Part 3: Building your garden

I suggest you get started on this right away! Spring is a busy time in the garden. If your planting bed is ready in the fall, you will be able to get an earlier start on the season. The possibilities here are endless, so I will focus on our main vegetable garden format and explain its advantages. Our “grocery garden” is about 100 square feet. 45 sq ft are for vegetables. The rest make up a path lined with flowers and herbs. This is enough space to supply two people with plenty of vegetables throughout the summer I have mentioned before, but it bears mentioning again: Herbs and flowers are essential for a healthy garden ecosystem. You need to make an environment that good bugs want to be in for them to do the work in your garden for you. Choosing a location: Pick whichever spot is the sunniest. Vegetables need a lot of sun, especially tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, beans. 6 hours a day is a minimum. Pick a spot that has easy access to water and that is high traffic. If your garden is inconvenient, you will ignore it and it will not produce for you. Beyond that, your imagination is the only limitation. Only have vertical space? Grow climbing plants. Only have a balcony? Build a box and put a garden on it. Only have a windowsill? Make a window box and stuff it with herbs and greens and it will reward you with beautiful fresh salads. Since we are building small, but efficient gardens, we can afford to start with ideal soil from the get go, rather than trying to fix whatever existing soil available to us. To do this we mix in equal parts: black earth, vermiculite and peat moss for water retention and drainage and compost for organic matter, elemental nutrients and microbial life. If you are gardening on concrete, you need to dig around and find a couple of earthworms to add as well. 1. Find North. Your garden is directional. The tall plants need to go in the back (north side) so they don’t shade out the rest of the garden 2. Build two 10’ long raised beds out of 2” x 8” lumber. One 1.5’ wide and the other 3 feet wide separated by a 3 foot path 3. Put down a thick layer of wet newspaper covering the entire garden. This will kill the grass and weeds so they don’t come up through your garden. 4. Fill the boxes with your soil mix. Equal parts vermiculite, peat moss, compost and black earth. *soil health is imperative. This is the heart and soul of your garden. For a happy healthy garden you absolutely need top quality soil fertility and the soil fertility needs to be maintained through out the year. If your soil is not doing well, your plants will not do well. For a more in depth discussion of soil fertility please read the blog entry “Feed the soil, not the plants”* 5. Add mounds of dirt on either side of your path to plant the flowers and herbs in. 6. Add mulch (at least 3” thick) as a foot path down the middle at least 18” wide 7. Put up a trellis on the north side of the narrow bed to accommodate your climbing veggies. Build a frame out of wood, or steel conduit 6-7’ high the length of the garden and string up trellis netting you can get most easily on ebay. 8. Put up a 2.5’ fence around the entire garden to keep pesky animals out. It can be chicken wire or animal netting with rebar for structure. Whatever you choose as fencing needs to let the light through so you don’t shade out your plants in the front row 9. Sow Dwarf white clover, or New Zealand white clover as a cover crop over both beds to prevent nutrient leaching over the winter, and to provide nutrients and organic matter when turned under in the spring. This is part of your soil fertility program. It is also referred to as green manure.

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