I scratched my head for a long time trying to figure out how to use the bounty of land that we have to grow more food for my family and if possible to start to sell the surplus to help out with other costs around the farm (translation…chicken feed). We moved in here in 2006, but I didn’t even build my raised beds on the edge of the back yard until 2009. They worked great for a few pick and eat types of things like small tomatoes, some peppers and a variety of lettuce. They did NOT work well for strawberries though. The ground was fertile enough, but as it turns out, chipmunks regard strawberries as a delicacy. No strawberries for Elsbeth 🙁 Also, since our backyard is completely surrounded by old growth trees, 80 feet or more, the number of hours of full sun really wasn’t optimal for growing a volume of tomatoes and peppers.
I knew that the front field was the logical choice, but with the significant population of deer I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as plowing and planting a food plot. I kicked around the idea of setting vineyard posts at the corners of the area I wanted to plow and stretching deer netting from post to post. That didn’t solve the problem of trellising for things like tomatoes and beans. Finally I came up with a plan for these raised garden beds. This plan also solved the problem of the terrible soil in this area. You see the nearly 2 acres that is our front field, which includes our vineyard and orchard, was a landscape undertaking by the previous owner of the property. They were concerned with cleaning up the scrub land and giving it a manicured appearance. They were NOT concerned with the fertility of the soil that they had brought in to level everything. It is mostly clay and rock. It is a nightmare to dig through and not very forgiving to the plants that try to inhabit it. So raised beds that contained nutrient rich composted soil took the project to a whole new level.
So in 2012, the plan was hatched to construct 2 beds that were 12 feet x 6 feet. It was a place to start. We placed the parallel to the last vineyard row and the same distance from that row as there was between the rest of the rows in the vineyard. At that point I still hadn’t decided if I was going to do a whole row of these beds or if I was going to start working the other direction. It would still be more than a year before I would plant anything in these beds though. See, we have no large animals here on the farm, but I do have a couple friends that have horses and generously shared all the manure that we could haul away in our landscape trailer. We filled the 2 beds with shredded leaves, top soil from one of our construction projects and manure and left it until the following year.
The next year, the first 2 beds were ready to be planted. As it turned out, I decided to make a block of beds rather than a row, so we 2 additional beds. We filled the second 2 beds with manure to compost and be used the next year. I also invested in 100 feet of very heavy gauge deer fence and we wrapped the whole block of beds in the netting. My Garden City was starting to take shape. Due to circumstances beyond my control, none of the beds got planted that year.
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