Spring Cleaning on the old Homestead

So, this place has gotten rather dusty lately. Mostly I just feel that the world doesn’t have a huge need for my opinions on things. Like writing.

So let’s talk fun stuff. I’ve jumped into the homesteader/prepper movement in the last few years. I loved gardening from the time I finally got space of my own to get it. I live in a very urban (ahem, poor) neighborhood which was previously important because we didn’t have a car and I needed to be able to walk or bus everywhere (the grocery and hardware stores, the vet, my doctor, etc.) We ended up buying a nice (run down), fixer-upper (that had been foreclosed on twice and sat empty for nine months.)

It’s only been lately that we’ve been able to invest some time and effort (and some money) into it. Or maybe it’s only been lately that we’ve stopped feeling like overwhelmed dumb asses in a money pit and started turning what we have into what we want.

Just so you have a clear idea, our little “homestead” is only .446 acres, a very urban double lot. What we’ve done is very, very doable and easy for even complete homeowner and repair newbies like us to do.

So here’s the little homestead.

This space is about 28 feet wide and I can’t remember feet long. It’s bisected by an old clothes line that we painted with rust-removing paint (and had to kill a wasp nest in…twice.) I planted grapes, one plant at each end. (One end gets more shade than the other, and you can tell based on the growth. But now that the vines are growing along the line the leaves get plenty of  sun.)

I collected copious amounts of cardboard boxes and laid out  double layer to smother the grass. On the far side of the grapes I have two compost bins (these, which are pretty awesome, nice and big, tough, but don’t allow you to turn the compost so composting takes longer). Then I spray painted 8 tires (which were easy to find on corners, junk piles and in alleys all over. Tip: make sure the tires do NOT have any of the steel bared because then you might cut yourself when moving them around.) Those I stacked into what I loosely refer to as a “pyramid” and filled with soil. I planted strawberries in them.

Next are two 18 inch planters from Walmart. I can move these (and any of the other containers) around as needed to get more space, less sun, etc. This year they have habaneros planted in them. Habs, I’ve found, are well suited for pots because they stay smaller and so pots don’t restrict the fruit size or number of fruits.

Then I used basic outdoor lumber, and a raised bed kit a friend gave me to built three 4 x 4 raised beds. Hopefully, by next year I’ll be able to expand this more with a vertical planter for lettuces, spinach and chard. (That space gets part shade, so hopefully it’ll help the leafy plants last a little longer in the summer heat.) In the first box I have an augmented three sisters planting with only two “sisters”. The corn seedlings are beginning to peek out of the soil. In about 2 weeks I’ll plant beans between them to grow up the corn. In the second box I have this:

We used branches from the trees to build a teepee. This will help the squash planted in this box grow more vertical and hopefully help improve air flow and reduce the chances of powdery mildew. (I have been adding more branches to the teepee as I come across them. This is just the basic structure.)

In the final 4 x 4 box (which is the only pre-made, store bought raised bed) I planted two watermelons and two eggplants. (I’m using Square foot gardening as a guide here.)

On the near side of the grapes I have 3 boxes lining the fence (where we discovered the dogs were getting out, but hah hah those boxes filled with soil are pretty heavy and they can’t move them anymore.) I planted them with carrots because carrots need very well controlled, not at all rocky soil so I prefer putting them in boxes. Then there’s a 5 gallon bucket on the end (that you can barely see) that I planted a cayenne pepper in.

(Note: while 5 gallon buckets are not terribly expensive I got a bunch by going to the Kroger bakery and asking for icing buckets. Yeah, they get their icing in 5 gallon buckets. You can ask other restaurants too, because I know some places get pickles in buckets like this too. Plus if you have cats or know someone who does the big buckets that litter comes in are great for planting. If you don’t have cats, well I find that a lot of people around here throw those containers out in the trash regularly too. PS: Make sure to put drainage holes in the bottom if you are going to plant in them.)

Next, more tires. These have potatoes planted in them. I have more tires to the side which I will put on top of these tires as the potatoes grow and stuff with straw. (See the basic idea of potato towers here. Also, if I’d had any sense I’d have put the towers on the end of the raised beds and painted the whole thing with a castle brick theme. For fun.)

Next I put in another raised bed, this one is 8 ft x 4 ft (I’ve left lots of space for walkways and for those grapes.) This year it’s all tomatoes and peppers. Hopefully I’ll also be able to expand this with at least one more 8 x 4 bed, hopefully two.Then I laid a second layer of cardboard in the walkways and straw on top of it. Ta-da!

Elsewhere (and not far away) I have a brand new baby peach tree (so excited), two 20 inch pots with blueberry bushes, two pots with hibiscus (smell great, great for bees, and yes, the flowers are edible. I dry them for bath bombs and tea.), and a lemon tree. (The hibiscus and lemon have to come inside during the winter.)

And then there is the herb wall. But that I will get to in another post. Altogether not a bad spread or variety for a little, very urban, homestead.

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