Thursday, April 23, 2009

Look Out! He's Got a Garden!!!!!
Well, not yet.

In the comments below, The Surly One expressed a wish that I do some more gardening posts. Like the rest of us, He's on a tight budget and wants to do as much as he can on the cheap.

This is always an admirable idea. Even more so now as the cost of food continues to climb. It ain't coming back down either, it's gonna get worse. So it's smart of him to be thinking ahead.

I'm addressing this stuff to him, but anyone could benefit from having a garden. So if you have questions about things, ask.

I haven't seen his new place yet so I can't make any specific recommendations here. But going on what he told me about his soil, it basically sucks. That's what happens when they build a new house nowadays. They clear off the building site and strip most of the top soil away doing it. You get a new house with crappy soil and have to buy the soil back.

Remember that if you plan on building or buy a house that's less than 20 years old.

He communicated that he would like to use raised beds to avoid tilling, and keep it manageable. You can make them look quite tidy and fit in most anywhere with any kind of landscape. I really like them for most things.

So, where do we start?
Site selection I suppose. You're gonna want a place that gets, at a minimum of 7-8 hours of sunlight. That's not really enough, but if that's all you have then try it. You want as much Sunlight as you can get so make that your first priority when locating the garden. Move the swingset or clothesline if you have to. Most things just won't grow well with less than 8 hours of sun. The more, the better.
Try to keep your layout oriented in a North to South direction. I have no idea why I forgot this when building mine. It's not a critical thing, but it will make it easier to get good sun on things with out shading them later on.

Depending on how much room you have, leave room for expansion later. You can have beds tucked into spots all over the yard if it fits your design or just fits what you have. I find it easier to have stuff as close together as practical, just so you don't spend all day walking from place to place. One of the benefits of gardening is the quiet time out there, if you're a fat ass, lay it out so you have to walk. I look for efficiency personally. You still get that quiet time, but you can utilize it better.

Surly has a problem of crappy dirt and not wanting to buy a dump truck full of soil. The good news is he's only talking about a single small bed this year. He suggested an area only 2x8'. That's pretty small and I think he'd be better off going 4x12, but that's ok.

First things first. What are we gonna use for building a raised bed? Some folks don't use anything. Just mound it up and go. I tried that and didn't find it worked to well with my inner Teutonic sense of orderliness. The soil gets spread around and it messy.

You want a box of some kind. Here's where your creativity comes in. I've used all kind of things. I recommend having one at least 8" deep.

Concrete blocks - They're cheap. You can almost always find people who will give them to you for free if you ask. Seems like everyone has a stack of them behind the garage.
They work well, but they aren't the prettiest thing. I've got 3 beds now made from blocks, but they ain't nothing fancy.

You can buy lumber, but that's expensive.

Scrap and scrounge time. Scrap pallets can be taken apart and they're another freebie. Most businesses have 2-3 leaning against the outside walls asking to be given away.

Where Surly lives, he should be looking for Dunage Lumber the Truckers use. It's usually 4x4 and hardwood. (Ask Cuzzin Ricky.) Sure, it'll breakdown in 4-5 years, but big deal it's friggen organic. That's a plus in the long run. Besides, it gives you 4-5 years to find something else.

I saw a hell of a nice bed made form red clay field tile set on end. That was a freebie too. He got a whole truck load for hauling them away. Looked nice too.
Scrap steel, Big rocks, Hell, even small trees cut down and stacked, log cabin style. You name it. This is where the creative part comes in.

Surly only wants to grow a couple of Maters, Peppers, Onions and some Herbs for now. Maybe he'll re-read the Tater post I wrote awhile back and opt for some of those too.

Soil is gonna be a problem if you don't have any of your own and need to build a bed.

So, what to do? One idea is to buy some bags of soil at Home Depot and plant directly in them. Yeah, lay them on the ground where you plan to make your garden later and slice a hole in them and plant a tomato or 2 in each one. You'll need a little (Very little) fertilizer, but that's it.

Don't laugh, It works.

It's just another form of "Container Gardening". That's where I'm going here anyway. You can grow lots of things in containers and containers are limited only by what you'll use. Containers also give you the option of moving your plants if you don't have a good sunny spot. I personally wouldn't, "Take my plants for a walk" everyday. But if that's all you can do and are willing, Go for it.

At the end of the season, you can dump the bags into the bed you finally got together and be started for next year.

So, where we at so far?

We need a good site with plenty of Sun. Something to make beds from. Or containers to grow in. And a little dirt to get started.

We decided that buying a dump truck load of soil is NFG, but you're gonna have to buy a little for now. I'd spring 30-40 bucks for a pickup truck load of GOOD soil for starters. You can buy a few bags of composted manure for 2.99 each to help it and not be in for to much.

You CAN go and dig soil yourself if you know someone who'll let you and has a source. That would be great.

The soil problem is gonna be your biggest expense, even if you just buy a few bags and plant things in them. That's gonna continue to be a problem if you expand things, too.

You can help by making good soil. Tomorrow we'll see about, Compost.

Gratuitous Picture for this Evening -
Fertile Soil for Plowing.



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