Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My New Garden Beds

My new garden beds about ready for planting! I used free, local, volcanic rock.
In the background, you can see the recycled shipping palett compost bin my father built during his recent trip
I thought I would share one of the projects is my garden. I just finished (almost) setting up my garden beds. I just need to plant seeds and seedlings. Very exciting!
Those of you in cooler climates may be thinking I am just a bit too late, or way too late, for a Fall garden, but in the Azores, it is perfect planting weather. We are in a maritime subtropical temperate climate. The Winter temperatures never drop below freezing. It is actually a more mild Winter, though more windy, than my previous garden in Turkey (a Mediterranean subtropical temperate climate).  So, I figure I'll be planting all my cool weather crops within the next few weeks, and be enjoying fresh greens and veg through the Winter.

My "Lower Garden". The spot I chose for the first garden beds.

I also thought I would share all the reasons I set up the garden beds where and how I did. It may be obvious for those with a lot of gardening experience, but not so for those with minimal time in their own garden. The first decision was location. As I am located just about 100 yards (90 meters) from the rocky, exposed beach, I get a lot of wind. The bougainvillea lining the wall in the photo above were almost decimated from Tropical Storm Nadine during her first and second visit to our island. Fortunately, the patch of earth I call the Lower Garden has pretty good wind protection from the surrounding walls and hedge. It literally sits about 5 feet (1.5 meters) below the rest of the garden, but it has great drainage. Even with the prolonged rain from Nadine, there was no puddling.
The next decision to be made was orientation. In the photo above of the Lower Garden, south is to the top of the photo, east is to the left, west is to the right, and I am on the north side taking the photo. This means the sun will progress from left to right (east to west) through the day. By orienting the beds on the north-south axis, the sun will hit both sides of each bed. Taller plants will be planted on the north end so that the southern sun (shining to the north) will hit more leaves, and the taller plants will not shade out shorter plants. Other gardeners run their beds east-west and plant all their taller crops on the north side as well; this is just another way of doing it. Of course, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, then just switch north and south.
Rock walls and grass barrier in place. My Dalmation overseeing the project.

My last decision was how to make the beds. I am a huge fan of raised beds. Do I think they are the only way? By no means, but I think they will work great for my situation. I had a large pile of local volcanic rock piled up in a corner of the garden, and I decided to use these to make the sides of the raised beds. There were a number of reasons for this. First, they were free. Second, they were natural; chemically treated wood is commonly used, but I am not a fan for a lot of reasons. Third, the dark rocks would heat up in the sun which heats up the soil faster and improves the microclimate of the beds. The rocks will also radiate heat at night. I live in a cooler area even though it is not cold, so the additional heat will be nice.

I earned a greater appreciation for the builders of stone walls, because stacking rocks on top of each other in a linear fashion is not nearly as easy as it looks. There was a lot of rearranging and restacking and checking balance and stability. It was actually quite fun, but building a wall more than two layers would require a lot more time and skill.

I chose to line the beds with a number of layers of brown packing paper from our move. I saved as much of it as I could for just this reason, but I also have used it as kindling for fire starting. This will smother the underlying grass, slowly break down over time, and allow the bed plant roots to burrow through this layer and deeper into the soil.

That's it for now. A glimpse into my thinking and creation of my new garden beds.

Oh - these beds are about 4 feet x 12 feet. That's 48 square feet (4.5 square meters) per bed or 96 square feet (9 square meters) total. Not to bad!


  1. Your new garden beds look nice! I like that you simply placed big round rocks around it instead of a wooden box. I like your small lower garden as well. It looks small but there seems to be quite a lot of plants growing there.

    Katy Eagles

  2. I love gardening and having a wonderful and beautiful garden really feels good. Garden beds looks good and the stone pellets are making it more attractive. If you plant ornamental plants or flowers like orchids then it will look nice. But choosing the right kind of plant is important that can survive in the climate.

  3. I agree with Katy. Your lower garden looks too crowded. I think it's time for you to transfer some of your plants to a new garden bed. I'm pretty sure that your new ones are ready for the new plants. Hehe! How's your garden now? Can you share some plants that you placed there? Thanks!


  4. The garden beds look great! I also like the idea on how you chose their location. This will definitely help our friends out there who are trying to make one and are having a hard time figuring out how and where to place their garden beds. Thanks for sharing!
    Darrell Gardner

  5. Thanks for sharing! Very helpful. I'm trying to create my first raised garden bed.

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