last updated 2021-04-03

Growing food and getting dirty with my 4 raised beds and basement

Being largely confined at home in 2020, I took on many personal and introspective projects. One of the major draws for me to move slightly out of the city was to have more space for outdoor projects. I hope 2021 will be a season of bounty, where I can look forward to tending the beds daily and sharing the harvest with my neighbors and friends. I also hope to transform the vegetables into experimental ferments, inspired by The Art of Fermentation.

{Setting up the raised beds}

Through an inherited garden, I learned to love the dirt.

Starting in the basement

Towards the end of January (?!), I started planting herbs in the basement - half to test my new grow lights, and half to will Spring into being. These were all planted through a mixture of recycled materials and paper origami pots.

A buncha plants in the basement under grow lights
A buncha plants in the basement under grow lights

The first lesson I learned was to cover newly planted seed containers with plastic to trap the condensation. And if I could put it in a tray that I could fill shallowly with water, then the containers would soak it up, keeping things moist and ensuring germination. The basement is especially dry due to the furnace, so once I started doing this, I've had reliable and fast germination.

Another early mistake I made was planting the seeds too densly. I would imagine that most new gardeners growing from seed for the first time scatter seeds (especially tiny ones like herb seeds). I had flower pots filled with basil plants packed densely liked clover. I've had to do some major pruning, but I think almost everything has survived!

Hoop houses

I read this New York Times article, "The Year-Round Garden", and figured with a bit of that fancy agriculture fabric, I could start a bit early, especially with some of my more established herb seedlings. I ordered Agribon-19, picked up a dozen 0.5-inch PVC pipes, and started fastening them to the beds. I'm being careful to limit the amount of interaction the PVC has with the soil, due to it's questionable industrial processes and toxicity. There are loads of youtube videos from otherwise reputable gardener personalities that seem to think it's okay -- and a friend who is W A Y deeper into the gardening hobby waived it away.

After experimenting with a few different fastening positions, I landed on one with that also allows for height adjustment across the season, which is pretty neat. For the back yard ones (higher elevation) I am going to install soaker hoses on a timer to make watering easy given their harder-to-access hoop house setup. The front yard beds will be easily fed by the rain barrel, which has a decent amount of pressure given the elevation change.

First seeds in the ground

I planted carrots and cabbage in half of one of the back yards, and radish and peas in the front. Okra, and more peas to follow. Once we are very clear of frost I'll put my tomatoes and herbs in, along with {the three sisters} combo of corn, bean and squash.

Oops, a frost

We had a run of 60-deg days, which combined with my fabric and hoops made me a bit overzealous with schedule. I scrambled to pull seedling trays inside and covered what I could with extra fabric. Two nights of high 20's. Fingers crossed!

Ah, temperature is more important than I thought

Once temperatures were consistantly above 60 deg, everything exploded. We've been constantly harvesting peas, and squash, corn, okra, tomatoes, beans and herbs are on the way. Lesson for next year is to not worry so much, be more consciencious about the last frost date, and colocate similarly timed plants.

Compiled 2024-04-21