Monday, June 06, 2011

Urban Experiment: Raised Garden Edition

When we moved in to our house, there was a hot tub in the back yard. We kept it for about a year and then sold the stupid thing. What a pain in the rear. After that, though, we ended up with an empty cement slab threatening the safety of our family and friends. Richard and I have been talking about what to do with it for a long time, and this spring we finally decided to tear it out and build a vegetable garden.
Here is a photo journal of each step of the back-breaking project. I don't really feel like they convey the amount of work that went into each step, but aside from being able to make YOU lift a shovel, I guess I won't be satisfied that you truly understand.
I only wish we had thought to take a picture of the slab in its original state, but I forgot until it was too late.

This is what was left underneath the slab off concrete.

Here is the pile of concrete...anybody need clean-ish fill?
Under the cement slab we found a startling amount of sand and rock. In order to reuse the landscaping rock we had to build a rock sifter and sift out the sand into the wheelbarow. The day pictured here was the day after it had rained, so every. single. shovelful was very heavy.
We tore out the wooden walkway leading to the gate. We will use the sifted rock to make a path to the gate with decorative pavers. More photos of that project to follow.
The neighbor graciously gave us left over black dirt from his order. It was so nice of him!
It saved us a lot of time and money. I paid him back with baked goods. Once we have produce, I will be sure to share with him!It was enough to fill our garden half way!
What a mess!

You can see the rock sifter leaning against the AC unit.

Garden Girl is sitting on the newest wall of the garden. She is an accomplished rock-picker.

DIRT! We were so relieved when this was in. What an accomplished feeling!Shirley and I planted three flats of marigolds to keep away the rabbits! I'm not working this hard to offer snacks to the neighborhood rodents.
Planting the marigolds was sweet and bitter because it brought back memories of my Gram. She always planted marigolds around her garden. I think she would be excited about our effort.
I have also been thinking a lot about my grandpa in Nebraska. His garden always had tomatoes and corn. I have wished several times that I could call him up and ask his advice. I never realized how much growing things would make me think about my loved ones. I can't help but feel like we are connected through the earth in this way. God loves me so much to bless me like this.
Finished marigolds. Green, yellow, red bell peppers and jalapenos.
In the top left corner, I planted carrot, parsnip and beet seeds. The towel is for my poor knees.
Along the top of the photo, to the right of the seeds are four rows of onions. In the top right corner of the garden are two watermelon plalnts. Below those are two cucumber plants. Gross. I'll be planning to give most of these away...unless maybe I decide to make pickles. Maybe I can wear rubber gloves so I don't smell like a cucumber all summer.
In the bottom of the photo here, you can see the beginnings of Tomato Alley. From left to right we have Heirlooms, Grapes, Romas, Early Girls and Better Boys.
Finished planting!
In the center of the garden you can see cilantro, rosemary, basil and Greek oregano. To the top-right of the oregano, marked by a rock are green beans.
Along the deck-edge of the garden, I planted sunflowers. I hope they will grow to be about four feet tall and make a natural barrier between the deck and the garden to keep the four-legged family members out. Caged and fenced.

I know it sounds silly, but I just can't believe food will come from this toil--especially the seeeds! We prayed over our garden that God would be honored in our hard work, and after the enormity of the project I honestly feel like we can take on any project!
We are planning to finally get rid of the sand and cement today or tomorrow, and then we can rake the landscaping rocks into place and have a nice walkway from the deck to the gate. I want to add a few more touches to the garden, and I will post pictures of our progress over the summer. We are all very excited about this change to our back yard.


angie said...

holy cats, great job, desvousgeses! we've done enough of these types of projects for me to whole heartedly appreciate the toil you put into this garden. your efforts WILL be rewarded, and it will be delicious. :)

the fam said...

Great effort! It is actually incredible how much hard work something like that can be. I am gardening for the first time in many years. It has been quite rewarding, but I just have a 4x10 plot in our community garden. At this point I basically have two thoughts about it: how hard the pioneers had to work and I am so glad the garen is not our sole source of food. We'd be starvin'!

Your broken cement pieces, if they are large enough, can make great stepping stones. It's a great recycle/re-use material. There are some cool projects online if you need ideas.

It was cool to see you folks... it was like no time had passed!


Jolene said...

Oh, oh, oh! Wow!! WOW. Erin - I'm beyond impressed. I hope someday I reach this level of ambition because I think it would be a pretty cool thing to hold a basket of produce and know it came from just outside the door. HOORAY for you!

erin said...

Thanks, you guys. This has been a really exhausting and rewarding project. :)

carrie said...

I'm speechless. That was A LOT of work! I can't believe how much you fit into that space. I can't wait to see the progress, and taste too!

Kandi said...

Amazingly impressive work, Erin and Richard (and littles).
One of the things I learned from Kelli when she planted flowers in front of my house was that critters hate the smell of blood (gee, I wonder why?). For this reason, nurseries sell something called Blood Meal (I know, gross), which is a powdered substance that you can sprinkle around your plants to keep away nature's little eaters. I would think that it would be safe to use around food plants, but, if you're concerned, maybe you could just put down a line around the perimeter of your garden. Or even around your yard.
I'll warn ya - it stinks. Really. But it does work.

Melissa said...

I'm impressed! I do understand how much work went into that. Go Erin!

The Smackeys said...

Niiiiiiiiiiice! Sweat, blisters, sore muscles, and probably a few tears (or at least grumpy sighs or groans) can turn out to be so satisfying and rewarding! Praying your garden flourishes! It's beautiful!
P.S. Send the cucumbers my way :) I could eat them ALL day

erin said...

Carole, I have actually spent a lot of time thinking about what it must have been like to be a pioneer woman.
They didn't have pickup trucks, started plants, a city compost site to supply good dirt, and their husbands were too busy building barns to help much with the vegetable gardens.
This project has made me thankful on more than one occasion for the modern conveniences I usually take for granted.
Megan, Ha! I'll send you my cukes. :)

Anonymous said...

great looking finish to the job. For some reason I seem to keep moving rocks and bricks around my yard, keep trying for the perfect setup. I wish I could get rid of my pool as easy -hard as you replaced the hot tub. thanks for sharing all the steps.