Hello all! First, an apology: I’m sorry I didn’t write anything sooner. Last weekend was my graduate school commencement, and my family came to visit me from NJ, making it a very hectic week. Then this past week was a freakishly chaotic week at work (usually my job is pretty chill, and I genuinely love doing it, but this last week was a nightmare!), but I’m feeling recovered now. (Read: I had a mimosa this morning.)
Anyway, I wanted to finally write about my garden and put up some pictures. This garden has, in an indirect way, been many years in the making. What I mean by that is that I’ve had many, many false starts with gardens over the years.
My Pop Pop, or maternal grandfather, was in some ways the light and life of my family. He was funny in a way that could be either silly or sarcastic, he was loud and bright and bold in the way that only a Richmond family member can be, and he was a prolific gardener. He passed away in 2009, but when I think back to him, my memories of him are inextricably linked with roses and tomatoes. As a child, I would follow him around his garden as he sang to himself and puttered with his tomatoes.
He tried to establish a garden for my sister and I in the backyard of our childhood home when we were teenagers, but I think we were too young, irresponsible, and flighty to take care of it. (And we had some very destructive dogs, too.) I remember a few instances where I told myself I was finally going to do this thing properly, start digging in the yard, and promptly abandon the project.
After Pop Pop passed, I knew I wanted to plant tomatoes to feel closer to him. When I finally lived in a place where I could plant some things (in pots only, but it was better than nothing), I finally planted tomatoes and some peppers. That was the summer of 2014, right before I found out that I was admitted to Boston University. Oh bother.
I ended up leaving the tomato plants behind for my out-laws (they’re not my in-laws because I’m not married yet–get it?) when we moved, and from what I heard, they did quite well. I never got a single tomato from those plants. -_-
I took the peppers with me to Boston and placed them on the ledge of my balcony. Fun fact about Boston: it’s very windy. Much, much windier than suburban South Jersey. The pepper plants all died, because apparently they don’t appreciate plummeting ten feet or so to the ground. Who knew?
In October, we moved to a different part of the city to a first floor apartment with a backyard full of weeds and rocky soil. When I asked the landlord if I could have a small garden, I expected him to say no because the yard is a shared space with the other tenants, but he told me it was fine. I had quite some time to plan, and I was determined to finally get it right this time. So I did what any obsessive academic type with a goal might do–I signed up for classes.
In the fall, I took the Master Urban Garden class offered by The Trustees. I learned so, so much in this class about companion planting, interplanting, crop rotation, pests and diseases, composting (including vermicomposting, something I’m determined to start doing), soil composition and amendments, and raised beds. This was pretty transformative for me. Since I’ve completed that course, I’m officially a MUGgle now. 😉
Later, I was accepted to the Urban Farming Institute’s Urban Agriculture course. This class offered similar material to the MUG class, but from a commercial, rather than recreational, standpoint. Between this class and reading Curtis Stone’s The Urban Farmer, I learned a lot about farming on a small amount of land, which ultimately isn’t very different from gardening.
I also read Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening (more than one edition of it, actually), and decided that that was the method that made the most sense for me in my garden. I also decided that I wanted to incorporate some of Curtis Stone’s tips for succession plantings to see how much I can manage to get out of this little 4×4 garden. (If it isn’t already clear, I’m toying with the idea of eventually starting a small urban/suburban farm, so this is sort of practice for that.)
So I finally built myself a raised bed on April 23rd. I purchased this kit at Home Depot (no, I’m not getting a commission from them–or anyone I link to or recommend, ever) and I got some weather proofing sealant to coat the wood in the hopes that that will make the bed survive longer. It was pretty easy to assemble, and on April 26 and 27 I planted the majority of my seeds. Fast forward to now, and here’s what I’ve got planted: arugula, beets, bunching onions, a lettuce mix, radish mix, bush beans, sugar snap peas, oregano, collard greens, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, a mix of Asian salad greens (in a separate pot, not in the raised bed itself), kohlrabi, and eggplant. It’s… kind of a lot, especially given that I work in organic produce and have virtually unlimited access to vegetables. Oops? I have no regrets.
Here are some shots to show you my progress thus far. The gallery below is from 5/18, after I transplanted some starts I got at the local farmers market.
Yes, the keen eye will notice that I have my square foot grid delineated by twine, which I’ve weighed down with bricks and cinder blocks. Does that look particularly nice? Nope! Does it do the job? Yep! I found the bricks and cinder blocks just sitting at the side of the house, so I figured I might as well put them to work. It’s like… eco-friendly, or something… okay, fine, I’m cheap. Whatever!
And here are some pictures I took today:
The peas are shooting right up, the radishes are getting some lovely greens (though no actual radishes yet), the onions and beets are starting to shoot up, the bush beans are really emerging, and the Sungold cherry tomato has two flowers! So far, so good!
It’s been a bit cool so far for the most part, although we did have a freak day in the 90s which totally wilted my Asian greens. I was forced to harvest them all and have a salad–woe is me!–but they seem to be coming back nicely now that the weather has let off a bit.
I’m glad that after all these years, I’m finally seeing that I can successfully grow things and actually stick with a garden. Just today I planted some more lettuce and radish seed, put in seed for a second cherry tomato plant in its own pot, and planted my first cucumber and zucchini plants. I also scattered some bee balm and calendula seed in the nasty-looking flower bed you can see behind my raised bed in the header photo above. The soil in that bed is garbage, full of rocks and weeds, but I did my best to aerate and weed it, so maybe some of the seeds will take. That’s really just to try to make the yard look a little nicer, and to attract bees and butterflies.
Sorry this was so long, and thanks for sticking with it, those of you who did. 🙂 I’m planning to write up a few more posts today to schedule for later publishing so that work can’t get in my way again this week. Until next time, thanks for reading!