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Garden Blogging: The Beginning of the End

by: Jill Richardson

Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 18:15:04 PM PST

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Here's a bittersweet update on my garden. It's bittersweet because the garden is just really getting started... and today I put in my 30 days notice. I'll be moving. Somewhere. I don't know where, but it will probably be an apartment. And it won't have a garden. Or chickens.

The short story of why I am moving is that my landlord's cat won't stop attacking my cats. One of my cats then gets stressed out and pees on my roommate's stuff. And another of my cats keeps getting her ass kicked.

That said, this garden here is really finally starting to take off - and I've got a lovely flock of six chickens. Pictures below.

Jill Richardson :: Garden Blogging: The Beginning of the End
First up, the chickens. Here they are...

Puff, the Bantam Partridge Cochin

Lavender, the Blue Laced Red Wyandotte with Ethel, the Black Polish

Rachel, the Easter Egger

Lucy, the other black Polish

Inge, the Swedish Flower

The new coop and the area that will become the run

At this time, only Rachel, Lucy, and Ethel are old enough to lay eggs - and none of them are laying because they are molting. Some of the birds in my old flock are still laying a bit through the molt, and I'm pretty sure it's the Barred Rock who is laying most of the eggs. My other new birds are too young to lay just yet, but they will be ready to go when late January comes around and everyone's done molting.

The coop's OK but not great. It's too short in my opinion, so that makes catching the birds and cleaning the coop a bit trickier than it oughta be. And I wish the door was in the middle of the side that it's on instead of all the way to the left - again, to allow for easier access to catch the birds or fetch eggs out of the far corners of the coop. Aside from that, it's a nice coop and the birds like it just fine.

Now, onto the garden...

If you recall, I had a philosophical disagreement with my roommates and landlord. They wanted to put down a synthetic cloth on the bottom of the raised beds, bring in purchased topsoil, and plant in that. I wanted to build up the existing soil with compost and mulch and to weed everything thoroughly instead of suppressing weeds with a synthetic cloth.

In the end, we solved this by giving me one box to weed and plant in and by giving them another box to fill with purchased soil placed over synthetic cloth. The soil arrived a few days ago, and they got a lot more than they bargained for. I was just finishing up my epic weeding job, and I let them dump 2 wheelbarrows of their soil on top of the half of my bed that wasn't planted yet. Then I scattered carrot and beet seeds throughout the unplanted half of the bed and I planted a few sunflower and lettuce seedlings in there as well. Here's the bed after I did all of that:

Love the dog footprints going right through the box?

My idea was pretty simple. I planted Hopi Dye Sunflowers because sunflowers remove heavy metals from the soil, although I don't expect the soil in the boxes is too bad really. The sunflowers went in a line down the middle of the bed. They will produce edible seeds that are also useful as a natural dye. (In areas where I do think the soil is likely full of god knows what, I planted sunflowers that don't have edible seeds.)

Also down the middle, I planted a row of Cascadia Snap Peas, a variety that is supposedly resistant to powdery mildew. The seeds are old so they aren't germinating well, but I've got a huge bag of seeds so I figure that even a low germination rate will give me enough plants. Direct seeding might not work, but I'm trying that first.

Peas and carrots are excellent companions, so in the front half of the box I planted two rows of carrots on either side of the peas. I planted one variety on the left side, and a different variety on the right side. It appears that one variety germinated and the other one didn't. In the back half, I broadcast a bunch of carrot seeds of several varieties. That way, even if only one germinates, I'll still get carrots all over the box.

Here are my little carrots that have already germinated in the front of the box:

Another great combination for companion planting is lettuce, carrots, and radishes. So in the front, I put a row of lettuce plants next to the carrots. On the right side, I planted radishes next to the lettuce. On the left, I planted baby turnips and chioggia beets. The radishes germinated well - the beets and turnips didn't. My seeds are really old.

On the back half of the box, I planted the rows of lettuce, but I skipped the radishes and just tossed a bunch of beet seeds everywhere. I don't like to eat radishes, but my roommates do. And they can grow them themselves.

In the middle of the box, I planted a celery start that I bought, a fava bean plant I had left over, and a stevia plant that I got as a birthday gift.

All in all, the front half of the box goes as follows from left to right - or at least it was supposed to assuming everything germinated:

1. Alternating baby turnips and beets
2. Lettuce
3. Carrots
4. Carrots
5. Peas
6. Sunflowers
7. Peas
8. Carrots
9. Carrots
10. Lettuce
11. Radishes

It's a tight squeeze to grow all of that together, but the radishes, beets, and turnips grow very quickly, so I'm banking on pulling those out and eating them before the lettuce gets so big that it needs the rest of the space.

If you recall, we have a few other boxes in the yard. There's the first one I planted, a smaller box that I put sunflowers and garlic in.

Then there are two other large boxes - one that had chard, parsley and nasturtiums when I moved in, and another that was empty. I added potatoes and fava beans to the box with the chard. The roommates put their soil in the other box.

Last, I realized that we have another useful weed! Chickweed!

It's edible, nutritious, and medicinal. You can make a poultice with it and put it on cuts (warning: it stings), and you can use it in the bath for achy, sore muscles. It's also useful to treat warts and pinkeye, if everything I've read on the internet is to be believed. I'm so excited to have such a nice patch of this in our yard!!! ... And rather sad that I'll be leaving it soon.

Now that I know I'm moving - and moving soon, I'm not putting too much more energy into this garden. I can probably harvest my potatoes before I go, but that's about it. I plan to help my roommates learn to take care of the plants and chickens so they can enjoy them after I go. At least, in the end, they will become one more home with a garden and chickens in San Diego - and that's something for sure.

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Good luck! (4.00 / 2)
Sorry to hear you won't have any more chickens, but perhaps a garden is still possible?

I'm not too familiar with San Diego's housing stock (I'd imagine inner San Diego is a lot of detached bungalows, mixed in with a bunch of mid-century apartment buildings, like Portland or Oakland?), or the neighborhoods you'll be looking at, but is it possible you can find something with a decent-sized balcony or deck?  Or even something with access to a yard?  I live in a tiny studio about the size of a closet, but since I'm on the rear end of the first floor of a typical North Philly rowhouse, the back 'yard' is mine, and I could have had a pretty decent garden here if I didn't blow the opportunity when I moved in back in late March.  I should be here in this apartment for one more year after this current lease runs out though, and I will definitely garden in 2013!


Best of luck in the search for a new place!

Great point - I'll look for a place with a balcony. (4.00 / 1)
Herbs in pots are better than nothing.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Community garden? (4.00 / 2)
There must be community gardens around your area. Try to find a place near one.  

ok i'll sign onto a wait list (4.00 / 1)
and maybe get a plot in a decade...

I will probably see if my ex will let me farm his yard.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
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