As Joni Mitchell put it, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” That’s why it took a lack of outdoor space to get me interested in vegetable gardening.
When I lived in Boston, I took my back yard for granted, crowding it with grills and smokers and patio furniture, letting my dog use it for his business, and always telling myself, and my downstairs neighbors, that I’d surely plant something there someday. I never managed more than a few pitiful shade plants, but on my front balcony I did cultivate containers full of basil, mint, parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano and rosemary. As a single cook, I relished the ability, for a few short months, to avoid buying those clam-shell packs of herbs in supermarkets.
Then I moved to the District five years ago, and my list of five must-haves in a condo — proximity to work, affordability, dog-friendliness, gas cooking and outdoor space — was reduced to four. Now what would I do? I sold the gear, took my dog to a nearby dog park. Suddenly, I couldn’t stop thinking about the garden I’d never have. In my new apartment, there is not even a big enough windowsill, let alone enough sun, for potted herbs.