I'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.
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.
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!
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!
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!