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Our Fire Escape Garden

First Harvest in Seattle


Our first harvest! Hilarious, isn’t it? This sage went into Matt’s Polenta with Tuscan Vegetables the other night (yes, recipe is coming, Eco ‘Burban Mom!).


Ok, so don’t forget that this is just a fraction of our growing. My mom and I have planted a decent sized – but still urban-sized – garden at her place about 3 miles from here. We’ve heaved and hoed and dug and planted a heck of a lot of containers, pots, and some in situ stuff too. But that’s for another post.




Fire Escape Garden 6-25-08

Our fire escape garden on 6-25-08

Fire Escape Garden

Our fire escape garden on 7-14-08


Thyme, Rosemary, & Sage

Thyme, Rosemary, & Sage


Parsley & Mint

Parsley & Mint


Basil & Catnip

Basil & Catnip


We have bread seed poppies, bell peppers (from seedlings carried up from Geyserville), scarlet runner beans (saved from last year’s beans), oregano (carried with us from LA, grown by Matt from seed), mint (cutting from mom), black cherry tomatoes (carried from Geyserville), red leaf and genovese basil, and mixed greens with beet greens. Window boxes include basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, nasturtiums, catnip, and more greens. And a red geranium, because I’ve always wanted a window box with red geraniums.


It’s not an amazing amount of veggies, when you compare it to our old 2,000 ft2 garden (the fire escape is around 12-15 ft2). And I honestly don’t know if we’ll get a whole lot of beans, peppers, or tomatoes, because I planted late and we have a north-facing fire escape (not a whole lot of direct sun). But it’s something, and it makes me happy. I’m looking forward to our fresh greens – there is nothing like your own greens. If you haven’t grown them yet, do! The depth of flavor is completely different than store-bought lettuce.


Most of the herbs are perennial, so we’ll have them for a long time. Considering how much cut herbs cost these days, that’s a big money-saver! I truly believe growing our own food is an important part of a sustainable lifestyle, for many reasons. So if you aren’t growing food yet, I encourage you to try growing something. There are many things you can still grow from seed (in the Northern Hemisphere). If you are unsure about what to grow, feel free to ask me and I’ll offer up any advice I can.


So there you have the tour (finally)! Soon I’ll post about our bigger garden. I hear things have grown enormously since I saw it just a few days ago….


Here is the street view of our urban garden. One more window basket will be going into our remaining window this week, soon to be full of extra greens….


Street View of the Garden


Are You Growing Your Own Food?

What are you growing & harvesting? Anyone have a smaller garden, or have experience with balcony gardens? I could always use some advice!!

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18 comments to Our Fire Escape Garden

  • How great, Melinda, that you are still able to have a garden. There is nothing like fresh herbs and, hopefully some tomatoes or beans, grown at home.

    My garden is doing so-so. The potatoes went gangbusters and the pumpkins are crawling into the street. The beans, well, only 3 scarlet runner beans even came up. The tomatoes – some are doing well, some not growing at all and some spindly and yukky. I look at this as an experiment. I can still buy food at the farmers market this year. Things are desparate yet so I have time to learn what grows well here (Swiss Chard!) and what doesn’t and where to locate things.

    Thanks for continuing the Growing Challenge. It motivated me to plant a whole mess of stuff from seed this year.

  • All we have right now is mint (which I use every day in my tea). But I am also growing oregano, basil, parsley, and sage as seedlings in my window sill. Hopefully by next year we’ll have tons more!

  • Hi Melinda, de-lurking here….it’s amazing what you can gro in a small space. Also, re feeds….my bloglines feed updated to the new blog name, but feed directed to old blog, not here. Thought you’d like to know! warm wishes, Diana

  • I love that you don’t feel unfulfilled by your fire escape garden – and that you have a large garden to serve your gardening addiction not too far away! Great idea to plant the herbs at your house, where you will use them at a moment’s notice. And they look VERY healthy!

    Right now we’re harvesting tomatoes, but I’m really quite displeased with their production this year. The peppers are kicking into gear, as are the potatoes. We’ve slowly been harvesting onions.

  • I don’t have much more room on our deck but every sprig of rosemary, thyme or sage I bring in for a meal is a celebration. And I have a bunch of pepper plants that I’m beginning to harvest. I do not however have red geraniums and look forward to a picture of yours!

    The smallest garden I ever had is the one I remember the most fondly and years later I still walk by that house and can picture it.

  • Lovely, Melinda…I can’t wait to see it for real in October!

  • Oh, its lovely! There is nothing better than this kind of fresh start to make you feel like you are home, is there?

  • I started a whole bunch of perennials over the winter to transplant, I moved them all to my window in my office at work. Since transplanting this spring I have a lone basil to keep me company, I need to start some others too, it definitely improves the view.

