From Lawn to Backyard Garden Bed in 2 Hours

Reader Contribution by Joshua Burman Thayer and Native Sun Gardens
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In these wild and worrying times of COVID-19 that find our outdoor time restricted to our yards — for those of us fortunate enough to have them — please don’t forget, spring is here; it’s time to cultivate. I take comfort in this important springtime of cultivation and creating the scenario where young new life can thrive and produce copious amounts of much-needed summer produce.

Joshua’s 2-Hour Backyard Garden Bed

If you have clay soil, pre-soak your work zone the day before on order to make the ground softer.

1. If you plan to plant on a hill, use an A-frame measurement device (see photo) to determine a level line. On-contour raised beds constructed on a hill can collect and store wet-season moisture.

2. Flag out the high side of your bed line on the ground. The bed pictured is 3 feet wide by 12 feet long.

3. Pick out the soil 1 foot deep along the entire length of the bed. Turn the dug-up soil downhill to form the lower edge of the bed.

4. Dig out any loose soil with a shovel, and break it up to move it downhill.

5. After you have picked the soil and dug up what you can, use a hard rake to separate clods from the good soil.

6. Rake out, level, and hand-pick out weeds or large chunks.

7. Plant your summer crops. Pictured here are starts: cucumbers spaced 2 feet apart, beans 1 foot apart, peas 6 inches apart. Also, we planted seeds: corn 1 foot apart, beans 1 foot apart, and celery sprinkled into the soil.

8. As you plant, do so with an Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI)-certified soil. Good brands I go to often include FoxFarm and Happy Frog.

9. Water your garden bed three times per week. I’d water in April and enjoy a bountiful summer bed in July and August. If the beds do well, build a few more the next year. Experiencing excess shade? Plant your bed with culinary herbs and edible greens that will tolerate the shade.

To facilitate your backyard gardening, the author is offering 50% off design services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joshua Burman Thayer is a landscape designer and permaculture consultant with Native Sun GardensHe is the Urban Agriculture Supervisor for Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation in San Francisco, Calif. Find him at Native Sun Gardens and read his other MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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