Garden Part One: Plants In A Box

May 13, 2013

I am so lucky to be married to a man who loves to experiment – with beer, with bread and with plants. Here’s the first of several posts this summer on our backyard garden from Matt!

When the temperature starts getting warmer, you can only stare at the weedy garden for so long until you realize there’s an afternoon of work ahead!


But before I talk about Garden 2013, I’ll share a bit of info on how I built our raised beds.  Despite how it looks in these pics, our yard actually has a good bit of shade.  Thanks to some big trees in one of the neighbor’s yards, most of our lot is shaded after noon.  The garden is located in the sunniest area and gets sun until about 3-4pm in the peak of summer. 

Each bed is three by ten feet.  The planks are 2”x12” and the posts at the joints are 4”x4” and held together with lots of 4” screws.  The only special tool you might want to build these is a power drill, and that’s just to make the screws easier.  I did most of the sawing with a hand saw (whew that was a workout).  Precision really isn’t super important here – just chalk up any accidental gaps between the joints as deliberate, for “drainage”!


The most laborious part for me was actually working them into the sloped hill.  It took a lot of trial and error shoveling out the grass, scraping to make it level, plonking the big piece of woodwork in place, and then noting where it still wasn’t level enough.  Even now they’re a little slanted downhill, but it’s close enough that it doesn’t bother me.  We sourced high quality compost from a landscaper and didn’t make any adjustments to the soil underneath.

The last structural thing to talk about is the trellis thingy.  I looked online at all the different tomato trellis ideas and found this post:

I’ve used wire cages and wooden stakes in the past, but everything is so precariously balanced and flimsy.  I wanted something very sturdy and this fit the bill.  It’s built from 8’ T-fence posts, plastic clothesline, and the most interesting part – turnbuckles.  The turnbuckles allow the line to be tightened as it stretches with time and the weight of your giant tomatoes. 


The only downside of a such a sturdy structure is that it’s a pain to move!  But that’s one of those things you just have to accept – practicing good crop rotation is essential to having a good garden!  I’m considering building a second trellis in one of the other beds and then I could switch back and forth each year.  The other trellis could also be used for holding up other plants, or growing a row of beans.

Details on what we planted will be in the next post on Friday!

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 [email protected] May 13, 2013 at 8:08 am

I love my apartment life, but I can’t wait until I have a home of my own and can grow some veggies!


2 Leslie May 13, 2013 at 8:18 am

Thanks Matt. Your garden looks similar to ours, but we do not have a tomato trellis—yet. I have got to show my husband this post. Our garden goes in next weekend and tomatoes are what we plant the most of (and yes, those wire cages sometimes go down on a windy day, taking the plant with them).


3 Ali @ Peaches and Football May 13, 2013 at 8:21 am

I love your raised beds! I am not that handy to make them on my own so I bought a few kits to make a bed in my backyard. Now I’m letting the grass inside die out a bit and I’ll be dumping the soil in and ready to plant. It did take a while just to figure out where I wanted to plant – I won’t be moving these without a lot of effort! We have TONS of rabbits in the woods next to us though, so I still need to get some fencing to wrap around and protect my goods!

Can’t wait to see what you planted!!


4 Carly @ Snack Therapy May 13, 2013 at 8:27 am

I’m dying to start gardening! I live in an apartment, but we have a little porch/balcony thing that would totally fit a few boxes! It seems so daunting, but I suppose the best thing to do is just jump in.


5 Beth @ Mangoes and Miles May 13, 2013 at 8:52 am

This looks awesome! We built garden boxes as part of a volunteer trip this past spring, but it wasn’t quite as involved as yours was. That’s cool that you were able to build it on a hill. This is definitely one of those things that I want to try when I have a house of my own. I love DIY projects–but I’m terrible at them. So we’ll see what happens. 😉


6 Eating 4 Balance May 13, 2013 at 8:53 am

Turnbuckles are a godsend. We have those on our clothesline in our basement as well as outside and whenever the lines start to droop we just tighten them up!


