Urban Gardening: My Hyde Park Homestead

In my favorite daydreams, B and I live on a little farm, someplace close enough to the city that we can come here on a whim (museums, the Lake, shopping), but far enough away that the noise, the dirt, the crime, and the pace are all distant, unrelated to us. In the very best of these daydreams, we have around 20 acres that we've divided up into 1-2 acre parcels and sold for cheap to our friends (in my dreams all my friends are earth-loving hippies just dying to live in my imaginary commune). We all homeschool our kids together, and we raise dairy cows and chickens, keep bees, grow fruits and vegetables, and generally live the kind of back-to-the-land-type existence that I think a lot of people are finding really appealing right now. (So maybe my friends would join me...)

I honestly can't tell you whether this is a fantasy or a plan, but either way, I'm getting some practice in with my wee Hyde Park homestead.

Over the past two weekends, B has built me two phenomenal raised beds in the backyard. They cedar, 18" high, built on concrete, with reinforced corners and 2x4's bolstering the middle so the soil doesn't bow the sides out.

Raised Beds

This weekend, we'll be filling these beds with soil and other organic matter, preparing for next week, when I anticipate I'll plant my wee seeds and take a big first step toward our household becoming more self-sufficient.

Here's what I'm growing: asparagus, raspberries, zucchini, cucumbers, spinach, carrots, peas, pole beans, dry beans, edamame (if you're seeing a legume theme, it's because we're not big meat-eaters in our house, so our bean consumption is...high), bell peppers, jalapenos, strawberries, tomatoes, lavender, mint, parsley, cilantro, marigolds, and sunflowers. Does this sound ambitious? It seems that way, but, as I told a friend who's also planning her first serious garden, I'm just going to throw a bunch of money/effort at it and see what sticks.

Our yard is (very) small -- 10' x 20' total, and we wanted to preserve space for S, for barbecuing, and for having margaritas with the neighbors. Lofty goals for a tight space, but I think we're going to make it work. The beds are 3' x 8'. and we're taking advantage of a 6' high fence that closes in one side of the yard (this is where I'll train peas, cucumbers, pole beans, and zucchini).

I've been doing lots of reading about companion planting, organic pest control, early blight, squash vine borers (yeah, I'm in it all the way), etc., but there's definitely a learning curve and I expect challenges. Among them is that our yard gets only dappled morning sun. We may have to experiment with reflective mulch, and our yields may be a little lighter than we'd get in a plot with more direct sunlight, but we're going to work with what we've got and see what we come up with.

I'm really interested to hear what others are doing in their gardens this spring, particularly if you're growing in the city, and extra-particularly if you're growing in a shady spot like I am. I'll be sharing my successes and disappointments, so if you've got advice, I'll be happy to hear it all season...and if you're looking for a spot in a still-imaginary commune, I'm accepting applications!

Filed under: Simple Living



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    Hi Dani!
    I love your idea for a modern, self-sufficient commune! Let me know if it becomes a reality and I am totally there! Maybe you should play the lottery and if you win... LOL
    I think your garden beds look terrific and you have quite an ambitious plan for planting. We will also be planting soon, although we have a much more generous space to work with. Our garden will soon be filled with tomatoes, peppers, onions, beans, radishes, lettuces and whatever else suits our fancy when the time comes to plant. I am glad you are preserving space for other endeavors as well. Please keep us posted as you get further along in your gardening adventure!

  • I realize this post is a year old, but just came across it today. I've built raised beds as well that will be on a concrete slab -- what did you fill them with? Soil mix? Soilless media? Did you throw it out/compost it at the end of the season and replace it this year?

  • Hi Mike -- We filled with a 50/50 mix we got from a great place in the northern burbs called DK Organics -- we rented a truck, went in with some friends, and bought several hundred dollars' worth of really gorgeous, rich soil. It has served us well, despite the fact that much of our beds are significantly shaded -- our harvest last year was decent and, having learned from my mistakes (and there were many!) the first time around, I expect we'll do even better this year. We do compost, and I mixed in a big batch of compost before planting my earliest spring crops this year. Hope this answers your questions -- am happy to share more about my experience.

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    Hi there Dani!
    I know this post is over 2.5years old but I am looking to out a couple of vegetable gardens out the back of our new house on concrete and was wondering how your gardens go drainage wise and if you had any problems with that? What did you do to help the drainage in your garden beds? Thanks! Your gardens look great!

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    Looking to PUT a couple of vegetable gardens I meant! Lol oops

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