Updated for 2021!
Part of me has ALWAYS wanted to have a garden. Even when I was in apartments, I loved going to the Spring Black Friday sale at Home Depot and getting something green for my home that I could tend and watch grow. Now, in all fairness, I have not always been successful. Buying a house with a big, beautiful backyard gave me the perfect opportunity for a raised bed garden.
When I first moved in to my house last summer, there was a big dirt patch in the backyard from where the previous owners had a massive shed. I immediately knew what I wanted to do back there: a paver patio with a fire pit and some adirondack chairs and a raised bed garden.
I got to do the paver patio last summer/fall, but I’ve waited until 2020 to put in the raised bed garden. As someone who is not as familiar with gardening, I’m here to share my journey with you!
Now, I scoured Pinterest for all sorts of raised bed garden plans. There are posts that boast that you can build one for “less than $20” or “with things you already have around your house”. Okay…that last one was an exaggeration. But really, so many pins boast about how inexpensive building your own raised bed garden can be.
Those are not really sustainable. They will not last. They mention using fencing or wood that hasn’t been pressure treated. You know what happens to wood that isn’t pressure treated when it gets wet? It warps or rots! So, yes, you can make a raised bed garden for less than $20, but it will likely be $20 every year for as long as you want your garden.
I went through the process and priced out the right wood coming from Home Depot and/or Lowe’s. They were priced within pennies of each other.
I knew I wanted to do a garden that was 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. The biggest price differences were in the height I wanted for the garden. Really, I needed a height that would make it annoying for Olivia to get into which meant that I was looking for 20-24 inches tall. Based on the pricing, earlier in 2020, all of the combinations of heights and different woods ranged between $60 and $85. This would not include corner stakes or any sort of braces. Thus, based on my research, you could build your own raised bed garden for less than $100.
I was all ready to go get the wood and work with my dad to put it together. Then, we went to Costco. (This was pre-COVID-19 when you could still go to stores to kill time on a Saturday afternoon.) We were just walking around, and I saw this box for a mix and match raised bed garden.
It’s made from white BPA free, sturdy plastic. You got “poles” and “walls” to assemble however you want! I could have done two 4×4 boxes (which I almost did) or the 8×4 box I did (with two “walls” left). It was only $65, and I knew it would stand up to the elements. I bought it immediately.
This was bigger and more expensive than my former container/pot gardening, so I wanted to do it right. There’s a lot of value in the concept of “square foot gardening”. I bought a book, and it was so helpful!
Basically, the concept teaches you how to make the most of the space you’re using. How many plants can grow and flourish in a square foot of space? How long do certain plans take to grow? What kind of dirt should you use? The end of the book has page after page of individual herbs and fruits and vegetables and how to treat them.
The Raised Bed Garden
It only took me about 20 minutes to put the garden together on my own. It was amazingly simple. The instructions did recommend stakes to keep it in place. I did not have them and did not go buy them, so my garden is stake-less. It hasn’t moved though, so I have faith that it’s pretty secure.
After doing all of my research, I made a list of the kinds of plants I wanted in my garden. I had all of these high hopes of growing so many things I could eat. How cool is that?!
Seriously, my list was lofty. Based on the math that I had done with the help of my square foot gardening book, all of these things could fit.
Honestly, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and all of my plans went out the window. Home Depot canceled the Spring Black Friday sale, so there went my savings on this project.
One afternoon, my boss encouraged me to take some time off, so I decided to brave Home Depot (with plenty of hand sanitizer and a mask and all). For starters, there were way too many people there for a pandemic. Secondly, I sincerely hope (as unkind as this sounds) that there was a huge break in their supply chain. So many items on my list were not available in those Bonnie’s pre-started plants. There went allllllll of my planning.
I just walked around and picked up what looked good. Then, I went inside the store and took it back to basics and got some seeds.
I planted everything on April 17. By April 23, I already had some sprouts!
Full confession, I made a pretty big mistake when I planted everything. I wasn’t planning on doing seeds anywhere, so I wasn’t planning on marking anything. Then, I planted my seeds and realized I didn’t have anything to mark what was where. All those sprouts coming up…it’s an adventure remembering what went where. I guess I’ll find out soon!
Now, my sister likes to remind me that plants have harvest times, but it doesn’t stop me from going out to check on it two or three times a day. I’ll keep you guys updated for how things are going in my raised bed garden journey.
It’s been a while since I checked in and told you about my raised bed garden. Like the rest of everything…my garden failed. I had taken a trip to visit my sister for two weeks right when my garden was just starting to thrive. I was hesitant to leave, but I bought some awesome slow waterers that I thought would help the garden continue to thrive in my absense.
These slow waterers are great, but I wouldn’t trust them for two weeks in the peak heat of summer again. For small potted plants and things, absolutely.
Now, I am determined to be more successful with my raised bed garden in 2021! I have done even more research, stalked Home Depot for their plant sale, and I am READY.
I changed up a few things this year. For starters, I actually invested in a little seed starter kit and used the little greenhouses in order to get my seeds to sprout before planting them. I didn’t end up using them all, but I know that you plant more than you’re expecting to actually grow.
Additionally, I made a “map” for the garden and stuck to it. Based on my research from the square foot gardening guide, there were certain plants that I had overcrowded, which meant that they didn’t thrive the way they should have. For example, did you know that ONE squash plant requires 2sqft to thrive! I think I had 4-6 in that space last year.
Finally, I added a TON more soil this year. I think that part of my failure is that the soil wasn’t quite deep enough for the nutrients these plants needed. I essentially doubled the amount of soil, and added in a layer of mulch to help retain moisture in the long run.
Now, it doesn’t look that different from my 2020 garden, but I’m hoping that it will thrive! I hope I can make it extraordinary.
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