7 Susan H @ The Food Allergy Chronicles May 13, 2013 at 9:07 am

Love the idea for the trellis for tomatoes…every year we have trouble keeping them upright! So glad we didn’t do any planting this weekend…we had hail, snow, sleet and the winds…oh my! My hubbie still endured the cold temperatures for my Mother’s Day feast…rotisserie chickens on the bbq. So good! :)


8 [email protected] May 13, 2013 at 9:43 am

I’d love to have more yard (actually any!) space to grow some of my own. I have some indoor herbs growing but that’s the extent of it! Uber jealous of your set up! :)


9 Nate May 13, 2013 at 9:51 am

Raised bed gardening is the way to go. Some friends of ours had some great results (espcially with leafy greens). We tried container gardening, but it didn’t work so well. Whenever we have a little plot, we’re definitely doing the raised beds!


10 Matt May 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

Raised beds has its pros and cons. What I like most is that putting it in the middle of the grass means that it starts much more weed-free than a typical garden. One of the worst cons, though, is that it requires a little more frequent watering than if your plants were simply in the ground. I’ve been toying with an irrigation system but haven’t decided yet.


11 [email protected] Runs for Food May 13, 2013 at 6:04 pm

We have a very similar system. The irrigation system my husband made involves a long hose to the raised beds and he tied it up the side of the trellis and it connects to some sprayers on top of the trellis. He has the water on a timer so it trickles on every other day and it sprays a mist on the beds. It has worked GREAT for the past 3 years. One summer was brutal and we had to water every day. One summer was mild and not as much water. We will use it again this year for the tomatoes and herbs we have.

We moved our beds last year so this is the 2nd year in the new location. And we get more morning sun until about noon and then shade the rest of the day.

Do y’all have any problems with fire ants? They love our raised beds. It’s like an ant condo for them.


12 Elizabeth May 13, 2013 at 6:44 pm

I was just going to ask if you were thinking about an irrigation system. I sent this post to my husband today, as we’ve (ha…who am I kidding…HE will be building them) been wanting to build raised beds this year. A lot of the sites he’s looked at online have recommended an irrigation system…but it seems a bit complicated. Thanks for posting this!


13 Matt May 16, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Once I built the raised beds and experienced the water requirement, I then lamented that I didn’t install irrigation the first time around. There’s all sorts of cool irrigation projects, and the biggest thing that concerns me is that I don’t want something that will end up limiting what I can plant. Thoughts like, “Oh, this bed has two hoses running through this section of bedding so I can never grow something with a deep root in this spot.” Stuff like that. I don’t know yet!


14 Miranda @ Cracked Up Chicken May 13, 2013 at 9:53 am

We have our first raised garden bed this year. We’re growing radishes, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and okra. I’m excited to see how it turns out!


15 [email protected] May 13, 2013 at 9:58 am

I just planted a garden and am just crossing my fingers that it comes up! It was much easier than I expected.


16 Claire @ Health Nut Claire May 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

Great post! Now I’m wishing (even more than usual) that I was a homeowner with a yard! Ah, can’t wait to have my own garden!


17 Chrissy May 13, 2013 at 10:08 am

I can’t wait to share this with my husband! He’s really getting into gardening and the lawn this year! Do you have any tips for keeping your grass looking so great? Thanks, Matt!


18 Matt May 13, 2013 at 11:13 am

Frequent mowing, leave the clippings in place, reseeding every fall and spring. If you do this, you’ll only have to water during the hot and dry months.


19 Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen) May 13, 2013 at 11:22 am

We built two beds like this last year and they are ready for planting. I love having my little gardens now. I’m so excited for the gardening season!


20 Sonia the Mexigarian May 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I have a huge space for a garden at home.I tried it last year but the damn varmints pretty much destroyed my crop from above and below. Since we are still battling the ground squirrel/gopher/vole problem, I have some raised beds closers to our patio and they are flourishing no problem. Love being able to go out there and cut some butterhead lettuce leave for my sandwhiches or cut kale for my smoothies :)

Can’t wait to see what you are growing. You didn’t mention chicken wire or any protective under layer. Do you have any varmint problem?


21 Matt May 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Nope! For whatever reason, our yard has pretty good pest resistance.


22 Katherine May 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm
23 Karen May 13, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Though I’m not lucky enough to have a yard and experience the joys of gardening – and the bounty – I found your tutorial really interesting and inspiring, Matt. I admire your curiosity and resourcefulness, as always. (I bet you are a well-loved bakery team leader.)


