yard & garden, part 5: making a garden

06.06 -07.06 old mcdonald had an urban-raised-bed-organic garden, e-i-e-i-o

click to see full photo galleryAs most of you already know, Sal's passionate about not just cooking and baking food, but also about where it comes from. Since we moved to Oregon, we've become more involved in organic, locally-grown food and when we finally had a home of our own, one of our dreams was to be able to step outside our kitchen and pick the food for the evening's meal right from our very own garden.

Along the south side of our house is a side yard that would be the perfect spot for a couple of raised garden beds. It was perfectly situated for the sun a vegetable garden would need and better still, it was only steps away from our kitchen. This year, with our big push to get the yard organized and cleaned up, we were determined to get those raised garden beds in place, too.

For the raised beds, we used these great hinges we found in the Lee Valley Hardware catalog -- they're made for 1x8s and they're stackable, so you can make the bed as high as you want. Plus, because they're hinges, you can fasten them to whatever angle you want. We ordered six sets, for two 4'x8' beds that would be three hinges high apiece.

We surrounded the beds with the chipped granite gravel we used throughout the rest of our outdoor spaces, as well as resting the bottom level of each of the raised beds on the gravel to make them last longer. We left pathways on all sides of each bed wide enough to fit a wheelbarrow through. They're also within easy reach of the outdoor spigot, which means we can use one of those short, coil hoses to water them. Eventually, we may convert two wine barrels we have to a rainwater collection system -- Lee Valley Hardware has an awesome rainwater drip irrigation kit -- but this works great, too.

We have a nice Earth Machine we got during Metro's annual special promotion a few years ago and since we had to move it anyway as part of our yard work extravaganza, we emptied out all the composted soil into each of the garden beds.We supplemented that with topsoil and more compost so that we had a really nice foundation for our garden. Since we don't believe in using chemicals for fertilizer, weed, or pest control, it was really important to make sure the soil was prepared well. Once we were satisfied, it was time to get to the good stuff: planting!

As a reward to ourselves once we finished landscaping the yard (and also because it was now the first weekend of July and we were therefore getting a late start on our garden), we treated ourselves to some organic starts from the People's Co-Op. The goodies:

  • tomatoes ("Gold Medal", "Sun Gold", and heirloom)
  • Peppers (Serrano, Biscayne cubanelle, and habanero)
  • Japanese eggplant
  • Dill (cutting)
  • Cucumbers ("Alibi")
  • watermelon ("Sugarbaby Icebox")
  • broccoli ("Southern Comet" and "Umpqua")
  • lettuce: ("Lolla Rosa Revolution" green leaf lettuce, "New Red Fire" red leaf lettuce, "Rhodes" frisée)

We also bought some seeds, thinking it couldn't hurt to give them a try even if it was late to be planting:

  • carrots ("Big Top")
  • sugar peas
  • green beans
  • radishes ("crimson giant")

Three weeks later, the garden was going crazy. We got some mad garden skillz, yo. (Although I suspect the bounty of Oregon's climate and soil probably had a bit to do with that.) By the beginning of August, we were eating our first cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and lettuce out of our very own garden.

I wish we'd gotten more pictures of the garden throughout the summer. Everything grew like weeds, except without that annoying noxious invasive thing. In fact, we ended up installing three wire trellises for the peas, cucumbers, and tomatoes. And the tomatoes were so out of control that we were picking a pint of just the small Sun Golds every day until mid-October. (It's nearly Halloween as I write this and those darn things are still ripening out there!)

Even starting as late as we did, and with a much smaller variety than what we'll plant in the future, we ate like royalty and other than spraying the beds down with the hose every evening, we didn't have to do a darn thing. That's our kind of gardening!

click to see full photo gallery´╗┐