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Aug 26, 2008 -

Tomatoes up close

I’m an apartment dweller. I never saw myself as an apartment dweller per se, but where I live, it’s an affordable way to do things. The only thing I miss is a mess of a garden somewhere where in the evenings I can dig around.

A while ago, probably 5 or so years, I wondered why I couldn’t take a 5 gallon bucket, fill it with dirt and get some plants going. “It’s too small!” most people said. But I am too stubborn, it turns out. And so, when I was living in the city, you could walk by my apartment building on a busy boulevard and see a row of three or four tomato plants doing their best to put out some fruit out front.

To my delight, there is nothing wrong (in my experience) with using containers to grow tomatoes. I am easy to please, and nothing makes me more happy in the summer than home made salsa and hot sauce. So, along with a few tomatoes, I put some peppers, some basil, some chives and whatever else I can keep alive in the buckets I have re-used for a few seasons now. I call the tiny garden “Sub-Plot”.

I’m not going to give a whole lot of advice here, there are a lot of people who know a lot more than I do about growing, but the lessons I’ve learned in regards to growing a salsa garden have made me a happy guy.

Basically: get some big containers. I found some 12 gallon utility baskets at a store, they were made to be used for laundry I believe (no holes though, just some rope handles on either side). I drilled a fair amount of holes into four sides and the bottom for drainage and air, set them up on a couple of bricks, and filled them with a mixture of dirt, potting soil, compost and ashes as the finishing touch. Unfortunately for the earth the containers are made of plastic, but fortunately for me this allows me to move them around depending on the light and the changing season, and to store them easily after the plants stop producing.

I have been able to use little 3 gallon planters for my basil and even some of my peppers seem to be thriving in them.

Watering is very easy, I am able to soak them very well, and, since I can kind of move the containers where I please, I have been able to set up a near neolithic drainage system that recycles the water coming out of the bottom of the larger containers into the smaller containers.

The best part, and the crucial point of all this is that I have been able to have a healthy, good lookin’ salsa garden for a few years now basically growing wherever I can fit it. Right now, I have a couple of feet on a rock wall near my apartment, and a few precious flat spots on the hilly walkway down to my dwelling.

Working here makes it fun to get some unique flavors from my salsa… tomatillos, heirlooms, gourmet garlic, chives and varied basils (yes I like basil in my salsa) have made their way into the mix. Even better, now that I tracked down a very simple method of making home-made hot sauce (which stores for a real long time), I can enjoy my salsa garden year round!

So if you’re limited on space, or even if you would like to try having a garden right outside your door say, I say, give it a go!

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