Sunday, August 19, 2007

Apartment with a Garden & How do beets grow?

I've dabbled in herb boxes outside of my window, but interest in and space for a garden have never coincided until now. Our west side apartment has a backyard that consists of a concrete slab, a view of the neighbors moss covered trailor over a dilapidated metal fence, a hearty lemon tree out the kitchen window and an L of hard earth covered in weeds and yellow grass. There's not much we can do about the view, but since we moved in this past April, we've converted the L shaped patch of dirt from ghetto yard into an experimental garden.

It took months, because as we've learned, any well intended extracurricular activities take a few extra months when you have a baby. After spending about 30 minutes with a book from the library on Organic Gardening, and about the same amount of time perusing online gardening sites, conferring with the neighbors about their not so civil wars with the gophers in the hood, we decided to dig a hole the size of a shallow swimming pool in which to lay wire mesh, aka chicken wire, to protect the precious starter plants (too late in the season for seeds) we'd purchased at Terra Sol nursery in Goleta. The pool garden project took a month in and of itself. Lots of measuring, several trips to the Home Improvement Center, and lots of digging. Beneath that patch of dry we discovered Native American fossils. Just kidding! We did come across some bolts, pieces of broken pots (the kind you get in the nursery, not see in the museum) and a few bones (as in the kind you throw to your dog). But the most common thing in the dirt was an abundance of happy earth worms! Our ambitions were no so far afield as I'd thought!

Next, artist and ecovillage minded friend and art teacher Bill came over and helped me re-fill the swimming pool hole with the mound of dirt that had made a small mountain in our backyard. The sky was turning orange by the time we started measuring spaces for the rows and taking the 2-4 inch plants from their little containers and planting them at distances that seemed appropriate in neat little rows. We ordered a pizza as we finished up and ate beneath the stars, tired and covered in dirt as we looked out at the perfect garden.

Here are some things I've learned.

One. Read more before you plant.

Two. Pumpkin plants should have gone on the far side of the garden next to the patch of undeveloped yard (the rest of the L), as their vines have spread the entire length of my 17x10 foot garden, shading the strawberries, pushing their way through the tomato plants, burying the tomatillo and artichoke beneath their broad leaves.

Three. Water the garden in the morning. Watering at night, although it may let the water settle in, can lead to mildew on the leaves--I've had to cut back half of the pumpkin and zucchini leaves due to mold.

Four. I have no idea how beets are supposed to grow! I hear the lovely red and green leaves on top are edible, but I had NO IDEA that the beets rest above ground. In fact, did I plant them correctly? Are these beets supposed to be roots beneath the soil? I don't know!

Five. I believe the planting rules (e.g. months to start, etc) have a bit more flexibility in Southern California than say, Appalachia.

Six. Mint is a veritable water hog and the rabbit of herbs! It has taken OVER the half barrel where I planted several other herbs, now completley hidden by the mint. Mojitos, anyone?

That's it! Pictures coming soon.

No comments: