Confident home cooking

A Garden Project

by Nick

One of the reasons I was most excited about moving from Washington, DC last Fall was because I knew we would have a yard. And with that yard, I knew that I’d finally be able to have some semblance of a garden.

Once we were settled in Colorado I started thinking about all the things I wanted to grow and could just imagine huge rows of all kinds of plants and produce, spilling all over my yard.

Of course, when it was time to actually pick up my shovel, I had very little idea of where to start. But after some research, some help, and some blind luck, I ended up with something that I’m pretty happy with.

It’s not much, but it’s mine. And this is how I made it.

The Start of Something… Heavy

They don’t tell you this in the movies, but dirt is heavy. And if you want to start a garden, even a small one, you’ll be moving a lot of it.

My goal was to build two raised beds that were about 10 feet by five feet each. I figured this would be plenty of space to plant a variety of things and, assuming that things would actually grow in my beds, this would be more than enough to feed me and Betsy.

The problem I had was two-fold. First, I couldn’t plop the beds where I wanted to because our landlord didn’t want them in the front of our house. This makes sense I guess, but it means I had to settle for a spot that didn’t get great light. This couldn’t be helped though, so I just put them in the best spot I could.

The second problem with building the bed was the ground. The ground around our house was pretty much solid clay. I couldn’t imagine that much would happily grow in it. After some research, I learned that I would need to be mixing some stuff into it to make something garden-like.

But first, I had to dig up my rectangles.

It took me probably two hours of serious digging to dig up rectangles the size I wanted. It was a good workout and I ended up with some nice outlines for what I was going for.

garden start

This was not easy to dig up…

Blind Luck

I knew I wanted to have raised beds so I could build up some nice soil above the crappy clay base, but I wasn’t 100% sure on what I should use to build them. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on anything fancy.

I stumbled onto some luck when I found a store of old bricks around the back of our house. They obviously weren’t being used for anything so I figured I would put them to good use!

If I hadn’t found these, I think I may have just built some big dirt mounds which I’ve heard works just as well.

These were my finished raised beds!

gardens made

Turns out bricks are heavy.

As for what’s in the beds, I got a load of compost from our local composting facility. It was $25 for a cubic yard of compost. If you don’t know how much a cubic yard is, it’s enough to fill a truck bed and more than enough to use as a base for my two 10×5 beds.

I also mixed in a few bags of manure and clay buster soil to keep it nice and light. I would say, in total, the soil costs set me back about $40-$50 which was well within what I wanted to spend.

Herb Square

I burn through fresh herbs. I’m not very good at keeping track of what I have and I’m constantly letting them spoil or re-buying ones that I already have.

So I wanted to devote a big chunk of my garden to fresh herbs. I came up with what I call “Herb Square” which is a 3×3 square. I planted one herb in each of the 9 squares.

herb square

Herb Square!

The herbs I planted include: basil, sage, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, oregano, chives, dill, and mint. My basil and mint died on round one, so I moved them to a planter in the front of the house and I’ll replace those two squares with something else. I don’t think they were getting enough light in Herb Square.

The Markings

When it came to planting, I just planted a wide range of things, figuring that that was the best way to see what would grow well in my little beds.

I highly recommend using little markers to show what plants are where if you’re setting up a garden. The week after I planted, I completely forgot what was where. I just ripped off the tops of the seed packets and stuck them in the ground to remind me.


Don’t forget to label…

It Lives!

Flash forward about a month and I’m well on my way to having a pretty legit garden!

Things that seem to be doing well in my beds include: Lettuce and greens, radishes, peas, beets, carrots, and most of the herbs.

The cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers are struggling I think because they aren’t getting enough light. I’m going to have to figure something out for those I think.

I just planted some spinach and onions as well that I think should do fine.

The one mystery to me is kale. I thought it would grow like a weed but my seeds haven’t even sprouted yet! I think I clearly messed something up, but oh well.

In general, I’m pretty happy with my first little garden so far!

stuff growing

Grow baby grow!

I’m most excited for peas which I think should start producing in the next few weeks. They are already climbing right up the wires I set up for them!


Lotsa peas in my future…

I’ll be honest, I stressed out a lot about my little garden. I worried about sunlight and soil and what to plant where, but if I had to give one piece of advice to anyone starting a garden, it would be to just do it.

Not everything will grow, but most things probably will do okay. At the end of the day, I’m learning that most plants want to grow and if you just give them a somewhat reasonable setup to do so, they will do fine.

And while you could spend you’re whole summer reading books and websites on how to get the maximum production out of every single plant, it’s way more fun to just get your hands dirty!

If you have any gardening tips or if you have a photo/post of your garden that you’re proud of, leave a comment!

I’d love to see/hear what others are growing this year!