Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Raised Garden Project 3: The Good and The Bad

I said in the beginning that I would make mistakes and hoped you would learn from them and this far into the project I have discovered a few mistakes and also some benefits. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

The purpose of this project was to use the garden for stress reduction and to practice what I preach on my main website about active rest and problem solving on a smaller scale. The raised garden has lived up to my expectations because it illustrates that anyone can do it at a fairly low cost, after working on it I feel tired but it is a good tired where I have used my entire body and not sat at a desk, and the low risk problem solving has increased my confidence that I could survive the zombie apocalypse. Well maybe...

One of the first things I've learned I did wrong was not digging out the space for the boxes and using the bear ground. Digging out the space allows you to level the ground. This became clear once I watered the dirt and all the water shifted to one side. It meant I had to undo all my great dirt smoothing and have one side higher than the other to make sure the water flowed evenly over the box. The bottom of the first box now has a little less dirt on one side. I was lucky the second box was level. I know that  because I used a level to make sure. Just be aware, quick and easy can come back to bite you!

I've also learned one of the great advantages of the raised box garden is that it requires very little water, and your garden becomes almost like a house plant. The soil stays moist with about a gallon of water every few days even in the Florida sun, that is great for the size of my boxes.

Rather than using the box for one type of vegetable I plan to use the "Square Foot Gardening" approach where the box is divided into squares and one type plant is in each square. It makes gardening very simple and yields enough without being overwhelmed with too much produce. Plants that vine are supported and grow "up" rather than "out", which also saves space.

I did a test plant of a few seedlings  just to see how they did before I filled each box. So far so good, and both boxes are now ready to go. Three of my Dollar Store seeds did not come up so I will try again with extra packets when the moon is once again full (it worked so well the first time) and I should be ready to go.

Next installment: Planting in the boxes

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Raised Garden Project 2

My little project is beginning to take shape. When we left the last episode I mentioned trying to find free dirt to finish filling the raised box and had planted the seeds I planned for my garden. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

On the free dirt front I quickly discovered that finding work sites willing to give it didn't exist, at least not when I needed it. And then the thought came to me that I pay taxes every year to say I own land so why not put some of that land to use. Looking around I realized that I had the perfect spot for great compost right under my nose. There was a spot near the edge of my backyard and under an oak tree that had soil that was pristine and just waiting for me to use it.

I had to dig a shallow hole because there is no overhead wiring in my area and everything electrical is underground. So shallow it was and the dirt was a great compost of the decomposed leaves that had fallen from the oak tree over the years. In no time I was able to top off the first box and knew where to go for the second.

And here we have the completely filled first box. As I leveled the dirt in place I found myself thinking how easy it will be to check the veggies and weed once the growing season is underway. The box is high enough that I could even take the "lazy man" approach and place a chair near the box to manipulate the plants and work the soil. Doesn't get any easier than that!

If you look over to the right of the picture you can see my shallow hole. I later filled it with leaves from other parts of the area to let nature do her work to replace the soil taken. 

I also learned from my father and a previous gardening season, that it is best to plant with the moon. Little did I know using this approach I would plant one day and 4 days later have seedlings. As you can see from the photo not all have come up yet but the majority have. I wanted to grow my own seedlings because I heard a report that bees possibly are being killed off by seedlings from big box stores. I don't know if that is true but I decided to do as much as possible from scratch and see how well it worked.

Next installment: Sectioning off the raised box  and planting the seedlings

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Raised Garden Project

I decided to do a garden as a fun project and stress reducer for the Spring and Summer. A "Raised Garden Project" will be a series where I hope you can monitor my progress  and learn from my mistakes on the adventure. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

The whole idea of a raised garden came from a photo I encountered on Pinterest. It really gave me a lot of ideas and as usual I started to research the concept. Good thing I did. I discovered that cedar is the best wood to withstand the weather as well as termites here in Florida.

I was able to cut costs by buying cedar posts and breaking apart an old cedar chest my brother gave me.

While breaking apart the cedar chest was work, it definitely was worth it because using purchased cedar would have cost me over $200 for one box. With my cost savings I was able to afford TWO boxes for $14. Yeah!!!

Planning was very important so I did my calculations and then laid the boards out just to make certain what the numbers said matched what occurred in real life. It did, and my little Doxie double checked.

And there we have it, the completed box ready to be set into the ground. Everything I read said to dig  holes for the posts, but I figured it would be simpler to just dig around the posts to get them into the ground and it seemed to work well for me.  You'll notice that my Doxie assistant is still supervising but sitting in the shade.

One thing I learned during my research was that cedar while untreated has it's own natural herbicide so I put in a plastic liner around tthe inside of the box to prevent contact with the soil. In some of the illustrations I saw, people put down cardboard on the bottom but I didn't. It was simply the bear ground. Next, I saved grass cuttings and tree leaves and used that as the bottom over the bare ground to build up the bottom level in preparation for putting in dirt. If you look closely you'll also notice I used the narrow spine boards as a lip for the box so later when I'm tending the garden I can set things like water buckets, shears etc on it and avoid having to rub against the top portion of the box when working. Sweeet!!

And here we have the completed project. I plan to add a little more dirt but was surprised that I already had almost six inches of dirt in before you reached the grass cuttings and leaves. Each box is 8ft by 4ft so a few more bags should put me close to that level. My savings on wood was eaten up with the cost of dirt ($15) but my total cost so far is $30 which is not bad. Before I fill the next box I plan to do a little searching around for free dirt but if I can't find any then add another $15 and a new total of $45. Either way the cost is still low when you consider all the veggies I plan to have for the Summer.

Next installment: Growing plants from seeds