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...

Of course I cannot resist rolling the dice and growing some heirloom tomatoes. But here I have tended to take a New Yorker’s survival-of-the-fittest route. In my greenhorn days of Ground Zero gardening I planted six different varieties of tomatoes, most of which produced only a few fruits each. The exception was a little number called “Mexico Midget,” which yielded several dozen grape-size tomatoes per plant. Over a season a handful of Midgets usually go unpicked. These end up in my row of compost bins (read: three garbage cans with holes) and then eventually the Midget seeds find their way back into the garden. By April they have sprouted and by May I select the best and put them in a place of honor on the highest, sunniest places.

What all this has meant for me is something somehow larger than the sum of calories produced. I am a writer, and like any writer, I have a storehouse of failed experiments thrice as large as my published oeuvre. I apply the writer’s trial-and-error philosophy to my garden—the dinner plate acting as the publishing house. I haven’t written here of my broccoli that failed to flower and yet provided a perfectly acceptable (if woody) stem-based stir-fry. I didn’t really mention my Burgundy grapes, which yielded a scant seven servings of Italian grape pudding one year and a single bottle of bad wine the next. Nor did I detail the slow decline of my blueberries, which my 3-year-old took great pleasure picking clean one year only to find the bushes flowerless and unyielding the next season. And the whole plan my father-in-law and I have for an aquaponic tilapia pond is a story in and of itself.

You try hard at a lot, you fail at most, you make good use of what made the cut. This to me seems the essence of growing.

Download The Edible Garden: The Edible Garden (pdf format)

Paul Greenberg is the author of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food and has been a
Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy Fellow.

Photo by Maryanne Rafter

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