The past three years, I’ve planted a large garden on my grandparents’ farm near Lakeville, Ohio.

I grew potatoes, sweet corn, onions, peppers, pumpkins and sunflowers. I enjoyed working the ground and watching the different plants mature.

But the high price of gas and the fact I now live 20 miles away have convinced me to try something else. Instead of making the twenty-minute commute, I’m taking just a few steps — to the flower beds around my house.

I only live on a quarter-acre lot, but I’m optimistic about growing a few basic things close to home.

Sweet corn and pumpkins are out of the question. But I’ve marked some areas for onions, peppers, potatoes and some blackberry plants. I could tear up a section of my yard, but I have so small a lawn to begin with, I don’t want to make it any smaller.

Not the same

I’m already finding that it’s much different than conventional gardening. Back home, I used a one-bottom plow and a field disc to till my garden. The picture above is the plow and tractor that I previously used.

If I brought a plow onto my place in Wooster, I’d be snagging tree roots and drainage tile. And if I brought a field disc, I’d have to bring a tractor large enough to pull it, and that just wouldn’t work.

Instead, most of the tillage has to be done by hand, and with care not to damage any of the existing flowers I want to keep. I have a few cactuses and some wild garlic I could stand to lose, but the tulips and the roses, I want.

So, I’ve marked my plots carefully with stakes and measuring line. My property is in a highly residential area, and I want to keep it looking decent.

A plan

To the side of my house, I’m working to fix an old flower trellis, which I’ll use for my black berry plants and maybe even some tomato plants. I’m also planning to intersperse some onion bulbs — red and yellow onions both.

In the back, I have more of a mess than anything, so far. But I’m working to create an area for my potato plants, which will require some deep soil for hilling and proper root growth.

The pepper plants likely will go out back as well. However, I could see them going somewhere up front. A mature pepper plant is pretty — with well-shaped, colorful peppers bulging from out from the leaves.

I know flower beds are meant for flowers, but in economic times like these, I don’t really care. I think vegetable plants can sometimes be just as pretty, and it’s a two-way benefit: You enjoy them while they grow, and when they’re on your plate.

Popular concept

Urban gardening is nothing new, and there’s a lot of interest out there. Schools like Ohio State University have conducted a lot of research about urban gardening and there’s some being done right now to assess how raised beds work in urban settings, including in parking lots.

I don’t know how much expertise I’ll seek, other than what I can learn on my own. But it’s good to know there are some resources out there.

I kind of miss being able to plow up a large garden with a tractor, or run my rototiller down the middle of the rows. But the cost of a long commute outside my city just doesn’t make sense.

This is the first year I’ve lived in town. And it’s the first I’m trying a version of urban gardening.

If it turns out well, I’ll share some pictures. I hope that it will.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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