Early this year I moved to a great little apartment in a fourplex behind a house. One of the best things about this unit is the lot. It’s in a rural burb not too far from the city. Additionally, we are sitting on a few acres so that means land for a garden and wood for building a compost pile.
I’ve often dreamt of having my own vegetable garden but for some reason when I had a house for 16 years, I never planted one.
Anyway, when my landlord gave me the green light to start a raised garden, I jumped on it. Let’s face it with the shutdown, becoming self-sustaining is not a bad idea!
Perhaps you are in the same boat as I so I would love to break down the costs and efforts in such a feat.
Plotting the Location
Before you even begin buying, measuring, and planning, I recommend you watch your yard daily and note how much sunlight different areas get. This was recommended to me before I began. Gardens need a lot of sunlight. Ideally, you want to plot your course during the growing season (summer) so if you are planning one for next year, now is the perfect time to be doing this!
Confession, I just watched my yard for a month in early spring and then talked to my landlord on where he’d allow me to do it. I was somewhat limited because of the woods and a septic system but through my observation, I knew it would work!
Keep in mind you don’t want your garden too close to a road or woods.
Raised or In-Ground?
Once you’ve got your spot, now you can decide if it will be in-ground or raised. I really have no opinion here other than I chose raised based on the suggestion of my landlord. Having a raised bed can be easy to work around when cutting grass.
Raised beds can make it easier to bend over and garden but the higher they are the more dirt you’ll need. Unless you’ve got a mound of dirt in your yard that needs moving, dirt costs money and elbow grease.
I purchased the following two 4 x4 raised garden beds from Costco:
Currently, Costco appears to be out of these beds so I cannot link to them. However, I bought them early Spring and spent $96.06 (including tax) and had them delivered to my house. I did end up connecting my two beds so it made one 8’x 4′
I started purchasing some supplies early so I could space out my spending:
- Landscape weed barrier fabric ($12.98+ tax)
- Garden staples ($9.98+ tax )
- 8 Rebar to reinforce the raised bed ($17.60+ tax)
- Fencing ($19.93+ tax)
- 8 -3ft posts ($26.72+ tax)
- Hose nozzle ($8.98+ tax)
Putting the raised bed together was literally a snap. My one regret is that I didn’t install the rebar until after I had the soil dumped. To be honest I wasn’t sure they were really necessary. Although, once the bed was filled with soil, it became apparent that the rebars provide support. Instructions are usually there for a reason. 😉
I had a few weeks in between building this and obtaining the soil so I put landscape fabric down to kill the grass. Although, I don’t think that is necessary if you are putting the soil in immediately after building it because the amount of soil needed here will kill the grass.
I once called it dirt and my friend corrected me that dirt is on our kitchen floors and soil is in the garden. 😉
So I knew I’d need to purchase the bulk of the
dirt soil and in honor of wanting to support a local joint, I ordered 1 yard of dirt for $32.02 (including tax) from Nied Garden Center. The lovely lady who helped me on the phone advised me against having it delivered because they’d charge me $40 for delivering 1 yard.
She assured me that I had friends who had a truck. What an honest and kind salesperson. And you know what? She was right, I do! I just didn’t want to ask for help but I got outside of my comfort zone and asked friends who were glad to help me!
How do you know how much soil you need? There seem to be a lot of calculators on the web but here is the one I used.
There are other ingredients that need to go into the soil for optimal growth. My good friend Shari was happy to share her soil recipe for her 8 x 8 garden:
- 5 ea. Hummus or compost
- 1 bag of play sand
- 1 bag of 3.8 cubic feet peat moss
- 12 cups Gardentone
Since my garden is 8′ x 4′ so I cut the above ingredients in half. ($41.94 including tax)
I was advised to not overcrowd my garden but I’m not sure I did so well at that directive.
Haha! Well, I was also advised that this is a bit of trial and error process which I can get on board with. Each year I’ll learn as I go and get better.
Here are the vegetables I planted this year:
- Two tomato plants (both beefsteak but one is a hybrid; $7.56+ tax)
- One cucumber ($2.99+ tax)
- One zucchini which might take over the whole garden! ($3.78+ tax)
- One summer squash ($2.99+ tax)
- 4 pepper plants
- Green bell pepper ($3.78+ tax)
- Banana peppers (2.99+ tax)
- Poblano peppers ($3.78+ tax)
- And one called patio variety peppers so we’ll find out what that is 😉 ($2.99+ tax)
- A dozen romaine lettuces (7.96+ tax)
- I’ve already been enjoying this weekly which is awesome because I eat a salad every day for lunch
- Several marigolds ($3.98+ tax)
Additionally, I have some potted herbs:
- Lavender ($4.28 +tax)
- Chives (dug up from Mom’s yard so, um, free)
- Cilantro ($3.78+ tax)
- Dill ($2.99+ tax)
The higher-priced veggies were purchased at Home Depot and the lower-priced ones were purchased at a local discount store called Marc’s.
These were all taken when the garden was first planed so things look small. As you can see I also put more landscape fabric down on top to help with weed control.
I really wanted to build a compost pile but knew I didn’t need anything fancy since we have woods on the property. I watched this YouTube video by Pure Living for Life and realized how dang simple this could be. BTW, Pure Living for Life is a YouTube channel of a modern couple building a debt-free sustainable home (off-grid). Pretty cool, eh?
Anyway, they used pallets and I realized we had a stack of pallets in our woods so I built this compost bin. Now my neighbors and I dump our vegetable waste, coffee grinds and eggshells here. Additionally, I add brown leaves and grass clippings. Stirring & keeping it moist is all it takes!
Closing Thoughts and Total Calculations
My sum total for the above is $330.79 (including tax). Keep in mind that next year I won’t need the raised bed, the big amount of soil, fencing, rebar, hose nozzle, and landscape staples so that would reduce this amount to $113.56. Basically, I can maintain an annual garden for approximately $100! That could be lowered even more by starting seeds.
I’m already enjoying the fruits of my labor as it brings me great peace while watering & maintaining my garden daily. Watering BTW needs to be done either at night or early in the morning but never in the heat of the day. Furthermore, I’ll be sharing and enjoying the literal fruits of my labor in the coming months. Up next will be creative ways to jar pickles and tomato & pizza sauces!
To be honest I’m not sure why I’ve waited so long to do this because it’s easy and a satisfying hobby. If you feel overwhelmed about this (ahem, that might be why it took me 47 years to do something I dreamt of) start by slowly gather knowledge. Then just begin!! Remember it’s a trial and error type of thing and like anything new, you never know until you take step one!