After almost ten years of service and over 100,000 miles of travel, my car died Sunday, November 1, 2015, in San Francisco on the way back from a Halloween camping trip. I was distraught for a few days, then thanked the trusty Toyota for getting me home one last time despite no oil and a broken engine rod. Although I contemplated buying another vehicle, I no longer had regular use for a car as I biked to work and rarely left San Francisco. What to do, then, with the parking space in the back of my apartment building?
Grow! This spring, I turned my rented 10’ x 20’ plot of asphalt into a vegetable garden. With Tom’s help over a hungover weekend trip to Flower Craft, I bought flowerpots, dirt, and vegetable starts. This parking-space garden is not to be pretty but productive. I brought home 7 bags of dirt along with lettuces, kale, three tomato plants, two chilies, and lots of herbs.
I put the larger plants, like the tomatoes, in individual pots. The lettuce got installed together in one mesh cylindrical bed. Into two more cylindrical beds, I planted seeds: radishes, carrots, chives, and green onion. I wanted my first attempt at gardening to be modular and disposable in case of drought or locusts.
Every day after work, I uncoil the garden hose and water my little plot of pavement. I watch the tomatoes grow and survey my flock for pests. Only one seed, a radish, sprouted. When the fecund tomatoes threatened to tip over, I nestled them over wire frames.
Produce grows quickly. In less than a month since planting, I now harvest lettuce leaves and herb cuttings for the best salad ever. The tomatoes have sprouted green peas. Both the thyme and the chilies flowered. Aphids attack the dino kale, poking holes in strong dark-green leaves. I return this morning to the garden shop to buy more vegetable starts, enriching the barren soil.
A vegetable garden is such a strange project for me. Despite my dense urban surroundings, I’m nesting and returning to the rural land. My grandparents picked up farming after retirement. I try now to put down roots, eat well, save some money, and appreciate simple nature.
I plan two driveway garden parties, the first an evening affair with light-up art for my brother’s mid-June visit, the second an afternoon lunch in September to harvest what I have sown. When winter comes, I’ll dismantle the annuals, pack up some of the soil, and read seed catalogs. If I retain enthusiasm, next year, I’d like to grow bigger, perhaps corn, even a terrace of rice.