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The Small Garden

06/05/08 5:55PM By Henry Homeyer
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(HOST) Commentator Henry Homeyer is a gardening coach and writer who lives in Cornish Flat, New Hampshire - and he says that even a very small garden can add a lot to your table.

(HOMEYER) If you can give up a patch of your lawn the size of the rug under your dining room table, and spend thirty minutes a day gardening, you can grow more veggies than you can imagine.

Here's what I did for some friends recently: I took stakes and string and marked off a nice 9- by 12-foot rectangle in the middle of the back lawn. I wanted a plot in full sun, away from shade-producing trees. I wanted the garden to look nice, so I took a little time to make the corners square and the sides parallel.

Then I got to work, removing the sod. Yes, it would've been easy to rototill the lawn, and make it LOOK like the grass was all gone. But grass roots are not killed by rototilling, and they'd keep re-sprouting all summer. And next summer, and so on. So I took an edging tool to slice through the sod and cut the grass into 1-foot squares. I pulled them out, and knocked off the topsoil before tossing the chunks of sod onto a compost pile. That took 2- or 3 hours, which I did over the course of a week. The work was tedious, but less so by spreading it out over a few days.

I made two wide raised beds in this little garden, each about 30 inches wide, with a path up the middle. To raise the beds, I used a garden fork to loosen the soil, and then raked soil from the central walkway and the edges onto the beds. I bought a dozen bags of composted cow manure, which I added on top and stirred into the soil, raising the beds even more.

Here's what we're growing in this small plot: 2 tomato plants; short rows of carrots, Swiss chard, onions and bush beans; 3 green peppers; 3 potato plants; a tiny teepee of pole beans; 2 broccoli; a zucchini and one cucumber plant.  We also sprinkled lettuce around the garden and we'll replant it all summer as it's eaten.

My theory is this: Some people don't garden because in the past they've tried to do too much at once. It's no fun if your back aches at the end of the day, or if you're sunburned and overly fatigued. It's not fun if you let the weeds get ahead of you. But if you get out there every day for 30 minutes, the garden will be a pleasure.  Some days you'll only need to spend 10 or 15 minutes watering and pulling any nervy weeds that have snuck in. Other days you'll spend the time looking for beans hidden in the lush green foliage. And when the tomatoes ripen? You'll think you've gone to heaven.
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