Last year, like almost everyone, we started a garden. I learned how to garden on a giant acre or more garden in North Idaho during my teen years, and we did it the old fashioned way with a rototiller plowing up the hard soil, raking out the huge lumps, and planting in long rows.
When the pandemic sidelined all of us, I thought I’d look closer into square foot gardening, which I tried when the boys were little, along with Lasagna Gardening in the garden beds my husband built for me. Both of those methods worked well. The Lasagna Gardening gets the soil ready, and the square foot will help you plant well.
These boxes were built in a sunny side of our yard that was all dirt and weeds with an overgrown Japanese maple that we had to cut down. We built these on a slope following this video. After a long winter, lots of rain, and ice, they survived beautifully.
And those square screens (one is against the fence, and another is on the top right box) were made by my son with some furring strips and chicken wire because the squirrels dig in all the garden beds and uproot stuff all the time. These protect the plants when they are small, then I remove them with the plants are big enough that the digging squirrels won’t hurt them.
And here’s a picture taken a bit later in the year with the boxes starting to fill up. The garden beds on the dirt are more horse manure compost and pine needle paths. (The paths around the garden boxes are cedar chips, but those were expensive, so we moved to free material for the other paths, both work wonderfully.) The box on the bottom right box was made with pvc pipe and some netting fabric to protect the broccoli and cabbage from the white moth caterpillar. It worked well, but also I found an organic alternative that is easy to apply and works wonderfully!
We don’t have screens for the ground so I covered some of those tender plants with plant cover fabric (in the garden box) but you know what else worked great? Cheap sheer curtains. I bought a pair from Walmart and those worked just as good and wash well too. (They are on the beds in the ground.)
We also had more yard space since the boys are older and don’t run around fighting in the backyard anymore, so I wanted to try a bigger garden too. I knew I didn’t want to till up the ground, and my search for alternatives led me to the amazing Charles Dowding and his no dig market garden. (Don’t you love how that sounds? Market Garden. It sounds like enjoying iced tea while we wander the garden paths together.) 2020 was the perfect year to experiment with a no dig garden like Charles Dowding. Plus, he happens to be in my same planting zone, just in the UK instead of Oregon. Win, win! And his YouTube videos are amazing.
So we picked up some composted horse manure (search around, you can usually find it free at horse training and boarding places), spread it right on top of the grass (that we mowed super short), and made garden paths (cardboard underneath and pine needles from my yard on top–no problems with acidity or weeds). We welcomed our new garden, Zombie Bottoms! (Mostly because it looked like giant grave sites… and we thought it was the start of the zombie apocalypse.)
The wire arch is actually a cattle panel we cut in half and bent to use as a cover. It worked really well. Here’s a closer look with the netting on it.
To keep the edges “tidy” as Charles Dowding suggests doing, I spray the grass every once in a while with straight vinegar with a little dish soap in my gallon garden sprayer. It is amazing how well it works, but only if you spray it on warm, dry days. The hotter the day, the quicker it kills things.
The raised beds and the new garden beds were amazing last year. Just a few weeds that we kept on top of, and lots of amazing produce. So we decided to expand the in-ground beds this year!
We kept the same idea, horse manure compost on top of short cut grass plus cardboard and pine needles for the paths. And vinegar and soap around the edges.
Here’s the current view of Zombie Bottoms from the house…
compared to last year’s garden:
We added about 4 feet in length to each bed, and added a couple more beds too!
…and the view from the back fence.
I’ve started some seeds, using Charles Dowding’s prick out method (he shows it on this video well). I love the variety I can get when starting plants from seed.
This is a new experiment of putting a mass of seeds into potting soil (or compost) in a milk jug. I spread a bunch of seeds evenly on the surface, watered in well, and will wait for them to sprout then will prick them out to separate modules.
I’ll use the same method here, just in an old plastic bowl. I have three different seeds sown here.
These are lettuces that I sowed in that same plastic bowl above, pricked out, and put in these modules. They are doing very well! I’ll probably transplant them in a week or two into the garden beds.
Here’s a bunch of different seedlings. Some in module trays, some in old flower pots that I’ll prick out and transplant later too.
This is broccoli rabe (or rapini) that I direct sowed into a raised bed. It’s home saved seed, and it grows like a weed. Super tasty stir fried or sauteed. I’ll have to thin this out a bit and may prick some out and plant in other beds this spring.
So that’s the garden as it stands now. Big plans for this spring and summer still to come. Are you guys starting a garden, keeping a garden, or expanding one? Or did you try it last year and fizzled out?