City Living

A Head of Lettuce Grows In Brooklyn


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A few months ago, a gardener named David Amman told me, "If you're not growing anything, you're not assisting."

That made me rethink the long-dormant windowboxes in my fifth-floor walk-up. I bought starter plants — $2 to $3 apiece — including romaine and red leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, a few kinds herbs and okra. (Yes, I really do I like it.)

The okra died a quick death (I'm trying a new batch) but the tomato plants are thriving. My real pride and joy, though, is the lettuce. It's doubled in size and is almost as wide as the container it's in.

One problem: I'd never seen it grow before and wasn't sure how to harvest it. I have to open the window to water my micro crops, and the lettuce leaves were in danger of getting mangled, so I started plucking off a leaf or two at a time.

It's tasty, fresh, highly fuel-efficient and right outside my kitchen window.



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Congrats!Spinach is another great crop for small scale cultivation. You can start VERY early and plant successive crops until early winter. Plant a few onions every now and then. One plant will provide u and your friends all the basil you can use. Radishes are easy to grow. All take minimal space.

Sent by David Hollis, Hamilton, NY | 2:12 PM | 6-12-2008

Our lettuce did wonders this year. We grow it until early June, cutting or tearing off single leaves for salads as we want them, then harvesting it all and putting my annual chile plants in the same planter on our stoop.

Sent by Stewart | 3:09 PM | 6-12-2008

I think okra is a non-starter. It has deep roots, tall (2m) stems, loves full sun, and a very long, very hot summer. I've never heard of anyone successfully raising it pots before.

Most herbs do very well in containers. I have grown mint, catnip (another mint), rosemary, thyme, and chives very successfully in window gardens. These are also good bang for the buck because fresh herbs cost a fortune at the store.

Even though I am blessed with a yard now I still grow my mint in pots. The stuff is way too invasive for the yard. As Alton Brown stays "Mint has been known to overtake and kill kudzu". An exaggeration to be sure, but not too far off the mark.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 3:49 PM | 6-12-2008

I'm lucky I live in Hawaii where you can just throw some seeds on the ground and they will grow. This is literally what we did. We now have peppers, tomatoes and squash all from seeds we got from leftover vegetables from the grocery store. I also bought some seeds for salad greens and some swiss chard. They are all doing great. You can grow your own vegetables very cheaply, I was amazed at how easy it was.

Sent by Molly | 3:53 PM | 6-12-2008