Tools and rules
To avoid disappointment, especially if you are a first-time gardener, it’s important to do your research, and make sure you have the proper equipment. Although you probably don’t need half the stuff that garden marketing gurus think you do, there are a few extras that will make your job easier and may help ensure a better harvest.
Protect your seedlings
Now that you’ve lived through the record highs, hard freezes, and intermittent frosts of March and April, guess what? There could be more to come throughout May. Don’t let that stop you from starting seedlings outside, though. Get a weather app, and invest in some protection for the young plants. There are many options for this, including lightweight prolypropylene sheet and row covers. The covers are breathable and retain warmth in temperatures as low as 4°–28°F. (plowhearth.com)
Protect your back
No matter what you’re doing in the garden, the need to move a heavy load (of something) from point a to point b is inevitable. Wheelbarrows are a great tool for this, but many are far too wide for use in the average urban space, particularly when there are narrow walkways. This smaller, square-shaped plastic garden cart will not win a beauty contest, but it is lightweight and deep, perfect for carrying mulch, compost, or soil to beds that need amending. (plowhearth.com)
Learn the basics of urban food growing
Here’s a how-to for urban gardeners that’s perfect for beginners’ level. Sonia Day’s Incredible Edibles: 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City (Firefly Books, 2010) runs down a list of vegetables, fruits, and herbs that are suitable for urban cultivation, with brisk advice, recipes, and a bright, photo-centric design. We also encourage you to tear out the three pages of tomato and vegetable wisdom offered by our own Sally Cunningham in this section.
For those who want a more in-depth resource on food growing and gardening of all types, there is no better choice than Barbara Damrosch’s Garden Primer (Workman, 2008), which has been recently revised and updated.
Finally, if you need to be inspired, buy Michele Owens’s Growing the Good Life: Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise (Rodale, 2011). Give this to a spouse who seems skeptical about your new endeavor, and enjoy it yourself for its humor, passion, and impeccably researched science. Here’s a taste:
“Our parents saw supermarkets and processed foods as the height of convenience. But nothing is more convenient than grocery shopping in the backyard. A vegetable garden offers the best defense against rising food prices, the most environmentally sound way to eat, and better exercise than any gym. It will turn anyone into a wonderful cook, since nothing tastes more vibrant than homegrown. And it can take
less time every week than a trip to the supermarket.”
Elizabeth Licata is editor of Buffalo Spree.