One of my lifelong goals is to be as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to food acquisition,production and preparation. To my mind, the first step along that road is learning to garden; specifically, to learn to grow edible plants in containers.
The container part of the equation is mostly out of necessity – at the moment I’m living in a 2nd floor apartment with no in-the-ground garden space, and have to make do with growing things on our balcony. However, after doing a fair amount of reading about container gardening, it seems to me that containers have a lot of advantages over a traditional garden: portability, flexibility, a lack of pests and soil-born disease, and complete control over soil quality. These seem like good reasons to keep planting in containers even when I have space for a real garden, if only on a supplementary scale, and I think that having these skills will help me for the rest of my life.
That being said, I’m about as much of a gardening novice as one can be. I remember growing some things as a child – peas and flowers, mostly – and had a couple of indoor plants during college and the years immediately following, but somehow I’ve managed to kill just about every plant I’ve ever taken possession of (including a cactus I had during my junior year of college – I mean really, who kills a cactus??). I can generally joke about my “black thumb” and not feel too badly about it, but if I’m really serious about growing what I eat, I’m going to have to get past that somehow.
Luckily, I have a great resource to get me going: The Bountiful Container by Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey. My wonderful mother, who is no slouch in the garden herself, gave me this book as a Christmas gift this year, and I’ve found it not only incredibly informative and useful, but also fun and inspirational to read. I highly recommend it to anyone who’d like to take on a gardening challenge of their own.
I’ve spent the last month or so reading this book and planning out what I’ll grow this season and how I’ll set up my garden, and the more I work on my plan the more excited I get.
My head’s been filled with visions of pots filled with greenery and bright red tomatoes, snappy green peas, and fragrant herbs; I imagine being able to slip out onto the balcony in the evening to pick lettuce for that night’s salad, or cheerfully harvesting basil for pesto in the afternoon, and perhaps snitching a green bean or two to nibble right off the plant and still warm from the sun.
Though I’m dipping my toes in unfamiliar waters with this project, at the moment I feel pretty confident about my chances of success. That being said, and delusions of grandeur aside, I’ll be pretty darn happy if I can keep just one or two plants alive and healthy for long enough to yield something we can actually eat.
If only it weren’t still the middle of winter; as long as we’ve got these freezing temperatures, planning and dreaming is about all I can do. Bring on spring!
(Of course that’s not really true – there’s plenty of prep I can get started with now, but I’ll save that for another post.)