Building our Dream Garden
Howdy howdy howdy – thanks for coming along on this ride with us!
My wife Sherry and I moved back to the family farm in late 2018 after spending 20+ years in Plano.
While we were in Plano we very much enjoyed gardening and the peace it brought. Planning of what to plant, prepping the soil and of course harvesting and eating the crops.
We had a typical sized lot in the suburbs, and over the years had played with different types of beds. Raised beds made of cinder blocks worked best for us. We had the house landscaped several years back, and it was expensive to put those beds in! There were three raised beds made of 16x8x8 cinder blocks stacked two high with water run to each bed.
After moving to the farm we decided to design and build our dream garden, doing all of the labor ourselves. It has been an adventure, and we’re anxiously awaiting completion of the project and being able to put plants in the ground this spring.
Our goal with this garden is to grow enough produce to feed not only ourselves, but Sheron, Dan, David and his family as well. We also want to do a lot of canned goods, such as pickles, tomatoes, tomato sauce, peppers, and so on.
At first we were going to go with three square raised beds, and as we looked at the space we had available (a lot!) and the number of cinder blocks in a pallet (72) we decided to go with six raised beds, stacked three blocks high in a square formation. Four pallets of cinder blocks would provide exactly enough blocks to do 6 beds at roughly 6′ square.
We drew the plan out paper and it didn’t look like all that much work. Just six squares on paper. Ha!
Sherry had brilliant idea of adding a raised berm behind the beds for planting plants that would attract butterflies and bees, large bushy herbs and vine plants. No problem! How much soil would a little old raised berm take? (as it turns out it took 225 cubic feet of soil, more on that in another post)
So a cinder block walks into a bar…
The first thing we needed was cinder blocks. LOTS of cinder blocks. My brother, David, has a huge truck and trailer, and we roped him into a trip to the local Home Depot to pick up a pallet of cinder blocks. If you’ve not worked with cinder blocks before, those things are heavy! 36.5 pounds each, to be precise.
We got pallet number 1 back to the farm and unloaded the blocks. Each bed was to be four blocks to a side, for 16 blocks per layer, and 48 blocks total per bed. With the 1st pallet of 72 blocks we were able to put together one full bed to get an idea of size. It was perfect! Not so large that we couldn’t reach the middle of the bed, and high enough to provide a full 24″ of soil.
The next day David was kind enough to make another trip to Home Depot and this time we picked up three more pallets of the blocks. At over 2600 pounds per pallet that was one heavy load!
Once back on the farm we used a tractor with a bucket to assist in the unloading and placement of the blocks. We were able to get 20 blocks at a time in the bucket, then dumped the blocks at the location of each bed.
There were two of us unloading and dumping blocks with the tractor, and while it was a lot of heavy lifting, we got it done in about an hour.
Making our beds
Next we laid out the base layer of each bed. I thought we could eyeball the placement of each bed, keeping them all in line. By the time we got to the 6th bed it became noticeable they weren’t lined up. They were off by several inches, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when looking down the row it was quite obviously out of line.
I used rope and wooden stakes to create a straight line and we redid all the beds along the rope line. Much better!
With four of us working on stacking the blocks we got it knocked out in no time. We did the unloading of the blocks and laying of the beds in an afternoon.
Gravel, Soil and Mulch Oh My!
The next step was to put a few inches of gravel in the bottom of each bed for drainage. As it happens, Dan had just placed an order for two loads of gravel for the driveway. One load of road base, and one of small 3/8″ gravel. Woohoo!
The gravel arrived in a HUGE dump truck.
Once the small gravel had been unloaded David jumped in the skid steer and we began putting 3 to 4 inches of gravel in each bed. It took two buckets of gravel to finish up.
Next up was soil. David brought in several loads from the field in front of the house and we got a good 12″ of soil added to each bed.
Next came the good stuff – composted soil!
Some years back Sheron and Dan had worked with a local tree trimming service to have the wood chips brought out to the farm. They had brought out a massive amount of chips and piled them up. As the years passed Dan and David kept the piles of wood chips turned. Over time they composted down into some of the most aromatic, beautiful, worm-filled soil you’ve ever seen.
David brought in several buckets of the composted soil and we topped off the six raised beds. Beautiful!
Is that a Greenhouse in Your Pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Sheron had purchased a small greenhouse from Home Depot some time ago and had not assembled it. She kindly offered it to us and we jumped at the chance.
It took us an hour or so to assemble the greenhouse. It is the perfect size for starting the plants, with a total of 8 racks.
We have a lot of South wind out here, and the tiny little stakes that came with the greenhouse wouldn’t last but a few minutes. We found some steel 9″ pegs at Home Depot and using nylon rope we affixed 24 to the base of the greenhouse. We’ve since had several very blustery days, with gusts upwards of 35 mph and that sucker hasn’t moved.
Coming up in the next post – installing and filling the berm and laying out the irrigation system
Thanks so much for taking the time to read the post!
Daniel Scurlock Jr