If you’ve been reading the Good Food Gardens blog, you’ve probably figured out that I consider gardening the best way to get free food. Not only does food you grow yourself cost virtually nothing after the initial investment of soil and seeds, it’s also the surest way to have quality, locally grown ingredients and make sure that the things you love to eat are always available to you.
Of course, you can’t grow chardonnay smoked sea salt or vanilla beans in your backyard (although I’d love to hear about it if you are), but you can grow a huge variety of lettuces, vegetables, and herbs -- exactly the kinds of garden goodies that make it easy to layer summer meals with texture and flavor. Farmers' markets are also superb, and I still count on real farmers to do the heavy lifting, but even they can’t beat the ease and freshness of picking greens from the garden just hours before dinner.
So you live in a tiny apartment in a big city with no light or backyard? Trust me, you can do it. We’ve proven that anyone can grow a garden by planting one, tended by school-aged kids, between high-rises in the middle of New York City. Okay, my can-do attitude is made significantly easier by the help of Teich Garden Systems, who build our Good Food Gardens, but my own little plot of dirt at the Two Coves Community Garden in Long Island City should be even more convincing. My garden, now packed with strawberries, lemon verbena, rhubarb, Hungarian peppers, and over 10 varieties of lettuces and leafy greens, started out as a packed plot of dead soil just a year ago. Its success is the result of several bags of organic compost tilled into the soil, a few sunny weekends with a shovel, and the occasional rain dance.
Probably the easiest and most prolific garden doesn’t even require a plot of soil at all. The Earth Box, used in schools in Harlem, rooftops in Chicago, and by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for a international program called the Growing Connection, requires little more than an upfront investment and the desire to grow food—a lot of food. 4 to 6 boxes, some say, can feed a family of four for a summer.