June 24, 2005
My Organic Garden

garden produce.jpgI've been dabbling in container gardening for a few years now. Until now it has resulted in the odd piece of fruit or vegetable, never enough for a whole meal or even a shared dish. A couple of strawberries, maybe a zucchini, a handful of tomatoes, never all at once. Well, earlier this week I finally achieved my goal: I actually had enough greens and tomatoes for a salad. Admittedly, only one of the elements was grown from seed but even so I felt it was an achievement. And so here you see it: roquette (arugula), lettuce and cherry tomatoes, all from our terrace garden.

The only flowers on our garden are those that have the potential to turn into fruit or vegetables.

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Here you can see my first so far successful foray into roquette and sunflowers. I don't know why I decided they belonged in the same planter, but they seem to be doing okay that way. The rosemary plant is replacing the one I've had for the last couple of years. The old one is starting to turn a bit yellow; they always do after two years and I don't know if it's just a natural life span or something I'm doing wrong. I put the old one in a corner of the big planter with the lilacs to see if a little more room for the roots might save it. I bought my first rosemary plant because I thought it was pretty and smelled nice. Since then I have become addicted to its flavour and use it with almost any grilled meat or autumn vegetable, with ham and fish. You can also see my hearty tomato plants here (they are finally starting to flower!) and a thyme plant. Like rosemary, thyme thrives for about two years on my balcony and then suddenly goes yellow and wimpy. When it flowers, like the rosemary, it's a joy to behold.

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Last year I bought NINE strawberry plants. I was proud of them and told everyone. NINE. But I was pregnant and never really got into the gardening thing last year (enough fertility going on in my body perhaps so that I didn't need to nurture outdoors). Seven of the strawberry plants died but the two hardiest are here. We've had a few plump red berries already and I'm regretting my laziness that resulted in the loss of the other seven. You can also see some lovely lettuce I bought at Truffaut when we got the barbecue a couple of weeks ago. I've tried raising lettuce from seed and never gotten past a few spindly sickly leaves. These were the basis (with the roquette) of my salad. You know when you pick up a little box of a dozen plants they look so tiny and it never occurs to you how difficult it will be to find enough planters and dirt for them!

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On the left you can see our pumpkin and zucchini garden. As of this evening, I have one little proto-pumpkin about twice the size of my thumb and a beginning of a zucchini about half the size of my pinkie. I've tried growing zucchini before but they always suddenly stopped growing at about six to eight inches because I didn't have containers large enough for the amount of soil they need. I'm hoping that this year will be the year I crack the problem with these great containers. My friend Charles gave them to me and I'm eternally grateful.

On the right, you can see all the wimpy tomato and zucchini plants that I didn't have the heart to throw away but didn't have the space to put in containers in the sun. They are actually doing better than their supposedly well-treated brothers!

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And here you have my pride and joy: the lemon tree. I bought it a year and a half ago on the Ile St. Louis in Paris, where there is a flower market. I was coming out of my meeting with the préfecture to get my carte de séjour and I saw this at one of the stalls. It was covered with literally hundreds of white flowers and the seller warned me that they would all fall off leaving me - if I was lucky - with one small lemon. She was right and last year I had a small lemon. This year, after 18 months in the sunniest corner of the apartment, it has produced a bumper crop of lemons and I'm all in a dither to decide what to do with them. It has to involve the skin, though, as for once I know I have unwaxed organic fruit!

So there you have a rundown of the more exciting elements of my garden. I also have some coriander, a nice sage plant and a purple basil that is just barely surviving. Oh, and ditto a mint. I love picking things off my little garden and luckily my husband is content to let me monopolize the kitchen side of the terrace.

The salad in the first photo was delicious and I can't wait to report back on the rest of our organic produce. For those who are interested in such things, I use coir blocks for the soil and worm casts from my Can-0-Worms for fertilizer. That way I don't have to feel guilty about throwing away rotten vegetables and fruit!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at June 24, 2005 4:22 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version
Comments

Love it! I miss the old Meg's Garden site.

We have a tiny tiny little hot pepper and one tiny tiny little tomato on our plants so far. The tomatoes need replanting.

I've got tons of sage, tarragon, and basil, though.

Posted by barrett on June 24, 2005 at 4:25 PM

Meg, does the arugula grow well in a container? I love it so much and only Whole Foods and Trader Joe's here in Chicago area carries it.

Posted by Lu on June 24, 2005 at 10:09 PM

Lu, the arugula is growing like a weed! (And it looks a bit like one too...) As I mentioned in the post, I've never had any luck with the softer-leaved lettuces but this stuff just took off. The container is about a food deep and 2 1/2 feet long and has 4 arugula and 4 sunflower plants and they all seem to be thriving. A lot of my earlier gardening attempts failed, I think, because I expected too much to grow in too little space but so far this is working great. We are on a west-facing terrace so it only gets sunshine in the afternoon.

I love it too - such a great peppery flavour. I just like it dressed with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Good luck!

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 24, 2005 at 11:36 PM

That does it! Next spring I plant arugula in a container on my porch. I have plenty of west-facing sun in my yard.

I'm the Lu who is coming to Paris in October and doing a cooking class among other things.

Thanks, Meg. This is a great 'blog!

Posted by Lu on June 25, 2005 at 7:54 PM

Congratulations on some beautiful plants! You have more patience than me, I've tried several years, failed, and then stopped trying. Chicago summers are fickle. Your veggies look so delicious, I may have to try again!

Posted by Seth Anderson on June 27, 2005 at 7:14 PM

Seth, as I suspected! It IS Chicago that is the problem. In fact, if you listen carefully, you can hear my garden crying because I can't water it enough. So far, the herbs are doing well, but I'm worried about the tomaHtoes :)

Posted by Lu on June 28, 2005 at 5:48 AM
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