This back-of-the-envelope sketch is my ambitious plan for my SPIN (small plot intensive) urban farm. It needs some explanation.

The upper left corner of the sketch is at my front step, where I already have Virginia creeper vines and flowers of different heights. This is not about to change, though I will be planting hot peppers and sunflowers right there, where it’s sunny. I’ll also plant morning glory, so that it can make a nice flowering vine among the railings to the steps.

I’m going to have two beds along the insides of the box hedge (left) and middle fence (right, between me and my neighbours). I will put carrots, beets, and bush beans on one side and tomatoes, basil, parsley, and peppers on the other side. One-third of the sunniest section is for the pickling cucumbers.

Then, I’ll have five round plots containing watermelon, musk melon (cantaloupe), butternut squash, zucchini, and pumpkin. Their locations will be determined by how much sun they need. The one in the middle now, the “squash” circle – and the cantaloupe circle – get the most sun. Watermelon will be in the shade of the tree that, as you can see, has flowers around it.  It will hopefully have sweet peas (which are also my favourite flowers) surrounding it.

Here it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s ambitious. It’s gonna be crowded if it works! As SPIN farm, as plants produce their fruit or leaves, I replace them with either the same plant again, or another for later in the season.

Back yard plans
This is a diagram of my backyard.

The plan for the back yard

There are two entrances to my backyard: the top left corner (the patio, above the cold cellar), and the top right, a recessed stairway to the back door of the basement.

That’s also where the downspout is, which by design would then drain at the landing of those stairs. Instead, a little circle denotes my backyard rain barrel. The faint diagonal line across the stair landing represents where my clothesline begins.

We’ll start on the patio at 11 o’clock and go counterclockwise through the plan. I’ll describe more than back-of-the-envelope depicts.

On the left side of the patio you see a box with plant-like spikey things. This is my tool shed, on which I built a herb garden roof a few years ago. It has chives, tarragon, and oregano. I have to stand on a chair to cut them, but that’s OK – it’s a garden 6 feet in the air, where presently there is none. The foot-thick wall between me and my neighbours can’t have plants on top of it because the squirrels kick up the dirt. There’s also a café table for two that I didn’t draw. Barbecuing takes place on the diagonally shaded deck at ground level, next to the stairs, where I put the gas canister yesterday.

Below the patio — a three and a half foot drop — is a plot where I will string pole beans up to the patio railing. I may plant beets there. I’ll plant peas, Swiss chard, spinach, rocket and red endive, and cavolo, which is a geometric form of green cauliflower. I will be very impressed to succeed in all that — there is some doubt!

Below that, you have my raised deck, under which a skunk may soon return to live. Skunks make great neighbours. There’s a limited amount of space for an outdoor table for four, represented smaller than it actually is. I also have an Adirondack chair sitting there, which will between two box planters. Those will be for beets, mint, carrots, and bush beans.

To the right of the deck’s box planters and trellis wall is a square that represents my composter. It has a beautiful, productive clematis vine behind it that spills purple flowers over the garden wall. To its right, we have a bunch of peonies, a few small rose bushes, some more rambling roses, and a volunteer lilac tree over in the corner. I’ve planted some garlic bulbs there, and I’ll plant dill for weed/seed (pickling dill) next to the roses.

I’ve also planted some milkweed there, as I have around the tree in my front yard. Who knows, it may invite some butterflies. If my hawthorn and high-bush cranberry seeds actually sprout, then I will plant them here, next to the corner of the fence.

Above this garden is the bright canopy of a honey locust tree – not enough shade to kill a garden, just enough to make it a home for birds. A small honey locust volunteered on the right side of the peonies (the flowers next to “garlic” on the map) a few years ago. I’m letting it grow because one day, its parent will die.

Then there are my cedars to the right of the pond. One towers up 5 meters – the tree-like squiggle on the drawing. It attracts house sparrows, grackles, starlings, cardinals, robins, the occasional house finch, and warblers who come to drink and bathe in my lily pond. Amongst the cedars is a rambling Cabot rose that I never cut; it blooms into late November and peeks over the neighbour’s fence.

Next to the diagonal-filled deck, amongst the daylilies, I may plant some hot pepper bushes.

In the small rectangle with squiggles, between the deck and the back stairs, I’m planting lettuce, as you can read. I have six different assortments, so it’ll be a colourful little checkerboard of successive plantings. Lettuce usually does best by replanting, though some will take having their outer leaves harvested while growing taller, eventually bolting and going to seed.

I’ll build the box planters for the deck on the weekend. I’m waiting to find out when the Ville gives away its compost in May, because I will need far more of it than my own little composter can provide for the beds.

The next step is to take two soil samples from the lettuce bed and the pole bean/Swiss chard patches to send away for analysis. Then I need to dig in the compost to plant the seeds and seedlings. This all needs to happen this week.

Every single week, I feel guilty for not writing enough, and not spending enough time looking for project management work. As soon as I get out in the garden, that feeling dissipates, I’m happy, and a sense of accomplishment ensues.

If you want to follow along with my garden adventure, each of these blog posts has “Previous post – Next post” navigation buttons at the bottom. They take you through my writings in chronological order, but the next post is:
Finally, the garden grows – badly


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