Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Vegetable Garden Complete

There aren't a lot of flowers around our yard (save the freaky two-tone gerber daisy which is miraculously still alive). If I'm going to invest time and money, then I want to produce something that I can eat. I like flowers, I do, but I personally just don't have a desire to fill my yard with expensive annuals. I dislike house plants, in general, for a similar reason. When we were apartment dwellers, I couldn't wait to move into a house so we could have our own garden for no other reason but to enjoy fresh from the garden tomatoes (sliced with Creamy Italian dressing). The community garden options in our area are slim (to non-existent). In fact, I only know of one community garden in Iowa City and it was a long ways from our apartment (and now even farther from our house).

When we were looking at houses, our price range introduced some limitations, doesn't it always. In order to get a decent amount of space that didn't need substantial amounts of updates (or smell really bad or have a refrigerator in the basement instead of the kitchen), we had to settle for a very sloped backyard (though it was fenced, which was good). Thus, the raised beds we installed this spring were an absolute necessity. It was a lot of initial work and expense, but eventually I think it will pay off. I am, at the very least, getting lots of extra exercise walking up and down the hill to tend my plants.

Apparently, I'm not alone in my new found interest in edible gardening. According to this article in the Chicago Sun-Times (via Garden Rant), Burpee is reporting selling twice as many seeds as last year. And Iowa's own, Seed Savers Exchange, has run out of many vegetable starts (Though I did notice that the local Big Box home improvement retailer still had lots of veggie starts last weekend). I read the New York Times every day, or at least most of it. Last month, I read this great article about using abandoned urban sites to grow for Farmer's Markets which help supply fresh food to areas where it is otherwise hard to find or often prohibitively expensive. And the Washington Post (which I read far less regularly) is doing a video series this summer following gardeners in an urban community garden in D.C.

There have been other articles as well, and plenty of more eloquent posts on gardening blogs about this phenomenon. Many of these attribute the increase in edible gardening to the increasing costs of fuel and food and the fact that the economy, generally speaking, appears to be in the crapper. I mean, it's getting pretty expensive to ship lettuce cross country via diesel powered refrigerated trucks and we're all noticing the impact on our grocery bill. But it's unlikely that I can feed R and I all summer (or very far into the fall for that matter) with a 72 square foot garden. But we'll do what we can and appreciate not having to buy sub-standard produce. So, the impact on our grocery bill will probably be minimal. I think what drives far more edible gardeners is more global in nature. For instance, it's disheartening to think about the substantial distance the food in our supermarkets travels (even that "organic" stuff) and the pesticides (petroleum derivatives, no doubt) that are used in the production have health and environmental impacts. For me, I think this goes to the heart of my "process" mindedness. I'm enjoying the entire process of designing the layout, planting the seeds, tending the plants, and then, if we're lucky, finding culinary uses for our crops from our little 72 square foot "farm" (do you think we could get crop insurance or apply for some of those subsidies in the Farm Bill?)

Our garden, or farm if you will, is now officially planted, though there will certainly be more succession seeding for the fast growing crops like lettuce (lesson learned), beans, etc. We've been eating fresh lettuce salads for the last week or so, and the difference in taste is remarkable (maybe it's the blood, sweat, and tears we are tasting or perhaps the love). So here's where we ended up:

Looking south...
Garden 052808-05

The southern most bed which is growing the strongest...
Garden 053108-04

The middle 4'x4' beds (looking north)...
Garden 053108-02

We used the Square Foot Gardening plant spacing suggestions to an extent. We've planted very intensively, and are just going to watch and see what happens (while crossing our fingers and taking note for next year). Here's what we have planted so far.

Northern 2'x10' bed:
Sugar Snap Peas (growing up bamboo poles)
Big Boy Tomatoes x 1
Brandy Boy Tomatoes x 2
Early Girl Tomatoes x 1
Big Mama Tomatoes x 2

Middle 4' x 4' beds:
Big Dipper (bell) Peppers
California Wonder (bell) Peppers
Banana Peppers
Jalapeno Peppers
Pickle Bush Cucumber x 1
Bush Crop Cucumber x 1
Long Purple Eggplant x 2
Bush Beans x 18 (though they didn't all germinate)
Celery x 6 (very experimental)
Flat Leaf Parsley

Southern 2' x 10' bed:
Lavender x 2
Broccoli x 6
Carrots x 32 (need thinning)
Red Onions x 16
Yellow Onions x 16
Salad Bowl Lettuce
Little Caesar Romaine Lettuce
Buttercrunch Lettuce

The green bucket serves as a stool (to save knees) and to hold tools that I got sick of carrying up and down the hill. Aesthetically, the garden is not everything that I would like it be, which is mostly a limitation of our slope and will likely only be fixed with a second retaining wall and that's certainly not in the budget right now (or ever?).

We also did a little planting in the beds along our sun room. These posed a bit of a problem. You see, our lovely puppy likes to dig and laze about in these beds (one of her few very puppy-like flaws). I was considering just not fighting her and letting them go, but then decided to try a different approach. I filled in her winter digging holes and then spread a thick layer of mulch to help keep the weeds at bay. I then planted some herbs in pots and put up a little barrier fence that is doing the job, even if it is not aesthetically appealing and came from KMart. Next year, I'll probably put in some perennials here.

Garden of Pots 03
From right to left:
Genetically messed up Gerber Daisy
Rosemary "Tree"
Purple Basil
Chives (to prevent them from taking over the entire yard)
Cherry Tomato
Zinnias along the back

I apologize, because I doubt you've heard the last of gardening around here. I want to track its progress for guidance next year. I'm hoping that between Flickr and the blog I can remember when I planted things, what worked, etc. We've already learned a lesson on the lettuce: must do succession planting so as to avoid beaucoup lettuce ready to eat all at once. As always, there's more on Flickr.

3 comment(s). Tell me what you think!:

AndreaLea said...

I think you are going to be surprised by how much food your garden is going to yield. I read recently that a 5x5 garden can produce about 59 pounds of vegetables similar to what you have planted!

Debbie said...

No need to apologize, I like gardening vicariously through the Internet! It's as close as I'll get to the real thing for a while.

It looks wonderful!

Knittripps said...

Wonderful! I've not done a very good job this year documenting our garden. Planning/documenting is something I need to work on.

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