From Bare Land to Garden in 6 weeks

Bare Land to Garden

We arrived at our new home site at the end of March, 2014. The weather was just turning beautiful and I was anxious to get outside and plant a garden again. We didn’t have much to work with financially, with no regular income, and no job leads. We really weren’t sure what we were going to do and were laying as low as possible at the time. Some health issues had set us back significantly, and drained our emergency savings as well. I felt that a garden was a necessity for us since there was land available for us to use.

This would be our second Garden plot together. We had learned some things the first time around when we built our first garden from scratch at our previous home. There were some things we wanted to do differently this time, and one requirement was a flat gardening area. The garden site that was designated to us was not flat to begin with, but we did our best to make it work.

Garden Plot before plowing

Now, I know the picture makes it look like our gardening area is right in the thick of a blackberry patch, but that’s not really the case. The blackberries are just above the plowed area you see in this next picture.

Freshly plowed garden plot, preparing new soil for garden

100′ long by 50′ wide. That was another thing we learned from our previous garden, we wanted something bigger to work with! Yes, this is a pretty good sized garden, but I loved it and would be thrilled to triple the size next time I put in a garden. 🙂

This was the first plowing. What a rough and bouncy ride behind the rototiller!! I’m so thankful I have a strong man to live life with. There is no way I could garden without my man and all his hard work. As I continue showing you pictures here, you will see a lot of work from him and not much from me. That’s because I can’t do this kind of work! But later on, once it is time to tend to plants and harvest, you will see a lot more work from me and less from him. We make a great team and balance each other out, both in what we enjoy doing, and in our strengths and weaknesses.

You can see that our garden plot is on a significant slope. Not quite as steep as our first garden was, but we really wanted to get as flat as possible. Our rototiller has a handy dandy little snow plow blade attachment which my hubby was able to use to push the dirt around and encourage a flat gardening space. In order to accomplish this, he ended up making 3 different garden tiers, which ended up being pretty fun on the landscaping side of things as we worked in the plants. Boy oh boy was it ever a lot of work to move all that dirt though!

Leveling new garden area for first year garden

With our property overlooking several hundred acres of wildlife refuge, a tall and sturdy fence was going to be a must! I’d never seen so many deer in my life. The deer come through every morning and night, and sometimes throughout the day as well! And they are not afraid of anything. Once again, a job for my husband!

Since we didn’t have the money to be investing in fencing materials, Jonathan brainstormed a plan to build the garden fence using wood and branches from the property. We had recently cut a few trees down, and there were plenty of nice rails to work with. The only expense to build this fence was fuel for the chain saw, a few nails, and a couple rolls of deer netting to go around the perimeter.

Building a log rail fence with our own wood

This job would have been significantly easier with some nice Tenon cutters, but Jonathan made it work with his chain saw and hand drill. Sometimes you just have to get the job done with what you’ve got! I helped dig the holes for the posts as best I could, but I never could get them deep enough. Thankfully we did have a post hole digger to make that job easier.

Check out that view! To be enjoyed every day as we gardened here. I never get tired of looking out over this view. Originally, this was to be the main entrance to the garden, as there is somewhat of a road coming down to this gate. Whenever a truck load of compost/fertilizer is needed, we are able to back the truck right up to the garden’s edge. And with the acidic soil we are working with here, we brought in several loads of compost and fertilizer!

Here is a close up example of the fence assembly. Jonathan used the chain saw to cut the 4 sides, and then used his drill to hollow out the center, as well as a hammer and some chisels. What a lot of work! As always, he gradually found a faster approach as he continued working his way around the garden.

You can see here that this hole goes all the way through the supporting log. Later on, our support beams weren’t big enough to allow making a hole all the way through without weakening the beam too much. If I remember right, the solution was to shave down the rails to fit into a smaller hole.

It was fun to watch this fence march it’s way around the perimeter of the garden! Since I couldn’t offer much help with the construction, I made sure to supply lots of drinking water, and I packed many a lunch and dinner out to the garden area as Jonathan worked non-stop building this fence so we could have the garden protected from the deer by the time planting season came around.

These pictures give you an idea of how the fence was made, cutting the holes in the support beams with the chain saw. Yes, it was a lot of work! Yes, it took forever! Yes, it saved a lot of money on fencing! Was it worth it? That is debatable. 🙂 In our situation, it’s what we had to work with at the time. We made it happen.

Building a wood rail garden fenceThe best of the fence building, in my opinion, was the gate. Jonathan took this from the tree, all the way to a gate in one day. Yes, you read that right…all in a day’s work!! He cut the wood, hand milled it down to size with his chain saw, squaring it up as he went. Leaving the bark on one side of the wood gave it a very artistic and beautiful look! He even hand carved the latch and handle!!

Finishing it off with some chicken wire and a few pieces of store bought hardware, he hung the gate in the entryway to complete the hand built garden fence.

This gate has received more complements than anything else in our garden! Everyone just loves the rustic look and artistic addition to the garden. It has served it’s purpose very well. We did have to add some deer netting across the top of arbor/gate in order to keep the deer from jumping over the gate to enjoy some luscious garden snacks.

Handmade garden gate, hand milled lumber too

At long last, with the fence in place, I could finally start planting! My little starts were getting a bit impatient waiting for the completion of the fencing project. I couldn’t plant until the fence was completed or the deer would be sure to finish off my precious plants in one evening!

The tomato and pepper plants were the first to go into the ground. I’ve grown them from seed before, but it’s just as easy and economical to purchase the starts, so long as heirloom varieties are available locally.

Later in the season I knew I would need to add plenty of compost and fertilizer to the garden soil, but the plants were nearly root bound so I went ahead and planted. It worked out fine even though this was very clay soil. The main trouble I had was with watering. The soil got so compacted that the water wasn’t soaking into the ground. Spreading mushroom compost on all of the beds solved this problem nicely.

Leveling raised garden beds

In my first garden, I double dug every bed by hand with a pitch fork and a shovel. Since then, I’ve learned that you can get the same affect by raking the rototilled dirt out of the walk paths and onto the beds. The roots can still grow deep, and it is so much easier on your back! After marking out where I wanted the walk paths, I raked the beds into approximately 8′ x 4′ sections and started planting!

Bell pepper plants ready to be planted in first year garden soil.

Putting in a new garden

This girl was one happy gardener! I had waited 6 weeks for this day to come. The day I could play in the dirt, put my happy little plants in the ground, and grow my biggest vegetable garden yet! Yes, I was very happy. I love every minute of productive hard work, which is practically the definition of gardening.



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