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Find the Farmer Within You: Start a Home Garden

July 1, 2020

The Corona Virus pandemic has altered our way of life. Social distancing and quarantining has forced many to stay at home with extra time on their hands. Hoarding and strains on the food system supply chain have meant irregularities of what’s available at the grocery store. The solution: start a home garden.

There is the adage to never let a good crisis go to waste and so I took on the challenge of starting a vegetable garden as my goal this spring. I rationalized it like this: It’s perfect weather for being outside; I can’t get fresh produce because the farmer’s market is closed; I’d like my family to be a little less dependent and a little more resourceful, especially during a pandemic; and I wanted to accomplish something lasting that I could be proud of—besides cleaning my closets.

I decided on a home-built, raised-bed vegetable garden. Research led me to choose to build 12 foot by 4-foot beds made from 6” X 6” cedar boards stacked 3 rows (18”) high. Cedar offers the most durable, longest-lasting material without any of the byproducts found in pressure-treated wood. I was able to find cedar in 16-foot sections, allowing for one cut to achieve the measurements I needed. The material was big and heavy so it was essential to use a landscape company or find a lumber yard that delivers.

After clearing a spot in the yard, I put down a weed mat and started stacking the frame, alternating the joint orientation. The bed was attached to the ground with rebar pounded through pre-drilled holes. Each course of the frame was screwed down to the previous and in the corners to make for solid construction. Inside, I started with several inches of sand, added filter cloth, and then a mix of 25 percent compost and 75 percent potting mix. I topped it off with a drip-line irrigation system that I plan to run off of a rainwater catchment tank.

The great thing about becoming a home farmer is working out problems yourself. There are hundreds of possible ways to build raised beds. If you start now, you can plant peas, okra, and pumpkin seeds and work out any challenges you have with sunlight, soil, irrigation, and pests. That way, when the fall planting season arrives, you will not only be farming, you will be farming and eating the vegetables of your labor.

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