I never thought of myself as having a green thumb, but a few summers ago I realized that the handful of plants I’d inherited over the years were thriving. Just like that, I came to think of myself as a gardener. At first it was in the, “I like to dig in the dirt,” sort of way, but then I came to share another mindset common in people who tend the earth: I began to regard squirrels as more nuisance than gift of nature.
For the past two summers I’ve grown peonies at the front of my apartment in window boxes and herbs and tomatoes in the back of the apartment on the fire escape. But, the fire escape basically serves as a squirrel ladder, step right up to my open-air organic buffet. In an attempt to deter these garden thieves this year I’ve decided to swap the placement of the flowers and veggies, so that the tastier plants are (hopefully) out of reach.
I hadn’t yet decided what to grow in 2011, so I swung by the Park Slope Food Coop to see what seeds and starters they had. My friend Lisa’s beets had done quite well the year before so I grabbed a couple of varieties (starters and seeds) as well as a starter of purple scallions. (I admit it: prefer to grow plants that are pretty as well as tasty.)
To get started I laid out my supplies:
I spread the newspaper and brought one of the planter boxes inside. I’m attending a workshop with Organic Gardening this week (the company I work for, Rodale, also publishes OG), so I may have more know-how in the coming days, but my first step at the start of the season is always to fluff up the dirt a bit (it becomes so compact after several months of rain and snow).
Then I added some new rich soil, blending it into the top few inches of the dirt already in the planter.
Today I chose to start with the beets.
The starters are Chioggia beets, which are red and white striped inside. I pulled them from the plastic pack and spaced them several inches apart, digging shallow holes, pressing the roots firmly into the dirt then gently covering with topsoil.
Then I moved onto the seeds. Can you believe this is what beet seeds look like? This variety is the Three Root Grex Beet, which ranges in color from pink to gold to orange.
I spaced the seeds an inch apart in two rows. As they start to grow I’ll thin the crop by about half. (That feels so un-Brooklyn to write!)
I brought in the second box and planted the purple scallions.
Then I sewed more beets.
The finishing touch (more for effect than for fear that I’ll actually forget what is what): little wooden name stakes.
In the coming weeks I’ll be adding flowers and herbs to my garden, and watching for these to grow. What are you planting?