Posted by: soniahs | October 15, 2012

Starting a garden

Gardening has always been important to both sides of my family, and it was a big part of summers when I was growing up. Dad’s family comes from rural West Virginia, and Mom’s comes from small-town Austria and Romania, so gardening was always an integral part of how they got their food. When we were growing up, Mom and Dad made a big garden with a raised bed that took up a big chunk of the back yard- but that was nothing compared to the entire half of the backyard that my grandparents’ garden extended. So gardens (or more realistically, the yummy fresh fruits and veggies) were a pretty big deal to us kids.

Since I live in an apartment today, I don’t have a backyard in which to garden- and it seems that the screen on out patio is coarse enough to let in pesty insects, but fine enough to keep out their predators. Onions grow pretty well, but that’s about it. We also have the issue of a ravenous herbivore who is excellent at finding and uprooting vegetation. So everything has to be kept at above bunny-level.

But last month, a new opportunity came up-and we now have a plot at the UCF Arboretum’s community garden. They have an “adopt-a-plot” program that lets community members use part of their garden, which has a deer fence and sprinkler system- both of which are really important, given its location. The arboretum provides tools, compost and mulch, and most importantly, advice from the staff members.

Our plot is the central dirt strip, which widens toward the back. The grassy strip (which we still have to mulch over) is the left border/pathway. The cardboard “fence” divides our plot from the neighbors’. We’ll probably have to come up with something more aesthetically pleasing as a boundary. The plant in the front is lemon verbena; the dirt area was just planted with bok choy seeds.

The plot that Yan and I are responsible for was previously used by someone else, so it had quite a few things growing in it already- including a lot of weeds. A lot of the plants were in bad shape or weren’t things we were interested in (the eggplant was both). But we’re keeping a few things, to see how it goes.

The first thing we did was weed, and mulch an access path. Then we aerated the dirt, and added some new dirt to even out the beds. Finally, we added a layer of compost to the top.

View from the back end of the plot. On the left is a mulberry tree, and on the right are some tarragon, a tomato, beans, and a flowering plant (I haven’t figured out what yet) that’s good for attracting pollinators. We’ve planted carrots & radishes in the left plot, and misome (a bok choy relative) between the tarragon and the beans. In the background, you can see the sprinkler system and rain catchment barrel.

I’m going to try to remember to take photos and post them, but I haven’t been good at it so far. These photos are from yesterday. I planted some seeds last Thursday, and some of them are already sprouting as of Sunday. That’s always fun to see.

Bok choy sprouts!

So we’ll see how this goes. We picked fast-growing plants so that we can hopefully avoid complications from possible freezes and harvest something early. We’re both pretty excited about getting fresh veggies out of this, and it’ll be fun to see how things do.

We’ve kept a few eggplants in the back end of the garden. There were some spare collard and kale seedlings from the arboretum staff, which we planted to the left. To the right will be a long row of carrots and radishes.



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