(I know the tomato cages are upside down. I was too exhausted tonight to actually set them right.)
It’s hard to convey how much work this little garden was, or how many dumb mistakes I’ve made along they way. From starting plants from seed to building the raised bed, filling the thing with soil, and then finally getting stuff planted…it was a bit of a project.
We wound up building a 10′ x 6′ bed, rather than the 12′ x 4′ bed my book described. The construction itself wasn’t too hard; just planks and decking screws. Making it more of a challenge was the fact that our backyard is essentially a slope, so the VEB had to do a lot of digging to make the bed reasonably level. I thought the size was fine until I went to plant stuff, and realized that 6′ wide means it’s a little hard to reach into the middle of the bed. Whoops.
Alas, not all of my seedlings made it into the garden. I wound up with 5 tomato plants started from seed, all cherry romas and peach tomatoes. My last remaining “German Pink” seedling died this week, so I bought one “big boy” from the local nursery to make sure we had at least one “regular” red tomato plant. There are a few cucumbers and squash seedlings that made it in, but are a little touch-and-go at the moment. I did buy an extra cucumber plant this morning just to be on the safe side. My watermelon seedlings seem to be doing well, so those made it in – one “sugar baby” and then some sort of orange colored watermelon, just as an experiment. (Who am I kidding, it’s all an experiment….) I also impulsively acquired some pepper plants (all of my pepper seedlings died) and some completely unplanned strawberry plants. Those went in too, though I worry I may have too many peppers and strawberries in there. We’ll see; if I have to thin them out I will. I also threw in some lettuce and spinach seeds for good measure.
I also bought some marigolds, as they are supposedly an organic manner of pest control. I also came home from the nursery with a pot of mint (there will be mojitos!), as well as lavender, bee balm, and catnip. Those are going to have to go outside the raised bed, but I’m fine with that. (I also bought several plants for the front flower bed to go with the pink hydrangea my sister gave me, which finally got planted today…but that’s another project.)
This project came in at about $250, including everything from the seeds, soil and plants to the wood and screws we bought to build the bed. We didn’t actually lay all that out ourselves – I had some gift cards from my birthday that helped put a dent in our costs. It took us an afternoon to build the bed, and then another day to level it off enough so that we could fill it with soil and plant it, and then (more or less) another weekend to deal with the soil and planting. We used a mix of dirt that was already on the property mixed with organic garden soil and peat moss, plus a compost/fertilizer mix. Next to the wood, the soil was the biggest expense; we totally underestimated the amount of dirt we needed, or how much it was going to cost. As much as I tried to do this project without buying anything from a big box store we got the lumber at Home Depot, and most of the soil from Lowe’s.
Was it worth it? The proof will be in the pudding, of course, but I honestly doubt we will get $250 worth of produce out of this garden this year. Maybe I’ll be surprised? A summer farm share around here runs between $500-$600 for a 12-week season, which is more than this project cost but (obviously) would be a lot less work! Plus, a farm share would give us a wider range of vegetables than what we planted. That said, next year’s garden costs will be substantially less, since we’ll already have the bed built, plus I’ll be able to put in some garlic this fall to be ready in the spring. I am going to invest in grow lights though; my tomato seedlings were very spindly this year.
All that said? I was pretty tickled to see it this evening. It felt good to conceive of a project and then make it happen, with literally my (very dirty) bare hands, and it was also fun to work with the VEB on it. Plus, it was a much-needed distraction for both of us from all the moving boxes piling up, and all the cat drama that’s been going on (oh lord deliver me from cat drama…). Now we watch, weed and wait.