Growing up as a kid, I loved to play in the water, make sand castles, mud pies and pick fruits or veggies that happened to be ripe in the garden. How about you? I’ve gotten used to a lot of things moving to the city but having a garden is probably the hardest thing to replace. Container gardening is a great option and one I was able to do in the last 3 years. Seven years after moving to the city, I finally had a good combination of a little space that got some decent sunshine. It was about the same time I found out about city allotment gardens. Basically you get rent a small piece of land where you can plant flowers or fruits/vegetables. They’re in high demand with a wait list you need to apply for on a specific day every year. After 3 years, I finally got one! So in honour of that, I’ll be posting monthly garden updates!
So What Exactly Entails Starting a Garden?
So far in my life, I’ve done container gardens and became an expert at eating ripe fruits and veggies from my parents and grandparents gardens. That means I can totally handle my own 15′ by 40′ garden right?! I have a tendency to jump right in off the deep end… And my plans for this garden were no different. I’m pretty sure my plans are far bigger than my ability, but hey, that just means I’ll learn a lot right? In short, the past few weeks have entailed:
- Picking type of garden and layout
- Setting up the garden
- Maintaining and learning
Designing and Setting Up the Garden
Like managing finances, there’s many ways to layout a garden: raised beds, rows, 4 x4 boxes… The first weekend we spent our time:
- Taking away last years sunflowers and corn plants the previous owner didn’t bother to compost.
- Till the entire plot the traditional way: shovels! This helps loosen the earth and aerate the soil. Aerated soil is good for the plants and loosened earth makes it easier for roots to set in.
- Organized the plot in a row garden and mix in compost.
By the end of the weekend, we had it in better shape… Not too shabby for a few days work.
We’re growing a few things…
- Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, Eggplants
- Zucchini’s and Gold Nugget Squash
- Bush Peas and Beans
- Various leafy greens, radishes, onions, carrots, beets, garlic, basil and mint.
- Inherited rhubarb and strawberries. Bonus!
Early Lessons Of a Newbie Gardener
Having big garden plans for a someone with a limited skill set is bound to result in trial and error. So it’s not surprising there’s a steep learning curve and already I’ve gained some knowledge.
Dealing With Pest Insects
Some insects, like bees, are awesome! They create tasty honey and pollinate flowers so they turn into delicious edibles. Other insects… just plain SUCK. Something ate away at some plant stems. So far, I’ve lost a tomato and hot pepper plant. After some useful google research and consulting fellow gardeners and nursery owner, it was narrowed down to two likely possibilities: cutworms or slugs.
Seeing as slugs typically eat through rows of plants in a night, I went with the going assumption of cutworms. If that’s the case, all you have to do is block their access to plant stems. Bonus, there’s an easy, eco-friendly solution; all my plants now have stylish, frugal collars! You can do this using toilet paper rolls, cutting out the bottom of plastic pot containers or aluminium foil. Ensure there barrier goes about an inch or so underground and two inches above.
Take that cutworms!
Plant position and Companion planting
I wasn’t giving it much thought on what was being planted where, until I stumbled on the term companion planting. You see, just like a grade school yard or maybe even a workplace, not everyone is a team player. For a lack of better words, some plants just don’t play well together. So beyond paying attention to where you plant things in the sun or partial shade, you’ll want to take a few minutes to learn who plays nicely with whom.
Also, for all plants wanting full sun, make sure you plant the tallest of them to the north and the rest flowing south by size. Otherwise, though your plot may be in full sun, you may unexpectedly find your shorter full sun plants in the shade of taller ones.
In my previous article on container gardening, I talked about how I didn’t track the cost as I didn’t consider it a money saving activity. Rather it was something I did out of pure enjoyment as an activity, learning and the delicious results. As promised, this time around, I’m keeping track of expenses, as well as random free wins.
So far, $310 has been spent and $132 saved due to free scores left behind by the previous plot owner. I’m sure I could have done better with finding less costly alternatives (craigslist, sales, garage sales) for the equipment purchased, as well as starting from seed indoors. But as I didn’t know I would have a garden plot until mid May and catching up with garden prep activities for the season, I purchase more items new and went with organic heirloom seedlings.
I already have a pie in the sky wish list: rain barrel fed irrigation system. This will reduce the amount of water used and I hear plants do much better with rain water, seeing as there are so many more minerals than city water. Main challenge, aside from figuring out how to do this, is there a way to collect a decent amount of rain water without a roof…?
|2 pairs of gloves||20|
|Compost||32||4 bags of compost|
|2 shovels||30||Manually tilling is more environmentally friendly and cheaper than renting a tiller. So we bought 2 shovels!|
|Garden Hose Water Key||13||Water supply handles are absent. So you need to buy a special plumbing key for watering|
|Fertilizer||10||A little fertilizer was used when transplanting|
|Earth||10||A little high quality organic earth was added when transplanting|
|Mineral Nutrition||12||This will be used to provide extra nutrients every two weeks|
|Seedlings & Seeds||78|
|Free Materials – Previous owner left these items behind. Score!|
|5 tomato cages||30|