Urban Homesteading: Settling In

Reader Contribution by Heidi Hunt
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It’s almost the end of May, and we’ve been in the new house for six and a half weeks. We’ve accomplished so much and really are feeling at home in our historic bungalow. The flowers in the front bed are beginning to bloom, and the roses and peonies have bountiful blossoms. In fact, the peonies are so large and filled with flowers that I was able to cut a large bouquet for the house. You know you are home when you can cut bouquets from your own flower beds!

I do think that growing vegetables will be a challenge. The terrible clay-like “top soil” that was delivered for our garden beds is truly cloddy material. There is no way to gently crumble the dirt around delicate new seedling roots. So, because I have no established compost material, I had to resort to commercial potting soil to cover the roots. When planting and seeding, I added a generous portion of homemade organic fertilizer to the soil. This fertilizer recipe contains all of the nutrients your veggies need to grow into healthy productive members of your garden community — seed meal, agricultural lime, gypsum, dolomitic lime, bone meal and kelp meal. I’ve also spread thin layers of grass clippings each time I mow. The yard is small, so I don’t collect massive amounts of clippings each mowing. But there’s enough to spread on all of the soil, decreasing the likelihood of the clay developing a rock-hard surface no seed can push through. Grass clippings also release nitrogen into the soil, which is good for the new plants.

The only unique garden technique I’ve used in the new beds has been to spread pine branch clippings around the raspberry and strawberry plants. Eventually, the needles will dry and fall off the branches. I am hoping their sharp points will be a deterrent to bunnies and squirrels who love to nibble on ripe, red fruit. Cheryl Long, Mother Earth News editor-in-chief, has suggested using red marbles or red-painted rocks to trick the nibblers. The theory is after encountering the hard, inedible goodies the critters will move on to a new yard to look for a snack. I’ll give that a try as soon as there is some red fruit to tempt them.

Hopefully, the next photo of the garden will include lush veggie foliage — we’ll see!!

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 .