Urban Homesteading – How Does the Garden Grow?

Reader Contribution by Heidi Hunt
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Just one month ago, in Settling In, I wrote about the pathetically poor dirt masquerading as soil in my new raised garden beds. In fact, I said at the end of that blog post, “Hopefully, the next photo of the garden will include lush veggie foliage — we’ll see!!”

Well, just look at the garden now! I am pleasantly surprised by how everything has flourished. The spinach, lettuce and arugula are not as robust as they could be, but we have eaten a number of fine, tender salads. As of yesterday’s 90-degree-Fahrenheit-plus temperature, the spinach has bolted, but I think I’ll still be able to harvest some lettuce for this evening’s supper.

The tomato plants are shoulder height and there are about five bitty green tomatoes on the six plants. The pepper plants, though not very tall, have already produced an eight-inch roasting pepper. It is so hard to wait for it to turn red and sweet. The pole green beans have shot up over the top of the chicken-wire trellis and attached themselves to the neighboring chain link fence. Isn’t it amazing how vining plants seem to “see” the nearest structure to climb? I can’t wait to see what’s under the clay and straw covering the potatoes. The plants, in their one-foot-high beds are up to my thigh in height and already are blooming. So far, the only failure is the leeks. I think a couple of seeds sprouted, but they are now hiding in the wheat that is covering all of the beds.

Wheat!? Am I growing wheat in my backyard raised beds? Well, no — at least not on purpose. For 20 years, I’ve used straw as mulch in each spring’s garden — holding in the moisture and helping the soil to stay soft. But this year’s bale of wheat straw contained a whole lot of wheat kernels still in the straw. I didn’t realize this until one morning after a couple of days of rain: There was a fine fuzz of green everywhere, in all four beds. When I tried to pull the little grasses, the top came loose from the base, leaving the root structure intact. Shucks! So, now that the wheat is taller and tougher, I just grab a handful of wheat and straw and yank it out of the soil, leaving the uprooted plants right where they are to act as additional mulch.

This has been such a satisfying gardening month. In July, I hope to have an even more exciting growing and harvesting report.

Heidi Hunt is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. She has been on the editorial staff since 2001 when Ogden Publications acquired the magazine. Heidi especially enjoys interacting with readers and answering the myriad of questions they throw her way. You can also follow Heidi on .

Photos by Heidi Hunt