Building a Garden


This is my new raised-bed flower garden, now seeded and sprouting for fall gardening. I built it myself this past April. I had been planning to build this since we moved in, the winter of 2008. I have had the size and shape laid out for a year. I’ve had the bricks for two years. I finally got the push to do it after my mother-in-law started stacking bricks while she was house-sitting. I couldn’t believe it might be that easy, so I took several thoughtful trips around the neighborhood scrutinizing the yards of others. At last I realized that the only reason I hadn’t built it yet was because I was making it harder than it actually is. I thought I had to dig down into the dirt, build up a base, mortar those suckers in there, and pull up all the grass inside. I couldn’t decide if I should hire a mason or learn to do bricklaying on my own.

But I didn’t have to mortar. I didn’t even have to pull out the grass. All I had to do was stack the bricks up, like so. Because I was concerned that I would lose soil between the cracks, I lined the interior of the bed with landscape fabric and anchored the fabric under one of the brick layers. I grudgingly purchased soil from the hardware store, putting in a layer of manure on the bottom and good garden soil on top. It’s about 7” deep, and there is enough depth that I can add more soil/mulch/compost without running out of space.
I really like my bricks! I salvaged them from an old brick sidewalk in my friend’s yard when the sidewalks were being replaced with concrete. They’re 100 years old; literally.

I thought growing a garden would be an easy success for me – I’ve spent time as a horticulture technician, and I helped my mother and granny with their gardens as a young’un. I quickly learned that while I had plenty of experience maintaining a healthy garden, I had no experience at beginning one from scratch. I thought I was choosing my plants wisely for my garden’s sunny micro-climate. I did a combo of seeds, root stock/bulbs, and baby plants; mostly these were purchased from OSU-OKC or garden clubs, but a few came from Lowes. 
Success? Well…
·               Some sprouted. Some didn’t.

·              Some that germinated, produced. Some didn’t.

·              Some of the bought-plants grew larger. Some didn’t.

·        I’m not sure WHY any of the above things happened. But...

·               I got a decent spinach harvest.

·              My mesclun and onion harvest were teensy tinsy.

  One of the squash lived to start producing at long last this month. 

·             Strawberries, cucumber, tomato: nil.

·              I’ve gotten a pretty good sustaining harvest from most of my herbs. I get a ridiculous amount of comfort from having drying herbs hanging in the kitchen.

·              I successfully (and accidentally) grew a LOT of mushrooms. Turns out that this was because I was watering at night, instead of during the morning.

·        Apparently, I should have started my spinach when it was still chill outside to prevent early flowering and climaxing. (Despite this, I still got a modest harvest of spinach, which tells me that spinach must be Really Easy to grow.) I think I should have planted my onions earlier, too.  I may get a Farmer’s Almanac for next year.

·              You should harvest mesclun when it is tiny and young. You should let dill flower before harvesting. Don’t let basil or spinach flower.

·              You can give chives a buzz cut, and the next week they will be almost the same height again.

My garden has not been nearly as productive or lush as I’d hoped (notice how far apart some of the plants are? I wanted to give them plenty of room to get BIG!). However, since it is my first year at starting my own, since the weather has been rough, since I have learned so much, and enjoyed it so much, since I still have enjoyed (and am enjoying) some harvest from the garden, I’m happy. Having nothing but a wide expanse of crunchy Bermuda grass in my backyard is a thing of the past – and thank goodness for that!

Here is a recipe for my favorite use of summer garden produce:
Medium-sized sprig of lemon balm or a few large sprigs of lemon thyme
Small sprig of lavender
3 basil leaves
Pitcher of water
After a couple of days in the fridge, this is so delicious! Not strong enough to be tea, light enough to be refreshing, just a bit sweet and flowery. Of course the bottom of the pitcher is the best part… 

On cue for the fall garden:
Still going good from the summer, we have squash, carrots, basil, parsley, lemon thyme, regular thyme, lemon balm, and oregano. 
Currently sprouting: Spinach, lettuce, and peas.
Seeded, not yet sprouted: Chard, kale, garlic.


Wonkadelica said...

Nice looking garden! It doesn't take much. Mine is only 12x12. Not surprising about the tomatoes, the flowers do not set when it is over 90 degrees. Amazing the squash survived at all. Squash bugs always got mine after the first year. My spinach and lettuce has survived winters down to 5-10 degrees with clear plastic container covers. Sweet peas do well too if you cover them for frost.

Alien Mind Girl said...

I haven't seen any squash bugs... although we did have an abundance of boxelder bugs for a while.