|Home Grown Tomatoes|
Many years ago, I owned a home only four blocks from City Hall. It was an old craftsman built in the early ’40 along the "steel industry row" which runs from Walker County through Tuscaloosa County in Alabama.
Since the house was in an area being swallowed up by the city, the front and back yards had shrunk in order to accommodate easement access. More than 40 years of changing times and homeowners, with only a sense of immediate need and poor planning, had left the yard with assorted small permanent storage buildings and various pads of old broken concrete and a crushed gravel parking area big enough for four cars. On the upside of this was that I could mow all of the grass patches in less than twenty minutes. Nevertheless, I wanted a garden.
There were only three trees in the yard; a Japanese magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana), Southern red maple (Acer rubrum) and a Chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach) which was as much of a representation of early Americana as any plant in the yard. The shrubs consisted of overgrown nandinas (Nandina domestica) and a couple of scraggly mahonia bushes (Mahonia aquafolia).
I spent a week watching the sun at various times of the day, carried my compass around to the different possible locations in the yard. After carefully surveying what little dirt was available for planting, I decided to make several raised bed gardens around the house, taking advantage of the sunlight wherever possible. Several? I made 11!
I built my bed walls out of 2 x 12 redwood planks and connected them in the corners with galvanized screws. Some of the raised beds were only one foot wide by three feet long. Some were twelve feet long. Some of the floors of the raised beds were concrete pads which provided good weed control and better water retention in the hot Alabama sun.
In the beds built directly onto the soil, I laid a thick layer of newspapers as a weed deterrent directly onto the ground before I added soil. In those beds, deeper-rooted vegetables were planted. Tomatoes, peppers, okra and corn were among those. In the beds on the concrete pads, I planted squash, cucumbers, radishes, bush peas and bush beans.
At the end of each season, I simply removed the screws, hosed off the boards, dried them in the autumn sun and stacked them in the storage barn.
All of the soil was piled in a large heap and I added kitchen scraps to it all winter long. See? I was composting long before I knew what to call it.
I was a yard farmer!
• Pre-drill the holes before you screw the bed planks together.
• Be sure to make a design map and assembly instruction reference for next year.
• Always remove the soil and dry the bed planks before storage.
I’m still setting out my mid-season tomato plants! It’s not too late to start your garden. You can be a yard farmer too!
I hope you will all tune in each Saturday from 8 until 8:30 a.m. CDT for Home Grown Tomatoes. If you are not in the local coverage area, then tune in on the Internet by going to http://hgtradio.net and follow the links to listen live!