Our Build Your Own
Garden Page
More and more attention is being paid today to where our
food comes from, with very good reason.  Many people, even
in urban areas like West Seattle are starting to raise some of
their own, and what better place to start than with your own
vegetable garden.  Requires less room than say a cow, and
doesn't smell quite as bad.

The Puget Sound area, while blessed with a fairly mild, marine
climate, also has a fairly short growing season for most vegetables.  We thought we
would add this page this year to help folks out who want to have their own veggie
garden, buthave never had one, and aren't quite sure how to go about it.

Having been raised on the remains of an old Michigan farm, complete with the trademark
red barn, I've spent a lot of time planting, picking and eating garden fresh produce, and
as far as I'm concerned, there isn't anything better!

So follow along, and I'll try to help you start your own little "farm in the city"   To make it
easy, I'll break it down into step by step sections, so that you can print this out and follow

A)  Site Selection
Unlike some of our native plants, vegetables LOVE sun!  So the first thing to look for is a
good sunny location in your yard.  Some light shade is fine, but try to find a spot where
most of the day, the sun will hit it at least some of the time.  Also, since you'll be
preparing it, planting it, weeding it and harvesting, you'll want a spot thats' easy for you
to get to, and work around. You also don't want a spot that turns into a bog every time it
rains, because you want it to drain fairly well, not turn to mud.

B)  To Raise your beds or not to raise them!
There are many different ways to do your garden, but the most common are raised
beds, or just garden plots.  Both have their advantages.   Raised beds keep your garden
contained, are  easy to work around if you leave space around them, are nice
to look at AND hold the heat a bit better.  But, of course you have to BUILD them, which
takes time and costs money, and eventually they need to be replaced or repaired.
Plot gardens on the other hand, just require good soil, and a sunny location.  Because
I'm a bit of a purist, I like plot gardens but have this year added ONE raised bed to my
Kitsap garden to try and grow warmer weather veg like melons and peppers.
Because I don't want this to be TOO long, I'm going to concentrate on plot gardens.  If
you want to do raised beds, I suggest an online search for methods or your local library
for suggestions, and instructions on building one.

C)  Preparing your site
Ok..now that you found your site, lets' talk about how to make it
grow veggies!   There are many different schools of thought about preparing a garden
spot, but lets' try to make it easy! Let's say that what you have in your spot now, is
weedy, mossy lawn.  In other words, typical West Seattle grass!  Now you
COULD get a sod cutter, remove it, haul it away and spend money to dump it.  But wait!  
There's a much easier way which is basically sheet mulching, and it works great, doesn't
use chemicals and even involves RECYCLING, which we know all Seattle-ites LOVE!   
So, let's lay out your garden.  I'm a fan of start smaller, work your way up gardening,
especially for first timers.  A nice 10' x 12' or 15' plot will give you room for lots of
different veg.  If you only want to plant one or two things, you won't need as much.  If you
want to plant LOTS of things, you  will need more.  But to make this easy, we'll say you
want to start and use a 10' x 16' plot.  You can make it bigger NEXT year!

So, let's say you have your piece of weedy law and have it approximately measured out.
You can use some stakes or sticks and string to outline it, or some striping spray
paint, or just some pieces of wood.  Since we've made this easy, we've laid out a
10 x 16' or 160 Square foot garden plot.  This means that for every 2 inches deep
you want your soil to be, you'll need one yard of soil.  My recommendation would be
to buy 3 yards, so you'll start with about 6" deep.     The Cedar Grove Garden mix
is a great soil for vegetable gardens, with it's mix of Cedar Grove compost, topsoil
and sandy loam.  When you order it, tell me you are doing a vegetable garden, and
I will add about another 10% compost the mix.  It's a nice rich soil and your garden
will do great with it!  You probably won't have to add additional compost until the
season after next.   ( but it never hurts if you have some! )

So, next step is, you call us and set up your delivery if you don't have a truck or
trailer to come get it.  If you do have a pickup, plan on one yard per load if you've
got a full size 1/2 ton pickup, 1 & 1/2 - 2 yards per load for a 3/4 or one ton pickup
and a half yard per load with a smaller compact pickup.  It weighs about 2000#
per yard, give or take depending on how much moisture is in it.  More at the beginning
of the season, less towards the late summer usually.  

Before your delivery arrives, or you get home with your first load of soil, you'll need
to collect all those old newspapers you have sitting around, or your neighbor's or friends.
You'll want a good 12" stack of them at least to have ready to start your garden!

When you get your delivery or your first load home, hopefully on a day without TOO
much wind, get your papers, and your garden hose with a spray nozzle on it.
Naturally if you're going to have us dump the load of soil where you want the garden,
you'll need to do this before we arrive, so you definitely want a calm day!  Start with a
5' x 5' area or so, and lay out newspaper in 4-6 piece thick layers.  Dampen it with your
garden hose as you go, and that will both help keep it from moving around and help start
the composting process off.  Once you've got it laid out, dump a wheelbarrow full of soil
on top and spread it out with your hard rake.  Dont' worry about putting down 4-6" right
away....you just need a couple to start to hold the papers down.  Leave 2-3" along the
edges uncovered though, so you can overlap the papers in the next 5x5 foot section.
Now just repeat this process for the remaining (5) 5x5 foot sections, making the last
2 on the end 5x6 to give you your finished 10' x 16' garden!   Once you have your first
layer of soil over the whole thing, you can continue on layering on more until you are
finished and have your 4-6" deep garden bed!   Now your ready to rake it out into rows
about 18" apart and 3" or so high, leaving valleys in between that will be your paths'
for walking, weeding and picking your veg.  By the end of the first season,  the
newspapers under your garden bed will have pretty much decomposed, AND the weedy
ugly lawn will be gone, replaced with rows of yummy, delicious vegetables!

Now the rest is easy!   Your garden is ready to go, and you can pick out your seeds.
I recommend Territorial Seeds, which are available online at
www.territorialseed.com,  or locally from West Seattle Nursery at 5725 California Ave.
SW or Junction True Value Hardware at 4747 44th Ave. SW.  Territorial is based in
Oregon and their plants and seeds are bred to grow west of the Cascades.
Pick your favorite lettuce blends, tomatoes, peas, carrots, cucumbers and corn, and
get planting!  Be adventurous and try melons, peppers and others if you have a nice
warm sunny location!  For the most efficient watering, run soaker hoses up and down
your rows once your seeds are started and use a timer to make it worry free!
The Old Farmer's Almanac is a good source for telling when to plant and harvest
different types of veg!   Don't forget to put in some strawberries for those late night bowls
of ice cream!

Well, I hope this little garden primer helps someone!  If not, tell me!  If so, tell me that too.
We'll look forward to delivering your load of Cedar Grove Veggie Garden mix so you can
start your own city garden!