Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Urban Gardening - Minneapolis edition

It's been a while since I had my own garden. Many may remember my Chicago rooftop garden, where I used Earthboxes to grow a variety of vegetables with much success. I am a fan of Earthboxes as well as other SIPs - homemade or store bought. SIPs offer the urban gardener with a zero soil footprint an option to grow something on their roof or balcony. They work, they conserve water, and are relatively easy to maintain.

Two years ago, I moved to Minneapolis at the end of the summer. The summer in 2010, I was in Paris and although a great food city, I really missed the fresh, out-of-the-garden produce I had in Chicago. Last year, I rented a place while my house was being built, knowing that I had to move out August 1st, typically when all of my garden produce would be, well, producing. So I skipped trying to grow something and instead bought tomatoes at the farmer's market for about $4 per pound. This year, I'm in my new house and have a little land but not a lot of time. I had a multitude of little projects and two little guys that take up much of my free time.

By the end of May, I knew I had to get something in, so I planted six tomato plants - three cherry sized (Black Cherry, Sun Gold, Super 100's) and three large size (Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and Better Boys). I had zero experience growing anything in the ground, zero experience with sandy soil, and zero experience with the zone 4 growing season, so I opted for a mix of hybrids and heirlooms and hoped for the best. Using my knowledge of SIPs, I knew that the soil was important. I have sandy soil - check that, I have sand for soil basically. Although I thought it would be great for the root systems of my tomatoes, I knew it wouldn't provide the nutrients or hold water well enough.

I amended the soil with some organic black dirt with manure. Easily enough, worked it into the sandy stuff and then placed my tomatoes where they would get full sun. I added some balanced organic fertilizer and some gardening lime to each area where the tomatoes would be planted and went for it. I then thought that I needed a staking system so I went the old fashioned route - tomato cages. I built simple cages out of concrete wire - about four or five feet high and staked those into the ground with rebar. I watered through the heat and realized how much I loved my automatic watering system and conservation of the SIPs but the plants were doing pretty well.

How well? It's August 15th now and I can't control these guys. The Brandywine is about 7 feet tall and the Black Cherry is about ten feet tall - yes - 10 FEET TALL! It has grown up and over the cages and onto the ground again. This is something I was not prepared for but certainly don't mind. The others are producing and I can't eat enough tomatoes. Gardening on the ground is different than in SIPs but the principles are the same - good growing medium, plenty of sun and water, maybe a nice fertilizer and watch out for pests. I didn't have many in Chicago, 40 feet in the air but here things are a little different.
The one thing I have to figure out next year is if I want to also keep feeding the chipmunks!

1 comment:

H2 said...

Nicely done, Russ! You provided all the elements they needed to thrive.

We wish you could send us some of that bounty, and once again I thank you for introducing me to the Stupice tomato, pushing out tomatoes here.