Lila “cultivating” the soil in our new raised beds.
Last fall, Ben and I built three raised beds and installed them in a small grassy area above the parking garage for our townhouse complex. The area was rarely used, so we decided to build a mini community garden to be shared by interested residents. (We also photographed the making of these beds for my book! They’ll appear in chapter four in a how-to section.)
Bamboo stakes divvy up my nine square feet.
On Monday, in celebration of the time change and the great weather, Lila and I got out there and planted. I’m trying out the square foot gardening method in my half of the bed (which is being shared with a neighbour). I’ve planted in blocks before, as is the square foot method, but never formally. This time, I laid out thin bamboo stakes to mark out my three square feet, and filled seven of the nine squares with cool-season edibles: two with ‘Tyee’ spinach, two with arugula, one with ‘Easter Egg II’ radish, one with ‘Sugar Loaf’ radicchio, and one with ‘Merveille de Quatre Saisons’ lettuce. I’ll plant the remaining squares with ‘Amish Deer Tongue’ and ‘Darkness’ lettuces in a couple of weeks.
So why all the salad? Mainly, it’s because this bed is in part shade. I’d estimate it gets a maximum of four hours of direct sun, even in summer, which rules out any kind of fruiting vegetable such as eggplant or zucchini. But leafy greens should do well, as should the radishes and the beets I’ll plant later.
I’m looking forward to having a dedicated space for greens. This new garden frees up a lot of room on my balcony farm for sun lovers like tomatoes. It’s also a lot closer than my plot in the actual community garden, making it a lot more convenient to whip up a last-minute salad. It also gets more sun than my herb garden on the front patio, and less than my back patio, which would scorch tender lettuces. If you’re keeping count, that makes this new raised bed my fifth garden space.
Some might say I’m just a tiny bit obsessed. But when you don’t have much space of your own, you’ve got to be creative in finding ways to garden. Co-opting part of your building’s common area makes good sense to me. Hopefully the other gardeners that join in will agree!