It's no surprise that everywhere I look in New York City, gardens are flourishing on fire escapes. The only mystery is why it took us city dwellers so long to figure out we too have a right to tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes.
Early June is the time to prepare for an August crop. The only requirements for urban gardeners are a sunny spot big enough for a pot—and a little ingenuity. Here's some help, from Fire Escape Farms, a Bay Area-based urban gardening store that offers delivery by bio-diesel wagon for all San Francisco orders. With tomatoes this attainable, what will we demand next, corn? (A girl can dream.)
Above: In addition to having a reputation for blemish-free fruit, the Black Prince Tomato produces a relatively small tomato—it's about two and a half inches in diameter—that makes a good choice for small-space urban gardening. Black Prince Seeds are $4 per packet from Fire Escape Farms. Image via White Flower Farm.
Above: Most tomatoes require a soil depth of at least 12 inches to allow their roots to spread; the Handmade Redwood Tomato Planter is 16.5 inches deep and constructed of sustainably harvested, weather-resistant redwood. It's $50 from Fire Escape Farms.
Above: A 20-quart bag of all-purpose Potting Soil contains mycorrhizal fungi to help build a healthy root system; it's $6 from Fire Escape Farms.
Above: Set up a tomato cage while the plant is still small, to avoid having to deal with unwieldy, sprawling limbs. A 54-inch Galvanized Steel Wire Round Tomato Cage will provide support for ripening fruit; it's $4.78 at Lowe's.
Above: Cherry tomatoes on a fire escape; image by Mike Lieberman, via Flickr. For an ultra-small fire escape, the tiniest tomato plant is Micro Tom, growing to a height of 8 inches; seeds are $3.40 per package from Reimer Seeds.
Above: A hose you can stretch from the kitchen sink to the fire escape: The lightweight, indoor-outdoor 40-Foot Mini Coil Hose & Wand comes with an aerator adaptor to fit a male or female sink thread; it's $36.95 from Water Right.
Above: For a miniature tomato like Micro Tom, you can get by with a smaller pot. The EcoForm Planter comes in three sizes and four colors; the large size, with a diameter of eleven inches and a depth of eleven and a quarter inches, is $18 from Fire Escape Farms.