[[Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of posts from Carrie Bettencourt about her backyard makeover. Read the first post describing the makeover project and second post on seed starting.]
Preparing the space was the hardest part of our garden conversion, but worth all the effort. We moved more than 30 wheelbarrow loads of soil to level the area — whew! I kept telling myself it was a one-time job that would not have to be repeated once done right. An enthusiastic husband is not to be underrated!
The CedarLast Raised Beds and Obelisk arrived in separate, easy-to-move boxes, with everything included except the drill. Most of the work was already done for me. Holes were predrilled and the directions were easy to follow. The instructions said that two people were needed to assemble the obelisk but I was able to do it by myself easily. The assembly of the components turned out to be a breeze and ALL the beds and obelisk were put together in less than two hours — amazing!
We had made a plan prior to choosing the components. On the installation day we altered that plan slightly. Once the final positioning was decided we went to work filling the beds and installing irrigation. We put down a weed barrier on top of the whole space before placing the beds. A 10-minute job worth doing.
We included planting space under and around the obelisk. Our intention was to have different-colored tomatoes growing up each of the sides. Until the tomato plants took off we would grow peas and use the underneath space for shade-loving plants. California is so warm that lettuce really needs a little extra shade to be successful. We also put companion herbs of basil and chives around the tomatoes.
Planting has been a treat.The height of the raised beds makes it comfortable and easy to access the whole bed. I can’t imagine going back to all in-ground planting. I guess I am spoiled now!
The original plantings leaned toward cooler weather choices. These plants would come in fast and then be harvested to make room for summer planting. Initially, we planted lettuces, radishes, kale, chards, herbs, edible flowers, and artichokes. We are keeping with the spirit of a true kitchen garden by making sure each plant has an edible part.
The plants love the new space and thrived right off the bat. We began eating salads by picking the outer leaves within a couple of weeks.
Peas love the obelisk, too. Not only is it a showstopper but it functions — all the tall plants are on the exterior, making harvesting easy. Ultimately our peas grew to the height of the obelisk.
We added areas of in-ground planting in the corners of the beds. This provided a space for perennials and made the beds look more grounded. Flowers were an important part of our planting. We are always thinking about attracting the pollinators.
I love greens! If I could grow just one thing, it would probably be greens, but don’t make me choose. Kale, chard, and mustard make great additions to salads and also work in a stir-fry.
Salad! Do I need to say more? Our salads include mixed greens, herbs and edible flowers. Every day it is like making a little painting on a plate — joy!
Did I mention strawberries? They are perfect in a raised bed. We chose a variety that would hang over the edges and produce all summer, making little spots of red. Considering the edges of a bed and what would fall over the sides adds depth and interest to the garden. Plus, can you have too many strawberries?