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April 6, 2008

The Green Life


This Saturday was the annual "real first day of spring day," as I like to call it. This is the day when all of the sudden it is sunny and warm and the apple and pear blossoms burst open. It is the day when the green market is suddenly alive and full of new types of produce, when pussy willows and forsythias are sold by the bunch and everyone seems to have a bundle cradled in their arms. Real first day of spring always catches me unaware, usually when I am in one of my deepest March funks. And when it comes it makes me grin.

So yesterday I decided to bite the bullet and spend some money on plants. I have been batting the plant idea around for almost three years now- and finally, finally, I got up off of my ass and bought all of the hooks required to hang them (we can't have regular potted plants in our house because of a certain few green-oriented felines). We are fortunate to have windows on all sides of our building, which makes for a lot of light and a perfect setting for hanging baskets. On Saturday, one of my spider plants (home propagated), a fern and a guppy plant made their way into the windows. Then I found a three-tier mesh hanging basket, another thing that I had been thinking about doing since we moved into our apartment, and reorganized our kitchen. This all might seem simple and silly- but it made me so happy.

I also began to plan out Project Fire Escape Garden. Last summer I spent a lot of time sitting on our fire escape thinking about a garden but never was able to follow through. This year, I really want to do it. This is part of our fire escape.


This photo is facing north. We get great, strong (almost too strong in the heat of the summer) light and a lot of breeze (and wind during storms) from the west, as right over those buildings is the Buttermilk Channel. My goal this summer is to try and grow the following:


  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Rosemary (inside)
  • Dill (inside)


  • Tomatoes
  • String beans
  • Rocket arugula
  • Jalapeño peppers

I am very aware that the light might not be right for all of these, though there's really nothing that I can do but try. My guess is that the extreme afternoon sun in August will kill many things but I figure that it's worth a shot until then- if we could just get a few tomatoes and beans out of the venture, it would be a success. If anyone out there has had any success with these things on their city fire escape, do share.

Posted by callalillie at April 6, 2008 5:52 PM | City Life , Home Improvement


Hey Corie--

we are moving houses, so for the time being we are in an apartment while our new house is being built. my father gardens a lot and is not going to let lack of space or yard keep him from growing his favorite herbs and veggies...he is going to order a few of these just to see if they work at all.


i am wary, but isn't the idea of an upside down tomato plant just fun?

if you'd like, i can let you know how ours work out and you can think about whether or not it'd be a worthwhile investment hahaha.

p.s. if all else fails, just grow mint. it is the easiest thing in the world to grow but it takes over anything that shares its soil!

i'm so excited- for once i had a little bit of advice. probably not THAT useful, but whatever..

Posted by: Seton at April 6, 2008 11:40 PM

Just a few things I've learned in my few years of Brooklyn gardening:

+If you plant your basil with your tomatoes, both will thrive - and the scent of the basil will help keep pests away from the tomatoes

+We use a ton of cilantro in the summer, but it goes to seed *really* quickly and is pretty inedible once that happens, so start small

+rosemary does really well in containers - every time I've grown it, it has survived the winter

+sage, thyme and mint grow really well and require little care

+we had great luck with string beans the first year we planted them (as in, we were still eating beans I had blanched and frozen through February!), and not so much luck thereafter. They love to climb so stakes or other supports will help.

Good luck!

Posted by: jenblossom at April 7, 2008 12:55 PM

My wife and I have just started to get into plants as well. I don’t have any fire escape advice, but we have two cats, and have had to figure out what kinds of potted plants they will leave alone. We have a sansevieria plant and a rubber tree plant, and the cats bit the leaves when we first got them, but then never again. Both plants have rather firm leaves, which the cats don’t seem to find appetizing. Now they just rub up against them periodically. We also have a small evergreen and they definitely aren’t interested in that. Also, if you fill up a raised surface with potted plants, there’s no place for the cats to perch and munch. Otherwise, anything truly leafy we put in hanging pots, or hung on the wall with this, http://www.crateandbarrel.com/family.aspx?c=1540&f=28313&fromLocation=trends&l=357. We also planted a small pot with wheat grass and small lettuce plants for the cats to munch on in the hope that this might convince them to ignore any other plants they might figure out a way to get their jaws on.

Posted by: Peter at April 7, 2008 3:18 PM

I learned this the hard way.
Never put anything on a fire escape, or on a window leading out to one.
It's against NYC law.
You could be fined if some nosey parker calls 311 on you. And you know how hard up this city is for cash.
Either you, a neighbor or a firefighter could be injured if they trip over any foreign object on a fire escape. If they do ...
Any other windows other than the one that accesses the fire escape ... go wild.

Posted by: TW at April 7, 2008 6:31 PM

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