First, we moved the location of the garden. In years past, it was near the house, with a full Southern exposure. But, after replacing the French drain in our basement, we decided to move the garden away from the foundation and plant grass there instead for water control. So my D.H. (dear husband) picked a sunny spot near the garage for the kitchen garden.
Using 6" by 6" posts that were once a retaining wall for the driveway, he built two raised beds, three feet across by 8 feet long, with a little path between the two gardens. This will allow me to pull weeds and harvest vegetables from both sides, making maintenance a bit easier. One cubic yard of mushroom soil (once used by the local mushroom farms) filled both beds.
For the first time, I'm trying 'straw bale gardening.' Basically, you buy a bale of straw (not hay, which still has plant seeds in it and is used for animal food) and condition it for 12 days or so, then plant directly into the bale. The conditioning process starts decomposition within the straw bale, which provides nutrients to the vegetable plants. By the end of the growing season in the fall, the straw will be nearly composted, at which time it gets spread across the soil to fertilize the garden bed. Here's a link for a site that explains the conditioning process: http://www.daddydoctrines.com/2013/05/09/straw-bale-gardening-part-2-conditioning/. This is a great way to use the straw bales you buy in the fall for Halloween decorating.
The garden center where I bought the straw bale had a wide selection of vegetable plants, so several went into my cart. For the straw bale, I decided on broccoli -- a variety that can take the heat, and matures in about 60 days. I added a little soil to each hole in the bale and dropped in a plant.
|I planted four broccoli plants in the straw bale...they are a little closer than they should be...we'll see how they do!|
|The Juliet tomato already has some blossoms!|
|From this angle, the peppers are in the front, followed by radishes, green bean plants, and the cucumber mound on the back left, under the green cage. Another broccoli plant is tucked in the back right corner.|
It was designed by my brother, who lives on 30 acres in Missouri and has to protect his garden from deer, too.
We made one more investment for the new garden...a rain barrel. I bought mine for about $80
at http://www.rainbarrelsandmore.com/ . It was easy to divert the downspout from the garage roof into the barrel, which came with the spigot installed. I use the rainwater to give the garden a good soaking. One drawback with this method is that the hose is gravity-fed...there is not much water pressure, so I have to fill up a watering can and water by 'hand', not by hose. Since the gardens are small, it don't take much time or more than three watering cans full to give the plants a drink. You can buy specially-designed soaker hoses and rain barrel pumps, but I'm going to stick with this for a while.
|This barrel was used for imported olive oil, then recycled into a rain barrel.|