It’s early July 2019, and it is time for a long overdue garden update! In this post, I tell the story about Demolition Day for the Old Raised Garden Beds as well as give you a sneak peak of the new Self-Watering Planter Systems in my 2019 Garden. I am going to take you on a journey in my time machine to catch you up with what has happened in the garden this spring and summer. It has been since early October since I wrote a garden post, so this will help frame our future posts and lay the foundation for how we got to this point.
In this post, I will bring you back up to speed about the the following topics:
- Review of the 2018 Garden Season
- Looking back at the Old Raised Garden Beds and Vertical Garden
- Demolition of the Raised Garden Beds and Vertical Garden
- Next Steps
End of the 2018 Garden Season
I wrote and talked about all of this in a post and podcast titled “First Frost: End of My 2018 Garden Season.” I had to read the post and listen to the podcast before I starting writing this article. The intro really made me crack a grin, but I played that a bit a wrong. I should have kicked the Small Scale Life theme when the “Big Red Button” was pressed. Oh well! I am learning, doing, growing and doing a little better everyday as well.
The big sigh at the 2 minute mark of the podcast kind of summed it all up.
If you recall, I ended my 2018 Garden Season in a huff. After battling and losing to leaf miners, cabbage loopers, squash borers, tree roots, Karma the Wonder Dog, an early frost and a basement remodeling project, I threw in the towel. I gave up on the garden and didn’t protect it from the first frost and later first freeze.
I didn’t even have a chance to take down the rain barrel, and it was impossibly heavy once the almost full barrel froze solid. I am damned lucky it didn’t crack when the water froze. That, my friends, would have been a fitting end to the 2018 Garden Season.
Old Raised Garden Beds
Let’s remember the old garden for a minute. We purchased this house in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in July 2018 from my father-in-law. A few years ago, he built two wooden 4-foot by 6-foot square foot garden beds on the side yard. He used green treated lumber on the outside shell of the garden and cedar on the inside (soil-side) of the garden beds. If you have had wooden garden beds, you know that wet soil and weather conditions take its toll on wood, even green treated wood. Both the wooden beds were rotten, and the chicken wire fence essentially held the raised beds together.
Fence you say?
There are lots of rabbits in the yard and neighborhood, so my father-in-law installed some of that plastic fencing around each bed. The rabbits ate through the plastic fencing and would feast on the plants in the garden. I then installed chicken wire around bed, which worked great for the rabbits. Unfortunately, Karma the Wonder Dog laughs at the sight of chicken wire and would leap the fencing in a single bound. I then installed “Super Max,” which was a 4-foot high wire fence around the entire garden area. We found out later that she can leap that fencing in a single bound as well. That is why we call her Karma the Wonder Dog!
As part of the old raised garden beds, I did install two 2-inch by 4-inch trellis systems on each bed. They were on the north side of the bed, and I planted taller crops like tomatoes along the north edge of the raised garden bed. I planted shorter crops like chives, kohlrabi, peppers and basil south of the tall crops. The idea was to maximize the sunshine and keep short plants out of the shadow of taller plants. This was a lesson I learned the hard way in my other gardens years before!
In 2018, I constructed a vertical garden out of two vinyl gutters and some green treated wood. I constructed this vertical garden using the chain link fence and some green treated lumber for support, and I wrote about the benefits of vertical gardens and step-by-step instructions on how I build this particular vertical garden. These are great ways to maximize your available space and grow some vegetables and herbs that might be susceptible to pests like rabbits, voles and slugs.
I grew some interesting things in these vertical garden beds in 2018. I grew onions, peppers (several varieties) and basil with some success. Unfortunately, I found that the onions needed deeper soil. 3 inches is not deep enough to grow big onions!
I also found that these vertical gardens did require daily watering. That is particularly difficult for folks who are on the go and running from jobs to activities or traveling constantly.
I was originally going to keep the vertical garden (and I said as much in a video posted below), but I decided that I wanted to have simple, self-watering systems that would eliminate daily watering and make life A LOT easier for gardeners!
Demolition of the Old Raised Garden Beds and Vertical Garden
In April 2019, the snow finally melted, and it was time! I had been looking forward to taking down those garden beds all season. I thought I might keep the vertical gutters because they could provide some additional growing space.
I grabbed my drill (I got a new one for Christmas in anticipation of this project), wire cutters, a container for old screws, a shovel, some tarps for soil, paper refuse bags, and my good old friend, the sledgehammer. Yes, folks, I was deadly serious about taking the sledgehammer to these garden beds. I guess I was more frustrated with my 2018 Garden Season than I let on, but I felt a dark sense of joy grabbing that thing. It was TIME!
To see some of the work in progress, check out this video posted on the Small Scale Life YouTube Channel.
I moved the “Super Max” to create a paddock and grow grass in the main part of the backyard. Then, I removed all the chicken wire fencing, and the garden beds almost fell apart. With the fencing out of the way I took down the trellis system and salvaged the wood and screws for a future project (that will be revealed soon).
Of course, I was not going to be denied the opportunity to smack the boards that made up the old bed the fence posts. There was a real sense of satisfaction as I sent staves and boards flying, and once I gathered up the boards, I could see how rotted everything was. The chicken wire was really holding these beds together, and this project was long overdue.
I saved as much soil as I could. I piled up the soil on the tarps, and I was very pleased to see the number of night crawlers and worms in the soil mix. That made me very happy! I would be adding them into the Next Generation Hybrid Rain Gutter Grow Systems, and they would go to work producing some great soil in these closed systems.
While it was great to save the soil, I essentially sifted through all of the soil that came out of those old raised garden beds by hand. I was completely shocked by the amount and size of the tree roots that had infiltrated the beds. Landscape fabric didn’t matter and didn’t stop them: the maple tree roots were everywhere. There was no doubt why my plants struggled in 2018: the thick mat of tree roots out-competed my poor vegetables and herbs. They didn’t have a chance to grow through that thick mat, and even though my father-in-law and I cleared the maple tree roots each season, they kept coming back!
What this told me is that I really need a closed planter system that would not allow any roots to infiltrate the garden beds! The garden beds had to be elevated or have a solid barrier between my soil and the roots. This information helped solidify the design, and while the cost was more for the two wicking beds, I am really happy with the results.
With the Old Raised garden beds out of the way, it was time to prepare the area for the new garden beds. I smoothed out the remaining soil and tried to level the area. To see how the garden area looks today, check out this video posted on the Small Scale Life YouTube Channel.
How about you? How is your garden growing? Are your plants thriving? Are you sick and tired of working hard on your garden and watching it fail time and time again? As my friend Larry Hall asked me last fall before he passed way:
“Have you had enough of the old ways of gardening yet?”Larry Hall – Grow Bag Garden Systems
Maybe you are interested in how to do this kind of gardening. Leave a message below in the comments or reach out on the Contact Us page. What is your frustration? What is holding you back? How much space do you have?
You can grow anywhere. Just remember to give the plants light, nutrients and water. These systems make it easy! I can help you have a successful gardening experience. Begin your journey today!