Partly practical gardening (project Springtime, part 2)

Practicality is a helpful trait when gardening. What do you plant? How does it grow? Does it need full sun or partial shade? Will it require support? How much space between full grown plants will you need? How much space do you have? What will your family actually eat?

These are important questions to answer.

I have only had a few opportunities in my adult life to make a garden, but I’ve made the way-too-many-zucchini-plants mistake and the not-enough-kale mistake, and plenty of the I-bought-too-many-potted-plants mistakes. 

Here is what I come to this teeny garden with:

Cucumber, squash, and most tomato plants are prolific. I limited my cucumber seed variety to 1, Parisian pickling cucumbers, and only planted a couple of the seeds, and they’re by the tomato seeds because I plan to add a trellis to that section. We eat a lot of tomatoes; we enjoy them raw for snacking as well as cooked and in salads. I chose 3 varieties, a “Nebraska Wedding” orange midsize, a large red cherry, and a smaller red fig.  They’re all up at the front of the box where they’ll get good sun, it will be easier to add the trellis, and it will be easy to snack on them. There are only 2 squash varieties I included this time: yellow crookneck (a thin skinned small summer squash) and Guatemalan blue (a hardier, heartier, and much larger autumn/winter squash). This is one of a few impractical components in my garden, as I know they need a lot more space than I’m giving them. They could try to take over the boxes but my plan is not to let them by heavy pruning, and keeping only a single plant of each. They’re in the middle of one box, along with a slender tender (white queen?) okra. 

Snacking in the garden is important to us. At the front of the other box I have planted ground cherry, sunberry, and strawberry blite: unusual fruits. I have no idea how much they may try to spread. 

In the center of the second box I have 2 melon varieties: Saskatchewan watermelon (white flesh) and mother Mary’s pie melon (palm sized) and I plan to have a single plant of each and prune. Next to those I planted a few corn kernels. 

Taking up the most space is kale. I eat it nearly daily with my perfect breakfast, and when I have it growing outside I can hardly wait for the tender baby leaves to grow so I’ve never had a large kale plant even with a whole bed of kale. We will see if I can keep one growing and eat the rest of the baby kale to make a bit more space for the melons and corn. A couple of paprika pepper seeds went in on one side of the kale section, as I don’t need more than one pepper plant.

Rounding out the other box is a rotund and short French carrot, slender long radishes, and thyme. Chives were supposed to get into the corner too but the chive packet was empty, so that will have to be added later. 

I decided that the sunflowers and borage should go in the ground between the boxes and the sidewalk, but since it started raining (again!) while I was only partway through planting the beds and I hadn’t finished digging the front, those will go in later this week. 

That’s a lot of plants to cram into 2 small beds!

Thankfully, construction of the raised beds was a breeze. I’ve used 2″x12″x6′ cedar, cut into 2′ and 4′ long boards, connected with some 2.75″ exterior screws – 2 at each corner. I left the grass underneath as it was. They’re sturdy and I think they look pretty good. I filled them with organic black gold soil (2 bags each box) and some mountain blend of compost, which if I recall correctly was just a blend of different types of manure (1 bag each box). I may end up making a few more boxes for the other side of the front yard. If I do, I will likely have a kale bed, an herb bed, a melon bed, and a corn bed. 

Now we wait.

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