May is flying by and the days have been busy with work, family visiting from out of town, spring clean up, sleepy (sometimes rainy) weekends, and an incredible concert in the city. This weekend was finally warm and sunny so of course I have come down with a cold, but I took the opportunity nonetheless to kick off Phase One of My Dream Garden Project, 2014.*
*Disclaimer: This garden was made possible and supported 95% in part by my wonderful man who is an expert in both construction and gardening. Any use of the word “we” generally indicates that “he” did most of the work. But I still got my hands dirty and did some heavy lifting!
Today I evolved out of the realm of theory about my garden into real life practice, with the help of my eternally handy handyman. Although he is a carpenter these days, he used to be a full time gardener and landscaper when we first met, so I tapped into his extensive skills and knowledge to get my raised bed ready for planting. He made a quick frame for the raised bed that is about 7 x 7 feet using some scrap wood from another construction project, so we’ve actually been ready to go for a few weeks.
We decided on a spot in our backyard that gets the most sunlight during the day, where a large cluster of leafy green plants have flourished since before we moved into our house. There is a ghost of an old garden in our front yard looking for some greenery, so our first task was to do a little transplanting mission. Exciting!
Using a small shovel, we dug around the plant, down just a few inches. I was surprised that we didn’t have to go too deep, but my man explained that this isn’t a tree and the roots don’t go down very far. Then we dropped the plant into a wheelbarrow and brought it around to the front of the house.
After deciding on where exactly we wanted to plant, we dug a hole deep enough for the roots to be dropped in completely level with the earth, and wide enough for the whole plant to sit comfortably. Last weekend we examined the earth in this garden and saw that what looked like good and healthy soil on top was mostly sand and a bit of clay underneath – not ideal for planting. So we picked up a few extra bags of soil from our local nursery to make sure that these plants will thrive. (Hopefully!)
We put some of the soil in the bottom of the hole and once we dropped the plant in, we added the rest of the soil around the roots and plant, patting it down gently as we went. We used one bag of soil for each plant because they were all pretty big, and on the last transplant we combined a few smaller plants together to make one bunch. When all the plants were settled in, we used a hoe to even out the soil and lightly watered the base of each plant.
Next was some of the dirty work. Since the frame was ready to go, we needed to prepare the earth so we could put the raised bed on a relatively flat surface. I tore up this black fabric that’s all around our house and in our gardens – my man calls it geo-textile fabric and says that some people use it in their gardens to prevent weeds. While I pulled that up and cleared out the rest of the dead leaves, my man dug around the edges where the frame of the raised bed was going and continued digging out where the plants had been. Then we cleared out everything we had dug up and raked the earth so it was really flat.
Once we were satisfied with the position of the bed, we threw the 17 bags of soil we’d bought into the frame, tore them open, and poured everything out. When all the bags were empty, we used the hoe and a rake to even out the soil, and voila! A raised bed! My man has suggested that we pick up another 5 to 10 bags of soil so everything will be flush with the frame of the raised bed, especially since the earth will get compacted the next time it rains.
That was supposed to be the end of Phase One of the Garden Project. But the day was young and my handyman just couldn’t help himself once we got started, so it was off to the hardware store to pick up some extra wood and wire to make a fence around the bed. It was so simple – just 4 posts of wood drilled into the frame of the raised bed, and then a roll of wire wrapped around the posts as tightly as possible.
We screwed the wire to the wood and have a makeshift door made of 2 extra posts that closes by hooking the end of the wire to the other side of the doorway. Again, full credit to the carpenter – he knew exactly what size of wood to buy and cut it all perfectly while I played catch with Lily. But I did help with the installation of the wire…if holding the roll of wire up counts as helping!
Finally, we put a lattice along the top of the taller posts at the back of the garden, since we have plans for plants that like to grow upwards – like tomatoes and beans. Now that the raised bed is in place with a fence ready to keep neighbouring animals out, our garden is ready for Phase Two: Vegetable Planting. I cannot wait to eat some local foods straight from my backyard!!!
PS: Happy Mother’s Day! Although I spent most of my day with Mother Nature, I have to say that my mom really is the greatest one out there.