Michelle LaBrosse, PMPProject Initiation
This project fulfilled several requirements (i.e. it is what is known as a “robust” solution). The first requirement was to create a beautiful vegetable garden that would increase the property value. The second requirement was to increase the occupants’ capability of being self-sustaining. The third requirement was to shore up the hill to stop the effects of gravity on the pool and the other landscaping up the hill.
Project Planning & Execution
Site Selection - This project required that we build a retaining wall FIRST and then build the square foot garden beds on the top of the newly flattened surface. We choose the site right off the pool to take advantage of the existing fencing AND to help stop the gradual slippage of the pool and the surrounding decking down the hill. This site also is in full sun the entire day.
Site Prep - My cousin - Bill LaBrosse and his friend (Tom Butcher) (both masons) built the retaining wall. I know why these guys stay so thin - that is a lot of manual labor building the wall and back filling it by hand with the six ton of gravel. They spent three weeks living at the house for four days at a time working on this project 15 hours a day.
Building the Beds - This took two truck loads of material - peat moss, manure and vermiculite. We are putting in several thousand worms to have direct in dirt composting and to help with soil aeration. The worms as part of their digestion process excrete waste that is high in nitrogen and phosporus. The goal is to do minimal intervention in the soil throughout the years. The raised beds eliminate soil compaction.
Planting Prep - the vegetable selection was based on the availability to harvest, shelf life of the vegetables and resale possibilities. We selected shallots as they have a 120 day growing season, capture a pretty high market value when packaged correctly, and have a shelf life of 8 months. We also planted other root vegetables that have a long shelf life - carrots, beets, sweet potatoes. We planted pumpkins and winter squashes as well that have a long shelf life.
Protection - we selected the fencing to match the pool fencing to ensure the garden maintained the beauty of the property. The height of the retaining wall will keep out the most invasive predators in the area - the deer. We are installing wire mess along the bottom foot of the fence to keep out the rabbits and other small critters.
Project Monitoring and Control
The weather was the biggest detriment to our schedule. The guys were only rained out of working a half day. Luckily the most rain was on the three days of the week they weren’t working. Our first load of manure was real “shit,” excuse the pun. It was loaded with plastic fencing and lots of hay. We used that to patch up places in the lawn. We went to packaged manure because we really do not want weeds in this garden and with the worm plan, we are going to have very good soil for years to come. We figured the expense to get the dirt the right composition from the get go will pay off in increased yields and less maintenance for years to come.
We had a weight problem with the beds (the dirt was separating the wood) so Bill and Tom used an old deck they had just pulled up on another part of the property to make a deck between the beds. They then back filled the rest with larger gravel. It gave the garden a beautifully finished look.
Will report back on the garden yield at the end of the season. All in all, this project was very satisfying as it is beautiful and will prevent any more settling of the pool decking and the other landscaping.