In the early spring of 2014, we decided to expand our vegetable garden to nearly triple its previous size. Our reasons were really three-fold: 1) so I had space to experiment and grow food our food allergic son could eat; 2) deepen the soil, as the 6″ deep beds we started with were just not adequate under the growing conditions on our mountainside; 3) with such a large family, the growing space was inadequate for a sufficient quantity of food to supply our family’s daily diet.
Ever the money miser, I was trying to plan a garden expansion for ridiculously cheap. My kind husband asked me what type of garden beds and design I would like if money was not the key restriction. I showed him an amazing vegetable garden photo from Susan Cohan Gardens (http://www.susancohangardens.com/blog/garden-design-details-painted-wood). This garden featured blue raised garden beds with finials on each corner. I found it to be so beautiful and enticing. Dear Hubby agreed that it was a nice garden, and thought we could imitate the beds in our yard without spending that much more than I was anticipating. That sure made my day! An expanded AND beautiful veg garden?? Hooray!
The previous beds (1 4’x4’x6″ deep bed and 3 4’x8’x6″ deep beds) were built our first summer in our current home. We planned to build up these beds another six inches and add the decorative elements so these older beds would match the new.
We bought our supplies and began building early in February, hoping to get the project finished in time for spring planting. Our children were all excited to help. The garage turned into a factory, first for a painting assembly line, then a building assembly line.
Next came the trickiest part of the project– leveling the beds in their new locations. It involved a lot of digging clay soil and hefting out large granite boulders. My dear hubs and sons worked hard getting all the beds just right. My daughter and I built up and added the decorative touches to the older beds.
Once the blue beds were done we had 6 beds 2’x8’x1′ deep, 3 beds 4’x4’x1′ deep, and 3 beds 4’x8’1′ deep. (One 4’x4′ bed is not blue, but a brown pre-fab garden bed kit given to us by a neighbor who was moving and had no more use for it.) Here they are looking beautiful and finished, although still empty. The beds along the south fence line had to be stairstepped due to the steepness of the slope in that part of our yard.
We ordered many yards of topsoil, garden soil mix and aged manure to fill the beds. Then we hired boy scouts to move all that soil for us. They were sure good workers and had fun moving that smelling old manure together and cracking good boy scout jokes about it! It was an entertaining morning to say the least! We figured that all those boys did in one morning what would have taken us several weekends to complete. It was worth the money, and nice to support the scouts in earning camp money.
The next part of our project involved surrounding three sides of our pergola with raised garden beds. (This pergola we inherited from the same neighbor who gave us the pre-fab garden bed. Thanks neighbor!) We started by adding a trellis around the pergola to support grape vines and a hardy kiwi vine, since the pergola structure itself would not support them. To vary the look in the yard, we decided to use castle block to build this bed, and a circular bed in front of the pergola. The first course took ages to dig in, again because of the slope of the yard and because you have to lay it very level so all the other courses will sit correctly. Good thing my husband was the patience and man-power behind this part of the project, because I probably would have thrown my hands up in defeat.
I was ecstatic with the finished project and brought out the seedlings to start filling the beds before the last block was even laid, I think! Here around the pergola are the kiwi vine (center) and grape vine (end). In the soil below the vines are artichokes, Egyptian walking onions, and alpine strawberries. Here they look so small, but within three months, the soil was no longer visible through the plants.
The blue bed holds cabbage and broccoli seedlings. Again, within 6-8 weeks, this bed was full and ready to harvest.