I have now built eight raised beds for my garden. The first three I did about five years ago for my kids, so they could have their own space to garden within my garden. Their interest has waxed and waned, but it is always fun this time of year for them to start planning what they are going to grow, and they love planting it–weeding and watering, not so much. But harvesting and eating bring back the fun!
I added five more raised beds to my front yard in the area between the sidewalk and the street. It gets full sun and is on a slight slant, so I thought raised beds would be the perfect solution. I made sure to leave room for my lawn mower to fit among them.
If I can build a raised bed, you can do it! Here’s how to build a simple one:
- 4 pieces of untreated cedar, sized to your liking
- 4 silver l brackets
- 8 screws for brackets
- Compost or organic potting soil
Figure out how big you want them, then head to Home Depot and buy UNTREATED CEDAR boards. Have them cut it to your precise measurements, and then buy some l brackets and screws. The employees are usually very helpful. Again, buy untreated cedar, so chemicals will not leech into your soil and contaminate your plantings.
Next, pre-drill your holes and assemble. I like to put the brackets on the outside of the raised bed.
Then fill with organic compost or organic potting soil and whatever you wish to grow.
I was at a Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society
meeting where they said if the drought didn’t kill off your arborvitae, this unusually harsh winter of a lot of freezing rain and heavy snow surely has. At the same time, they mentioned there is no cheaper, hardier plant that provides such great benefits as privacy and a living wall. I love my arborvitae evergreens dearly. They provide punctuation marks throughout my garden.
I will definitely be digging a few of them out and replacing them, but I am going to try a tip I learned from a Tibi Light talk first: for branches that are leaning over from the freezing rain, use pantyhose to tie them back in an upright position. I love my arborvitae as much as I love going to fabulous gardening talks and learning new things about the garden!
So, I’ve admitted it: cooking is not my forte. But I do now enjoy it, especially if I’m able to harvest the ingredients from my garden.
I’d like to share another favorite recipe that I make weekly. It is easy and cheap and nutritious. Everyone loves it (as did my family, until I started to make it week after week). This one also makes our house smell amazing!
Buy a whole chicken and stuff it with parsley and thyme or whatever you have growing in your garden. I have used garlic and rosemary. Next, coat it with olive oil or butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then surround the chicken with vegetables. I include whatever veggies I have growing or in my pantry. I prefer potatoes, carrots, and leeks, but last night it was potatoes, carrots, red onion, and celery. Add a little white wine and water and cook at 450 for about 1 hour.
Then, whatever does not get eaten can be cooked the next day in a chicken noodle soup. I am making that right now and praying it gets rid of my oldest child’s nasty cold and cough. Dr. Oz says it will help
I remember when we bought our first house and my husband wanted to spend our limited budget on a new roof. I wanted to paint, put in hardwood floors, and buy new, fun furniture. But of course, with a leaky roof, the furniture and walls and floors would soon be wrecked.
Well, the same goes for your garden. Without proper drainage and good soil, your plants will wither and die off.
Through the years I have had great success ensuring proper drainage by amending my soil. I’m always putting my grass clippings on my garden, and I also mulch with cocoa hulls. I watch for areas that may have been dug up by the squirrels, bunnies, or my beloved dog, Harry, and I re-plant and re-level with the best top soil. I also add a 1- to 2-inch layer each spring with the finest compost from Bruce Company. I also add coffee grounds to my garden daily all year-round. I’m really lucky to have inherited rich soil here in Wisconsin. But I have also worked with clients who had clay from new construction and renovations. In those cases I double- and even triple-dug each hole for each plant and bush to ensure they would not drown in the heavy clay soil.
When I was in my early twenties, the feminist in me remained adamant: I didn’t like to cook, and I didn’t care to learn how. Once again, gardening has taught me the value of something other than gardening. Yep, now I like to cook.
I love harvesting from my yard and cooking up something nutritious and delicious to feed my family. I especially love making soup. I love how it warms my house and takes away the stinky dog smell, replacing it with an aroma that promises a savory, succulent meal. We’ve recently had sickness in our house, so I just made a big pot of soup to help boost our immune systems.
Here is one of my favorite recipes that I frequently make:
Sautée in butter:
- grated fresh ginger, approximately 1 inch
- 1 sweet potato, chopped
- loads of carrots, chopped
- several leeks, cut.
Add dashes of nutmeg, salt and pepper. When the veggies are tender, combine in a large pot with chicken stock and simmer on low for as long as you can. Then purée with a soup wand.
Serve with heavy cream. For a vegan way you could use veggie stock and skip the cream and use olive oil instead of butter. I love serving this with a big salad and some warm bread and butter.
I hope your family and friends love this as much as mine do!
Let me save you the $$$ I’ve wasted making this mistake. Yes, I figured I was the invincible gardener, thinking “outside the box” and “creatively” planting Annabelle hydrangeas in the hottest of full-sun areas and dinner-plate dahlias in the shadiest of spots. My years of gardening have taught me to be more realistic and less optimistic and to read the label on the plant.
If it says full sun, you must plant it in a sunny spot, a spot that gets 4 to 6 hours a day of sun. There are a few plants out there that are more versatile, e.g. elephant ears. Oh, what a great idea for another blog. I can think of several versatile plants–oops, tangent–look for more on that one later.
For now, remember: when it says shade, it really wants shade; and when the label says full sun, it really does need that sunshine to grow and thrive. The trickier label is partial shade or partial sun, but in that case, maybe not your sunniest or your shadiest spot.
I guarantee, if you give the plant what it requires, it will not disappoint!