Saturday, May 5, 2012

New Garden Boxes

Last year we cleared a small section of our woods to expand our yard and garden.  We love the woods and over the years it's gotten taller and crept in to our yard area, not that we minded or even noticed really.  It's only when we look back at pictures from when the kids where little that we say, "wow, the yard was a lot bigger."  The biggest complaint my husband had is it was dropping leaves in the pool.

Finally last year we took out around 5 large tree, many small ones and a lot of brush.  The area is full of little and big stumps.  We really can't put the money into getting the stumps out so we are going to live with them for awhile.  My garden boxes will work well right over the uneven, stumpy area even though we'll have to place them to avoid the large ones.  It will give the new garden character!

New boxes, and stumps
After clearing last May and June we quickly put in a couple pre-made plastic boxes that we got on sale.  They worked out well and were quick and easy but the sides on them don't stay put as well as I'd like.  They kind of work out of the snap together fit and the stakes that hold them don't real well.  So while I'm not getting rid of them, I 'm not sure I want more.

I paid $35 in wood and have 2 new 4X4's and one 8X4.  If you've never done these before I highly recommend the Square Foot Garden book.  You'll probably want to own it, I still refer to it from time to time and I've been doing these for probably 4 years now.  Basically we just screw the wood together into a frame and usually put a covering over the bottom.

Most of our boxes have old pools as bottoms.  I've never found a ground cover, plastic or cloth that really does keep things from growing up but our old pools do.  About every 3 years we seem to need to replace our "bubble ring" pool and it cuts up nicely for garden box bottoms.  Last year the plastic ones we bought didn't get bottoms (hard to staple gun into plastic and we were out of "pool" at the time.)  This year one of the boxes I'm putting in is for asparagus and it has to be bottomless so we didn't do that one either.

almost full
The real cost in these is the "dirt".  It's actually not dirt.  The mix is vermiculite, peat moss and 3 kinds of manure (when I can find three.)  I "guesstimate" the ratio, but the Square foot book does have a way to calculate.  The vermiculite is about $14.95 and the only place I've found it locally is at Menards in the insulation department.  Peat moss you can find lots of places, for around $8-9.  The manure has because somewhat difficult in that so many now don't list what kind of manure it is.  Locally Sheltons has cow and mushroom right now which I combine with my own chicken pile from last fall.  Home Depot had two kinds and only one listed the ingredients as "poultry yard", which didn't help me since I have my own poultry but if you're looking for a third type that might help you.  I have about $90 into what I've done, but I need about one more patch so I'm guessing another $35-40 will finish filling my new boxes.

It is expensive, but it's a "one time" thing.  Once your boxes are established you just add new manure or compost each year to "top" them off.

Now the fun part comes in filling up the boxes with all kinds of plants!  I'm trying to wait about one more week just to be sure we won't have a frost.  If the weather forecast cooperates by mid-May I hope to have them filled with plants I've got started in the house and seeds.

It's a different way of gardening but works well for us.  If you're interested in different methods, other than the old till it up, you might enjoy Back to Eden.  It's a full length documentary on an interesting method of growing things.  I know I'm going to incorporate more wood chips into my garden after watching.  It uses some of the ideas of the lasagna garden which I've done before too, very interesting!

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