusted its curative powers. I thought both camps were right to some extent. In any event, aware of its limitations I tried some of the new medicine in my field and it appeared to do the trick to a certain extent. The natives complained about my crop as it flourished and grew out onto their land. The different varieties in my orchard produced different fruits, therefore different reactions. The tribe bought some and rejected others out of hand. Bearing in mind that the witchdoctor had spoken with forked tongue, and belonged to their tribe, the tribal chief and I agreed to put our differences to the tribe over the stream to settle our dispute.The tree is public law, the branch administrative law, and the sliver became prison law now a field in its own right.

        December 22, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  38. notsopc

    @jdizzle: I saw a car in my college town that said I love JDizzle...

    March 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Reply
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Nice!

      March 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  39. dnfromge

    I would love to grow more, but I have a very tree-filled, shady yard – tough to even grow grass in some places! I do however, have some space and enough sun on my lower deck to plant and grow tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapeno peppers (in large pots) and herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives).

    March 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
    • pensimmon

      Spinach and lettuce actaully like a bit of shade-

      March 23, 2012 at 8:03 am | Reply
      • dnfromge

        Did not know that – maybe I will try some spinach this year!

        March 23, 2012 at 11:58 am | Reply
        • Charlotte

          Spinach, that's a great idea! I have a shaded bed near my back patio that has been a problem – not even enough sun for rhubarb. I'll try spinach!

          March 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
        • Bagong

          I doubt the garden in my mind could ever reach the flnewriog splendour of your photo. But visiting your creative posts and flickr always gives me inspiring thoughts and pulls away tenacious weeds. Thank you, CP!

          December 23, 2012 at 2:51 am |
      • David

        what!1 i put them in full sun that depends where you live or youre not watering them enough thats why they wiltif not given enough water or youre using city water thats a no no

        March 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Reply
    • ohsnap

      I threw some seed in a pot last year and totally forgot about it. Both pots are on my porch which gets sun/shade. I now have a healthy head of Collard Greens in one and spinach in the other. Try it.

      March 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Reply
  40. ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™

    I just found this planter and it looks like it might work just as well as the pricey ones mentioned? If anyone has any experience with the EarthBox, please let me know. Thanks.

    EarthBox 1010002 Garden Kit, Terra Cotta

    March 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Reply
    • AleeD®

      A friend of mine uses Earthbox and loves it. She grows jalapeños, tomatoes & various herbs.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
      • ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™@AleeD

        Thanks so much, and it's a good deal too. Now if I can keep the racoons away from it and train hubs to water daily...

        March 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Reply
        • AleeD®@™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™

          My friend who had one also mentioned that "it works just as it’s described but it has to be outside otherwise you won’t get any pollination. When I gave it to (a friend) they lived in (a) condo and he put on the porch. Got lots of growth and flowers but no fruit. Finally figured out it can’t pollinate thru screens."
          Words to garden by. ;)

          March 23, 2012 at 8:31 am |
      • ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™@AleeD

        being moderated for typing the name of a pesky animal that is black and white and looks like he has a mask on. geez, that's harder to type.

        Thanks!

        March 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Reply
        • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

          Probably because it can be used as derogatory slang for a certain ethnic group.

          March 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
        • Charlotte

          Yeah, on one of my riding sites I got moderated every time I talked about cantering b*reb*ck. You'd think they could add a "context" button to those things.

          March 23, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
        • Bitter, Party of One

          Or, Char, you could be creative and figure out a way around the bad word and use "bearback."

          March 24, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Araness

      I'm up to 24 EB's (Earthboxes) and love them! I live in a burb of a major city so the yard size isn't great and these planters allow me to grow 25 tomato (heirloom) 12 cucumber, 24 bush beans, 6 peppers and 2 zuke, 8 okra plus herbs. Saving me enough space for a small raised bed for melons and cantaloupe.

      They are well worth the price and hold up great..so far they have ridden out 4 hurricanes and the hot TX sun and still no deterioration after 7 years .

      March 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Reply
      • Rifal

        You probably wont get the whole lawn green this smuemr. It will still have bare patches which makes it difficult to mow without leaving tracks throughout your soil. I think we need some more details to help you, for example what it there now? If it has concrete where you want the lawn, you will have to dig it up and get some topsoil. If it is rank weedy grass, you could get a decent lawn by frequently cutting it and spot treating weeds. Apparently Canada Green Lawn Seed is fast-growing but I havent used it myself so I cant speak from experience. They sell it in B Q. You could also get some advice in a local garden centre.

        December 23, 2012 at 2:54 am | Reply
  41. Yarael

    I have just start out trying to grow some plant. Thus far I have a Ghost Pepper plant that is starting to flower. I should have me som every hot peppers hopefully soon. I have some plans for them.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Reply
  42. Lola

    I love to garden and live in the perfect climate, Socal. Can't beat the taste of growing your own especially tomatoes.

