Monday, May 10, 2010

A potted garden of veggies and herbs

In June 2009, I visited the inspiring eco-friendly country, Costa Rica. Coincidentally, I was reading Barbara Kingsolver's, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" at the time. Some of the food I ate in Costa Rica was incredible, and utilised vegetables and products that are available in the Caribbean too, but which we would never choose to prepare in the way the Costa Ricans do. For example, peewah featured deliciously in dips and salads. Meanwhile, in her book, Kingsolver describes the choice her family made to eat only food they had grown or slaughtered, or that came from the immediate vicinity of their Virginia home. Although parts of the book were irritatingly earnest, in general, I was inspired to try, in some small way, to change some of my own food buying practices - to try making things from scratch, and to attempt to grow more or buy more that was grown locally. Hence the requests for a pasta-press and yogurt maker. And too my revived interest in growing herbs and vegetables.

I wouldn't say that I have a particularly green thumb. My grandmother and aunt in England both had gorgeous gardens which they tended with lots of love and attention. And although I enjoyed helping them when I was at their homes, I could never really muster the drive to create similar gardens where I've lived. And now I live in an apartment with no garden at all! But the good news is I have a roof "deck". It's really just a concrete square, but I've had friends over for dinner up there, and I decided to try some potted plants to see how they'd fare. The trouble is, it's a concrete roof, which means it gets super hot in the day. And with this dry season we've had, well, trying to keep any plants alive these last few months has been a huge challenge.

None-the-less, I bought a little ficus, and a miniature bamboo plant, which have already started providing some shade for less hardy plants. I planted a variety of seedlings: rosemary (in the direct sun, because it can take the jammin'); regular and purple basil (these can also handle lots of sun); dill (in the shade of the ficus); chives, mint and local lettuces. And you know, they're doing really well. I trim and harvest almost daily to add to my salads and cooking. And the thrill of picking your own freshly grown, pesticide-free herbs is quite something. And having the garden in pots means that it's much easier to tend - easy to weed and water and easy to access.

Next I'm going to try the pesky tomato and some wild rocket.

Some of the things I've had success growing are:
basil (probably the easiest thing the grow!)

I still have had no success growing coriander - not even from seedlings. What am I doing wrong?

By the way, a really great place in Trinidad for buying seedlings is a little garden shop called Agriflora on Aranguez Main Road. They sell seedlings and more mature plants - lots of herbs and vegetables, and of course, flowering plants and shrubs.