Saturday, June 9, 2012

Astoria Gardening

When I moved to Astoria from the Upper East Side, the biggest concern I had was how well I would be able to transplant my micro-gardening capabilities. Having a dedicated fire escape on the top floor of my previous apartment, I took for granted my small yet convenient space. Knowing that my new fire escape space was on a lower level in much higher visibility, I came to the realization that the practicality of having a garden out there was much riskier. After all, it was technically illegal (although if a couple planters actually kept somebody from maneuvering across a fire escape during an emergency, I would have to say that it was indeed their time to go).

So while sitting in the new landlord's office to sign my new lease, I casually asked him if I could put plants in the common outdoor space behind the apartments. "No" he responded. "Cats will dig up the dirt and clog the drains." At that point I realized I had just signed a lease of a building owned by a man who had no desire to entertain any activity that, despite what benefit it could bring, had the smallest ounce of potential to bring any minor theoretical aspect of risk, whatsoever. In other words, he sucked.

From there I figured I would ask if there were any community gardens in the area. "No," he answered abruptly. At that point I understood that he was also unsympathetic to urban gardening, meaning that he not only sucked as a person, but he was an evil human being (that is correct, unsympathetic to urban gardening = evil human being). Not wanting to be in the same room as such a terrible person, I ended the conversation and left his office. Having some time to kill, instead of taking the train home, I decided to walk down 31st Street to take in the new neighborhood. I soon walked by an old woman who appeared to be digging up some dirt behind some bushes in a small patch of exposed earth surrounded by an otherwise impermeanble hardscape. I figured maybe she would know if there were any gardens around, since she seemed to be the type. But when I approached the old woman and politely asked, "Excuse me mam..." she jumped up, startled. I continued, "I just moved to the neighborhood, and was wondering if you knew of any community gardens around." She continued to look at me, confused, and responded hesitantly in a thick accent, "I don know, I jus bury my dead bird." Fair enough. I went on my way, feeling very welcomed to Queens.

I eventually did find that community garden, but it is a rogue garden on private abandoned land, so I cannot describe it in fear of endangering its existence. But I never gave up the idea of gardening at home, no matter how restricted my space was. The less space I had the bigger the challenge. For a variety of reasons, I had to confine all of my window accessories to a single kitchen window, which included a small air conditioner. However, a hanging planter and one inside/outside self draining shelf later, this was the end result:

Booya! No I have fresh basil, rosemary, mint, and some other random decoratives within easy reach of my kitchen. Take that, loser landlord!

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