Work hard now, work less later. Now the fun begins and it’s time to get dirty! If you are installing a container garden, purchase the containers and the soil, put them where you want them and fill them with soil (a container full of soil is hard to move!). With an in-ground garden, you will need to do quite a bit more work—but your hard work will pay off. The Law of the Farm is at work here—thoughtful preparation and hard work in getting the site ready will save you many headaches and frustration as the garden starts growing.
Clear the land. Start with a clean, flat, weed-free site! Weed the site, water it well, wait three weeks for remaining weed seeds to sprout, and then weed again—now you know it is clean.
Lay out the garden. Locate the planting beds, primary walkway (must be 42" wide to be wheelchair accessible), working areas between beds (36" is minimum to enable children to work in adjacent planting areas simultaneously), a composting area, tool storage area, and seating or group area.
Build the planting beds—raise those plants high.
Types of Planting Beds
Raised beds—a raised mound of soil. This bed is the simplest and cheapest to build, but it is the least secure and stable when you have kids running around in the garden and is the hardest to maintain. Build by digging out paths between beds down 4-8" and mounding that soil into the bed area. Mix in your soil amendments.
Planter boxes—build the boxes yourself (use recycled plastic lumber or a wood that holds up well to moisture such as redwood or cedar) or purchase pre-made boxes of recycled plastic. By creating physical barriers between your garden and the rest of the environment, these beds minimize weeds, keep plants in and kids out of the planting area, are easier to work in and maintain, and require minimal ongoing maintenance work after construction.
Size of Planting Beds
Width—Raised beds are generally 18-20" wide. Planter boxes should be no more than 4 feet wide if children can work from both sides of the box, or 2 feet wide if the box is only accessible on one side.
Length—Raised beds can be any length. To preserve the structural integrity, planter boxes should be no longer than 8-10 feet.
Height—Raised beds should be 4-8" high. Planter boxes sunk in soil should be built at least 10-12" high. This allows you to sink the bottom 4-6" in the ground to minimize weed encroachment and still be at least 6" finished height off of the ground.
- Wheelchair accessible height is 28".
- Wood or plastic beds on placed pavement should be at least 30" deep in order to prevent the heat of the pavement from overheating the roots and to minimize the loss of moisture.
The better your soil, the better your garden will grow! The gardening saying is that you plant a 25¢ plant in a 75¢ hole. Your soil will sustain your plants so give them a good start.
Clean dirt—no weeds, rocks or debris
Soil amendments—improve soil structure to improve water retention and absorption, provide good drainage and supply important plant nutrients. Use a soil test or consult with your local nursery or landscape professional for recommendations specific to your site geology. Cover the entire bed/box with at least 3-4 inches of amendment and work into soil down about a foot. Soil amendments may be purchased in bags or delivered in bulk by the yard.
Fertilizers—if using fertilizers, be careful not to use too much or you can damage tender young plants.