How One Man's Foodscape on His Rooftop Garden Managed to Feed His Family

By Paul Greenberg, "A Growing Revolution," May/June 2012

Get ideas and plans for small garden spaces to grow your own food.

"I am sitting on my deck in Brown County, Indiana where we own a cabin called Big Pine Lodge. I am discouraged by owning 50 acres of tillable challenged soil. Your beautifully written article gave me hope. I love the way you write about...

Along the eastern edge of the sunny spot, I positioned a row of potted pine and cedar trees, establishing a windbreak in the manner of the anti-Dust Bowl measures of the 1930s. And soon my very own microclimate emerged. In the calm air behind the trees butterflies drifted in. By the second season of gardening when my blueberry bushes began to bloom I heard a familiar buzzing. Bumblebees had somehow stumbled in and were going about the important work of pollinating my plants.

Perhaps the most important factor in an urban ecosystem, I realized, is the plants themselves. When people think of starting a home vegetable garden, they fixate on the “money” crops—the heirloom tomatoes, the honking mega-squash. But when your sun is limited and you have pots instead of fields, you need to focus on crops that make the most of the resources at hand—ones that are edible from stem to leaf. And so, in early March when the sun first emerges, I plant not peas but arugula. Two weeks later, lettuces and spinach go in instead of, say, carrots. Two more weeks, chard, not beans. Week after week this continues until the entire spring garden is planted. And by May when these tender spring greens are harvestable, I replace each picked pot with a seeding of heat-tolerant greens—collards, kale and a climbing vine called “Malabar spinach”—all of these can withstand the 100-degree hothouse of a New York City summer.

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