So you want to build a garden? Part III

We had decided to build our own backyard urban garden in Pacific Beach, San Diego, California; just four blocks from the beach. Planter boxes had been built, soil and beginner plants purchased and we had just figured out our plan for where to put everything. (See Parts I & II)

Disclaimer: For those of you who know a lot about gardening, some of the things we did will probably make you cringe or laugh. ūüôā ¬†Please remember we are¬†newbies. ¬†We quickly decided¬†to call this our ‘practice garden’. ¬†In fact, we’ve adopted the word¬†‘practice’ to anything we’re learning or trying for the first time and have decided this will be our ‘practice garden’ until May of this year. Otherwise our crippling need to be perfectionists would stop us from doing anything. ūüôā

Here’s the powerpoint slide I made after planting.¬†¬†It’s¬†crude and not to scale, but¬†shows the lay out of what we did.

West ¬† <—————> East

May 2016

East fence: (full sun) This row of tomatoes and flower bulbs were transplanted from Adams’ previous residence. Moving them after they were already fruiting was a terrible idea, especially in unamended¬†crappy soil;¬†but he didn’t want to leave them behind.¬†We added marigolds & basil as companion plants and string for trellises. ¬†They never recovered much. ūüė¶East Tomato.JPG

Planter Box One: (full sun) all planted! ¬†Little pea plants in the back are so cute with their bamboo trellises! ūüôā ¬†It took us a month to figure out peas, in May, full sun (even in San Diego where they can grow year round near the coast) isn’t a great idea!

Box 1 S.JPG

The bare spot in the middle were rows of radishes, mustard greens and carrots; all from seed.

Box 1 .JPG

Front of the box (or North side) we planted cucumbers with dill and more marigolds since we had read they were an amazing companion plant.  All three ended up doing amazing here.

Box 1 N.JPG

Box Two: (full sun) We planted strawberries and catnip together with flowers for our own strawberry patch box.  Sage and thyme planted on the North & South sides. We added a six pack of assorted squash down the west side of the box.

You can see our row of watermelon in the ground next to the fence behind this box.  Putting our watermelon there was a terrible idea (too much shade, no room for the vines to go, no mound, too many plants, etc).  We loved watching them grow when they first started; but it later led to a lot of disappointment and exactly one watermelon that autumn. It was all a learning experience. Strawberry.JPG

We added crushed eggshells as well to keep slugs out & add nutrients to the soil. (We ended up buying Sluggo Plus in bulk).

Box Three: (half shade) This box was the one I was most excited about. It makes me laugh now to realize how much we crowded this box and how much better everything would have grown elsewhere. ūüôā ¬† Six heirloom eggplants, six heirloom cherry tomatoes, six heirloom peppers + flowers, marigolds & basil. ¬†I’m surprised anything grew! The cherry tomatoes did okay and the basil thrived here. The other plants were stunted and never flavorful.

You can see our rose bushes and sun parasols next to the west wall (mostly shade).  Our roses have grown fine there, our sun parasols, not so much. (I mentioned we were newbies, right!?)B 3.JPG

And here’s a photo of the entire area we planted. ¬†In the small pots we have mint, spearmint, chocolate mint, lemon balm, parsley, basil, cilantro, etc. ¬†Another big smile here¬†because all the above listed herbs don’t like full sun. ¬†We ended up moving them all into mostly shade off the ground. ¬†I swear by Sluggo Plus & Neem oil now to keep pests out.¬†Yard View.JPG

You can see our raspberries here on the right hand side of this photo. ¬†It’s been a year and I think we’ve only had one raspberry. ūüė¶ ¬†They send out runners like crazy but don’t produce. I ¬†think it’s time we moved them to a sunnier spot. (Next project?)


And here’s a full shot, including what the rest of the yard still looked like. (Ekkk!) We moved the pepper tree which was struggling in one of the raised boxes on the side of the house to the south fence (pictured left below). It loves it here, goes crazy with hot little red peppers year round.

And that’s our very first garden! ¬†It’s so fun to look at these first photos and see how much has changed and to think of how much we’ve learned. ¬†It was still so cute though!

My advice to any first time gardener is “Go for it!” ¬†You’ll have so much fun, but realize it is a huge learning process. Your plants are going to die, get eaten, get diseased, be overwatered, be under-watered, hate where you planted some of them and god knows what else!

It’s all worth it though; promise. ‚̧


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