As I've said before, I'm not handy, but I'm trying. I want to also point out that I know exactly ZERO about gardening. All that said, here's what I did this year.
This April my wife said it was time for us to have a garden:
One day, last week, it was sunny in Oregon. I looked at the strange yellow ball in the sky and grunted and then I went and bought lumber. I figured this is what people do when it's nice out. I've talked about a garden in the yard for years. This time, I made one.
I got NINE 2x12's, and THREE 4x4's. The first thing I learned was that 4x4s are in fact not four inches square. Turns out the whole inches thing is just a big lie in the wood world. This was news, but now I feel informed. :)
I ordered the dirt/compost, almost broke myself unloading two yards (not sure why it's called yards, but it was a trailer-load and a lot) and last night we planted our vegetables.
I cut the 4x4s into four small two foot posts. I made 1 cut each on 3 eight-foot 2x12s. At this point I had:
- 3 - eight-foot 2x12s
- 6 - four-foot 2x12s
I used wood screws and put them together like this. Make sure you use untreated lumber or "agriculturally treated" lumber. The idea being that you don't want any chemical leaching into the dirt from the wood. We also got weed cloth and covered the ground before I put dirt in the raised beds. This keeps the weeds from coming up from underneath and eating all veggies.
Then I dug 18" holes underneath each of the corners with posts, then flipped the frames over:
I ordered one yard of dirt with compost from a local dirt-person (did I mention I wasn't a farmer? He may have been a Jawa, can't be sure...) and spread it out with a rake.
Next, and this is important, in my opinion, I took some strong yellow nylon string and some nails and separated each bed into 36 one-foot square squares. We planted some seeds but we also found some "organic starters" that were basically little seedlings that had survived the hard part of childhood.
Here's two weeks later...it was a little cold at night, sometimes hitting under 36F, so we used weed cloth to actually cover all the beds at night for a about four nights, just to keep them warm. We took the covers off in the morning.
Here's two months later. Things are coming along nicely. We were watering for 5 minutes each morning at around 4am, but I was told that was a little too much so we lowered it to 10 minutes three days a week. We didn't use any chemicals.
Here's just a few weeks later...things are starting to go crazy. At this point I've realized I've made a few mistakes. The most significant mistake I've made was that I didn't give my tomatoes anything to hold on to. If I did it again, I'd setup little tomato scaffolding and put the tomatoes all against one side of the bed. Interestingly enough, the "All New Square Food Gardening" book warned me of this.
Here's just a few hours ago at lunch. I've thinned out some of the Zucchini. Here's another thing I learned during this process was this: Only plant stuff you want to eat. I have a metric-ton of Zucchini and one can only eat so much Zucchini bread.
Here's last night's haul. We just went through the garden and picked stuff that looked ready to go.
My conclusion is, gardening is subtle but it's not hard. The amount of effort put in vs. the amount of food you get is minimal. You should try it if you've got even four feet square you can get a non-trivial amount of food.