Monday, May 24, 2010

The Lazy 20-Something's Guide To Sustainable Living: On Container Gardening

I've learned a lot of things in my post-college, into-the-real-world life. One of the hardest truths has been how to live sustainably over 500 miles from my family home. I grew up living pretty sustainably in a rural community. I lived within 5 miles of two sets of grandparents, and both sets of grandparents had fabulous gardens. Our backyard also had a garden, and a set of about 6 apple trees and a pear tree. We had so much food, and such a wide variety of it, my dad tilled his garden under so we could play softball in the backyard (leaving the fruit trees, of course). One set of grandparents also had a lovely (and HUGE) lilac bush, and grew a row of flowers that supplied indoor beauty for our dinner table all summer long. The three households would get together and purchase an order of farm-raised chickens each year, and store them in our collective freezer and have bbqs all summer long. Then, with all of the extra food, we'd can loads of tomatoes for winter soups and pasta dishes, use extra apples for deer bait in the fall (for winter meat), and generally live as locavores with a few non-perishable staples.

I didn't notice as I was going through college that my adult life would be far removed from my youth experience as a locavore. My college did a pretty good job of purchasing local, in season foods when possible, and in the summer I'd head home and enjoy all of the advantages you read about above. But now, living year-round over 500 miles away from home, I find eating sustainably and responsibly a LOT harder. I rent, so I can't have my own garden, I live alone, so a CSA provides too much food for my needs (and is a little expensive for a single girl on a non-profit salary), and I don't have the freezer space (or, again, enough mouths to feed) to enjoy the benefits of purchasing a meat share from local cow and chicken farmers. What's an uprooted country girl to do??

My solution: This year, I'm trying container gardening! I've got the green thumb of my youth and a westward facing deck on my side, and I'm giving it a shot. I've got strawberries, lettuce, chives, basil, lemon verbena, rosemary, 2 tomato plants, a cucumber plant, and 2 pepper plants hanging out on my deck right now (and some oatgrass for the kitties). I've also got some gazanias ready to plant, too. I'm dedicated to seeing if this is the solution for a lazy 20-something who loves to eat fresh veggies. I already forsee a few intriguing problems, including a too-curious squirrel, but my biggest concern is watering. Container gardening (especially on my very full sun deck) requires daily watering. I skipped Saturday this weekend and got home Sunday afternoon to already wilting lettuce. My job requires some travel, and the ever-desired vacations and long weekend camping trips associated with summer will leave my container garden abandoned for 2+ days at a time. Also, the people above me also have a deck, which compromises the amount of rainfall my poor container garden will receive, and attempts at a rain barrel (for sustainable, not wandering through my living room, watering) have been relatively unsuccessful. I'm looking into options, and will be sure to keep you abreast of my container gardening successes (and failures) throughout the summer. Any ideas for weekend watering are greatly appreciated!


Dugganhaas said...

I've heard watering globes work, but haven't tried them in our house:
We did just enjoy fresh salad this weekend with garden lettuce and a tomato grown inside by our south facing window. I don't think we've ever managed homegrown stuff so early!

Anonymous said...

This is awesome! So glad I stumbled upon this during google searches. I'm totally going to share this blog with college friends who want to be more green but are having trouble sticking to it. Thanks for posting.