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Organic gardening is fun and easier than you think. We can provide bulk soil mixtures of black dirt, peat and manure in any ratio you like. The best design for a small backyard garden is to incorporate a raised bed for your vegetables and herbs. Its fairly easy and inexpensive for those who are not afraid of a little hard work. If this part doesn't sound like much fun, we can do it for you! Do not use old railroad ties! These are often treated with toxic creosote. You can use arsenic free treated timbers from your local lumber yard in 4x4 or 6x6 dimensions. First, determine the size of you garden. For those who grow a few tomato plants herbs an 8ftx8ft raised bed will suffice. I like to keep my bed at least 6 inches above grade, so I go for the 6x6 timbers. 6x6's also retain their shape better, 4x4's tend to bow when exposed to the weight of wet soil.
Once you have laid out the bed in a relatively level location, you can mark with chalk and begin to dig.
You must set one timber at least partially below grade. Remember to keep the timbers level when you set them. A cheap 4ft level will do the trick. You can back fill the timbers with loose soil ( don't use clumps of sod! and be sure to compact! ) to level them if the digging gets to be too much.
After the base has been set you can add the next tier. Be sure to overlap the joints to keep the structure sound. Anchor this tier with timber screws or spikes approved for use with treated lumber.
After the base has been built to the desired height you can fill it with soil. Some people like to line the interior of the bed with landscape fabric to reduce the amount of soil that seeps out of the seams. I have not found this to be a problem if you maintain tight joints and use proper fasteners. To determine the soil volume multiply the length x width x depth divided by 27 to determine how many cubic yards of material you will need. The soil is very important to any gardening. A peat, black dirt, manure mixture works great!
There are various ways to reduce weed growth and the most important factors are healthy plants and proper mulch. I prefer to use plastic mulch in my large garden which is a black UV resistant material that eliminates weed growth. Smaller gardens can use wood chips, paper mulch or black plastic.
What ever method you choose, be prepared to pull weeds. It's best to spend a few minutes weeding a couple days a week than to let it go for a couple weeks. My garden is about a half acre of old corn field that is rampant with active rag weed seeds. I found out the hard way that mulch is essential to managing a garden of that size.
Water is the other essential factor. I prefer to use drip line irrigation. It is a flexible plastic line with metered
drip holes every 6-12 inches. It can be purchased at most home improvement stores. I connect a 3/4" female hose connector to the end of the drip line and connect the hose to the house with a timer. I never have to remember to water and the drip line system keeps the water at the roots.
If you have a fence, consider raised planters around the perimeter and grow cherry tomatoes, snap peas, beans or any other vine.
Pests can be a big problem with some plants. I hate cucumber beetles and squash bugs! That said a healthy plant in good soil goes a long way in resisting disease and pests. I have found insecticidal soap to have decent results on many insects and neem oil to work very good on both insects and fungus.
I use good old cow manure for fertilizer. It works great and is free in my neck of the woods.
I never thought about organic produce until my wife alerted me to scope of pesticides in our food. I have found organic produce to taste better and is scientifically proven to have a higher nutritional value.
Enjoy your garden!