Sunday, March 11, 2012

First seeds are in the ground!

Here's the other thing I find unbelievably satisfying . . .
Getting my hands in the dirt. Turning, digging, hoeing, planting, pruning . . . something about this type of physical labor quiets my crazy mind.

A few years back, my friends started joining CSAs--Community Supported Agriculture projects wherein you buy a "share" of a local farm and they provide you with weekly deliveries of produce throughout the season. These CSAs are great options for us city-dwellers. You get to know your farmer and their practices and you usually get a good variety of vegetables throughout the season.

But when I sat down and crunched the numbers--remember the "cheap" part of the tagline--and took into consideration that I love gardening anyway, I figured out that I could take the cost of one year of a CSA share, invest it into my inner-city backyard, and end up with years and years of vegetables at a fraction of the cost that my friends were spending on CSAs every year.

So I built my own raised vegetable beds. I used simple redwood 4 ft. fencing material and redwood 2" x 2" stakes to build 6, 4' X 4' raised beds in my backyard. The beds are two pieces of fence tall. Each corner steak is 8 inches longer than the box so that pounding them into the ground would help anchor the bed and keep the top from bowing out once filled with soil. I used galvanized fence screws to screw the fence pieces into the corner stakes. Screws instead of nails so that if one broke or rotted in a few years, I could replace them where they sit without pulling the whole thing out of the ground.

The initial investment was roughly $300.00 and that includes the material to fill them. Not long after I built these, a similar snap-together plastic product was being sold at area home stores for $100 per 4' X 4' bed. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, is as satisfying to me as 1) building it myself, and 2) building it for far less money out of a natural product.

Every year I add a little something to each bed. Some years it's compost, some years a little manure, some years more rich soil, or peat. And then I rotate crops and try new things from year to year. These beds don't give me an enormous amount of space so it's a little hard to do things that crawl, like squashes, melons, pumpkins. but I can get a surprising amount of yield out of my little plots.

Then, in addition to the regular season, I bought 2 portable greenhouses online so that I can extend the growing season. This year, I probably could have put the greenhouses out a month ago. We've hardly even had anything that resembled a real winter in Ohio this year.

Today's project. Get 2 of the 6 beds prepared for the greenhouses and plant some cold weather crops.

4 kinds of lettuce
a variety of radishes

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  1. Those are some great tips. I hadn't thought of rotating what you put in your beds. I just assumed that once I found something, I'd leave it there, but that's a good idea. Thanks for the link for the portable greenhouses as well. I saw some today and was wondering where to get them! And I've seen people who basically build trellises for vines to grow up for things like pumpkins. Good luck with your garden this year!

  2. Thanks for visiting M Mommy. The greenhouses were well worth the money and they are very sturdy with two zippered flaps on either side. I highly recommend them. I was going to try container gardening for potatoes this year too.