Building A Raised Bed Organic Garden In The Suburbs
Just because you’re living in an urban area doesn’t mean you can’t garden. I know because I’ve done it in as little as a 25 square foot space, and even in an area that small you can grow tons of tomatoes, peppers and squash.
Below I will step you through the creation of a raised bed garden.
My First Prototype
This was my first attempt at creating a backyard garden, but it didn’t go terribly well. The problem was the soil. We lived in Maryland at the time, and the soil in our area was almost entirely clay. It was so dense that there was almost no runoff and it was nearly impossible to work. I don’t know how the grass even grew to be honest. So I looked at my options and decided that rather than trying to add more sand and loam to the existing soil (I had already done a lot) I would build a raised be instead. The fence by the way was for the occasional bunny that might happen by. We had a possum that came around once in a while but he didn’t seem to want to mess with the garden even though he could have easily gotten in.
A little bit happened.. but not much
The picture above shows what I mean by the soil not being good. The garden did produce, but not like I had hoped. We had some good tomatoes and peppers but the lettuce didn’t do well and as I recall the rest of it was pretty poor . The squash was wiped out by vine borers too by the way. It was a bummer.. I love squash. That was before I learned that they came from a moth that laid it’s eggs on the vine and when the larvae hatched it bore into the vine and ate it’s way up the plant.
When I was looking for a natural way to rid the garden of them I discovered that if I looked carefully I could see the beginning of the dead vine area.. and if I split that open with my pen knife that I could extract the borer and the plant would survive. I did that every season from then on and ate yellow and zucchini squash to my heart’s content.
The first raised bed garden
As you can see from the picture, I changed things up a bit the next season. I wish I had the construction pictures to show you but I didn’t take any. I think you get the idea though. Because this garden was on a slope, I had to dig out the lower box areas and set the boxes down in. These are only frames by the way. I did do some soil preparation below the frames for better drainage, but that was it.
I used 5′ lengths of gum wood for the frames.. mostly because I got it for free from my father in law and it had extremely good rot resistance as well. So what I ended up with were six 25 sq ft. raised beds.. and I came across some free fencing that somebody was getting rid of.. so I put that up rather than the hideous 2×4 wire fence that I’d done the year before. I thought it turned out really nice, especially the entire thing was free except for my labor.
The soil was made up of entirely compost that came from a local horse farm, and I got that for free as well. His horses were kept in the pasture all the time and fed only organic grain, so I knew that it was pesticide free. It turned out to be an excellent decision because it helped me grow some of the best vegetables I’ve ever tasted.
The early summer veggies are coming in
This picture is when the plants had taken hold and were starting to get going. At this stage of my urban gardening I was buying plants that were already started from a local lumber and hardware store, but later on I started to raise my own seedlings. I liked doing that better because I could buy heirloom seeds. This was before there was so much genetic modification happening.. so it’s especially important today with so many seed varieties being corrupted.
I personally believe that they are dangerous and so all of my food whether raised or not is organic. Not only is it free of pesticides, but it has a higher nutritional value. And as a side note.. did you know that three fourths of the currently used pesticides are KNOWN to cause cancer, yet the FDA allows their use anyway? I’m sorry.. but that’s not acceptable to me. Period.
My mid summer Organic Garden in full production
In the picture above you can get a better idea of the full layout. The garden is situated on the back corner of our little 900 sq. ft. house and next to the shed where I kept all of my tools. It was in full bloom and going strong and just starting to produce some of the most yummy veggies I’d ever tasted. I have to tell you, there is absolutely nothing to compare to fresh organic food that comes right out of your own back yard! And if you haven’t tasted them before.. the tomatoes will blow your mind!
Now we’re talking! By mid summer the garden was in full growth.
Above is another picture of the garden at around the same time. If you’ll notice, on the right side of the picture you’ll see a 10″ flower pot with two pieces of wood sticking out of it. I was trying a little flower pot gardening too. It didn’t work out too badly because it was an afterthought that I put in late… but it didn’t produce nearly as well as the garden did. I’m glad it was in the shot though.. because it demonstrates that even if you live in an apartment you can grow organic veggies.
Check out the Incredible Squash Plants!
I was particularly happy with the way the squash turned out that year. As I mentioned earlier though.. you might have to do some surgery to remove the squash borers!
A picture of me standing in the garden
This isn’t such a good picture because it’s a scan, and it’s also from many years ago.. but that’s me standing in my own urban garden in the mid summer. It was a labor of love and a work to be proud of, and I was.
I hope this gives you some inspiration and a few ideas on ways that you might be able to create an organic garden for yourself!