A Village Garden
Based on previous years' experience, we just don't seem to get enough direct sunlight into our small quarter acre clearing in the creek valley below our home. Since we tend to travel through Pudue University area to and from work, we decided to rent a garden space at the Purdue Village. This is an incredibly awesome place, with probably 100 families from all over the world planting many varieties of plants using diverse techniques. We rented a 12 x 25 plot and went to work. We use a lot of peppers in our cooking, and knew we wanted to grow a lot of these for freezing for year round use. Peppers in the store are usually pricey. We also like fresh salsa and the grocery store price is usually salty. So, our village garden is being nicknamed, Salsa Garden, and we added plenty of tomato plants, onions, and even a small patch of sweet corn. We planted climbing beans to utilize the fence and vertical space. It was fun to plant, and we are excited about its potential.
Zero $ Raised Bed
Just because we are very stubborn people (at least I am when it comes to growing plants that want sunshine in an area with a dearth of sunlight), I wanted to try out several new ideas this year. I wanted to build a raised bed with very fertile ingredients on the most southern exposed spot to see what will happen. I started by removing topsoil from an 3 x 12 area where I had established native prairie perennials the previous 4 years. I then used a pitch fork to gently open up and aerate the subsoil. I then placed partially rotted sticks, then a layer of partially composted chicken manure from our hens, then a layer of partially composted wood chips from the electric company had dumped the year before, then a layer of nicely composted dead wood that had turned to soil from a large pile of dead branches and wood I piled next to the forest four years ago. I did another layer of each of these items, then Beth and I used some old shelving boards and some redwood 2x4 from a dismantled deck that were here when we moved in for the sides of the bed. We shoveled on the topsoil, an wow....our first ever raised bed. Now we need to plant it with a variety of garden veges and see what happens!
Container Gardens (almost zero $)
Something I had come across in a fun book titled the Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen is a functional porch garden idea known as a self-watering container. The concept is based on the commercially sold Earthbox...commonly sold for $40 or more each. It basically is made of an 18 gallon rubbermaid storage container (that we had on hand and were not using) and a few short sections of pvc pipe. The concept tries to mimic the topsoil, subsoil, and water table found in a natural garden, but contructed into a minaturized version for shallow rooted plants. The advantage over basic containers is that the water is wicked up by the plant roots whenever they need the water....and watering is done only infrequently, because the bottom reservoir is like 6-8 gallons of water. We decided to plant herbs in ours.
We came across something called TatorTires, where by cutting away the side walls of discarded tires you use them for containing potato plants...as potato plants grow upward, you need to pile on more soil, straw, etc. The tires are nice because you can utilize vertical space, contain the potato plants, and add old tires to the stack as they grow. The black rubber heats up and creates a warm zone for the plants to get a good start. At harvest time you simply start removing the tires one layer at a time to gather up the spuds! This idea could be used for a number of food plants.