in Garden

White Peach tree in bloom

Guess what time it is?! Squueeeee!

I seriously thought we were going to be stuck in some &^%$#-weather Groundhog-Day loop forever. But finally a break. THE break.

I’ve been busy ripping out weeds, pollinating peach blossoms by hand, ripping out more weeds, getting ready for the new gardening season.

4x4 garden boxes

I’ve gardened with those four 4×4 boxes the last several years. But last weekend, I ripped those out to make room for margarita citrus trees and a new, single 8×4 box. My square footage might be cut in half, but I’m actually planting a far larger crop than I’ve ever planted before.

But man. What a mess.

To build the new 8×4 garden box, the 4-year-old and I snagged:
– 3 1x8x8 cedar planks*, one of the pieces cut in half for the short ends.
– 1 2x2x8 cedar plank**, cut into ~15-inch lengths for the corner posts (~6-inches of the posts are below ground to provide stability, 1-inch sticks above the bed for aesthetics)
– Exterior screws
– Measuring tape
– Drill (and a just-smaller-than-the-screws drill bit for pilot holes)
– Saw
– 1 hour

*I wanted a 2×8 but they were out and I didn’t care enough to hit a second store. Or wait. Because garden NOW!!!

**Or, you know, 2 1x2x8s sandwiched together because see *.

I attached the corner posts to the inside-ends of the long planks, moved them to the garden area, dug 4 holes for the corner posts, then attached the short ends to form the box, and then leveled the box. It took Landry & I maybe an hour from start to shovel-drop.

San Marzano Tomato

To fill the box, I simply used the “Mel’s Mix” that I reclaimed from the old garden boxes. If you’re familiar with The Square Food Garden Method, you know that Mel’s Mix is a mixture of dirt, vermiculite and homemade compost (which I’ll talk about later). If you’re not familiar with the method, I cannot recommend this book enough.

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

So let’s talk about that vermiculite. It’s kiiind of expensive. Especially when you’re just starting out and you only have what you think are “just” these 4 small beds that all of a sudden turn into bottomless pits and – OMG AM I GOING TO HAVE TO SELL A &^%$#@! KIDNEY TO FILL THESE THINGS UP?!

But it is completely necessary – especially when barely 4 inches below your grass is good ol’ Texas clay. I only had to invest in the vermiculite that first year and if you’re starting out new, so should you. Bite the bullet. Eat grilled cheese and soup for two weeks. Totally worth it for years to come.

So here we are 4 years later. And the soil is still so perfectly workable and aerated and has excellent drainage. When soil levels get low, I’ll work in a bag of garden dirt or some homemade compost into boxes to bring the level back up. But I’ve never added more vermiculite.


Right now, everything is just starting to wake up from the coldest winter I can remember. I’m behind on starting seedlings – my heirlooms just went into the tray last weekend – but a few starter plants are in the ground already.

That said, most of the backyard still looks this sad. And worse.


I need a garden fairy. Or a volunteer that accepts promise of payment in 9 varieties of tomatoes.

8 comments… add one
  • stephanie

    Wow, we are so not there. We still have over 2 feet of snow. You give me hope…I’ll pin and revisit when I can relate!

  • Maria

    Great job!

    But…do you have water there? I so wanted to get a garden in this year, but: drought. Emergency extreme there’s not enough water for the salmon to spawn drought here in CA, so I haven’t been able to face the idea. I just had to dump a ton of water on my meyer lemon tree because the lemons are shriveling up from lack of ground water (normally I never have to water it).

    I have toyed with the idea of using olla pots to water — how do you water your garden?

    • We’ve been in perma-moderate drought mode for 3 years now. But we do have water. I either water by hand with the hose or set up the “rainbow” sprinkler to water. Hope you guys get some good rains soon!

  • Lisa

    I’m so jealous. We are still covered in plenty of snow although it was 50 degrees today. I guess that’s why the phrase hope springs eternal came about. I’m really looking forward to it.

  • I wish I could join in with the squealing, but we still have a foot of snow on the ground in our Colorado yards. I’ve really been interested in a raised garden bed, so appreciate this info. Happy gardening.

  • How exciting! I get so excited when it’s time to plant new vegies/herbs and like you I can’t wait to garden. Can’t wait to see how it all grows!

  • This makes me excited for spring to really come here! I can’t wait to plant my little garden 🙂 ps. VERY jealous of your citrus trees!

  • Seriously…the first hint of spring last week had me itching to go to the nursery and grab some plants. I can’t wait to clean out the beds, add dirt and get to gardening again.

    I’d love to know (based on how great your tomato crop was last year) how in the heck do you get rid of pests on tomatoes? Do you just not deal with them where you are? I’m constantly battling squash bugs and stink bugs whenever I plant tomatoes…it’s such a headache!

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