Springtime in the Urban Garden

This morning I heard the unmistakable caw of bluejays and I felt my heart leap a little. One landed on the terrace just outside my bedroom window, catching the attention of my cat Minnie before it flitted off to join its mate.

I just love to see the jays. They always fly through New York City during the spring, on their migratory journey further north. To me, they signal the beginning of planting season.

And we're ready to go. Last weekend, my husband and I visited friends in the New Jersey suburbs and we made a beeline for a nursery. We picked up two blueberry bushes, in hopes that we'll have better luck with them than we did last season, when we first attempted to grow them. We purchased plants through mail-order last April, prepped the soil with the recommended acidic fertilizer and watched them sprout tender new leaves. But an early heat wave fried the young bushes and we lived with brown sticks in the massive pots for the rest of the summer. This time we bought mature plants, at least two years old. In fact, they are already flowering!

Along with the bushes, we bought strawberry seedlings. It will be nice to have mixed berries for breakfast!

We love fresh salad and grabbed a flat of arugula to add to the lettuce seedlings I picked up at the Union Square Green Market in April. I knew the time was right because some of last year's lettuce and arugula popped up on its own in my terrace pots at the first sign that frosty weather had vacated New York's atmosphere.

Most importantly, I'm happy to report that our 2011 tomato seedlings are growing strong. Planted just two weeks ago, they are already a few inches high and looking healthy. We decided to use the same heirloom seeds we purchased last year at Tomatofest.com and we had no problems with production. Aunt Ruby's German Green, Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Chocolate Stripel and Black Cherry all rose to the occasion. They'll soon be ready for the great outdoors!

This is always an exciting time -- when we look forward to a summer of fresh food. With global environmental disasters accelerating (from Japan's nuclear meltdown to last year's Gulf oil spill) it's never felt more important to grow our own. Though of course these early days are not quite as exciting as the later months when we get to pick ripe tomatoes off the vine and taste their deliciousness. Ah, we'll have to wait till summer for that mouthwatering treat. So urban gardeners, are you exercising your green thumbs already? What crops are you most excited about this season?

photo: nycgardener.blogspot.com