I love building gardens. Having a garden
is a glorious thing, but when you also get to build the garden the way you want it, well, that’s just icing on that cake. And I do love icing. And cake.
Not having a garden for the past couple of summers has been a real drag. But I got to build a garden this fall on a friend’s place on the Sunshine Coast, BC (my new neighborhood), and it’s been heaps of fun. Can’t wait to start eating some veggie goodness soon.
I did this garden similar to how I built the garden on Cortes Island (read about it here
, but with a few differences.
1. It’s smaller (about 400-ish square feet of growing space).
2. I got to build it the way I wanted to build it, using the materials I wanted to use.
3. I had an enthusiastic and helpful person to work with.
So! How did I build my garden? Oh, I’m so glad you asked. I mean, I was gonna tell you anyway, but I thought it sounded polite to pretend you asked.
The garden beds
are small scale hugelkultur
. The trenches are only about a foot deep. And there is only one layer of wood
. But the wood chunks are quite large, and should
make for a pretty moist garden, once they have finished soaking up water
and getting all pruney. : )
Being able to build it in the fall was great, because it has had a few months (the rainy season) to soak up water, break down some of the organic matter, and settle a bit before spring planting.
The soil is a silty sand. And rocks, of course
. And roots
. The area where we built the garden was created when my friend developed the place (many many moons ago) and pulled soil from around the property (which was pretty heavily treed, where it wasn’t solid rock, when he bought it), and created a terrace. So it is a mix of the soils on the property. It’s fairly decent for sandy soil. Lots of earthworms, too. I was pretty stoked about THAT.
The area was a lawn
. And when I say a ‘lawn’, I mean a West Coast rainforest lawn. So . . . yeah, it’s moss. There’s some grass here and there, and sparse ‘weeds’. But mostly moss. He has never had a vegetable garden here - although he has a small greenhouse
on the deck where he grows a few things - so it was fun being able to explain how I was going to build it, and why I was building it the way I was. He had never heard of permaculture
until he met me. Poor thing. This will be his first garden, so I feel pretty good about spreading the permaculture
word, and helping someone grow good healthy food. :)
The main limiting factor for this garden will be sunlight. The property is surrounded by cedar and fir, so it’s kinda dark. But he did a bunch of tree topping to let in more light for the garden. And there will be sufficient light to grow most things. They will probably just grow a little slower. But they’ll grow.
He pretty much gave me the freedom
to build the garden the way I wanted. Then he built a lovely fence
around it to keep the deer
and the dog out. His dog really loved all the comfy beds I built. He laid on them every chance he got.
Here is a list of materials we gathered (free
) to build the garden:
Logs - mostly alder; large logs, as well as smaller chunks to fill in the spaces; nicely aged
Leaves - we went out and gathered 4 truck loads of maple leaves, along with some of the leaf mould that was developing under the trees
. We mowed the leaves to mulch
them, and used them inside the beds, as well as on top for the final mulch.
Manure - he has a friend with horses! So he got a couple truck loads of manure. Real nice stuff.
Grasses, weeds, etc. - a truck load of green stuff
He also had an old ‘compost’ pile made of sawdust, grass clippings, and general bits and pieces. Nicely aged, and it went on some of the beds.
And we’ve been collecting seaweed.
AND! One day, when we were out looking for secluded places to gather green stuff for the compost
this summer, we came across a gold mine. Well, not an actual gold mine, a compost
gold mine. Big piles of old wood chips that had been breaking down for at least a year or two. Really getting that ‘soil’ smell. Yum. We checked the area out, decided that it was unlikely that there was any toxic gick in it, and we started loading up the truck. We’ve gotten 5 truck loads so far, and there’s lots more.
The only thing we bought was a garbage can full of local
for the seed
starter mix. And while we were there getting it, she offered us some old straw
bales. FREE! We took 7. :)
So, there we were, with piles of manure, wood chips, seaweed leaves, logs, grass, etc. and I was rubbing my hands together with glee. Yippee!
First we dug a trench about 10-12 inches deep, and about 3.5 feet wide. Then I laid in the logs. I layered the soil, manure, leaves, and grasses until the bed was about 3 feet high. Then I did 2 more beds just like that. I was careful to tuck the organic matter and soil into the bigger spaces between the logs as much as I could, so that the beds won’t settle too much.
But they will settle a bit, and the beds will have about 4 to 5 feet of growing space across.
The beds are about 22 feet long.
There is also another bed that I added at the end, about 2 feet by 18 feet. He decided that having more garden space was more important than the lawn. What a smart lad he is. And there are a couple of smaller beds in two corners, as well as the space around the edge of the garden, which will be planted with perennials, flowers, herbs, and things that attract beneficial insects.
It’s gonna be a beauty!
I’ve already created a layout for the garden (which I change and rearrange every time I look at it, of course), and have set up a planting schedule, so I know what to plant when. He has a small shed that we have set up as the grow shed - lights
and heat for the plant starts. It’s perfect.
We redid the beds in the greenhouse
, too. The boxes are quite deep, and we used the same materials as in the garden - wood and leaves and manure, plus the soil that was already in the beds. Should be an absolute jungle in there this summer.
We’re also doing tomatoes
and peppers in pots on the deck, where there is enough
sun to keep them happy. The pots have also been filled with the same materials as the greenhouse
I was pretty excited about the prospect of planting peas in February, until . . . winter came callin’. And it didn’t knock politely at the door and wait to be invited in. Nope, it came crashing in like a rampaging bull, and hung around far longer than I would have prefered. It’s February 27, and we still have snow in the shady areas, and it dips down below 0˚c every night. Very rude. I left the north to get away from this weather!
But I have seeds started, and will be planting some stuff in the greenhouse
soon. The snow is melting in the garden, and I’m hoping to be able to sow some seeds out there soon. Well, soon-ish.
In the meantime, I am dreaming garden dreams, and rearranging the layout of the garden plan once again. Just because I can.
I’ll keep you updated on the progress and successes (and failures) of this new garden. I want to document how much food can be grown in this small garden. I plan to utilize space and time as intensively as possible; and will to do quite a bit of food preservation
. So it will be interesting to see how much of our food this garden will provide over the next year.
I hope spring finds you out in the garden, growing your own scrumpdillyicious food.