Yee-haw! Just when I thought I’d be plot-less, stuck without a place to grow food for the first time in 9 years, I was saved at the bell and got the opportunity to join Campos Community Garden, a wonderful, intimate community garden deep in the East Village. And just in time to plant the seeds for spring vegetables. I am eternally grateful to the garden members, particularly Chris, the de-facto president, for their hospitality and welcome. I first encountered the Campos Garden last fall after Hurricane Sandy, when I volunteered to clean up after the flooding destroyed most of the beds and contaminated the soil. It was really a shame, and gardeners lost everything left in their beds, along with the beds themselves. But all hope was not lost: a generous donor provided the funds through GrowNYC to get new soil, new compost, new beds and lots of mulch.
So the garden was on my radar when I started my quest for a plot, and by luck of timing, and the increase in raised beds through the donation, I was able to get one. I was indeed quite lucky because it usually takes a couple of seasons of hanging around these gardens, volunteering and waiting for something to open up. Even though it’s the smallest space I’ve ever grown in (4’ x 4’), it’s still heaven to me. And it’s the perfect size to challenge my usual enthusiastic lack of restraint by using the Square Foot Gardening method, which I haven’t done, at least not in the strict sense.
Square foot gardening is an intensive small plot organic gardening method, most often using 4’ x 4’ raised beds. The method was introduced by gardener Mel Bartholomew in a book called Square Foot Gardening, published in 1981, and is ideal for small spaces, areas with poor soil, and beginning gardeners. Each 4’ x 4’ bed is divided into 16 1’ x 1’ sections, and plants are grown close together; depending on the size of the plant, each section could hold anywhere from 1 to 16 plants. Also, the method uses frequent succession planting and thus, relies heavily on compost to replenish the soil between each new planting. So once you harvest your spring plants, each section can be replanted with summer or fall vegetables.
It will be an interesting experiment to see how much produce I can yield in the plot over a full season. I will keep you posted with the progress, but here’s a photo of the empty plot and a plot plan (subject to change as the plants succeed or fail):
The bed is filled with the soil and compost, and the grid is marked off with string. The plot plan shows the number of plants in each section and depending on the timing and the size of the next plant, what goes in to replace the first planting. I also cheated a bit and planted down the middle and sides to border off the area and leveraging the proximity of the abutting wall, where I will prop a trellis for climbing plants like peas and cucumber.
Here are more photos of the garden, before the real growing begins. It’s such an oasis, and a community gathering spot. More about the other gardeners in later posts. I’ll likely feature some of their inventive growing techniques, with their permission of course. There’s a good chance, particularly if we can get a grant, that I’ll be helping run a summer program for the Boys Club using a circle garden, which I’m designing now and will update as that progresses.