Monday, January 10, 2011

In the Beginning There Were Seeds

So a couple of weeks ago I read Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. It completely inspired me. I have been disenchanted with life lately: I am living in a city I don't care for, doing a thankless job, living far from friends and family. I need something to look forward to in my days. This book gave me a direction to achieve that. I decided to try my hand at my own small-scale urban garden.

I live in a condo in the middle of a large South Florida city. I have no land whatsoever. But I do have a lovely little West-facing, screened in balcony. I have a couple of rose bushes and some mint growing out there now. But after reading Carpenter's book, I have visions of juicy tomatoes, crisp peppers, cucumbers, zucchinis, melons, beans, and anything else yummy I can cram out there. I have romantic notions of coming home from my artificially-lighted cubicle and spending my evenings re-potting, weeding, tending, and harvesting from my balcony garden. I even  hope to be able to harvest enough to try my hand at canning and preserving some of my bounty.

But first things first. I have been reading about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and though I think that they have a certain utility, I also think that the science and technology has been drastically over-used to increase profit and property rights of giant seed corporations (I'm looking at you Burpee, ConAgra, and Cargill) at the detriment of entire produce lines. Seeds have become the property of corporations, and these corporations don't want you to become self-sustainable, they want you to be dependent on them for your produce/seeds.

I want to take myself out of this industrial cycle, so I chose to buy heirloom seeds that are guaranteed to be GMO-free, natural (non-hybrid), and open-pollinated. These are seeds from hardy, old-world stock that have survived from times well-before chemical pesticides and herbicides were introduced. These heirloom varieties tend to be hardier and tastier than their industrial cousins, and their seeds can be replanted for generations to come.

I decided to jump into my heirloom seed purchase with both feet. I ordered 14 seed varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds that I thought I would get the most use out of: Black Cherry Tomato, Carbon Tomato, Purple Beauty Pepper, Sweet Red Stuffing Pepper, Black Night Pepper, Tam Jalapeno Pepper, Southern Giant Curled Mustard Greens, European Mesclun Mix, Chinese Mixed Chives, Greek Dwarf Basil, Genovese Basil, Broad Leaf Sage, Jewel Peach Melba Nasturtium, and Balsam Camelia Flowers (just because I think they are beautiful). I knew I would have a ton more seeds than I could use, but I convinced friends and family to try this urban gardening experiment with me and planned to send my excess seeds all over the state of Florida.

The seeds arrived from Baker Creek in three days! I was so excited to get started. I immediately drove to Lowe's to pick up a couple of seed trays to start my plants. So on Thursday night I sowed my first seeds.

Then I waited.

I sent the list of seeds that I had purchased to my mother to let her know what seeds she would be receiving from me. She was looking forward to starting her own garden, which would be much larger than mine because she actually has a yard she can utilize. She wanted to get some more seeds though. Things like onions and beans. She asked me if I'd make another order.

So I've made a second order of seeds. Together we will be receiving: Pink Bananas, Banana Melon, Wonderberry, Ground Cherry, Dill, Horace Boyette Burpless Cucumber, Parisian Pickling Cucumber, Chinese Red Noodle Bean, Thai White Seeded Long Bean, Malaysian Dark Red Eggplant, Sleeping Beauty Melon, Violet de Galmi Onion, Variegata di Chioggia Radicchio, Wando Garden Pea, Costata Romanesco Zucchini, Thyme, Cilantro, and Thai Red Papaya.

I think I am going to have too many plants.

So today is Monday, and I haven't received the second package of seeds yet, but the first plantings are already starting to sprout! I have salad and peppers already coming up. I am already feeling a little accomplished.

I want to grow the plants in recycled materials as much as possible. My father made me some earth buckets (aka global buckets), and I plan to re-use some containers that I have around the house (unused cat litter pans, litter buckets, plastic containers, etc.) to cut down on the amount of pots that I will need to purchase. I have some clay pots that I will be able to use as well, and I am hoping that I will not have to buy very many new ones. I hope to be able to fit a lot of plants on the balcony by using some shelving to keep smaller plants up off the floor, trellising, and some of the larger plants, like the banana and papaya trees and the mustard greens in large movable pots in my condo's entryway. I need to make the most of the outside space that I have.

The next step will be to start the second package of seeds when they arrive and begin to build the shelving structures and trellises on the balcony so that they are ready to house the plants when I pot them. Pictures will also be forthcoming.


  1. Hello there,

    I found your blog via Twitter and the hashtag of #urbangardening and I am glad I did! I will be following your blog and look forward to updates. This is my only my second season of gardening and very excited.