On our surprise visit up to see my dad on Father’s Day we made a trip out to my mother’s garden with scissors and a basket to fill up on greens. The garden is flourishing despite the rain and resulting slug infestation. Even in such a small space (about 4 x 2 parking spaces) there’s still enough bounty that I can take home a week’s worth of lettuce, scapes, chard, kale, and herbs and barely make a dent.
I’ve been thinking a lot about elevated beds lately, especially after writing an article about the High Line for the Huffington Post’s New York page launch (hopefully they will actually run the thing after giving me one day to write it). In my mom’s garden, the elevated beds prevent dirt from being compacted during weeding and walking, give her complete control over the soil conditions, and are easier on the gardener’s back. My mother makes her own organic compost, which has become just as beloved as her greens (she pursues the odd-and-end scraps of veggies with as much vigor as the freshly picked). On the High Line, while the plants may not be edible and the fertilizer not from solely organic matter, the selection process was subject to the same constraints of shallow soil (2′ at its deepest).
Seeing the High Line gave me hope for a future New York with edible rooftop gardens in abundance. Currently the owners in my building are working on plans for the rooftop. While these plans are learning more towards lawn chairs, green ground, and potted shrubs, I am pushing for a garden space or herbs in abundance.
In my search for produce, I have found nothing that is comparable to being in a garden. Cheaper, more accessible, more flavorful, more local, larger, smaller, sure. But nothing that compares to the garden that provides to those who tend to it, produces Mediterranean herbs like weeds with little effort, and demonstrates to its users the power of pulling a whole head of lettuce directly from the ground.
But in an urban setting, how do we go from concrete and cheap rubber to leaves and grass? With the number of New Yorkers becoming interested in gardening – from the rooftops all the way to Governer’s Island – it’s looking hopeful. And elevated beds will take us there.
I am meeting with the board of my building on Thursday, but I have no idea if I will be able to convince others of an edible rooftop. What would my world be like if scapes, garlic, peas, tomatoes, chard, lettuce, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, dill, mint, chives, squash, and beets were growing a couple floors above my head?! Certainly greener, that’s for sure.
Anyone else using a garden, large or small, up high or in the ground? Would love to hear from you.