(While I'm away for a week in the woods, I'll be missing my garden! But I'm delighted to share with you this week some more peeks inside some of your gardens.)
Today, Jen shares her urban garden (and secret chickens!), along with some of her ideas for small space gardening. It's a beautiful space! Welcome to her garden!
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Garden Location and Zone: Northeast US, zone 6
Garden Size: 1/8th of an acre (I think!)
How long have you been gardening? I have been gardening in some way or another for 25 years, beginning with pots of tomatoes and peppers on a stoop.
It is therapy for me and I am also compelled to. My mother had the greenest thumb of anyone I’ve ever known, besides my friend Ray who regularly brings plants back from the dead. She grew up in city with no backyard to speak of but had a yearning to put her hands in the soil, eventually taking us to an 8-acre farmette when I was 11-14 years old. Those years on the farm started an itch for homesteading that I wouldn’t recognize fully until I was in my 30’s.
How would you describe your garden?
Well-intentioned, mostly! I start my plants every March by using almost every seed in the packet, resulting in waaaay more plants than I can use/fit in my space. My coworkers love me because they are the benefactors of my overstock! My excitement for gardening in winter is the same for most gardeners---I have plansplansplans for The Biggest Most Perfect Garden Ever and find myself itching to start digging as soon as the ground can be dug. Then, when I’ve gotten all my plants in and it’s 90 degrees with 80% humidity, I poop out. Luckily, all I need to do is weed a little here and there and water if it’s dry. I basically allow my garden to become the jungle you see in these pictures. I am definitely a fair-weather gardener.
My garden is also my own little mini urban farm. I am one of many backyard chicken keepers that builds a big fence hoping no one will see that they’re there (why isn’t it legal EVERYWHERE??). My hens provide entertainment and even more therapy for me, as I love to care for them and watch their antics. They also keep the bugs at bay and provide us with fertilizer and the best tasting and most beautiful eggs.
I used to be a major blog lurker, searching often for “urban farm blogs” and such but now I mostly follow a ton of gardeners on Instagram. It’s awesome to see progress photos almost daily from people all over the world, doing their thing to grow their own food and create a homestead. One of my favorites is Deanna at @deannacat3. She has a very different climate from mine, being from the Central Coast of CA, but it’s been very influential to me to see how she’s transformed her back and front yard into what is really a homestead oasis. She’s also fantastic about answering questions and even provided me with her hand-drawn plans for a chicken coop to transition young pullets into an established flock of mature hens. That coop was the first thing I’ve ever constructed myself and it was super cool to have someone I don’t even know cheering me on and being such a personal resource.
I know it’s hardly original to say that Mel Bartholomew changed my gardening life, but he really did. When I finally had a yard of my own to plant a garden, not only did I plant every seed like I do now, but I also put every single plant I grew from seed into that garden. The result was a year when I had 20 tomato plants (for just my husband and me---I learned about canning that year!) and another year in which I planted 15 pumpkin plants in my 15 x 15’ garden (that year every other plant was run over and every visitor went home with a huge pumpkin!). After watching in amusement, I’m sure, my mother gave me her own copy of the original printing of Square Foot Gardening, and I’ve been using Mel’s tips and tricks ever since.
THISTLES!!! They are EVERYWHERE and the bane of my existence. The longest tap root of all and so annoying. I should be a thistle farmer! Also, using the bounty! I tend to plant vegetables that I admire the look of but don’t necessarily love the taste of, but I’m getting better about finding ways to utilize everything. And once again, my coworkers appreciate my overstock.
What’s your biggest garden accomplishment?
Transforming an unused portion of my yard into a beautiful, productive space.
What do you most love to grow?
I love to grow unique plants (see challenges above!), so I always include something that I either haven’t seen before or something that is beautiful. Some of those have included Mexican gherkin cucumbers (or “Mice Melons” which is what made me plant them!), blueberry tomatoes (pretty but bland), glass gem corn (amazingly gorgeous but not good popcorn like I thought), and this year’s loofah gourds.
Don’t be afraid to try something new! The thing that is the most frustrating AND the most rewarding is that gardening is all about learning from trial and error. The worst that can happen is that something doesn’t grow or that you have too much of it and have to share it!
Can you tell us about yourself?
Because I am a “secret” chicken owner, I don’t want to reveal too much, but I can be found on Instagram @constantgardener70 and would love to connect with more gardeners creating urban homesteads.
Thank you, Jen, for sharing your garden with us!
(If you'd like to share your farm or garden with us this season, send me an email for more details. We'd love to visit!)