Fall garden update

Whew! I've been too busy to post for the past two weeks. Seems there just isn't enough time to do everything that needs to be done! Here's an update on what's been going on.

Two weeks ago, Jack (aka The Head Carpenter) built the seven frames I commissioned, for seven new raised beds. (Jack always refers to the garden as my garden, but honestly, I would have no garden without his help.)

He built the frames out of unfinished pine 2" x 8"s and deck screws. Cedar would have lasted longer, but the cost was prohibitive. I'm hoping by the time the frames fall apart, the beds will be well-enough established that they won't need framing. We'll see.

Jack installed zinc braces in the corners for extra oomph, and drilled a hole on each side for the drip irrigation tubing to run through.

We laid four of the frames along the south side of the backyard. All the beds are four feet wide and eight inches deep, and between six and eight feet long. The one in front here will contain the wildflower bed; I'll be planting vegetables in the other three.

The other three frames are going to house a shade garden on the west side of the house...oops. Seems the Head Gardener forgot to account for the 2" width of the boards when measuring. Sigh.
Clearly, these frames are too close to the house, but if I move them out, they'll block the path and the gate. They'll need to be cut down, and to do that, they'll need to be taken apart. Grrr! I hate when that happens.

The Natural Gardener delivered 5 cubic yards of Hill Country Garden soil on the 21st of September, the day after Jack built the frames. The soil's been on my driveway, covered with a tarp, for two weeks now. (I didn't get much done in the garden last weekend except start some seedlings.)

So, determined to get something done this weekend, I left work early on Friday to mow the lawn before the rain storms got here. The woodsorrel is gone, except for what's in the wildflower bed and this patch here. (It's supposed to be a heart.)

And I left a bit of woodsorrel around the bulbine, too, which is finally blooming.

On Saturday, I started sheet mulching the new beds, using instructions on a handout I obtained at a Natural Gardener seminar on organic gardening. Much of the following text is taken directly from the handout. Sheet mulching helps clear an area of grass and weeds, when starting a bed from scratch, and it's a great way to recycle newspaper and cardboard, too! Here's how to sheet mulch, step by step.

Step 1: mow or weed-eat the grass and weeds down to the ground, and leave the clippings. (I hope this is low enough.)

Step 2: spread 1/2" to 1" of good compost over the clippings, and water it in. I didn't have pure compost, so I used compost-rich garden soil instead. (Boy, I feel weird leaving those woodsorrel and bermuda clippings in there.)

Step 3: lay newspapers down on top of the compost, 10 to 15 sheets thick, overlapping the edges so there aren't any gaps, and wet them down good.

I ran out of newspaper, so I used brown paper sacks and some white and brown wrapping paper that my bulbs were packed in. I didn't use any slick colored ads, although I did use the colored newsprint. Some sources recommend not using any colored newsprint. You can use old phone books, too.

Step 4: lay corrugated cardboard on top of the newspaper and wet it down. Be sure any gaps in the cardboard are covered by another piece of cardboard. Plain brown cardboard is better than the kind with a slick, colored paper covering.

Step 5: fill the bed with garden soil.
OR: if you're not ready to plant, or you're clearing the area for a purpose other than a raised bed, cover the cardboard with at least two inches of mulch and leave undisturbed for two to three months. Water the area regularly, at least once or twice a month.

Sheet mulching effectively blocks the light from the grass and the weeds, and the good bacteria in the compost help break down the weeds before they can grow through the newspaper and cardboard. Over time, the newspaper and cardboard will decompose and become part of the soil.

Looks I'm ready to plant veggies! But not tonight -- I'm exhausted!


  1. That looks great. What a huge amount of work! You're lucky you have a head carpenter. ;-) Laura

  2. I love the cute little heart of wood sorrel. :D

    Grats on the new beds. I'm still waiting for my three new ones, but at least the shed finally got moved out of the way, so we're closer...

  3. Ah...all that work. I know how you feel.
    I did this for a veggie garden at our old house. It worked really well.
    Looks like you have a good start.

  4. Y'all have been working hard! Pardon my ignorance, but I don't understand what's wrong with having the boxes so close to the house? (I understand not planting trees or ivy close to the house.) Love the heart-shaped woodsorrel!

  5. Excellent post Caroline, and very informative. I'll give this a try on my next bed. ;)

  6. Iris, having those wood frames right up against the foundation could be a magnet for termites. But I have a solution -- I'm going to move those boxes elsewhere, and use stones as a border around the shade garden.


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