As you may recall, last year I mentioned that we planted a few veggies in an old planting bed behind our house and next to our back deck. It wasn’t a pretty sight at all, with rotting railroad ties and dirt spilling out the unfinished end toward the deck. You can jog your memory here and check out a super cute, rolly-polly fat baby helping me with the harvest while you are at it.
Here are some shots from the deck pre-planting in 2010. The bed stretched all the way to the pavers at the garage door stoop. Just beyond the pavers you can see our Rubbermaid tool shed. (Lovely, I know!)
This year I decided to get off my duff and make a slightly nicer raised bed to house our mini crops. Of course, as soon as I started discussing my plans with The Mister, he suggested I add another planting bed on the other side of our garage door. Initially I had been convinced that I could just plant other things in the sunny spots around the yard and harvest when ready. He reminded me of the deer that live in the woods to one side of our property, coupled with the plethora of chubby squirrels would result in nada if I didn’t keep my edible plantings near the house. He was right (don’t tell him I said that) because I have been losing strawberries to something that I’m guessing is a squirrel or rabbit just before they are ripe enough to pick. What’s funny about this dilemma is that the Little Guy and I will spot the ripening fruit and decide to give it one more day to sweeten up and the next day it’s gone! I am sure whichever animal is taking our goods is watching and listening to our every move when we are out back tending to our little veggie patch.
Ok, back to the details. With calculating help from The Mister, I decided to build two boxes 4’ X 8’ with corner posts extending down about 6” into the ground. Basically we went to Home Depot and bought 6 - 12” X 8’ boards and cut two of them in half to create the short sides of the planters. Then we bought 2- 10 foot 4” X 4” posts to cut down for the corner pieces of the planters. Don’t double check the math too closely on this one. We messed up and ended up with more post wood than we needed. It didn’t help that I changed my original length to 18” posts instead of 24” as recommended by a DIY site I glanced before going to the store. All was well in the end because I used the leftover wood to help construct a new landing pad from our back garage door.
I used our compound miter saw to cut the 4” X 4” posts down to 18” in length and to give them an angle on one end to help ease them into the ground. Then I simply laid my pieces out in the yard, forming a large rectangle, and used 1.75” deck nails to screw the whole thing together. Piece of cake. The hardest part for me was just moving the longer sides of the lumber around because they were super heavy. Then, once the frames were built I had to do a crazy shimmy, shimmy with them up on one end to get them in place. I know the neighbors had a good time watching me almost kill myself while trying to do all of this on my own. Once they were in place over the beds I had pre-dug, I just backfilled them and then added more soil to bring the level up to about two inches from the top of the side rails.
I finished the raised beds two weeks before Easter and placed the last few plants the week following Easter weekend. Here are some shots of the progress at the beginning of June.
A similar view to the before shots from the deck above. This new raised bed sits next to the deck and to the left of the garage door. You can see our leggy spinach and some pretty nice lettuce already coming in. I put sunflowers along half of the back and the other half of the back side is planted with green beans.
Above you can see the carrots coming up, along with some sage. I put a “stepping” stone with my son’s handprint over the plumbing drain that could not be covered up. Now there is a nice, useable opening to the coiled hose between the deck steps and the planting area.
Old bed plantings circa 2010.
New bed plantings for 2011. As you can see the new beds are smaller. I wanted to keep the dirt pulled away from the brick foundation and make a little more space on the ends for walking around the bed. It’s still just big enough to be hard to reach the center, but with my height and long arms it’s still possible.
Just on the other side of the garage door is the totally new bed. I moved the storage shed down the wall toward the driveway, creating a nice little pocket between the neighbor’s view and our garden, where we can hide our safety orange wheelbarrow (a $7.00 yard sale score, so the color mattered little.) The concrete pavers from our old garage door stoop were recycled as a stable, raised base for the new storage shed location, and so far the inside has remained pretty dirt free. Yeah! I planted some yellow squash along the left side of the back, just in front of a line of sunflowers that spans the entire length of this bed. On the very end of the bed I planted some cucumbers, with the idea that they would end up trailing out and around the edge of the bed, rather than across all the other plantings. The small plants in front of the squash and to the right of the cukes are basil and cilantro. I intended to transplant the seedlings to the other bed once the spinach and lettuce had their fun.
On the opposite end of this bed I have the tomatoes, green peppers and jalapenos. Sprinkled around the bottom are marigolds and some thyme runs along the front edge. The rickety looking metal fencing you see along portions of both beds are in place to keep the dog out. For some reason she thinks she needs to lay in the cool dirt of my freshly tilled garden, so I have to do ugly things to keep her out. I also learned that toddlers like to join their big sister dog in rolling in the dirt, so the fencing has served two purposes.
This shot shows the new back stoop, with a trellised pot of sugar snap peas and marigolds, plus two pots of strawberries (the ones that keep getting eaten!). The overturned pot tray that doesn’t make any sense was left alone because our resident toad has been using it as a house. Plus, he scares the be-jezzus out of me every time I go to move it. It’s yours Mr. Toad, all yours! (Yes, that is Miss Roxy poking her head out of the dog door. She always hams it up when she sees a camera!)
One last share and I will wrap up this novel of a post. As you could see in the before shots way up at the top, the garage door stoop consisted of concrete pavers set in a rotting wooden box of sand. The pavers looked really bad and had been inching their way out of the wooden frame since we arrived at this home. Plus, the wonderful workers at Verizon were kind enough to run (through a flower bed, mind you) the wires for our cable and FIOS all of about 5 inches into the dirt and across our backyard. I was blow away in 2010 when I discovered them laying so close to the surface. I knew to be careful when digging, but I was sure they would be further down. Lucky for us, I did not slice through anything, but to save a headache in the future for us or other owners we decided to extend the back stoop into a spacious landing, and cover up those wires with something no one would likely be digging in to. I used 4” X 4”’s again to create a simple frame at 4’ X 7’ and rather than screwing them to each other, I drilled holes and pounded 12” long bolts through and into the ground at the board ends. This might not last for eternity, but it seems pretty stable for now. Then I added a couple more bags of sand and about 5 bags of gravel to level this area off and create a mud free zone. To make a little bit nicer path to the door I added large flagstone pieces, which also match the pathway from our driveway to the front steps. See! Some thought did go in to this! Anywho, eventually I would like to create some kind of panel to hinge across the utilities. You know, a door type thing that can be opened and closed in order to hide their ugliness. In the mean time I decided to position a trellised pot with snap peas in front of this messy part of the wall. Plus, the pots add visual interest by the back door.
It’s still a work in progress and I will share more photos the beginning of next month. But, I just wanted to let you all see how things are coming along so far back there this year. Pretty big change since we took over this little patch of Earth, eh?