Apartment Parking Lot Gardening in East Hollywood

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Today we have a guest post from R.J., who lives near us in East Hollywood. R.J.’s post proves that you can start a garden even if you don’t own a house and how an otherwise useless urban space can be put to good use. R.J. says:

I wanted to be able to give my granddaughter the experience of gardening while she was growing up but as both my daughter and I live in apartments, and have no space for gardens I needed to come up with a solution . So based on the “Square Foot Gardening Book by Mel Bartholomew I built two 5 ft. x 1 ft. square foot garden boxes from inexpensive ($ 2.15) 1 x 6  x 6 ft. cedar fence boards bought from Home Depot. I waterproofed them by sealing the insides with with pure tongue tung oil from Jill’s paint in Atwater. Each planter gives me 5,  12 x 12 inch sq. ft. spaces for growing.

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These boxes take up a small amount of space and fit easily in the area  ( about 2 feet wide) between the parked cars and the back wall of my apt building. The area gets about 6 hours of sunlight so it is ideal for growing.

This is my second year of growing and I am a new gardener but I am happy with my results. The first year I grew various veggies including  green onions, bell peppers radishes kale and lettuce and

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During last winter I have successfully grown lettuce, kale and chard though my one cauliflower attempt was a failure.

I found that cherry tomatoes gave me the most satisfaction as every day  there are some ripe ones to pick and eat so you get that nearly instant gratification we are so used to in these “click and get ” high tech times.

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My granddaughter loves to pick them herself and pop them in her mouth so this works out great in terms of her developing an appreciation of where food comes from and experience in raising her own food as she is growing up despite not having any gardening space to speak of.

I decided to go all out this year and planted cherry tomatoes in all ten squares as well as an additional grape tomato plant in an inexpensive Home Depot planter.

The result is I have a TON of delicious cherry tomatoes for myself,  family members and some of my lucky neighbors in my apartment building, not to mention bragging rights and a sense of eco-green accomplishment.

These boxes can be easily made and you can even have all the pieces cut at your local Home Depot or lumber yard and you just nail or screw them together. I would recommend that you use 1 x 8 x 6 ft. fence boards instead of the 1 x 6, though, and fill the soil about an inch below the boards so when watering the water doesn’t spill over the sides as is the case with my 1 x 6 boards.

One of the advantages of having my garden space in the parking lot is that when I leave in the morning I can spend a few moments watering and pruning and picking some delicious tomatoes for lunch and when I come home at night I can repeat the same process . This routine has turned out to be very convenient way of getting my gardening time in during the course of my normal daily routine.

Although there is some effort and expense getting started, there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction in growing your own veggies and the taste is exceptional. My tomatoes have a flavor that is incomparable to even the most expensive organic tomatoes you can buy, including your local farmer’s market.

My goal of teaching my granddaughter some gardening basics while she is growing up has been accomplished and she will have some good childhood memories of the times spent with grandpa growing and eating veggies,

I know there are many people these days who feel the need to get their “gardening on” and teach their children ( if they have any) and this is one way they could go about it.

My materials List:

1) 1 x 6  x 6 ft.cedar fence boards ( I recommend you go with 1 x 8 though and you can also use redwood).
2) 1 1/2   by 3/8 x 8 f t, redwood lath ( to divide squares up).
3) 2 x 3  x 8 Douglas fir for legs ( You don’t really need legs just place on top bricks or wood to allow for drainage).
4) Pure Tongue tung oil (expensive and not really necessary as the cedar or redwood will last for years as-is and is cheap to replace).
5) Galvanized screws or nails.
6) For the soil I recommend you check out Square Foot Garden by Mel Bartholomew as he has a great formula for growing plants in this kind of small area.
7) I recommend you go with seedlings if you are a new gardener and I bought mine from Home Depot and Sunset Nursery in Hollywood.

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8 Comments

    • Thank you both for the correction. I’m thinking Gene Simmons as a celebrity spokesperson for my new line of tongue oil.

  1. Those are some nice SFG boxes! When we lived in an apartment last year, we did something kind of similar on our sunny deck, but didn’t take the time to paint it and make it look real nice.

    I second your thoughts that it’s good to use 1 x 8′s instead of 1 x 6′s, that it’s good to have it where you pass by daily, and that cherry tomatoes seem to do better than anything else.

    The deets on our setup, if anyone is interested in a different (i.e., less polished) approach, are here: http://homesteadlaboratory.blogspot.com/2013/04/square-foot-gardening-on-deck.html

  2. I have some metal tables without the glass top and the wood top. They would make great bases for these boxes. That little girl is so cute and photogenic. Tomatoes for snacks beats cookies or crackers. She will never forget this experience with grandpa or growing food.

  3. I’m a great fan of gardening in boxes, with really good soil, as a way to not only teach grandchildren (and passerby) how easy it is to grow healthy, delicious food but also how helpful this is in trying to make ends meet. During the Summer, I pretty much cook out of my elevated- bed garden, and I’m researching how to extend the season, maybe even build a system for harvesting greens during the Winter months. I would love to hear from other commenters about their experiences with this type of gardening adventure!

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