|This is the view as you step outside. My garden is right outside my living room on a balcony area above our garage.|
|We set up garden boxes using the Square Foot Gardening method by Mel Bartholomew. Each square is approximately one square foot, and we planted one crop per square. Depending on the required spacing, you plant anywhere from 1 to 16 plants per square. My husband built the boxes with plywood bottoms on them so they can go anywhere and be moved later if we change our mind about where we want them. We need to work on getting a better drip system set up; for now I hand water what the drip misses. The crops I have going in this box are, from top left to top right, bottom left to bottom right: bush beans, bush beans, lettuce, lettuce, cilantro, cilantro, green onions, and radishes. I planted all of these crops directly in the soil less than two weeks ago and look at them grow!|
So that's my garden so far! In the fall, I planted a very small garden in my 8 buckets...I successfully grew a small crop of broccoli, a few carrots, and TONS of lettuces which kept growing and growing as I kept clipping and clipping. I basically have 5 times the garden space now that I did then, and the weather is more-so on my side (we'll see how everything does in the harsh summer, though). I do wish I had gotten some seedlings going indoors sooner, but I didn't have my garden boxes set up until about a month ago, and before that, I wasn't sure exactly what we were going to do. So this is basically a continuation of my first year gardening. It's been great learning what works and what doesn't. I am sure as I learn and as time goes on, I will get the hang of things.
Today I just started a few more seedlings indoors. Today at the farmer's market, I bought some beautiful purple bell peppers (apparently they do come in colors other than green, red, and orange/yellow!). I am going to see if I can get a couple of those seeds to grow...and then I bought a yellow cucumber that I am also going to try to sprout. I have some squash in the fridge and will see what I can do with those seeds, too. I love using "free" seeds from veggies I buy at the farmer's market!
If you are new to gardening, I highly recommend you pick up Mel's Square Foot Gardening book (which I linked to above). He makes it so accessible and simple. I really like the concept of the boxes. Lowe's sells his "Mel's mix" which consists of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost blend. It's much easier than trying to piece together the ingredients and mix them up yourself (which is an option he describes at length in his book if you can't find the Mel's mix in stores). It cost us about $100 for all of the wood for the boxes and the soil. Since you are starting with brand new soil from scratch, there's no plowing, no fertilizing, no tilling, no digging, minimal weeding, no testing, etc. This is the part that really intimidated me as a new gardener, and using square foot gardening, I don't have to worry about any of it! Mel recommends you have up to two 4 x 4 boxes per adult - one for a daily salad during the growing season, and the other for "supper veggies" during the growing season and beyond for preserving. We currently have the equivalent of two 4 x 4 boxes with the four 2 x 4 boxes my husband built, which doesn't include the 8 buckets of tomatoes I have planned. So we currently have enough room to grow over half of our produce needs with this small little balcony garden. I have room for at least a couple more 2 x 4 boxes. We own our home and have 1/5 an acre of land; however, our backyard is a construction zone at the moment, and this balcony is very easy for me to get to which means I keep things watered and maintained a lot easier. Once our backyard is done, we can easily move these boxes back there if we want to...or maybe we will build more boxes for our backyard and have even more space to grow!!
So there you have it. I will certainly keep you posted as harvest time comes!