Extreme Fire Escape Gardening

May 26, 2011

So, you live in an apartment in the city, and two of your interests happen to be:

  1. picking through your neighbor’s trashcans
  2. watching shit grow
I have a hobby for you. First, you will need to entertain your first interest (most likely over the course of many days)…focus on the following:

Trash Statistics:

  • 2 dresser drawers (source: the curb in front of 471 41st Street) Remove those little bags of dog-shit dropped in by passersby, then cut drawers to right size
  • 21 plastic juice jugs (source: predominately the recycle bin at 475 41st Street. several from various cans on 5th Ave)
  • 3 random flowerpots (source: 276 Union Street trashcan, 386 2nd Street and 125 3rd Street)
  • 1 plastic pie cover (source: 468 41st Street recycle bin)
  • 2 speaker boxes (source: 4205 5th Avenue trashcan). Remove electronic components, speaker cones and dampening foam
  • 4 small clay pots (source: stolen from mom)
  • few random plastic containers (freakin’ jackpot…found these in the trashcan of my apartment building!)
  • 4 cubic feet of dirt (OK Hardware on 5th Ave- bring cash – Chinese-run store – they hate paying taxes)
  • 1 big ball of twine (The Hardware Store at 4103 5th…but don’t go back here again…the cashier’s a dick)

tools required: handsaw, drill, scissors, screwdriver, screws

47 plant garden 4 floors up

47 plant garden 4 floors up - 5/26/2011

After a successful root through your neighborhood cans, take all that shit, wash it off a bit, and start cutting it all to shape. Now, you don’t have a patio or any ground space to speak of, so you are going to need to close your eyes real quick and image that that decrepit pile of metal wiring hanging off your office window is actually a little, open-air walk-out space. Keep in mind that fire marshals probably have some sort of loosely worded code which pukes on about blocking fire escape routes, so do your best not to block the prime walking/climbing real estate. Instead, focus your efforts between the support bars, on top of the railing, on the sills and behind the ladder. If your neighbors complain and threaten to report you, act like you don’t speak English, or, if they live below you, threaten them back with a promise to overflow your bathtub. If they live above you, try violence. If they live above you and are bigger than you, perhaps you could make a peace offering by sharing some of your crops with them (especially the Habaneros).

Okay, so after you cut all that trash to size, drill lots of holes in the bottom of everything because vegetable plants like  moist soil and you will need to water often. But, be care not to make the soil sopping wet cause that’ll rot all those little root hairs, and you’ll end up looking like a total asshole at the end of the summer with nothing to show for apart from pissed neighbors and swinging trash bottles of dirt (not cool). So your trash is full of holes now. Grab that ball of twine and start stringing everything up in its appropriate place making certain to position the dangling pots in a manner which preserves the nice little view of the Upper Bay and Manhattan (note: the view will disappear relatively soon as all that shit grows up tall.)

fire escape garden

fire escape garden - 5/26/2011

Right, so all that trash has been washed off, you cut it all to size, drilled drain holes, hung things perfectly, filled your pots with dirt, planted your seedlings, threatened your neighbors and performed the initial watering. Now what? Well, take inventory of what you’ve got and figure out if there is any way to cram any more shit in. You may want to stage a second round of planting for a month later so as not to crowd out what you’ve already got.

Living Statistics:

47 plants total

  • 6 Habanero
  • 4 Cayenne
  • 4 Banana Pepper
  • 4 Pepperoncini
  • 4 Thai Chili
  • 4 Jalapeno
  • 4 Tabasco
  • 4 Hot Cherry Pepper
  • 1 Vietnamese Corriander
  • 1 Greek Oregano
  • 1 Thyme
  • 1 Basil
  • 1 Rosemary
  • 1 Mint
  • 1 Lavender
  • 1 Turmeric
  • 4 Spider Plants
  • 1 Random Succulent
looking out the window –

looking out the window - 5/26/2011

Ok, you’re looking pretty good, but impatience can be a bitch and those damn vegetables take a while to appear. Fortunately, you planted a few cayenne pepper plants, which, for some reason, crap out fruit before the plant is even big enough to hold it up. Cram a piece of wood down in the soil then tie up that bastard to the stalk of the cayenne…that’ll keep it from sagging, plus it makes you look all professional gardener. Chicks dig a man who can grow food, at least my wife does.

The first fruit

The first fruit - 5/26/2011

Ok, you are off and running. Try to time your waterings to occur when that douchebag on the second floor is out on his fire escape blasting his crap music…everybody likes a spontaneous rainfall. Don’t forget to put the blue water in your plants every couple of weeks, and if those stupid little white bugs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphid) start munching on your leaves, mix up the following concoction and blast their ass:

Organic Aphid Annihilator:

  • 1 quart of water
  • several drops of liquid soap (don’t use that scented or antibacterial crap, you’ll piss the plants off)
  • 1 tablespoon of oil (not motor, like olive or canola…btw, what the hell is a canola anyway? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canola)
Let’s get together again in another month and take the pulse of this little garden. Deal?
Ok, check on the status of the garden in Extreme Fire Escape Gardening Part II
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In the meantime, check out my debut novel at www.danielshortell.com. And consider buying it. Not because it’s any good, but because it is a bargain at only $2.99 (yep, you can buy a year and a half of my labor for only three bucks…that’s either really cool or really sad)