Extreme Fire Escape Gardening – Part II

July 11, 2011

This Part II post is a continuation from the Part I post on Extreme Fire Escape Gardening. It’s been about 1 1/2 months since the bulk of the garden was planted and things are growing, well, a bit unevenly:

uneven growth

uneven growth

The cayenne plant pictured above has been a real asshole. He produced two small peppers then proceeded to halt growth and drop all of his leaves apart from one brownish-yellowish thing dangling from one side.  As a contrast, many of the other plants are doing well, as evidence, I present the Thai Chili above. To teach the cayenne pepper a lesson, I ripped it out:

Game Over, I Win

Game Over, I Win.


Since the last blog post on the fire escape garden, there have been some additions & expansions taking place. After a pretty successful dumpster-dive in a skanky nook of Bush Terminal, I scavenged a decorative metal wire thing which I clamped to the fire escape ladder. Inside it, I planted the newest addition: 2 tomato plants bringing the total garden to 50 plants (also includes 2 lychee trees currently being grown in tomato sauce cans from seeds):

tomato plants clamped to fire escape ladder

tomato plants clamped to fire escape ladder

Another modification made to the garden spawned from my father’s debilitative addiction to mitigating what he perceives to be safety threats. Convinced I would fall to my death from the fire escape, during his last visit, he spent an hour or so tying together a rather elaborate safety net out of rope, closing off the large hole leading to the level below. This netting was an excellent addition as it increased the footprint of the garden allowing me to replant some quickly growing plants in bigger containers. For the containers, I walked down to a construction site a couple blocks from my apartment and hit the jackpot: three 5 gallon paint buckets and some 2″x4″ scraps. Unfortunately, one bucket was clearly used as a toilet for the construction crew, so, there was a rather lengthy bucket cleaning process required, the details of which I shall withhold.  After shoving the 2″x4″ into the safety netting and cutting the 5-gallon buckets to size, the garden looked quite a big larger:

Fire escape garden

Fire escape garden

You’ll also notice there is now some sort of trellis thing sitting atop the two dresser drawer pots. It’s actually an IKEA chair I picked up on 40th Street and DORKTURPIDVAARTED to stabilize the growing plants. Working like a charm so far, and proving that IKEA furniture is not 100% useless crap.


Unfortunately, my neighbor below me hasn’t been spending much time on the fire escape, so I haven’t been able to douse him with water. Pity. Instead, he appears to be using his fire escape section for a couple new purposes:

  1. dirty dish staging area – for several weeks I’ve noticed the same half-eaten burritos and sandwiches rotting in the summer sun on these plates (a half-dozen of them complete with utensils).
  2. large stuffed animal storage area – the kind of human-sized stuffed bear that I recall seeing (in my childhood days) being carried around in large plastic bags at Six Flags by dudes with wife-beaters and thick gold chains.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the trash gets taken out and new neighbors are inserted below.


So, for the most part, things are taking off, peppers are coming in quickly and a few things have been harvested:
some of that sweet, sweet booty

some of that sweet, sweet booty

Ok, the harvest has been rather meager thus far, but many of the plants have a dozen or so buds on them and I’m expecting big numbers for the next post. Current harvest is at: 3 Banana Peppers, 1 Thai Chili, 6 Cayenne, 1 Jalapeno, 1 Cherry. Part of the problem I’m noticing is that the plants in the clear pots getting the most sun tend to be the bitchiest. I think this has to do with too much sunlight getting through to the roots. I’m planning to do a little re-potting this week if I can find the right kind of trash to fix the issue. I noticed a new dumpster at a build site over on 43rd, so I think I may go get vertical and see what I can find. The plants in the wooden and opaque plastic pots are doing the best…big dark-green leaves, lots of buds.


So the basil plant has been a pain in the ass here lately. I’ve planted basil numerous times in the past and it always grows like a freakin’ weed. This year I had to pretty much ravage the damn thing just to cook up one pot of pasta sauce. It droops, it has brown spots all over, it’s not growing and my pesto is moving further and further away. I’ve tried threatening the plant and even showed it the lifeless body of the recent cayenne fatality as proof of my ability to execute on my threats.

Just last week though, basil and I had a bit of a breakthrough. When I replanted it in one of the 5-gallon buckets, it’s health started to improve and new shoots popped out of the top. We are in the process of rekindling our relationship, but until I see substantial progress I’ll continue to use the carrot and stick approach.

Join me next week as I’ll be in southern Utah scoping out the polygamist communities attempting to test-drive FLDS as a potential religion to immerse myself in next:

HERE IS THE POLYGAMY POST: https://danielshortell.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/one-wife-two-wives-three-wives-four-five-wives-six-wives-seven-wives-really-more/


I wrote a book called Where’s Unimportant. It’s a literary fiction piece about one man’s failed attempt at the American Dream. For a mere $3 you can buy the ebook at your favorite ebook retailer. Or, for $11 you can buy the paperback on Amazon. Visit me at www.danielshortell.com.

Debut novel - Where's Unimportant

Debut novel - Where's Unimportant

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
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)