How Does a Valley Village Garden Tour Winner's Garden Grow?

An upcoming event hosted by a Valley Village Garden Tour winner could be a good opportunity for this green thumb wannabe to get advice from the pros.

My neighbor and I started our own community garden along the side of our apartment. It's a modest little concrete walkway with plastic-lined wooden wine boxes atop plastic shelving.  She'd noticed my husband and I planted sweet basil after we moved in, and soon afterwards she planted lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes and peppers for us all to share.

If my thumbs had to be any color, however, they might be a fading shade of green. My thumb tips might be a bright grassy green — a sign of a hopeful gardener — but at the knuckle it would start disappearing into a light avocado, and by the metatarsal my skin would be completely normal. Our neighbor often has to remind me when it's time to pick the lettuce's leaves, and she also alerted me to the curious tiny white spots on our basil's leaves.

I wish I could boast an emerald green thumb. I've had two unsuccessful attempts with an as-seen-on-TV upside-down tomato planter until I realized (per the directions) that the red fruits required a lot of sun – an integral part of the growth process that my previous apartment with its shady, south-facing balcony could not provide. 

I'm lucky my method of showering the plants with water happens to be working on the basil because more leaves have appeared, but they never seem to blossom into robust versions of themselves. I know I'm doing something wrong, but my not-so-green digits just can't figure it out. I imagine a zombie apocalypse scenario in which I'm kicked out of every survivalist community because of my lack of gardening skills. In the scene in which I'm asked to give a final goodbye before my send-off into the cruel undead world, I'd beg for forgiveness and blame it on apartment life and the lack of my own little patch of ground upon which to grow a sizeable veggie garden.

At last week's , resident Joel Schecter invited the community to visit his award-winning home garden.  The two-time Valley Village Garden Tour winner said he wanted to give fellow green hands a chance to get together, "enjoy gardening (and) compare notes."

It's possible the mid-May event may be focused more on landscaping than vegetable-growing, Schecter's invitation could still be a learning experience for us partial green-thumbers.  I can already hear the seasoned gardeners' chuckles of amusement and disbelief when I ask, "how much water is too much?", or "are these bugs allowed to hang out on my lettuce?". 

I know there must be others like me: apartment dwellers who long for a small plot that provides just enough soil and access to sun to grow our own food. I'd often envied Encino Community Garden's green space whenever I exited the 405 freeway at Hayvenhurst Avenue. Up until recently, I was unaware  hosted its own independent community garden until I stumbled upon the Los Angeles Community Garden Council's website. Like many local gardens, there's likely a waiting list at the NoHo location.

Tomorrow morning, I'll likely over-water my twig-like basil plant in its sad box of soil. I tend to cook Italian-inspired dishes, but I've had to cut back on fresh herb ingredients due to lack of supply. I'll pick off the biggest leaves of our lettuce, just as my neighbor instructed, and save them for a small salad. I'm hoping I can attend Schecter's open garden event – it's from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 20 at his residence – and pick up a few pointers for the sake of my poor plants.


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