I wanted to expand the growing space in our little backyard, but due to the massive increase in lumber costs I decided to do it the old fashion way and plant directly into the ground.
More Growing Space = More Veggies!
I grew veggies last year for the first time and having had some decent success (enough veggies and spices to last nearly all winter), I decided I wanted to plant even more! Last year I had built a raised bed, but this year I decided to keep it simple and plant directly into the ground, like in the pioneer days! It was a lot less work and a lot more cost effective.
This was my garden in the spring. It’s a good thing I’m a lover of dandelions!
The previous owners had built-up a little raised corner in the yard. It was kind of useless so I decided to eliminate it and re-use the stones to edge my new beds. I created a bed along the back fence for flowers (to attract pollinators), where I had been transplanting perennials that I found growing anywhere in the yard over the past couple of years. Then I created a second bed along the adjacent fence to grow more veggie plants.
I measured out three feet from the fence and lined up the stones.
Once the stone edging was complete, I removed all the weeds and grass from the beds. I used a hand-held weeding tool and a spade. Once it was cleared out, I used a rake to level the soil from the raised corner so that both beds would be as level as possible.
Fortunately the soil looked pretty good, I broke up any clumps with my hands so it would be nice and fluffy. If the soil had looked like it wouldn’t be good to grow in, I would have added coconut coir to make it fluffier and improve drainage. Peat moss would also work, but I’ve recently learned that peat has a greater negative impact on the environment, so I won’t use that again.
Then I added three 18kg bags of composted sheep manure to the veggie bed, which adds organic matter and conditions soil. It also helps retain moisture and nutrients and improves aeration. If you’ve never used composted manures, don’t worry, there is no smell. If your manure smells like, well, poop, it hasn’t been properly composted and you should not use it. But I think that would be rare if you’re buying from a big box store or nursery.
Side note: Due to the dry hot summer last year, my grass looked awful this year! I dug up a lot of the weeds and added some garden soil and grass seeds, along with microclover seeds. It helped, but it’s still not great! But this post is not about grass, so I’ll move on. LOL
I had received a hanging planter last year for Mother's Day that I discarded at the end of the season. I really regret that now, because apparently it was perennial!! This spring it started sprouting up all over the place. So I keep digging them up and moving them to the flower bed.
There was another corner in the garden that I extended two beds to meet at a 90% angle, which allowed me to squeeze in two more beefsteak tomato plants. I did the exact same process, cleared out weeds and grass, crumbled up the soil to fluff it up, and added sheep manure. The only difference here was that I added mulch because this is south facing and gets full sun nearly all day long.
I did a light sprinkling of plant food and planted my seedlings in the new beds. Some of the seedlings I grew from seeds, others I bought at a nursery. In my limited experience, it's easier and more cost effective to buy seedlings at a nursery. They've been started professionally and have been hardened off (meaning they've been introduced to the outside elements slowly for a limited time each day, so they become accustomed to sun/wind/rain). And they're super inexpensive to buy, not much more than $1 a plant. Unless it's something special or hard to find, I'll always go with nursery seedlings from now on.
And here we are 6 weeks later!
I’m so happy I spent an afternoon creating these new growing spaces. I can’t wait to start harvesting all the delicious food and preserving it for my daughter and I. My grass still sucks, but we can’t eat that anyway so I’ll worry about the grass another year. 😉
I only spent $16 on this project for sheep manure. I rounded up to $20 to account for the small amount of mulch and plant food that I already had on hand from last year. To buy a large bag of mulch and a jug of food would probably cost an additional $20, but it would last a very long time if used sparingly like I do.
As mentioned, I'm a second year veggie gardener, so I'm no expert! But I've been doing tons of research and joined a dozen gardening groups. So I may not know the answer to all your questions, but I encourage you to ask anyway. If I don't know the answer based on my experience, I'm sure someone on hometalk will know. If there's one thing I've learned, new as well as seasoned gardeners LOVE talking about plants. :)
Happy gardening everyone!