Experimental Porch Gardening

If my memory serves me right, both of my parents had gardens at one point during my childhood. My father tried growing pumpkins when I was really young, and my mother tried cucumbers, tomatoes, and beats when she was on her own. Neither had a major impact on me because I really wasn’t involved in the whole process. Family influence or general curiosity, either way, the urge to try to grow my own food has been persistent over the past five years.

The four springs and summers during college proved unlikely to be available for gardening because I wasn’t home early enough in the spring to really start thinking about it and I had to spend every night and day working odd hours to make money for the upcoming year in the summer. Then last summer, my first one off since college, was way too busy- graduating, immediately going on a 2-week trip out west, rushing home to get married in Maine, move 180 miles away to Vermont, and start a new job. But this spring and summer proved to be just right to start experimenting!

My current apartment sits on a tiny plot of land. The view from my porch is all of the neighbors’ fields, but butted up next to it is a little area that could work well for a small garden. However, this area has been neglected for years, resulting in overgrowth by thick weeds, piles of old brush, and remnants of only God knows what. For the length of time that we want to spend at our current apartment, the amount of work that would need to be done (in addition to getting landlord approval and conditioning the dozens children to not destroy it) just for first time experiments would not be worth it. So I had to come up with another idea. It was last Sunday morning when I was checking out at the local general store that the idea came. “Happy Mother’s Day!” said the cashier. I looked at her, and she laughed and said, “I’m saying it to everyone just to cover my bases. Besides, you must be a mom of some sort… pets? Oh! Or maybe house plants! If you have house plants, you’re totally a mom!” House plants. Mine do okay. How about trying to plant something in a pot on my porch? The a-ha moment had arrived.

That afternoon, down to the local Aubuchon Hardware store I went. A couple of cheap plastic pots, a bag of soil, and a couple packets of seeds, and I was ready! It was a cheap enough investment, just what I needed for an experiment. Ten minutes of my time was all I needed to read the directions on the back of the seeds, prep the soil, plant the seeds, and water them. Now I have three pots on my porch, that I lovingly move inside at night and when it’s going to rain all day, just until they sprout and have established themselves. How easy is that? Very!

It’s not organic, it’s not backbreaking, and it’s not even conventional. But will it work? I don’t know! Maybe in two weeks I’ll see tiny shoots of green popping up. Maybe these shoots will grow, maybe they’ll die. Maybe I will get big beautiful spinach, rainbow Swiss chard, and chives. Maybe I’ll get nothing. Either way, the urge to plant has been satisfied and it really is fun trying to be creative when you have no other options.

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2 thoughts on “Experimental Porch Gardening

  1. hm.. I haven’t seen chard or spinach grown in pots, but my mother and I always do chives and they work.

    expect your results to be a little smaller
    try and get a little bag of fertilizer

    things i’ve done in pots of various sizes, we do it every spring. We preserve tomatoes all year round, we dry the herbs or freeze them, eat the lettuce and onions as they come up…

    lettuce
    herbs (rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, sage, lavender… probably more, but I don’t remember)
    chives/scallions
    — we grew these in long shelf like planters

    tomatoes
    various hot peppers
    some berry plant, i think it was black berries, we made butter, jam/jelly, salad dressing…
    — deeper planters for these

    the best part of growing it, is eating it… and figuring out ways to preserve it. I’ve got a great book if you want to amazon it (pickled, potted, canned).

    my neighbor actually had soil/grass yard so they grew Kirby (form of cucumber specially grown to make pickles.) umm.. they were freakn AWESOME!! We’d trade them tomato sauce for pickles. Across the way were neighbors who did grapes … we’d give them herbs and they gave us stuffed grape leaves.
    Trading was the other BEST part… so was not buying herbs, that gets way expensive.

    oh.. and planting… great to do with kids… when they know the process, they respect it and give you updates on the stuff. They can also dig and get dirty and love it… if I was you … I would recruit the kids and give them an ice cream party for helping you do the grunt work 😉

  2. Personally, I stay away from fertilizer. The only time I even think about anything like that is if it’s in dire need. The only “additives” I do is placing used tea bags on top of the soil. There are a lot of nutrients that are pulled from the tea by the plant that normal steeping doesn’t remove. I’ve successfully done chives, thyme, tomatoes, green peppers, and had one brief success with broccoli.

    I tend to stay with buckets that are at least a gallon in size (except for herbs, those do well in window boxes). I suggest using organic gardening soil. Yes, it says not to use in pots, but it works just fine! Also, some herbs are perennial, such as thyme, and can be wintered in a dark/dry place to begin regrowing at the beginning of the season.

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