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How to Start a Raised Bed Garden

I'll admit that I actually loathed my time as a child being forced to work outside. I would barter with my parents begging them to let me clean the inside of the house and do all the laundry so that I could be in the air conditioning. Hilarious. I know. And if Mark read this, he wouldn't believe that I ever actually begged to do laundry. An actual hilarious thought.

Somewhere things changed, and I started enjoying the yard work when the first signs of spring appeared. My favorite weather is the warm afternoon sun, following the cool mornings. Each spring, I have worked on our yard to perennialize it. So I have invested in plants with big impact that will come back year after year, each year. adding a few more where they have grown well, and throwing in some annuals for vibrant color.

This year, in the time that we are usually traveling, we were stuck home because of COVID. We even considered doing our quarantine in a vacation spot because the early spring is our last hoorah before Mark starts planting our cotton for the year. We decided to stay home and work on some house projects that we have wanted to do but hadn't carved out the time. We completed all of our inside projects in a few weeks and decided to move to the outside.

Mark tilled and seeded our front yard with grass. I started cleaning out flower beds and decided to start a raised bed garden. There are a few decisions and considerations that you need to make before you start.

1. Sunlight - Look at your yard and find the spot that gets the most sunlight and that will be a safe bet to place it. Mine gets full sun in the afternoon and evening on one side, and on the other it gets evening sun. I decided on this configuration because I wanted to grow some herbs and lettuce and they need a cooler space to grow.

2. Soil - If you are planting a huge garden, call the local nurseries and see if they have bulk prices. The bags will tell you how many cubic feet it will cover. You can calculate your cubic feet by multiplying the length of you bed by the width of the bed by the depth you want your soil to be. L x W x D = cubic feet. I called several nurseries and price checked, some were very expensive. I ended up mixing a few bags of the expensive stuff with some just normal organic raised bed soil from Costco, and some organic compost and manure bags from Home Depot. The cost was about half of the prices first quoted to me from the nurseries.

3. Material - You have several options, the cheapest is a treated wood. I used pine. And you need someone that can use a saw and drill to put it all together. You can also take your measurements to Home Depot and have them cut it for you if you don't have a saw. It took Mark 15 minutes to put our bed together. You can also use galvanized steel, like a stock tank, that you would see at Tractor Supply or Gebos, if you have zero access to power tools.

4. Plants - look at your zone, and see what plants grow in spring, summer, and fall. I used this tool for some basics information and it was very helpful! click here!

5. Watering - In West Texas, rain is not a dependable form of keeping your plants watered. So If you have an irrigation system set it up, watch some youtube videos on how to run more irrigation hoses to your garden. A trip to Home Depot and you can totally do this yourself! I watched a few videos from Garden Answer on youtube, and totally had the confidence to tackle it. If you don't have an irrigation system, you can attach a timer and hose system directly to your outdoor faucet. Like these! You can just hand water, which is okay too.

6. To mulch or not to mulch - I actually think mulching is helpful. It helps with weeds, it holds moisture, and over time it will begin to break down and add more rich material to your soil. If you want to skip out on buying mulch, you can get wood chips from your local dump grounds. They have an enormous machine that chews up trees and spits out wood chips and its completely free. You just need to bring a shovel and potentially a trailer or truck to load it up in. This is still actually my plan, because I think the kids would love to see the machine working and I can give them some little lessons on why it is important to be conscious about reducing waste. Field trip anyone!? My plan also includes a tarp put down in the back of my suburban...i'll let ya know how that goes.

7. Have fun! I decided to plant a lot of weird things, things that I cannot buy at the grocery store. So my tomatoes are yellow, orange, purple, small, and big, so many varieties. I've ordered weird carrots, and herbs that I have never heard of or cooked with. I'm starting moon and star watermelons, yellow dews, and golden watermelons. They are beautiful melons but they also have really pretty foliage that will add some dimension to beds that they will be in. Get a few tried and trues, but also get some things that you have never seen before.

And don't be afraid to mix your herbs and melons into your flower beds if you don't have containers or enough room in a bed. I planted berggarten sage all over my flower beds. And my melons will have a lot of space and hopefully spreading around some stone areas of my patio!

8. And last advice....don't feel like you have to know everything before you start. Just start somewhere, and learn as you go. Let the experience teach you, troubleshoot, watch some youtube videos on how to get your plants to produce more (certain ways to cut them or pinch them that makes them more prolific producers).

I hope this is helpful! Send me a message if you have any questions!

- Michal

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Sep 29, 2022

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