We had a small garden in our previous house. It was an L-shaped raised bed into which we planted rather random things every year. At some point I converted half of it to strawberries, but the rest was always random. Frankly, beyond strawberries, the thing that had grown best there was celery.
After we moved, the kids started asking for a garden again. It took three years, but it finally happened. Each year I thought I knew where it should go and each year I reconsidered for one reason or another. In the end it ended up on a ledge stepping from the front yard to the side of the house. It gets truly full sun so I was a little worried about the plants getting burned from the heat reflecting off the rock wall, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue.
This time I read Mel Bartholomew’s book All New Square Foot Gardening and made a plan. It hasn’t all necessarily worked to plan, but the whole thing was definitely much more organized than previously. The book recommends 4 ft by 4 ft boxes. Those would have overlapped with the rocks so we went with 4 ft wide and 3 ft deep boxes. Six boxes spaced nicely.
I spent $170.56 on 1″x6′ cedar boards that I had the lumber yard cut to 4′ and 3′ lengths. These were screwed together using screws we already had to make eight six-inch boxes. Two of these were stacked on top of other boxes to make two twelve-inch boxes using four joiners (two per box) that cost an additional $2.80. That brought the total for the boxes themselves to $173.36.
The ledge already had landscaping fabric and mulch. So, after confirming the placement of the boxes, I moved them out of the way, scraped off the mulch, made some effort to level the area (not fully, but some places were rather sloped, and replaced the boxes. Then I spread the extra mulch around the boxes.
Mel recommends a mix of vermiculite, peat moss, and five types of compost. The math worked out better for four types of soil/compost though, so that’s what I did. Two blocks of peat moss cost $10.97 at Lowe’s while four our bags of vermiculite cost $83.88 at Home Depot. The compost mix included six bags of Coop Poop for $57.00, four bags of cow manure for $19.92, four bags of top soil for $13.32, and four bags of organic bed soil for $39.92. That brought the fill total to $130.16. I also spent $7.77 on twisted mason line to divide the squares, bringing my total for box construction to $406.14. Clearly one would need to maintain a garden for a few years for this to be a cost effective way of procuring food! But, this was supposed to be more of a fun project for us; feeding us was not the primary goal.
I laid a tarp out on the grass above the boxes and mixed the fill in four batches. This was by far the hardest part of the prep work. I shoveled the mixed fill into five gallon buckets and dumped them over the edge into the boxes. When I got to the very end, I enlisted some help to slide the tarp over and dump the remaining fill directly.
I failed to take a picture of the filled boxes, but you can imagine. Plus, we’ll get you a picture next week when we start seeing the planting process. The build started in mid-March with the boxes filled on April 11. But, it was another week before I planted anything and even then we fought some frost for yet another week.