The current trend is to buy local produce to cut down on gas emission and carbon footprints and go up on freshness and flavor. I decided to go local, very local. Like, my own yard local. I noticed all my neighbors had raised bed gardens and thought, “I can do that!”
You can do it, too. Below are simple easy steps for making a raised bed garden for vegetables, herbs or fruit.
How to Make a Totally Rad Vegetable Garden
First you need to either buy or build a raised bed. I built mine out of cedar. Wait a minute, did you just yawn? I mean, gardening is cool, right? I can talk about, no?
Gardeners don’t get the respect they deserve. You have to be tough to garden. It’s not for sissies. You need rugged gloves like motorcycle riders have and a good hat like a trucker. You have to be prepared for earth worms (eeeeekkkk!), root rot, blight, mold, anthracnose, fungal diseases, smuts, rusts, sweat and accidentally rubbing dirt on your face. This year I had to fight off the Japanese… beetles. I had a turf war with a mint plant. That’s right, I waged a war. A war! Ok, so the mint won, but I put up a ridiculously good fight*. I might not have any street cred, but I’ve got yard cred.
* Ridiculously Good Fight – Apparently mint is a container based plant. Everyone told me “mint is really invasive” when I planted it. At the time I thought, “who wouldn’t want to be invaded by mint?” It’s pretty, it smells great, what’s the problem? Fast forward two years. The last mint pulling session had me out in the yard engaged in a tug-of-war game making noises like a sumo wrestler. It took 4 giant trash bags, 37 curse words and 3 hours, but I I got it. I won. Then a week later, I saw a little sprig of mint. The worst part is that I could audibly hear it laughing at me.
So I’ll try this gardening tutorial again, but keep it real.
Tips for Freestyle Gardening
1. Don’t waste money buying a simple, easy to assemble, affordable raised bed to plunk down in your yard in 15 minutes or less. No, no, no. Build your own. From complete scratch. What do professionals know about building a raised bed in YOUR yard? Build the specs based on what aesthetically looks best to you.
2. Buy cedar to build up your bed. Why? It’s harder to find, more expensive, and it weighs a lot more. When it’s strapped to the roof of a Mini Cooper, people excitedly yell, “Oh my GOD! Can that roof support the weight of that?”
3. Don’t have tools? No problem. Make friends with your neighbors, surely one of them can cut your wood and will let you borrow a hole digger and power drill. (I call my yard a community garden, because it took the entire community to build it.)
4. When planting seeds, don’t write down anywhere what you are planting, just leave the bags of seed in the back of the bed. It will completely fade and you won’t be able to read it at all, but if it’s all food, just eat whatever grows.
5. Plant lots of mammoth sunflower seeds in direct sunlight. So if nothing edible grows, you can still be impressed by the 8 foot flowers towering above you.
6. Totally own your mistakes. When someone points out that the tomato plants need to be two feet apart but are in a one foot wide bed, respond with, “Oh, you must do traditional gardening. That’s cool. I’m using new contemporary gardening techniques developed for small spaces.”
7. Plant a few plants that were never meant to grow on your continent because, well, you never know.
8. Create a severe drought by not knowing how to work your irrigation system. Then follow that up by over compensating with overwatering your plants. Then go out of town for a few weeks and leave your plants on their own. At this point they will flourish and thrive while not being tended by an oppressive regime.
9. Buy a miniature colander so when you take photos to show your friends, your produce looks massive!
10. After you have already built your oddly-sized garden bed and planted the wrong seeds, go and talk to employees at a local nursery so you know how to do it better next season. Ask what kind of soil you should use, how often you should water and for how long, ask what plants grow well in your region, ask what kinds of plants could be planted nearby to fend off bugs or to absorb excess water, ask the best local place to buy compost (apparently my local landfill has award winning compost), ask what grows best seasonally, and ask what you can use preventatively to ward off insects.
All the hard work is worth it because veggies are cool. And I’ve experience first hand the fact that children who grow their own vegetables are more excited about eating them. My seven year-old has already started talking up the soups we can make with the vegetables.
And vegetable gardens smell great and earthy. Produce is the foundation for life. The garden makes me feel like I am one with the planet. When I check on my crops, I feel like the scene from the movie Avatar when the people find the tree of life and can hear it talking. Sure, I mostly hear my mint mocking me, but there are other happy voices in there, too. Little cherry tomatoes yelling, “pick me! pick me!!!”
So here’s my advice. Don’t garden like a pro. Garden with reckless abandon. Grow your own way. Sow your own row. It’s a rad ride. Nothing tastes as good as food you grew yourself. And don’t forget to gather up your harvest in your ragbags and share with it the community of people that helped you along the way.