If you have followed my weekend homesteading reports then you know I'm building a new kitchen garden. But all the pictures and info are scattered across multiple posts so I thought I would make a new post that brings it all together.
As you can see in the top picture the garden is finally starting to look like well a garden! :)
But there is still a ton of work to do and I will be building up the log retaining wall at least 1 more log high and perhaps 2. Plus I still need to finish moving the soil back into the beds.
There are some aspects of this garden that make it a bit different from your average garden so lets start from the beginning.
Starting the Garden - Location
This new kitchen garden is located right outside my backdoor. This spot is sunny but actually not my sunniest location. It will get some afternoon shade from the house which is on the west side of the new garden.
So why did I pick this spot?
Well despite the afternoon shade it will still easily get 10+ hours of sunlight during the summers and even in the winter it will get a good amount of sun. This spot is actually sloped towards the morning sun.
Getting morning sun and early afternoon sun but then shade in the later afternoon is actually great for a garden. This way the garden gets full sun but avoids some of the harshest afternoon sun which reduces watering needs a fair bit.
In addition, being located right out side my backdoor will be great when it is time to harvest and when I need to do any maintenance work.
This is also why the garden has a big open area in the middle of it. This area will be a gathering area with a picnic table and eventually I will be adding a whole outdoor kitchen to this area. Then we will be able to harvest, cook and eat without leaving the garden!
Starting the Garden - Removing the Sod and Digging
The first thing I did after flagging out the garden beds was to dig out the sod. But I saved it for later. These garden beds are all hugelkultur beds so I wanted to add the sod back in later.
After removing the sod it was time to dig out the beds. There are 3 beds in total and digging them out took a fair bit of work. I did all the digging using a regular shovel.
The beds are approximately 1.5 to 2 feet deep though they are not 100% even in depth. But this will give the plant roots a lot of nice soft soil to grow through in the future.
Starting the Garden - Adding Wood and Returning the Sod
One of the more unusual things about this garden is the snags (dead standing trees) that I installed. Putting them in is no different than putting in a fence post.
Snags provide perches for birds and help create habitat for other beneficial critters. I have already seen multiple birds using these snags. I got the wood for the snags from actual snags from a forest that was being developed. This means the snags are already filled with forest microbes and fungi.
Not all of these forest critters will survive but some will which should benefit the new garden.
In addition to the snags, I also added a lot of large pieces of wood to the beds. Some of this wood was already rotten and others were fairly fresh. I like to use a mix of wood for more diversity of underground habitat.
This is called a hugelkultur bed which basically mimics a nurse log which is common in the forests here in Washington.
Once the logs were in I added the sod back but I made sure to push it between the logs and I also used soil to fill in all the gaps.
One issue people have with hugelkultur beds is rodents and the soil collapsing. In my experience this is due to people just throwing the soil on top of the wood without filling in the gaps. I view this as more of a slash pile with a topping of soil rather than a true hugelkultur bed.
In the long run both approaches will work but you will need to wait a lot longer for everything to settle if you don't fill in the gaps. Plus, in drier climates the gaps can make the hugelkultur beds dry out.
So while it takes longer I'm very careful to fill in all the gaps between the wood. This also makes it easier for plant roots.
Starting the Garden - More Wood and More Soil
So despite adding a ton of wood I decided I need to add more! Sometimes it feels like this project will never end...
The first thing I did was add a bunch of large logs that were all old and filled with fungi. Having these up top should help benefit the plants more quickly while the wood buried even deeper slowly decompose.
I then added a bunch of large(ish) branches to fill in the beds even more. I actually added a fair bit more after I took that last picture.
Most of these branches were aged and already partially rotten. I don't like using fresh stuff up near the top where the vegetables will be growing while getting established.
Going back to the first picture I then added the soil I had originally dug out on top of this 2nd layer of branches and logs. It was a pain filling in all the gaps between the smaller pieces of wood but well worth it.
I forgot to mention earlier that I had added logs around the sides of the bed as the border. These logs were salvaged from a prairie restoration site where they were removing the trees to restore the prairie. The site is an abandoned Christmas tree farm and is in bad shape.
So the logs are rough but they work. I will be cutting off any rough parts on the outside edges once I finish the garden.
Now that the wood is all covered the garden is really starting to take shape. But there is still more to do.
Next Steps to Finish the Kitchen Garden
I'm really liking how this garden is coming together. I still need to finish covering the wood in the 3rd bed with soil and then go back over all the beds and fill them up with all the soil I have left.
Hopefully this will be enough for me to add a second log layer to the retaining wall. Assuming there is enough soil I then want to bring in some nice rich garden soil and add a third log layer making the whole garden come up to my knees give or take a couple inches.
But all in all this garden will be roughly 3 feet deep which will be great for growing food.
I also need to build some habitat areas using wood and rocks. These areas will be part of the garden and will be planted with native edible vegetables. More on that later!
When the beds are all finished I will also need to mulch all the grass around the garden beds and in the middle gathering area. And of course add the picnic table!
So not exactly your traditional garden but here are the benefits of this approach:
- Little to no watering after seedlings become established.
- No need to fertilize.
- No future tilling.
- Lots of habitat for beneficial critters which will aid in pest control.
- Easy access for maintenance and harvest due to the location.
- Sequestering large amounts of carbon.
- Beautiful area for family and friends to gather.
I'm going to add edible flowers and plant perennial vegetables which while not unique to this garden will bring some additional benefits or support the existing ones.
All in all I'm excited about this garden but I still have a lot of work to do. I have done a lot already but I think I'm only about halfway done at the moment.
Hope you enjoyed this update and I'm sure I will be talking about this garden in each of my weekly homesteading weekend reports for the rest of the month. Watch for those if you want to follow my progress.
I will also make a summary post once it is all done that will build on this one.
Weekly Blog Post
- What You Need to Know About Permaculture Zones
- Companion Post on Steemit - Getting Started With Permaculture Zones
Related Blog Posts
- How to Work With Nature to Rewild your Homestead (And Why You Should Do It.)
- Hugelkultur Beds: The Best Raised Beds for Your Garden
- 3 Things Your Garden Needs to Attract Birds
- 5 Ways to Transform Your Garden into a Low Water Garden
- Control Garden Pests without Toxic Chemicals
Follow me for more posts all about homesteading, working with nature, and growing your own food: @wildhomesteading
And check out my blog - www.wildhomesteading.com for weekly in-depth posts on working with nature to grow your own food and start/build your homestead.