Kathryn
Kathryn
  • Hometalker
  • Austin, TX

My Inexpensive, Space Limited Apartment Dweller Garden.


I've been gardening since I was 6 years old and planted my first sunflower when my family was stationed in Darmstadt, Germany-dad was a 30 year Army veteran. When I was 10 years old mom and dad purchased our home in Belton, Tx. This home had a nice size back yard and plenty of room for a garden or 6. My mom would plant up her plot and we children-5-were encouraged to plant up our designated little areas. I remember flowers were my favorite things to plant and because there were so many of us we always planted from seed which I continue to do most of the time.
Because of osteoarthritis of the knees I had to put off gardening for over 4 years, the pain and growth of bone spurs just made it impossible and believe me the words can't and impossible seldom enter my vocabulary. Two years ago I had total bilateral knee replacement surgery. Though my right leg still gives me some difficultly it wasn't going to hold me back from my love of gardening any longer. Because of the arthritis in my knees, shoulders, neck and back I am now on disability which means a tight budget.
I wanted to grow the basic veggies tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and beans. And because I love the scent and taste of cilantro, I wanted to grow that as well as parsley.
I had learned about square foot gardening and found a book outlining the technic in a used book store. So armed with this book and the knowledge I have gain through years of gardening I drew up plans for raised beds.
A trip to Home Depot put a damper on my original plan of using 'good' wood-pine or cedar boards etc. for the sides of the beds. So I looked around and noticed the fencing pickets, you know the ones for privacy fencing?, could actually be a viable alternative and they were also within my budget. So back to the drawing board I go. And then back to Home Depot.
I purchased enough boards for a 4ft x 2ft x 12in bed, a 2ft x 2ftx 12in bed and a 4ft x 1ft x 12in bed. I also purchased 2 x 2's for support.
I am fortunate to have several power tools so I got to work measuring and cutting wood. Then with the assistance of some of my 10 grandchildren garden beds began to take shape.
I guess I should have mentioned I live in an apartment community and have lived here for 22 years. When the community manager saw what I was doing she asked if I would like to help initiate and build a community garden-oh yes I would, but unfortunately it was too late to start on this season. But during this conversation she volunteered to supply the soil for my garden beds!! Which would have been the largest expense and one I had been racking my brain about for awhile. Thank you.
So the beds are built and put in position. I then line them with landscape fabric to keep the soil from seeping out during watering and to keep the weeds out.
The soil is delivered-1 yard-and dumped about 50 ft from where I need it to be. But this is the only place they can put it so in steps my community manager again with her personal wheelbarrow. Thank you again.
Did I mention all the places arthritis is effecting me? I'm also 55 years young. But I wanted this garden and I intended to have this garden. So with my trusty spade and Cat's wheelbarrow I start moving earth. I have to say frequent breaks slowed the process but after 14 loads I had the large bed full. Several of my neighbors actually asked what was taking me so long-huh. I'm old. I'm taking just the right amount of time.
Day 2 of soil moving went easier. Go figure, you'd think I'd be sore and slow down but nope. I seemed stronger-for the first 6 loads. Then I began to feel it. Enter-grandchildren-those wonderful, young, strong people with an attention span of-well long enough for me to take a much needed break and still make progress. With these gung ho little people we manager to fill the two other beds with soil. Yea us!!!
Now here we are with 3 lovely raised garden beds. Out comes the ruler, string and baby powder. I measured and marked the beds one at a time planting seeds as I went. In the 4x2x12 bed I planted cantaloupe, onions, 1 jalapeno (from the sale), radishes, cabbage, spinach, cilantro and parsley (I cheated and bought these two already growing from HD's nursery because they had a great sale. Next I planted the 4x1x12 bed with an Early Girl tomato and a Celebrity tomato (again I cheated because of that sale), 2 cucumbers, 2 garden beans and 2 baby limas. And in the 2x2x12 bed I planted a bell pepper (from the a fore mentioned sale), carrots, lettuce and marigolds. That sounds like a lot of plants but according to the square foot gardening method it should work well.
