I am so not a gardening expert. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. I had a garden about 5 years ago for one year, which I really enjoyed and learned a lot of lessons from. But since moving to another home I just haven’t done all the work to get it started. That’s all about to change though. I finally got my hiney in gear this week and decided to get my garden bed started, so that in the spring I can just plant and enjoy. Because really, the preparation is one of the hardest parts in my opinion!
When I had my garden before (5 years ago) I lived in an area where my soil was pretty nice. Over there all I had to do was just add compost to the soil. I also just used a shovel to mix it thoroughly in to the soil (I was wishin’ so badly for a rototiller by the time I was done 4 hours later mixing with a shovel, but I was too cheap to rent one…). It’s no secret that I am a cheap skate – hellooo….couponer here!
Now I live in Eastern WA and let’s just say my house is pretty much sitting on an old sand dune. Pure-dee sand. It was nice when we first moved in because my back yard was basically one giant sand box, and the kids LOVED it. I bought some shovels + buckets and it was bliss. But soil for gardening…not so great. So I decided I wanted to do an above ground garden – aka a raised bed or box garden.
Luckily for me there were some railroad ties wood left on our property so my husband cut it down so it would fit into a nice big square. We wanted to have another garden, but a few years have gone by and we haven’t done that final step which is adding the “good stuff” – or the good soil in.
Last week, I decided however it was time. Time to fork out the dough and just do this project. I LOVE enjoying fresh produce from a garden in the summer time so much. Plus I have the most wonderful neighbor (thanks Sue!) who brought me over zucchini nearly every week from her garden. That pretty much put me over the edge…my mind said “Must.have.garden.for.zucchini!”
So here we are. Step one. Make a box, fill it with good soil. I really want to be successful at this so I wanted a fool proof plan. I was told by my gardening neighbor that using a great mix of Peat Moss, Compost and Vermiculite is the secret. If you have great soil to begin with it will be less expensive to just add great compost and mix it around, but like I said I am not messing around. I am using the secret formula for success.
If you don’t have railroad wood hanging around on your property you will want to make a raised bed by buying wood and using nails. Here are some links to great tutorials online on how to make a raised garden bed:
Dandee Designs shows you step by step how to make a raised garden box.
The Coupon Project shows step by step how to make a really neat raised bed with PVC Pipes for covering if necessary. Genius!
Frugal Living NW made a raised bed using wood and vinyl fencing materials.
Here is my box, as is. Just sand and some grass clippings from our lawn mower blown in. I raked it level, finding a few sand box toys and a few of my nice spoons…(hiss).
Next step was to add weed barrier stuff. It cannot just be black tarp or something because you want your garden to be able to drain well, so weed barrier will keep the weeds out, but still the water can go through. I did mess up a little bit here. You should have enough to go all the way under your boards and over again (as you don’t want weeds to see any light or they will come a growing). I didn’t buy enough and ran out, but I refuse to go by more. Mine didn’t wrap totally around my boards all the way, but that’s okay. That stuff is not cheap! I think I paid $20 for just the weed barrier. (Sigh, will be worth it…I do hate weeds).
Once you have your base and your weed barrier down its time to make your PERFECT Garden Mix. :) I was told the perfect raised bed garden soil mix is 1/3 part Compost, 1/3 part Peat Moss and 1/3 part Vermiculite. My green thumb neighbor said she used Chicken Compost and it was amazing, but that its also very strong and best to put out in the fall so you won’t burn your plants. Let it sit and become less potent over the fall. So Chicken Compost was my #1 choice since I am starting this fall, however they were all out at the nursery so I settled for Harvest Supreme Compost (which contains 15% chicken compost).
I purchased all the necessary bags – Compost, Peat Moss and Vermiculite.
Now to mix these you can lay out a tarp, add 1/3 of each to it and slosh it around a bit. Then toss into your raised bed. But I just measured using a bucket into my wheelbarrow.
Perfect Garden Mix Recipe
1/3 Compost – fairly inexpensive ($5.00-$9.00 per bag) or make your own!
1/3 Vermiculite (seriously…don’t know even what this is…but it is expensive!) $50 for a big bag.
1/3 Peat Moss – varies in price but I found some for $5.00 per bag.
Add 1/3 of each into the wheelbarrow, mix it up and pour into the garden bed. I did this and then repeated this step until my garden was full! After some smoothing and staring at it admiringly for a bit I put my stuff away and smiled. It’s ready for the spring!
Oh and one more thing, you don’t need to cover the garden or anything, just leave it open through the winter. It should be perfect and ready this spring for all the planting I want to do. Ooooh…so excited for Sweet Peas!
What? Are you expert gardeners laughing at my little ole’ garden? Now, stop it! I worked really hard on this thing…yes it might not look perfect…..but its mine. And it’s gonna bring forth much fruit, well hopefully.
Is there anything I missed? Any super gardeners out there with any tips for me? Do you buy your seeds this time of year and stock up or do you wait till spring? Oh and one more question…is there anything I can plant now or do I need to wait until spring?
PS – This series to be continued in the spring….30 Comments