This gardening note is primarily an historical one. Somewhere I need to write down exactly what is growing on the Dinette rooftop the summer of 2011. But in putting this list together, it occurred to me that I might also separate the low-effort vegetables from the high-effort ones, just in case you’re thinking, “Maybe I should start a vegetable garden of my own?”
Barbara Kingsolver in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes the keen observation that as the growing season unfolds, we keep changing the plant parts that we eat, starting out with the leaves in April (e.g., spinach), followed by stems and flowers (e.g., broccoli) in May, small green fruits (e.g., peas) in June, and large, colorful fruits (e.g., tomatoes) in July. While Kingsolver’s point was to illustrate the seasonality of different types of vegetables, she has also charted the effort it takes to grow vegetables. Those that come first are the easiest to grow.
Such is life at Dinette. The plants that take the least effort are those that we grow for their leaves: arugula, basil, and traditional herbs. There are 10 containers of arugula on the rooftop, each of which has 5 to 10 plants, and there are 5 containers of basil each of which has 2 to 4 plants. If you’re planting a vegetable garden for the first time, arugula is a sure-fire success. Its tiny black seeds sprout effortlessly, and the leaves are ready for picking in 35-40 days. From mid-spring to early fall, you have time to grow at least three crops. Basil plants, by contrast, are slow starters. They’re more sensitive to cool weather. They barely seem to grow for the first eight weeks, but then they take off in mid-June and grow into bushes you can keep pruning for their leaves until the first frost.
The other leaves we grow at Dinette are all familiar herbs: one container each of Italian parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram/savory, and two containers of a large-leaf sage (Berggarten) that often shows up in the fritto misto. These too are easy to grow, but you have to be very patient to start them from seed. If you need only one or two plants, you may want to buy them as seedlings instead of seeds.
So what are the high-effort plants? In the rooftop garden, it’s all the fruits: peppers, tomatoes, and figs. It may seem curious to call peppers and tomatoes fruit, but that’s what they are, and just like any other fruit it takes time for them to become fully ripened and sweet. Last year there were 12 shishito pepper plants in 6 containers. Sonja liked the idea of adding fully-ripe, red shishitos to her commercially-grown green ones (growers can’t afford to wait so long to pick their fruit). So this year there are 20 shishito plants in 10 containers.
The number of tomato plants is about the same this year as last, but all are new varieties except six Nebraska Wedding plants. The new tomatoes include three 4th of July, three Early Girl, and five Thessaloniki. Add to them one Kadota and two Turkish Brown fig trees, and I’ve enumerated what’s in all 52 containers.
End of inventory. Now just enjoy the leaves and the fruits growing above you at Dinette!