I watered every other day for about 10 days before any of the seeds germinated. The first were the radishes. They seemed to really like their home. The cilantro and parsley of course continued to grow well and I harvested them several times to use in cooking during this 10 day period. The tomatoes and bell pepper took well to their new home also. But the jalapeno was having none of it and died, very sad day when I gave up and let nature take it's course. 14 days and no carrots, no onions, no marigolds-what no marigolds, whats up with that?-no cabbage, 1 spinach, 3 lettuce, no cukes, no beans where I planted them but some coming up where I must have dropped seeds outside the 2x2 bed. Day 21 all plants that have been growing still growing well but still no carrots or onions so I consult the wonderful people on the internet. Be patient was the answer. Okay.
Day 31 my grandchildren could wait much longer to see some kind of results from our efforts so I let them pull radishes. It was a little early but their excitement and reaction was worth it. No one wanted to eat them. Oh well.
We are well into the growing season now and still no carrots or onions. I went back to HD and bought more seeds and replanted. One onion finally raised it's timid little head and still no carrots. With further research I discovered these are more cool weather crops-I'm in Austin, Tx. Silly me. At least I'll have something to plant and grow for the fall.
My tomatoes, I should have known because years ago the same thing happens, they have over grown their supports. Silly me again. I've harvested 7 tomatoes so far only 1 was a Celebrity but have at least 2 dozen maturing and many more blossoms waiting for pollination. The Bell Pepper has 5 peppers maturing and the cucumbers are finally being pollinated. I believe there were just too many leaves from the cukes and the beans for the pollinators to get to the blossoms. Last month a neighbor gave some of the children watermelon for a treat and we planted a few of those seeds in the 4x4 bed where nothing was happening and there are now lots of vines with baby watermelon on them.
As my fellow gardeners know once you start it's hard to stop. So during the wait for growth in the veggie beds I refreshed my border bed. The apartment community had torn down an existing retaining wall consisting of stones and mortar and instead of tossing them into a dumpster destined for the landfill they put them in my area. I was not info of this so when I went out to work on my garden and discovered them I called the office and told them it seems the heavens have gifted me with a large pile of stones. Cat said she felt I could probably find something to use them for and I did, my border.
This project I took my time with because I was running out of room and it may well be the last of the season. I removed several wheelbarrows of older soil and replaced it with some of the soil left from the raised beds, boy did I calculate wrong there, I then choose and placed stones along a small area at a time and then spread newspaper and covered that with red mulch. It took about 2 weeks. I know, I know it's not that big why did it take so long? In my defense I'm old. No I just wanted to do it well. Thanks again to Home Depot and their great specials I was able to do it within my budget.
This has been an adventure for me and my grandchildren. And maybe by September we'll have some mature watermelon to share with my apartment community. I've already shared the tomatoes with some neighbors and maybe the Community Garden will actually happen next year.
Does any one have any suggestions how and what I could put in a proposal to our owner so they would grant permission-it's their property and water we would be using after all. And maybe a proposal to area garden centers for donations to the garden.
All the wood cut and ready to build.
All the wood cut and ready to build.
You stand on it Ayla so it won't move while I nail it.  Apolo
You stand on it Ayla so it won't move while I nail it. Apolo
Apolo helps Alystar build a garden bed.
Apolo helps Alystar build a garden bed.
building completed
building completed
Soil-so far away
Soil-so far away
Grands are a BIG help even with little tools
Grands are a BIG help even with little tools
birds eye view of completed beds
birds eye view of completed beds
Tomatoes
Tomatoes
Growing!!
Growing!!
Stones from heaven?
Stones from heaven?
Border almost done.
Border almost done.
Watermelon and cantaloupe
Watermelon and cantaloupe
Tomatoes over growing their support also cucumbers and beans
Tomatoes over growing their support also cucumbers and beans

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