Over the winter we finished re-doing our backyard. Part of the incentive for this project was to get more space to expand our raised garden beds for vegetable gardening. We ended up with 88 square feet of raised bed space, plus an assortment of pots. That is 3x more space than we had last year! We will use the pot assortment as our herb garden, since hopefully many of those will grow year round. I am so excited to share these new raised garden beds with you, and to track this new segment of our gardening journey!
Our Gardening Journey
Our gardening journey began with a City Picker planter plus a few random pots. We grew tomatoes, jalapenos, basil, rosemary, and chives on the patio of our small condo. It worked surprisingly well for a small garden. We enjoyed quite a few tomatoes, and harvested enough basil for a couple batches of pesto. When we began house hunting a couple years ago, having enough space for a few raised garden beds was one of our priorities.
The first spring in our new house, we planted a few tomatoes and made a handy PVC+netting cage around them to keep the birds out. We also planted a few Jalapeno and Serrano chile plants in one corner of the yard. They thrived in the native soil, even with the intermittent watering we gave them. Those were some of the best jalapenos (SPICY) we have grown yet! Maybe the dry and rocky soil was a plus for them 🙂
When the next spring rolled around, I was feeling ambitious enough to try some more veggies. I discovered the square foot gardening method (read my post explaining more about what that is here), and decided to give it a try. Some of my original posts on this blog are about my experience setting up those first raised garden beds. I wanted to chronicle my gardening journey, and hopefully help out myself and some others along the way!
Our Garden Today
Cut to today, where we are well into our third spring in this house. Our love of gardening continues to grow, and with it our desire for more garden space! That led to a HUGE backyard remodel project where we restructured our space. The project turned out better than we could have imagined, and about 1/3 of the yard is now designated for gardening. We are so excited to really “dig” in and get a gardening system in place now!
In these new raised garden beds, we have continued to use the square foot gardening method for spacing of plants. The dirt mix we used this year was about half Mel’s Mix. (You can read my original detailed post on mixing up a batch of this for our first square foot garden boxes here.) The other half is a mixture of organic garden soil from a local farm, and a variety of compost.
We rebuilt the frames, still using redwood, but this time 2×6 boards stacked two or three high. There is one 4×10 foot bed, and two 4×6 foot beds that come off either end and make a u-shape. We also setup trellises in two of the beds for a few vining crops (peas, malabar spinach, cucumbers). On the four corners of the garden boxes are 6-foot tall posts. We intend to use these for hanging “walls” if we have bird trouble when things start to get ripe. (They usually go after the red tomatoes and get to them before we have a chance to 🙁 ) We can also string wire across the top as an added deterrent if needed. For now, we are just seeing how it goes and will adjust as we go.
You might also notice the PVC pipes + valves coming up in each bed. That was one additional bonus we got with the yard remodel – a separate valve in our watering system dedicated to the garden area. Hubby brought the PVC into each bed, with a valve to control each one separately (plus two in the large bed). We connected soaker hoses to these valves, and laid them out every 6 inches across the beds. Once everything is planted, this will be an easy way to regulate the watering! We can even control it via our smart Rachio timer, if we are out out of town. Super excited about this!
I have been watching the sun patterns in our yard to try and optimize our growing capabilities. We’ve placed these new raised garden boxes where we expect them to get filtered sun most of the day, with several hours of direct sun in the morning. Theoretically, the perfect situation for growing long into the hot season here in the Phoenix area. We will see if that pans out in a few more months 🙂
We also planted the taller plants (i.e. tomatoes, chilies, eggplants) on the east side of the garden. This way, the filtered afternoon light will still get through to the greens and other things we are growing. If we didn’t have the nice big shade trees creating filtered light, I probably would have reversed this plan, and used the taller plants to shade the others. But given my experience last year, where I ended up with too much shade from some of the big plants, I decided to try a different approach this year.
Garden Status (April)
It took us part way into the spring planting season to finish setting up these new beds, so our plants are still small, and seem to be growing SO SLOW. I am not sure if it is weather-related (it’s been unseasonably cold this spring), dirt related (maybe my new mixture needs time to get optimal microbial balance), or just my impatience showing through 🙂 I am, however, starting to pick radishes and strawberries! And some of the leafy greens are FINALLY starting to grow past seedling stage! Fingers crossed that they get off to a good start before it heats up.
At any rate, I am feeling really good about what we have built. It may take some time to dial in the process – what to plant when and where, but at least we have somewhere to plant! Stay tuned for updates as the growing season progresses. I have so many ideas of things I want to try!