Monday, April 19, 2010

Parking strip veggies

Our backyard is pretty shady.  I mean literally.  And, as I've said in the past, chickens are pretty destructive.  It didn't make sense to try to carve any more space out of the backyard when there was this area out front that was un-used and gets full sun.

Yes.  The parking strip. 

Gene was going to build raised beds.  Then he wasn't when we saw the tax bill.  Then the tax bill was lower than we had initially thought.  The raised beds were back on (thank gawd). 

We got the materials on Saturday, as well as a yard of Tagro, which you can't see here.   

Because I really did not want to pull up the sod, I decided to smother it instead.  To do that, all you need is cardboard or newspaper.  My neighbor's mother-in-law had a stack of boxes to be recycled, so my neighbor brought them to me instead.  It took me about an hour to pull off all the packing tape and labels and to remove staples but eventually I had enough cardboard to line 2 of the beds.  I used newspaper on the last one.

Some advice if you use cardboard & newsprint to smother grass:
1. Don't use glossy newsprint.  Its coating won't allow it to break down.
2. Use newsprint that is printed with soy-based inks.  A call to your local newspaper can confirm the ink type.
3. Avoid cardboard with heavy printing, like the type electronics come in.  It won't break down, either.
4. Don't plant deeply if you are going to plant immediately.  It takes quite a while for the grass to use up the energy stored in its roots and to die.
5. Remove all tape, labels, staples, and anything that might not decompose or else you'll be pulling it out of the dirt for years to come.

The whole neighborhood knew there was a mound of Tagro around somewhere.  My next door neighbor said that he was going to fart to make things smell better.  Tagro reeks to high heaven for a couple of days.

It's almost as if the dirt moved itself magically.
Let me just say this: it did not.

I'm going to put in 2 raised beds on the right half of the parking strip instead of the 3 on the left side.  We have to be mindful of the water and the gas lines.  If the City ever needs to access the lines we won't have to pull out the beds.  We will put a raised bed at the top of the slope here and plan to put some raspberry plants there.  This side of the slope will eventually be about 50-60% herbs and the rest ornamentals.  You can see that the rosemary likes its home next to the stairs.

Once all the dirt was in place, I planted 2 of the 3 raised beds with cilantro, dill, parsley, okra, leeks, broccoli, potatoes, basil, and celery.  Since I've never had full-sun beds, this year will be an experiment to see how things do.  This is our view from the front porch of the parking strip, asparagus/strawberry bed and onion/garlic beds.  You can see why it's important that the veggie gardens and raised beds be attractive: they are on full display.

I didn't plant anything in the raised bed to the far left because I ran out of dirt.  A cubic yard looks like a lot until you start using it.  I'll plant tomatoes in that bed.  Depending upon when the 2 others are constructed, I'll try corn & more tomatoes in those.  Home-grown and -canned tomatoes are delicious, and I use them all winter long.

Here is the bed with the rhubarb and blueberry plants.  The retaining wall marks the property line.

I need to go clean off and rehang the front porch swing so that I can sit and admire my handywork.


  1. That looks awesome! Can't wait to see pics of everything all planted and growing! :-)

  2. Nice work, that's what I'm talking about. Tear out that worthless grass and grow more crops! We're still trying figure out where everything should go this year. We have such a high foot traffic area (not that I'm complaining) that I'm reluctant to put anything outside the fence.

  3. What a fun project! Your raised beds look great and it's going to be so much fun to watch it grow. Thanks for sharing.