I have always wanted to have a vegetable garden, but until our current house, I have always been a renter or lived in a condo. And since moving away for college, I have rarely stayed anywhere for more than a year.
Our current house is on a wooded lot with several large, old oak trees, which is lovely, but means shade. Lots and lots of shade.
There is one spot on the side of our house that gets more than six hours of sustained sun. Our first summer here, I planted a single Ghost Pepper plant straight into the ground which produced enough fruit for me to spice up all my food for a couple months and make about a year’s worth of pepper jam. This year, I thought I’d go further and build a raised bed so we could finally have a real garden.
Since this was an experiment, I didn’t want to break the bank. I got 12 concrete planter blocks, between which I placed 2×6 boards measuring 4 feet in length. To keep it all anchored, I simply hammered some rebar into the ground through holes in the center of the blocks. This is a really no-frills method, but is extremely easy to get set up. The hardest thing I had to do was level the land; but this being Minnesota, it was already pretty flat. All in all, I had the bed built within a couple hours on a weekday night.
We are trying to be ‘organic’ in our lawn and garden care, so we used organic garden soil for outdoor planters and a great deal of cow manure. I definitely underestimated how much dirt it takes to fill up a 4×8 raised bed, so had to make a few trips to Home Depot.
The other downside of having a wooded lot is wildlife (and by downside, I mean huge upside and reason for living here, but really problematic to gardening). We have deer, squirrels, birds, turkeys, and who knows what else that might get into our veggies. My first attempt at growing hot peppers back in our Colorado Springs condo lasted about a week before some dick squirrel ate all my plants right out of their pots within a fenced patio. While I figured that someday I might need to build some kind of screen that has a roof to keep out birds and squirrels, this year I decided to test whether a simple fence would do the trick. We have a lot of natural vegetation around us, so we theorized that any kind of impediment wouldn’t be worth breaching when there were so many easier pickings.
To make our barrier, we got six metal fence stakes and a role of poultry fence to wrap around them. While it might not be the slickest looking barrier, it got the job done. None of our plants were eaten by any animals.
Producing actual food was less successful. I started several hot peppers in early March that I had dreams of turning into all matter of ultra-spicy goodies. We filled up half the garden with the peppers along with some carrots and the other half we planted two types of kale and brussels sprouts. The only successful crop was the kale. While we both love kale, it was a little disappointing to see all of our work in the other plants go to waste.
The main culprit was lack of sunlight. We can help that a little bit by cutting down a couple of dead-ish trees in the area, but it’ll never be a full sun location. I am still encouraged that I had so much success with my ghost pepper the year prior, so I don’t think that sun was the only factor. We definitely crowded our brussels sprouts, and the peppers got into the ground a lot later this year because of some lingering cold weather (I might be guilty of over-babying my peppers). With all this in mind, we are not too discouraged. I will be reading up on everything I can do different and choosing a couple different plants to try. Next year we will be trying this again and possibly even building an expansion to have more garden space.