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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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April: Food Garden Tending

In January I focused on a cleanse.  In February I focused on yoga. In March I focused on money management. In April I have focused on gardening.

On the 6th of April, I received a horrifying email from our community garden coordinator, that went something like this:

Hi Melinda,

I’m wondering if you are planning to garden this year?  According to the P Patch guidelines, all plots are supposed to be planted by April 1.

Please let me know if you have changed your mind about gardening this year, so that we can get someone off our waiting list and into the plot.

Thanks,
H

Gasp.  The Growing Challenge queen almost lost her garden plot! It’s true.

I could make excuses – I have plenty of them.  But truthfully?  I was a bit lazy.  Lazy. Yep, I take full responsibility for my laziness.

So needless to say, I jumped.  Matt and I planted all sorts of things, I went to the community garden meeting last weekend, and I’ll be doing a photo essay of some of the local garden patches for this season’s P-Patch Post (if you want to check out my past article, the issues are in PDF form in the right side bar of that link).

As it’s currently planted:

All in all, this has been fabulously fun and renewed our excitement about growing our own food.

In fact, it has been so fun that we took it a GIANT step further…

Surprise!

In June, it looks like we might be moving.  A result of March’s focus on money management and April’s focus on gardening, we’re likely going to move to a new apartment that is cheaper and across the street from our garden patch.

Assuming all goes well with our application, we’ll be attempting to grow more intensively in our little garden plot.  Something more like this (click to enlarge):

What's Growing In Your Garden Right Now?

We just planted some new goodies in our community garden patch over the weekend.  From seed we planted beets, carrots, kale, nasturtiums, potatoes, and arugula.  It’s a wee bit early here, yet – it’s still pretty cold.  So this will be an experiment!

Doesn’t look like much now, but it will be flourishing soon enough!

We also planted 2 blueberry bushes, a lavender bush, and broccoli, kale, bok choi, onion, strawberry, asparagus, and cilantro starts.  Plus we planted two new types of herbs we haven’t tried before – Australian mint bush and purple shiso.

What’s growing in your garden?

Please share!

Also, if you haven’t signed up for the Growing Challenge this year, I welcome you to join us.  It’s easy and fun!

Our New Garden!

It seems like we are destined to have a new garden every year!  Each year for the last several years, we’ve taken over old, unloved land and nourished it.  We leave behind for others gloriously fertile soil and beds just waiting to be planted.  The bad part? We leave behind a lot of blood, sweat, and tears – and planning, too.

Sigh.

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know we moved from Los Angeles, where we had a potted garden on concrete, to Geyserville, where we had a 2,000 square foot garden.  Then we moved to Seattle, and I started a garden with my mom and we gardened on our fire escape.  Then we got a community garden plot (aka “p-patch”), a couple miles away.  Then we moved to a neighborhood closer to work, and the p-patch became 3 miles away.

And now I’m sooooo excited to say we have a new plot just down the street!  Hooray!

Ok, here’s what we did last weekend….

Our New Community Garden Patch

Here we are, with loads of work to do.  A very unloved patch of land, full of horrible, horrible weeds (morning glories, among others – they have long, long roots and seem like they pop out every where).  There were several weird wire cages and fences, and numerous old metal and wooden poles and posts, plus raspberries all over, and clearly pretty poor soil.

The pots you see are garlic and rhubarb from our old plot.

So we dug and carted and weeded and dug and carted some more.  Brutal work!  But alas, we moved the raspberries to one place in the plot, rescued some beautiful chives, and cleared our new land.

Baren Land

Then we went with some friends down to Cedar Grove Compost, our municipal compost location, where we bought a truck load of “Booster Blend” (compost mixed with aged manure) for $11.  It’s great for us city dwellers:  we compost at home, it goes to Cedar Grove, they mix it with microbes and age it, and we buy it back for a small amount of money.  Not bad!

Several hours later...

After wheeling and dumping and digging and raking in several barrels of compost, voila!  We have a plantable garden!  I transplanted the garlic and rhubarb, and we now have a blank slate of good, nurtured soil.

This weekend we will plant!

The space is about 15 by 20 – almost twice as big as our old plot.  It doesn’t seem like much, probably, to those of you who have large garden spaces.  But it is a good amount of space if you use it well.

So… What Shall We Plant?

Currently, we have rhubarb, raspberries, chives and garlic.  What else shall we plant?  What’s your favorite unusual vegetable?  What space-saving varieties have you found?  Please help us maximize our garden space!

Gardening With My 98-Year-Old Grandfather

 

Many of you have been following along as I learn from my grandfather.  When I was a young child, he taught me a lot about gardening.  During the Depression, he grew food for the family.  When he moved to a multi-unit building (in the 60s I think), he petitioned the city to let him garden on a bare patch of land at the end of the street.  It was enormous, and he was known as the guy who feeds the whole block.  He continued to tend that patch until he moved to a retirement home about 10 years ago.

