My Little Slice of Heaven!!

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A mix of tomatoes from the 2014 Summer season. Varieties pictured include Rutgers, Mortgage Lifter, and Lemon Boy.

I think the saying is my little slice of heaven? My little slice just happens to be 10ft x 20ft and is where my garden is located. Unfortunately it’s not as convenient to visit as I wish it was and is located roughly a mile away from my apartment. Yet, this has been the home of my garden for the last 4 years. I rent this space from a local community garden and have access to it year round for a small fee.(I’ve actually calculated the cost of rent and supplies and found I easily save more then the rental cost) Over the years my style of gardening has change and how I use my garden space. The first year I had this space I used traditional rows to layout the garden and grew enough produce to make me happy with my investment.

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Original layout of the garden in 2012. The basic layout is still the same, but has changed a little.

The second year is when I took a chance and tried a new way of gardening for me. I had read for years about the Square Foot Garden System, but had never been in a position where I could try it. That year I made the commitment to follow the style as best I could. At that point I did not have raised beds or money to invest in fancy soil so I used what I had available. Leaves from the previous fall became my only form of organic material to loosen up the soil. I ended up with 8 beds in my space measuring 4ft x 4ft and added leaves to the soil down to about 12 inches. In a normal situation I’d never add this much carbon to my soil before planting, but it was in major need of some help. The area between the beds was filled with wood chips so that I didn’t have to worry about mud or walking in the beds by mistake. I never noticed just how packed soil can get from just walking on it, but now I never step in them if I can keep from it.

That second year’s harvest was about 3x larger then the first years harvest. In my old way of gardening I would have planted about 5 tomato plants in a 10 foot row. With Square foot gardening I now plant 16 tomatoes in a 4ft x 4ft area. Surprising I got the same amount of tomatoes from each plant that I had gotten when planting them in rows with more space. I could now produce enough tomatoes to enjoy them all summer and can any extras I have for the winter.

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Jelly from 2014 grape vine harvest

Over the years I have added to my small space trying to improve my production and try new things. The same year I created the 4ft x 4ft beds I also planted a grape vine. This year was the first time I allowed it to set grapes and it did a fantastic job. I ended up with 7 jars of grape jelly that tastes fantastic enough thought it didn’t set as well as I would have liked.Live and learn when trying new recipes, but that’s half the fun. I think it was lacking in the amount of pectin required or possibly the new brand of pectin I used this time.

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Bianca di Maggio Onions. Harvested in 2014 They aren’t flat like I expected, but I did manager to have a few that are pretty flat. I have them set back to be planted next year for seed to hopefully get the flat shape back.
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A mix of potatoes, basil, tomatoes, and pea seed. The peas seed is in the green bag and was later shelled for seed. It’s a personal breeding project that I started a few years ago due to many failed pea attempts. Updates to come
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Broccoli from fall 2014. Picked on 10/15/2014

At any rate, my gardening season starts in Jan when I begin planting onion seeds and starting my cold weather plants. I normally try and have my spring garden planted by the start of April if the weather holds out. I mainly have issues with it being to wet in the spring to work in the soil. My attempt to correct this issue was the installation of, what I call, mini garden raised beds. Basically they are 4 inches tall in most cases with two 6 inch beds that I use for root crops. The small raised beds have helped a lot with the soil drying out so I consider them a success. It cost me roughly $15 dollars per bed plus a little soil that I purchase at Lowes. My garden season normally ends sometime around the beginning of Nov when I pull up my last of the fall garden and cover everything with leaves. Leaves are in high demand at the community garden so used them as a winter cover gives me an advantage in the spring when everyone else just starts trying to find them.

That’s my garden as it stands at the moment. I plan to expand into a second plot, but that won’t be confirmed until spring. The additional location I plan to use for seed saving, plant breeding, and larger items that I can’t grow in my current setup. Such as rhubarb (I love rhubarb wine), asparagus, flour corn, and additional pole beans. My other ideas is a secret roof top garden outside my window. I’m starting small with a tomato and a Northpole Apple Tree as an experiment. We will see what happens and what my landlord says when he sees it up there.

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