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Spring and Gasoline Bring Out the Guerilla Urban Gardener

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There is nothing like the first day of Spring, a huge moon, and a crate full of gardening and seed catalogs to bring the guerilla urban gardener out of winter’s coma-like hibernation. And who can complain when a blast of warm weather melts 99.9% of Tundra snow. While it may be too soon to plant, it’s not too soon to start planning.

I’ve been preaching the values of landscape and deck vegetable gardens for years. If you are going to water your plot, you might as well get something out of the effort. Until scientists can somehow make grass edible, I will be adding plants that are not only beautiful, but can sustain our family table. There is nothing like eating a tomato that has been lovingly nurtured and vine-ripened on your own property, and I can vouch that potatoes taste like butter (without any necessary!) when they are fresh out of the garden.

Now with an unstable economy and wildly fluctuating gas prices — meaning an increase in the cost of food — it only makes sense for people to grow their own when they can. Gas prices may spike to $5 a gallon and beyond, which will cause the price of everything that must be transported to spike. I am certainly not looking forward to paying $3 for a head of lettuce or a king’s ransom for a pint of strawberries this summer. Recently there has been more attention in blogs, newspapers and magazines placing an emphasis on home gardening, even for those who live in apartments.

It doesn’t take much to start. Consider the container garden, especially if you have limited space or live in an apartment. If you like pretty, use the mundane flower arrangement; however, make your container a food source by inserting Swiss chard, which grows tall and leafy and comes in a variety of stem colors. Various lettuces are also a good choice, as many of the artisan lettuces — very pricey in your supermarket — come in different leafs and colors. I’ve also grown hot peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and herbs in containers alongside flowers. You can’t tell the difference.

These days, many gardening outlets are coming up with unique ways to grow vegetables. There are vegetable “bags” – a good idea if you want to port your plants from one location to another. There are also upside-down tomato planters. While a good idea in theory, the planters are not worth the money. Containers have been devised with hidden reservoirs for those who can’t remember when to water.

If you are unable or unwilling to dig up your yard for a dedicated garden plot, consider other ways to increase your food production. Planting fruit bearing trees is one easy solution. Some stay away from the idea of fruit trees because of the mistaken concept that bees and wasps tend to flock to them. Like all plants, fruit trees have specific problem areas, but with proper care, pest problems can be avoided.

Fruiting bushes like blueberries can be planted instead of ornamental bushes. These can be trimmed into hedges or spherical shapes. Care should be taken with grapes and raspberries, since they can grow to monstrous proportions.
Homeowners might also want to try using various fruits and other food plants as ground cover. Strawberries are an excellent choice, as are herbs. Many herbs are compact and perennial. Be aware that some herbs will take over, like mint and oregano, and others can grow to amazing heights or dimensions, like lovage and sage.

Make use of existing fences by training vining plants over them. This works well with beans, cucumbers, and last year I even had cantaloupes dangling from my fence.

With a little effort and that water you were going to use on the grass, you too can bring fresh fruits and vegetables to your table.

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About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.