Sunday, May 24, 2015

Growing vegetables and fruits in the city

Our co-op board recently approved the purchase of ‘gr√łnnsakskasser’ to be placed in the inner yard of our co-op so that those residents who want to grow vegetables/fruits, can do so. The word gr√łnnsakskasse is translated into English as vegetable crate, and I guess it’s as good a translation as any, except that these crates have no bottoms, only sides, and they are much more solid that supermarket vegetable crates. They are made of thick wooden slats that connect at all four corners with interweaving metal pieces that have holes in them, so that when they are lined up, a long metal pin can be inserted through them to hold them all together. Once the crates are placed where they shall stand, you fill them with a lot of earth and then plant what you want to plant.

There were two of us in our co-op who were interested in getting one crate each in order to plant vegetables, so the co-op board bought two such crates. The other woman chose a variety of vegetables (and one fruit) to plant—cabbage, brussel sprouts, lettuce, chili peppers, and melon. I chose to plant three cherry tomato plants (technically tomatoes are fruit, but often fall under the vegetable label) and parsley. And I may plant a few herbs as well, but I want to see how all of the different plants grow before I invest more money in this project. So far, the tomato plants are doing fine and we are picking cherry tomatoes each day to have with dinner. (see photos)

It was raining lightly (more of a drizzle) the day we sat out the crates and planted our vegetable plants. Both of us were in a very good mood; we didn’t mind the rain or getting wet. We found a really old metal watering can in the cellar to water the crates; it is better than most of the new plastic ones that don’t have spouts with tiny holes. I am hoping this project takes off, because I can envision planting other types of vegetables next year—cucumbers, squash, broccoli. But we’ll need more crates, and that won’t be a problem if the outcome is successful this year. So far, the birds have left the crates alone, ditto for the cats that wander through the neighborhood. I’m hoping the human animals that wander through the yard will leave the crates in peace, but you never know. We’re hoping for the best.

Eventually, our co-op may also allow the addition of balconies to some apartments, and ours will be one of those lucky enough to get a balcony. At that point, I will be on cloud nine, because then I will be able to plant even more vegetables and flours in pots on our balcony. I’m looking forward to that day. In the meantime, our vegetable crates suffice. The take-home message is that is possible to develop a ‘green thumb’ even if you live in a city apartment building. And many cities around the world have common urban gardens for apartment residents, who enjoy working and tilling their little plot of land so that it yields produce. Oslo is no different, but the waiting lists to get such a plot are long. We are on one of those lists to get a plot in a city garden not far from where we live; we applied for one in 2009 and there were one hundred people ahead of us. The organizers contacted us last year to ask if we were still interested in getting one, and we said yes. At that point, we had moved up the list and were at place number 39. So perhaps by the time we are retired, we’ll have our own little plot of land to till and enjoy. Until then, I’m happy with my vegetable crate and eventual balcony plantings.

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