  • We planted some carrots, beans and tomatoes in containers. The carrots are fairing quite well, the beans are pretty scraggly and the tomatoes are getting spindly already and they just don’t seem to be getting ripe. Though, just the fun of planting, watering and watching them grow with the eco ‘burban boy was well worth it. We do have an herb pot with sage, rosemary and thyme that goes well in potatoes.

    I love the view of the outside of your building. What a great way to add a little green to the view outside your windows and have something fresh to cook with! Great idea!

  • It looks great! I have been trying to convince everyone I know to grow fresh herbs for cooking because when I run out of my own (rare when that happens now) it is very costly to buy them and they are never better than what I have growing in my own yard. You illustrate the wonderful thing about herbs too- that even if you don’t have a yard you can grow them. It’s such a great place for everyone to start.

    No laughing over here.

  • I once read a study that was done at some college somewhere- that if everyone would do the equivient of growing basically what you have growing on your fire escape that global warming would decrease by a couple of degrees, and food prices would level out, do the fact that we would not be shipping food all over. Don’t know if any of that rings true but its a nice thought

  • First of all, ROB that is the best thing I’ve heard all day. So, if everyone joined the Growing Challenge, we could save the world. I like that. : ) Thanks for sharing!

    GB, the tomatoes have flowers already, so I’m excited at the prospect of literally leaning out the window and picking tomatoes! I may have to go out with a paintbrush, though, to hand pollinate. Not a lot of bees on the third floor. ; )

    I’m sorry your garden hasn’t been as prolific as you’d hoped. But I’ll bet you’ve learned a whole lot, and next year will be even better. I love, love, love the image of pumpkins crawling in the street.

    HEATHER, Awesome! So I’m not alone with my teeny garden… good to hear!

    DIANA, thank you for pointing that out. Despite many agonizing blocks of time I can not fix it. If anyone knows of a way to fix it, please oh please let me know!! I’m glad you’ve de-lurked. It’s a good feeling to “meet” all you out there who don’t comment.

    KATIE, Addiction. Yes. Many people would be satisfied with the big garden. But I can’t be satisfied. I must grow things at home. I must have plants around me. (LOL, you should see my houseplants!) And thank you for saying that they look healthy! Bummer about your tomatoes. If I remember right, you tried some new varieties this year – could that be it? Mmmm potatoes, peppers…

    KATRINA, sounds very nice! The geranium is going through a period of adjustment as it settles into its new windowbox. I’ll post a pic when it’s ready. ; ) That’s a really sweet memory. I believe I’ll feel that way about this little garden someday!

    KATE, I can’t wait to see you!

    PURLOINED, so true!

    KORY, I just love that you bring your plants to the office. That is so cool! I’ll bet it makes a big difference in your daily outlook.

    EBM, It is totally fun, isn’t it? I am so awestruck at kids’ reactions to growing things – they truly love it. So cool. I wonder if your tomatoes may need some manure or other fertilizer, since they’re in containers? Just a thought.

    ANGELINA, Thank you. My mom started with herbs, and now she talks about our vegetable garden non-stop. They smell so lovely!

  • Im pretty space challenged, so this spring I am trialling hanging baskets (1/2 baskets for walls) and am planning on putting in them herbs, small cucumber varieties, grape tomatoes, gooseberry, strawberry spinach, and I have a mini rockmelon (minnesota midget) that has a melon that grows to 10cm diameter. Cantaloupe I think it is called in America.
    there are pictures and stuff up at my blog.

  • [...] Bean, Kate, Melanie, Sarah, Nathalie, Suzan, and Angelina on my own recent garden updates here and here and on The Growing Challenge [...]

  • Soozie Eastman

    Hello Melinda!

    My name is Soozie Eastman and I am currently shooting a documentary on making the earth a more sustainable place by educating people on how eating locally and gorwing your own veggies (if you can) will help a person develop a stronger relationship with themselves, with their community and with the earth. I don’t know where you are based but I am coming to the east and west coasts and would love to capture some fire escape gardens to show people what they can even when they don’t have a balcony! Your beautiful garden is such a wonderful example. If you would like more info or anyone reading this would like to show off their green thumb, please email me at

    Thanks so much!!

  • [...] picked this pepper from our fire escape garden just before the snows hit. I left it to ripen on the vine, just to see what would happen. It turned [...]

  • [...] a large garden, a concrete patio, or just a windowsill inside.  You can grow food.  Heck, we’re growing food on our fire escape!  If you have just a patio, you can do amazing things with containers.  Click here for more [...]

  • I’ve been using the topsy turveys on my fire escape, I only have tomatoes growing right now which would other wise be unheard of in an apartment. It’s producing a lot of tomatoes, I’m going to do green peppers and cucumbers next.

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