Sunday, October 9, 2011

Digging In The Dirt

When we had our backyard landscaped, all the hard-scape was done, including some raised beds.  I've long been wanting to have a vegetable garden, but the soil quality here is horrendous, so a raised bed was a must.  I knew exactly what I wanted, beds that were 4'x12'x1', and we had enough room for four of them with 3' walking paths between each.

Living in the Sonoran desert, we have the privilege of gardening year round.  Now is the fall planting season, and our grass is in and we can walk on it, so it was time to get started.
I actually forgot to take pictures before we started work on the first bed (we'll be doing one per week 'til they're all done), but luckily we still have 3 empties that are just like the one we worked on, so I'm substituting a picture of one of them.  As you can see, we had irrigation put in the beds to make watering easier, I just needed to add the drip hose and nozzles, which the landscaping crew foreman showed me how to do.

I went to a local nursery called The Avocado to order the fruit trees, and found they also have an excellent soil mix for gardening in this area -- it's used by the local college, university extension office test gardens, and the Master Gardener's program -- at an even more excellent price.  Sold in bulk by the cubic yard, one load is enough to fill one raised bed.  So I went and picked some up, along with the tubing and nozzles to complete the irrigation.  I got home and got to work, putting in the irrigation lines, moving the dirt one wheelbarrow load at a time, and quickly realized this was going to be an all day project by itself.  And then my guys surprised me.  Jay came out, climbed in the back of my truck, and started shoveling the dirt into the wheelbarrow for me.  Shortly thereafter, Scott came out and took over wheelbarrow duty, leaving me to spread the dirt within the beds.  What wonderful help!  It made the whole thing go so much faster, and showed me that it would have taken me at least another day on my own.

So the beds were filled and level, and daylight fading, so we decided to call it a day.  Of course I forgot to take a picture again.  And then the dogs found the new dirt.  When I went out this morning, this is what I saw:
They had turned it into their own little sandbox.  I was not amused.  Keeping them out, it turns out, will be the biggest challenge to success.  Rather than deal with this immediately, I decided that my next step was going to Lowe's for some tools,
 and plants.
I got home, got back to work, and got everything spread out and leveled again, but this time, I did remember my camera.
Now for the fun stuff -- the planting!  Or so I thought.  I actually got started, too, getting the tomato plants put into the ground.  Turns out I'd messed up a bit on the spacing, and had to move two of them.  More troubling, however, was the fact that I hadn't bothered to place and trim the irrigation.  I stopped the planting and made sure all of the irrigation was in correctly.  Then I was able to get to the fun stuff.

I picked up the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew about a year ago in the hopes that I'd someday have my garden.  When the beds went in, I got my copy out again, and started reading.  I decided to go with this method, but have modified it slightly -- some of my plantings are not going to be quite so dense this time around, while some strictly follow his spacing.  Whichever way works best will be the method I go with for future plantings.

Finally, the first bed is all planted and watered!

So, what's in there?  I'm glad you asked!  The 4 plants at the back are (clockwise from the left): Black Prince tomato, Red Beefsteak tomato, Juliet roma grape tomato, and Mr. Stripey tomato.  The seeds I planted are cucumbers, marigolds, peas, green beans, wax beans, basil, oregano, green onions, nasturtiums, stevia, broccoli, spinach, leaf lettuce mix, baby carrots, and a blend of 5 colors of regular carrots. (I couldn't find a link for either the marigolds or the baby carrots, but the labels read: Burpee Signature Marigold Burpee's Mixed Colors, and Burpee Signature Carrot Petite 'n Sweet.)

I can't wait to see everything growing!

Assuming, of course, I can managed to keep the dogs out.  Here's hoping!