Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
November, 2010
Regional Report

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These planting boxes made of 2X12 lumber makes a great above-ground gardening beds.

Purchase an Above Ground Garden

When most people think of having a garden, they imagine going out to some spot in the yard and rototilling or spading up the soil to turn the area into a garden. This is the way I've started many gardens. It takes time and lots of work to turn an unimproved patch of earth into a productive garden. Plus, you have to have a spot in the yard with the potential for becoming a garden.

Many people would like to garden but simply don't have the space to create a traditional garden. They may be on a very small lot or lack a sunny spot where there is also soil. Concrete and asphalt don't take well to rototilling.

There is another way. Purchase a garden and set it on top of the ground. No I'm not crazy- well, not about this at least! I am talking about purchasing either some large containers and potting soil, or if you want something larger, supplies to create raised beds and some compost/soil mix.

If you go with containers, choose very large containers such as the super light poly pots that look like terra cotta or stone. For more space half whiskey barrels work well. Need something even larger? Try galvanized tubs or livestock water troughs with holes punched in the bottom for drainage.

I have two old wheel barrows that I like to grow things in. They are filled with a potting mix and one is currently a mini vegetable garden planted with lettuce, kale, broccoli, bok choy, spinach and chard.

The raised bed option involves building an above-ground container out of lumber, cinder blocks or dry stacked stone to hold soil. I like the look of cut stone, but the cinder block option is WAY more economical. These blocks can be set in whatever design you want. Stack them 2 or 3 blocks high and fill the area with a soil/compost mix and you have an instant raised bed.

Look for a local soil retailer who has a landscapers' mix, bed mix or some other compost blend that has been screened to remove the larger, undecomposed chunks. These mixes work great in a raised bed and, when purchased by the cubic yard, are much less expensive than most potting soils.

You can put a garden like this over asphalt or concrete. The growing mix is deep enough to support strong growth and a productive garden with some supplemental fertilizing. With this approach that section of driveway or rocky outcropping that has good sunlight can be a productive vegetable garden. A patch of asphalt parking lot or area of hard packed earth can have a garden plopped right down on top of it!

However I use this technique in areas where there is soil. I like the fact that the raised beds with cinder blocks make the plants easier to access. I've also found that a good soil mix is as productive as garden soil that has been built up over time.

The purchased garden opens the option of gardening to people that would not have had the spot otherwise. It expands the gardening area for others with only a small space currently. One additional benefit is that if you live in a rental property and move, you have the option to take your garden with you!

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