You love the idea of homegrown tomatoes. But living in the burbs is a hefty trade-off.
We asked the experts at family-owned Gethsemane Garden Center to help us navigate the ins and outs of urban gardening. Take the plunge and put down roots.
I’m too selfish to care for fruits and veggies, but my windowsill needs some lovin’. What to do?
One word: herbs. They’re low-key and don’t require much space. If you don’t have a lot of direct sunlight, try a shade-tolerant variety like parsley or mint.
The last time my – cough – friend tried to grow an herb garden, she killed it. Any tips?
Watch your water. You should pour water only on the soil of a plant, not its leaves. Water can weigh leaves down, making it harder for plants to grow. Lavender and thyme can even develop mildew if they get too wet.
I’m dense. How much water is enough?
You want to keep pouring until water comes out the bottom of the pot. If you have a saucer, dump the excess. It oversaturates the plant and attracts mosquitoes.
If I ever become less selfish, can you recommend some beginner plants?
Tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries are the easiest to grow. Before getting started, read up on how deep the roots will go and how tall/wide the plant will end up, and choose your pot accordingly. Tomatoes will need something deep; strawberries go wide.
Any dirty words of wisdom?
Never use dirt. Always use soil. Dirt’s that stuff you dig up from the ground. It’s dead and full of pollutants and contaminants. Potting soil is what you buy at a store; it’s a viable living medium that’s infused with fertilizer (a.k.a. plant food). Totally worth the three bucks.
What if I want to go all out? Can I rent my own plot?
Talk to your alderman. It’s her job to keep track of all the land in her district; she’ll give you a good lead.
Gethsemane Garden Center, 5739 North Clark Street, at Victoria Street (773-878-5915 or gethsemanegardens.com).
Photo: Martin Poole / Getty Images