Tending the garden. That’s the concept. As I’m sure I’ll digress later, the parable of tending the garden was at the core of our recent move back to Davis. Our old lifestyle simply didn’t afford the time to “tend the garden.” Now, we can.

The previous residents did a decent job leaving us with about a dozen containers full of vegetables with drip irrigation run throughout the yard. We also have the great good fortune of having a few decent fruit trees to work with.

Here’s the basic layout facing west:

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The yard gets quite a bit of shade with the house on the south side and fairly mature trees providing afternoon shade. As a result, the area near the far fence is a bit of a swamp with our heavy clay soil.

Here it is looking east:

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First thing I noticed is the phenomenally under utilized bed underneath the fruit trees and next to the house. You can see the containers. I’ve seen this scenario before with the other house we had here. The answer is raised beds. I’m considering nuking a goodly portion of the lawn and just devoting that to vegetable cultivation, but I’m still hesitant to pull the trigger.

Whether I only terraform the bed or the entire space, either way it will involve raised beds. Now, I’m probably not as hardcore as Mel with Square Foot Gardening, but the prinicples are sound and especially with our heavy clay soil, raised beds are pretty much mandatory.

So at this point, I’m considering either 3′ x 3′ or maybe 4′ x 4′ beds. Our climate is has mild winters, so I should be able to keep cool season crops going all winter with some minor effort to avoid frost/freeze damage and the shade should help take the edge off the 90-100 degree days we get in summer.

The question has been whether to buy or build raised beds. A few years ago, it wouldn’t have been a question. You had to build. Now though, there are quite a few affordable options. Affordable if you intend on building something that will be functional and last.

I’m considering going with Natural Yards raised beds. When I price out lumber which would last (primarily redwood here in California, which I’m not 100% ok with), 2 by 6 starts getting pretty expensive. Natural Yards uses untreaded kiln dried cedar which is more plentiful and somewhat more renewable than redwood and equally rot resistant. The best part is that they used exactly the design that I want to: interlocking corners secured with a pin. Utter simplicity.

Landscaping timbers are expensive and a bit more than you need while pressure treated is out of the question for any vegetable garden because of the chemicals used to treat the wood. So, I think I’ll probably order a few to get started and see how it works out.

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