Associated Press – You Grow Girl

From: Associated Press (ASAP)

You Grow Girl
December 7, 2005
“Gayla Trail became hooked during her second year of college, when she and several housemates took their “crappy little backyard” and turned it into a vegetable garden that quickly became her responsibility.

She really didn’t know much about planting and caring for vegetables, but with a little luck — and some really good weather — Trail was rewarded with a bounty that made being a broke student a little easier.

Moving into a small apartment with a tiny terrace didn’t stop her burgeoning obsession, it just spun it in a different direction. She abandoned the traditional garden and got creative, cultivating her own “punk rock” style of urban gardening that suited her sensibilities as a young artist.

That led first to a Web site ( ) then a book, “You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening” — and contrasted with the stuffy how-to books geared toward the affluent suburbanite. You won’t find a section titled “guerrilla gardening” in the “New Complete Guide to Gardening.”

Trail came up with an approach that is as refreshing and quirky as are her reasons for an all-consuming interest in plants.

“Plants are bizarre. Plants are really strange; they fascinate me. They’re like aliens,” she said. “I like the experimentation of it. I like the fact that it’s always changing.”

Urban gardening is all about finding the space to plant, adapting the garden to your artificial constraints. It could be on a rooftop, a windowsill or fire escape. Take it one step further and you’re a guerrilla gardener.

With guerrilla gardening I think of graffiti with plants,” Trail said. “It is about transforming space that is wasted space, spaces where nothing is growing in the city — dead lots or alleyways.”

As a beginner you might not be ready to go out and tag the town with pansies, but clearing space for a few containers on a fire escape or a ledge is good way to get your hands dirty.

While every garden is different, there is one universal in urban gardening: you have to know your environment. How hot is your fire escape, how much sun does the window box get? Having a coveted view facing south might have cost you a few extra hundred dollars a month, but it also could be a killer depending on how hot the area gets.

A good plant to start with is spinach. It’s a late-season plant that grows quickly in containers and isn’t very temperamental.

Trail gave a demonstration recently in New York as part of Turning Leaf Vineyard’s urban gardening series that will travel to several major U.S. cities in 2006. Watch the accompanying video for the quick how-to guide to planting spinach.

asap reporter Howie Rumberg planted a lawn this year in the patch of dirt behind his apartment. “- Howie Rumberg

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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