This blog post was inspired by Jack’s podcast on Small Scale Forest Gardens. America is turning a page in history and reverting to a more self-reliant way of living. We still have a long way to go since many people know nothing about how things used to be or simply grew in a big city sheltered from rural America. But there is an awakening happening. I see it at the office, hear it in the cafeteria. People who had always kept a pristine Bermuda lawn are now asking questions about what, when and how to start a veggie garden or plant a fruit tree. Others have started a raised bed with tomato and pepper plants bought at Walmart. It’s a start— a good start because once hooked on gardening it’s hard to look at a shovel and resist the urge to dig a hole to plant something.
I began life in suburbia in 2005 with what most would consider a perfect backyard. That is, a backyard devoid of vegetation except grass. In 2008, Jack got the bug in me to start doing something with such a fertilizer laden wasteland. I fenced off 250 sq. feet inside my backyard and built three raised beds. Two years later I outgrew that area, so I fenced off another 250 sq. feet, for a total of 500 sq. feet. I now have three raised beds and 1 keyhole garden, a green house, and 16 fruit trees all in a one tenth of an acre suburbia lot. This is how my backyard looks now.
Raised Beds 2008
Raised Beds 2013
Keyhole Garden 2013
Keyhole Garden Entrance
Keyhole Garden Compost Basket
Try gardening for one season, and I bet you’ll be hooked just like I was. It’s better than going to the gym for exercise, better than going to the tanning salon for a tan, and better than watching TV to relax. How do you start? Easy, go to a hardware store and buy the following materials:
1, 2” by 6” by 12’ (ask the hardware store to cut it in half)
1, 2” by 6” by 6’ (same, ask the hardware store to cut in half)
12, 4” wood screws
Enough cardboard or paper refuse bags laid flat, double to cover 18’ sq.
1 bag of mulch (2 cubic feet)
1 bag of compost (2 cubic feet)
3 bags of soil (5 cubic feet)
Screw the boards into a rectangle and you’ll have a 3’ by 6’, 6” raised bed.
Lay the cardboard or refuse paper bags in a leveled part of your backyard that gets at least 6 hours of sun.
Move or build the raised bed on top of the cardboard.
Fill the raised bed by placing a 2” cover of mulch then 3 inches of soil and compost. If you will be planting from seeds you can start the seeds inside the house and then plant them into the raised bed once the plants are about 3” tall. You can also plant seeds directly into the raised bed but there is a little more risk of the sprouts getting scorched by the sun or killed by a cold snap or eaten by birds. Either way, do not apply the last inch of mulch until the plants are about 2 inches tall. Otherwise, the mulch may suppress the sprouts. Water gently and generously since raised beds lose humidity fast.
Congratulations, you are a gardener!