Although I don’t have the greenest thumb, every year I can’t wait for the gardening season to start. I begin dreaming of it in January and by February I’m chomping at the bit (trowel?). This year I decided to start my tomatoes from seed which allowed me to start gardening as early as March.

I’m using the Square Foot Gardening method developed by Mel Bartholomew, which is a very simple and space-saving method, and that’s important since my backyard is actually a small balcony off the kitchen.  Square Foot Gardening involves filling a box that’s 6″ deep with a mix of vermiculite, peat, and compost.  To make it especially environmentally sound, I’m using coir instead of peat because coir is a more renewable product (peat takes hundreds of years to develop, which makes it a finite product like oil and some peat producing areas are becoming endangered).  Coir is coconut husks that are left over from the production of food stuffs like coconut oil, coconut milk, and shredded coconut.  It’s cheaper than peat, as well, and easier to store; it comes compressed into bricks or tiles that soften and expand in water.  I like to buy it in tiles because I find it easier to break off and soak just what I need and leave the rest neatly on a shelf in my garage.  I also make my own compost with vermicomposter worms and I use coir as the bedding.

My little garden is 2′ x 3′ and 6″ deep, which gives me 6 squares to grow in.  Last year I went a little overboard by trying to grow something different in each square and while the SFG method certainly allows and even encourages this, I’m just not a good enough gardener yet to make that work, so this time around I’m keeping it simple. Right now I have 6 tomato plants growing from seed on my kitchen table: 3 Box Car Willies and 3 San Marzano Paste Tomatoes. I bought my seeds from Urban Harvest, a local company that sells only organic seeds. Around each tomato, to maximize space and create a living mulch, I’ll plant baby carrots, onions, and lettuce.  I’d like to fit some spinach in somewhere, too, but I haven’t figured out where yet.

My valiantly growing tomatoes

Since our townhouse is an end unit we get more in-ground gardening space than the other units; we have a little garden by the front door that wraps around the side of the house.  So far, we’ve been very shamefully ignoring it, leaving it as a single patch of bare dirt next to all the vibrant plants and flowers of our neighbours.  One house a few units down even grows tomatoes in their front patch. So this year we’ll utilize it for some of the plants that grow too deep to do well in a 6″ deep garden box.  We’ll have potatoes, garlic, perhaps more onions (we cook with onions a lot) and some regular sized carrots.  I also have some sunflower seeds that I got from a woman on Freecycle that she got from the Great Sunflower Project, a nation-wide endeavor to collect data on urban, suburban, and rural wild bee populations.  I love sunflowers and I love bees, so this project is great for me.  I’d also like to fit some dye-making plants in my in-ground garden and balcony; I have lots of undyed fleece that I bought at Romni that I can’t wait to spin and dye.  Maybe I’ll add rhubarb to the front garden; rhubarb stalks are delicious and the leaves (which are poisonous) and roots can be used as a dye, so I get 2 birds with one stone.

So those are my gardening plans so far.  The last frost date is still a month away and it seems to be coming so slowly!  It’s also the weekend before I go back to school, so exciting times.

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