    March 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Reply
    • Lola

      BTW if you have limited space, fruit and veggies can also be used for their attractiveness on a patio. For example strawberries. The plant is attractive, has white flowers, looks beautiful in a window box and of course will give you fruit.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  43. ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™@Kat

    In the picture, it looks like a squash blossom? We had some of these growing up in our garden in Washington and I've seen them used on cooking shows, but I was wondering if you have any recipes for using them?

    March 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
    • Kat Kinsman

      Indeed! White bush scallop squash, and I love to grill them. That's really all it takes, they're so flavor-packed. The blossoms, I stuff with ricotta or goat cheese and very lightly fry.

      March 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Reply
      • ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™@Kat

        Thanks, I love the scallop squash too. I'm also partial to goat cheese, so I'll give that a try if I attempt to grow my own, or next time I find them!

        March 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Reply
        • Kat Kinsman

          I love looking at the plants as much as I love eating them. Like little aliens coming to land. So worth trying.

          March 22, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
      • MicheleG™

        Now that's a cool idea. (I'm SO not a cook...) Stuffing squash blossoms with ricotta and frying them. Total WOW!

        March 22, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Reply
  44. shar

    I grew up gardening and have had one where ever I have lived my entire adult life. Sometimes it was small, sometimes bigger depending upon where I lived. i just made do with what I had. There is nothing like watching things grow, getting good exercise bending, kneeling, digging and stooping. I save tons of money and I know the food is safe and fresh. There is nothing like basil, tomatoes and cucumbers fresh out of the garden. I can the tomatoes for use in the winter months and I share with others who don't have a garden.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Reply
  45. Jeff

    As a kid, my grandfather showed me how to grow basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, raspberries and some other stuff. As a typical kid, I was interested until I reached the age of 13, appreciated it at 20 but with no motivation to do it. As a homeowner now at 37, I had a eureka moment a few weeks back that I should grow my own vegetables now, not just because I should, but because I have a 5 month old son who hopefully share the same enthusiasm about gardening at 7 that I did. If I get started now, I can fine-tune the skills by the time he is of age. Now I just have to find the best spot on my 1/4 acre lot to start. Thanks for your article–it was well timed for me.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
    • Steve

      Jeff, I did exactly the same thing. Grew up in the city though. No experience growing food, but my mother had lots of house plants. I puttered with vegetable gardening for years but no earnest effort. The 2 months before my daughter was born I made 270sq. ft. of raised beds, determined to have her grow up knowing that food doesn't come from a store. 3 years on, she is outside with me in the garden whenever I am out. Sure, it slows me down when she 'helps" but her enthusiasm is so undeniable. She goes crazy when things fruit (especially the watermelons) she talks to them and asks if they are doing ok, and if they need anything. Its awesome. Its so rewarding and an amazing adventure for you and yours. Best of luck!

      March 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  46. alr

    I've grown basil and Italian parsley with much success. I encourage anyone who has NEVER done gardening before to start with their favorite herbs. Most are ridiculously easy and the more you cut, the more they grow. And they can be grown in a clay pot with minimal effort.

    March 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Reply
    • MG

      I've had great luck with Rosemary. We have a whole hedge of it Once it gets established, it's tough.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
      • ohsnap

        Rosemary! One of the plants I can't consistently grow!

        March 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Reply
  47. Bailey

    here is my challenge, and I was hoping you would address above! I live in a rural area. I have the space, dirt and will to grow a big garden. I am an organice, natural freak. And I also have all manner of deer, beetles, rabbits, squirrels, birds, racoons, possums, dogs, cats and anything else mammal that can get into my garden. Pray tell.....how do I get rid of this dilemna that tears up my labor before I get to reap the fruits??!!!!

    March 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Reply
    • Kat Kinsman

      Solidarity on that. Keep your eyes peeled, and I'll address it in the next installment.

      Last year, squirrels, discontented with pillaging outside, BROKE INTO MY HOUSE. I'm on your side.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • LuLu

      A fence. With chicken wire.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
      • Lola

        That works for me too. I hope the upcoming article is useful and not another attempt to flame and create the usual vegan vs the hunter fighting.

        March 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Reply
      • gardengirl

        Yes, the only way is a fence. A 6 foot tall fence, or the deer just jump over. Chicken wire is awful to work with and not too sturdy, but it's cheap. I prefer weld wire or rabbit wire, but more expensive. Check out your locaL farm supply store, they have tons of fence stuff.

        Also, all of you beginners should subscribe to Organic Gardening magazine. One of the best long running magazines. Great pictures, informative articles, inspiring and positive. Their website is great. organicgardening.com

        March 23, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Reply
      • ohsnap

        Make sure you put it deep enough so the animals won't burrow under it.

