The Deck Garden Today

Deck gardenMy sister sent me an updated photo of her deck garden. As you can see, even in this small space, they have herbs galore (parsley, three basil plants, and rosemary), and a couple of very nice looking tomatoes. The family has already had pesto a few times this summer. With the heat we’ve had the last couple of days, the plants should get even bigger in the next week or so.

I’ve also discovered another benefit of deck gardening in my own yard. I have a small window box on my deck that I planted greens in — mostly beets and chard. While the bunnies have been rampaging through my raised bed with lettuce and greens, they stay off the deck, so I’ll be eating deck-grown salad this week.

How to Make a Lasagna Garden

Lasagna gardening is a no-till method of starting a garden — usually one for vegetables — that produces humus-rich soil, the ideal environment for “heavy feeders” such as tomatoes. The basic idea is that you layer materials that normally would go into compost to create your garden bed. Like lasagna, the garden has several types of layers and, after it cooks, the layers shrink and blend into each other.

wooden raised bed with compost
Cardboard keeps weeds from growing into the new bed.

For my newest raised bed, I decided to try the lasagna gardening method. In a perfect world, the bed would have been installed and filled last fall, so it would have all winter to sit and percolate. Since that didn’t happen, I added some black dirt and plenty of finished compost to the lasagna.   To install the garden, I mowed the area where the bed was going to go — it’s near a meadow at the rear of my yard — then set the raised bed in place. Next, I covered the inside of the bed with brown cardboard and wet it thoroughly.

raised bed with decomposing plants
It’s ok to add partially finished compost to the lasagna garden. It will decompose over time.

On top of that, I added a bunch of partially finished compost from my pile, then a layer of finished compost from the city compost pile, then a layer of leaves, spent perennials, and other material I collected during garden clean-up this spring. In between each layer, I hosed it down more. So far, I have not spent a cent.

soil in raised bed
A layer of top soil and finished compost makes the garden plant worthy.

Because I will be planting this bed shortly, I added a few bags of garden soil. This cost about $15. On top of that, I added another few inches of compost from the city compost pile. I built the bed off-and-on over two weeks starting in mid-April and have been letting it sit since then. Yesterday, I added some marigold starts around the edge of the bed for color and to encourage good pollinators to frequent my garden. Around June 1, I will plant my tomatoes in the bed. At the end of this season, I’ll add some additional layers to continue to build the soil in the bed.

Will tomatoes grow as well here as they have in my regular garden beds? I’ll let you know.

A Beautiful Easter and a New Raised Bed

What a nice day it was on Easter! The weather was near perfect as we attended Mass, had a nice dinner with the girls, went for a walk in the Carleton Arboretum — and, oh yes, in between those activities, I built a new raised bed for my vegetable garden.  I mention all the other things I did Sunday to emphasize how easy it is to build a raised bed for your garden.

Raised beds are essentially wooden boxes to which you add soil and compost. The advantages of raised beds are many: They look neat, you can control the soil better, you’ll need less water, they produce more per square foot, they tend to heat up a little faster because they are above ground, and it’s a bit easier to set up fencing to keep critters away from your garden. If you are a beginning vegetable gardener and are not sure about the quality of the soil in your yard, raised beds are the way to go.

easy raised bed for garden
A few boards, an hour or so and voila! You’ve made a new raised bed for your garden.

I had purchased the lumber for my bed a week or so ago. Because I wanted a little extra height, I bought three 2-by-10 inch boards, about 10 feet long,  and three 2-by-4 inch boards of the same length. The guys at the lumber yard cut one of each width of board in half, so I ended up with two short boards and two long boards of each type. To build the box, I measured and drilled pilot holes for each point of connection. (Drilling pilot holes is the key to getting things together fast.) Then, using deck screws, I attached the boards to each other. When the basic box was together, I added some 2-by-4s I had around as corner pieces. The whole job took less than two hours. (Truth in advertising: My first raised bed took all day to build — but I did not know about drilling the pilot holes then!)

There are several instructional pages on the web and Patti Moreno has an instruction video on raised beds, which is worth watching. Grab your tools. This is a great project for those weeks before you can plant.