Over Memorial Day weekend, I planted a garden for two friends. They’d helped me with Sky’s surgeries and Bee’d just celebrated her 50th birthday in April. With a five-year old, they don’t have a lot of free time. I’d asked Bee during her birthday party if she was going to plant a garden this year. She said she’d love one but didn’t have the time to clean out the yard and get one going.
With them on the coast for the weekend, I’d offered to check in on their cats. Early Saturday morning, I let myself in and got to work. I found the key to the side gate (gotta love Bee’s organizational style!), which provided access to the back yard without having to haul everything through the house. It took almost all weekend, but I got their garden planted. I dug out their beds, added new garden soil and natural amendments, spray painted a few terra cotta pots to augment their beds, and made a few signs.
I’m a bit obsessed with small space gardening and put to use the information I’ve learned from my own garden and a few small space gardening books. I had a lot of fun doing this and I can’t wait t see the sunflowers growing and the pumpkin patch stretching out towards the wooden walk way.
Back home, I went through my collection of terra cotta pots (I have a lot from the previous home owner) and selected a strawberry planter (and then went to buy strawberry plants. Ha!) and a good-sized pot for an aloe (nature’s ouch gel). I figured with a small boy in the household, an aloe plant could prove helpful. Spraying terra cotta pots adds easy color to any garden and if you don’t like the color, just spray paint them another color. Painting these pots also helps to lower evaporation rates.
I added soil amendments to their two existing boxes. The box on the left was planted with cucumbers (metal trellis), pole beans (bamboo trellis), and a tomatillo. It receives good morning and late afternoon light but is shaded in the afternoon. That’s important for the cucumbers and beans which tend to wither in the California summer sun. The trellises were easy to construct. I found some wire fencing in their garage and simple turned it vertical and supported it with a few bamboo stakes. The bean trellis I constructed out of bamboo stakes. The box on the right receives sunlight in the hottest part of the day. I planted it with two types of tomatoes and three types of peppers.
In their existing raised bed, I removed a lot of the clay soil, added a few bags of garden soil along with chicken manure and bone meal. This should help the plants get established. In this bed, there are two pumpkins (foreground), two eggplants (right side), a zucchini (under the sunflower banner), a spaghetti squash (to right of Bee’s Garden sign), and a watermelon in the bed section by the fence (top left in photo). As I’d selected a more viney watermelon variety, I added a red tomato cage for the watermelon to grow up. I placed bamboo stakes in the ground to mark the location of the sowed sunflower seeds. I planted the viney plants here, hoping they’d grow outward to fill the gaps between the bed and the wooden walkway.
After everything was planted on Sunday, I came home, went through my wine barrel wood scraps, got paint out of the garage, and made a few signs to personalize their garden. I painted Andy a pumpkin patch sign, Bee a garden sign, and for Colin, a sign for his newly planted herb barrel.
Before locking up the house, I took one look and smiled. Yup, perfect. A thoughtful birthday gift for a dear friend and her family. Bee contacted me when she got back – she loved it. While I’d just intended to clean out their garden and plant, it wasn’t until I got working on it that the other ideas came to me – the sunflowers, the pots, and the signs. The signs were nearly an afterthought, but seeing them in place, it added the personal touch I’d wanted.
I had a lot of fun and think about making this a side business. Too busy or tired to plant your summer garden? Don’t think you have the space for a garden? Garrison’s Garden Service to your aid – specializing in small space gardening. HA.
The cost of the project was just about 100 dollars which included plants, soil amendments, garden soil, seeds, and bamboo stakes.
June 26, 2016 update:
Went over for an impromptu BBQ today, and took a few pictures. I forgot to get a picture of the herb barrel, but it’s doing great too. The artichoke and strawberries are struggling a bit, but the rest, as you can see, is growing WILD. The sunflowers are about 18 inches high and the eggplant are covered in blooms. Everything is looking great!