Gardening hasn’t been an interest of mine growing up, if ever. I did yard work as a child and kind of hated it – my job was collecting snails in a plastic bag around my mom’s rose bushes while my dad mowed the lawn. I grew up with an apple tree and two peach trees in Sacramento, my parents grew them in the front of our house and often the doorbell would ring around dinner time by people who walked by our home, asking if they could pick some of our peaches. My parents always happily said yes!
I forgot about yard work once we moved to a more low maintenance home in Granite Bay, less flowers, more bushes and oak trees, more cement patio area. I was also a teenager so good luck making me get outside on weekends. It wasn’t until I bought this house, five years ago and my husband wanted a garden, so much he insisted on where it should go, the very spot and so, I decided to attend local gardening classes.
This is why we started with – my apologies as it’s an old Instagram filtered photo and this is really the only photo I have! So sad!
Yucky bare cinder block, an old aprium tree and apple tree. Both have since been removed after fungus issues, spread by irrigation, so bummed but at the same time, I didn’t know how to use the fruit so it was almost a good thing – even though I don’t like removing trees. The raised garden bed we added when we moved in.
We built garden beds. I thought I’d give a few tips and show you how our garden progressed.
So you can get this (taken end of spring) –
Deciding where to put a garden
They say before you rip out any trees, watch the way the sun works for 4 full seasons. I would say if you haven’t moved recently, just observe what areas of your yard get a lot of sun and during what seasons.
Our backyard faces south which means plentiful light! However, summer heat means that poor bed fries in the summer! So we needed to add shade.
- Ideally your bed should get morning sun and be shaded by evening – this idea is best for warmer climates, like Phoenix, Zone 9. This is ideal for an all year round garden bed – however…
- If you live elsewhere, your beds may freeze. Then again, you probably aren’t gardening in the winter because you can’t unless you have a greenhouse.
- If you live in Zone 9 and want a summer garden bed, find one that gets morning sun and get shade by evening – this might be against a west wall (I’m thinking about adding one).
I broke the rules and put it on the east side so my beds pretty much get lot of sun, like all the time. I didn’t care because to me the location of it was more important that I see it to enjoy and found it convenient to pick lettuce and tomatoes to head into the kitchen.
It works. We also added fruit trees around so it can get some shade. I also know what to plant for which seasons that love sunlight and over the summer, I just let it all die except for basil and tomatoes.
I added another layer for deep root veggies – this was right after flood irrigation which is why the bottom few inches look wet.
How to build your garden beds
- Buy 2x (8 or 10) boards depending on your bed corner height, at desired length – tip: don’t go wider than 4′ since you want to reach the middle from both sides of the box.
- Buy these raised bed corners for your beds (we bought 10″ deep), or these planted wall blocks are cheap.
- Rip up the grass, turn it over upside down or remove it completely (best bet).
- Cover the bottom of the beds with layers of cardboard – start collecting old shipping boxes. Make lots of layers (I did 3), it will decompose and naturally block out weeds.
- Arrange dirt and sand mix delivered from a local landscape company – tell them size of your boxes and they can help you determine how much.
- Read this older post I wrote documenting our garden bed building – for an accurate a walk thru of photos on building the beds.
This is what we ended up with – after smooth stucco on the cinder block and brick along the top – it totally transformed our space – we painted it Behr’s Canyon Cloud.
A few months later, we planted a pear tree in the bush place by the back garden sink, (it too, failed).
I decided I wanted another bed because I was running out of room. Artichokes itself take up so much room and I want more! So, we added another bed, had the landscaper add more irrigation:
To end up with this:
I’m a bit obsessed with my neighbor that lives two doors down – the bougainvillea – can you see it over the top of the fence? Oh, and we replaced the pear with a rose bush and eventually a bougainvillea which has been happy since. I can’t wait for it to take over that back wall!
How to make sure your garden survives
- Don’t be discouraged when things die. You are learning and you will realize where things should go and which plants are perennials and annuals. I’ve killed about one of every plant so much of what you see that’s alive is round 2 or 3!
- Know what to plant, and when. Look up any local calendars online you can find that will help. Unfortunately the nursery sells out of season starters so it can be discouraging for the inexperienced.
- Have automatic drip irrigation. Water in the early morning and again in the afternoon. Water is key, sounds silly but it’s that easy. We use this one.
- Give plants shade – in the summer we move patio umbrellas on certain plants or baby citrus trees that need some help. You can put screens up to help. Or you can have a summer and winter garden bed!
Don’t forget a great garden hat, and wellies, check out this page for my favorite gardening gear.
References for those in Zone 8/9
- Urban Farm classes in Phoenix
- Vegetable planting calendar for Maricopa County
- AZ Plant Lady’s blog, she’s our horticulturist and a sweet friend!
Have fun growing your own food! If you have any questions feel free to ask and I will try my best to answer any questions. Also, if you are in Phoenix, you can start planting those veggie seeds. Come back next Wednesday to the blog to see how to build a jasmine trellis wall.