Backyard Garden- Construction and Planning

27 Jan

This year I’m going to tackle a little veggie garden in the back yard.  I have a small sunny spot that gets about 6 to 8 hours of sun a day; for a Grant Park yard, this is a big deal.  We’re a very shady neighborhood famous for our grand old trees. See below:

Oak tree across street

Oak tree across street

This big ol’ tree keeps us nice in cool in the summer time.  So as you can see, sunny spots are a premium here.  And I have one just about the right size for a “Square Foot Garden”.

That’s right, I jumped on the bandwagon. And why not when I can grow enough healthy veggies for me and the hubby in the small space we have?  For those of you who may not know, the Square Foot Garden is a method of gardening in increments of square feet instead of traditional rows.  You can read more about it here on Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening website. (He’s so popular, I saw some of his products in the local Home Depot.) But ever the doer-selfers, I asked the hubby to build me a raised veggie bed for my Christmas present.

He happily complied, and now I have a wonderful 4’x8′ raised veggie bed complete with supports for frost protection cover thingy.  (I’m still learning all the lingo.) Here’s a picture below, filled with yummy mushroom compost that Ira loves to dig in:

Raised veggie bed pre-planting

So this winter, I spent some time planning.  (Who me? Plan? In fact, I’m so good at it, I could make a career out of that…) I went to the library branch in my neighborhood and checked out both of Mel Bartholomew’s books of square foot gardening, of which I think his first book is more useful for beginners. The first book helped me get my brain wrapped around the concept, and gardening in general.  The most useful bit of wisdom: plant only what you will eat.  So if you don’t like eggplant, don’t grow eggplant.  No brainer, I know, but it’s so easy to get carried away when your shopping around.

So here’s the garden plan I came up with (link to Google Docs).

But I still struggled with the timing, and I’m sure I’m going to continue struggling with the timing during the growing season, too.  I take it that this is a big part of gardening: timing.  So I found some local trusty sites online to help!

First is the Georgia Organics– this is an amazing resource for us Georgians, and anyone interested in sustainable agriculture in the southeast. On their website, you can find nearby CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), how-to articles and videos on back-yard gardening, canning, farm-to-school programs, sustainable agriculture lessons, and urban agriculture  start-ups. Wow, I can’t say enough good things about this organization, and I’m sure I’ll be talking about them again on this blog.  They also have a Planting Calendar that I found very helpful.  Maybe a little short on variety of plants, but helpful to get started.

The other site is Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I’ll write a little more about them and other groups like them tomorrow, but needless to say, their website is very helpful in planning your garden. I ordered my seeds from them, and they were delivered today!  Yay!

My other source for plants is the local Burgess-Peterson Academy, a charter elementary school located in East Atlanta Village.  I found out through the EAV Buzz that one of the classes grows seeds and sells the seedlings to the community for very low-cost. It teaches the kids about biology and economics, as well as giving them a sense of pride and accomplishment in their community. Super cool!  I plan on writing about the teacher/volunteer who organizes this every year in the near future. But for now, here’s the link to their seed catalogue. The plants I purchased are labeled “BPA” in the graphic above.

So- that’s my first step toward Urban Homesteading- growing some of my favorite veggies. I’ll keep you in the loop as I plant, and as the little critters start to grow. I feel really good about this first foray into self-sustenance because it also combines two of my other passions- supporting the local children in my community and supporting biodiversity in agribusiness.

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