Front Gardens: A Work in Progress

This week has be unusually cool in our region so we thought this would be a great time to start prepping our gardening space in the front of the house.  Below is a picture of our house before we started clearing out the beds.

The front of the house before any projects had started.

The front of the house before any projects had started.

Our plan is to use the square foot gardening method. We will have gardens on either side of the covered porch and along the front of the porch as well. The first bed will be on the right side of the porch as this bed is already defined and has the most work to get ready.  We have a lot of shrubs, decorative grasses and weeds to clear out before we can get anything started.

My project was to clear out everything in the bed, leaving just the line of boxwood bushes in the back.  We are leaving these for now as they provide some protection from the afternoon sun.  The big bushes were cut down by my husband.  I started digging out the decorative grasses and pulling up the weed blocker that the weeds and grasses started growing on top of.  We are going to let the bushes dry out and the rest of the yard waste will be thrown into the compost bin.  Below are a few pictures of the progress on clearing the bed.

Pulling up the weed blocker.

Pulling up the weed blocker.

Clearing the bed and the extra bushes cut down.

Clearing the bed and the extra bushes cut down. The boxwoods are trimmed up and looking more uniform.

Here is what the front of the house looks like during the process.

Front of the house - during the clearing process.

Front of the house – during the clearing process.

Building a Compost Bin

One of the first things you’ll want to do when planning on starting gardens is to start composting. Composting is a great way to supplement your gardens with more nutrients so the plants grow faster and produce more. It is also a good way to reuse your organic waste. You can compost pretty much any organic materials your household produces.  Food scraps, grass clippings, leaves, and even human waste make great compost.

We thought it was crazy to buy a compost bin or tumbler given how easy it is to make one. Our original plan was to use wooden pallets for the bottom and four sides, which works just fine and is very easy to do. You can go to your local hardware or tractor supply store and ask if they have some pallets they need to get rid of. Chances are they’ll give them to you for free.

http://www.phoenixpermaculture.org/forum/topics/wood-pallet-compost-bin

Example of compost bin made from wood pallets

That plan changed yesterday when we were at a friend’s place and noticed a metal frame about 3x3x2 sitting there not being used. He offered it to us so we could use it as the frame for our first compost bin.

This is the metal frame that was given to us.

This is the metal frame that was given to us.

We have a lot of old lumber from a barn that was in a fire some time ago that was left by the previous owners. Most of it is usable for projects that won’t be bearing a load. I used several pieces of 2×6 boards for the base. (Eye protection is a must when using power tools.)

Cutting the boards to length

Cutting the boards to length

I used chicken wire for the sides to help contain the compostable materials.  I secured the chicken wire in two ways.  First, I removed the boards from the frame.  I wrapped the chicken wire around the top of the frame.  The chicken wire was 4 foot tall so I folded it over the top, doubling up the chicken wire on the sides of the bin.  The boards were then placed back into the frame to help secure the excess chicken wire on the base.  I then used ceiling grid hanging wire to secure the chicken wire to the eight side supports and top.

Adding chicken wire to the sides.

Securing chicken wire to the sides.

In about an hour, our compost bin was ready for the compostable materials.

The completed compost bin before adding any materials.

The completed compost bin before adding any materials.

My wife is in the process of clearing out the front garden bed, so there was a lot of “yard waste” that we were able to add to our bin right away.  We are also going to be using this for any kitchen waste that we have.

Yard waste ready and waiting to decompose!

Yard waste ready and waiting to decompose!

One of the major benefits we have already found with this bin is that it is easily moveable. Right now, we have this bin located just off of the back deck.  The main reason we placed it here was for my wife.  This way she can empty our compost container from the kitchen without having to go far. This is especially important when the weather is bad or during the winter months. And you know what they say, “Happy wife, happy life.”  We are open to moving the bin in the future, whether it be due to smell or to finding a more useable location for it.

We are trying to be as frugal as possible in all of the projects we are doing and hoping this inspires you to do the same.  This is a list of materials that was used in the project.

Materials:

  • Metal Framed Box – free from friend
  • Wooden Boards – free left from previous owners
  • Chicken Wire – already had on hand (can be found at local hardware store)
  • Ceiling Grid Hanging Wire – already had on hand (can be found at local hardware store)
  • Circular Saw
  • Eye protection
  • Tape Measurer
  • Pencil