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September 8, 2012

How to build a garden - Part 3

Finally, my garden building project is coming to a completion. The beds are all built and I filled some of them with the grass clippings just to hold the landscape fabric down, although this step is not necessary.

Now, what's left is covering the fabric between the beds with mulch, hauling in the soil, and of course, the most important part - planting.

With the help of a vigorous 24-year old I had my beds loaded with nice soil, and even started transplanting tomatoes and parsley. Mulch is partially laid out, and the paving stones are placed on the top of the mulch - for stability and preservation of the landscape fabric.

I am not yet completely done with this project, still have mulching to do, and arranging the stones, but the planting work can be completed even without the mulching part. In fact, we are in the middle of transplanting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant seedlings right now, in our second warm season of the gardening year.

Now, for the cost.

In addition to the landscape fabric, I used:
47 landscape timbers @3.59, to the total of $169
I will use approximately 40 stones for this garden, $1.24 = $50
Hauled in bulk soil from a nursery - 6 cubic yards, $270
And 1 cubic yard of mulch, $23 (bulk)

So far total is $548.

Yes, it is a lot of money. My total growing space in this 12x22 foot garden equals to 176 square feet (not counting walkways). What can I grow in a 176 square feet? You can run calculations based on the vegetable spacing requirements, but just for this season I will fit these vegetables into this garden:

50 tomato plants
30 pepper plants
20 dinosaur kale
10 parsley
10 dill
and maybe some other greens tucked in here and there.

And the minimum yield will be (that is if I totally suck as a gardener - usually you should get much more that these estimates):
50 pounds of tomatoes
30 pounds of peppers
20 pounds of kale
2 pounds of parsley and dill

Think about it. How much would you pay for a pound of organic tomatoes? I have an answer - $4.99/pound. Even more so for the organic peppers. Quite frankly, Publix or WinnDixie do not sell organic kale, period, so I cannot even run a comparison.

Well, my point is - if you can afford building a garden space like that, this is a fast and least effort consuming method of jump-starting a garden in a previously unused lawn space. If you cannot afford to have a garden built like that, you can always revert to a free (but labor-intensive) double-digging method.

Update 9/14/2012: All planted and ready to enjoy:

Update 10/23/2012: In full bloom and starting fruiting:

How to build a garden - Part 2

How to build a garden - Part 1


  1. woops!! posted under part two but meant to post here. Everything looks fantastic!!

  2. This might be a stupid question, but won't the landscape fabric keep the little apple tree from getting water? Or did you cut the fabric out of that particular bed? What kind of apple tree grows in Florida? Are you north of Lake Okeechobee?

    I have another one: How are you going to cage your tomatoes? Every time I've grown tomatoes here (Deerfield Beach, north end of Broward County) they get well over 6 feet tall and need industrial strength scaffolding to hold them up - maybe I'm not aggressive enough about pruning them to a manageable size...

    This thing wants to post as "Unknown" -- I'm not unknown, I'm Newk.

  3. LOL, hi, Newk. Now you are officially "Known".

    Well, I did cross-cut the fabric around the apple tree, so it will get water. It is a Granny Smith that I got from one of the catalogs. I have another one, Fuji, which I got from Tractor supply, and it had a few little apples on it, and in fact is flowering now. But, it does not have a pollinator so far, because Granny Smith is still too young, so I doubt I will have any fruit from this one.

    Caging tomatoes is challenging. I use regular cages they sell at Lowes, and the vines usually overhang these cages. You just train them to stay in the boundaries, or even can cut to tops to encourage side shoots. That's how they do it in Japan.

  4. I am curious as to how you plant 50 tomatoes in that area? We just built a raised bed system 3x8 in 3 sections but I don't quite know how close to plant everything. I did peas and beans earlier and it seemed I crowded them out and production wasn't the greatest.

  5. Square foot gardening calls for 1 square foot per tomato plant (if you support them vertically). Check out plant spacing in my Garden Designs section.
    Peas and beans I plant 4 - 6 inch square per seed.

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