Crisis Garden 2009

After having spent our first year completing screw-ups that our bankrupt builder left us with, I finally had the opportunity to turn my attention to fun projects. The first project was the garden. I had many reasons for wanting to start a garden but the biggest reason was simply to have fresh vegetables available and not having to worry about insecticides and preservatives. The "Crisis" part of the garden was more in response to the crappy economy and wanting to be more self-sufficient, but I could also say that working in the yard and garden is therapeutic and relaxing, which is the ideal way to deal with stress.

The first challenge was coming up with a design. I didn't want to create anything conventional or sloppy so I decided to create a garden maze like something you would see in a botanical garden. This drawing was my first draft from which the plan took form. The idea is perhaps a bit more elaborate than the garden will turn out to be but it looked cool on paper. The design involves concentric circles with "wings" to the north and east.

plan

The location was the southwest corner of the yard. At the time, the weeds had taken over so I had to implement a scorched earth policy to clear a space.

weeds
January 26th, 2009

The first part of the plan to implement was measuring and marking where the pieces would end up going. Clearing the weeds was a continual challenge because they grew so fast and obscured the marking paint.

marking
January 29th, 2009

The next step was to begin digging the footing for the inner circle and the trenches for the automated irrigation. Although I had had some experience with landscape irrigation before, I had not done hardly anything with concrete and masonry. Thanks to my brother-in-law Matt for advice on how to make a decent footing that will support what I wanted to build.

first forms
February 5th, 2009

Next, I poured the concrete for the first footing, dug the footing for the second inner circle segment, and installed the PCV irrigation pipe. At first, I was buying bags of Quick-crete concrete mix until I found that it took about 15 80-pound bags to complete the footing. After that, I made my own concrete. I bought bags of Portland cement, a portable concrete mixer, and had a big pile of concrete aggregate delivered, which was MUCH cheaper and required a lot less effort.

footings
February 18th, 2009

The next picture shows the completed footing for the second segment of the inner circle, the third segment footing dug, and the completed installation on the irrigation for each section.

second footing
March 12th, 2009

One of the challenges that I found while building these footings was that this corner of the yard was on a mild slope. As a result, I had to measure for the height of all the forms in relation to a common point so that the planter heights would all be consistent, despite the slope.

levelling levelling2
March 29th, 2009

Finally, I was able to start the masonry. Thanks to lots of YouTube videos on bricklaying (and a few initial mistakes), I figured it out. I found a place in Phoenix that made bricks locally and in lots of southwest colors so I had some pallets of "Sedona" bricks delivered.

bricks1
April 6th, 2009

With the first segment of the inner circle complete, I built a ramp with blocks left over from the perimeter wall so that I could dump garden sod into the planter with a wheel barrel. Because  I got this started so late in the year (at April, it already gets over 100 degrees during the day), I bought some small plants from the hardware store just so I could have something growing. This segment has tomatoes, jalapeños, basil, and squash.

bricks2
April 20th, 2009

Finally, I got the last segment of the inner circle completed. Red and yellow bell peppers, pumpkins, watermelons, lettuce, arugula, and lots of onions. Even with all that, there is still space left over to plant stuff. When I get around to building the outer circle, I'm going to have more veggies than I know what to do with.

bricks3
April 30th, 2009

Next steps: landscape fabric to control the weeds and crushed stone and stepping stones on top of that.