While most of the U.S. is preparing for cooler temps and the holidays, here in sub-tropical zone 10a we’re gearing up for gardening. The summers here in southwest Florida are much too hot and too wet generally to grow those tasty tomatoes or tender leafy greens and don’t even think about broccoli or cauliflower! Our soil (aka sugar sand) is incredibly void of nutrients and any ability to retain moisture. Since I want locally grown organic veggies and fruits, I’ve had to go against the norm from the rest of the nation’s growing habits and sow the seeds the last weekend of October.
I spent the summer dreaming up the new garden design and tracking down materials. Raised garden beds were a must and I wanted to build something that would be around for many years to come. While nothing is forever I did find a design for the garden beds that would work perfectly for my needs. On the website My Crazy Good Life I found a great tutorial for the corrugated metal beds I wanted. Off I went to the lumber store to buy supplies and a good friend offered their assistance in this project. Altogether we crafted 11 new raised garden beds – two beds measuring 2′ x 4′ x 30″ high, two beds measuring 4′ x 5′ x 24″ high, four beds at 4′ x 4′ x 30″ high, and three huge beds measuring 18′ x 4′ x 24″ high. Whew! These beds make up the perimeter of the new garden and next year I’ll tackle another five beds which will go inside this current layout. The new garden measures 26′ x 26′ and I prepped the entire area including external walkways with a professional quality weed block. Once the beds were built then came the task of filling them.
Recycle, reduce, reuse – we hear and say it all the time. All of the materials to construct the raised beds were brand new but I had been saving cardboard (recycle and reuse) for months. Luckily I also found a local source for kiln-dried, chemical-free sawdust that I could use which meant it would not go to the landfill. Bonus! In a somewhat “lasagna technique” style of gardening I layered the cardboard and sawdust atop the weed block inside of each raised bed. From what I’ve read sawdust, when used like mulch, can rob plants of nitrogen causing your plants to yellow and not perform very well. What I had found in previous gardens beds is if I used the sawdust as one of the bottom layers under the plants and soil instead of on top, the sawdust would hold the water and nutrients from leeching away from my plants. I personally have had success with this but I’m also very selective of where I get the sawdust from. My chickens also enjoy this same sawdust in their coop and run and I use their old bedding in the compost bin which is very beneficial with all that poultry poo.
For the centerpiece of the garden, I decided
on a gorgeous arch design I found on the
Remodelaholic website. (If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the article there you’ll see photos of my arch!) Following their very good design plans, we were able to build the arch easily and we made modifications to accommodate a few of my tweaks – like making the arch a whopping 10′ tall! The plan is to grow passion fruit vine and moonflower on this arch so it needs to be tall and stately. The finished product is exactly what I envisioned and perfect for my new garden.
Getting “dirty” was next on the list. Locally we have several Master Gardeners who have classes to share their knowledge and I found Adrienne Diaz from Miss Potter’s Place and I attended nearly every class of hers I could. Of the many things she taught me she shared the secret of good soil especially since the soil (aka sugar sand) here in southwest Florida is void of nutrients and minerals. She recommends a local horticultural recycling center that makes a fantastic organic veggie soil blend perfect for my raised beds. So, I made the phone call and MW Horticulture Recycling Facility promptly sent a dump truck filled with 26 yards of this dark, rich blend that would grow my future fruits and vegetables.
FYI – 26 yards of soil is a lot of dirt. I was able to move it all in a few hours and since the truck dumped it right by the garden, I didn’t have far to go. Thankfully my favorite wheelbarrow was up for the task and since it was not a metal bucket, I could take it right over the side of the wall for each raised bed. Not shabby even though I’m very thankful that part is finished (for now).
Garden design – check!
Site prep – finished!
Construction – complete!
Soil delivered – and distributed!
New garden – ready for plants!!
Job well done, don’tcha think?
In this photo you see the old garden there on the right – it’s filled with tomato plants that are absolutely 100% free from our chickens! The tall bush there on the left, close up is Mexican Sunflower which is great for the pollinators and a nitrogen fixer for the soil. We ran plumbing to the garden which is the dirt trail there in the center/left leading to the arch. More on all of that later. It’s time for a shower and a cold drink.