Sunday, July 01, 2007

A smaller garden = just as much fun

I used to have a 40 foot by 20 foot garden plot at my old house. There was never a time that I lacked for room, could grow almost anything I wanted. But the lot at our newer home is configured in such a way that it would be difficult to have a garden that size. I elected instead to have a smaller kitchen garden in an area that is not only convenient to the kitchen, but using a narrow strip of land only 20 feet long by 6 feet wide. The soil is almost all clay, too, like rock as soon as it dries; I had to think of a way to amend the soil at reasonable cost and reduce the need for rototilling since the plot is so small and next to the house.

So raised beds it was, three of them measuring 4 foot wide by 6 foot deep. It made the overall amount of planted area smaller, but far easier to maintain. the only real work was putting in the beds, which going forward can be tilled by hand. I wish I'd done a better job of photographing the progress; you are missing what a weed patch this was, or the hassle of rototilling in a small space using a Troybilt, or the fun of getting a half yard of top soil and trying to get it in the beds before a torrential downpour, or the muddy, sloppy mess afterwards.

And then the hassle of running back and forth to multiple greenhouses...I have vowed never to go to one of them ever again, as the flowers for which I spent $30 promptly died the next day. (No return policy, either.) Around here it was already late by a couple of weeks for getting plants, so choice was slim at some of the greenhouses. Hungarian peppers, for example, typically found at all the greenhouses that sell vegetables, were only found at the last greenhouse I visited (it figures). I did have to restrain myself on tomatoes, though; I would have liked one more pack of another heirloom variety.

Two weeks after putting in the beds, there are pole beans sprouted along with radishes. It's hot and dry, which the tomatoes and peppers enjoy as long as they are watered heavily.

Weeding is relatively easy with these raised beds; I only need to spend about 15 minutes picking out the tiny crabgrass and ragweed sprouts after watering each day. But it is still hot and dry; I am watering twice a day at this point. The bush cucumbers and zucchini appear to be struggling, taking 30% longer than expected to sprout and produce first leaves. I have given them a dose of organic fertilizer early this week as well.

A heavy rain and cooler weather has a dramatic impact on the garden, although it may not be quite as evident in this picture. The tomatoes have all put on many new blossoms, the radishes are now coming in, and the beans decided to throw up their first climbing tendrils. My daughter worries the beans won't go where they are supposed to; I tell her not to worry, they always figure it out on their own and only occasionally need a little poke to stay on their own tuteur.

This week we have planted a new row of radish seeds since we will harvest most of the first batch this week. I am thinking about adding a row of onions next to the leeks. And I think I need to put in a few more new pole bean seeds since something has eaten a few plants. Another dose of fertilizer is warranted now, too. What will next week bring?

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