        March 25, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Reply
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Shotguns and lots of pesticide.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Reply
      • James

        A couple of dogs and a cat will help. You have to keep them outside though – they won't do any good beside your bed.

        March 22, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Reply
    • Chris124

      Bailey: Not sure about the bugs and squirrels and bunnies.. but deer hate human hair – you can hang it in your garden and most will stay out, and most animals hate anything that makes startling noise (tin cans with something in them that rattles is good). Getting rid of the bugs without chemicals though? I would like to know that one too. LOL

      March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Reply
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        "Hello, Clarice....."

        March 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Reply
        • Jame Gumm

          "It puts the lotion on its skin, or else it gets the hose again..."

          March 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
      • dallaspj

        I've heard that about human hair, and that a good supply is a hair salon or barber shop, and you spread it around the area you want to keep the critters from.

        March 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
      • the plumber

        There are many natural ways to help control insects in your garden. Thuricide for one is great for caterpillars. There are also several websites that offer natural ways to deter animals and insects. http://www.veggiegardner.com is a good web site for home gardning with links to organics ways to treat insects. Good luck!

        March 23, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Reply
      • Bobby

        A foliar spray with a combination of cayenne pepper and a tobacco tea will take care of most, if not all bug pests. If the pest larvae are buried in the soil, let the top 1-2 inches of soil dry out, then use a a solution of about 1½ tbsp of 3% hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water on your next watering.

        March 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Reply
    • pensimmon

      Okay- I live in a rural area full of the same pesky creatures – slugs and Japanese beetles too! For my flower gardens I use organic spray- daily for about a week or so, then occasionally. However, with the veg, the animals are very, very, determined, and I don't like to spray our food. My husband built a big box using 2X4 studs. (NOT pressure treated as it's full of chemicals)The box is 12 feet square and 6 feet high and sits on top of our 2 foot high raised bed. It was then covered with chicken wire. You could use deer fencing- it's cheaper. It's about 8 feet high. we had a shorter cage, but the deer jumped over it. I painted the wood in festive colors, and it looks cool. It means spending some cash, but we found some of the wood at the dump!! Anyway, last year it worked perfectly and we harvested loads of veg.

      March 23, 2012 at 8:12 am | Reply
  48. City Chick

    I haven't and won't anytime soon. I live in the city near loads of farmer's markets & grocery stores. No need, no desire, no thank you. Kudos to those who do though.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Reply
    • Buck

      No need or desire? So then why did you waste your time by reading this article and commenting?

      March 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
    • City Chick

      I didn't waste my time. I enjoy reading all the articles Eatocracy offers. In the poll above, there was an option for "I haven't and won't" and I decided to expound on on how I voted. Plus if you read thru my rather lengthy comment, you'll notice I balanced my negative with kudos to those who do like to garden. Picky, picky Buckster.

      March 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
      • Bet

        Some people just can't stand it when anyone has a different opinion. To them, it's a slap in the face if you don't agree with everything they say. I agree with you. I've always had a garden, but now I live in an apartment with a small patio. I still grow a few herbs and greens, but go to the farmer's market for everything else. I enjoyed the article though, as well as most of the comments.

        March 23, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply
    • Dean

      Gee, I must live in a bad area...... (Missouri-Ozarks- bad soil) Farmer's Markets are asking higher prices than local markets. They claim, "home grown" worth more. Tastes the same too me. True the farmer puts in laborious time to grow. But the old fashion farmer's market savings are a thing of the past.

      March 23, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Reply
      • holly

        A thing of the past?
        Maybe you do live in a bad area for farmers markets.
        For me, I can get at least a weeks worth of fruit and vegetables for myself for $20-30 at the farmers markets. The stuff from the food store costs at least twice that

        March 28, 2012 at 8:50 am | Reply
  49. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    I love gardening. Haven't done in a long time. I think I heard the GF say the were covenants against that in our neighborhood but I could have sworn I saw one last fall in someone's back yard. Tomatoes here I come! I guess I could grow them on the deck if I had to.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  50. Tommy Chong

    I have the best garden ever. It's actually in my basement, man. I got all sorts of lights and stuff for my garden. My plants have a real strong smell that I like, man.

    March 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Reply
    • Rick

      wow, that was cutting edge

      March 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Reply
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        I concur.

        March 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Reply
    • MicheleG™

      sounds like you might want to prepare to be raided by the ATF. (What exact law enforcement org does that?)

      March 22, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Reply
      • Karen

        It think you mean DEA.

        March 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Reply
        • MicheleG™

          Thanks! I forget which acronym handles what stuff.

          March 23, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • ohsnap

      Let me guess...you don't inhale. LOL

      March 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Reply

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