24 Emily @ The Sunny Studio May 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Hi Matt, thanks for a great post that has my green thumb tingling! I have a small herb garden in pots (I live in an apartment) which was recently attacked by aphids! I had to buy an organic produce pesticide in a hurry, but I’m curious for the future – what do you and Kath use for your garden?


25 Matt May 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I had aphid problems when I grew stuff in pots in our first apartment. Fortunately it’s not really an issue when you have a yard because there are enough predators around! So my impractical solution is buy a yard!

P.S. Aren’t the aphids hideous!


26 Amy May 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Nice! Our tomatoes are in containers this year which works well for us — everything else in the ground or raised bed. We put chicken wire around the bed, so no need for marigolds. I hope yours keeps the critters away! Good luck with the trellis, too.


27 alison May 13, 2013 at 6:20 pm

LOVE seeing a garden post. I’m on my fourth year of raised beds & love the different challenges that each year brings.


28 Sarah (The Simple Dietitian) May 13, 2013 at 7:11 pm

The raised beds look beautiful!! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while…thanks for the inspiration!!

Also. Regarding the last post where you had several people giving “advice” on how to reach your goal weight…I hope you don’t take it all too seriously, as you are beautiful and healthy and know exactly what you are doing in regards to your food choices and how you live your life. I find your blog so inspiring and I so appreciate your balanced lifestyle.

Hope you had a lovely Mother’s Day! 😀


29 KathEats May 13, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Thanks Sarah <3


30 Brenda May 13, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Why is this a question? Sarah seemed to be genuinely very kind! And I agree- you’re clearly healthy, just let it out of your mind.


31 Liz May 13, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Why the question mark? I thought Sarah’s comment was nice and complimentary! : )


32 KathEats May 14, 2013 at 5:57 am

I put a little heart icon from my keyboard and it translated to a ? Fixed it!


33 J @ Chocolate Covered Chickpeas   May 14, 2013 at 2:08 am

Beautiful garden, Kath! I love the look of the raised beds – can’t wait to try this out in my garden!


34 Chelsea @ Designs on Dinner May 14, 2013 at 4:13 am

Very cool. I love the idea of raised bed gardening. It looks like you’ve even started growing cats!


35 Tina B May 14, 2013 at 7:13 am

I’m wondering if the cat was there to supervise! :-) The garden looks amazing. I can’t grow anything, but I admire those of you who can!


36 Nina @ Too Hottie For That Body May 14, 2013 at 8:16 am

Love it! We have to wait until the very end of May since we’re in Colorado. My starters are getting pretty big let’s hope they can wait :)


37 [email protected] May 14, 2013 at 10:33 am

Love those garden beds – good luck!


38 zoya May 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm


I love your blog and check it out all the time. I was wondering if one of the days you could talk about your favorite Trader Joe’s products and their uses. There is so many things in there , sometimes it is hard to choose :-)


39 KathEats May 15, 2013 at 7:39 am

I know I have blogged about this but I can’t find the post!

Favorites include:

Sunflower butter
Smoked trout
Smoked herring/sardines
Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus
Nuts About Raspberries trail mix
Flax chips
Pumpkin butter
Giant bars of chocolate
Roasted/salted almonds
Salty peanuts

I don’t tend to buy a lot of their frozen or packaged foods, but the above are my staples when I visit.


40 greenMinimalism May 14, 2013 at 5:48 pm

This is fantastic. I had a garden that looked like that too once until I started living in an RV. I hope the tomatoes will be tasty.


41 Lisa @bitesforbabies May 15, 2013 at 6:37 am

I SOOO wish I had a larger backyard so I could plant a garden!! I’m SO jealous! Luckily for me, we spend every summer in Sardinia where my father-in-law has a HUGE one so I can at least get my fix there! 😉


42 Kate May 15, 2013 at 7:15 am

I never used a raised bed before. I will be curious to see what your results are.


43 Leslie May 15, 2013 at 9:03 am

Does the neighborhood cat ever use your raised garden boxes as a litter box? I have seen a cat or two in ours this past year, and it really grosses me out.


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