One Square Foot

When my hubs and I attended the Just Food Conference in February, it was structured to give large talks at the beginning and end of the day with small seminars in the middle (of which there were many to choose from).  We agonized between School Food Solution; Racism in the Food System; Building Your Own Community Supported Kitchen; Hydroponics, Aquaculture, and Aquaponics; Strengthening Urban Agriculture in NYC… and more, ad nauseum.

We chose our workshops pretty well, but by the end wished we’d had another month to fill in the blanks.  (Although by Saturday afernoon we were seeing spots that looked remarkably like kale and apples and were happy to have Sunday to eat junk food — I mean…)  One of the seminars we partook in was One Square Foot: Grow & Own Your Own Food in thBig Apple with Jennifer Berg.  The pitch being that even with merely a window in New York you can grow your own vegetable garden.

“Ha!” you say.  And so do we.

But she gave us a pretty clear step-by-step and we are going to give it the ol’ college cliche.  And she promised that even if all you have is a northern facing window, which we do, seeds will sprout.  I’ll key you in to progress… if there is any.  And beforehand, show you how it’s done.

“All you need,” said Mrs. Berg, our host, “is a bag of soil, some newspaper, a can, and a bag of seeds.”  Bag of soil, check.  Newspaper, check.  Bags of spinach, zucchini, and scallion seeds, check.  And if we have any luck with these, I’m trying cherry tomatoes.

We were shown how to make a planter by rolling a piece of newspaper around a can and scrunching the leftover paper into the bottom.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to stay together for a couple of weeks.

Fill the paper planter about halfway with soil, put a couple seeds of your choice in, cover them with soil, and finally water.

Once the plants have sprouted to about an inch and a half, you place the entire newspaper planter into a large container full of soil, and the newspaper will eventually disintegrate.  Apparently newspaper ink is made of soy (who knew?!) and will not harm your veggies one bit.

New York is notoriously confined for space.  Like, for example, my husband and I living in a studio apartment with two cats and the occasional guest, or two – sometimes three.  It is always snug in this city.  So finding outdoor spaces to grow vegetables is a coveted experience.  Most of us can’t do it.  But a small project like this can give you the reward of an urban vegetable garden, or at least close to it, and gives a little more control in knowing what you’ll be eating this season as our CSA approaches.

We’re going to give it a try.  We’d love to have our windows full of delicious treats to gnaw on, through the summer of course, but ideally even through the winter months.  And we even have a tiny outdoor ledge just big enough for a few planters, so once the weather evens out a bit we’ll be transporting our planters and our big bowl of mustard greens (from the Natural History Museum farmers market (see above)) and have ourselves a wee garden.

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Hints of Spring

Winter?After what was an undeniably soft winter, “spring” has arrived.  Can it be spring without winter?

California has spring.  Doesn’t it?

Here in the Northeast, we don’t take kindly to the lack of seasons.  We use them to map out our emotions – truly.  Summer is a sticky, lethargic time for movies in Bryant Park.  We feel restful, relieved, rejuvenated, with a looming sense of doom that the cold is approaching.  Fall is crisp, sarcastic, a bit of a tease.  Winter, we are grumpy.  Leave us alone in winter; we hibernate and don’t appreciate interruptions.  And then spring comes.  And the city lights up.  Everyone crowds to the streets, people greet you, invite you into their homes, stay out all night (or so I’m told).  It is a magical time of hope and greenery.  If we don’t get the crabby winter, there’s no joy in spring.

But here we are, March 10th, and after temperatures that barely dipped below 45 this winter, we are now entering 60°-70° weather – already.  Which, despite the skepticism about the past few months, means that we can secretly begin fantasizing about the next growing season.

It’s been a long hibernation, but there good things to come.  We recently attended the Just Food Conference and will share stories and news about the movements in urban agriculture.  We’re signing up for this year’s CSA (today!), and we will be bringing seasonal stories, pictures, recipes, and a little farm to your (and our) city.