As if we needed another reason to love our new home, Reason #8745 comes in the form of a generous community garden in our complex. I say generous because only five or six households (out of 72) use the 1500 square feet of gardening space. Not that I’m complaining!
We discovered this gem one Sunday afternoon after seeing a note about ripe lemons waiting to be harvested in “the garden behind the tennis courts”. We wasted no time in checking this out – who doesn’t want free lemons?? – and were pleasantly surprised by not one, but THREE lemon trees, heavy with branches of plump, ripe meyer lemons, located in what looked like an overgrown community garden. There were hordes of blackberry bushes and foxtail, peppered with clumps of mint and wild fennel in most parts, but it looked like someone was actually farming and tending to a small plot where they had kale, peas, broccoli and cauliflower in the pink of health. It didn’t take long before we signed up for a plot of our own, which at almost 100 square feet of space, should be producing more than enough for the two of us this summer.
Growing up in Singapore’s concrete jungle, where the only thing I’ve ever tried to grow were beansprouts in school science experiments, this whole gardening and grow-your-own-vegetables-in-soil activity is a brand new adventure. Which probably explains my zest for building my gardening credentials by hanging out at Home Depot and Lowe’s to stock up on tools and essentials, and attending workshops by the Master Gardeners to learn about planting for Summer. Of course a pair of cute boots wouldn’t hurt….after all, one must look the part! Especially while undertaking the necessary, if unglamorous, job of weeding that proved surprisingly therapeutic, especially after a frustrating week.
So after an afternoon of Weeding Therapy, and another spent preparing the soil for planting, we’ve started our little square off with five types of tomatoes, a bunch of mixed and butter lettuce, a serrano pepper, some lavender bushes and a couple of strawberry vines. To these we added zucchini, peas, carrots, radish and rocket from seed, so the next few weeks will be interesting to see if any shoots appear.
An excellent companion to our gardening ambitions to date is this book on Creating Your Backyard Farm by Nicki Trench, where she takes you through the steps needed to prepare your garden – from understanding soil types, the virtues of compost and the equipment you’ll need to detailed chapters organized by vegetable categories like Root Vegetables, Squashes and Onions, all brimming with information about planting season, plant spacing and tips for countering pests and diseases. The book ends with a chapter on keeping hens, bees and goats, which we won’t be doing anytime soon, but the sections on ‘How to handle a hen’ and ‘Classic chicken behavior’ make for fascinating, if unconventional, bedtime reading. I’ve never gone through a guide book as quickly as I have with this, and highly recommend it if you’re ever looking to venture into the world of backyard farming.
Looking at our plot, I felt a sense of pride that’s probably similar to what new parents must feel. There’s so much promise and potential in this small space, that with diligent care and attention, should yield a fair amount of vegetables this summer. Or not. That’s all part of the fun isn’t it? Stay tuned for more garden updates!