Just thought I would post some pictures of our garden. Mostly because it is my first attempt at making a real garden of the scale that I can regularly eat out of, and I am kind of proud of it. I am not a pro at this, and it is a community effort so I am only partly involved. But for the sake of those who are thinking a small scale garden may be in their future there are a few things I learned that may be helpful.
We started this in the late spring with a single bed 24 ft by 4 ft. There is a picture here, of when it started. We made raised beds out of treated 2x6x8ft timber two high. The original idea was to do square-foot gardening but lack of organization and muliple people being involved quickly ended that idea. A few months later (early summer) we more than tripled the size, added two more beds with wooden walkways and a couple more corner beds.
For fertilizer we used about 1 part old horse manure to two parts wood compost / leaf compost. There are about 4 bags of store bought fertilizer in there somewhere as well. We turned over the initial dirt that was there already with a pick and mixed this in as well to some extent.
We had to fence the whole thing since we are over-run with deer up here. Any hunters want to come kill our deer? Please? It is only about 5ft high but the deer have stayed out so far mostly because there is not a good clear area inside that they could jump into.
I installed a automated watering system. This has always been my issue with gardens in the past. I would forget to water and a couple of weeks later the garden was dead. The first attempt was to use drip-hoses but a couple of those burst within the first month... I think our water pressure is too high. I could have gotten a pressure regluator, but decided to use cheap PVC instead. I just drill holes where I want the water to go. The water flow rate is not sufficient to run all the pipe so I had to make three separate sections, the water comes on at 5am and does each section for about 30 minutes.
The cost has been about $700 total. $250 for fencing, $100 for automatic watering, $60 for PVC, $100 for wood and the rest for plants and misc. parts (hoses, connectors, etc.) We also probably spend another $100 on watering. This year we probably got about $200 of food out of it and will probably get another $200 by the end of the year. Obviously this is not cost-effective yet. Hopefully now that it is established, next year will be more productive.
1. Gardens take time and practice. If you are planning to quickly summon up a productive garden if things get bad then you are probably going to be in for an unpleasant surprise.
2. They take quite a bit of maintenance. This garden probably gets at least 30 minutes of attention each day by somebody. I am glad that I am not the only one working in it since I would probably neglect it more than I should.
3. Automate as much as possible. Obviously the automatic watering saves about an hour of standing there with a hose each day. There are way to plant things so that they control insects naturally, we are not very good at this yet, but we are learning.
4. Our garden is dense. This is nice from a space perspective but it is hard to harvest stuff. Given that we are trying to keep cost low we will probably make it just as dense next year, but it would be nice to spread out if we could afford it.
5. Bugs are irritating. We are still "organic" so far, but we lost quite a bit to insects. Hopefully in the coming years we will get an ecosystem of predator bugs to help but if you are thinking about a survival garden you may want to stock up on pesticides for the first few years. Either that or plant twice as much.
6. Wood is cheap and fast to build raised beds with, but it will not last more than a few years. We have started collecting old cement blocks, bricks and rocks to replace the wood with when it starts to fall apart.
7. Weeds require quite a bit of work to remove. We have been putting down cardboard, old carpet, newspaper, wood chips and anything else we can find to act as a weed barrier wherever there are not plants. It looks like a mess, but it prevents a lot of grass seeds from falling in the beds.
Like I said... I am not a great gardener. I am trying to make as maintenance free a garden as possible and eventually will get back to the aquaponics, but in the meantime this is working nicely. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments.... in this subject I could probably use any advice you might have so please leave suggestions also.