 

 

About a year and a half ago I was talking so much about our garden, and bringing him goodies on occasion, that he got excited and signed up for a garden patch at his community.  This spring his name came up on the waiting list, and we planted the garden together.

 

Cherry Tomatoes

 

We planted three tomato plants, which he and Marion have been eating straight from the vine.  The tomatoes look beautiful, of course – he has not lost his touch!

 

Grandfather Tending the Garden

 

Everything we planted is finger-food type veggies:  tomatoes, peppers, carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, and broccoli.  They eat in the cafeteria almost every meal, so these are nice and healthy snacks to eat between meals.

 

Orange Pepper

 

My grandfather was a bit apprehensive as we began planting in the late Spring.  He was afraid he’d forgotten how to garden, and looked to me for much guidance.  But as I’ve been sick and moving for the last month, he has been tending the garden on his own.  It’s clear he’s really enjoying it – the excuse to get out of the house, the feeling of nurturing with his hands in the soil, the freshness and sweetness of the fruit, and the joy of sharing his harvests with friends.

 

Thinking About What To Plant Next Year

 

And we’re already talking about what to plant next year – they’ve extended his patch, so he has more room to garden next year.  The possibilities!

 

Walk to the Garden

 

Our Luscious Community Garden Plot

I want to apologize to all of you – here I said I would be gone for a weekend and I was gone for a whole week!  Thanks for continuing the conversation while I was gone.  I will look for some updates from you all in the next few days, regarding your walking and your gardening – I can’t wait to hear how it’s going.


In the meantime, I realized it has been a VERY long time since I’ve showed you my community garden. Here is the evolution of the plot since April:

 

The Plan

The Plan – good to have it, didn’t quite stick to it.

 

The Plot - Before

The Plot – when we first saw it

 

After Amending The Soil

After amending the soil with 1.5 yards of soil mixed with compost

 

Planted P-Patch

Little plants beginning to rise

Our Beautiful Patch!

Grown!

 

This little 10 x 10 ft plot is providing loads of salad greens and basil, and soon we’ll be eating carrots, beets, and bulb fennel.

 

Close-up on the right side of the patch

Melons, nasturtiums, greens, and carrots

 

Our melons and eggplants are full of flowers but no fruit yet (planted it a bit late).  Our rhubarb (way back behind the amaranth) is doing wonderfully and I suspect we’ll be able to eat some next spring.  Most of our broccoli went to seed before producing any heads – I believe it got too hot, since we went from winter to summer without much of a spring this year.  But I have some small ones just coming up that will be ready by early fall.

 

Amaranth, 4 feet tall

Amaranth, now 4 feet tall


And the amaranth – isn’t it gorgeous?  We ate the small leaves as salad greens, the larger greens like spinach, and we’ll wait for the rest to produce grain seeds – they’re just starting to bud.  It is the easiest thing I’ve ever grown – these heirloom seeds were a gift from Botanical Interests.


If you’ll remember, most of what we planted went into my parent’s back yard.  I’ve also started a garden with my grandfather at his community garden patch.  And I have a few herbs on our fire escape as well.  Yes, I have my hand in 4 gardens – it’s true.  No wonder I’m battling to find the time for everything!  (See my post today at the Co-op.)

 

So, there you have it.  I’m proud of my little patch, considering that we just found out we had it during the second week of April.  It’s already time to start planting a second crop of greens!

 

A Wonderful Spring Surprsie!

It has been nearly a year now since we moved to Seattle – my how time flies!  Well, I was sure this would not happen until at least next year, but I have come upon a wonderful surprise….

 

My Little P-Patch Plot

Our New Plot

 

We have a community garden plot!!  One became available at the last minute, and I jumped at the opportunity.  It’s not at any of the three gardens for which I’m wait listed, so it’s a bit further from our home – over a mile away.  But it’s ours, and it’s ready to be weeded and planted.  So exciting!

 

On a beautiful sunny day yesterday, I walked to meet the garden coordinator and to be formally introduced to the plot.

 

Squire P-Patch

 

I’m really looking forward to gardening in this community setting.  I’ll be participating in some work parties throughout the year (it’s required), and I look forward to composting and gardening side by side with other food growers.

 

Squire P-Patch

 

Oh, I’m so excited I’ve already mapped out the plot with all the things we didn’t have enough space for at my mom’s, or that my mom just wasn’t inspired to grow.  Want to see?

 

Our P-Patch

 

Soybeans, beets, eggplant, bulb fennel, arugula and other greens, kohlrabi, kale, onions, carrots, rhubarb, and amaranth.  Wahoo!

 

I’ve been trying to go on daily walks, and now I have a destination….  This makes me very happy.