The sun means serious business when it comes up in the morning. After a long winter, Spring has arrived in Madrid and the weather has been calling me outside like the music from the ice cream truck used to do when I was a kid. As soon as I saw the sun shining yesterday morning, I jumped out of bed, had a quick breakfast and ran out the door. It was Saturday, which in this house means farmers’ market day, but yesterday was a special one indeed.
Everyone in the area felt like going out in the sun yesterday. The farmers’ market was glowing with fresh produce and so were the faces of everyone there. For the first time, I didn’t see anyone get upset about waiting in line if they had to, people were just glad to be there. Everyone was talking about the sunny weather and how they were coming down with a case of the winter blues when Ms. Sunshine came to the rescue. This Saturday was also very special because I had promised myself that if it was sunny, I would spend the day outside with some tunes fixing up the garden. By garden, I mean our very urban terrace which hasn’t stopped me from growing my food and eating it too! So after my excursion to the farmers’ market, I went to get some soil, and new seeds since two taco nights ago we obliterated all of our lettuce plants.
I can’t believe this blog is almost turning 1, and we had yet to have a gardening post! You know what they say… better late than never! Are you ready to get your hands dirty? Since today is our first post, I want you to meet our veggie “patch” and see how this space came about. Trust me when I tell you, wherever you live, if you have a pot, some soil, seeds, water and a little sunshine, you can grow some edibles… and there is nothing as magical as growing the food that will nourish you. In our next post, I’ll guide you step by step through the first day of gardening, which means getting your pots ready and planting the first seeds.
Don’t get me wrong, I am completely aware of how lucky I am to have an apartment with a terrace like the one you’re about to see, but the truth is you don’t need a lot of space. What you do need to do is make whatever place you have completely special and inviting. Let me also say, that we bought our one bedroom apartment just to be able to do this to the terrace. It’s what we called the extreme makeover terrace edition.
Here you can see hubby’s wheels turning, figuring out what we were going to do with the space, and of course, you can see the terrace as it was handed to us on that day.
Nala of course thought this place was awesome no matter what…
Supplies were being gathered here.
These were the first plants and little trees that came in. Nala decided to supervise the entire remodel.
After just a few days of only coming up for snacks, and several trips to our version of the home depot, my husband and I created this little sanctuary.
Which started coming together more and more each day.
This was just the beginning. As you can see only my baby pine trees are here (you should see them 4 years later!).
I started slowly with some herbs and flowers.
A few months into the process, what happened can only be described as a mental veggie breakdown in which I would beg my hubby to allow one more plant.. just one more!
These were the first baby basil sprouts.
My first lettuce plants.
Flowers also had to be a part of our urban veggie garden.
Our bell pepper plants.
And our peppers!
My first tomato plant of many.
And the first cherry tomatoes I ever grew.
There are two mind-blowing moments when you grow your own veggies. One, looking out the kitchen window into the terrace while you’re making your morning coffee and suddenly seeing a ton of red tomatoes that were not there the day before. Two, watching the soil show you its first crack, and waking up the next morning to nature at its finest…
Our pumpkin plant and pumpkin blossoms.
We quickly discovered butterflies are fans of radish plants.
And we also discovered the fact that Nala gave herself the job of “veggie garden watchdog”, which got frequently sidetracked due to her sunbathing schedule.
I haven’t told you that my magical little place is witness to the most incredible sunsets during the Summer. Truly unbelievable and such a joy to watch after an afternoon of gardening.
Soon came another addition to our terrace veggie patch, our removable “roof”, which was put here mostly for the comfort of us humans since the sun gets nutty, but it actually turned out to be incredibly helpful for the veggies. I’ll explain why below.
Someone stop the arugula stealing dog!
As you can see, compared to the first photos, the vegetable plants have now become the main event in our terrace. These are my first lilies below. My lilies have been close to magical. I planted the seeds about 3 years ago and every year they have bloomed, died, the stalks have fallen, and the new ones have reared their heads and bloomed again every Spring since then. If there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that nature is wise and knows what to do. You’re simply there as a faithful watchdog, blissfully enjoying the process.
Every year, these beauties come out on their own to spend a few weeks with us. One year they were bright orange!
Is anyone else obsessed with pansies since watching Alice in Wonderland?
These last few pics were taken today so that you can see the difference. Spring is just getting started so in a few weeks all of these potted plants will be exploding with color.
Did you see my baby pines? They’re practically teenagers now!
All that green, all those veggies, all those flowers, were grown in pots. I don’t have a single patch of real soil to grow anything in, and you don’t need to have it either! Through these posts I hope to inspire you to grow some beautiful vegetables of your own. You’ll be amazed at how easy the steps are.
We’ve had so many salads, pizza toppings, taco toppings, baked potato toppings, pasta toppings, that I can’t even begin to say how much bounty has come from these little potted plants. Here are some of our yummies, although many more were gobbled up before being photographed!
Cherry tomatoes, sage and basil.
Green onions, parsley and sage which were later used with some wild mushrooms for a super yummy pasta.
Our favorite thing to grow and use as fresh as it gets in the kitchen, lettuce!
We topped some vegan tacos with this one.
And made a salad with 4 different varieties in this one.
This year we’re growing so many great veggies and flowers and I can’t wait to see what we can harvest. Now that you’ve seen the process we’ve been through in creating this little sanctuary of ours, here are some tips for finding your own space and making it special:
– Locate a place in your house or apartment, preferably outside if you have a terrace or balcony. You can definitely grow some yummies indoors if the space has some direct sunlight during the day.
– Designate your gardening space so that you can make it special and have all your plants nearby to make watering easier.
– We will go over the materials you need to plant your first seeds in the next post of this series, but if you’re buying some potted plants to start already, you always need to keep them in pots with adequate drainage, this means open holes on the bottom (with plates to catch the extra water if you’re indoors), and rocks in the bottom of the pot to facilitate drainage (more on this in following posts).
– I find that areas with direct sunlight work best, but it’s great when your plants can get a little shade as well.
– If possible, don’t keep your plants next to a heat source. It actually works wonders when your seeds are being planted, but can wreak havoc when they’re older.
– If you’re keeping your potted plants outside, it’s very practical to have any kind of large plastic or cover, especially during the first few days of planting in case a storm or strong rain comes your way. If you have a roof, that will work too. This is why our removable “roof” came in so handy!
– Make your space special by including some flowered plants, and keep all your tools handy so you can tend to your plants even if you’re in a hurry. This means some gardening gloves, your basic small gardening hand shovel and your watering can or water hose.
– Make cute little signs (or use your seed packets) to identify your pots until you get to know what the plants look like. Once I made a little map on paper including the names and place I was planting all my veggies in, and then had to quickly move my plants before a storm one day, completely forgetting about where I was moving them from… guess what happened?!
– Choose a place for your plants that you love looking at and hanging out in, soon you’ll be spending a lot of time with your “little ones” and it will be like a fun meditation in motion, so make your place special as it will give you smiles and laughs for years to come. Some cute rocks perhaps? A small water fountain or mini zen garden?
In the next post we’ll be planting our first seeds! So exciting!
Yesterday, as I was planning out the veggies for this year, hubby made an amazing vegan barbecue. Nala asked for some veggie sausage, we listened to music and watched the sunset surrounded by all of these plants that I put in the earth as seedlings. Pretty special…