This year I am expanding and changing my gardens. For the past few years, I have grown tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, herbs and a few other things in small in-ground garden beds adjacent to the sides of my house in the front yard. The back yard has been off-limits due to concerns that my two dogs would dig/pull up whatever I planted.
Sara gave me two books by a well-known sustainable farmer in the Shenandoah Valley, VA, Joel Salatin, that got me thinking about the need to expand and diversify and make some changes. He is a proponent of eating locally grown foods and encourages everyone to grow something they can eat. He says we may not all have farms or large areas, but there are other creative ways to grow. We can turn some of our lawn area into vegetable gardens; plant in pots on a balcony, or deck; plant in a raised bed; try a windowsill garden; use an empty city lot; etc.
I thought a raised bed would work in my back yard. Easier for someone older like me to work in (not so far to bend down); not so accessible for the dogs; might make it portable (that’s something farmer Joel S. advocates…always portability in case you have to move or change). I considered buying a large livestock watering trough and drilling holes in it as I have seen this done in articles/pictures; or maybe big pots, etc. But then I stumbled on a video where one lady built a raised bed out of wood pallets (heat treated/not chemical treated); lined it with landscape fabric; filled it with soil and had a great growing bed. Having access to pallets, I mentioned it to my son Chris (he helps with the garden and canning on his Sunday visits) and he offered to build if I could get the materials. He also mentioned he wanted to build a potato box. Now, Sara asked me just a few days ago if I had heard of growing potatoes in a straw or hay bale and I said I had heard of but never attempted. I read up on it and it sounds like a great idea. So, we are going to add that potato growing method as well to the garden scheme.
Also, a teacher at school where I teach (who has a very successful and productive container garden) offered to give me a few of his ‘Earth Boxes’ (plastic container growing box systems) from his garden as he was down-sizing. I readily accepted his gift of 4 and then ordered 6 more. Tomatoes will go in some of those as they have not produced well the past few years; probably because you should not plant tomatoes in the same place/soil each year. So, the earth box will solve that problem as new soil can replace the old (which then gets moved to the in-ground flower beds).
Progress as of this writing: my son removed old shrubs for the new back-yard site and has almost completed two pallet raised beds and a potato box; I moved some small figs to a new area to make way for the containers and did some raking, clean-up and prep. Adding another pallet bed, a couple of rain-barrels and new plants for pollinators is also in planning.
I look forward to growing things again that did well in the front yard ground beds as well as adding different types of produce to the list (such as various greens, beets, carrots, okra (Sara’s suggestion), snow peas, melon…maybe even a small plot of corn ). I hope to have enough to can and share. Debi Chaves, Leesburg, Va