Since my gardening hobby started two years ago, this year being my third year, I have built four different types of garden beds, each in a different way and for a different reason. While I can't really go into detail on four garden beds in one post I will break this up a bit, but hopefully you will still get some helpful information.
As I've mentioned in my previous posts on gardening, it was my younger son who started this little venture in vegetable gardening. He had good intentions, save mommy some money on vegetables. He and I had no idea it would end up becoming a huge hobby that we continue every year.
Unfortunately, in the beginning, there wasn't much space to start a new garden bed. So we had to get creative not only on the type of garden bed we built, but on where we put each garden bed. Our front yard already has multiple garden beds for plants and flowers, but there was an area along the side of the house in the front yard that wasn't being used for anything. At one time it had been an extra place to put a dog for a short amount of time, which is why it has a gate, but since then it just became a weedy area that wasn't utilized. The only problem we had to overcome was that during the rainy season in this part of Texas that area of the yard floods. If we were going to put a garden bed there, it would have to be a raised bed. The other problem was that there isn't a lot of room for a large garden bed, so this raised bed is only two feet by three feet. But for the first year, and for my son who was taking on full responsibility, it was a great start.
Since this was our first garden bed, and we hadn't yet learned about all the different ways to build a garden bed, we went a bit over budget putting this one together. But when you first start out you don't usually get it right the first time right? We got some two inch wide lumber that was already the height and width we wanted our bed to be. When you buy wood at either Home Depot or Lowes and it isn't the exact size you need they will cut it for you for free. We then nailed the wood together, put a metal brace on each corner to ensure they don't come apart. Then on the bottom of the garden bed we attached some chicken wire with 1/4 inch holes, which was the smallest we could find because our first layer was small rocks that would go in the bottom of the bed to help hold in the soil, so the smaller holes in the chicken wire would prevent the rocks from falling through. I know we spent more than we should on chicken wire that year, but this year I found chicken wire at Ace Hardware, 24 inches by 10 feet with 1/4 inch holes for only $24.99.
Once the bed was put together we put it on large blocks to keep it off the ground, then we added the first layer, the small rocks. You can get rocks in bags at either Home Depot or Lowes. I don't remember the size that Lowes sells them in, or the price since this year we bought all our supplies at Home Depot, but at Home Depot you can get bags of small rocks that cover 3 square feet to two inches in depth for around $4.47 and up, depending on the type of rocks you get, and the size of the rocks. It varies.
Then we added our bags of soil. Since it's been a couple years since we built this bed I can't tell you how many bags of rocks we needed, or how much soil, but I can tell you that the 2 cubic ft. bags of Miracle Grow for Flowers and Vegetables is one of the best options. While this particular soil isn’t for raised beds, it still works, and you need fewer bags, which in the long run at $7.97 per bag at Home Depot online, that can help save you some money. Plus you can purchase online, and choose pick up in store and they usually have it ready that same day. I'm guessing as to how many you would need for a three foot by five foot bed, but you may only need 2 or 3 of the 2 cu. ft. bags of Miracle Grow to fill the bed. Although you do want to leave a couple inches at the top free of soil, you don't want to fill the garden bed to the top. If you don’t have a Home Depot near you but have Lowe's nearby you can find Sta-Green 2 cubic ft. Flower and Vegetable Soil for $6.98 online, with free pick up in store. Either soil works, and the Sta-Green I discovered this year when looking for extra soil for our latest garden bed. I wouldn't suggest a smaller size, because in the long run you would spend more because you would need more bags. The 2 cubic feet bags are pretty large, and will definitely help you save some money on soil.
To give you a better idea of how we put our first garden bed together that year, here are a few pictures.
The first year my son was the one who took care of all the plants, that was in Spring to Summer 2015. We only had cucumbers and bell peppers in this bed, and then later in the summer he planted a parsley plant, but he enjoyed his garden bed. Every day when he got home from school he would go and water the plants. He also did well keeping up with watering during the summer. We got a few cucumbers that year, and maybe a handful of small bell peppers, which he was quite happy with. So for him it was a success.
The second year, last year, we had parsley, the same plant from last year, cucumbers, bell peppers and marigolds. The cucumbers did very well in the beginning. We got quite a few good sized cucumbers. The bell peppers we got weren’t very big, but we were happy with what we got. My parsley plant got really big, and did well, but near the end of the summer it began to flower and my son pulled it up. I added marigolds in order to try and detract pests. I had begun looking into ways to keep pests from devouring my vegetables, and marigolds were top on the list of good companion plants for bell peppers and cucumbers, but the marigolds were devoured and didn’t last long. Luckily I didn’t spend a whole lot on them, I got them at Lowe’s in their discount area for $0.99 each. But I was still disappointed that I couldn’t keep them from being eaten alive by cut worms, so I've given up on marigolds.
This year we are planting only bell pepper plants. I have three that survived the one freeze we had this past winter, and transplanted them from their small pots into the garden bed a couple weeks ago. I’m hoping they will get bigger as we move into the summer months. I also have some new bell pepper plants I sprouted from seed this year, but they aren't mature just yet to transplant to the garden bed. I also decided to companion plant different flowering plants and herb plants in order to confuse pests. I’ll write more about that in a future post, but it is helpful. Pests can smell the scent that vegetable plants send out, but adding other plants that won't interfere with those vegetable plants thriving can confuse pests because they are getting multiple scents of various plants. Pretty cool huh?!
Well, that is our first garden bed story. I don't want to make this post too long so I'll stop here. In my next post I'll go into the next year, which was 2016, and our melon patch. This was also the year I utilized large plant pots to not only grow my tomatoes, but pumpkins as well. I even made a small lettuce bed out of laundry baskets. Not as nice as the ones I wrote about in a previous post, I hadn’t discovered that idea yet, but they work, even though they don’t look as pretty. I’m all about functionality over looks when it comes to gardening. Although when I do discover an idea that not only functions but looks pretty too, then I'll give it a try!