New Home, New Garden

The spring garden doing wonderfully
I moved! And I presented my thesis proposal. Thus I have been absent. Struck by the all-too-common and terribly cliche bloggers absence. I expect to write more frequently, as I somehow managed to do these last few months, this summer. Exploring my new neighborhood, Tower Grove East; my new mode of transportation, biking; and everything STL has to offer when the weather is warm and the days are long.

With a new home comes a new garden! My first project over the long weekend.

But let's catch up with the spring garden. It's huge! The lettuces have already bolted, but I don't really like lettuces anyway, so they can go ahead and go to seed. But the Swiss chard is full and bushy and vibrant in its mix of yellow and burgundy. And crisp and delicious. The cilantro that volunteered from last year is doing fantastic as well. And I have peas! So many peas. I think some are supposed to be for shelling, but they're all tender enough right now to eat plain.

Future Garden
The water at the garden was AWOL for most of the spring. Fortunately we've escaped the drought that much of the country is experiencing and my plot and the others seem to have come through just fine. I packed a bag full of chard, peas, and cilantro. With some roasted farmer's market beets and some soft, creamy feta from  Jay's, I made the peas and Swiss chard into probably the best salad I've ever put together. A little oil and balsamic vinegar go nicely, but frankly are not required as the cheese adds some fat and the bright flavors of spring are plenty on their own. The roasted beets add some heft and savoriness to what could be too light of a salad. In a word: delicious. The cilantro found its way into an onion, garlic and oil base to enhance your standard rice and beans affair.

Although truly stupendous harvests like this are rare, at least in my gardening experience, this is why I do it. To nourish yourself from plants you put in as seeds...Well it's rewarding in a way few things in life are. Fortunately there's plenty more peas and chard!

And now on to the new.

My new place is just wonderful. Situated just one block from the bustling South Grand district, I'm in the Tower Grove East neighborhood right by the famous Tower Grove Park. I live in a duplex and I have a small front and back yard. Very homey. There were stumps from some trees and an older garden plot my upstairs neighbors had already claimed, so I told my landlord I'd put a garden in place of the stumps and that's just what I did.

Raise bed frame in place
The trees were surprisingly easy to dig out with a spade. Urban gardening often comes with tales of heavy metals and other pollutants in the soil, so I decided to put in a pretty tall raised bed. Honestly I'm not terribly worried, but it also seemed to match the existing raised bed. I decided on 8' x 4' and 10" tall.

It turns out that is a lot of volume to be filled! I picked up a lot of garden soil and then had to return a lot to buy some topsoil to mix in, per instructions I didn't read at first. I had to slice through the grass that remained after the stumps were gone, then put the bed itself together. Pretty easy, really. A few cuts with the circular saw and some screws, this doesn't need to be perfect.

Far too many bags of soil later, I transplanted some herbs and tomatoes and peppers from Washington University's greenhouse. I then stopped by a garden shop at Compton and Cherokee and picked up two eggplants and a cantaloupe! I've never grown fruit before. Speaking with Joe, the owner, who has missed only three days out of the last 365 at his shop, I was reminded to pick up carrot and beet seeds and onions to plant as well. Carrots and onions in particular make good fillers in between the taller plants.

The first transplants
So for now, it's done. The new soil seems pretty weed free so far, which is nice. Won't last of course. But nice for now. Once the seeds establish themselves I'll put some mulch over to help control the water a bit. I do hope I get enough sun for the tomatoes and other full sun plants. The sun is so high in the sky right now, I swear sometimes it seems there's more on the north side of the house than the south!

So here's to two gardens at once; to St. Louis in the summer; to bigger and better harvests!