Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Great Community Garden Project of 2010

"This is where the magic happens!"
My plot's condition, 1 week after I received my gate key to the site.
Our little urban/suburban yard in Baltimore is blessed & cursed with ample shade. For 5 years, I tried to garden in spite of this reality. Some efforts (tobacco, peppers, and cool season crops) have proven to be successes (to varying degrees), while others (squash, cucumbers, and watermelon) have proven to be complete failures. In early 2009 I decided to rent a small garden (and not in someone's yard), so ultimately I found out about the City Farm Project in Baltimore, where unused parcels within City parks are fenced off and rented to City residents for gardening (annual plants only) for $30/year (which includes water, compost, manure, and mulch). I received a nice letter saying that the program was at capacity but "maybe next year." Grumble.
So in February 2010 I received a letter from the program asking me to send in a $40 money order for a single plot ($30 for rent, $10 for the key). I did, and was kind of amazed to show up at my new garden plot and see the sight in the first picture. OUCH! The soil was in horrible condition and it took me two evenings to break it by hand with a 5lb maddux. Given the awful condition of the soil (these sites aren't given up by the City because of high soil fertility, haha), I decided to do a mix of raised beds and row planting.

Cold day in early April - bringing in lumber for raised beds
The plot is 10' x 20' - hardly gigantic, so some intensive gardening is going to take place. I built two beds of 4' x 8' and two beds of 4' x 6', and have enough space for a 10' x 2' bed next year, if I feel motivated to put it in. I'll be interested to see how the soil fares in the "bare rows" vs. in the raised beds.

Early April - Raised beds assembled.

Mid-April - augmenting the soil with leaf compost and some kind of manure from the Baltimore Zoo.
Meeting people at the "City Farm" has been interesting. I have met about 10 other gardeners, all of them over 60 years old, and only one woman. However, their ideas about gardening are very different, and I hope to watch this play out (as a fly on the wall) as the growing season progresses.
Some clearly use chemical fertilizer and insecticide, most don't (I'd like to avoid both, given that manure and compost are free, and there should be tons of beneficial insects around).
. A few (like me) have raised beds, most don't. Some are focused on just raising a few types of crops, others seem to cast the net quite wide in terms of plant species. I'm somewhere in the middle - having never grown a single plant in this soil, I don't know what to expect.

End of April - Garlic and chives quite happy, peppers and a few tomatoes transplanted, and okra and carrots seeded.
This is going to be an experiment in human dynamics as well as gardening - I'll provide updates as the season continues, and see if anything makes it "unproductive" to rent this plot (and/or others) in 2011 and beyond. So far, the skeleton staff and the volunteers at City Farm have been really nice and helpful.
For the record....the plantings:
Chives - transplant
White Garlic - transplant
Mole' Peppers - transplant (from seed)
Cayenne Peppers - transplant (from seed)
Habanero Pepper - transplant
Early Jalapeno Peppers - transplant (from seed / organic)
Tomato / Sweet Million - transplant
Nantes Coreless Carrot - seed
Okra / Clemson Spineless - seed
Spinach / Regatta Hybrid - seed
Cucumber / Spacemaster - transplant (from seed)
Squash / Crookneck - transplant (from seed)
Watermelon / Sugar Baby - transplant (from seed)
Millet / Purple Majesty - transplant (from seed)
Sunflower / Mammoth - seed
Corn - hybrid not selected yet - seed

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