Give your garden that boxed-in feeling

October 13, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Trevor (left) and Krissy Downs, with 2-month-old Blair, stand in their Alder Street home backyard with raised garden beds they have built, filled with topsoil and planted for winter vegetable crops. By Greg Farrar

Trevor (left) and Krissy Downs, with 2-month-old Blair, stand in their Alder Street home backyard with raised garden beds they have built, filled with topsoil and planted for winter vegetable crops. By Greg Farrar

With a lot of research, planning, hard work and a little luck, Trevor and Krissy Downs are looking forward to a vegetable crop this fall and winter.

“It is something I enjoy,” said Trevor Downs, an accountant, of their new raised garden beds in downtown Issaquah. “In the long term, we’ll probably save money at the store, but it’s something I enjoy and it’s self-sustaining.”

Trevor grew up on a farm. For Krissy, also an accountant, the adventure is new, but she said she would be excited to have fresh vegetables on the table.

“We know what goes into our garden,” she said. The couple’s first child, Blair, arrived in July. “You don’t always know what pesticides they put on things you find at the store.”Together, the couple created raised garden beds — which hold warmth and moisture better — of varying dimensions and lengths.

The project is one many are turning to to save money on groceries and at least one local woman has centered a business on.

“If someone has passion for learning how to provide some of their own food source, this is easy to do,” said Jessica Klein, owner of Pea Patch Gardens, which helps homeowners build and create raised beds.

“All you need is wood, nails, you need some dirt,” Klein said. “Once you have those and a hammer, you make your box, fill it with plant seeds and plants. The worst thing that happens is you kill a plant and you try again.”

The Downses spent a few months planning, and picked the sunniest areas of their yard, a tip Klein recommends.

“We wanted an oasis back here, with gardens and a patio, instead of patchy grass and gravel,” Trevor Downs said.

Eventually, the couple settled on four beds between 8 and 10 feet long, about 4 feet wide and either 16 or 20 inches deep.

They turned to a friend who owns a lumber mill to get a break on cedar 2-by-6 and 2-by-10 pieces. The cost was $200; without the discount, it would have cost $450, Trevor Downs said.

If you don’t have the tools or know-how to build a wood-framed box, you can purchase a ready made one.

The Downses also hunted around for the seven yards of soil they used, getting about half of the yards at Cedar Grove Composting, which has ultra-rich composted soil, and the rest at Pacific Top Soil, which was significantly cheaper, Trevor Downs said. They used Cedar Grove’s Web site soil calculator to determine how much they needed.

Krissy Downs purchased organic seeds online.

If you hunt around, the project can fit within a lean budget, Trevor Downs said.

“But I already had all the tools and I like doing construction work,” he said. “It could be tough for someone else.”

In all, he said he spent three Saturdays constructing and planting for about $450.

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

Spend time planning:

Mark off the area in your yard with sticks and twine to see where it will fit.

Choose the sunniest place on your property.

Plan for mature plants, not seedlings.

Check for water runoff patterns when you water the area. Make sure it doesn’t go toward your home or beds you don’t want washed out

Construction:

Use connections to reduce costs.

Get prices from several places.

Use less expensive lumber, but know it will need to be replaced in a few growing seasons as it weathers.

Purchase cedar lumber materials for a longer-lasting frame.

Buy seeds online and germinate them yourself, rather than purchasing starter plants.

Be ready for a few sore muscles.

Plant:

Research what seasons different crops grow best in.

Plant items with similar sunlight and watering requirements together.

Things that grow well:

Zucchini

Small tomatoes, like cherry and plum

Cucumber

Lettuce or greens, like kale

Carrots

Beets

Cauliflower

Strawberries

Peas

Beans

Rosemary

Thyme

Oregano

Chives

Parsley

Mint

Garlic

Leeks

Things that don’t grow well or take up a lot of space

Peppers

Eggplant

Corn

Squash

Source: Jessica Klein, owner Pea Patch Gardens

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