Starting a Chef’s Garden is easier than you think.
As the effects of inflation begin to take a bite out of our food budget (no pun intended!), and supply chain disruptions leave a lot grocery shelves empty, we’ve decided to take matters into our own hands and revisit an old passion: starting a chef’s garden.
We had a small chef’s garden on our sunny patio in Arizona several years ago.
Despite heat, water, and critter challenges, it kept us supplied with a variety of herbs and other delights for months on end.
Since then we’ve gardened on a condo patio, and now we’re planning some elaborate organic gardening on our current spacious plot.
This will include shade trees, two large raised gardens and fruit trees planted espalier style, with the branches spreading across a trellis for maximum exposure to the sun.
We’ll share the details as plans come together, but for now let’s talk about a simple raised-bed chef’s garden.
The Advantages of Raised-Bed Gardening
- Beds come in all shapes and sizes, so you can put one just about anywhere: your front yard, back yard, courtyard, balcony, anyplace that has enough sunshine and water available.
- You can set up your beds low to the ground, or raised enough that you needn’t even bend over to tend your plants.
- Raised garden soil warms faster than the ground, which means you can get a head start on spring planting.
- Weeds have less room to grow, and pest control is much simpler.
- You can optimize the soil mix for whatever you’re growing.
- Small-garden techniques will yield more crop per square foot than a row garden.
We started with two raised 6’ x 6’ composting beds from Vita Gardens.
The really cool thing about these keyhole gardens is that a compost area is included right in the garden to continually nourish your soil.
This raised garden is dead simple to put together. One person can do it by herself, but two people make the job go twice as fast.
Each of these raised gardens provide about 32 square feet of planting area and stand 23” high, so we can plant, prune and harvest without killing our backs!
You may choose something smaller and lower to the gound, which will save on the cost and labor to fill them with the proper materiel.
First, we cut away the sod in our garden area, saving it for fill inside the planters.
Since ours sit on the ground, a sheet of thick plastic went down to cover the topsoil, then a section of wire mesh to keep burrowing critters at bay.
Then a layer of medium sized gravel to ensure good drainage, followed by organic topsoil, compost, and worm casings for nutrition.
The combination of sod, soil and gravel measured about 2.5 cubic yards, or 66 cubic feet.
That required several trips to the garden supply store and a day of lugging it from garage to planters.
Thankfully we only have to do this once!
Now we have clean, rich, well-drained soil soaking up the winter snow—ready for spring planting.
As planting season approaches we’ll lay everything out with the help of The Family Garden Planner.
It helps calculate what to plant and when, and companion planting of each vegetable that helps the garden thrive.
These calculations tell us how much seed to buy.
We’re hearing from more and more people who are planning to garden this year, so some seed varieties are in short supply.
That will give us several weeks advantage to an earlier crop.
Meanwhile, we plan and wait.
We’re in the deep mid-winter now, but spring, summer, and a long beautiful growing season will begin soon.