Gardening has been a part of my life since I was a kid. However, it wasn’t until recently, that I picked up gardening again and I am forever changed because of it. Last summer I needed to take a few hours of college credits to have a graduate teaching position, so I decided to take a gardening course here at Texas A&M University. It was really an enjoyable course and has put me on a path of greater happiness. For fun, I started a “small” garden in pots or buckets on my patio. Mostly I grew cherry tomatoes and experimented with other vegetables in pots. This worked well enough into the fall, but I wanted something bigger.
My apartment is located on the ground floor with the front facing a decent sized section of ground. It occurred to me that I might be able to use a small portion of this area to grow a better garden and increase my options of types of vegetables. So, I drew some garden plans for a 4’ by 8’ garden plot and wrote a proposal for the type of garden I was wanting and how I was going to manage it. I submitted the proposal to the apartment managers with the hopes that I had a chance in getting permission. Well, I was given permission and I am very happy that I took the chance just ask.
The garden plot is a simple rectangular plot with 1” by 6” treated lumber enclosing the area. This helped me to raise the bed above the mowing area, so the yard maintenance crew will avoid damaging my plants and it keeps the grass out and my garden in. After building the frame, I cut the grass in the rectangular shape and removed it in sections. Then I dug into the soil to loosen it and in the process found 2 square stepping-stones buried in the garden. These have come in handy because I am currently using them as steps to reach the interior of my garden without stepping on the soil, and risk compacting the soil. Next, I made a trench to put in the rectangular barrier. The barrier is staked in with 2” by 4” boards in each corner that are driven about 18”in the ground. As an added benefit, I worked in about 300lbs of compost to help with drainage because this area, College Station, Texas, is plagued with high clay content. I was unable to make my plot level, but this has worked in my favor when I am watering the garden, because any excess water runs downhill towards the rest of the plants.
Once the plot was ready, I needed to pick the plants I wanted. Because of the small size I needed smaller plants, so with a little research and some help from the joe gardener forum board, I found a variety of corn called Jade Blue that makes blue ears of corn and grows less than 4’ tall for me. Currently I have a dozen corn plants, 6 Jacob Cattle bush style beans, 2 Sweet Olive grape tomato plants, a sweet basil plant, a cilantro bush, and an oregano plant. So far, everything is growing very well and I have already enjoyed having fresh herbs for cooking.
Currently I am working on a MS in Geology, but it has been made clear to me that this isn’t what I would like to do for the rest of my life. I have more passion and desire to learn more and more about gardening and this helped me to make a big decision in my life. After I get my MS degree, I am planning to earn a PhD in Horticulture with an emphasis on vegetable production and hopefully end up back at Texas A&M to do research and teach people about the benefits of gardening.
Guest Author, Keith Jenkins