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Celt's Garden - Value from Small Spaces

It's time to plant onion sets and potatoes. If you haven't started some peas, lettuce and spinach already, now is the time. Leave some space for the summer garden, even if your summer garden is two patio tomatoes and a butterstick summer squash in pots. Bush beans, compact summer squashes, determinate tomatoes in cages, trellises to train pole beans, squash, cucumbers will help you grow a lot in small spaces.

Back when I had just built the first raised bed on my former front lawn, a 13' wide sorry looking strip of dandelions and grass, an old gentleman stopped on his walk to patiently explain to me that I wasn't going to be able to live off that. Thinking to myself, "That's right, Bozohead, I am not going to get 2000 daily calories times 2.3 FTEE (Full Time Equivalent Eaters) out of a 48 square foot raised bed", I smiled broadly and told him, "Gardening is such an INTERESTING hobby, don't you think? And it's a great way to meet people."

What I got was nine varieties of lettuce, spinach, green onions, radishes, flat and curly parsley, boy choi, tatsoi, edible chrysanthemum, chives, Pacific Pearl onions, Asian red mustard, snow peas, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, pattypan spinach, green beans, beet greens, green garlic tops, and a handful of fancy Italian red torpedo onions. I didn't keep a detailed account, but it was at least $30 a week worth of fresh organic veggies. It was November before I had to break down and buy lettuce. With some herbs in pots, the little garden produced the makings for excellent meals for most of the year. I bought the the heavy veg (more broccoli, cauliflower, brown onions, carrots, garlic bulbs, winter squash, sweet corn, a couple of Brent's Harrison's massive solid head cabbages to make 7 quarts of sauerkraut, pickling cucumbers and green beans for freezing) from the farmer's market.

The city required 24" setback between the sidewalk and the raised bed made a great flower bed. I stuck a few nasturtium seeds in to grow up and tumble over the sides. The chives flowered and by midsummer, it was positively charming.

In August, I put in chard and Lutz Winterkeeper beets to replace bolted lettuce and spinach and planted fall lettuce, six cabbage starts, kale, chicory, and winter radishes. In October, I pulled up the spent tomatoes and squash and put in their place fava beans and some onions that had gone sprouty in the kitchen. The two broccoli plants produced side shoots until the following February, when they got really bushy and I pulled them up.

Kale, leeks and chicory are gifts that keep giving until they bolt. Just cut kale back and as long as the weather is cool but not frozen hard, a frequent condition in these parts, the kale grows back. In the spring it bolts dramatically and makes exuberant bee forage for your wild pollinators.

In one year, that small garden produced over $1000 worth of vegetables. It was delicious, fresh picked stuff. Dried herbs from the herb plants in containers went into meals all winter.

A small garden makes a huge difference to the gardener's quality of life. That's money you don't have to earn, or something extra every week to put towards upgrading your meat and dairy to local and naturally raised. You don't need to grow every calorie you eat. Just by growing some fresh food and laying off the processed food, you can vastly improve your eating.

Gardening is part of my business plan. The nature of engineering is that it is seasonal and project oriented. The self-employed develop techniques for coping with an intermittent cash flow (most of which amount to don't run out and spend the entire check when you get one, eh?) However, I'm not so keen on intermittent eating. And I really don't like big fluctuations in lifestyle, eating dinners in restaurants after getting paid and warming up canned mac and cheese from the discount store when the cash runs out.

Besides, gardening is such an interesting hobby.

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Comment by Celt M. Schira on April 19, 2010 at 6:01pm
Rebecca, What fun! That's a nice size for a garden. Good of you to cross post the article, and thank you for your kinds words.
My regrets to such wonderful invitations, but I really need to I stay home and work on my garden. Parts of it are trying to revert to temperate rain forest.
Comment by Heather K on April 19, 2010 at 1:18pm
....and its a way to meet such intersting people! Thanks Celt for another great garden sharing! Hope to see you at the potluck Sunday at Farmer & Writer David Pikes garden!

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