There has been so much press recently about growing your own vegetables that I wanted to introduce you to a couple of savvy neighborhood gardeners who are ahead of the curve on this national trend.
First meet CWEnder Anna Colangelo Cardot, above, who grew up in a large Italian family in Lynn, Massachusetts. Her parents emigrated from Italy and, in true Italian tradition, family time centered around meals that always included a soup, salad, and chicken or beef course. The five siblings were not allowed to eat out. If they succumbed to the temptation of fried clams at the town beach food shack, they would feign hunger when they got home, and eat all over again. Mrs. Colangelo's homemade gnocchi was not to be ignored. Anna's father planted a large garden that provided all the vegetables the family needed. It's the remembrance of eating luscious tomatoes right off the vine that lured Anna into growing vegetables in pots on the second-story roof deck outside her back door.
This rooftop gardener plans to lay pieces of lattice on the deck so the vegetables can stretch out as they continue to spill out of the pots. She hopes the extra layer will keep them from burning up on the roof deck as temperatures climb.
Gardening on the edge of the roof is not for the faint of heart (nor was photographing it). In this instance it involves a bit of dexterity as Anna must climb over a handrail to harvest herbs and vegetables.
I mentioned to Anna that it appeared that the remains of her breakfast were in the pot with the garlic, above. She said that she learned this trick from her father, who put almost all the kitchen scraps into his garden as compost. Anna adds her coffee grounds and eggshells, above and below, to nourish her rooftop garden.
Wildflowers grown from 29-cent seed packets thrive on the sunny deck, above.
To camouflage a metal can filled with concrete that was installed by the cable company to hold the Cardots' satellite dish, Anna painted it black, added some soil, and planted it with flowers. What was an eyesore has become an object of beauty.
I am always interested in learning how people wind up in the neighborhood. Here's the Cardots' story: John worked in the shoe business and was transferred to St. Louis when their daughter Nicole was 3. (John has four children from a previous marriage.) They bought a big house in Chesterfield and Anna started working for Where Magazine covering the CWE. She would go home and say, "you can't believe this place (the CWE)!" When Nicole decided to attend high school at St. Joseph's Academy, they sold their house and moved to an apartment on McPherson. Her daughter's friends loved to visit, and in Anna's words, "...thought Nicole was a 'rock star' to live here." Now their daughter lives on her own, and the couple has moved across the street to an apartment with an expansive deck and plenty of room to grow lots of vegetables.
If you want to try growing vegetables in pots yourself, Bowood Farms still has a large selection of plants to choose from, $3.50 to $4.50. The garden staff recommends using Dr. Earth's potting soil, $19.95 for 1 1/2 cubic feet, and adding Soil Moist, $4.50, to the pot before planting. I've taken a tip from Anna and started placing coffee grounds and egg shells around a tomato plant I'm hoping will produce a tasty tomato or two that we can enjoy before the squirrels do.
Thanks to Anna for sharing her love of gardening and cooking, which was another topic we covered during our recent visit. Until last October, Anna baked and sold cookies and biscotti to Straub's under the "Anna's Dolci" label. For my next gardening post, I'll introduce you to Judy Matthews, another fabulous gardener, whose large vegetable garden is planted in raised beds.