Wednesday, August 6, 2014

other people's gardens: having a garden with an HOA

Having a garden in an urban environment isn't a cookie-cutter endeavor. There are often rules and limitations to work around. In the interest of promoting the idea that you can still garden in an urban environment, despite space or rule limitations, I bring you "other people's gardens" - which is meant to highlight ways that people garden in the space they are in. If you want to share information about your garden, email me at nextgenhouse at gmail dot com.

First up is a garden in a development of townhomes with an HOA. How do you garden when you only have access to one side of the actual building and have rules about what you can do on your property? Meet Amber (my best friend), living and gardening in a townhouse in Cranberry Township with her husband Anthony and two cats, Bruce and Malcolm.   

We love having a garden, but had to be a bit creative with where to have it, making sure to utilize the limited space that we have and are allowed to plant in, thanks to having an HOA. Because we're on an end unit we decided to make a raised garden bed on the side of the house. I started the project, but I'm a bit impatient and might have hammered some screws into place when the electric screwdriver wasn't cooperating with me (I assure you that user error wasn't part of the issue. At all). That's when Anthony stepped in and made it pretty with his mad skills. Here is the garden:

This is the third year that we've had a garden, and we tried this year to plant vegetables that we tend to use the most. We belong to Kretschmann's CSA and wanted to grow vegetables that would compliment our CSA boxes. Over the years we have planted watermelon, zucchini and eggplant along with our staples of tomatoes, peppers and basil. One year we planted pumpkins, but they took over the entire garden and spilled out of the raised bed. Basically that year we ended up with 2 pumpkins out of everything we planted.

This year we decided to plant bell peppers, wax peppers (which are HOT, in a good way), jalapeƱos, a plethora of tomatoes, kale, cilantro (which is exploding), chives and basil. We did have a rosemary plant that didn't make it much past the transplant to the ground phase. We purchased all of our plants this year instead of starting them from seeds. We purchased the majority of our seedlings from Brenckle's farm on Glen Eden Road (if you are in the area, check them out and support them).

As far as what to plant, because our space is limited, we have learned not to put vine plants in with everything else (those pumpkins sure taught us a lesson). Last year we planted zucchini in their own little space out back so they could grow and spread out as needed.

Ideally, it'd be nice to have our garden in the backyard where there's full sun, but we would have to get permission for it and there is too much adult/kid/dog traffic back there as it borders the common area.  I'd have to spend my days manning the garden and I think my boss would get annoyed by that.

Because of the angle of the sun on the side of our house, we've learned through trial and error that the tomatoes should go towards the back of the house. Last year we planted them near the front of the house and they grew tall and wide and blocked the sun from reaching some of our smaller plants.  This caused the poor basil to reach out to the sunlight.

We also have a small cherry tree and a blackberry bush, but they are still both very young and don't produce much yet. We just got the first 2 blackberries this summer!

I love watching our plants grow and there is a great feeling when you can walk outside and pick a vegetable or an herb that you need for dinner.

Before we had a garden, I sort of thought it would be overwhelming. There's the watering (this year we bought a weeping hose from Home Depot that really cuts down on the watering time), the weeding (mulch helps keep the weeds to a minimum as well as keeping the ground wet), the pruning and the harvesting. I wasn't sure what to expect on how much time it would take to tend to it. 

So far, it's been totally worth the time put in. I'm sure this is because I enjoy working in the garden and find it relaxing to do the upkeep (and I love that my hands smell like the plants after I've been in the garden). If you're thinking about having a garden but feeling overwhelmed, start by planting one or two things that you enjoy (strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers) and see how it goes. Once that isn't so bad, you can add more.

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