April 23rd, 2014
12:00 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.

I have a rotten knack for turning any pleasurable pastime into an exhausting and pricey project and in doing so, sucking all the joy and fun out of it. Gardening is no different.

It started in college as a cheap, meditative hobby that kept me grounded in the midst of academic mayhem, and occasionally introduced a vitamin or two into my ramen-based body. The undertakings grew grandiose and far less calming as I got older and set down roots in futon-free apartments with my name actually on the lease.

What was once a matter of nestling dollar store seeds into soil-filled buckets on the roof, or poorly deer-proofing my $15-per-year community garden plot next to the town's sewage treatment plant, became an expensive indulgence. Then it became an obligation.
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Notes from Zone 6b - love and loss in the lettuce patch
June 19th, 2012
01:00 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.

Very early one summer morning, my husband crept into my home office, and was alarmed to find two rabbits staring at him. It wasn't the lagomorphic presence that rattled him - just that there should have been a third pair of eyes blinking back.

He ducked down and peered deeply into the cluster of old potato chip boxes that Claudette had fashioned into into a makeshift warren. No bunny. It was then he noticed that the dog fence cordoning off her living quarters had been nudged apart just wide enough to let her tiny body slip through. She'd made a break for it, and there was only one place she could have gone.
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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.
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Notes from Zone 6b - a kernel of wisdom
August 2nd, 2011
10:00 AM 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 morning, I stood on my roof deck and made my African Guinea Flint corn have sex with itself.

Some folks knit, ride dirt bikes or collect small, disturbingly lifelike figurines of a baby Lord Voldemort. I get my kicks from raising heirloom vegetables.

The process isn't always quite so hands-on. Mostly, it's just a matter of sticking seeds or shoots in dirt, fertilizing, watering and presto - potatoes, tomatoes and radishes as far as the eye can see. And if you have the acreage, corn would probably not require the services of a social director.
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Notes from Zone 6b – letting failure bloom
July 19th, 2011
01:45 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.

My edible loofah won't fruit, and there doesn't seem to be a darned thing I can do about it. For that matter, I can't stave off daikon bolt, keep my African Guinea Flint corn from slumping or save my white bush scallop squash from the indignity of slug consumption.

This is mostly my fault, and I have to live with it. I could have just laid down to drown in a deluge of Netflix-streamed episodes of Battlestar Galactica, taken up yogalates or just napped like a normal person, but no, not me. As a friend recently pointed out to me, I use any scrap of down time I have to assign myself an extra job.
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Notes from Zone 6b - Tubers on the roof
June 22nd, 2011
10:00 AM 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 may seem like small potatoes to you, but I managed to grow some spuds on my own at home. On a roof deck. In Brooklyn.

I know I shouldn't be admitting this in public, but I'd honestly had no idea how potatoes...happen. Sure, I'd seen seed potatoes at the garden center and had a vague memory of an elementary school project involving sprouting eyes. I pieced together that they need the soil scrubbed from their skin, and that there's some sort of blight-prone leaf, but the mechanics of tater gestation had somehow escaped me.
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Notes from Zone 6b - eat shoots and leaves
May 13th, 2011
07:30 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.

I'm slightly miffed with everyone who ever neglected to tell me that not only are radish greens totally edible - they rival schmancy, pricey salad standards like arugula, escarole and mache for crunch and distinctive flavor. All you've got to do is wash and chop them, and if you have radish greens around, there's a goodly chance you have radishes as well. Oil, dash of vinegar, dusting of pecorino - boop! Salad.
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Notes from Zone 6b – it's aliiiiive!
March 28th, 2011
04:15 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.

There was a light coat of snow on my compost heap last week, but down in the basement, the purslane has sprouted.

Nope, that's not code for anything - I'm not signaling an all-clear for the Kremlin to come set up shop in my cellar. It was a hailing, flurrying 30°F in Brooklyn a few days ago, but under grow lights, a story beneath the frozen asphalt, spring has arrived. While the glasswort and sorghum have yet to sprout, I'm almost shamefully obsessed with monitoring the progress of the seedlings that have deigned to germinate in my basement since I tucked them into the soil just over a week ago.
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Notes from Zone 6b – growing glasswort and sorghum in a Brooklyn basement
March 22nd, 2011
02:15 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.

I'm growing glasswort in my basement. Okay, technically, I am trying to germinate glasswort in my basement.

It's a dumb thing to do, but that doesn't seem to be stopping me. The stuff (also known as "sea beans" and "saltwort") pops up unbidden along saline-rich seacoasts and salt marshes and last I checked, my basement was host to neither. Or at least not since the Great Basement Flood of '10, and that was mostly sewer overflow. Yet, that's where I'm attempting to germinate a handful of seeds under grow lights in anticipation of warmer temperatures.

It would be a weird little victory, but I want it. In the face of chaos, both global and close to home, I garden. Hands in the dirt, grime under under the nails, food in the mouth. It's the natural order of things, it happens with or without my assistance, and occasionally asserting my place in the chain has brought me comfort.
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