When you’re pregnant, you become acutely aware of what’s going into your body. So what could be more healthy than supplementing your supermarket shopping trips with a few home-grown veggies and herbs? If you’re lucky enough to have some outdoor space, there are so many great foods that can be grown in the middle of New York City. But if you’ve only got indoor space, there’s plenty you can grow too (especially during the colder months!).
As the summer comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on a season of city gardening, and think ahead for warmer weather. Last summer, I planted my first-ever urban vegetable garden on my deck. Some things grew well (herbs) and some things did not (cucumbers and squash). This summer, I tried again, keeping in mind a few lessons I’d learned from last year’s gardening failures and complications. Here’s a few tips and ideas for growing a city garden so you can work your green thumb as you work your enviable bump.
1. Scope out your available space for a garden
Regardless of the size of the garden you want to plant, or whether you’re trying to plant an indoor or outdoor garden, you want to think ahead about how much space you can actually use. Try to imagine potential problems caused by factors that could affect your garden, such as airflow from fans and vents, items that will get in the way such as window treatments or guards, spots that will be shaded during different times of the day, or interference from curious little people, pets or pests. If your space is limited and you want to plant an edible garden, I suggest planting herbs. They don’t need to take up much real estate, and some herbs, such as chives, sage and rosemary, might even come back the next year.
2. Consider your sunlight
After you figure out how much space you can actually use, next consider what will grow well in your space. There is a lot of talk on various gardening websites about hardiness zones, which can be helpful if you’re hoping to grow through the winter. Since I was only growing in the summer months, I paid attention to factors such as the amount of sunlight my garden would receive and what types of herbs and vegetables can thrive under summer city conditions. Also, my garden is west-facing and receives very intense sunlight — with no shading — for around 8 to 10 hours each day. Items like chives and rosemary are very happy in this type of sun, so they have thrived in my garden. Keep in mind the time of day your garden receives the most intense light, too. Plants such as tomatoes and basil thrive in very intense sunlight, whereas plants such as parsley and kale grow well in partial shade or minimal sunlight. Here’s some other ideas of plants that work well in less sunny conditions.
3. Figure out the best method for you to maintain your garden
Perhaps I’m kind of old school, but to me, planting a garden means: soil, a pot, seeds or seedlings, sunlight and water. I was surprised to learn that there is a whole world of container gardening out there, too. Although I haven’t dedicated the time needed to truly learn how to make a container garden, it can be a great wintertime gardening option for city living. Even for my outdoor summer garden, irrigation was a problem during my first year of experimenting, so I needed to figure out how to fix it. I had supplied my “traditional garden” — with soil in planters and seedlings nestled inside — with a proper amount of water; however my planters didn’t drain well. So this year, instead of using only soil, I lined the bottom of my planter boxes with rocks so the water would drain out fully and not drown my plants.
4. Use quality soil, seeds and seedlings
One factor that I believe hindered my garden last year was the quality of starter plants I used. I bought starter plants later in the season from a local hardware mega-store, rather than a garden supplier or even a smaller store with employees who know and care for the plants and can answer questions you might have when buying your supplies. This year, I planned ahead a little bit better and ordered seeds from an online supplier. These plants seem to be much healthier than the ones I used last year. I also purchased some starter plants of herbs from smaller garden suppliers and florists, and those herbs have been growing happily, too.
Teeny Tiny Foodie is teaming up with Taste Buds Kitchen in Manhattan to offer seasonal baby food cooking classes. Check out the schedule and register here.