The Urban Gardener

urban gardenerPlanting tomatoes, peppers and herbs in your garden seems like the perfect summer pursuit – if you live in the country or the suburbs. But my husband and I have been gardening right smack in the middle of Manhattan for five years now, and I'm not talkin' a few flower pots.   Ever since we moved to an apartment with generous terrace space, we've spent each summer planting a veritable veggie forest, with several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers of different hues, Japanese eggplants, Italian herbs, strawberries and more. It's become a passion for us and a subject I write about regularly at my own blog, nycgardener.blogspot.com.   Over the years we've figured out how to get rid of pests like green horn worms and rid our tomato plants of blossom end rot. We've installed an automated watering system so we don't need to find a babysitter for our garden every time we spend a weekend away.   Most important though, we've become much more attuned to the way we eat and what we eat, like more fresh vegetables and salads. Using the bounty of our garden, we make fresh tomato basil sauce, much of which we freeze so we can enjoy it all year long. We also love cooking dinner for friends with ingredients we didn’t have to buy. (Have you seen the price of heirloom tomatoes lately? Our urban garden definitely pays for itself!)   As we got into the whole gardening thing, we began to spend more time at our local farmer's market, where we buy many of our seedlings. The once occasional trip is now  a weekly ritual. We buy meats, eggs and other staples at the market as well as vegetables, helping to support farmers practicing sustainable agriculture.  (New York City, by the way, is filled with farmers markets offering the bounty of nearby farms in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.)   Composting is another good habit I've picked up as an urban gardener. Each summer our garden produces plenty of waste. I hated throwing the dead stalks, stems and leaves in the garbage -  it just seemed like a real shame to add to the city landfill. Then I realized I could trot the trash down to the farmer's market where the Lower East Side Ecology Center, a local organization, collects it in dozens of bins. From stems and stalks it wasn't such a leap to start bringing all of our food waste to the market all year long. I just keep it in the freezer until I can make the trek downtown. (I'd like to have a compost heap on the terrace by my husband will not go for that!)   The urban gardening trend is definitely on the upswing. I've met dozens of other urban gardeners online and many of my friends have in the past few years started their own gardens. These may be small steps, but I hope they can eventually add up to a big move toward healthier, more sustainable lifestyles.