About 4 years ago I finally came up enough in the wait list to be called for a plot in the Baltimore City Farms Program (https://bcrp.baltimorecity.gov/special-programs/farms). The wait list averages 2 years long and I put my name in for 2 gardens: Heath St and Light St. I got called for a plot for Heath St City Garden.
The first year I got the plot I was called at the beginning of June so I didn’t have much time to grow much of anything. I quickly put in a couple of tomatoes, peppers, and basil plants and called it a season. The plants did pretty well and I was happy with the location of my plot.
The 2nd year, I went all in. I decided to execute the Square Foot Gardening Method and I planned it out in the finest detail and followed all the rules. If a square called for 16 plants, I put in 16 plants! I had tomatoes, beans, peas, turnips, peppers, cantaloupe, and zucchini. I also added compost to my plot. I ordered A LOT of yards of Bulk Organic Compost from Veteran Compost because my plot needed soil badly.
Veteran Compost is a cool small operation compost farm located in Aberdeen, MD. It was started by 2 Combat Veterans and they pick up food scraps from restaurants, schools, hospitals, etc and turn it into compost. They also offer a residential food scrap collection service in the DC Metro Area where they provide a bin to you and they collect the bin weekly, as well as providing composting service for special events. So, they collect a lot of scrap. They offer several products from straight compost, compost blends to square foot gardening mix. They even help recycle non compostable items, like burlap coffee bags, 55 gallon plastic drums, IBC totes, and crates. Basically this small operation helps to recycle everything and their prices are very reasonable. If you are in the DC Metro Area up through Aberdeen, you should check them out: www.veterancompost.com
Back to the garden: The square foot gardening method packs A LOT of vegetables in a garden space. I would say that it is a successful gardening method HOWEVER I didn’t use the square foot gardening soil mix nor does my garden plot get full sun all day long. So, my plot was only about 60-75% successful. Many plants grew faster than others and as the stronger plants grew taller, they shaded the younger plants. So I ended up with a lot of very strong plants and a lot of small weaklings under them.
The 3rd year I decided to stick to a revised square foot gardening method. Instead of vegetables in every square I staggered them. This technique worked out much better for me. The plants that were planted did well and weren’t crowding each other out. I did try to plant indeterminant tomatoes and grow them up a tall 10’ stalk but they quickly out grew where I could reach them and they started to break.
This year, I decided to stick with this revised square foot gardening technique and I also decided to stick to just peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. Since my plot is only so big and I have to train tomatoes up a tomato cage I decided to stick with determinant tomatoes. The two columns on the far right are not full square foot boxes so I decided to try safflower and basil seeds.
I usually grow my vegetables from seed but time got away from me and before I knew it, it was March and too late to start any tomatoes from seed. So I decided to buy plants from my favorite plant farmers in the country: www.chileplants.com
ChilePlants.com aka Cross Country Nurseries is a small nursery based in Hunterdon County, New Jersey that specializes in Chile plants. They grow all the chile plants you could ever want, from the sweetest baby bells to the hottest Trinidad scorpion. If you want it, they probably have it. They have the best variety of chile plants that I’ve ever found. Seriously, you can’t even find some of the seeds for some of the plants they regularly grow, online. I can always find my Mexican green chiles from them, and they have such a large variety that it takes me HOURS to decide which exact chile pepper I want to grow. They also have an impressive selection of tomatoes and eggplants. If you live near their nursery you can also buy herbs. Unfortunately, they do not ship out their herbs. They do ship, but they ship in groups of 6 and only their chiles, tomatoes, and eggplants. You can mix and match any plants you want but your order has to equal 6.
This past weekend I was able to get the vegetables in the ground and I have a good feeling about this growing season!