How to Grow Herbs and Veggies on your Fire Escape
July 11, 2014
Got a green thumb, but no space to build a garden?
If you live in an urban setting, this just might be the case. With little to no yard space to build a garden plot, you may think your dreams of growing your own fresh herbs and veggies are lost. However, you may have some unconsidered real estate perfect for a garden: your fire escape.
You can easily grow your own vegetables and herbs on your fire escape. However, you’ll want to research the fire codes and laws in your city to make sure it’s legal to make a fire escape garden before you start. But even if your fire escape is off limits (or you don’t have a fire escape at all), these tips apply to window box gardens as well, so read on!
Here are 6 easy steps to creating your own fire escape, container, or window box garden.
1. Assess your sunlight and select plants accordingly. Most veggies need at least six hours in the sun to grow well, although many herbs can make do with less. As the position of the sun changes over the summer, you may need to move some of the plants around to make sure they are catching the sun.
2. Select your plants. Pick veggies and herbs that you actually know you’ll eat. But keep in mind that some plants, like peppers and tomatoes, start small but end up really big. If you don’t have a way to stake them up or contain them a bit, consider planting something else. Herbs are great plants for beginners, as are lettuces. You may wish to buy them already started from a nursery to increase your harvest time. Also, it can be tempting to get a little too much stuff at the nursery where everything looks so perfect and lovely. Keep your space in mind, and know that each plant will need adequate space within a container to grow well. Over-crowded plants don’t grow as well.
3. Get your gear. Pick a container that will drain well and be big enough for the plants you want to grow. Regular pots will work, or empty two liter bottles. I also love this idea of growing things in a repurposed shoe organizer:
You will also want to get enough potting soil for your containers. Make sure you get potting soil, not garden soil. Potting soil is specially blended to help retain the correct amount of moisture needed for plant growth in a container. If you use garden soil in a potted plant, the soil may retain more moisture than the plant needs. You’ll also want a trowel, a water can (though a pitcher will do), and fertilizer (organic or non-organic, according to your preference).
4. Plant once it’s warm enough in your region. Wait until after the last frost to begin your outdoor container garden. A good source to check is the farmer’s almanac, or the local cooperative extension office. And even though we are at the beginning of the summer, it’s not too late to start planting most veggies and herbs. In fact, some plants do well later in the summer, like kale and chard, which continue to grow even when cool weather returns.
5. Water your plants consistently. Potted plants tend to dry out more rapidly, especially on hot fire escapes. Each day, check if your plants need to be watered by putting your finger about an inch into the soil. If it’s not damp, it’s time to water. You also don’t want to overdo it. Water until soil is damp all the way through, but not soaked.
6. Add fertilizer every few weeks to keep your soil healthy. Watering the plants can flush most of the nutrients out of the soil, especially in small containers. Fertilizing will ensure a better crop.
So go beautify your fire escape with some edible greens and enjoy!
To learn more about fire escape and container gardening, check out these articles:
What are your tips for starting a container or fire escape garden?