Spring Fever: How Does Your Garden Grow?

March 28, 2016, by Sheila DelCharco

Now that Easter is past and so is Spring Break (for us at least) what else do you think about when you get spring fever? For me it's gardening. Spring in Florida means that the temperatures are warm but not infernal, the humidity is low, and the weather is just. plain. gorgeous! The downside is the pollen. The oak trees are flowering and they dump yellow pollen which gets EVERYWHERE!

But I digress. Back to gardening. When the weather starts to warm up, and the sap begins to rise in the trees, my desire to get my hands in the dirt begins to overcome me. In the past, I have planted gardens, only to have them go to weeds when I'm traveling and don't have time to stay on top of the weeds. 

I was about ready to give up on gardening altogether.

But then...Pinterest. {You can follow my garden and backyard board here}

This year, as part of our backyard remodel, I decided to make raised beds to confine the garden and make weeding easier. I don't aspire to growing all our food, but I do like to have fresh herbs on hand, tomatoes (is there anything better than a ripe tomato, right off the vine?), a few pepper plants (sweet as well as hot) and basil (technically an herb but I grow it like lettuce so I can make lots and lots of pesto.) This year I'm going to grow mesculun and okra.

I enlisted the help of my dad and his buddy, Tom. They picked up the lumber at a lumber yard which is cheaper than buying wood at Lowe's or Home Depot. They bought 2 x 4s and 2 x 6s. I had scoured Pinterest for ideas so I knew what I wanted and where I wanted it to go. Initially I wanted to put a fence around the whole thing to keep the dog out but once it was built I realized that it's tall enough that she won't get in it. 
We began by prepping the area. We had to remove an old "raised" bed which was just a plot that was outlined with old telephone poles that were on the property when we bought the house. (We had filled it with compost over the years so there was some dirt in it so technically it was raised.)
 The poles had sunk into the ground over the years. Man were they heavy! And rotted out!
The guys built the boxes on the back deck while I dug out the weeds and grass. They built them faster than I could dig. It is back-breaking work! {Did I mention I was running a half marathon the next day? Yeah. Not the best timing, but what can you do? I needed to get these things built and this was the only time the guys were available...}
They just kept stacking them up on top of each other. They made 6 in all. We decided on 8 ft long planks so all they had to do was cut one plank in half for the sides. So roughly they are 8 ft x 4 ft. Penny was supervising to make sure they were doing the work right. She also protected us from squirrels.
We ran a line from the end of the shed to make sure we were squared up. We laid out the three beds to see how they would look in place. {I keep saying "we" but let's face it. The guys did all the work. I just kept digging grass.} Once I was satisfied with their location, the guys stacked one on top of the other and started drilling them together.
They cut the 2 x 4s into 16 in lengths and drilled the boards to these supports. This will keep them from bowing when the boards begin to age. 

Here are the 3 finished boxes. We shoveled the dirt that was in the old "raised" bed into the first one until we had cleared a spot for the second one. Then they built the second one and shoveled dirt into it until they could build the third one. Mulch will go in between them all to keep those pesky weeds down. I plan on calling for a truck load of free mulch from a tree removing company.
The only thing that had survived in the original garden was mint. I saved six plants and transplanted them. Boy do they make yummy mojitos in the summer! Pretty soon those plants will send out runners and it will try to fill the bed. I'll need to keep it in check or it will take over. I want to plant parsley, thyme and sage in this bed as well so the mint will have to play nice.
The second bed is ready to be planted with okra and basil. Remember how I said I plant basil like lettuce? One little plant just won't do. I want a whole BED of it!
The third bed needs more dirt in it. My dad has some extra soil at his house that came from my brother's house when they added on a room. That's the project for today. Fill up the truck and move it down to my house. Then the third bed will be ready for mesculun and tomatoes. Oh the salads we'll have this summer! MMMMM!!!!

{Have I mentioned that my dad is 77? He is THE hardest working man I know, hands down. He will work us all into the ground. My brother, me, my husband, my teenaged kids. Seriously. Such a hard worker.}

I also have two compost bins that are filled and ready to be sifted and used. I use wire circles to collect the stuff. I add to it for two years, not bothering to turn it. I just let it sit and do its thing. I add kitchen scraps (only plant based things and egg shells), leaves, ashes from the fireplace, and grass clippings. 
It kinda just looks like a pile of junk. There's actually wire around that junk. Today it will come off and we will sift it. The stuff on top that has not decomposed yet will go back in the bin while the rich bottom stuff will be added to all three beds.

My mom's friend's neighbor was getting rid of this composter so dad thought to give it to me. I'll give it a try and see if it's worth doing. Somehow I think I'm going to forget to turn that thing weekly. I'll add a reminder to my phone and see if we can cook it down faster than two years.

You can follow me at Making the Most of Every Day, my personal blog, if you want to see the ongoing saga of our backyard makeover and see how my garden continues to grow.

Do you like to garden? How do you do it?
Raised beds? Container gardening? Plot in the ground?
What do you like to grow?
Do you compost?

Let me know in the comments below!

~ Sheila

Sheila is a regular contributor to The Blended Blog.  She is a mother, homeschool teacher and a wannabe gardener.  You can follow her around on Instagram and on her blog: Making the Most of Every Day




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