This morning, after hearing on the news the mercury is dipping to 32 tonight and 29 tomorrow night, I walked out into my garden to see one of my almond trees bursting into bloom. Later this afternoon I'll be covering it and other early risers in my garden with a planket.
Additional Updates from My Urban Garden
Since I last wrote, I've added four raised beds to the urban garden in my front yard. This brings the total number of raised beds in my front yard and side driveway in back to 29 beds. The total square footage is 636 square feet. I estimate the market value of the crops I'll be growing in the spaces (Mother Nature willing) at $4,500 to $6,000 for 2014. I still have room for approximately 400 square feet more of raised beds which would bring my total to a little over 1,000 square feet of growing space. I don't plan to add any more new beds this spring. However, I do plan to cover all the rest of my grass with cardboard and mulch on top.
One conservative estimate suggests that is takes about 200 square feet of raised garden beds to provide a season’s worth of fresh produce for a single person. By this estimate, a garden 800-1200 square feet should yield enough fruits and vegetables for a family of four. [Source] I will be keep records this year of my crop yields. In the fall, I'll let you know what I think.
I'll be using less water to maintain this garden than I used to maintain the lawn as I've actually reduced the square footage of the space that requires watering. Furthermore, it will require less work than the lawn. Currently almost one -third of the beds are planted in perennials such as blueberries and blackberries which will come back every year.
It is expensive the first year--putting in the raised beds, adding soil to the beds, mulching, etc. However this is a front-end expense. Starting the second year, your only cost is water which you might pay anyway for a lawn. You can also reduce the cost of water by harvesting rainwater and also using ollas.
THE NEW BEDS
Below is a square foot garden 4' x 4' (16 square feet). The soil for this garden is a mixture of 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 peat moss. Unlike traditional rows, these gardens (originated in the 1980's by Mel Bartholomew) divide the planting spaces into foot squares. I've planted oriental cabbage, lavendar, geraniums, radishes, carrots, kale, and Alyssiums in my square foot garden.
Below is the beginning of my container gardening space. This weekend I built a potato tower and planted seed potatoes (organic gold yukons). My friend Charlie scoffed at me but I paid no attention. After all he laughed at me when I planted a cantaloupe in a pot last year. However, he didn't laugh when it produced four of the best cantaloupes I've ever eaten. To the left of the potato tower is a pot of kale that is coming up. [More ways to grow potatoes.]
Below is a raised bed that breaks one of the cardinal rules for raised beds: Do not make them any wider than four feet. This ensures that you don't have to step into the bed to tend to the plants. Sometimes when using found materials one has to bend the rules a bit. This bed is 6' x 8'. The wood for this bed actually once was a bed--the kind people, not plants, sleep in. It is made of solid knotty pine. I rescued it from a trip to the dump the other day. It currently has a potato tower. Later on in March I'll plant zuchinni for one trellis and cucumbers for the other. Along the front and sides of the box I'll plant tomatoes.
Below is a photo of a bed I added last week. This bed is 4' x 8'. It features two potato towers, onions, radished and califlower. Frankly, I don't think the califlower are going to make it.
Below is a 2.5' x 5' raised bed. It contains a Dwarf Kangaroo Paws (Angozanthos) a perennial that blooms spring through summer and is hardy to 10 degrees F. Also featured are some marigolds. I put this box on the other side of my grapevines.