There’s very little I love more than seeing a blank canvas turned into a work of art. There’s something really special about being able to take a beautiful idea, something that you designed in your mind, and then have the ability to watch it unfold into a real life masterpiece. For me this applies to creating custom gardens. I was given the opportunity to transform a completely empty backyard space into a utopia of food for a longtime friend. Karen has been struggling with her health for the last few years, and feels that her journey back to optimal health begins with eating organic, non-GMO foods. We couldn’t agree more! I loved every minute of building and planting her garden!
To start a garden from scratch there are lots of things to consider: water source, sun, soil quality, deciding what to plant, and knowing when to plant it. Luckily for us, Karen had a nice sunny patch of backyard, close to the water spigot, that had never been tainted by chemicals. Since Karen’s health concerns often limit her mobility, she really needed something that was easy to manage and maintain. This definitely became a project close to my heart, and I knew I needed to make her dream of an organic garden become a reality.
As I measured out the garden parameters, Sarina sat inside with Karen and discussed all the things she wanted to plant. They came up with a long list of different plants, which included tomatoes, lettuce, kale, spinach, red and white potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, onions, peppers, garlic and strawberries, basil, parsley, sage, thyme and oregano. With a wish list that big, I was grateful for the large amount of space that was available to use! I was confident we could build a garden big enough to accommodate all those fruits, vegetables and herbs. We drew out a plan for four raised garden beds with drip irrigation; three of the boxes measured 6x3x1, and one box measured 12x3x1.
With shopping list in hand, Sarina and I went to work. We purchased all the lumber, hardware, and irrigation system parts. We also rented an auger (which is a gas powered post digger – a lifesaver for digging into rock-solid dirt!) and ordered organic garden mix soil from our friends at All Star Materials. We went with pressure treated wood, which will last longer in the elements, and doesn’t need to be sealed with water repellent. After it was cut to size, we hauled it all over to Karen’s. Sarina and I constructed all the raised garden beds, and mapped out where they would go. Sarina cleared the area of any dead leaves and grass, making the garden area completely ready to go!
We took a short break to pick the kids up from school, and then brought them over to help. Lili loves being able to help digging in the garden; Jon enjoys getting paid for helping! While Jon broke ground to lay the watering system, Lili picked up all the piles of leaves, and pulled weeds from the garden beds. Sarina and I used the auger to drill all the holes for the posts, and this is where we ran into our first hurdle – an old sprinkler system. We knew that running into a sprinkler system may be a possibility, however we were completely surprised by the haphazard way it was laid in the ground. It was an obstacle for sure, but with some minor adjustments to our plans we were able to lay out the garden boxes beautifully.
We went to Karen’s house briefly the next morning. Once the beds were in place, we only had a few things to finish up before the dirt was delivered. I turned over the dirt in the beds, to help with drainage, and Sarina slightly amended the trenches for the watering system.
One word: dirt! We hauled 4 yards of garden mix dirt from Karen’s front yard, and emptied it into the raised beds. That’s the equivalent of about 4 bath tubs full of dirt! Sarina shoveled the dirt into a wheelbarrow and five-gallon buckets, while Jonathan and I hauled it to the back yard. We raked it smooth and walked on it to compact it; we also sprayed it with water to compact it further. The process took us a little over two hours, and it was a great workout!
Lili helped too, until we ran into our second little bump in the road on this job…she fell into Karen’s pool! She was shocked for sure, and was about to panic, but she knows how to swim and luckily fell in right next to the steps in the shallow end. Like responsible parents, we didn’t take (too many) pictures of the incident. We were grateful that Karen had a spare set of her nephew’s clothes for Lili to borrow; she even dried Lili’s clothes and shoes, and blow dried her hair. For the next 2 hours, Lili was a princess and relaxed inside while we worked outside.
Planting day is my favorite day! We stopped at two garden centers to pick up all the plants Karen had requested, as well as a few parts for the irrigation system, and then headed over to her house. We laid out all the plants and seed packets according to the plan we drew up, and then got to work. We add organic bone meal to the soil as we are planting; bone meal adds phosphorus to the soil, an essential nutrient to growing bountiful plants.
As we were planting, I was reminded of a time where I had very little consideration for where my food came from, or the quality of the ingredients. To me, food was fuel; I ate when I was hungry, and pretty much nothing else about food was important. I’m so glad that, after loads of research, I am now aware of how eating organic and GMO-free foods is so vital to our health, and also the health of the ground in which we plant in. Eating organic is not a fad, or a scheme to charge people more for food that, on the surface, looks so much like conventionally grown foods; it truly is a sustainable way of living, and a means of protecting your family’s health, now and in the future. Growing your own food is the most reliable way to know what’s used in the food you eat, and I feel very blessed and fortunate to be able to help Karen do that for her and her family.
Karen told Sarina and I about Matteo, her seven-year-old nephew, and how excited he was about her garden. On our last day at her house, we set him up a little garden of his own. Karen had purchased these square and rectangular planters for him, but her health had limited her from doing much else. Now, the garden that they promised each other would finally come true. We extended the irrigation a little further, so that Matteo’s new garden would be on the automatic drip system too. We had some leftover dirt, so we filled up the boxes and gave each one it’s own water line and sprayer. To get him started, Sarina planted a strawberry plant in one of his boxes. Karen took Matteo to the store to buy worms for their gardens, and soon his garden will be filled with all his favorite foods (like watermelon!) We look forward to hearing from Karen about their project.I am confident that Karen will have a great time with her garden; it’s easy to maintain, and ready to go. Soon she will have a backyard full of flourishing plants, and in only a couple of months she will be enjoying juicy tomatoes, crunchy lettuce, savory herbs, and so much more. Please contact me if you’re interested in having a custom garden designed for your home!