At the end of March, I prepared my small apartment garden for the new growing season.  The garden is located on a former factory property that has been converted into a residential area. The flower bed marks the sunniest area of this partial shade garden. This means that most of the garden receives less than four hours of direct sun each day, due to the fact that it is located behind the tall former office building.


During the first years I ignored the rules of nature and kept trying out plants meant for sunnier parts in the entire garden, but like many other gardeners, I learned through trial and (mostly) error that only the part that is now mulched is suitable for such experiments.


When I started out a few years back the soil was mostly clay with some construction waste mixed in. Trying to plant something was a strenuous effort, not always crowned with success, because a lot of time my spade would hit cement and rubble. This I why I started working with the big planting containers left over from my inner-city garden. I hired two strong guys to mix some potting soil and sand in the clay to make the soil more manageable. They actually gave up after working one third of the flower-bed. To be fair it had been sunny for weeks and the mud was hard like cement. After it rained and the clay softened I started the project back up on my own. Every year I add compost and mulch in spring to enhance the soil’s quality and permeability.


I am not growing that much directly in the earth but want be able to hoe the ground on a regular basis to save water during the Summer. When I leased my first vegetable patch, which was part of the larger urban farming project, Meine Ernte (my harvest), the organizers kept stressing an old gardeners rule: “Hoe once, save thrice the water.” The loose soil improves absorption of water. In addition, it prevents evaporation of ground moisture already present in the soil.


While it is a necessary task, soil improvement is not one of my favorite garden chores. I was not looking forward to this task. However, after getting back into the swing of things after the long winter, I could feel how the garden and gardening worked its magical effect on me: My mind, still spinning from work projects calmed down and I much enjoyed moving around the now “fluffy” dirt. To my delight I also discovered first signs of spring, little plants sprouting in several places, even though the flower bed had looked brown and dormant from my living room window.


In the back of the picture the soil is still a work in progress and the garden overall is a creative mess, in the front are multi-colored primroses that I had just purchased from a local nursery to add a splash of color for Easter.