Expanding the Garden

If you read my last post, you will know that one of my New Year's resolutions was to expand my garden, what you didn't know was that it had already begun.
Last year I planted a small garden bed that continues to provide my family with bell peppers.
  This year I plan on planting a much wider variety of vegetables, and enough tomatoes that a
 few can make it to our dinner table before my kid's devour them.  The first step was creating a raised garden bed that our dogs won't be able to run right through and trample our vegetables.
Here is what we did.  Keep in mind that we learned a few lessons along the way, and I point out what those lessons taught us below.
We created a 4' by 8' box, about 1' tall.  Mr. Incredible used 1" by 4" untreated pine (cull lumber).  He attached them with common sinker nails using overlap corners.
Next time we will use nails with a spiral or ring shank or wood screws because the sinker nails pulled out of the corners far too easily.

We then situated this box in a prepared bed (the soil had been turned to break up the heavy clay that lies just below the surface, and the soil had been leveled as much as possible).
We increased the height of the bed by installing 2" by 2" corner supports, and nailing the next level of pine boards to the supports.  He also installed 2" by 4" supports in the middle of the 8' spans to keep the wood from flexing or bowing under the pressure of the dirt.  In hindsight we probably should have made the entire structure before trying to stick it in the dirt.  Preassambly would have kept the joints from shifting and requireing clean up/trimming after assembly.  We may also use all 2" by 4" supports in the future.

He then trimmed off all the pieces of the supports that were above the top of the box using a sawsall.

He also ground off the ends of protruding screws to keeps hand from comming in contact with them while digging, as they could casue injury.

Then I layed landscape cloth in the bottom of the box, putting dirt in the corners to keep the cloth from blowing away.  The landscape cloth should help keep weeds at bay, slow water runnoff and erosion, and is deep enough that it shouldn't interfer with veggie growth.
After filling the rest of the box with dirt I layered on some compost (that was not quite as ready as I would have liked), then more dirt.  

Now I need to finish filling the box with more dirt, compost, and organic fertilizer.  Then all that is left is actually growing the plants.


Organic, local, cheap.... which type of food is best? How about all three?
The picture above is a sweet pepper blossom from my garden. It was grown organically, from seed, about 20 feet from my back door. Organic, local, and cheap. It's even better though. Not only does it provide everything I want in my food, it also gives me exercise, and time outdoors with my kids.
My kids love our garden. We play in it and around it. They help take care of the "baby" plants, and learn about them in the process. My DD has been particularly fond of it. She has her own planting box that she takes care of that is filled with non toxic flowers, but the edibles are her favorite. She received the tomatoes in the above picture as a treat for good behavior - a treat she requested.
In the future we would like to grow most, if not all of our produce ourselves, but this year our garden is rather small, housing only our favorite vegetables and herbs, as well as a few bug repellent plants.

Organic gardening has been a learning process. I can't just pour some chemicals on the plants to make them grow faster/bigger, and I also can't kill off the bugs and weeds with chemicals either. Growing in Florida has been a blessing and a curse. We have a much longer warm season than most areas so I can wait for plants to mature and fudge a bit on the planting dates. Our heat also kills off some plant varieties though (hardy here means an ability to survive the heat rather than the cold), encourages weed growth, and gives us more prolific bugs than most other places. Most gardening books are geared toward more temperate areas than ours, so finding information can be difficult as well.

Here is a few things I have learned from gardening in Florida thus far;

  1. Very tender seedlings should not be planted in the ground before April, because freeze is still a possibility however remote.
  2. Try to get seedlings established before June, or the heat will kill them. If seedlings are not established by June they can still survive with careful tending and protection from the heat.
  3. Herbs that like full sun else where may need afternoon shade here.
  4. Strong barrier methods are the best protection from weeds, but in Florida weeds still manage to find a way through barriers. Weeding is a must in organic gardens.

There is more. There is much more to know about organic gardening in Florida. I, however, am a novice, and I am learning as I go. I do plan to keep notes on the progress of the garden though, and I will be posting those notes regularly.


I came across this article the other day while researching organic gardening, and thought others might find it interesting as well.

Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Block Cuba got most of it's fertilizer and other agricultural chemicals from the Soviets. After the collapse their chemical supply was cut off. The city of Havana had been producing food through hydroponics. The hydroponic facilities were almost immediately converted to container gardens. Now small scale container gardens are all over urban Cuba, even in highway medians. These gardens now produce about a million tons of food a year. All of these gardens are sanctioned by the government, and use organic gardening practices (the only type of gardening allowed in Havana proper).

This practice in Cuba reminds me of Gorilla Gardening, but instead of being illicit, it is legal and encouraged. Just imagine what Gorilla Gardeners would be capable of producing if they were encouraged to produce.