Monday, April 27, 2015

That was a whole shootload* of work...

My hubby, who never swears, shocked me a little on Saturday when he used the above phrase (*cleaned up for public consumption) to describe what we've been doing these past two weekends. It was a shootload of work, but now I have the garden of my dreams!

The dream itself came eight years ago during my Master Composter/Recycler course. One of the presenters was Ron Berezan, The Urban Farmer. I'd never heard of raised bed gardening (or many of the fancy terms he used, like permaculture) up to that point, and was gardening in rows like my parents and grandparents. When Ron talked about how he raised food on his city lot, it made more sense than what I was doing. I was an instant convert, and signed out library books and started implementing some of the gardening practices Ron had mentioned. In doing so, our yields increased, and my hubby became a convert, too.

And now we're finally getting our garden to where I've always dreamed it could be. The soil for our raised beds is boxed in, preventing it from washing away or becoming compacted along the paths. The weeds that grow on the pathways won't be climbing up the sides and mixing in with the plants, and the soil above ground warms sooner and drains better. The pictures below tell the story of two weekends of good, hard labour.

First, we went out to the garden to plot how many garden boxes we would need to fill our space and still leave room to work near the compost bins.

After concluding that 17 more should suffice, we visited our local hardware stores for some 16 foot long floor joist boards, and bought the straightest ones we could find. Then we helped the guys at the store to cut our boards into 3 foot and five foot lengths using the big power saw, and carted home the pieces in our car. We took two weekends to do it, half at a time.

Below, Lee is cutting our 2x2s that will brace the corners of the boxes.

We developed a system as we went, 
doing a bit of pre-drilling and counting out screws (9 per corner).

It became like a choreography,
and by the time we had made our first ten boxes, 
we could finish assembling one in under ten minutes.

I timed us!

Here, we've got three sides of a box together,
and I'm dancing it around so we can add the fourth.

One more side to go on this one.
Below is last weekend's work set in place.

Here are the first three boxes we made this Saturday,
waiting to be placed.

Once they were all assembled, the "fun" of placing them began.

Lee amazed me with his ability to level the boxes.
He'd shovel dirt paths through my old raised beds, 
and I'd think, "There's no way this box will sit right."
But I'd set the level, and more often than not, it sat straight!

By Saturday at 6 p.m., we had all 17 new boxes placed and 
partly filled with garden dirt. I couldn't lift another shovelful, I was so tired!
The 3 yards of City of Edmonton compost (ordered from a local landscaping co.)
arrived on Saturday but had to wait until Sunday.
We covered the pile below with a shiny silver tarp, 
and joked that it was our own personal UFO.

Sunday after church and brunch, Lee moved wheelbarrows full of compost,
and our girls and I helped dig it into the soil in the boxes. 

With four of us working,
we got it all done in just under three hours. 

Thanks, girls! We celebrated by going for icecream.

And here it is, the garden of my dreams. 
Just waiting for future occupants.

Definitely a shootload of work, but so worth it when we eat fresh vegetables later this year!!
And all because of a dream that began eight years ago in my Master Composter/Recycler course...


  1. Fantastic! Great job, Lee.
    And look at that Coleus... very impressive - is it from seed?
    Have fun planting.

    1. Actually, Mark, it was teamwork all the way, though you're right, couldn't have managed it without Lee. The coleus is a descendant of the one from my grade eight science class, believe it or not!

  2. Looks fantastic Maria!! I can't believe you have SO MANY though, wowzers! Isn't Ron an inspiration? Our raised beds in the front yard were because of him too.

    Did you remove many plants around the edge of the yard to create your dream? I'm trying to remember how it looked before...

    1. Thanks, Nicola. All we moved in the garden area was dirt. Our perennials, fruit trees and berry bushes are in other parts of the yard to leave the raised beds open to the sun.


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