I decided to start small and only bought enough wood for two 4’x4′ boxes. I built those over the course of two days; the first one I did without pre-drilling guide holes for the deck screws, which I do not ever recommend anyone try – it literally gave me a headache by the time I was done. The second one I had purchased some drill bits (I already had the drill, but it was packaged primarily as a screwdriver so didn’t come with any drill bits) so that I could make the guide holes, which made the process a whole lot faster and easier. And no headache!
Next came the process of tracking down & buying, and then mixing the various ingredients for the soil. It’s called “Mel’s Mix”, and is 1/3rd peat moss, 1/3rd vermiculite, and 1/3rd blended compost (from different sources). The vermiculite and compost I was able to get at Home Depot; the peat moss turned out to be the tricky one to find, but in the end a nursery less than two miles from my house ended up having it in 2.2 cu ft bales.
It took about three days to mix and fill the boxes. I don’t have a wheelbarrow, so I had to mix it in batches on a 6’x8′ tarp, using a 5 gallon bucket as my “measuring cup”. I did one bucket of each type of compost (I had two types), then two buckets each of the vermiculite and peat moss. Each mixing took about an hour to mix; the first batch I did on my “lunch” break on my telecommute day, the second & third batch later that evening with the help of my daughter, and the final batch the night before last, also with my daughter’s help.
I used 2″x8″x4′ lengths of wood, and I wanted them as full as possible. I think there is probably about 1″-1.5″ I could still put in some soil, but I’d need to get yet another bag of compost in order to get a good blend, so I’ll just stick with what is there currently. It was too windy last night to do any planting, so hopefully we’ll be able to finally transplant the seeds we sprouted plus the three tomato plants, six jalapeno pepper plants and six strawberry plants I purchased, as well as seed everything else.
Here’s the list of what I’ll be putting in our garden this spring/summer:
- Better Boy tomato
- Celebrity tomato (I am hoping this one is indeterminite vine, it doesn’t say on the stake)
- Cherry tomato (in case the jelly bean variety I tried to sprout doesn’t take)
- 6 jalapeno plants
- six strawberry plants
- two types of carrot (high-rise box)
- one type of cucumber
- 2 different color of marigold
- two variety of green bean and one of yellow wax beans
- two variety of peas (one sugar snap)
- sugar baby watermelon
- white/yellow combo corn
- mini sunflowers
- jumbo sunflowers
- two type of radish
- chive and garlic chive (these may not do well, at least not until fall)
- green onion
- And finally – in late May or June, to replace the radish square and the flowers that will surround that square, a second high-rise box to try growing sweet potatoes (bushing variety).
Being that I live in the desert where it will reach over 110 regularly in the summer, I will also have to build a shade to partially block out the sun during the hottest days. Since I have about a month before I really need to worry about a shade (it was suggested to do a shade after it reaches over 90 degrees every day), I am still shopping around for 50-65% shade cloth at a reasonable cost and in the size I will need, not to mention the support frame. (More thoughts on what shape of support to design later).
If all goes well with this first attempt at gardening, and assuming both my husband and I are still employed at our current jobs, I’ll probably expand to four boxes for the fall garden, since a lot of what I’d want to grow in the fall will require one square per plant (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower and the larger lettuces).
I’m quite excited to get started this evening with planting. We still need to also put up a fence to try to keep the neighborhood cats out (unless anyone has other suggestions on how to go about that, using repelling scents and whatnot? I read somewhere to use cayenne pepper…), as well as any other small critters (there are also rabbits, quail & dove, as well as coyotes).
I’ll have to take some pictures of the boxes tonight before we start adding the seeds and whatnot, to track our progress.