This is my first summer living in a city.
I have spent most of my years living in surburbia, or out in the country, or a small city that doesn’t really feel much like a city at all—more like a few towns connected by miles and miles of country roads and freeways.
Everywhere I’ve lived before–save a few apartments I stayed in right out of high school–I’ve pretty much always had a large area for gardening. Whether it was a 1/3 acre lot or close to 2 whole acres, the space was there and I usually used it. I always did really well, despite the fact that I never fertilize or do any sort of “pest control”. I’m also terrible weeder. Actually, I’m more like a plant hoarder… I’ll pick out the grass and big knarly weeds, but the small shamrocks and random ferns, those can stay.
Now that I’m in Philly, I don’t have much space anymore for gardening. I find myself in a tiny (but oh so charming) little abode with an even smaller backyard. In fact, my living room is larger than my backyard. But even with our space restrictions, this is the most successful gardening year my husband and I have ever had.
We decided to try some urban gardening this year–armed with only the knowledge Google bestowed upon us. At the end of last summer we packed up the seeds from the plants we grew in our garden two years before and brought them with us to Philly.
Once Spring rolled around, we still had the seeds, but we didn’t have much in the way of expectations. My husband and I were both a little skeptical about our tiny space being able to produce much more than a few potted plants here and there. We thought for sure our tomatoes wouldn’t thrive, the squash would be fragile and limp, the kales sparse, and our herbs would be the only plants worth eating.
Well, it turned out a lot better than we expected. This is what became of those teeny tiny seeds (the sunflower is the plant growing out of the frame; the tomatillos are quickly catching up):
Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you need a lot of space to have an awesome garden. You don’t.
You do need sunlight (lots of it), good soil, abundant insects, love, care, and water. But space… ? You really don’t need a ton of it.
Our main garden is roughly 5 feet by 7 feet, (plus the two potted tomatoes and the squash along the fence next to it). We’ve stepped it up so the herbs are growing on the bottom level and the tomatoes and tomatillos and brussels are up top.
Total we are growing: 5 standard sized heirloom tomato plants, 1 yellow pear tomato, 1 cherry tomato, 1 brussels sprout, 3 squash, 2 tomatillos, 2 peppers, 10 kales, 2 cucumbers, tons of purslane (it’s invaded our garden so I let it stay), chamomile, dill, 2 types of thyme, lemon verbena, stevia, sage, 4 kinds of mint, oregano, rosemary, 2 kinds of lavender and…
Oh man; we have so much basil. It’s the best. We only have three kinds growing (Italian, Thai, and Cinnamon) but they’re beginning to take over. We’ve been lucky to have rainstorms combined with sunshine a few times this past week and the basil is loving it.
Time for gazpacho.
This delicious cold soup is perfectly suited for when you have a lot of basil on hand, but are getting a tad bored of pesto. Be sure to use the thinnest skinned cucumbers you can for the best texture.
Cucumber Basil Avocado Gazpacho
- 1 perfectly ripe avocado
- 1 cucumber: skin left on, seeds removed
- 2 small handfuls fresh basil
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 scallions, green and whites both
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Juice of 1 lime
Refrigerate all the ingredients until they are quite cold. Place the chilled ingredients into a blender and purée until smooth, allowing a few specks of green to remain throughout. Return the soup to the refrigerator and chill again until it is ready to be served.
Garnish with thinly sliced cucumber circles and basil leaves.
Are you growing a garden this year, whether you have a small space or big?