Small Scale Sub-Urban Garden (with pics)
I thought I'd share pictures of this year's garden with the forum. This is the second year I've been doing a garden at this location.
I know many here are like me, stuck in a suburban area with not alot of space for a garden. I also rent, which makes it a bit more difficult. Originally I was in the north side of a two apartment duplex, but when the south side opened up two years ago, I got the landlord to let me move to that one.
Just my opinion but if you have to rent, find a duplex. They are usually comparable in rent to a two bedroom apartment (mine's just $525) but you have some yard space to call your own. Mine also has a full basement which gives me loads of space for storage, or perhaps learning to brew beer or grow mushrooms (both on my list.) Find a landlord that is ok with you doing a garden and you'll be a long way down the green wizard path in no time.
Here's a picture of the space I have and the garden so far.
The workable space which is from the fence to the end of the apartment is about 40 feet by 10. I can perhaps go back on the side of the fence another 20 feet but there's a walnut tree in the backyard which makes it hard to grow anything under it.
When I first approached the landlord about putting in a garden, what I found was he didn't mind me doing it, but he didn't want it to look bad. He was concerned about the neighbors complaining, the lawn care people having trouble with the weeds or tall grass, anything that might make his life more difficult.
So raised beds were a must.
I looked at the various materials and ended up going with concrete blocks. These are called "partition blocks" and I got them from the big box hardware store for about a dollar a piece. They are as big as the normal concrete building block but half as wide (16"x8"x4").
Due to their weight, I didn't have to stake them into the ground, just bury them a few inches into the soil. A plus is they allow a wide range of layouts and if I have to move, can be picked up and taken with me.
A nice thing is they have holes in their centers, which provide me with a handy area to add flowers to attract bees, as well as herbs and companion plants to ward off pests.
Here's a close up of one bed.
It is made up of 18 blocks ($18) giving me an area roughly 9 foot by 2 1/2 foot, or about 22 square feet of space. I added about 10 sqft of compost this year ($8), and a similar amount the first year (bought from the nursery, don't think the landlord is ready for a compost bin yet). Plants ran about $35 (half that for the flowers), for a total of roughly $70.
(Yes that's a rubber snake. It's supposed to scare the squirrels...lol.)
This bed has a row of potatoes in the front, carrots in the middle and beans and okra on the fence.
I did use seeds last year but because of a variety of factors ended up buying plants from the local nursery this year. I'd like to eventually grow my own seeds but that's in the future plans.
Note the two white pvc pipes sticking up out of the bed. Missouri has a high clay percentage in their soil, so I dug up the bed to about 24 inches deep and mixed in alot of compost, peat moss and some vermiculite to loosen the soil. Last year during the Summer months I had a problem getting the water to soak in well without sitting on the surface, the clay tended to form a crust when wet then baked by the sun so this year I decided to install an underground watering system to get the water down to the roots.
I chose to use pvc pipe because of its durability but also because its cheap and easy to work with. A 10 foot length of 3/4 inch pvc runs $1.25 and fittings (90 degree corners and three way Ts) ran 28 cents each. A small handsaw and a drill were all I needed to make it. The long lengths have a 1/8th inch hole drilled in the bottom of them spaced about 4 inches apart for drainage. I did not glue the pieces together, I found they held together very well with just pressing them in.
This is the front bed which I chose to put on either side of the fence since I'm planting tomatoes to either side and plan on using the fences to help support the plants.
Here's the pipe once its buried and the plants are in.
Those are tomato plants to either side, a couple of pepper plants in the center, and carrots in the front, carrots and radishes in the back. On the sides are dill, basil and rosemary. Now that the bed is in I'll be spreading out grass seed over the bare ground too.
A nice thing about pvc pipe is it makes a great trestle with some plastic clothes line for pole beans. Each trestle ran me under $10 to make and should have years of use.
The rabbits cleaned me out of lettuce last year so this year I fenced in that bed. They didn't seem to like anything else besides the occasional leaf here and there. Notice that the holes in the blocks provide perfect support for the poles too. The front of the enclosure is designed to lift off for weeding.
I put a slight forward bend on the trestle because while this side of the apartment faces due south, and gets sun all day, the roof over hangs just enough that a vertical trestle would have been in the shade at the top few feet. And added bonus is that the fruit tends to hang straight down making havesting alot easier.
PVC will bend if you heat it with a propane torch but be sure to do it outside because of the fumes and wear gloves.
The other half of the bed is my one screw up from last year. I planted asparagus without doing my research. For those who don't know, establishing a bed of asparagus is a multiple year job. First two years you don't get much if any in the way of food out of them.
I had just two of the plants from last year come up, but those have done very well. The asparagus is the ferny looking plant in the bed. I've planted more this year, and those are responding well to the deeper watering via the pvc.
Those are cherry tomatoes in the back against the wall. They like to vine and climb so I replaced my cucumbers from last year (which didn't do well) with tomatoes and I'm going to let them climb the shorter tressel.
Here's a shot from the back of the apartment.
Its late in the day so I do get some shade then, but the rest of the day all the beds get full sun. You can see the one bed I didn't finish last year, but will plant in this year in the foreground.
One addition this year is a vertical potato bin across from the air conditioner.
I've read up on these and it seems to be a good way to increase your yield in a small area.
For those unfamiliar with this method, you basically continue to add soil as the plants grow, adding boards as needed until you reach the top of the bin height and then let the plants set. In theory you get potatoes the entire depth of the bin. We'll see if this works.
I'm using untreated cedar so the cost is a bit high, but I don't have to worry about chemicals leeching into my potatoes
All in all with 4 beds and some containers I have about 125 square feet of garden, which while it won't feed me entirely does help add to the table (since its just me), and it provides a way for me to learn from my mistakes now when I have the cushion to make them.
(updated the pictures now that everything is planted.)