ROOFTOP GARDENING PART 2: POTATOES, MINT, PEPPERS AND GINGER
(photo) Life Spire Garden – East Harlem, NY
The summer is in full swing, and I have managed to learn a lot more about raising vegetables. Basically, I have learned that they love the sun, and that my plots in a wooded area are not going to suffice.
Sadly, I have been unable to find rooftop space, although there are over 100 square miles of this in the city. Most of which is locked away while people suffer a lock-down.
Locked out from the fertile rooftop areas, I had to content myself with those plants that can thrive with partial sun or low light. First, potatoes did well. A plot of 40 of these tuberous wonders delighted my heart as they reached two feet in height. Their roots reached out to mine, which happen to be part Irish.
But my Celtic joy was cut short by some creature, possibly a squirrel, that gnawed off the top leaves. An attempt to replace them with more of the same failed when I could not, for some reason, get a bag of spuds to sprout. I looked for eyes and saw none. Then I searched the internet for an answer and found that some sellers spray the produce with chemicals that keep them from sprouting.
Thwarted twice my despair was partially relieved by finding a sweet potato that had sprouted in my kitchen. I planted it and it grew well, lovely leaves leaning all over like a vine. They too were gnawed away by an evil pest.
What did work for me was bell peppers, mint and ginger.
The peppers did not sprout till about May, when temperatures of 70 degrees or more caused them all to spring in the windowsill. I placed them in the wooded area, where they grew steadily, resisting the bites of the flea beetles that attacked the tomato leaves – but without steady sun, they stayed only a few inches tall.
Mint, which I grew from cuttings, took well, and while most plants failed for lack of sun, mint did not like too much at this stage. Like most herbs in the labiateae family, which includes sage, rosemary and thyme, it can take full sun but not when it is young.
The best move I made was to buy some ginger and totally forget about it for over a month. A bag of it was left in the dark, where it all sprouted. I cut it up and placed in coffee cups with rocks at the bottom for drainage, having cut holes in the bottom of each. My soil was a mix of potting with sand and lots of coffee grounds for nutrients.
This was not just a stroke of luck in that I had ready sprouts, but I found something that can grow in limited sun. At present they are outside, but when the temperatures dip below 50 degrees they must come indoors in New York. They are tropical forest plants that grow in hot climates.
Taking them indoors is therefore a necessity. The foliage and flowers, being decorative, make them ideal indoor plants, as they can add to the atmosphere of a room while adding to the kitchen herbs. Ginger is considered to be high in nutrients and to have medicinal value. It is also a perennial, so once planted, it can last for years, during which one can take a rhizome away to eat and it will grow back. Some cultures also eat the flowers.