Several years ago my husband and I bought our wonderful city home here in Highlands Ranch; a suburb South of Denver Colorado. We chose this area for the neighborhood, schools and layout of the city, with its endless trails and family atmosphere. Chickens were never part of the decision to move here. When discussing plans for the backyard, I announced that I wanted to try a vegetable garden. I don't think my husband said anything at first, he just gave me 'a look.' You see, I don't have any live plants in my house, because I kill them. I think I love them too much. Maybe underwater, over water, or not enough light. ANYWAY, green-thumb I am not. So, I explained that I wanted to try my hand at growing some fresh food, now that I had a place to do it. And thus began the journey. My wonderful husband obliged me and built a beautiful fence around a small section on the North side of the patio (and he thought he didn't know what he was doing either). I had begun researching vegetable gardens and found that I would need an area that would receive mostly sun (4-6+ hrs), or the vegetables would never grow. I also learned that when planting in raised beds (a decision I made in order to have optimum soil conditions), they need to run in a North-South direction. So, I used some friends kids, as well as my own, and we got the plot cleared of LOTS of rock. My husband built me two basic 2.5' x 10' rectangular wooden frames for the raised bed. Nothing special; we just put brackets on each corner, leveled out the ground and filled it with dirt made for outdoor vegetable gardening.
PLANTING: As the building was progressing, I was researching. My great grandfather used to garden and my mother handed over a copy of the book titled "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. This book takes planting your garden 1 square foot at a time. With this method, in a 1 square foot area you could plant 16 carrots or 9 spinach. 4 lettuce or 1 eggplant. 1 tomato or 8 pole beans. In a simple 4' x4' area you could plant all of the following: 2 tomatoes, 4 cucumbers, 9 bush beans, 12 heads of lettuce, 4 swiss chard, 9 chives, 16 carrots, 16 radishes, 16 beets, 16 onions, 4 nasturtium and 4 marigold flowers. And that's only a 4'x4' area!
I bought seeds for what I wanted to grow and printed some garden-grid sheets from vegetablegardeningonline.com to draw out my gardening plan prior to planting. I took string and blocked out my garden beds in 1 foot squares, then got to work!
The square foot gardening method is also less time consuming in the long run, as the compact planting area doesn't allow for much weed growth. When the lettuce is harvested, then something else can take it's place; more carrots perhaps, and so on. This method has given me high yields of food in a small space. We have fresh vegetables weekly during the summer for our meals. This year I have so many tomatoes ripening, that I will be learning how to can. Another post, to be sure. I've already gotten some good tips from a cousin back East who has a homestead of her own (Thanks Meghan)! Next year we've decided there will be beans, cucumbers, and squash climbing up trellises along the length of the back fence (along with a compost area and some berry bushes somewhere). Like I said, all I see anymore is wasted space that could be used to grow food!
|The re-located spot of my raised vegetable gardens|
Anyone interested in growing even a small pot of their own food can do this easily-even on the balcony of an apartment (as long as you have 4-6+ hrs of sun)! Just pick a good sized pot for what you want to grow, make sure it has good drainage, fill it with some good dirt and plant what you like to eat!
You will find some new rewards in growing some of your own food, and it will taste better than anything you have ever bought at the store!
Who knows, maybe you will soon find yourself relaxing on your patio to the sound of soft clucking while watching chickens chase bugs around your yard ;-)