Looking back at pictures from last year’s garden, it brought me visual warmth. There’s something very special, simple, and earthy about tending to a garden. And amidst a pandemic the garden is, quite literally, grounding. In 2020 I read Earth and Spirit: Healing Lore and More from Puerto Rico to gain a better understanding about plants as it relates to my boricua culture. I learned about plants native to Puerto Rico and how those plants have provided food for mi gente. The book talks a lot about food as medicine, and how the land has natural remedies that people have used for generations. I like to think that I’m continuing that tradition through this garden and by planting herbs native to Puerto Rico.

This winter I reflected on my favorite vegetables that thrived in 2020, on my Brooklyn rooftop, in makeshift smiley buckets (RIP).

  • Last year I grew Black Krim and Amish Paste tomatoes, both grew well however the Black Krim eventually died off and the Amish Paste kept producing. I learned that the Amish Paste is a determinate tomato while the Black Krim is an indeterminate, so it reached a certain height and stopped producing. The Amish Paste also had a better flavor, especially for cooking pasta sauce. I would say it’s a “meaty” tomato.
  • I learned the importance of fertilizing your plants and having the correct healthy soil. Just like us, plants need food and nutrition to thrive. For example if you’re growing in a container, container soil is appropriate. Always research what’s best for your plants.
  • It’s also very important to have grow beds, trellises, and cages fully set up at the beginning of the season. Last year I didn’t set up cages for the tomatoes at first, so I ended up buying cages that builds around the tomato. More support = more growth and vegetation.

In 2021 I moved from Bushwick to a sweet little studio apartment in Bedstuy. Having a studio in New York is truly a dream come true, but it also came with a kind landlord who let me set up a garden in the yard. The garden property is about the size of a Brooklyn brownstone, so it’s much larger than I could have dreamed of. Although the size is great, it was also overrun with weeds and debris, so the garden needed a lot of love. I also found a family of kittens in the yard, that we’ve been feeding. There is the mom that we named Minnie, and four kittens that are very rambunctious, but timid. I’m allergic to cats, but it’s nice having some “pets” in the yard to play with and feed. Minnie was shy and protective at first, but now she’s fully trusting and runs toward me when I go into the yard.

For the garden I planted seeds on April 3rd and May 4th, but also bought starter plants from Natty Garden. Since Amish Paste was my favorite tomato, I was sure to plant a few seeds this year. In the garden there’s a variety of plants including tomatoes, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, lavender, basil, mint, rosemary, egg plant, cucumber, mesclun, spinach, edible flowers, and kale. With 42 fabric pots and 3 DIY garden beds, I purchased 40 bags of dirt from Natty Garden. They were priced at $5 per bag, and the delivery was only $10 to residents in Bedstuy. Plus Natty Garden is black-owned, so it’s great to support a brown business. Other expenses for the garden include the cloth buckets which were 12 for $20 from the evil Amazon corporation. I also purchased fertilizer for $62, the weed killer for $20, and the pump for $10.

Cheers and happy gardening.

︎Mercedes Padró

The garden to-be in my new apartment.