garden-bedSummer is here! Give yourself, your landscape, and your community a boost by installing raised beds and containers that are filled with delectable edibles that will have you eating healthfully right into the fall.

This year I installed 4 raised beds in my front yard that are filled with strawberries, butter lettuce, fennel, pole beans, bush beans, wax beans, cucumbers, beets, and rainbow chard. I also expanded my backyard rolling wine barrel garden fleet to a total of 9. The wine barrels are filled with 6 varieties of tomatoes, 3 varieties of eggplant, 2 varieties of chili peppers, radishes, carrots, mixed summer greens, and zucchini squash. I have the equivalent of a small farm packed into a space of less than 400 square feet (and I can move most everything around).

Mind you I do have watermelons, winter squash, artichokes, grapes, edible flowers, citrus and fruit trees scattered throughout the rest of my landscape. It’s always a work in progress, but I manage to get quite a return without making major investments in water, time, or cash. At the same time, my yard is filled with honey and native bees, other beneficial insects, and birds, birds, birds.

The raised beds and wine barrels are filled with WM EarthCare™ Homegrown compost that I purchased in 1 cubic foot bags at the retail price of $4.50 each less 20% because I had a coupon. Note: If you happen to be one of the hundreds to whom I gave a compost sample and coupon to over the last 12 months, now is the time to use the coupon. It will expire on July 31, 2012.

Mixed with the Homegrown compost was compost made in my home composter plus a blend of perlite, asbestos-free vermiculite, and aged organic chicken manure. This combination produces a growth mix that drains well and holds sufficient moisture to ward off wilting-provided you don’t let the material get too dry. In other words, apply water sparingly but evenly. A little goes a long way!

I sow beets, carrots, radishes, beans, lettuce and chard directly from seed in the mix with very good results. Once again, it’s important to remember to maintain even moisture during germination. Transplants-tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, bush-type squash-all perform well in the mix, but I do not recommend it for melons or running squash as they repeatedly wilt and require significant additional watering. These are best planted in-ground in mounds supplied with water via a soaker hose buried 2-3 inches into each mound.

Now if what I just described sounds like more work (and exercise) than you want, consider contracting with a local Bay Friendly landscaper or urban gardening service to install and maintain your beds at home. If you’re stumped about how to find someone to maintain your urban farm for you just send me an email at and I’ll point you in the right direction.

garden-bed1Live in apartment or have a yard with limited space and sunlight? No problem! You can still reap the benefits of a raised bed edible landscape. Look for schools, churches, and community organizations where you live that have a gardening program and find out how you can participate. In some communities, you can rent a small plot for a nominal fee and create the garden of your dreams. This arrangement may make watering and tending your garden easier and more enjoyable. Each community garden has its own social network that includes tasty edibles and recipes galore. Some programs may also include classes to help give you a greener thumb!

garden-bed2Summer is here! It’s not too late to make a raised bed, and grow!

Have a happy and productive Bay Friendly summer!

~The Dirt Dude