Container Gardening: the Good, the Bad and Hey Who’s Eating All the Ripe Strawberries?
I have lived in four distinct places in my life. I grew up in New Jersey, yes it really does have gardens, Vermont home of the green tomato, New York City and now Los Angeles. In everyone of these places I’ve had a garden in one form or another.
I think my love of playing in the dirt and watching things grow is the influence of my mom.
Her grandparents came from Italy so they found ways to cultivate a garden in Paterson, New Jersey. No matter how small the plot of dirt, they found a way to coax tomatoes and grapes to rise up. When we had family get togethers at Uncle Steve and Aunt Joe’s their garden was a sense of pride. Loud discussions would erupt as to who had the better tomatoes Uncle Steve or Uncle Augie. Then the discussion would move to my Aunts as to who made better sauce. For that generation, gardens were a source of pride. My vague childhood memories are of grape arbors, rows of tomatoes and squash packed neatly into the ground of a three family house. Everything was “put up”; the grapes became jug wine, tomatoes canned, the squash pickled.
My mom was more into flowers though. She was so taken with British gardens filled with the organized chaos of delphiniums, holly hocks, black eyed daisies. She would try to recreate her dream visions in our backyard, thwarted time and time again by the tramping feet of her six children. Once we left the house her garden was vastly improved.
In Vermont I had the most land in which to play. Alas, and perhaps, in homage to my mom, I planted Lily of the Valley in the front of the house, lilacs on the side. But my vegetable garden worked well the first year yielding far too much broccoli, stunted carrots and the aforementioned green tomatoes. It’s hard to get them to red in the two short months of summer that Vermont provides.
When I moved to New York City I was lucky enough to find an illegal sublet in Chinatown that had a rooftop garden. In the shadow of the now lost World Trade Center, I tried to tame the aggressiveness of morning glories into a peaceful coexistence with delphiniums, Gerber daisy, roses, and whatever flower could survive the heat of a New York roof top summer. Some years were good, others not so much.
Now I’m in a city were if you throw seeds on the ground they will grow. The operative word being ground. I am now in a place that doesn’t have direct access to dirt. I have lovely views, a deck and a balcony, yet no ground. I have tried a number of containers but they took so much room on the deck. I had to come up with a solution that would provide space and produce. After chopping enough onions I came up with a fix. (I always do my best thinking while doing mindless tasks, chopping or butchering being my most productive)
But last year was not a banner yield. Two tomatoes, green beans that died and an over abundance of Thai chili peppers.
I am happy to announce that this year I am eating the fruits of my labor. At the beginning of summer I added another 6 inch board so that I could have more soil.
Bought my plants from Sunset Nursery in Los Feliz. Water and FERTILIZE on a regular basis. Ah, what a difference a little knowledge makes. We’ve had a bumper crop of green beans. The tomatoes are healthy and weighted down with fruit, on the brink of ripening. And the strawberries are a continuous fountain of fruit…
But there is a mystery, my ripe strawberries are disappearing. I’m not sure who or what the culprit is but I do know they are particularly found of fruit tree fertilizer as well as perfectly ripe strawberries.
If I had enough strawberries I would have used them for the syrup we used for the welcome cocktail for the supper club. But alas, the mysterious strawberry thief has robbed me of that pleasure. Here’s the syrup. Enjoy with your favorite bubbly.
Strawberry Balsamic Syrup for Welcome Cocktail
- 1 lbs strawberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup balsamic
- 1/4 cup water
- Prosecco or Cava
- Place all ingredients in 2 quart sauce pan. Cook on a low to medium flame until the strawberries are soft 10-15 minutes.
- Strain the cooked strawberries through a medium strainer. Then through cheese cloth.
- Place approximately 1 tbs of the syrup in a wine flute. Add your favorite bubbly. You might have to experiment with the correct amount of syrup that is needed. And ah, what a lovely taste test it is.