Growing up I spent hours upon hours playing in my Grandparents acre sized organic vegetable garden. Their garden yielded enough to sustain themselves throughout the year and share with others. They grew tons of crops (figuratively and literally): potatoes, corn, asparagus, squash, zucchini, peas, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, raspberries, apples, etc. I remember spending lots and lots of time with my Grandmother in their garden, learning to tend the plants, playing with earth worms, and picking flowers that probably weren’t supposed to be picked. One of my favorite things about their garden was their green bean tunnel. It was a wooden trellis tunnel that was about 7 feet tall, 8 feet wide and probably 20ish feet long (as a 5 year old, it seemed HUGE). The plants would grow up and over the top to create this fantastic tunnel with green beans hanging everywhere just begging to be picked. It was a curious child’s paradise. My Mom tells stories of when my Brother was little and she had him in the baby back-pack while she was in the tunnel picking beans. She says that she was picking along and my brother kept reaching out and pulling green beans off and eating them raw. To this day he still eats raw green beans. He probably has many more memories than I do of that garden, but I do know that we both learned a lot from our Grandparents there.
My Parents and Brother all have fantastically green thumbs. I’m still doing my best to find mine…and the project below is a testament to that. Since we moved into this house I’ve been wanting to plant some sort of vegetable garden in our side yard. Neither Josh or I have had the time (or money) to invest into one in the past 2 years, but this year we made some time (and budgeted for it)! This isn’t anything like my Grandparents magical oasis, but it’s something. And something is better than nothing! Our first attempt at a garden is in the form of two raised garden beds. We absolutely didn’t have the budget to go out and spend upwards of $250 on new redwood lumber to build two 3′ x 6′ boxes, so we improvised and used some awesome reclaimed redwood lumber. Not only was this wood free, but it has some cool history to it. We are blessed to work and live at a Christian Camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Josh works on the Maintenance Team and recently helped a group of volunteers replace a portion of Victory Circle, our outdoor amphitheater. The portion of wood that they removed was about 30 years old and was not sturdy enough for people to sit or walk on anymore, so it was just going to be tossed. My brilliant husband swooped on the stuff he could salvage and brought it home to build the boxes. How cool is it to think that our vegetable gardens are built out of wood that people have been sitting on for 30 years, sharing how their lives have been transformed by Jesus in this place! That gives me chills every time I go out to tend our garden. God is good to remind me of Himself in the small things!
We started out with a hilly portion of our side yard that was overgrown with weeds that were waist high. It didn’t start as much, but it’s the sunniest area of our place! It gets about 6-7 hours of sun per day, which for being in a redwood forest is like finding Narnia.
Josh did a number on the area with the weed whacker, and it turned out looking something like this (that’s my cute Mom helping us clean up the junk!):
We worked on removing the weeds and leveling two spots for the boxes (that’s our neighbors house next door):
Once we got the space cleared out, we went to work on the boxes themselves. My handy hubby whipped up a few boxes pretty quickly out of our lumber. Because portions of the wood were beginning to dry rot, we had to be selective in which pieces we used. Thankfully, we had just enough good pieces to patch together two 3′ x 6′ boxes. We built the boxes out of 2″ x 6″ lumber.
We began by laying chicken wire down first to combat any unwanted moles or gophers. We actually laid two layers that were offset because those sneaky pests can weasel their way through a standard chicken wire opening. Once we got the wire laid, we placed the 6 ft. pieces at the back of our leveled out area and pounded stakes into each corner to give it some stability. The corner stakes were about 3 ft. long; we pounded them into the ground about 2 feet and then stacked two 2″ x 6″ boards to create a 12″ deep bed.
Because we were building on a hill we ended up with the uphill side having two 2″ x 6″ planks stacked and the downhill side with three planks to keep the dirt from sliding out from the bottom (not sure if that makes sense, you’ll see it in the other pictures). We tried our hardest to keep everything level and square, but I’m sure it’s not perfect. It holds dirt and that’s all that really matters, right?! :)
Once we had the boxes put together I laid weed fabric in the bottom and stapled it in. We hope that with the combination of chicken wire and weed fabric we won’t have to deal with too many digging pests or weeds. Here’s to hoping!
After a few hours of hard work, this is what we had to show! Pretty awesome if I do say so myself!
We visited our local landscaping supply store and picked up a yard of top soil. We then mixed in two bags of manure, one steer and one chicken.
My brother-in-law introduced me to a concept called Square Foot Gardening. It’s exactly what it sounds like- growing plants within a square foot! This is a pretty simple concept that is user friendly, very efficient, and pretty productive. Depending on the crop, you can plant 1, 2, 3, 4+ plants in each square foot. There are various recommendations on how to section off your box, but we chose the option of using 1″ish slats of wood (Josh cut them from a piece of scrap wood, so their size is approximate) and attached them directly to the box.
We chose to plant a variety of things to see what grows best here. We currently have pole beans, bush beans, corn, cilantro, basil, and lemon thyme in one box and yellow squash, broccoli, carrots, and peas in the other. I started the broccoli, peas, and corn indoors in peat pellets about a week before I planted them in the ground.
Fast forward about 3 weeks and this is what we have now…
Pretty good, right!? We had bird netting over the boxes until today when we put the stakes in for the beans and peas to climb up (the shorter stakes in the corners of the boxes were to hold up the netting). I’m crossing my fingers that the birds and squirrels don’t get curious now that we’ve taken the netting off…we’ll see!
We still have quite a bit of work to do in the side yard, but its slowly getting there. We want to build some stairs down to the boxes and spread some woodchips around the area to keep the dust down. Hopefully we’ll get to that within the next few weeks. Although it’s still a work in progress and we haven’t actually harvested anything from it yet, our garden brings me so much joy! There is so much to be said about doing hard work with someone you love and literally seeing the fruits of your labor in just a few weeks. I’m thankful that my Grandparents, Parents and Brother have all continued the tradition of home-growing and that I’m getting to enjoy this process, too. I’ll keep you updated on how this garden does over the next few months! :)
Now with a green thumb (whoo!),