Friday, July 13, 2012

Why I Gave Up Urban Gardening

How EcoYogini gave up on being an Urban Gardener...

I have always wanted to have a garden. Growing my own vegetables? It's like the EPITOME of being green. I am not only controlling the chemical burden of my food from the soil and compost to the seeds purchased, but it is local and self-sufficient to the extreme.

 Unfortunately we live in an apartment, which makes gardening a little trickier. However, initially I did not think this would be impossible. Until last summer.

My journey as an urban garden goes something like this:

  (Our peas pre-wasp nest)

(our first balcony garden, while everything was still alive and sans bugs)

Our first apartment had a balcony. I was determined to grow easy vegetables and berries in containers. We bought compostable containers, organic local soil, organic earth worm castings (poo) for fertilizer and organic seeds from a PEI company.

We started them inside, I ouu'd and ahh'd over our little seedlings and almost peed my pants every single time I could pick one miniature carrot, lettuce leaves or tiny strawberry.

Mid-way through the summer it was obvious that my garden was cursed. We had wasps take up nesting in the peas, the carrots decided they were going to stay smurf sized and the lettuce became the home to hundreds of weird little transparent bugs.

(The parking lot from our living room window)

The following summer we moved to our current apartment. That doesn't have a balcony. It was a concession because I loved the place so much. It does have a tiny green space in front of the living room window, but it leads directly to the parking lot. I don't especially want to eat food that has had layers of car exhaust. So that option was out.
(I feel nauseous just looking at this picture)

Last summer we decided we would have a rooftop garden. Our fire escape leads directly to a flat roof, so we bought a locally milled from forest stewardship certified wood planter box. We bought some pretty flowers and peppers. I was pumped- the perfect location!
(Our rooftop garden when we first planted it.)

Except it quickly became obvious that walking up and down the fire escape past our neighbours bedrooms would be awkward. The girl who used to live on the top floor walked around her apartment naked. And she hadn't bought curtains yet. Also, technically we weren't really ALLOWED up on the roof and our landlord's husband liked to sit out and pretend to be the parking lot police. AND who knew that carrying a watering can up three flights of precariously thin and rickety stairs when you're afraid of heights isn't fun?

The result? They all died and in October Andrew had to bring the whole thing down- I was too much of a chicken to do it.
(The light in our apartment at 2pm today- it's full sun and 36 degrees celsius outside, but it still looks like a dark cave in here)

I then decided perhaps we could at least grow herbs in our apartment. Unfortunately, as you can see from this picture- although we have huge windows our apartment is kinda like a cave when it comes to light. We barely get any. Atreyu and Asteya, our hungry cats, love snacking on leaves- so most of our plants are barely holding on.

Since the waitlist for city urban gardening plots are months (to a year) long, that was also out of the question.

So. I have had to accept that my amazing gardening skills will have to wait until we have our own house with a small cute plot. Then I will be an amazing uber gardener.


Julia said...

urban journey has had its ups and downs depending on where i'm living. my new apartment has a huge yard so it might actually go somewhere productive in the coming year.

becki said...

All of the sudden I feel blessed to have a yard! I'm proud of you for trying to garden, and maybe soon you will be able to have a little yard too!

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Oh sweetie...I have a yard, and I can barely make a go at it, and every year it costs way more to plant than it would to buy the equivalent amount of produce from the farmstand. I'm about to give it all up and swear permanent allegiance to my CSA.

Good for you for trying, though! Gardening, like everything else, is often an exercise in learning from mistakes. I'm still making 'em right and left, but eventually I'll get the hang of it; I hope you get the chance to too!!

SharleneT said...

The rooftop and stairs would have stopped me. Period. I moved to my current home because, although I had plenty of sun and room for a garden, the Homeowner's Assoc wouldn't allow your grass to grow but in one direction and anything suggesting edible was banned! Just wait until you have the right place and don't feel guilty. Come visit when you can.

Eco Yogini said...

@Julia: ouuu that would be wonderful!! yep, definitely dependant on where you live...

@Becki: oh yes, apartment living is definitely not our end point- someday i hope to have a little garden on the ocean (which will pose it's own unique challenges i'm sure!)

@Jenn: ah so glad it's not just me! I have this niggling fear that even if we had a yard i'd have these frustrations. it can be costly eh? i figure it's only when things are up, running smoothly and you have a system that it all works out. it's getting there that's the challenge.

@Sharlene: ahhh that kind of neighbourhood just isn't my thing. Homeowner's Associations, while I'm sure have plenty of purpose, don't really make me happy. Hopefully edible lawns will continue to catch on and will become the norm, cuz that would be fab!

Rosa said...

It's so much greener to live in a small space and pay someone who's good at it to do the gardening! Seriously.

I have a giant yard. Only about 10% of it is suitable for food growing, for various reasons involving humans, squirrels, and shade trees. Even then, after 10 years, all I've really learned is what WON'T grow. So now I grow the things that I am good at (tomatoes, potatoes, mizuna, lettuce, chard, kale, garlic, and a few herbs.) That way is cheap and successful. The other way was hard, wasteful, and expensive - and took me ten years to get over.

Eco Yogini said...

@Rosa: good point and very true! :)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I have always been a firm believer that we don't all have to do every green thing, and we shouldn't feel bad but instead should focus on what we can do. Lots of GPB readers have gardens, but only a few of them walk to work! You're pretty darn awesome and inspirational in your own way.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to expand my garden with pots - cuz I never have enough space, LOL - but it is HARD. Nothing grows the same in pots as it does in plain old ground. I don't blame you for throwing in the towel until you have a yard!

Vegan Burnout said...

We live in the suburbs and still gave up! We sort of half-assed a garden last year and got a few mangly carrots and some chard. We planned out how to do it right this year, but ultimately concluded that we just don't have the time or energy to put in the daily work necessary for a successful garden. We've absolved ourselves and are more than happy with our CSA share and other farmer's market goodies. I do still ponder growing herbs in pots, though....

Carmen Jenkins said...

I've been vegetable gardening for about 5 years now in the 'burbs. What I have learned most of all is that it is really hard! Between the pests and the diseases and the droughts. I've had some great successes and many failures. It really has made me more in awe of organic farming and has given me an appreciation for the work it takes to produce food without pesticides and chemicals. said...

Thanks for the post but let me suggest, Don't Give Up Yet! We'll take you back. You've just suffered a couple minor setbacks. Sometime, someplace the stars will align and it will all fall into place and you'll be as happy as a little kid with their first Chia Pet! One step forward two steps back. Your ecological hearts are in the right place. All things green...All things good.


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