Some of you may remember from last year I planted a garden at my dear friend’s house 20 miles away. We were afraid we’d have to put our house on the market or rent it out and leave our garden behind, so we gardened with a friend. The drive was inconvenient, but it was quite therapeutic to garden with a friend during a difficult time in my life. Lots of time to talk as we made raised beds, pulled weeds, watered, and harvested veggies. However, this year I wanted to have a garden outside my door. Gas is even higher this year, and I just can’t afford to drive that far to water my plants.
So, I decided to bite the bullet and make my own garden this year. My husband graciously humored his city-girl wife’s yen to feel dirt between her fingers and we traded in our share of organic CSA for organic square foot garden. We have amazing soil here–this must have been farmland once–but the Bermuda grass in awful. The flower bed I tried to tend over the last few years is full of the grass and I can’t get it out, so it’s going back to just grass. I didn’t want the same thing to happen again, so I knew I’d have to work pretty hard to overcome the grass under my raised beds. Despite the fact that my book says to lay down newspaper and fill the bed, I knew that wouldn’t work. This grass is aggressive. I knew the sod was going to have to come up, then newspaper, then weed barrier cloth go down.
Last year, we had donated wood and a barnyard full of manure for fertilizer. This year, I purchased three raised bed kits, and weed barrier from Lowe’s and a load of Royal Soil to fill the beds. After I measured the length of the kits, I decided how much room I wanted between the beds for a walkway, then marked off the perimeter of the entire space. The beds were 49 inches square, and I decided on 3-foot walk ways. I had some rectangular paving stones that were here when we bought the house, so I decided to outline the garden beds and pave the walk ways between the beds with the paving stones, after I dug out the sod.
It took me a couple of days to dig out the sod. Believe me, Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred DVD is NOTHING compared to digging out sod. I was wishing for a rototiller or a mule and plow, but given there was a gas line very close to my beds, I played it safe and dug the whole thing out by hand. I was wondering what on earth to do with all that sod, til I looked around my yard and saw two years of holes Buckeye the Wonderdog has left in the yard. All that sod didn’t even fill all the holes. Sigh.
My kids were not so eager to help with that first step, and really, it was too difficult for them to do, but they were quite enthusiastic when it came to building the beds. They were very easy to put together–my 7-year-old put one together with minimal help. Now, we did not use the trellises that came with the kits, at least for their intended purposes. Instead, I’m using the wood to make the “square foot” grid on the beds. Last year I used very skinny dowels to mark the spots and they fell apart half way through the season. This wood is cedar and already cut to the correct length, so it’s perfect!
Before I put on the grids, I had to fill the beds. The nice man at The Compost Farm in Brentwood squeezed in my delivery in his already busy schedule. Unfortunately, it was the day I spent the morning with Doodlebug at the doctor’s office diagnosing strep throat, then to the pharmacy, then to a required class for my nursing job at the hospital. With a forecast of rain, I knew I needed to come fill the beds before my dirt was all washed away, but on the way home from my class, I was less than enthusiastic about the process of several hours of shoveling dirt in the twilight.
Imagine my delight, when I pulled in to the driveway and found my children had taken it upon themselves to fill two of the three beds for me! I was thrilled, especially since I now had a sick child to contend with while everyone else went to church. After a quick supper and send off for the rest of the family for church, I went out and filled the remaining bed. The shoveling was easier than the digging up sod, but my sore muscles protested none-the-less. After the beds were filled with soil, I put the grids on the beds and they were ready for planting. It was after dark by that time, so I don’t have any pictures of that…As you can see, I also started my trellises. I’ll post on making those and plant markers next week.
Since I already planned what I was planting in which space, I was ready to plant the next morning. On my trip to Kentucky last week, I found a Mennonite garden stand selling beautiful little plants–if you bought 12 four packs of little plants, they were $1 per four pack. That means I got 4 tomato plants for $1. No kidding. The larger pots of herbs were more expensive, as were the larger plants, but I only got two of those. I’ve been watering them for the past week and a half and finally, I had a place to put them.
So, after a couple of hours dealing with my son and an attack of croup, we finally started planting. Today we planted lettuce, broccoli, tomato, cilantro and basil plants. Then we planted carrots, sugar snap peas, cantaloupe, mini watermelons, cucumbers and bush beans from seeds. It’s technically too early to plant some of those, because our frost date isn’t til April 15, but it’s been 80 degrees for the last week, so I’m taking my chances. I can always replant if we do have a frost in the next couple of weeks.
So here’s to the start of another spring growing season! I’d love to hear about your garden and any tips you have for mine!