March, Project No. 2a: Garden Imperialism


March 5, 2011 by Leah

After the Great Mulch Fiasco I stopped and bought supplies to make another garden bed. I just can’t stop, apparently.


Yesterday, I created this new bed, which is, like the other raised bed, 4′ by 8′. It took about 90 minutes this time (now that I am practiced at this sort of thing), and I used a slightly different layering formula (peat, mulch, peat, mulch, peat, compost vs. peat, mulch, peat, mulch, compost, potting soil). Initially, I pounded in the stakes to mark the four corners of the bed in a spot diagonal to the existing raised bed, but after procrastinating for a bit I realized that that particular spot gets shady in the afternoon thanks to a giant tree in the neighbors’ yard. So, I moved the stakes and the new garden beds are now side by side in full afternoon sun. Go, procrastination.

Peat moss

As always, the fun part is deciding what seeds or plants to buy and designing the garden.  I was planning on planting celery, but the seed packet recommended a 3-4 MONTH head start indoors before transplanting the celery outdoors, after which it would take forever to grow. No, thanks. The new bed will have (fingers crossed!) watermelons, leeks, collards, lettuce, hot peppers, bell peppers, marigolds, and poppies. I think it’s going to be really pretty. I need to come up with a succession plan, though, because the lettuce should be done in about 45 days whereas it will take the leeks 120, and I don’t want the soil to be sitting around unproductive during the summer. Maybe I’ll start some of my own pepper or tomato plants from seed and transplant them once the lettuce is done.


I also mutilated a plastic garbage can with the help of a Leatherman folding knife and a saw (the saw teeth only met my fingers once!) and “planted” seed potatoes. Which means I put two squat plastic cylinders (the former garbage can) on some wet cardboard (a former pizza box – I was so exhausted after Wednesday’s projects that we abandoned our normal eating protocols and Aaron “hunted” down a pizza), put five seed potatoes in an “X” formation on top of each piece of cardboard, added mulch until the potatoes were just covered, and watered like crazy. I’ve never even thought about planting potatoes before, so I hope this works. Apparently one adds mulch as the plants grow so the green bits are just poking over the top of the mulch pile. (I thought about painting the gray garbage can halves blue, but I don’t think you can really do much to dress up a plastic garbage can.)

Potatoes, not garbage

I used slightly different supplies for the new bed, so this one came to just under $100 and I have about half a large bag of peat moss left over. I’m planning to track the value of the produce as it comes out of the garden. I didn’t do a very good job of this with the winter garden because growth was so retarded. How do you value three pea pods? Then again, I also have some absolutely gorgeous chard that would probably cost $15 at the farmers’ market. (Also invaluable would be all the fresh air, exercise, and learning that went along with the winter garden project.)

Speaking of the farmers’ market, I saw cherimoya going for $4.95 per pound today. I don’t even really like cherimoya, but I was introduced to it thanks to our $12 per week CSA and was getting a ton of it for a while there. I had no idea it was so valuable. This urban farm CSA is amazing. Lately we’ve been getting avocados galore – yay! – and last night I consumed three small artichokes because Aaron didn’t want his. I love seasonal eating. It makes me feel connected to the earth. Now that I have a garden that seems to actually have a chance of succeeding, this happy connection can only get stronger.

So much better than when it was just a lawn


3 thoughts on “March, Project No. 2a: Garden Imperialism

  1. David says:

    Too bad the mulch run turned into a fiasco. If you plant your letuce where it will be shaded by the peppers & tomatoes then you may be able to plant letuce again after you pick the first batch. This works realy well if you give the new plants a head start by planting them in seed trays 2 weeks before you expect to pick the other lettuce. As long as they are shaded and the bugs don’t get bad you can grow 2-4 crops of lettuce before it gets too hot. If you buy seedlings in trays, just save them and use them to start your next crop. Fill them with peat moss, veiculite, and a little top/potting soil, then wet it to help compact the soil and plant your seeds.

    To beautify your garbage cans, plant some herbs or flowers around them. Short plants on the south side and tall ones on the north.

  2. leahkathlyn says:

    You are a much more advanced gardener than am I, David.

  3. David G says:

    I don’t know if you have ever heard of Permaculture, but if you have not you may want to look into it. The link above is a guy who turned a small suburban yard into a permaculture food forest. He only has about 700 sq ft planted but has over a dozen fruit trees, 18 types of berries, 2 fruiting vines, vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals. His garden, only in it’s 2nd year, averages 35 pounds of produce/fruit each month. As the fruit trees continue to mature these numbers will rise.

    I know that you are not a big fan of grass yards, so this might be something you want to do when you move to a more permanent location.

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