This is cool, but …

The LA Times has a photo spread today on the burgeoning roof garden at Blue on Blue. This is a really cool idea and I do sometimes have fantasies of a restaurant or cafe with fresh garden food from right outside the back door (but before I let that fantasy take up too much head space I need to manage to get my cooking and growing well enough linked that we’re eating significant quantities of garden food from the back yard). Container gardening with earthboxes (or homemade equivalents) in an otherwise unused area (like a roof) makes great sense. The thing that disheartened me, though, was the caption on photo 4, which ends “To start, he planted seedlings that lend themselves to garnishes — mache, basil and mint.” They also talk about arugula. Though the story doesn’t specify that this was also grown from seedlings, I suspect it was. Ok people, mint from seedlings is fine (mint can also easily be started from cuttings so if you have healthy mint and just want another container of it that’s an option). But why, oh why, would you not grow basil, mache, and arugula from seed? They’re all easy to grow, and particularly in the case of basil there are so many more varieties available in seed form than in seedling form. Seriously, if you’re intrigued by the idea of fresh herbs, consider starting some of the easy ones from seed. Then you can be like me and own something like eight different varieties of basil seed. Collect them all!

3 thoughts on “This is cool, but …”

  1. i’m entertained by the fact that the only thing he can grow in enough quantity to really use is “garnish”

    is this really helping? i mean, doesn’t it cost this guy twice as much ‘carbon footprint’ and such to grow a novelty item on the roof?

    sigh…i’m often annoyed at the ego behind some of these ideas. kinda like the signs at certified organic farmers markets on the avocado’s that say “organic”…really, did i need a sign- isn’t that a rule of you even being able to sell here???

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  2. In part the reason he can’t grow more than “garnish” is that he started with a $550 budget and the earthboxes are pricey (not to mention that each seedling costs as much or more than an entire package of seeds would cost).

    I’m not sure about the carbon footprint question. Obviously anything grown in containers brings with it the question of the overall sustainability of whatever is being used for the container. On the other hand, if we assume that he would have used the same ingredients for garnishing anyway then it’s a question of what the source would have been if it wasn’t grown on the roof.

    In the grand scheme of things I think this is one of those trends that probably doesn’t actually hurt and may help in a philosophical sense if not an actual immediate sustainability sense. The idea that you can use otherwise dead spaces for food production in creative ways is important, I think. In the ideal world of course, your rooftop garden would be made with some sort of recycled container or one made from more renewable resources and irrigation would be done with grey water (or in a less arid climate, stored rain water). But for the time being I’m ok with foofy restaurants getting some press for growing a little arugula on the roof since I hope it might inspire apartment dwellers to grow some arugula, mint, basil, and what have you on their own patio/roof/window ledge.

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  3. Miriamdema–
    I run an organic co-op. The word organic is in the title. And yet the most common question is “Is this stuff organic?” Even AFTER they read the FAQ.

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