[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of three posts from Carrie Bettencourt about her backyard makeover. Read the second post on seed starting and the third post about installation day.]
To start this story I have to start at the ending — otherwise all the crazy details might not mean so much. Today I have a fabulous garden filled with beautiful cedar raised beds. Wow!
The story starts with a plan to move to a house in Southern California. The yard had nice sunlight and an area of lawn but, sadly, no gardens. Maybe not a problem for most, but I would be leaving behind an established garden — a rocking urban garden!
Although I knew we’d be making the big move in June — the height of the growing season — I just kept on working my old garden like I would be there forever. I thought that at least the new owners would be all set for a summer of veggies.
In my state of denial, I did one little thing that changed everything — I ordered some planters from Gardener’s Supply, a company I had used as a resource for ages. My three little containers arrived and I filled them with plants that I planned to move with me. I was so happy with the containers, I photographed them and posted the pictures on Instagram. Lucky for me, Deborah from Gardeners Supply Company noticed my photo and contacted me. Deborah coordinates research and product testing, and we began a relationship that involved me testing more garden containers.
The Big Move
Then moving day came — cue sadness. The new place didn’t have any gardens. But I couldn’t give up on gardening, so I just kept growing things in containers for the rest of that first summer and winter. In spring I would make a decision about where and how to make my new gardens.
This delay had a silver lining, because it gave me time to get to know my new space. I moved my planters around and figured out the seasonal sun path. I won’t bore you with all the challenges and pitfalls, but they included the usual things like pests, drought, and raccoons. Without those insights I would have made different decisions about almost everything. I definitely recommend taking time to get to know a new place before digging in.
As Christmas approached the stars must have aligned, because I was starting to think that raised beds would be the right solution here. At the same time, Deborah at Gardener’s Supply was thinking that maybe I’d want to test the CedarLast raised beds they planned to introduce in February. She didn’t have to twist my arm — I jumped on it and knew just the right area for them.
I poured all my past season’s frustration and longing into the design of the new space. To plan for the new beds, I drew a grid and moved around scaled cutouts of the raised beds I’d be receiving. My goal was a layout that was lovely and functional.
I planned for:
- Enough space between beds to roll a wheelbarrow,
- Some areas of shade so I could grow greens during our hot summer,
- Aesthetics, since this would also be living space for us.
I wasn’t looking for a huge garden with unlimited tomato varieties and such. We are urban dwellers and my aim is to have a kitchen garden full of things we like to eat — a doable goal with our limited space.
My list of planting wants included an herb garden, lots of greens and salad makings, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra, and artichokes. Also on that list are flowers for the pollinators — and the humans. I try to keep everything edible, even the flowers, in the spirit of a true kitchen garden. I left some unplanned space in case I came across something new or interesting to try.
Next step: ordering seeds! In the next post I’ll share my seed starting adventures.
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