It only seems appropriate the day after I finish toiling the dirt and hauling six truckloads of garden soil from the street into my garden, there’d be an Armageddon styled wind and snowstorm to hit Salt Lake City.
In the middle of April.
On Tax Day.
I swore up and down that I wouldn’t be planting till after April 15th but how could I have predicted the end of Western Civilization in Utah or the first 175-pages of The Stand? Sure, I have a green thumb but I never would have guessed I have a green brain.
The garden was taking shape.
I’m lucky to have a 15×33-foot plot behind our garage. It’s fenced off with a 7-foot concrete wall serving as a border along the north and west sides with a chain link fence running along the south. It’s butted up against the garage on the east and that’s good—it gives the Mt. Hood hops something to grow up along.
Because we’ve had such a mild winter, I was able to do a lot of work to get the garden ready for a good summer. It started with getting the sprinklers repositioned and installing a hose. First thing first, I found the main water line into the garden and ran a spigot against the north wall. Not too hard of a project. My thinking was that since the servo that controlled the sprinklers was located in the front of the house that if I dismantled the valve, there’d be a constant flow of water. The next step would be to install a new control valve specifically for the garden and run the control into garage. Since the garden already had sprinklers run through the ground, I would just tie in the new control valve to the original sprinkler line.
Believe it or not—it actually worked on the first time.
Because I wanted to use soaker hoses, I just stubbed up four new hubs and Viola! No more wasted watering.
Because morning glory is super invasive, I wanted to put down weed blocker. But first, I had to grade the garden. I ran out to my favorite place in Utah, the SL County Dump, and bought a truckload of compost for $30. It is really good soil—almost good enough to use in the garden boxes. Countless wheelbarrow loads later, I smoothed out the ground until it was as close to flat as possible.
Now came the really crappy part.
Laying out the weed blocker was a real pain in the butt. I knew that there needed to be some overlap to halt any morning glory from getting through but it couldn’t be too thick to stop any drainage. I didn’t want the plants’ roots to rot. I settled on a six-inch overlap and got to work rolling it out. I staked it down with these Earth staples (they look like big U-shaped wire hangers) until the entire garden was covered. This part really stunk because it seemed like my knees found any loose rock in the dirt and put a ridiculous shock of pain through my body.
Mercifully, I was able to get it done in under a day.
The next step was to build new planter boxes. I first lumbered 10-inch Douglas fir framing boards into 6×4 boxes. After cutting, sanding, staining and sealing the boxes a gun smoke brown, I nailed them together and added angle brackets to strengthen the corners. I only built four of them for a variety of reasons. The first was that I wanted extra room in the garden to have loose terra cotta pots, sculptures and shepherd hooks for wind chimes and upside down tomato plants. Also, I wanted to put 10-inch cinder blocks to grow herbs and break up the terrain. The third was cost. Each of the boxes I built cost almost $50. I figure I’ll get at least 5-7 years from the boxes but I didn’t want to get crushed on the price. Also, I wanted some room to move around in the garden—maybe even put a bistro table set for private dinners.
I built one last 8×4 box out of pressure treated wood and a 4×4 box for perennial flowering plants out of scraps left in my garage. In the picture below, it’s the two reddish-brown boxes in the back. With the hops box, that makes seven garden boxes in the garden.
I hauled the boxes out into the garden, positioning them with the stubbed up sprinkler heads and drove out to my happy place again. Using another truckload of compost from the SL County Dump, I packed the sides of the boxes, covering the weed blocker that I had already laid down.
The last step, and I’m glad I got this done before the major snowstorm, was to buy potting soil from Millcreek Nursery and fill the boxes. To say this was backbreaking would be an understatement. It took four yards (that’s eight scoops on a front loading tractor) to fill my boxes. Sure, it would have been easy enough to do if they delivered but it was all loaded into my truck and pushed one wheelbarrow at a time.
Something they don’t tell you about soil is that it weighs a lot more than compost. Compost is light and fluffy. Think decomposed cotton candy. Soil is just wet dirt. I Honestly thought that I was going to at least loose some weight hauling the soil but I treated myself to a baker’s dozen worth of beers after each truckload.
After finishing loading the soil into the boxes, I treated the garden to my first garden sculpture. It’s a wagon wheel wind chime. It’s made in India out of brass and looks pretty good. I’m sure I’ll be going nuts during the Art’s Festival to fill out the garden.
I’m relieved that I got all of the heavy lifting done before the snow came and I know how important it is for any additional precipitation we can get. I’m totally worried about having droughts and wildfires this year.
Next step is planting. Since nobody really reads this blog, I’ll probably just put up a bunch of pictures of the different plots. Keep your eyes peeled for squash and cucumber trellises.
Ben Raskin works for USANA Health Sciences as a Communication Writer. He can also be found Wednesday through Saturday at Keys On Main. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out his podcast at the Salt Lake Tribune, Trib Sports Radio.