When I heard Williams-Sonoma was going to sell Chicken Coops, I thought it was an April Fool’s joke. It’s not. Not only are they selling Coops, they are launching a whole “Agrarian” line (doesn’t that sound adventurous?), complete with super attractive seeds packs, raised beds, expensive vintage tub planters, DIY mozzarella kits, and canning equipment out the wazoo. Basically, if we are doing it here at Dogs or Dollars I can now buy the supplies at Williams-Sonoma.
Isn’t that exciting?
No. No, it isn’t. Because, in my short little tenure as a wanna-be urban homesteader, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that this ain’t always pretty.
The view of Ugly Garden a few days ago: plastic, PVC, scavenged wood, milk jugs, goat poop, mud, and grass. Adventurous maybe. Glamourous No. I think I’m getting a pretty decent framework set, for what could be a productive garden. *fingerscrossed* However, Ugly Garden won’t be winning re-pin contests on pinterest anytime soon.
Apparently, I’m getting into this late. Urban Homesteading has now reached the masses, via corporate infiltration. There is something good about that. People growing their own food, as trends go, that’s a positive one. But, this is a little different than entertaining on your patio. It’s not just about buying the $2,000 barbecue and all the expensive accessories. There is a lot more work involved, and some part of it is always going to be dirty.
Not to mention that $150 for a raised bed is going to put you a little behind the cost/benefit curve.
As part of Ugly Garden makeover, I’d contemplated changing her name. Giving her a more respectable moniker.
Nah. On second thought, I think Ugly Garden is just right.
Now that expansion is complete, fence is fenced, goat poop is spread, and the dust hasn’t settled, but has only just begun, we have seven 4ft X 6ft beds. My strategy is simple: grow things we will eat. Imagine that, right? It’s true though, things we will eat fresh and preserved, things we use lots of, especially in winter months. I’m trying for more of fewer crops, and a smaller weekly grocery budget. Here’s the break down:
Bed One: Strawberries. This was in place last year, although the berries shared space with beans and cucumbers. I have a couple heads of garlic puttering along since last fall. When those are done, I’ll add more berries, and there will be no more sharing.
Bed Two: Winter Garden. This is last year’s original hoop house, still puttering along. A marked improvement from last month.
It’s a mixed mostly brassica bag. My spinach continue to do well and I have high hopes for brocoli.
Although I lost my cauliflower to frost. When these things finally bolt, I’ll replant with sugar pumpkins. Pumpkins are a completely new crop for us. We make a lot of pumpkin pie, bread, muffins, pancakes and bars in the fall/winter. Plus, I think these would be a good barter crop.
Bed Three: Currently sporting the flattering red plastic mulch, in preparation for tomatoes. This will be the deciding ground for the months and months of tomato growing I’ve already done. They will start transitioning outside later this month. The bed will be cloched before they take up residence. I would like to have enough tomatoes to preserve some of our own. I realize this may not happen.
Bed Four: Basil. Another finicky, gamble of a crop, especially when you are dedicating a whole bed to it. We like pesto though. On pizza, pasta, and meat. I’d like to have a boatload of it for our freezer. The basil has just sprouted under the grow lights, and will also be living under a cloche as it’s outdoor introduction.
Bed Five: Cucumbers. We are down to our very last jar of homemade pickles. They’ve only lasted this long because I’ve fiercely defended them against pilfering from friends and family. I am not sure I can ever go back to store-bought. I’m growing three varieties of pickling cucs and hope to be able to give out pickles as Christmas presents. Our two little plants last year kept us in all the fridge pickles we could eat, so here’s hoping. As with the tomatoes, I am not completely discounting the possibility that I will have to do a big purchase.
Bed Six: Onions.
Two types, storage and pearl. Something else we seem to use tons of. Right now, an entire bed dedicated to my teeny tiny onion starts seems excessive. When I am eating an egg salad lunch for the second (or third) time in a week it will appear less so.
Bed Seven: Parsnips, our root vegetable of choice. I just planted the seeds in our deepest, tallest raised bed this week. Not cloched, so sprouting may take a bit .They won’t even begin to be harvested until after the first fall frost. I’m hoping I can overwinter them. Keep them in the ground for convenient harvest through out winter.
I’m not done yet! Just because the beds are full, doesn’t mean I haven squeezed in some other crops. I’ve got six burlap coffee sacks, with seed potatoes planted inside.
This may not be the best idea for potato growing, but since I was limited on space, I’m giving it a shot.
Someday, there will also be raspberries. The three bushes I planted last spring, all appear to be coming back, as do the two golden raspberry starts I bartered for last fall. On Saturday, I added seven additional bare root starts. I’m a little skeptical about the bare root varieties, but for the price they couldn’t be beat.
While we are talking berries, my three blueberry bushes are also thriving. I’ve been mulching them with the acid rich foods they love. Evergreen needles in the fall, coffee grounds recently, and everything is fit to burst. I’m adding one more bush, bought with a 40% off coupon, to round out the group.
And an honorable mention goes out to the Asparagus Crowns I planted, and haven’t seen hide nor hair of again, and my beloved Columnar Apple Tree which is still with us.
But wait, there’s more! I’m starting fennel and dill under the grow lights right now. They will go in containers… somewhere. I’m currently still in the market for a spot for beans.
Wow! That’s it. That’s everything. I’ve said before, and I will probably say a hundred more times as I go along, I’ve no idea what I’m doing. I read. I follow instructions on the seed packets. I try to exercise some common sense. With the scale of operation I’m attempting here (a major expansion from last year), I’m bound to get bit in the ass.